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Wahhabism

An austere form of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia and Qatar that follows a strict, literal interpretation of the Quran. Most people in the West knew nothing of Wahhabism until after the 9/11 attacks, which were organized by the terrorist Osama bin Laden, a Wahhabi. Wahhabism has spread rapidly since the 1970s, when the oil-rich Saudi royal family began contributing money to it. It is considered an extremist form of Sunni Islam that strictly enforces rules and criticizes those who follow other traditions of Islam. Use Wahhabi for a follower of Wahhabism.

Filed in Islam

ward

Large congregations in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are called wards, and they are led by a bishop and two counselors. Wards have specific geographic boundaries, and Mormon families attend the meetinghouse in their ward. Small Mormon congregations are called branches, which can develop into wards.

Filed in Christianity, Mormonism

Watch Night

A New Year’s Eve worship service popular in African-American churches. It dates back to 1864, when tradition holds that slaves waited all night long to hear word of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Filed in African-American, Christianity, Protestantism

White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

The successor to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which was begun in 2001 by President George W. Bush to make federal funding available to religious organizations for social services. Under President Barack Obama, the renamed program has a broader scope.

Filed in Government and politics

Wicca

There are many forms of Wicca, but most share a worship of the divine feminine, or Goddess, and a reverence for nature and its cycles. It is traditionally believed to be based on the symbols, celebrations, beliefs and deities of ancient Celtic peoples. Many scholars consider it the largest segment of neo-paganism, saying it can be traced back to Gardnerian Witchcraft, founded in the United Kingdom during the late 1940s. See neo-paganism.

Filed in Other faiths, Paganism/Wicca

witch

A practitioner of natural magic; often a follower of a pagan religion, such as Wicca.

Filed in Other faiths, Religion and culture

Word of God

Capitalize when referring to the Bible.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Baptist/Southern Baptist, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Pentecostalism, Protestantism

Word of Wisdom

The Mormon teaching, believed to be a revelation given to founder Joseph Smith, that Mormons should abstain from tobacco, alcohol and hot drinks such as tea and coffee.

Filed in Christianity, Mormonism

World Council of Churches

Formed in 1948 in Amsterdam, the World Council of Churches claims the membership of 340 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 100 countries and territories, representing some 550 million Christians, including most of the world’s Orthodox churches. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member but has a working relationship with the council. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the council works for Christian unity while stressing that it is not aimed at creating a “global super-church.” It is viewed with suspicion by many theologically conservative Christian groups — including strong factions of some member churches — who believe that it waters down Christian theology and substitutes social action for spreading the gospel.

Filed in Christianity, Government and politics, Interfaith, Orthodoxy

worship, worshipped, worshipper

Worship is the act of offering devotion and praise to a deity or deities. It is most often used in reference to formal religious services, but also applies to private prayer and other acts done to honor or revere the sacred. Many evangelical Protestants have a tendency to use it specifically in reference to music – especially contemporary praise music – sung in church. Thus, the leader of the contemporary singing group may appear in the church bulletin as “praise and worship leader.”

Filed in Protestantism, Religion and culture

wudu

Pronounced “woo-DOO.” A ritual in Islam in which the hands, face, mouth and feet are cleaned with water, symbolic of spiritual cleansing. It is usually performed before a Muslim goes to prayer five times each day. See ablution.

Filed in Islam