The jurisdiction of a bishop, within which he exercises his ministry, is a diocese, a word taken from a territorial administrative unit of the Roman empire. There were certainly Christians in the British Isles by the beginning of the 3rd cent. ad (they were mentioned by Tertullian c.208) and several bishops in the country by 314, when three of them attended the Council of Arles. The churches in Wales, Ireland, and Scotland remained episcopal during the period Christianity was forced underground in England after the withdrawal of the Romans.
The gradual re-establishment of the Christian church in England and revival of episcopal government followed the mission of Augustine (597), but early Anglo-Saxon dioceses could be vast in extent and often conterminous with the kingdom in which their see was placed. After the Norman conquest, the sees of a number of bishops were transferred to larger towns (e.g. Sherborne to Salisbury, Selsey to Chichester), thus creating the diocesan map which endured until the Reformation. The reformed Church of England retained bishops and Henry VIII established five new dioceses (Bristol, Chester, Gloucester, Oxford, and, briefly, Westminster). With the development of major conurbations in the 19th cent. further dioceses were founded (Ripon 1836, Manchester 1848, St Albans and Truro 1877, Liverpool 1880, Newcastle 1882, Southwell 1884, and Wakefield 1888), a process which continued into the 20th (Birmingham and Southwark 1905, Chelmsford, Bury St Edmunds, and Sheffield 1914, Bradford 1920, Blackburn 1926, Derby, Guildford, Leicester, and Portsmouth 1927).
Revd Dr John R. Guy
bish·op / ˈbishəp/ • n. 1. a senior member of the Christian clergy, typically in charge of a diocese and empowered to confer holy orders. 2. (also bishop bird) an African weaverbird, the male of which has red, orange, yellow, or black plumage. • Genus Euplectes, family Ploceidae: several species, including the red bishop (E. orix), which has scarlet plumage with a black face and underparts. 3. a chess piece, typically with its top shaped like a miter, that can move in any direction along a diagonal on which it stands.
Among the insignia traditional to the bishop are the throne in his cathedral, mitre, pastoral staff, pectoral cross, and ring. The most usual style of bishops is ‘Right Reverend’, or for archbishops ‘Most Reverend’.
In chess, a bishop is a piece, typically with its top shaped like a mitre, that can move in any direction along a diagonal on which it stands. Each player starts the game with two bishops, one moving on white squares and the other on black.
Recorded in Old English (in form biscop, bisceop) the word comes from Greek episkopos ‘overseer’.
Bishops' Bible an edition of the Bible published in 1568 under the direction of Archbishop Parker, and intended to counteract the popularity of the Calvinist Geneva of Chancery.