An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Glossary of Terms


Semicircular or polyhedral construction at the end of the chancel, containing the altar and sanctuary, and roofed with a half dome. The apse was a standard feature of the architecture of the early church.

Apthorp, East

(1733-Apr. 16, 1816). An early advocate for the episcopate in the colonies. He was part of a vigorous pamphlet war in the 1760s reflecting the tensions between the Church of England in the American colonies and the Congregational establishment, and the increasing confluence of anti-crown and anti-church sentiment in New England. Apthorp was born into […]

Aquinas, Thomas

(1225-Mar. 7, 1274). The leading theologian of the medieval church, Aquinas was given the title doctor angelicus. On July 18, 1323, he was pronounced a saint by Pope John XXII. His two major writings are the Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles. The Summa Theologica is a systematization and summary of Christian revelation in […]


See Pyx, or Pix.


See Angel.


A bishop with administrative and disciplinary authority over other bishops. In the Anglican Communion, an archbishop is the chief bishop of a province. The term is not used by any bishop in the Episcopal Church, where the chief bishop is known as the “Presiding Bishop, Primate, and Chief Pastor,” or simply as the “Presiding Bishop.” […]

Archbishop of Canterbury

In the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the "Primate of all England and Metropolitan" of the ecclesiastical province of Canterbury in southern England. In addition to a palace at Canterbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury also has a residence at Lambeth Palace in London. The history of the present see begins in 597, […]


A clergyperson with a defined administrative authority delegated by the diocesan bishop. Originally the chief of the deacons who assisted the bishop, the archdeacon is now typically a priest who serves as the bishop's administrative assistant. The title of an archdeacon is “The Venerable,” which is abbreviated “The Ven.”

Archivist of the Episcopal Church

The General Convention of 1940 appointed and designated the Church Historical Society “an official agency of General Convention for the collection, preservation, and safekeeping of records and historical documents connected with the life and development of the [Episcopal Church] . . . and to foster as far as possible the investigation of its history and […]


See Pyx, or Pix.

Area Cluster (Ministry)

An effective and widely used mission strategy for ministry among small congregations unable to support a full-time priest. Churches “cluster” together to share ministry and resources. These clusters generally involve two to three congregations. Some of the benefits include: availability of special ministries (e.g., youth ministry, educational ministry) and the financial benefits of shared resources.

Area Mission

The 1973 General Convention changed the Canon “Of Missionary Jurisdictions,” and created a new jurisdiction called an area mission. The House of Bishops may establish a mission in any area not included within the boundaries of a diocese of the Episcopal Church, or of a church in communion with the Episcopal Church. An area mission […]


The teaching that the Son of God was a creature "of like substance" (homoiousios), though not identical with God. It is named for Arius, a fourth-century presbyter of Alexandria who made a highly influential (if not especially original) contribution to the discussion of the proper way to express the relationship between God and the Son […]

Arizona, Diocese of

On Oct. 19, 1859, the House of Bishops created the Missionary District of the Southwest, which included Arizona. On Oct. 21, 1865, it created the Missionary Bishopric of Nevada with jurisdiction in Arizona. The Missionary Bishopric of New Mexico and Arizona was created by the House of Bishops on Nov. 2, 1874. On Oct. 13, […]

Arkansas Theological Chautauqua School

In 1904 Bishop William Montgomery Brown of Arkansas called for an institution of higher learning to be known as the “School of Theology of the Diocese of Arkansas.” It was to be established at the State University, Fayetteville, to educate a group of “competent men who can and will work at the beginning on small […]

Arkansas, Diocese of

The House of Bishops nominated and the House of Deputies confirmed Leonidas Polk as Missionary Bishop of Arkansas and the Indian Territory. Polk was consecrated on Dec. 9, 1838, and served until Oct. 16, 1841, when he was elected Bishop of Louisiana. From Oct. 18, 1841, until Oct. 10, 1844, James Hervey Otey was Acting […]

Armed Forces Prayer Book

The title was given to the revision of the World War II Prayer Book for Soldiers and Sailors issued in 1951 at the time of the Korean War for the Armed Forces Division of the Episcopal Church. It contained many items not in the BCP, mostly of a devotional nature, including forms for emergency baptism […]

Armed Forces, Suffragan Bishop for

The Constitution of the Episcopal Church states that it is “lawful for the House of Bishops to elect a Suffragan Bishop who, under the direction of the Presiding Bishop, shall be in charge of the work of those chaplains in the Armed Forces of the United States, Veterans' Administration Medical Centers, and Federal Correction Institutions […]

Articles of Religion

See Thirty-Nine Articles, or Articles of Religion.

Ascension of Christ, The, or Ascension Day

The occasion on which the risen Christ is taken into heaven after appearing to his followers for forty days (Acts 1:1-11, Mk 16:19). The Ascension marks the conclusion of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances. It is the final elevation of his human nature to divine glory and the near presence of God. The Ascension is affirmed by […]

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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.