Presbyterian is the general name for churches governed by elected presbyters or elders and refers especially to Reformed churches in Scotland and England that shaped Presbyterian churches worldwide. The church is distinguished both from those in which authority is vested in bishops and from those in which authority is entirely in the local congregation. The Presbyterian churches have a series of governing bodies from the presbytery, to the synod, to the General Assembly. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. is the largest Presbyterian Church in the U.S.


The Deist movement, beginning in late 17th-century Europe, set forth a belief in one Supreme Being and a natural, moral law common to all people. The movement influenced some American revolutionary leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.


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.

Leviticus, Book of

The third book of the Humash or Five Books of Moses, Leviticus (or Vayikra, meaning ‘And He Called’) details the priestly obligations the formed the spiritual heart of the forty-year journey in the wilderness, as well as the basis for the later service in the Temple in Jerusalem. Leviticus is almost completely devoid of narrative, and is sometimes seen as less accessible than the other four books of the Humash, due to the fact that sacrifices are no longer a part of Jewish ritual life.


Pentecostalism is a term used to describe a 20th century Christian movement that emphasizes Spirit-filled worship, including glossolalia or “speaking in tongues,” as is said to have happened on the first day of Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. Beginning in the first decade of the 20th century in Los Angeles and Topeka, Kansas, Pentecostalism has become a powerful stream of Christianity, both in the U.S. and worldwide.


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


A patriarchate is one of the sectors of the Eastern Orthodox church over which a patriarch, or senior bishop, has jurisdiction. The ancient church recognized Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople as patriarchates. Today, for example, the Greek Orthodox Church has a Patriarchate of North and South America.


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.


Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in 1534 and given approval by Pope Paul III in 1540. The Society of Jesus was formed both to counter the influence of the Protestant Reformation and to propagate Christianity among non-Christians. Jesuits became known for their commitment to education, scholarship, and teaching as well as their service as missionaries.


The cross is the central symbol of the Christian faith, pointing to the significance for the church of the whole Christ event: the life and teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.


The Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox churches are a family of fourteen or fifteen churches that developed from the Church of the Byzantine Empire, which formally separated from the Church of Rome in the 11th century. Today they include the ancient patriarchates of, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, the large Greek and Russian Orthodox churches and the new Orthodox Church in America.


The Vatican is the residence and administrative headquarters of the Pope. Located in the area around St. Peter’s basilica in Rome, it is the official headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. Vatican City is the name of the independent state headed by the Pope that includes these buildings.


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).

Holy Week

Holy Week is the week preceding Easter in which the whole drama of the Christian story is recalled, from Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.


The congregational form of Protestant Christianity has traditionally affirmed the autonomy and authority of the local congregation in calling and ordaining its ministers and organizing its affairs. In the 17th century, the English Puritans introduced congregational polity into North America. The heirs of this polity today include the United Church of Christ (UCC).