The word "Anglican" just means "English" or "of
England". It is rarely used to describe anything besides the Anglican
Church, and there it just means that our branch of the church began in
England. In England the Anglican Church is referred to as the Church of
For full detail see our page devoted to an explanation of this term.
It is a concept by which Anglican churches are unified: a church either is, or is not, a member of the Anglican
Communion. Those that are not are often called "continuing" churches, and sometimes called "breakaway"
The original bishops were by legend consecrated by one of the 12 apostles, to be their successors. These successor
bishops later consecrated more bishops, so that there would always be bishops. This chain of consecration is called
"apostolic succession." There is documentation tracing the chain of consecration back to the early 2nd
century, to people who were no doubt the successors of the Twelve, but no scholarly proof exists to document the
chain of succession during the very earliest days of the church.
See also "BISHOP".
An Archbishop is a Bishop who has additional responsibilities. Some archbishops have "metropolitan
authority" over other bishops, while other archbishops are simply the chairman of the House of Bishops, with
no special powers. This term is becoming less widely used, in favor of the term "Presiding Bishop".
The word "archdiocese" is not used in the Anglican church.
It is a Roman Catholic word. An Anglican Archbishop is in charge of a
An autonomous church is a church that governs itself. The Anglican
Communion consists of about 40 autonomous churches, most of which
are associated with specific countries and are therefore often called
A Bishop is a successor to one of the Twelve Apostles, who has been consecrated
by other Bishops. The unbroken chain of consecration of Bishops reaching
back to the Twelve is called Apostolic Succession. The word "Episcopal"
is derived from the Greek word for "Bishop", which is Episcopos.
The phrase "epi skopos" in Greek means "over sight."
In Latin it became "episcopus", in Old English it was "biscop",
which came to be pronounced "bishop" and later spelled that
BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER
The Book of Common Prayer is the primary source of worship material and
liturgy in the Anglican church. The first Book of Common Prayer was written
in 1549 by Thomas Cranmer. See http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/
for more information.
A Canon, in the singular, is either a law or rule (see below) or a person. A person referred to as a Canon may
be a member of a chapter or college of priests, typically the chapter of a cathedral. It is sometimes used as an
honorary title bestowed on a person who is not a priest but who does faithful work in support of the church.
The canons of the church are its laws or rules.
A Cathedral is a Church that is the home church, or "see", of the bishop of a diocese. Cathedrals
are usually administered by a priest who is referred to as the Dean of that Cathedral. In some places the Dean
of a Cathedral is known instead as its Provost.
A Cathedral is the church that contains the official stall or seat of the diocesan bishop. This stall is called
the throne or cathedra, from which derives the adjective "cathedral" as in "cathedral
church", which later in common usage became a noun.
The word "Communion" has two different but related meanings here. The most common meaning is as the
name of the Christian sacramental meal, equivalent to the Lord's Supper; often called eucharist. The second
meaning is as part of the phrase Anglican Communion, which see. The link
between these two meanings of the word is that in order to be "in communion with" someone you must be
willing to share communion with them.
A curate is an assistant to the person in charge of a parish, which
person is normally a vicar or rector or priest-in-charge.
Being a deacon is the initial level of being ordained in the Anglican Church. In some churches Deacon is a lay order; in the Anglican Church, deacons are ordained. Deacons often have special clerical
duties; by tradition the Gospel is read by the deacon if one is available.
A deanery is an organizational unit that is larger than a parish and smaller
than a diocese. Not every diocese is divided into deaneries, but some are. If a diocese has more than one bishop,
sometimes each bishop is responsible for a separate deanery.
The Diocese is the fundamental unit of structure of the Anglican church. Every diocese is the seat of a Bishop.
In general a diocese contains many parishes and churches, and normally dioceses
are combined into larger administrative units called Provinces and National
The Episcopal Church is the official U.S. name for the Anglican church. It was certainly in use as an
unofficial descriptor for the kind of church that we had, long before there was a need to have an official name
for the church.
After the 1776 war of independence from England, the US got its first bishop,
but he was consecrated in Scotland for various reasons. The Scottish
church was at that time generally known as Episcopalian, and any word
that reminded people of England was unpopular in the U.S., so the church
was called "Episcopal" after the Scottish usage. The Scottish church
did not evolve from the Church of England; it evolved in parallel
from the mediaeval Christian church.
The U.S. is once again friendly with England and the UK, but the name "Episcopal" has remained in preference to the more-recent
Anglicans often use the word Eucharist instead of the words Mass or Communion. The prayer book says "The Holy
Eucharist is the sacrament commanded by Christ for the continual remembrance of his life, death, and resurrection, until his coming again....
The Holy Eucharist is also called the Lord's Supper, and Holy Communion; it is also known as the Divine Liturgy, the Mass, and the Great
One will often see a church bulletin that says something like "9:00: Morning Prayer; 11:00: Holy Eucharist." This means that
the church will offer a 9:00 service that follows the "Morning Prayer" section of the prayer book, followed by an 11:00 service
that follows the "Holy Eucharist" section of the prayer book. Included in the "Holy Eucharist" section of the prayer
book is the receiving of communion, which is the Eucharist itself.
Each of the member churches of the Anglican Communion has some process
by which it governs itself. In the United States, the Episcopal Church holds a General Convention every 3 years,
at which the canons of the church are updated.
A General Synod is the same kind of event as a General Convention, but in different countries. For example,
England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand hold periodic General Synods as part of their church governance process.
The term "holy orders" is a way of referring to ordination: an ordained person such as a priest
or deacon is spoken of as "being in holy orders," meaning that the person
has made priestly vows, received the laying-on of hands, and has been admitted (by a bishop)
into one of the levels of ordination.
Also "Laity". Opposite of "Clergy." This word means "not ordained". A lay person,
or layman, is one who is not a priest or deacon. A lay society is one whose members do not take holy orders.
A "mission" is a church in some location that is administratively part of a
church in another location. In former centuries it was common to
refer to the staff of a mission as "missionaries", but that term is no longer in common
use. A large urban parish church might open a mission church in an impoverished section
of its city, knowing that a church there would not be self supporting. In recent
years there have been several cases of Anglican churches in one country opening a mission
in another country because they believe that the Anglicans there are Godless heathens. This
is one reason why the Archbishop of Canterbury has less hair now than he did when he was
Technically a National Church is a Province,
but in the Anglican church the word "Province" has a meaning that
is both unusual and ambiguous. The Anglican
Communion consists of about 40 Autonomous Churches, most of which are
associated with a particular country. In conversation that requires one
to speak about this concept, most people use the phrase "national church"
to describe an independent (autonomous)
member of the Anglican Communion. Many national churches are subdivided
into provinces, but those provinces are
not autonomous (they are part of, and governed by, a national church). Some
national churches are not divided into provinces, with the result that the
church in its entirety is often referred to as a province.
To "ordain" a person means to have that person participate
in a special ceremony in which someone with the correct authority gives
them new status. The ordination must follow the requirements set down
in the church canons. In our church, the
ceremony in which a person is ordained is called an "ordination,"
and it is performed by a bishop, by prayer
for the Holy Spirit and by the laying of hands upon the candidate. Until
a person is ordained, that person is called "lay,"
or a member of the "laity".
A parish is the smallest unit of administration within the Anglican church. Most parishes have just one church,
called the parish church. Some parishes have more than one church; this instance is usually found in areas with
sparse or declining population, so that only the clergy need travel far. Parishes combine into dioceses.
"Priest" is a special term for the minister of a Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Orthodox church. Historically,
the term meant someone who performed a sacrifice; later the term referred to those who said Mass. A person becomes
a priest by being ordained by a bishop. Most bishops
require special training for this, which is typically obtained in a theological college or seminary.
A "Province" is an administrative division of the church that is bigger than a diocese and smaller
than the whole world. Many national churches are divided into provinces; for example, Canada is divided into four
administrative provinces and Australia into five. And Australia has one diocese that is not in any Province; it
is called "extra-provincial". In general no one cares about these provinces except church employees.
The word "province" does not appear anywhere in the web site of the Anglican Church of Canada except
in the minutes of the General Synod.
In some parts of the world, typically those that were never English colonies, the number of Anglicans is small
enough that there are not individual national churches. The Province of Central America has several countries,
as does the Province of Central Africa.
A transnational province is one that spans more than one country.
A rector is a priest who is the leader of a self-supporting parish.
If the parish is not self supporting, its leader is usually referred to as a vicar.
The word vestry has two meanings that are more or less unrelated, though they have a common origin. A vestry is a room in which
people put on vestments, or robes. A changing room. Since people typically do not take off their street clothes to put on vestments, a
vestry room is not a private place but often rather more of an alcove.
A vestry can also be like a board of directors for a parish. In many provinces of the Anglican Communion, including those in North
America, the business affairs of a parish are managed by a vestry that consists of members elected from the congregation.
"Vicar" has meaning similar to "rector."
The difference between "vicar" and "rector" has to
do with money. A vicar is the priest in charge of a parish or mission that is supported financially from the outside, while a rector is the
priest in charge of a self-supporting church. In England most churches
are supported by their diocese, so most of the priests in charge of English
churches are vicars. In many other countries, notably the USA, most churches
A "Vicarage" is normally a house occupied by a clergyperson who usually (but not always) turns out
to be a Vicar rather than a Rector.
A church warden is an appointed administrative position in a parish church. Usually one finds two wardens, called Junior Warden and Senior
Warden, or perhaps People's Warden and Rector's Warden. They have specific duties pertaining to the earthly operation of the parish.