I've put together this list of religious and church terms. I've tried to keep it simple. Seeing as I've compiled it you will probably be able to guess some of my opinions about aspects of this from looking at the list! This list isn't complete and keeps being added to.
Adoration In our sense the praising of God's glory and the glorious things He has done.
Means 'Love Feast' and is a
Christian feast in token of fellowship, which was held by early
Christians in commemoration of the Last Supper. The celebration of
Christian love and fellowship.
A story, play, poem or example where the truth or
the meaning is shown symbolically. The story may be fiction, but the
meaning it conveys is not.
Spiritual beings who are the messengers of God.
Conventional wisdom shows them as human like creatures with wings. In
reality we do not know what they look like, or what form they take.
Being sent by God they could probably take any form necessary to
deliver their message, or no form at all. In scripture they are
referred to as bright and glorious, and some are given names (examples:
The denomination formed by churches and congregations in communion with
(that is belonging to the denomination formed by) the Church of England
following its split (see schism) with the Roman Catholic Church under
Henry the Eighth. Churches of the Anglican communion can be found all over the world.
In our sense this does not mean regretfully
acknowledging or excusing. In theology, apologetics is the term given
to subjects which have been tested by philosophy and theological
argument and can be shown to have merit by reasoned defence.
One chosen by
Jesus to follow Him. The disciples became Apostles, when Jesus
commanded them to follow him, (the great commission) sent out with a
specific task or tasks, in this case to preach and baptise all people.
St Paul is considered an Apostle as he received his calling on the
Damascus road, he was called Saul before this. Other later Christians
been referred to Apostles, when they demonstrate similar
characteristics. Any of the 12 chief
disciples of Jesus Christ, and any of a number of early Christian
leaders ranked with these, such as St Paul. Apostles differ from
disciples in that anyone can choose to follow Jesus, that is to be a
disciple, but when one is specifically chosen by God, usually after a
conversion of some kind (St Paul is again a good example) then although
many qualities are similar, the Apostle is chosen rather than chooses
to follow Christ. It is therefore possible to have modern Apostles, as
it is disciples.
of, or relating to the Apostles or the apostleship.
The character of
the apostle. Roman Catholics regard their leader, the Pope, as
the successor to St Peter and hence Apostolic.
Apostolic Fathers the name given to the Christian leaders immediately after the original Apostles.
Succession The (some say uninterrupted) transmission
of spiritual authority conveyed from the Apostles (who received it as
the Great Commission from Jesus himself) to the present Bishops and
The doctrine of Arius of
Alexandria (AD 400, approx) denying the divinity of Christ.
A gathering or group of people in
our sense for the learning about, or the worship of God. The term is
often used for worship gatherings in non-religious buildings, such as
School Assembly, a religious service held in a school. Assemblies can
also be administrative gatherings of church leaders for deciding and
directing their denominations i.e. General assembly.
The absolute definate certainty that Jesus died that
we might be set free from sin.
One of the Christian Sacraments. Usually associated with entry into the
church. The entrant is immersed completely in water to symbolise dying
(to sin) and rising (out of the water) to new life. This reflects the
dying (to our sin) of Jesus on the Cross, and His rising to new life.
Some churches practise Baptism as total immersion (Jesus was Baptised
in this way by John), whereas some churches feel that the symbolism is
adequate using water that is sprinkled or poured. These latter churches
usually 'finish' the Baptism by a confirmation later.
Christian Scripture (said by some to be the Word of God). The word
Bible comes from the Greek Biblios which means 'library' or
collection of books. The Bible is not one scripture but a collection of
66 books of scripture. Originally there were more books of scripture
(they still exist) but the church in earlier times (the Jewish Sanhedrin & the Roman Catholic
church) edited the list and included only what was thought the most
worthy (critics of this will say 'what suited the church' and in some
senses they are right). The remainder of the books of scripture were
either rejected as being of no value to the Christain religion, or else
of 'secondary status' and were included in another collection of
scripture called the 'Apocrypha' (which means 'hidden writings').
A high ranking minister above a priest in Episcopal churches. Bishops
beware! There's Archbishops above you...
The gathering of people who worship God by following Jesus. A worldwide
community of people with more or less the same set of beliefs, but with
a joyful amount of variation in what they believe! The church is not a
building. Theologians speak of the 'Visible Church' and the 'Invisible
Church'. The visible church being those things you can see, the people,
the vestments, the buildings. The invisible church being the love and
actions of God at work in the world through His people.
A group of people who's association to each other is a shared belief,
their Christian religion. They are the 'church', not the building they
Coptic Church The Egyptian church based on the copt langauge.
In theology this does not mean to
find fault or to be negative. Rather it means making or using
judgements. Balanced judgements about scripture or historic events,
philosophically examining all possibilities and events concerned, then
forming an opinion about what actually happened (or did not). There are
various form of criticism: Form Criticism, Redactive Criticism etc.
Cross Denominational Mission (us!)
The first (lowest) of the three episcopal ministers, the others
being Priest, then Bishop. The term deacon exists in non-episcopal
churches too, usually for an assistant minister, or junior minister.
Dean The head of a chapter (group of clergy) of a cathedral or collegiate church.
Very often the Dean is the head priest conducting worship in the
cathedral itself, and the bishop presides over the whole diocese.
A group of churches (parishes) that come under the
episcopal oversight of a bishop. The word diocese comes from the latin
for 'fifty', from which it can be inferred that originally fifty or so
churches came under each bishop. The diocese is today the
administrative unit. The diocese will have a principal church, a
cathedral, (and usually one or two other principal churches too). The
diocese will have an administrative council called synod or similar, a
diocesan bishop and assistants (called suffragans or adjutors). The diocese will
administer schools and property and represent the parishes via social
responsibilty committees, clergy committees etc.
Disciple One who chooses to follow Christ.
(historic) A member of a non- established church, in
a land where there was an official (established) church. For example,
Baptists in 16th Century England.
Elim Church Church denomination whose name derives from Elohim, the Hebrew name for God.
Episcopal Churches that have a threefold ministry of Bishops, Priests and Deacons.
Means 'the final things' and is the part og theology
concerned with death and final destiny, of ourselves and of the world.
What happens when we die? is a question posed in escatalogical study.
Church' A church that is regarded in law as the 'official' church of
that country. The Church of England in England, and the church of
Scotland in Scotland for example. All other churches in these two
countries are recognised, but do not carry the legal priviledges or
burdens that the established churches carry. Other churches do of
course have legal obligations, but there are differences. For example,
when marrying in church, the established churches have a different
legal framework than other churches (see Marriage section & Banns
& licence) The seperate laws which apply to established churches
are called 'Canonical Law' (and Canonical Law is real law not just
There are varying degrees of 'established-ness' some national churches
are completely interwoven into the fabric of society and culture,
others less so, some only in name.
Means the doctrine of 'Last Things'. This is a phenomenen in the future
and/or outside of our world. We have no way of knowing what they are
except by Divine Revelation. The four categories of Last Things are:
Death, Judgement, Hell and Heaven.
The dictionary says 'any one of the four gospel writiers'. mmmmm! I
tend to feel it is more: Someone who has an interest in sharing the
gospel, spreading the Good News (which is what 'gospel' means).
Critical explanation of a scripture or scriptural
text. The origin of the word means interpret. Here when we say critical
we do not mean derogatory or negative, rather it is an objective
explanation after study and enquiry. The emphasis is on getting to the
true explanation and meaning, without the bias or opinons of the
translator, or of any other body (like the medieval church) getting in
the way. Excegesis often follows some form of constructive criticism, see 'criticism'.
The Holy Communion service. The word 'Eucharist' means thanksgiving.
Eucharist is communion with a flavour of thankfulness for the sacrifice made on our behalf by Jesus.
This is the word given to a phrase which means 'and
the Son'. Obviously a trinitarian theory it has been the subject of
huge amounts of heated debate for centuries in various churches and
theological circles. It has been at the centre of division and scism
and remains so. Unitarian believers beware! The discussions surrounding
this have profound implications for all believers and even if you are
vehemently unitarian, anything which is to do with 'the Son' meaning
Christ is central to your faith also.
The 'name' of God as translated from ancient scrolls
and scripture. Sort of means: 'I am who I am', or 'I am'. Later
translations feel that 'Yahweh' is a more accurate representation of it. From the Tetragammon. See Yahweh below.
Heaven is not a place: it is a
state. It is being with God, that is to say connected with God. It is a
state of the utmost satisfaction, joy and glory by being with God. It
is a mutual state also for God would not have us in heaven reluctantly.
Previously people were taught that heaven was 'above'. Mistakenly
(probably due to thinking that heaven was a place) people took this to
mean a place in the sky. Scripture referring to '...and God made the
heavens above...' etc. does not help this.
Hell is the
opposite to heaven. It is a state, not a place. It is being utterly
removed from and seperated from God. Hell is truly terrible. You can be
in the most beautiful place and wonderful surroundings and be 'in
hell'. Hell is self imposed: God does not put us there, we do it to
ourselves (and sometimes to those around us). There is no fire in
hell. This was an allegorical 'symbol' which originated from the
continually burning rubbish dumps around Jerusalem the Holy City,
called Hades, which were used to illustrate what hell might be like.
Means 'Promised Deliverer' The
awaited hero who would save everyone. The Hebrew people had an idea in
their culture of the what the messiah (Christ is another word for
messiah) would be like. Jesus did not fit their profile. Those that
recognise that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ obviously do!
An extraordinary event usually attributed to a supernatural or Godly
cause. An unusual event, remarkable, definately not usual. Early (and
some contemporary) Christians took them a special signs from God.
Can we prove they exist? Yes. Can we reproduce them or explain how they
Mission A particular course or task undertaken by a religious group.
Religions which only
worship one God. Christianity is Monotheist but has polytheist
overtones:- there is only one God, but some think of God represented by
three elements (Father, son, Holy Spirit, see Trinity) whereas others
do not (see Unitarian). Both sorts of Christian view their own
beliefs as monotheist, although there have been tensions over this for
years. There has been opinion that the inclusion of saints makes
Christian worship polytheist: this fails to recognise that Christians
place God as Principal, and above all other.
A verbal tradition, a narrative
which tells of popular or religious ideas. Unfortunately the word
myth is used to convey something which is untruthful in contemporary
wisdom. For our purposes a myth is usually an allegorical story, a
fictional story to illustrate a religious truth.
The state of
compliance to God's commands, instructions and advice to us. When we
comply, we are obedient. Usually we are not.
Omnipotence God's great and unlimited power, absolute power.
God's being in all places and at all times. Present
everywhere at the same time. Constantly available throughout every
dimension. It is sometimes helpful to think of this as a state rather
than a place, because our limited understanding has difficulty grasping
the concept of omipresence. God is all things to all people all of the
of appointing a person to a Holy Order. It means to 'set apart' in the sense of dedicating one's entire life to the calling.
The concept that we were made
perfect but are responsible for our downfall. Told in Genesis that Adam
and Eve disobeyed God. The subsequent depravity of all mankind
following that fall.
'correct' or currently accepted doctrines
Church The churches which
acknowledge the authority of the patriarch of Constantinople (as
opposed to, say, the Pope). Includes the national churches of Greece,
Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and others.
The belief that God is manifest in physical things usually plants and
animals. I don't believe that God needs to pretend to be anything other
than what he is. So this has very little impression on me. At worst pantheism tries to compress God into a plant or animal etc.
Heaven as the ultimate reward and home of those who have served God
well. Joy above measure. So, like heaven, paradise is a state, not a
The second (or a subsequent) coming of the Messiah,
Jesus. What will happen when Jesus returns. Once the great hunting
ground of unorthodox evangelicals
Of, or relating to the Passover, a hebrew feast of
sacrifice. We use it to refer to the sacrifice Jesus made for us in
sacrificing himself. This is our passover: Christ our paschal lamb
sacrificed for us.
A feast of sacrifice in ancient hebrew times animals were killed,
presented to the temple and eaten in memorial of God.
A minister whose emphasis is on spiritual caring and support.
Usually not episcopal, although episcopal ministers do carry out
pastoral tasks. Many pentecostal and 'free' churches call their ministers 'Pastor'.
A theory of religion which holds more than one
ultimate principal (god), or alternatively, several methods of
achieving a relationship with God.
The second (and numerically most common) minister in
the episcopal system. One who represents ordinary people to God.
Polytheism Religions which recognise many gods are polytheist.
A sincere request to God, or a
thanksgiving to God. Communication with Him on the Spiritual plane.
The belief that God has already decided what the outcome will be all
throughout time and that all things are just 'playing through' a
predetermined course. Predestination would mean we do not have free
will and our decisions are not really ours, God having already decided
what will happen. I don't buy this. If I did, we could not sin: God had
already decided what we would do. God could not ask us to believe in
Him, as he would have already decided what we would do and think. God
is not false: the free will and almost unlimited decisions he has given
to us are real. We live or die, and others live or die by our
decisions. God has devolved some of his power to us. This is why many
believe we are stewards of creation. Responsibility is only possible if predestination does not exist.
In this sense atonement, particularly Christs'
atonement for our sins by His sacrifice on the cross.
The expounding of God's will.
Usually demonstrated by foretelling future events. Interpretation of
what God will do.
Prophet A person who makes prophecy
The condition of or the supposed
place of spiritual cleansing. Those who die in the grace of God
but still have unconfessed sin. The state of temporary suffering to
Redemption A persons deliverence from sin and the effects of sin.
(i) The act of reforming or
renewing in an altered form. (ii) The 16th century movement which
sought to address abuses in the Roman Church and brought about the
protestant and the reformed churches.
The condition of feeling deep
sorrow and remorse for ones actions. Particularly for actions which are
contrary to God's will for us (sins).
Christs rising from the dead.
That is, still being alive after being put to death on the cross. Also
sometimes used to say how the dead will rise, and be restored at the
Last Judgement, to face God's enquiry of their motives and actions.
of matters which we can only get because God chooses to reveal them to
us. That is, knowledge which we cannot get by calculation, observation
(i) A body
which holds common customary religious observances. A part of a church
like Latin Rite or Liberal Rite. (ii) Also means an act of religious
observance such as a burial rite.
order or sequence of acting out a rite. For example, the burial rite is
A body of people who adopted a particular style of European art in the
18th and 19th centuries. This style influenced religious art of the
Those that are considered Sabian. That is those who
believe in the true God.
A religious ceremony or act where
there are outward and physical signs of an inward and God given grace.
The act of giving up
something of value for something of even higher worth. Christ giving
himself to die on the cross, the ultimate sacrifice, was giving himself
up (giving the life of the Son of God), but in doing so achieved
everlasting life for us all, for ever. The Eucharist, (or Mass) is a
re-enactment of that sacrifice and is a sacrifice of its own.
Sacristan One in charge of the sacristy and its contents.
A room in a
church where the vestments and sacred vessels are kept and prepared.
Salvation Being 'saved'
Sanctification Being purified or cleaned of the effects of sin. Some say being made holy.
Sanctum A Holy Place. Sanctum Sanctorum = Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem.
Sanctus Prayer or hymn which starts 'Holy,Holy,Holy...' in the Eucharist.
The reserved or most holy place
in a church or temple. Usually the place containing the high altar.
The devil, and enemy of good.
Sometimes reckoned to be Lucifer, once an angel, who became evil and a
Schism means split or division, usually dramatic and acrimonious
Scripture Sacred writings. The Bible is a collection of these.
The effect of concerns only for this world, the
'here and now'. No concern for religious or spiritual concepts.
Doing wrong: knowingly doing
wrong, especially against God. Breaking religious or moral rules.
of God Jesus,
the Christ. The only begotten Son of the Father, born of Mary,
conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Son of Man The name Jesus used of himself instead of the above name.
The spiritual or non-physical part of a person. The
moral, emotional, intellectual and spiritual components of a persons
The scrutinising and objective analysing of the source of information,
in order to learn more about the information itself and the context in
which it was given or meant to be understood.
hardship, pain, hunger, etc. Very often in religion as a part of
development into something better.
Suffragan Suffragan Bishop, usually. Means Assistant Bishop.
The concept that the one God is represented by three 'persons' God (the
Father), Jesus Christ (the Son) and the Holy Spirit. It is a
theological 'model' to help us
understand something which is beyond our
understanding. Critics claim it is not real. I feel that misses the
point. There is only one God. There is only one me. Yet I am a Father
to my sons & daughters, I am a son to my parents, and I am husband
to my wife, yet there is only one of me. To each of them I am something
different, yet I am only one being. The Trinity theory has caused much
tension. Unnecessary tension I feel.
Unitarian One who holds an anti-trinitarian belief.
for a priest usually of an established church with catholic background.
The word means 'representative of' and hence the vicar is the priest
who acts on behalf of, and as instructed by, a bishop. Roman Catholics
see their leader, the Pope as the 'Vicar of Christ' implying the Pope
is Christs representative. Vicar Capitular: a clergyman leading a
church, representing it and its beliefs, in the absense of the proper
leader; usually during an interregnum (which is gap in the leadership).
The 'Name' of God as derived from
the 'Tetragammon' the four letters in scripture where God reveals His
name as 'Iam who I am'. The four letters JHVH or YHWH depending on
scolarly approach to the translation are given and in English turn out
as either Jehovah or Yahweh when the vowels are added (there are no
vowels in the original language). At one time Jehovah was the
translation but sebsequent scholarly effort arrived at Yahweh which is
considered more accurate.