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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 England.


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" churches.


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".


See "Deanery".


The word "archdiocese" is not used in the Anglican church. It is a Roman Catholic word. An Anglican Archbishop is in charge of a diocese.


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 "national churches."



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 way too.


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 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. See our section on church governance for more information.


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 Churches.



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 "Anglican."


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 Offering."

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.