Deacon

At the successful conclusion of his training, an ordinand is made deacon to serve in a specific parish, usually for a three year appointment.   He cannot, in fact, be made deacon without the promise of a post in a parish, and is said to serve his title there.   After a year of such service, during which he will be undergoing post-ordination training, he will be ordained priest and will continue in the same parish until his period of contract is completed or extended.   In his first year as deacon, the curate is not authorised to preside at a service of Holy Communion (that authority is given when he is ordained priest); nor is a deacon authorised to pronounce the absolution or blessing.   Not all deacons proceed with ordination to the priesthood; some remain permanent deacons.

Dean

These come in various categories.   Thus “rural dean” is a clergyman appointed to look after the clergy in a defined geographical area known as a deanery and also to preside, with a lay chairman, over the relevant deanery synod.  In some dioceses the rural dean is known as the “area dean”.   “Dean” tout court refers to the clergyman who is the head of a cathedral chapter and in whom the affairs of the cathedral are focussed.  Some cathedral deans are known as provosts.   But there is one more – the Dean of the Arches – but he is so different as to warrant an entry of his own.   Cathedral deans are addressed as “The Very Reverend the Dean of…”

Deanery

A geographical area in a diocese within which parishes are grouped for pastoral and administrative purposes under the care of a rural or area dean.   Also, confusingly, the name given to the residence of a dean of a cathedral!

Dignitary

A rather horrible outdated word still sometimes used of senior clergycanons, deans, archdeacons, bishops and archbishops, but the sooner it is dropped, the better.

Diocese

Some would regard the diocese as the primary unit of the Church of England.   Others would put the parish in this position.   Be that as it may, the diocese is a specific geographical area over which the bishop exercises his pastoral oversight.   It is also known as a see.    Here is a list of them with the dates of their foundation:


Bath and Wells 909  Exeter 1050 Ripon & Leeds 1836
Birmingham1905 Gloucester 1541 Rochester 604
Blackburn 1926 Guildford 1927 St Albans 1877
Bradford 1919 Hereford c676  St Edmundsbury & Ipswich 1914
Bristol 1542 Leicester 1926 Salisbury 1075
Canterbury 597 Lichfield 664 Sheffield 1914
Carlisle 1133 Lincoln 1072 Sodor & Man 447
Chelmsford 1914 Liverpool 1880 Southwark 1905
Chester 1541 London 314 Southwell & Nottingham 1884
Chichester 1070 Manchester 1847 Truro 1877
Coventry 1918 Newcastle 1882 Wakefield 1888
Derby 1927 Norwich 1094 Winchester 676
Durham 635 Oxford 1542 Worcester 679
Ely 1109 Peterborough 1541 York 627
Europe 1980 Portsmouth 1927  
Doctrine

The doctrine of the Church of England is well expressed in Canon A5, as follows:   “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teaching of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.   In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal”. 

Easter

One of the festivals at which every communicant member of the Church of England is expected to participate in a celebration of Holy Communion.   It is the annual celebration of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, an event for which the evidence is overwhelming.   Although focussed one Easter Sunday, Easter, like Christmas, is a season rather than a single day.

Ecclesiastic(al)

To do with the church.   Thus ecclesiology is the study of the church – its theology, structures, governance and practices.   Clergy are sometimes called ecclesiastics, often with derogatory implications.

Electoral Roll

This is the basic list in every parish of all those entitled to vote on elections within the Church of England.   Those entitled to have their names on this roll have to be 16 years of age or more and they must reside in the relevant parish or be regular worshippers in church whose roll they wish to join.   The roll is completely renewed every six years, at which point all members have to re-apply for membership or else their names will be deleted.   By this means, the continuing validity of the roll is maintained. 

Elements

The bread and wine used in the Holy Communion are known as the elements.   The Church of England prescribes that both bread and wine should be received by both clergy and laity (see Article 30).

Eucharist

An alternative name for the Holy Communion service, meaning thanksgiving.   More commonly used by high church believers than by evangelicals.

Evangelical

Used of people to describe those who hold a set of doctrines derived from the Scriptures.   The doctrines include the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, the Holy Trinity, the atonement and justification by faith, the divinity of Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and his return to judge the world.   Evangelicals have a high regard for Scripture, believe firmly in personal conversion and are active in spreading the gospel.

Evangelism

The active preaching of the gospel of salvation in Christ.   An essential activity of the church, and one to which some Christians are individually called and for which they are individually gifted.   In one sense, all Christians are called to be “ready to give an answer for the faith” and thus positively to act as witnesses to their Lord and this witness may well result in conversions.   Evangelism is, however, proactive and deliberate rather than reactive. 

Faculty

Faculty jurisdiction is the process that allows the Church of England to care for alterations to its buildings outside the secular Listed Building system.   If a parish wishes to make alterations to the church, discussions must take place with the appropriate archdeacon.   If the changes proposed are minor, the archdeacon himself can authorise them; if they are major, the proposals must be submitted to the Chancellor of the diocese who will authorise the work, if approved, by the issue of a legal document known as a faculty.   The Chancellor will be advised on technical matters by the Diocesan Advisory Committee, a voluntary body, usually serviced by a member of the diocesan staff and having as members appropriate professionals such as architects, surveyors, and structural engineers.   It is reckoned that this faculty system is more rigorous than the secular system it replaces; it certainly is a privilege the church is fortunate to deploy and is well worth using conscientiously.   The system includes provision for the hearing of objections to the proposals and for their resolution. 

Finance

The Church of England  has two main sources of funds – that which is controlled by the Church Commissioners and that which comes from the regular – and, one hopes, generous – giving of its members.   Other sources in the past included the income from tithe lands owned by individual parishes and parochial endowments and have been taken over centrally by the Church Commissioners.

Flowers

Where would the Church of England without the flowers that decorate its Holy Tables?   And the flower arrangers that provide them?   Much loving care and devotion to the Lord of the church goes into these weekly displays that serve to embellish the church’s worship.

Flying bishops

These came into being in 1993/ at the time of approval of the ordination of women to the priesthood.   Their official title is “Provincial Episcopal Visitors”.   Parishes were allowed to resolve not to accept the ministry of women priests and not to accept as their bishops any who were prepared to ordain women.   Their pastoral oversight was to be provided by bishops whose episcopal care was exercised on a parish by parish basis rather than geographically.   These bishops are known as flying bishops!   There are two in the southern province and one in the northern.

Font

One of the four important pieces of furniture to be found in a church, the other three being the Holy table, the lectern and the pulpit.   The font is the vessel (and its support) in which the water used in baptism is contained.   Originally and symbolically it was situated near the main entrance, signifying its role in the admission of new members into the church.

Freehold

Once an incumbent has been appointed to a parish, he or she can be removed only on grounds of gross immorality or total pastoral breakdown.  This tenure is known as “freehold”, and is also enjoyed by the higher clergy.   It is not enjoyed by a priest-in-charge of a parish in which presentation has been suspended.   Freehold is said to give an incumbent independence, and to prevent his removal by, for example, a bishop for reasons other than those mentioned above.   The existence of freehold is frequently under attack, as an outdated anomaly; there are many, however, who regard it as still necessary or, at least, desirable.   As a result of prolonged discussion, the General Synod has passed the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure 2009, coming into effect on 31 January 2011, one of the consequences of which will be to remove the freehold for all new appointments after that date. See Common Tenure.

General Synod

For all practical purposes this is the governing body of the Church    of England.  It was set up under the Synodical Government Measure 1969.  It consists of three houses – of bishops, of clergy and of laity. The house of bishops consists of all the diocesan bishops together with a number of suffragans elected by their colleagues.   The other two – the House of Clergy and the House of Laity -  are elected within the dioceses, whose representatives they are, the electorate being the deanery synods in each diocese.   The number from each diocese is based on the total number on the electoral roll of the diocese.   (As one would expect in a body like the Church of England, there are a number of extra – and ex-officio – members).   Currently (2010) there are 53 bishops, 205 clergy and 207 laity.  The synod meets two or three times a year, each time for a few days, and conducts practically all its business with all three houses meeting together.   Only rarely do any of the houses meet separately.   Usually the vote on any business is a vote of the  synod as a whole, but there are arrangements for a vote to be taken by houses for a few specified types of motion or when this is asked for by the synod itself.   In such cases, a motion, to be deemed to have been carried by the synod, has to be carried in all three houses.   See also Convocations.

Giving

Already mentioned under Finance.   This is an increasingly important element in the financial state of the church, as central funds are increasingly needed for the payment of clergy pensions.   Parishes are enjoined to teach congregations the Christian principles of the stewardship of money (and of other gifts) and from time to time the General Synod or the Church Commissioners remind members of their responsibility in this matter, suggesting that they make contributions of a specific percentage of their incomes.   Most, if not all, dioceses have a stewardship committee to foster systematic giving.

Group

With the decline in the number of ordained clergy, the Church of England has taken a number of steps to cope with the ensuing problems.   These are enshrined in the Pastoral Measure 1968 and its successor in 1983.    One of the steps was to give power to a diocese, subject to various procedures, to bring together specified parishes into a group.   The aim was to encourage these to work together more closely, to pool resources as seemed wise, and to draw on one another’s strengths.   For their success they depend very much on the goodwill of the parishes concerned, and of course parishes do not like losing their independence.   Where such goodwill exists and the resources of the group are not curtailed too much, groups are known to be successful and to save money.   See also Team and Group Ministries Measure 1995.

Growth

What every incumbent longs for!   And every bishop!   Much time, energy and prayer have been expended at every level in the Church of England over many decades in efforts to achieve numerical growth, beginning with the ground-breaking report “Towards the Conversion of England” published at the end of the war in 1945.   The object of much of the liturgical revision of the last thirty or forty years was the same – to make the church more user friendly.   The decline in total numbers on the electoral rolls of the parishes has, however, continued, although many individual churches growing.   It is difficult, however, to identify a pattern for success in this regard.   Faithfulness in preaching the gospel must remain the prime aim of the church, and faith that God in His sovereignty will honour that faithfulness in the ways He plans.