An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Glossary of Terms


The discipline of strict self control at all levels of body, feeling, thought, and imagination. Ascetic practices are not ends in themselves. Asceticism is best practiced as a way to overcome obstacles to the soul's love of God rather than self-denial for its own sake. Asceticism is intended to foster love and charity. The term […]

Ash Wednesday

The first of the forty days of Lent, named for the custom of placing blessed ashes on the foreheads of worshipers at Ash Wednesday services. The ashes are a sign of penitence and a reminder of mortality, and may be imposed with the sign of the cross. Ash Wednesday is observed as a fast in […]

Ashes, Blessed

Ashes blessed for use on Ash Wednesday as a sign of penitence and a reminder of mortality. The OT frequently mentions the use of ashes as an expression of humiliation and sorrow. Ashes for use on Ash Wednesday are made from burned palms from previous Palm Sunday services. Ashes are imposed on the penitent's forehead […]

Asheville, Missionary District of

See Western North Carolina, Diocese of.


The liturgical practice of sprinkling with holy water as a reminder of baptism. The term comes from the Latin version of Ps 51, “Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop.” The asperges may be done after the Renewal of Baptismal Vows at the Easter Vigil. It may also be done as a preparatory ceremony before the […]


Brush, branch, metal rod, or other instrument used to sprinkle holy water at the asperges.


A means of baptism in which the candidate is sprinkled with water. The BCP instead requires immersion (dipping most of the candidate's body in water) or affusion (pouring water on the candidate).


A person seeking ordination as a deacon or priest, or a person who desires to be admitted to a religious order. When an aspirant has received approval from the diocese to begin seminary or other required training, he or she becomes a postulant. An aspirant to a religious order is one who is preparing to […]

Assistant Bishop

A bishop who assists the diocesan bishop by providing additional episcopal services. An assistant bishop is appointed by the diocesan bishop, with the approval of the Standing Committee of the diocese. The assistant bishop must already be exercising episcopal jurisdiction as a diocesan bishop, or serving as a suffragan bishop, or a qualified bishop who […]

Associate Mission

The name of a house of clergy and laity living under a common rule but no formal vows, subject to episcopal oversight, for evangelization and for educational and charitable enterprises. The first associate mission was Nashotah House, Wisconsin (1842), followed by other early foundations such as Valle Crucis, North Carolina (1847) and Seabury Mission, Faribault, […]

Assumption of Mary

The belief that the Mother of Jesus was taken up body and soul into heaven. Though not in scripture, it was described in apocryphal stories of the fifth century. It originated in the lack of scriptural data on Mary's death. It found support in the absence of bodily relics of the Virgin, in meditation on […]

Athanasian Creed

Statement of faith dating from the fourth or fifth centuries. It is also known by its opening Latin words as the Quicunque Vult, “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.” The creed is attributed to St. Athanasius (296-373), but this attribution has generally been discounted since […]


(c. 296-373). Bishop and theologian. He was born in Egypt and educated at the catechetical school in Alexandria, where he was profoundly influenced by Bishop Alexander. Athanasius was ordained deacon in 319, and immediately became an opponent of the presbyter Arius, who taught that the second person of the Trinity was not fully divine. Bishop […]

Atkinson, Thomas

(Aug. 6, 1807-Jan. 4, 1881). Bishop and advocate of the religious education of African Americans. He was born on his father's plantation, Mansfield, Dinwiddie County, Virginia. He attended Yale and graduated from Hampden Sidney College. Atkinson prepared for the ministry after studying law and nine years of legal practice. He was ordained deacon on Nov. […]

Atlanta, Diocese of

The General Convention of 1907 voted to divide the Diocese of Georgia, and the primary convention of the Diocese of Atlanta met at Christ Church, Macon, Dec. 4-5, 1907. The Diocese of Atlanta consists of the following counties: Baldwin, Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Bibb, Butts, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattahoochee, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clarke, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Crawford, Dade, […]


The term (literally, “at + one + ment”) has been applied since the earliest English translations of the Bible to the sacrificial ceremonies in the Hebrew temple on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). It has come to be applied universally to God’s reconciling work accomplished by the death of Christ. This is supported by the […]


The term indicated the main court of a Roman house. It was also used to describe the covered court in front of the main doors of a church or basilica. People entered the church through the atrium.


Imperfect repentance for sin, possibly due to fear of punishment or displeasure at the sin itself. Attrition has been distinguished from contrition since the twelfth century. Contrition is motivated by love of God, causing the penitent to regret sin as evidence of a turning away from God who loves us. Attrition falls short of the […]

Auchmuty, Samuel

(Jan. 26, 1722-Mar. 4, 1777). Early proponent of an American episcopate. He was born in Boston and graduated from Harvard in 1742. The Bishop of London ordained him deacon on Mar. 8, 1747, and priest on Mar. 15, 1747. In 1748 he became the assistant minister at Trinity Church, New York, and also catechist to […]

Augustine of Canterbury

(d. May 26, 604 or 605). First Archbishop of Canterbury. He began his career as prior of St. Andrew's monastery in Rome. Pope Gregory the Great sent Augustine and some other monks to England in 597 to refound the church in England. They arrived in Kent and began their missionary work. King Ethelbert, whose wife […]

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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.