Abbey

Some churches, for historical reasons, are known as abbeys.  E.g. Sherborne.   For all practical purposes they are parish churches with the normal arrangements of churchwardens and parochial church councils.  They were originally the base of a group of monks.

Absolution

The formal forgiveness of sins.   In the Book of Common Prayer, Cranmer made it abundantly clear that it was God alone who forgives sins, in explicit contradiction of the Roman catholic theological position which made it necessary for a priest to act as an intermediary.   Thus in the absolution in the 1662 prayer book, the minister says that God has “given power and commandment to his Ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the Absolution and Remission of their sins: He (sc. God) pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel”.   Thus the minister proclaims the truth and actuality of what God is doing.   Liturgical revision has weakened this stance.   The Alternative Service Book 1930 has an absolution in which the minister simply prays for the forgiveness of the congregation (for which they have already prayed in their confession); Common Worship backs a number of horses (it offers 13 forms of absolution) none of which carries the assurance carried by Cranmer’s own composition.

Altar

See Lord’s Table.

Anglican Communion

The worldwide group of churches in communion with one another and, in particular, with Canterbury; all have a historical link with the Church of England, the Church of Ireland or the Scottish Episcopal Church.  They accept fully the Lambeth Quadrilateral and look to the Archbishop of Canterbury as the senior bishop within the worldwide communion.   All such churches uphold the Lambeth Quadrilateral. 

Anglo-catholic

The name given to loyal members of the Church of England who look primarily to tradition as the source of authority.   They tend to espouse a Roman Catholic view of doctrine, particularly of Scripture, the Eucharist and the priesthood.   The majority are inimical towards the ordination of women to the priesthood.

Archbishop

There are two of these, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, the two provinces into which the Church of England is divided for administrative purposes.   Of the two, Canterbury is the senior and is also de facto the senior bishop in the Anglican Communion; he is known as the Primate of All England.   Within the United Kingdom, the Archbishop of Canterbury enjoys precedence immediately after the Queen and her close family.   Then comes the Lord High Chancellor and only then, poor chap, the Archbishop of York.   The archbishops are joint presidents of the General Synod as well as being the bishops of their dioceses.   They are addressed as “The Most Reverend the Archbishop of………”.  

Archbishops’ Council

Coming into being in 1999, this body was established in order to give greater coherence and coordination to the central organisation of the church.   The two archbishops are its joint chairmen; ex officio members are the chairmen of the two convocations, the chairman and vice-chairman of the House of Laity of the General Synod and a Church Estates Commissioner.   Two members each are elected from the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity of the General Synod.   Six members are nominated by the archbishops.   Under the terms of the National Institutions Measure 1998 its objects are “to coordinate, promote, aid and further the work and mission of the Church of England”.

Archdeacon

“Arch”, of course, derives from “head” and an archdeacon is technically a head deacon.   He is the administrative right-hand man of the bishop in ecclesiastical matters and usually has responsibility for a specified geographical area (an archdeaconry) within the diocese   Archdeacons are addressed as “The Venerable  the   Archdeacon of…….”

Arches, Dean of the

Not, as you might think, a senior ordained person with pastoral responsibility for the railway arches in Lambeth, but the legal officer of the Archbishop of Canterbury, both in terms of the Archbishop’s office as a diocesan bishop, but also as archbishop of a province.   

Area

Increasingly, dioceses are being sub-divided, either formally by schemes authorised by the General Synod or, informally, into areas.   Often a suffragan bishop will be given immediate responsibility for such an area, with an accompanying archdeacon, and the diocesan bishop may well delegate, again either formally or informally, certain of his own powers and responsibilities.

Articles of religion

A necessary read for all members of the Church of England!   The bases of the doctrine of the Church of England are the Apostles’ Creed, the Thirty Nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer.   The first of these needs no comment.   The last contains the authorised services, including those for ordination to the priesthood and the consecration of bishops.   The middle one constitutes the most coherent statement of the theology of the Church of England.   It is a child of its time – the Reformation – and thus contains some fairly forthright remarks about the beliefs of the Roman Catholic church, which do not commend themselves to today’s readers.   Those apart, however, it is a robust statement of the evangelical faith and well worth reading.   It is sufficient in its coverage of major theological matters for the late W H Griffiths Thomas to have written a commentary on it and to have been able to entitle that commentary “The Principles of Theology”.   The articles are particularly strong on the inspiration and authority of Scripture, salvation, and the sacraments as well as covering matters like the Mass, vestments etc.

Authority

A vexed question in the Church of England!   Very simple, in essence: the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church: there is no question of that.   The problem comes in deciding how that authority is mediated to the church in practical everyday problems and situations.   There are broadly three strands of belief.   The catholic, which regards the church’s tradition as the final arbiter; the evangelical, which regards Scripture in that way; and the liberal, which gives final authority to human reason.   It is not as clear cut as this simple division would suggest, for the Catholics have a high view of Scripture, the evangelicals do not ride roughshod over tradition (and both recognise that the interpretation of both tradition and Scripture in today’s culture calls for the application of reason), and the liberals are not without regard to tradition and Scripture.   However, there is also fourth strand, the charismatic, which runs through the other three and which holds that the individual believer can experience the direct revelation of truth and its current application from the Holy Spirit.   All this, however, raises the further question of how this authority, however it is derived, is mediated to the church.   The Church of England does this through a system of synodical government, in which both clergy and laity take part.  

Baptism, of infants

The Church of England recognises the validity of the baptism of infants.   Its position is defined in Article 27 See Articles of Religion.   Whilst this is the norm – although not all the clergy assent to it – provision is made for the baptism of older people – “those of riper years” as the Book of Common Prayer calls them.   When parents are unable to go along with infant baptism for any reason, some clergy offer a service of thanksgiving and/or dedication instead.

Battle

Battle shares with  Bocking the distinction of having its incumbent entitled Dean.   This arises from the special status these churches had, but which has been removed.

Benefice

One of those words loved by the lawyers that are difficult to define.   The Shorter Oxford Dictionary says “an ecclesiastical tenure”, whatever that may mean.   For our purposes it may do to say that it relates to all that an incumbent accepts on his appointment to a parish – any endowments, the cure of souls in the parish, the freehold, the occupation of the clergy residence, be it vicarage or rectory.   It used to include tithes when they were payable to an incumbent.

Bishop

There are lots of these, in all shapes and sizes.   Diocesan bishops are the senior clergy in their diocese, spiritually responsible for the cure of souls in their diocese.   They should be the focus of unity, the defenders of the orthodox faith, and teachers of it.   The bishop is president of the diocesan synod.   Diocesan bishops are appointed by the Crown on the advice of the Prime Minister from two names submitted by the Crown Nominations Commission, on which there are a group of permanent members to which are added representatives of the relevant diocese for the discussion of specific vacancies.   Suffragan bishops are appointed by the diocesan bishop to assist him in his duties, often having responsibility for a particular geographical area of the diocese.   Similarly, a diocesan bishop may be helped by retired bishops living in the diocese, who are given the title of assistant bishop.   Bishops are addressed as “The Right Reverend the Bishop of ….”.

Bocking

See Battle.

Canon

Canons are definitely amongst the big guns of the Church of England, although perhaps the smallest of them.   Canon is the title given to a cleric who is a member of a cathedral and derives from the fact that he is bound by the rules or canons of that cathedral.   Some canons have specific roles within the life of the cathedral eg treasurer or precentor and are known as residentiary canons and, with the dean, form the chapter, which is the governing body of the cathedral, responsible on the one hand for the maintenance of worship within the cathedral and on the other for the maintenance of the cathedral buildings. There are also honorary canons, clergy whom it is desired to honour because of their service to the diocese; these have stalls in the cathedral for their use when attending particular services.   Broadly speaking, the residentiary canons form the lesser and all the canons the greater chapter; it is the lesser chapter that is the executive body referred to above.

Canon law

That by which the clergy and, to some extent, the laity are governed.   Approved by Parliament, it has the force of law and covers matters of worship and practice.   Mayfield, in his “The Church of England: its members and its business” has some 11 pages on this subject.   Confusingly, the constituent parts of canon law are referred to as canons!            .   

Canterbury

The diocese whose bishop is the senior bishop in the Church of England.   See Archbishop.

Cathedral

The mother church of a diocese, where the bishop is enthroned on his appointment to the see and in which he has his “cathedra” or seat.   Cathedrals are governed by their chapters according to statutes.   Some, but by no means all, cathedrals are also parish churches.

Catholic

Properly meaning “universal” or “worldwide”, but often used as shorthand for Anglo-catholic.   Hence “the catholic group in the General Synod”.

Chapter

The body that governs a cathedral and consists of the dean and canons.   The same term is used of all the clergy in a deanery.

Charismatic

One of the strands of theological belief (see also catholic, evangelical, liberal) within the church today.   Its emphasis lies on the working of the Holy Spirit in healing, prophecy and miracles in the church today, and on the direct revelation of God’s will to the individual believer.   

Choir

Gone are the days when every parish church had a choir of boys and men to lead the worship.   Many still do, but many do not.   The parish church choir of today will, almost certainly, include girls and women; many cathedral choirs include girls, but many remain a final stronghold of the all-male choir.   There is a feeling that choirs can, sadly, begin to exist for their own musical reasons and have a life separate from the real worship of the church; this clearly is unhealthy.   Much will depend on the choirmaster and his own Christian conviction, and on the relationship between choirmaster and incumbent.

Choirmaster

These days one must think also of choirmistress.   Where a choir exists, its leader is clearly a key figure in the life and worship of the church.   Ideally the choirmaster will have a deep personal Christian faith, a good musical training and a sympathy with a wide range of musical taste.   He will need to know the hymn book used in his church from cover to cover, so that, working with the incumbent, he can bring out a rich variety of hymns relevant to the Sunday themes and make sure none are overused.

Christmas

The Christmas morning service continues to attract many casual participants for whom it is, perhaps, the only service they attend in a year – apart from weddings, baptisms or funerals.  Many parishes also hold a celebration of Holy Communion late on Christmas Eve.   It is, of course, the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary.   The season of Christmas is also celebrated by crib and Christingle services. 

Church Assembly

The predecessor of the General Synod and superseded because of its limited powers and the inadequate place it gave the laity in church government.

Church House

Here we go!   Church House is the administrative centre of the Church of England and is the home of its permanent staff and of the staff of the Church Commissioners.   As such, it is always liable to be under attack for consuming, as some would say, so large a proportion of the total resources of the Church of England.   It is a fine building, designed by Herbert Barker, and completed in 1939.   Its Assembly Hall is used for the meetings of the General Synod.   It is itself administered by an independent corporation.   The staff at Church House underpin the General Synod and its Commissions, providing an effective civil service function in support of the considerable work load of these bodies.   The Secretary-General is the head of the Church House staff.

Church of England

We shall need to be selective here!   The Church of England is the established church of the realm (in Scotland, the established church is the Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian in ecclesiology).   This has typically laid responsibilities on it and its ministers eg the incumbent of a parish has the duty of ministering to all the inhabitants in that parish; subject to some reservations, he must baptise and marry them and conduct their funeral services, if so requested.   Church of England clergy tend to be involved in some of the ceremonies of local government (and central government, for that matter eg some bishops sit in the House of Lords; the senior chaplains to the armed forces are drawn from the Church of England clergy).   The Church of England, through its archbishops and bishops, and through the use of Westminster Abbey for the ceremony, has played a prominent place in the Coronation of the Sovereign.   It still has, through the General Synod, a legislative link with Parliament.

Churchwardens

Every parish has two churchwardens, who are senior laity elected annually at a meeting of electors, who are those who live within the parish or are on the Electoral Roll of the parish church.   They are, ex officio, members of the Parochial Church Council and of its Standing Committee.   Their duties are covered in the Churchwardens’ Measure 2001.

Churchyards

Areas of land surrounding churches, and often, if well maintained, providing much appreciated amenity.   They are used for the burial of parishioners.      

Clergy

The term used to denote all those who have been ordained.

Collect

Nothing at all to do with money!   See collection for this!   No, a collect is a prayer.   The Church of England divides the year into seasons and allocates appropriate Scripture readings (known, in the Book of Common Prayer, as lessons) for each Sunday and also a prayer, known as “the collect of the day”.   Those that appear in the Book of Common Prayer and, modernised, in Common Worship are largely the work of Cranmer.   Most of them are structured to begin with a statement of a particular attribute of God, which is then developed into a petition appropriate to the day, linked to the lessons for the day.   In addition to their use in public worship, they form a valuable resource for the prayers of the individual Christian.

Collection

Every church is to a great extent financially dependent on the giving of the laity.   Traditionally, this giving was made every week in cash that was collected by means of a plate or bag passed round the congregation during the singing of the last hymn.   With the increasing use of bank accounts on the one hand and of regular committed giving on the other, the collection has seemed less and less relevant today.   In addition, there has long been a feeling of embarrassment at the passing of a collection plate to casual visitors to a church.   Some churches, therefore, no longer make a collection and, instead, have a plate or other suitable receptacle near the entrance door into which regular worshippers can place their gift as they arrive.   Increasingly, the emphasis is on regular and planned giving with the use of Gift Aid to increase the value of the gift.   It has to be said, however, that the presentation of the gifts of the congregation via collection plates as a part of the worship of the church was a powerful visual image, the value of which cannot readily be overestimated.

Commissioners, Church

This body came into existence in 1948 and inherited the resources of two earlier bodies – the Governors of Queen Anne’s Bounty and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, both of whom had capital funds available for the use of the Church of England.   The Church Commissioners’ funds consist of investment and property, and it is the interest from these capital funds that the Commissioners are able to deploy.   Some is used for the payment of bishops’ stipends and expenses and the upkeep of their residences (which technically belong to the Commissioners), some is used for the payment of the higher clergy, and some goes to dioceses for the payment of the clergy.   Some is used to help with the provision and upkeep of houses for the clergy.   The largest share of the Commissioners’ funds are also, is used for clergy pensions.

Common Tenure

Over many years, the terms of service of clergy have been discussed in the light both of what some have regarded as the anomalous freehold that has attached to clerical appointments and of current general employment laws (which by and large have not applied to the clergy.   The result is enshrined in the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) measure 2009 and will be known as “common tenure”.   Regulations under this measure are currently being drafted.

Comprehensive

One of the glories of the Church of England is said by many to be its comprehensiveness.   Others condemn it.   It effectively means that its members – and even its clergy – can hold almost any belief or none, and still claim membership, and loyal membership at that.   Thus an inability to accept the historicity of, for example, the Virgin birth or the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ has proved to be no bar to the holding of office, nor has a disbelief in His deity.   The problem comes when one tries to agree on the limits of that comprehensiveness.   The debate continues!

Confirmation

Infant baptism leaves a problem.   Unless one believes that the very act of baptism is a sign that the infant has, indeed, become regenerate regardless of the undoubted fact that the child will have had no understanding of what was being done to it or for it, one needs some formal opportunity for that child to endorse what was done at baptism.   The service of confirmation provides this.   It is the bishop who presides at the service, underlining that the candidate is being received as a member by and into the universal church; during the service he lays hands on the candidates and prays for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within them.

Convocations

Before the advent of the General Synod, the clergy were provided with the means of influencing church policy through the Convocations of Canterbury and York.   The members of these bodies were the bishops (all the diocesan bishops together with representative suffragans elected by their colleagues) and clergy elected by their colleagues in the deaneries.   The convocations still exist but meet only rarely.   Technically, the General Synod consists of the two convocations with the House of Laity.

Court, ecclesiastical

Mayfield, in his The Church of England: its members and its business OUP 1958, has 12 pages on this subject!   Suffice it here to say that these are legal courts administered by the church and intended to correct and educate those who transgress or ignore the church’s teaching or laws of conduct, to correct and as necessary remove from office those of its officers whose conduct is unseemly or whose teaching is heretical, and to protect the clergy in their teaching of the gospel and to prevent their censure or dismissal without due trial.   This right not to be deprived of office capriciously is what is known as “the parson’s freehold”.   Clergy today can only be dismissed on proved grounds of gross immorality or total pastoral breakdown.   Use of the ecclesiastical courts is infrequent; the most used is the consistory court, the main function of which today is in deciding the outcome of opposed applications for faculties to introduce changes in the fabric of churches.

Cranmer

A towering figure in the history of the Church of England.   He lived (1489-1556) at the time of the Reformation and was Archbishop of Canterbury 1532 – 1536.   He had enormous influence on the shape of the reformed Church of England and its liturgy.   He was martyred for his faith.

Crockford

An invaluable reference book, containing the names and brief CVs of all ordained men and women in the Church of England and of all the cathedrals and parishes.   By its aid, you can track down what has happened to George –or, these days, Georgina - since they were ordained.   And it gives details of the patronage of parishes, so you know who you are going to have to deal with when you apply for a living.   Each annual edition contains a preface, written anonymously by an author chosen by the publishers, that deals with a matter or matters of current moment in the church.

Crown

The Crown is concerned with the Church of England in three ways (at least!).   The monarch is the Supreme Head of that church; the Crown is involved in the appointment of bishops and other senior clergy; and a number of parishes have the Crown as patron.   The function relating to appointments is largely in the hands of the Prime Minister’s Secretary for appointments, who is also involved in the Crown’s patronage.   The broader position is spelled out in Article 37. See Articles of Religion.

Curate

The name most used for clergy when newly ordained to a parish.   In fact, they are technically assistant curates, for the incumbent is the curate, acting as he does, on behalf of the bishop, who is responsible for the cure of souls in his diocese.