An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Glossary of Terms

Advent Wreath

A circle of greenery, marked by four candles that represent the four Sundays of the season of Advent. An additional candle is lit as each new Sunday is celebrated in Advent. Advent wreaths are used both in churches and in homes for devotional purposes. The candles may be blue, purple, or lavender, depending on local […]


The right to appoint a member of the clergy to a parish or other ecclesiastical benefice. The term also means the patronage of a church living. The right of advowson is a property right under English law. Advowson reflects the control that was exercised by feudal lords over churches on their estates. It also reflects […]


(1109-Jan. 12, 1167). The son of a Saxon priest in Hexham, Northumberland, England, Aelred was a Cistercian monk at the abbey of Rievaulx who became the abbot there in 1147. His two major writings are Mirror of Charity and Spiritual Friendship. A biography of Aelred was written by his pupil, Walter Daniel. His ministry is […]

Affirmation of St. Louis, the

A statement adopted by the St. Louis Congress, called by the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen, Sept. 14-16, 1977. The Affirmation stated the basis for the structure of continuing Anglicanism in the United States and Canada. It argued that the Episcopal Church had “departed from Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” and that the holy […]


A method of administering baptism by pouring water over the head of the candidate. Baptism may also be administered by immersion of the candidate.

African Mission School

Mission school for training African American Episcopal clergy and laypersons for work in Africa, especially Liberia. It opened on Oct. 6, 1828, in Hartford, Connecticut. It was founded by the African Mission School Society, which was formed on Aug. 10, 1828. The rector of the school was the Rev. Nathaniel Sheldon Wheaton. Six students, Gaylord […]

Afro-American Churchman

This periodical was established by George F. Bragg in 1886 at Petersburg, Virginia. It was published from 1886 until 1888. Beginning in 1889 it became a monthly and was published at Norfolk, Virginia. It ceased publication in 1890.


Selfless Christian love. Agape reflects the love of God, and it is the kind of love that Christians are called to share with one another. The term is also used for a common meal or “Love Feast” of the early church, from which the eucharist developed as a separate rite.


(d. 304). A martyr for the faith, Agnes died at the age of twelve in Rome during the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian. She is said to have been tortured and executed after refusing to worship the heathen gods. Her name means “pure” in Greek and “lamb” in Latin. Her principal iconograph is a lamb. […]

Agnus Dei

Latin for “Lamb of God.” The fraction anthem “Lamb of God” is based on Jn 1:29, and may be used in the celebration of the eucharist at the breaking of the bread (BCP, pp. 337, 407). The invocation is repeated three times, with the first two invocations followed by the phrase “Have mercy upon us.” […]


(d. Aug. 31, 651). A native of Ireland and a monk at Columba's monastery of Iona, Aidan is credited with restoring Christianity throughout northern England. Oswald, nephew of King Edwin, had been in exile at Iona, where he was converted and baptized. Edwin had been converted by a mission from Canterbury, but his death in […]


Derived from the French for “wing,” an aisle, historically, was an extension of a side or “wing” of the nave. It was built to enlarge the seating capacity of the church. This extension typically had a separate and lower roof. The aisle was separated from the central nave of the church by a passageway. The […]

Alabama Plan, The

A diocesan stewardship education project, it was born through a conversation between the Rev. William A. Yon, program director for Alabama and the Rt. Rev. Furman C. Stough, then Bishop of Alabama, in the spring of 1969. Their task was to come up with a grass roots plan for increasing pledges in a continuing growth […]

Alabama, Diocese of

A diocese of the Episcopal Church which consists of all of Alabama except those counties in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. The primary convention was at Christ Church, Mobile, on Jan. 25, 1830. From then until 1844, when its first bishop was consecrated, the diocese had four provisional bishops: Thomas Church Brownell, 1830-1835; […]

Alaska, Diocese of

The General Convention of 1892 formed the Missionary District of Alaska. Alaska was a missionary district until 1972. The primary Convention of the Diocese was held Apr. 21-25, 1972, at All Saints' Church, Anchorage. The diocese does not have a cathedral.


A long white garment with narrow sleeves, which is the basic garment worn by ordained and lay ministers at the eucharist and at other church services. The alb (from Latin alba, meaning white) is derived from the undertunic of the Greeks and Romans of the fourth century. It may be girded at the waist.

Alban, St.

(d. c. 304). First Christian martyr of Britain. The little known about him is from the Venerable Bede. Bede's story places Alban's martyrdom during the persecution of Diocletius (c. 304), but some scholars suggest that it may have occurred during the persecution of Decius (c. 254) or of Septimius Severus (c. 209). Bede writes that […]

Albright, Raymond Wolf

(July 16, 1901-July 15, 1965). Church historian and seminary professor. He was a direct descendant of Jacob Albright, founder of the Evangelical Church, now a part of the United Methodist Church. He sustained a lively and internationally recognized scholarly interest in the sectarian movements of the Middle Atlantic states in both the eighteenth and nineteenth […]


(d. May 19, 804). Religious advisor to the Emperor Charlemagne. He was born about 730 in York of a noble family related to Willibrord, the first missionary to the Netherlands. In Pavia, Italy, he met Charlemagne, who persuaded him to become his advisor in religious and educational affairs. Alcuin started a palace library for Charlemagne […]

Alexander, Cecil Frances

(Humphreys) (1818-Oct. 12, 1895). Composer of hymns. She was born at Ballykean House, Redcross, County Wicklow, Ireland, in 1818 (some older sources say 1823). In 1835 the family moved to Miltown House in County Tyrone. She and her sister founded a school for the deaf. She published nearly four hundred hymns and poems, most of […]

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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.