An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Glossary of Terms

Biretta Belt

Slang expression for dioceses in the vicinity of the Great Lakes that were once considered to be characterized by Anglo-catholic practices. The term is derived from the traditional fondness of some Anglo-catholic clergy for wearing birettas. Use of this hat was considered by some to be an emblem of Anglo-catholicism. The term is dated and […]


One of the three orders of ordained ministers in the church, bishops are charged with the apostolic work of leading, supervising, and uniting the church. Bishops represent Christ and his church, and they are called to provide Christian vision and leadership for their dioceses. The BCP (p. 855) notes that the bishop is “to act […]

Bishop and Council

In some dioceses, Bishop and Council is the group which exercises all powers of the diocesan convention between meetings of the convention. It consists of the bishop; bishop coadjutor, if there is one; bishop suffragan, if there is one; and a designated number of clergy and lay persons. Bishop and Council may not elect a […]

Bishop Coadjutor

Assistant bishop with the right of succession upon the resignation of the diocesan bishop. Before a bishop coadjutor is elected, the diocesan bishop must consent to such an election and state the duties which will be assigned to the bishop coadjutor when duly ordained and consecrated.

Bishop Payne Divinity School

A former seminary of the Episcopal Church to train African American men for the ministry. On Oct. 2, 1878, the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) opened a branch seminary for Negroes in connection with St. Stephen's Normal and Industrial School, Petersburg, Virginia, under the Rev. Thomas Spencer (1852-1904). In 1884 the name was changed to the […]

Bishop Potter Memorial House

This training house for women church workers was opened in Philadelphia in 1867. Mr. and Mrs. William Welsh of St. Mark's Church, Philadelphia, were the leading founders. It was named after the Rt. Rev. Alonzo Potter, Bishop of Pennsylvania, 1845-1865. The women formed a sisterhood with a Protestant emphasis. In 1877 the name was changed […]

Bishop Seabury University

Intended predecessor of the Seabury Divinity School. James Lloyd Breck went to Faribault, Minnesota, in 1858, with the desire to establish a university. It was to be called the Bishop Seabury University after the first bishop of the Episcopal Church. It was never realized, but the Seabury Divinity School, first called Seabury Divinity Hall, was […]

Bishop Visitor or Protector

The bishop named to have an official, canonical relationship with a religious order. Each order must designate a Bishop Visitor or Protector, who serves as guardian of the order's constitution and arbiter of last resort for issues of conflict in the community. The Visitor or Protector may be the bishop in whose jurisdiction the order […]


A presbyter elected to the episcopate but not yet ordained and consecrated. The term may also apply to a person who is already a bishop in one jurisdiction, who has been elected to another jurisdiction, but who has not yet been officially recognized and invested with authority in that diocese.

Bishop, Provisional

A bishop authorized to serve a diocese whose own bishop is unable to fulfill that ministry due to disability or judicial sentence. The convention of a diocese may choose a bishop (or bishop coadjutor) of another diocese to take full episcopal authority until the disability or judicial sentence no longer exists or until the diocese […]

Bishop’s Staff

See Crozier, or Crosier.


Bishops also preside at services of Confirmation, Reception, or Reaffirmation. Bishops bless altars and fonts, and the blessing of chalices and patens and church bells are traditionally reserved for the bishop. In the Episcopal Church, diocesan and suffragan bishops are elected by Diocesan Convention. Bishops-elect are ordained and consecrated after consents have been received from […]

Bishops’ Crusade

The Commission on Evangelism, in July, 1925, made an impassioned report to the National Council concerning evangelism and the church. It called for the Episcopal Church to make evangelism its top priority. It was decided that the initial step in a program of evangelism would take the form of a nationwide effort to rouse the […]

Black Fast

The custom of observing the two great Prayer Book fast days, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, by eating no food at all. This was observed as a pious custom by some devout church people in the nineteenth century in imitation of the fasting of the ancient church.

Black Letter Days

Lesser feasts of the church year. About sixty-seven lesser feasts were added to the calendar of the English Prayer Book in 1567. These lesser feasts became known as black-letter days. They were distinguished from the major feasts which were known as red-letter days. That term reflects the early practice of printing Prayer Book calendars in […]

Black Rubric, The

Name usually given to the “Declaration on Kneeling” that was printed at the end of the rite for Holy Communion in the 1552 BCP. The “Declaration” was understood to deny the real presence in the eucharistic elements. This statement was removed in the 1559 BCP, but replaced in the 1662 BCP in an altered version […]

Blair, James

(c. 1656-Apr. 18, 1743). Commissary to Virginia and Founder of the College of William and Mary. He was born in Scotland. Blair received his M.A. from the University of Edinburgh in 1673. He was ordained in the Church of Scotland in late June or early July, 1679. He moved to England and was ordained in […]


(d. 177). She was a virgin slave girl. Blandina was one of forty-eight Christians who were martyred at Lyons, France, during a persecution by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Her heroic courage is described in a “Letter of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne,” which was preserved by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History. Blandina and the […]


An expression of contempt for God. A Scottish jurist in the seventeenth century characterized it as “treason against God.” The term has been used differently in different eras. Understandings of what constitutes blasphemy have changed with changing sensibilities, social norms, and political considerations. The Judeo-Christian tradition rejects blasphemy on the basis of Ex 22:28, “You […]

Blessed Sacrament

The term may indicate the sacrament of the eucharist, or the consecrated eucharistic elements of bread and wine, or the reservation of the consecrated elements. Christ's body and blood are understood to be really present in the consecrated bread and wine. See Eucharistic Adoration.

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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.