Consistory

(Lat. consistorium). Originally that part of the imperial palace in Rome where the emperor and his council administered justice. In the Western Church it came to refer to the assembly of the clergy of the city of Rome under the presidency of the bishop; later it achieved its current meaning of the college of cardinals. There are three types of consistory today: the public one (e.g., when a cardinal is given his red had); a semi-public one (when Italian bishops attend); and a private one (wherein the normal work of the college is conducted). In the Church of England each diocesan bishop still has a consistory court to administer ecclesiastical law under the judge (chancellor). Its work has been much reduced in modern times. In Presbyterian churches the term has been applied to the meeting of the parish minister and lay elders (kirk session*), which is the lowest court. Calvin's consistorial court in Geneva was the forerunner of a wider usage: that of a court of presbyters. In Lutheranism the term has been used to describe a board of clerical officers (provincial or national) set up to oversee ecclesiastical affairs (e.g., those in Germany in 1587).