A General Convention Glossary

Anglican Consultative Council (ACC):  The role of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) is to facilitate the cooperative work of the churches of the Anglican Communion, to exchange information between the Anglican provinces and churches, and to help to coordinate common action. It offers advice on the organization and structures of the Anglican Communion and seeks to develop common policies with respect to the world mission of the church, including ecumenical matters.

The ACC serves the worldwide family of Anglican/Episcopal churches as one of the four Instruments of Communion:

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury in his international role as primus inter pares, the senior bishop in the Anglican Communion
  • The Lambeth Conference, which meets about every 10 years for the bishops of the Anglican Communion (first meeting in 1867)
  • The Primates’ Meetings, which are regular meetings of the senior archbishops and bishops of the 38 provinces (first meeting in 1979)
  • The Anglican Consultative Council, which meets every two or three years and whose members include bishops, clergy, and laity appointed by the 38 provinces of the Communion (first meeting in 1971)

The ACC is the only one of the four Instruments of Communion that includes lay representation. The Rt. Rev. Edward J. Konieczny (Diocese of Oklahoma), the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings (Diocese of Ohio), and Rosalie Simmonds Ballantine, Esq. (Diocese of the Virgin Islands) are the elected members of ACC for the Episcopal Church.  For more information:  Anglican Consultative Council

Acolyte: From the Greek meaning “to follow,” an acolyte is anyone who assists the presiding bishop or priest during the celebration of a sacrament.

Anglican: Anglican is a term indicating the English origins of the Episcopal Church. Episcopalians are also Anglicans, as in the expressions “Anglican Church” or “Anglican Communion,” both of which simply indicate any church that derives from the Church of England and is in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Anglo-Catholicism: Inspired by the 19th-century Oxford Movement, Anglo-Catholicism emphasizes the catholic (universal) tradition of the church. It highlights the sacramental life through “high” liturgical practices.

Antiphon: Antiphon is Greek for “alternating sound.” Using a chant text, often a psalm or psalm-based text, either half of a choral group sings half the text. Psalms were originally chanted “antiphonally” (with alternating verses), but now the term usually refers to a single verse at the beginning and usually repeated at the end.

Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC): The primate of the Church of England who is recognized by Anglicans throughout the world as the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion. The current Archbishop of Canterbury is the Most Revd. and Rt. Hon. Justin Welby.  He was named 105th Archbishop of Canterbury on November 9, 2012 and enthroned on March 21, 2013.   For more information:  The Archbishop of Canterbury, Anglican Communion web site; Justin Welby, The Archbishop of Canterbury

Bishop: In the Episcopal Church, bishops are elected by their dioceses.

Blue Book: The report to the 79th General Convention, commonly referred to as the Blue Book, is available online at The Episcopal Church’s General Convention website. The Blue Book contains reports of the committees, commissions, agencies, and boards of the General Convention. For more information: Blue Book.

The Book of Common Prayer (BCP): The Book of Common Prayer is is the basis of the Episcopal worship service. For more information: Book of Common Prayer.

Breviary: Over time, the Daily Offices, as they were said in monastic communities, became more and more complicated, and communities started using multiple books. The “breviary” was developed to simplify the Daily Offices, and combines the prayers, hymns, canticles, antiphons, and the Psalter into one book.

Called to Common Mission: Called to Common Mission is the agreement of communion between The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which was first celebrated in 2000. For more information: Ecumenical/Interreligious; Called to Common Mission.

Chrism: Chrism (pronounced “KRI-zm”) is Greek for “oil,” and is used as holy oil, blessed by a bishop and used to anoint a newly baptized member of the church or to anoint the sick.

Church Pension Group (CPG): The Church Pension Fund (CPF) is a financial services organization that serves the Episcopal Church. CPF and its affiliated companies, collectively the Church Pension Group (CPG), provide retirement, health, life insurance, and related benefits for its clergy and lay employees. CPG also serves the Episcopal Church by providing property and casualty insurance as well as book and music publishing, including the official worship materials of the Episcopal Church.  For more information: Church Pension Group.

Church Publishing Incorporated (CPI):  Founded in 1918, Church Publishing Incorporated (CPI) is the publisher of official worship materials, books, music, and digital ministry resources for the Episcopal Church.  For more information:  Church Publishing, Inc.

Clergy Reflection, Education, Discernment Opportunity (CREDO): This Episcopal organization promotes clergy and lay wellness through annual conferences that focus on further vocational discernment. For more information: CREDO.

Coadjutor: A coadjutor is a bishop elected and ordained to assist with diocesan functions, who will, when a sitting bishop resigns or retires, become the diocesan bishop.

Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion (CUAC): This organization was formed as a worldwide association of Anglican colleges and universities of higher education as a result of an International Conference of representatives assembled at Canterbury in 1993. For more information: Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion.

Compline: Based upon monastic night prayers, compline (pronounced “KOM-plin”) is the last of the four services in the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 127).

Cursillo: This spiritual renewal movement begins with a three-day weekend of worship, reflection, and fellowship. For more information: National Cursillo Center.

Daughters of the King (DOK): The Daughters of the King is an order for lay women in the Episcopal Church. Daughters live by a Rule of Life, which includes prayer and service in their parishes and communities. For more information: Daughters of the King.

Diaconate: The diaconate is one order of the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church, priests (presbyterate) and bishops (episcopate) being the other two. Some persons are called to serve as permanent deacons. Those who will be ordained to the priesthood are first ordained to the “transitional” diaconate. For more information: Association for Episcopal Deacons.

Diocesan Council: The diocesan council is the governing board for a diocese, composed of bishops, appointed and elected priests, and lay persons, and which bears responsibility for the development work of the diocese, particularly in between sessions of the diocesan convention.

Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS): The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the missionary organization and corporate body of The Episcopal Church. The constitution of the Missionary Society was first adopted by the special General Convention of 1821 and incorporated by the New York State legislature. In 1877 the constitution of the Society was enacted as a canon of the General Convention. This canon was amended in 1919 to provide for the Presiding Bishop and Council (now Executive Council) to be the directors of the society and to administer its work. For more information: Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

Education for Ministry (EFM): A popular four-year theological education certificate program for lay people that incorporates distance learning and is based upon small-group study and practice. For more information: Education for Ministry.

Episcopal Church and Visual Arts (ECVA): This is a national organization with chapters in many dioceses that promotes and encourages the work of artists in the Episcopal Church. ECVA is known for its online exhibits. For more information: Episcopal Church and Visual Arts.

Episcopal Church Building Fund (ECBF): An independent 501(c)3 organization, the Episcopal Church Building Fund empowers congregations to enhance their mission through the strategic, resourceful, and creative use of their buildings. For more information: Episcopal Church Building Fund.

Episcopal Church Women (ECW): Episcopal Church Women is an organization that strives to support all women in the church in their ministries. ECW was first organized in 1871 as the Women’s Auxiliary to the Board of Missions.  The 49th Triennial Meeting of Episcopal Church Women will take place in Austin,  Texas, July 5 through July 13, 2018.  For more information: National Episcopal Church Women.

Episcopal Conference of the Deaf (ECD): A group of deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing family and friends who worship God together in the Episcopal tradition.  For more information: Episcopal Conference of the Deaf.

Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM): Episcopal Migration Ministries is the Episcopal Church’s foremost response to refugee crises. Working in partnership with offices and groups within the church as well as with governments, non-government organizations (NGOs), and a network of 30 affiliate offices in 26 dioceses, Episcopal Migration Ministries assures safe passage and provides vital services for thousands of refugee families upon their arrival in America: English language and cultural orientation classes; employment services; school enrollment; and initial assistance with housing and transportation. For each family, the goal is self-reliance and self-determination. After years of living in limbo, thanks to Episcopal Migration Ministries, refugees now have the opportunity to begin again on a strong foundation that honors their stories and dignity.  For more information: Episcopal Migration Ministries.

The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS): This organization supports and encourages those who recognize and promote the importance of stewardship in their own communities and parishes. For more information: The Episcopal Network for Stewardship.

Episcopal News Service (ENS): This officially sponsored online news source of The Episcopal Church offers in-depth reporting and analysis of local, regional, national and international news for Episcopalians and others interested in the church’s mission and ministry. Providing written and multimedia coverage, Episcopal News Service is the officially sponsored online news source of the Episcopal Church.  For more information: Episcopal News Service.

Episcopal Relief & Development: (Please note that this organization prefers acronyms not be used.) Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger, and disease through multi-sector programs that utilize local resources and expertise. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities rebuild after disasters and develop long-term strategies to create a thriving future. For more information, visit episcopalrelief.org  

Episcopal Youth Event (EYE): Every three years, in accordance with General Convention Resolution #1982-D079, the Episcopal Church convenes an international youth event so “that the energy of the youth of the Episcopal Church can continue to be utilized in active ministry as members of the Body of Christ.” EYE remains a popular and well-attended annual event geared toward youth in grades 9-12 and their adult leaders. Most recently EYE was held in July 2017 in Oklahoma City, OK. For more information: Youth MinistriesEYE17

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA): The Episcopal Church is in full communion with ELCA. For more information: See Called to Common Mission; The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Evensong: The daily rite of Evening Prayer set to music, usually from start to finish with the possible exception of the Lessons. Often accompanied by incense, to symbolize the “lifting up of prayer as the evening sacrifice,” it is among the most beloved of Church traditions. But it is in essence simply an elaboration of a service deliberately simple enough to be done every single day by every single person.

Executive Council: The Executive Council has the duty to carry out programs and policies adopted by General Convention. The Executive Council is comprised of 20 members elected by General Convention (four bishops, four priests or deacons, and 12 laypersons) and 18 members elected by provincial synods. For more information: Executive Council.

Font: The bowl used to hold the water for baptism, usually placed on a pedestal.

Forward Movement:  A ministry of The Episcopal Church, Forward Movement has been inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists around the globe since 1935 through offerings that encourage spiritual growth in individuals and congregations.   Best known for Forward Day by Day, a daily devotion providing meditations on scripture readings, Forward Movement continues to build on a history of encouraging discipleship and evangelism.  Today Forward Movement offers books and ebooks for small groups, individual study, and prayer, Christian formation courses, leadership events, Spanish and bilingual resources, pamphlets, downloadable resources, a daily podcast, apps for smartphones or tablets, and online engagement opportunities.

Forward Movement donates over 100,000 resources for Bible study, daily reflection, and spiritual nourishment each year to prisoners, hospital patients, and nursing home residents in fifty countries around the globe.  For more information:  Forward Movement

General Convention (GC): The main governing body of the Episcopal Church, which meets every three years. In 2018, General Convention will be held July 5-July 13 in Austin, Texas.  The General Convention is made up of two houses: the House of Bishops (HOB) and the House of Deputies (HOD), which present, consider, modify, and ratify resolutions that direct the work of the church for the next three years.  For more information: General Convention.

Girls’ Friendly Society: Girls 5- to 21-years old can be members of this parish-based Episcopal society that has been around for over 130 years. Much like the Girl Scouts, the Society helps guide girls through the first part of their lives with an emphasis on worship and service. For more information: Girls' Friendly Society.                   

Godly Play: Godly Play is a teaching method for young children utilized in many Episcopal Sunday schools. For more information: Godly Play.

Happening: This weekend retreat program for high-school students seeks to bring young persons to a fuller personal knowledge of and relationship with Christ and to a deeper level of commitment and apostleship. For more information: Happening.

The House of Bishops (HOB): One of two governing bodies at General Convention, this group is composed of the bishops of the Episcopal Church. For more information: House of Bishops.

The House of Deputies (HOD): One of two governing bodies at General Convention, this group is composed of elected clergy and lay representatives from all Episcopal Church dioceses. For more information: House of Deputies.

Icon: Greek for “image,” this visual catalyst for prayer is usually deep in color, two-dimensional, simple in style, and made to engage the mind while meditating on a saint or God. Traditional icons are made according to a strict and prayerful process, ensuring that they are charged with spiritual energy.

Instruments of Communion: Very early in the life of the emerging Anglican churches, it became clear that there would need to be mechanisms by which the churches could take common counsel. These have become the core structures of the Anglican Communion, together known as the Instruments of Communion. When we speak of the Instruments of Communion, we are referring to (in historical order):

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury
  • The Lambeth Conference
  • The Anglican Consultative Council
  • The Primates Meeting

For more information: Instruments of Communion.

La Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America (IARCA): La Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America includes Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Its origins date back to the 18th century and are based on their relationships with the Church of England and The Episcopal Church. For more information: La Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America.

The Jesus Movement:  Following Jesus into loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God, with each other and with the earth.  We are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.

For more information:  The Jesus Movement

Journey to Adulthood (J2A): Journey to Adulthood is a youth ministry program for 6th to 12th graders. J2A emphasizes rites of passage (see Rite 13), Bible study, prayer, and fellowship. For more information: J2A.

Jubilee: Jubilee ministries and centers, found throughout the Episcopal Church, focus on outreach to the church and community. For more information: Domestic Poverty/Jubliee Ministries.

Lectionary: The Lectionary is the set of Biblical readings appointed for use by the church throughout the year. For more information: Lectionary.

Lift Every Voice and Sing (LEVAS): This hymnal is a collection of 280 musical pieces from both the African American and gospel traditions. It includes service music and several psalm settings in addition to spirituals, gospel songs, and hymns. For more information: Lift Every Voice and Sing II.

Miter: A miter is the triangular-shaped cap worn by bishops.

National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES): An independently incorporated, voluntary membership organization, NAES supports, serves, and advocates for the vital work and ministry of those who serve 1,200 Episcopal schools, early-childhood education programs, and school establishment efforts. For more information: National Association of Episcopal Schools.

National Episcopal AIDS Coalition (NEAC): Formed in 1988. Today, as AIDS continues to spread in spite of treatment breakthroughs, NEAC continues to provide support for HIV and AIDS ministries across the Episcopal Church.  For more information: National Episcopal AIDS Coalition.

National Episcopal Health Ministries (NEHM): This organization serves health ministers who promote health and healing within Episcopal congregations, Episcopal congregations, Episcopal clergy, and Episcopal dioceses and provinces. National Episcopal Health Ministries serves by: educating leaders for Episcopal health ministry and parish nursing; supporting those engaged in health ministry in Episcopal congregations through membership opportunities; providing resources to local congregations, diocese and provinces; collaborating with other faith communities, institutions and health organizations. For more information: National Episcopal Health Ministries.

Novitiate: This is a special period of preparation and formation before a candidate is formally admitted to a religious order, during which the person learns the mind, work, and spirit of the particular community while living among its members. A person in the novitiate is referred to as a novice.

Oblate: An oblate is someone associated closely with a religious order, but who will be living a modified form of the Rule of Life, which allows him or her to live outside the religious house. Oblates are so-called because they make an oblation (or offering) of obedience to the community instead of taking the profession vows. In some communities, oblates remain celibate, in others they are allowed to marry. When oblates live within a community house, they are usually termed intern(al) oblates.

Oblation: Oblatus is Latin for “something that has been offered.” During the Eucharist, the elements, bread and wine (and sometimes the gifts of the congregation as well) are offered to God early in the Eucharistic Prayer. Celebrants who are returning to classic Christian practice often actually lift them up during the words of oblation, “recalling his death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.”

Pall: Used in imperial Rome as a covering for a body lying in state, it has persisted into modern times; the heavy cloth draped over a coffin. The word is also used to define the stiff square used to cover the chalice and support the burse prepared for use during the Eucharist.

Patronal Feast: This is the day a parish commemorates the saint or saints for whom it has been named.

Postulant: A postulant is a person who has been approved by the bishop to begin study and preparation for ordination to the diaconate or priesthood. In religious orders, a postulant is a person who aspires to enter religious life and is in a preliminary stage of testing their vocation with a community, but has not yet taken vows.

President of the House of Deputies (PHOD):  Each General Convention, the House of Deputies elects a president and vice president. The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings is president. First elected in 2012, Jennings is the first ordained women to hold the post.  In addition to presiding over the House of Deputies when it is in session, the President of the House of Deputies serves as vice-chair of the Executive Council and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, appoints clergy and lay members to standing committees and commissions and other church-wide bodies, and serves as an ambassador and advocate for work that carries out the resolutions of General Convention.  For more information: President of the House of Deputies.

Presiding Bishop (PB): The Presiding Bishop is the head bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church.  Elected at General Convention for a nine-year term, the Presiding Bishop presides over the House of Bishops and represents the Episcopal Church at meetings of the primates of the Anglican Communion and other international gatherings.  The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry was elected as the 27th Presiding Bishop at the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, UT on June 27, 2015.  For more information: Presiding Bishop.

Primate: The primate is the head of each of the 38 provinces in the Anglican Communion. In the Episcopal Church, the Primate is the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry.

Province: Province has two meanings: (1) The nine geographical groupings of dioceses in The Episcopal Church; and (2) the designation so used for groupings in the wider Anglican Communion.

Psalter: The Psalter, as the Book of Psalms is often called, is actually a collection of different kinds of poetry spanning many centuries (e.g., Psalms 29 and 68, c. 1100 BC, to Psalm 119, c. 400 BC) and reaching essentially its present form around 300 BC. Evidence of the collective nature of the Psalter is seen in its division into five “books” (e.g., Psalm 72:20), the references to various authors (e.g., Psalm 89), as well as the different time periods represented (e.g., Psalm 137 is clearly from the period of Exile, c. 550 BC).

Revised Common Lectionary (RCL): This is the set of Biblical readings appointed for use by the church throughout the year. For more information: Lectionary.

Revivals:  Through revivals, the Episcopal Church seeks to vigorously engage in evangelism, reconciliation, and new ministry development. Revivals began in 2017 and are planned throughout 2018 in various dioceses and will include energizing worship, dynamic preaching, testimony, storytelling, speakers, and sessions that connect to relevant topics.  For more information:  RevivalsEpiscopal Revivals

Rite 13: Rite 13 is the 6th to 8th grade section of the J2A program, which emphasizes the passage from childhood to emerging adulthood. For more information: J2A.

Sexton: This is an English title for the person in charge of the church building (or a special portion of it) and grounds. In the U.S., the sexton is also commonly head of maintenance and custodial services and may perform additional duties such as ringing the church bell.

“Smells and bells”: This is an informal way of referring to high church liturgical practices; the “smells” are incense and the “bells” are Sanctus bells.

Standing Committee: This elected body in each diocese includes four clergy and four lay leaders whose duties are many, including serving as counsel to the bishop.

Suffragan bishop: In the Episcopal Church, this refers to a bishop who assists the diocesan (or Ordinary) bishop, but does not have the right of succession (as does the coadjutor).

Taize: (Pronounced “tay-ZAY”) This French ecumenical, largely Protestant experiment in communal Christian living is famous for its chants. For more information: Taize.

Thurible: A thurible is a vessel that contains burning incense.

Thurifer: A thurifer is the acolyte designated to carry the thurible in procession.

The Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE): This is a national group representing African American clergy and laity in the Episcopal Church. For more information: The Union of Black Episcopalians.

The United Thank Offering (UTO): The United Thank Offering is a gratitude ministry of the Episcopal Church to support innovative mission and ministry in the whole Church. Known worldwide as UTO, the United Thank Offering awards grants for new projects and programs that address innovative approaches to ministries within their communities that meet the stated focus for the year.  For more information: United Thank Offering.

Verger: This lay person assists the clergy in conducting worship. They often carry an ornate virge (or mace) in procession.

Vespers: This is the alternate name for any service of Evening Prayer; originally, one of the seven (or eight) monastic hours, which were incorporated into Morning and Evening Prayer in the Anglican traditions.

Vestry: The vestry is an elected group of parishioners in a congregation. The room where vestments were kept gave its name at some point to the group of people who met in that room and governed the local parish. They now have the legal and statutory responsibility and rights involved with the maintenance and trusteeship of the church and its property, subject to their relationship with the larger diocesan authorities.

Via Media: This is a Latin phrase meaning “middle way” that defines Anglicanism as standing between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Under Queen Elizabeth I, it came to be identified with the retention of Catholic practice without the authority of the papacy.

Young Adult Service Corps (YASC): The Young Adult Service Corps brings young adults into the life of the worldwide Anglican Communion and into the daily work of a local community.  At the same time, it brings the gifts and resources of the church into the lives of young adults as they explore their own faith journeys.  For more information: Young Adult Service Corps.

Adapted from “It’s All Greek To Me” which first appeared in The Episcopal New Yorker, December 2005.

Nancy Cox Davidge
Public Affairs Officer