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Brief Dictionary of Terms

ANGLICAN COMMUNION: Churches around the world that are in communion with each other and with the See of Canterbury, (i.e., Church of England) and that hold the same faith, order, and worship. According to the Anglican Consultative Council, the Anglican Communion is composed of 38 autonomous churches together with a small group of extra-provincial dioceses and approximately 85 million members. There are Anglican congregations or jurisdictions in more than 160 countries.

ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY: The Primate of All England, Metropolitan of the Province of Canterbury, “first among equals” of all Anglican bishops, and the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion. The See of Canterbury was founded in 597 with the arrival of St. Augustine, who established his first church in the town. The present Archbishop of Canterbury is the Most Rev. and Right Hon. Justin Welby.

ASSISTING BISHOP: A previously consecrated bishop who is appointed by a diocesan bishop with the consent of the standing committee and diocesan council to provide additional episcopal services in the diocese for a specific term.

BAPTISM: This is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the church. God establishes an indissoluble bond with each person in baptism. God adopts us, making us members of the church and inheritors of the Kingdom of God (BCP, pp. 298, 858). In baptism we are made sharers in the new life of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins. Baptism is the foundation for all future church participation and ministry.

BISHOP: The third of the three orders of ordained ministry (deacon, priest, bishop). The major functions are to preside over a diocese, consecrate to the episcopate, ordain to the ministry, administer confirmation, and administer ecclesiastical discipline.

BISHOP COADJUTOR: A bishop who is elected to assist the bishop of a diocese and upon the latter’s death, retirement, or resignation, succeed the diocesan bishop in office.

BISHOP SUFFRAGAN: A bishop elected to assist the bishop of a diocese but without the right of succession to the office.

BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER: The title of the book of worship of the Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer contains doctrine that the church requires to be taught and believed, and a collection of historical documents. It sets forth the standard authorized liturgical texts used in the Episcopal Church. The most recent revision of the Book of Common Prayer was adopted in 1979.

CANON: A law of the church set forth by an ecclesiastical council or convention. This term also refers to a person who is connected to a cathedral, usually a staff priest, or a priest of some other high standing.

DEACON: The first of the three orders of ordained ministry (deacon, priest, bishop). Deacons function in most liturgical and pastoral ministries – not in consecrating the elements – and often assist priests in some way. Its institution is found in Acts 6:1-7.

DIOCESE: The territorial limits of jurisdiction of a diocesan bishop.

EUCHARIST: From the Greek word for “giving of thanks,” this refers to the service of Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper as a sacrifice of praise or thanksgiving. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was ordained by Jesus Christ for the continued remembrance of the sacrifice of his death. It may also be called the Mass, Divine Liturgy, Blessed Sacrament, or Holy Sacrifice.

EXECUTIVE COUNCIL: This governing body carries out the programs and policies of General Convention between sessions of the General Convention. It may initiate and develop such new works as it deems necessary. It is composed of 38 members: 20 members elected by General Convention (four bishops, four priests or deacons, 12 lay persons), and two members elected by each of the nine provinces.

PRESIDING BISHOP: The chief executive, primate, and spiritual leader of the church and the president of the Executive Council and House of Bishops. He or she is elected by the House of Bishops with confirmation by the House of Deputies for a term of 9 years, and when elected, he/she must resign his/her jurisdiction.

PRIEST: The second of the three orders of ordained ministry (deacon, priest, bishop). The word is a shortened form of “presbyter,” or elder. Priests officiate at any of the sacraments and services of worship other than confirmation, ordination, and consecration.

PROVINCE: A group of dioceses, usually in the same region, whose bishops and delegates meet in synod annually or in those years when the General Convention does not meet. A province is also a term used for a self-governing church body that belongs to the Anglican Communion, such as the Episcopal Church or the Church of England.