Christianity Glossary Terms

King, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was one of America’s most renowned Christian leaders. After earning his Ph.D. from Boston University, King became minister of a Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama, where he led the successful non-violent bus boycott, bringing about an end to the segregation of the city’s transportation system. He is remembered for his strong role in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (beginning in 1957), in the Selma to Montgomery March (1965), in the March on Washington (1965), and for his leadership in the Civil Rights movement throughout the 1950s and 1960s. His Biblical faith decisively shaped his commitment to social justice. King was assassinated in 1968.


Abraham is the patriarch, acknowledged as the father of the lineage of faith by the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. He is presumed to have lived sometime in the period 2000-1700 BCE. He is the father of Isaac by Sarah (Genesis 12.25), and the “Friend of God” and Father of Ishmael by Hagar (Qur’an 37.83-113), and the exemplar of faith. (Galatians 3-4).


Adam is Hebrew for “human, man.” It is the name given to the first person created by God and as such has an important symbolic role in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions.


Advent is the Christian season of preparation for Christmas, the four weeks before Christmas in the Western churches; the first Sunday in Advent is the beginning of the Christian liturgical year.

All Saints Day

All Saints Day is November 1, the day on which the church celebrates the saints, known and unknown.


The Amish are Protestant Christians of Anabaptist origin, beginning in Europe in the late 16th century with commitment to the adult “believer’s” baptism and to pacifism. In the U.S., the Amish in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other parts of the Midwest have maintained a strong sense of community and continue to insist on simplicity, rejecting the use of modern technology.


Anabaptist is a general term for several Reformation movements that insisted on the baptism of adult believers, as opposed to infant baptism, and who generally rejected the establishment of Protestant state churches. The Schleitheim Confession (1527) also rejects military service, violence, and the swearing of oaths by conscientious Christians.


Angels are a class of supernatural or spiritual beings, imaginatively understood to perform various functions on God’s behalf. Angels are especially described as divine messengers. Angels are common to Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.


The Church of England is a national church that broke with the Roman Catholic Church in the English Reformation of the 16th century; the Worldwide Anglican communion, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, consists of more than thirty-eight autonomous provinces throughout the world, including the Episcopal Church in the United States.


The apostles are the disciples of Jesus recognized as leaders of the early church; Paul, although not a disciple, came to be considered an apostle as well.

Apostolic Church

The term apostolic refers to the early Christian era, with traditions of ministry and authority derived from the apostles, the immediate disciples of Jesus.


An archbishop is a bishop with authority over a particularly large or important diocese.


An archidiocese is a particularly large or important diocese over which the archbiship has juirsdiction.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is the first day of the season of fasting, penitence, and spiritual discipline and study called Lent, the six and one half weeks preceding Easter. For many Christians it is a day of fasting and a day on which the season ahead is symbolized by the imposition of ashes on one’s forehead.

Azusa Street revivals

On Azusa Street in Los Angeles was the mission church of black Holiness preacher William J. Seymour where one of the most important streams of pentecostalism had its genesis in revivals that took place between 1905 and 1913.


Baptism is the Christian sacrament of initiation in which new birth into the Christian community is conferred by sprinkling of or immersion in water.


The Baptist tradition includes a variety of Christian churches which trace their beginnings to the Anabaptist reform movement that rejected infant baptism insisting on the importance of baptizing only those who are able to profess the faith as believers.


Benedictines are members of monastic orders who live according to the Rule of St. Benedict, the 6th century monk of Monte Cassino in Italy whose teachings lie at the heart of monastic life, ancient and modern.


The Greek term biblia means the “books.” Bible is used in both the Jewish and Christian traditions to refer to the book which gathers together their sacred writings. The Hebrew Bible includes the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings—a collection referred to as Tanakh. The Christian Bible includes the Hebrew Bible as well as the four Gospels, the Book of Acts, the apocalyptic Book of Revelation, and the letters of the apostle Paul and others.


A bishop is an ordained minister who supervises life in a diocese, synod, or other broad region and possesses, among other things, the authority to ordain clergy to the ministry of the church. The Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and Protestant churches including Lutherans and Methodists, have bishops.


Calvary is the hill on the outskirts of ancient Jerusalem on which Jesus was crucified.


Calvinism is the tradition of Christian faith and practice developed by the 16th century reformer John Calvin (1509-64) who emphasized the sole authority of scripture, the omnipotence and sovereignty of God, human sinfulness, and salvation by faith alone.


A cardinal is a high-ranking office in the Roman Catholic Church, conferred by the Pope and involving both ecclesiastical and administrative duties on behalf of the church. The College of Cardinals is charged with the responsibility of electing a new pope when the office becomes vacant.


A catechism is a manual or lesson book of Christian instruction, containing essential Christian teachings for young people or those seeking to join the Christian community.


The chancel is the part of church, often elevated by a few steps, where the altar and pulpit are located. Often this is where choir members are seated and the place from which clergy conduct the service.


A chaplain is a member of the clergy who serves in a prison, a hospital, a college, or some other institution outside the context of the normal congregational life of a religious community.


Christianity is the religious tradition of Christians: those who confesses faith in Jesus Christ, follow the path Christ taught, and gather together in the community of the church.


Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Since the 4th century this observance has been held on December 25 in the Western church.


The term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church refers to the building housing such a community or to a particular “communion” or denomination of the Christian tradition. The term “church” has been adopted by other American groups —such as the Buddhist Churches of America—to indicate this form of community fellowship.


Clergy are the body of ordained men (and in some cases women) who are authorized to perform the priestly, pastoral, or rabbinical duties of the community—as distinct from the laity whom they serve.
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