An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


Following our own will instead of following the will of God, thereby being centered on ourselves instead of God and distorting our relationships with God, other people, and creation (see BCP, p. 848). Sin is intentional disobedience and rebellion against God. It alienates us from our true selves. Sin is a misuse of human free will by one who is capable of choice (see BCP, p. 845). St. Paul states clearly that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23; see 1 Jn 1:8). The harm of sin is ultimately not in the bad act itself but in the damage caused by sin to one’s relationships with God and others. Sin is identified with death, as our life-giving relationship with God is impaired by sin (see Rom 6:23). Distortion of our relationship with God results in our loss of liberty as sin gains power over us (see BCP, p. 849). We may recognize our sin and need for redemption more clearly through the Ten Commandments and the biblical law (see BCP, p. 848). St. Paul also notes that the law can provide the occasion for sin, although the law is holy (see Rom 7:7-12). Roman Catholic thought has distinguished mortal (deadly) sins from venial (slight) sins, but Protestants have generally rejected this distinction.

We participate in redemption from the power of evil, sin, and death through Jesus Christ who came into the world to save sinners (1 Tm 1:15; see BCP, p. 849). Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). He is our advocate with God the Father and the atoning sacrifice for our sins and the sins of the whole world (1 Jn 2:1). As we share in the death of Adam’s original sin, in Christ we may share in the victory of life over sin and death (1 Cor 15:22). The practice of Christian faith is concerned with receiving the grace of God’s forgiveness and new life in Christ. The BCP services for the Holy Eucharist and the Daily Offices all include forms for confession of sins (pp. 41-42, 62-63, 79-80, 116-117, 330-332, 360). Reconciliation of a Penitent is a sacramental rite of the Episcopal Church, and the BCP provides two forms for this rite (pp. 447-452). Forgiveness of sins concerns not just the removal of guilt but the restoration of personal relationships with God and others. See Original Sin; see Redeemer.

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.