An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Glossary of Terms

Circumcision, Feast of the

See Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The.

Claggett, Thomas John

(Oct. 2, 1743-Aug. 2, 1816). The first Bishop of Maryland and the first Episcopal bishop consecrated on American soil. He was born in Prince George's County, Maryland, and graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1762. He pursued theological studies under the tutelage of his uncle, a priest. He was ordained […]


(July 16, 1194-Aug. 11, 1253). She was born in Assisi, Italy. Clare came under the influence of St. Francis. On Mar. 18, 1212, she took the three monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and went to reside in the Benedictine convent of St. Paul in Assisi. Soon she was joined by her sister Agnes, […]

Clark, Lois Carter

(1910-Nov. 19, 1985). Leading Native American churchwoman. She was born in Council Hill, Oklahoma. Clark was a member of the Creek Nation and a longtime English teacher. She was a leader at every level of the church from her parish, St. John's Church, Brookline, Oklahoma, to the diocesan Episcopal Church Women, the National Committee for […]

Clark, Thomas March

(July 4, 1812-Sept. 7, 1903). Twelfth Presiding Bishop. He was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale College in 1831 and worked for two years as a teacher. Clark was raised a Presbyterian. He studied at Princeton Theological Seminary and was licensed as a preacher after his graduation in 1835. He soon applied for […]

Clarkson College, Omaha, Nebraska

The Bishop Clarkson School of Nursing was founded in 1888 in memory of Bishop Robert Harper Clarkson (1826-1884), the first Bishop of Nebraska. In 1981 it became the Bishop Clarkson College of Nursing and became a degree-granting institution. In 1993 it became a comprehensive, four-year college offering the bachelor's degree. It is a member of […]

Clebsch, William Anthony

(July 27, 1923-June 12, 1984). Church historian. He was born in Clarksville, Tennessee. Clebsch received his B.A. from the University of Tennessee in 1946 and his B.D. in the same year from the Virginia Theological Seminary. He was ordained deacon on July 26, 1946, and priest on Sept. 28, 1947. From 1946 until 1949, Clebsch […]

Clement of Alexandria

(c. 150-215). Early church theologian. Titus Flavius Clemens was probably born in Athens. In 190 he succeeded his teacher, Pantaenus, as the head of the Catechetical School in Alexandria. In 202 he fled to Jerusalem because of the persecution of Emperor Severus. He was welcomed to Jerusalem by Bishop Alexander, a former student. Clement remained […]

Clement of Rome

(d. c. 101). Usually considered the fourth Bishop of Rome, after Peter, Linus, and Anacletus, he is noted for his “The Letter of the Church of Rome to the Church of Corinth, Commonly Called Clement's First Letter.” It was written around 96. The letter urges the Corinthian Church to restore the duly chosen leaders to […]

Clerestory, or clearstory

The upper part of a church building with windows for interior lighting. It rises above and “clears” the rest of the building.

Clergy, Members of the

Persons in holy orders, ordained for the ministry of bishop, priest, or deacon. The Episcopal Church canons concerning ordination for these ministries are equally applicable to men and women.


Of or concerning the clergy. For example, a clerical collar is a collar worn by a member of the clergy.


A pejorative term that indicates a condescending attitude by one or more members of the clergy, an exaggerated deference to the clergy, or an inappropriate concentration of power in the clergy. It also can indicate inappropriate influence of the clergy in secular matters.


Distinctive clothes worn by clergy that make the wearer identifiable as a member of the clergy. For example, a black shirt with a white clerical collar identifies the wearer as a member of the clergy. Clericals are clothes that may be worn in secular contexts, unlike vestments.


A meeting of clergy. It is often a meeting of clergy in a locality or deanery.

Clerk (Vestry)

The clerk or secretary of the parish vestry records minutes of the vestry meetings. These minutes are approved by the vestry and kept in the permanent records of the parish. The clerk may or may not be a member of the vestry. The parish by-laws typically include provisions concerning selection and duties of the clerk. […]

Clothing Day

” Christians who feel called to the religious life under vows normally pass through a period of testing known as the novitiate. In traditional orders where habits are worn by the members, the novice receives the habit as part of the ceremony. The new novice is said to be “clothed” on this day. In many […]

Cobbs, Nicholas Hamner

(Feb. 5, 1796-Jan. 11, 1861). Bishop and evangelist. He was born in Bedford County, Virginia. He was raised a Presbyterian and educated privately. He was subsequently confirmed an Episcopalian and ordained a deacon on the same day, May 23, 1824. Cobbs was ordained to the priesthood on May 23, 1825. He served for several years […]

Coffin, Margaret

(Apr. 16, 1769-Nov. 21, 1855). First person confirmed in Massachusetts. She was born in Boston and confirmed in 1786 at Christ Church, better known as Old North Church by Bishop Samuel Seabury. She loved the Prayer Book, which she called “the second greatest book in the world,” and distributed three thousand of them during the […]

Coit, Henry Augustus

(Jan. 20, 1830-Feb. 5, 1895). First rector of St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire. He was born in Wilmington, Delaware. At the age of fifteen he entered St. Paul's College, College Point, Flushing, New York, where he studied under William Augustus Muhlenberg. In 1847 he entered the University of Pennsylvania but had to withdraw because […]

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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.