An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Glossary of Terms

Benedictus es, Domine

Canticle based on the Apocryphal Song of the Three Young Men, verses 29-34. The canticle offers glory and praise to God, and concludes with a doxology. It is also known as “A Song of Praise.” It appears as Canticles 2 and 13 in the BCP (pp. 49, 90). It is recommended for use in the […]

Benedictus qui venit

The anthem “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest,” which follows the Sanctus in the eucharistic prayer. It may be sung or said. The term is from the Latin first words of the anthem. It is included in all Rite 2 eucharistic prayers of the BCP, and […]

Bennett, Dennis Joseph

(Oct. 28, 1917-Nov. 1, 1991). The “father of charismatic renewal in the Episcopal Church.” He was born in London, England. His family moved to the United States when he was ten years old. He graduated from San Jose State College in 1944. Two years later he entered the University of Chicago Divinity School and received […]

Benson, Richard Meux

(July 6, 1824-Jan. 14, 1915). A founder of the Society of St. John the Evangelist. He was born in London. Benson received the M.A. at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1849. He was ordained deacon in 1848 and priest in 1849. In 1850 he became vicar of Cowley, two miles from Oxford. A sermon preached by […]

Berakoth (singular Berakah)

The Hebrew word for blessings. Typically, they begin, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe,” followed by naming that for which God is blessed, such as “who brings forth bread from the earth.” Scholars distinguish between berakoth and hodayoth prayers. The latter begin, “We give you thanks.” Jewish liturgical prayers have tended […]

Berkeley Divinity School

One of eleven Episcopal seminaries in the U.S. It was founded by Bishop John Williams of Connecticut. It began in 1849 as the theological department of Trinity College, Hartford, and opened as a divinity school on Oct. 2, 1854, at Middletown. In 1928 it moved to New Haven and was affiliated with Yale University. On […]

Berkeley, George

(Mar. 12, 1684-Jan. 12, 1753). Priest and educator. He was born in Kilcrin, near Thomastown, Kilkenny, Ireland, and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He was ordained in 1707, and in 1724 he became dean of Derry, where he became very interested in supporting the churches in colonial America and in converting the Native American tribes […]

Berkeley, William

(1606-July 9, 1677). Colonial governor of Virginia. He was born in or near London and educated at Queen's College and Merton College, Oxford University. He was governor of Virginia from 1642 until 1652, when he was forced out of office during the interregnum. When the English monarchy was restored in 1660 he became governor again […]


(1090-Aug. 20, 1153). Influential monk who was called the “Pope maker” and “the uncrowned emperor of Europe.” He was born in Fontaines, France, and entered the Cistercian monastery at Citeaux, France, in 1113. In 1115 he established a Cistercian monastery at Clairvaux and became its abbot. In 1130 both Innocent II and Anacletus II claimed […]

Berry, Martha McChesney

(Oct. 7, 1866-Feb. 27, 1942). Founder of Berry College. She was born and grew up at Oak Hill, a cotton plantation near Rome, Georgia. She inherited a substantial estate in her early twenties when her father died. In the 1890s she started a Sunday School in the Blue Ridge mountains north of Rome, where her […]

Bethany, College of the Sisters of, Topeka, Kansas

On Feb. 2, 1861, the Kansas legislature granted a charter for “The Episcopal Female Seminary of Topeka.” On June 10, 1861, the school opened with thirty-three students. On July 9, 1872, Bishop Thomas Hubbard Vail obtained a new charter which changed the name to the College of the Sisters of Bethany. Vail named it in […]

Bethlehem, Diocese of

The General Convention of 1871 voted to divide the Diocese of Pennsylvania. On Nov. 8-10, 1871, the primary convention of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania met at St. Stephen's Church, Harrisburg. The 1904 General Convention voted to divide the diocese again. On May 26, 1909, the name was changed to the Diocese of Bethlehem. It […]


A free and faithful promise of future marriage between two persons. It was an ancient Roman custom for a man to give a woman a ring as a sign of betrothal. The usefulness of betrothal was associated with prenuptial arrangements involving the couple and their families, such as dowry. Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but […]

Bexley Hall

It was founded on Nov. 4, 1824, by Bishop Philander Chase and the Diocese of Ohio as “The Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Ohio.” It was incorporated by the Ohio State Assembly on Dec. 29, 1824, and opened at Worthington. In 1828 it moved to Gambier as Kenyon College […]

Bible, The

Holy Scriptures of the OT and NT, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, containing all things necessary to salvation. The OT reveals God’s mighty acts in creation, the deliverance of the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt, and the making of the old covenant with the chosen people. God’s saving will for […]

Bidding Prayer

An informal intercessory prayer, covering a wide variety of concerns such as the church, the state, the living and the dead, and public and private necessities. It followed the sermon and the dismissal of the catechumens in the early church. The celebrant bid a particular intention of prayer, and the congregation joined in silent prayer […]


A stand or frame on which a corpse, or a coffin containing a corpse, rests during the burial rite. A bier may also be used to carry the corpse or coffin into the church building and to the grave.

Bilateral Dialogues

Ecumenical dialogues that are held between two churches (“two-sided”), rather than “multilateral” or between many churches. Typically, each of the two churches appoints about ten representatives to the dialogue, and it meets once or twice a year to consider past disagreements and seek ways toward unity. In recent years the Episcopal Church has participated in […]


The ethics of life. As a field of study bioethics has expanded from an initial focus on medicine and health care to a focus on life itself. It includes both the goods of human life and the goods of the natural order. Bioethics was initially shaped by the discipline of ethics but has come to […]


Stiff, brimless, three- or four-sided cap worn by clergy on ceremonial occasions. It is black if worn by a priest, and purple if worn by a bishop. The biretta may be ornamented by a pompon. It is rarely used in the Episcopal Church, except in some parishes with an Anglo-catholic piety.

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Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.