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Glossary of Theological Terms

AC/CE "In the Year of Our Lord": the Christian year dates from the birth of Jesus. Also called Anno Domini or the Common Era
Anglican churches in full communion with the See of Canterbury. A member of this Church.
Arminian a system of belief, named after the Dutch theologian Arminius (1560-1609), whose chief tenets were (in opposition to Calvinist beliefs) that God's sovereignty is not incom­patible with man's free will, and that Jesus Christ died for all, not for an elect few.
Baptist a branch of the Church marked off by belief in the indepen­dence of the local gathered church to which the individual is admitted of profession of faith as a mature adult through total immersion.
BC/BCE Before Christ: the period of history before the birth of Jesus. Also known as 'before the Common Era'
Bible the holy book of Christians; it comes from the Greek biblia meaning "books"
Calvinism a system of belief, named after the French reformer John Calvin (1509-64) whose chief tenets are that scripture is the only rule of faith, that man is justified by faith not works, and that there is absolute predestina­tion of the elect to salvation and of the repro­bate to damnation.
catechism a book of questions and answers used to teach a new member of the Church the basic facts and beliefs of the Christian faith
Catholic 'universal'. The catholic faith, seen as the universal church throughout the world
Christ also 'Messiah'. An early Christian title affirming the status of Jesus. A Greek word meaning "anointed one", or "chosen one", God's deliverer. Messiah is the Hebrew translation
Church a community of Christians, or the organisation to which they belong
church (with a small c): the building in which Christians worship
Church of England the established Church in England; also called the Anglican Church. Set up by law in the reign of Elizabeth I
circuit a district in which a Methodist minister or lay preacher operates
Congregationalism a form of churchmanship depending on the independence and autonomy of the local gathered church, but without insis­tence on believers' baptism.
consubstantiation Lutheran view of the nature of the Eucharist
Counter Reformation the revival of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which was stimulated by the Protestant Reformation. The Jesuits were at the forefront of the revival
Deist an adherent of a system of belief centring on God as Creat­or of an ordered universe, a rational Supreme Being to be apprehended by reason. The deists stood for natural as opposed to revealed religion.
denomination a type of grouping within the greater Christian Church, e.g. Roman Catholic, Anglican, Baptist
diocese the main geographical unit of Church administration, governed by a Bishop.
dissenter a general term for those Christians (not including Roman Catholics) outside the Established Church.
Easter central Christian festival in memory of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead
ecclesiastical having something to do with the Church (organisation or ritual) from the Greek, ecclesia
enthusiasm literally 'the state of having God within you', applied generally to conditions of ecstatic inspiration. Samuel Johnson defined it as 'a vain confidence of Divine favour or communication'.
episcopal associated with Bishops.
episcopacy system of Church government by bishops
Established Church in England, the Church of England, 'as by law established', the State Church.
evangelical group or church placing particular emphasis on the gospel and the scriptures as the path to salvation
Free Churches non-conformist denominations, free from state control
grace the expression of God's active love and acceptance of people in spite of their unworthiness. Grace is always completely undeserved; a free gift.
High Church a general term, normally applied to those Anglicans who stress the authority of the Church and its Bishops, and who place high value on the Sacraments.
Independent another, and older, name for Congregationalists.
justification by faith protestant doctrine of God's gift to individual Christians of unmerited forgiveness
Latitudinarian a term applied in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to 'broad' churchmen who were little interested in doctrine, church organisation or liturgy.
liturgy divine service according to a prescribed ritual such as Evensong or the Eucharist
Moravians a group of Christians from central Europe, formed by Count von Zinzendorf in 1722 but with roots going back much further.  Strong elements in their tradition include missionary enterprise, hymn-singing, fellowship meals and general simplicity of approach to life.  They influenced John Wesley.
Non-conformist a general term for those who do not assent to the Established Church. Much the same as Dissenter, but the word is much more negative. The sequence Puritan - Dissenter - Nonconformist is significant of a decline in intensity.
Original Sin the doctrine that Adam's sin was passed on to all mankind. Human beings are thus 'born in sin' and universally in need of redemp­tion.
Pietism a movement which started among the German Lutherans in the seven­teenth century to restore life to the Church though Bible reading, prayer meetings and practical Christianity.
Presbyterian an adherent of a form of church government through elders.
Protestant major division of the Church protesting against Roman Catholic belief and practice as distinct from Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches
Quakers a nickname for members of the Society of Friends.
redemption reconciliation (by purchase and liberation) of slaves to their masters - and so metaphorically of salvation through the death of Jesus
reformation a sixteenth century reform movement which led to the formation of Protestant Churches
Roman Catholic major division of the Church, owing loyalty to Rome, as distinct from Orthodox and Protestant Churches
Sacrament an outward sign of an inward blessing, as in baptism or the Eucharist
See strictly, the official 'seat' (sedes) of a Bishop. This normally stands in the cathedral of the diocese; hence the term is often transferred to the cathedral city, and sometimes loosely used of the actual diocese.
Society of Friends a body of Christians, also known as Quakers, whose founder was George Fox. Distinctive tenets are the absence of a paid mini­stry, the refusal to be bound by creeds, the use of silence in worship, paci­fism, and a belief in the Inner Light.
Socinian a term applied (after two sixteenth-century theologians named Sozzini - in Latin, Socinus - to those who deny the divinity of Christ; often used loosely for Unitarian.
stipend a fixed regular sum paid as a salary or as expenses to a clergyman, teacher, or public official; a salary
Transubstantiation the doctrine that the substance of the Eucharistic elements is converted into the body and blood of Christ at consecration, only the appearances of bread and wine still remaining.
Trinity three persons in one God - doctrine of the triune nature of Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Trinitarian a believer in the traditional Christian doctrine that God is a Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit) and yet a unity.
Unitarian one who disbelieves in the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity by denying the divinity of Jesus.
Vatican the residence of the Pope in Rome and the administrative centre of the Roman Catholic Church

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