A term denoting certain parish priests.
Church of England Edit
The primary meaning is of a parish priest formerly entitled to the Greater Tithes. Not always resident he would appoint a Vicar or Curate to act for him in the parish whilst retaining some obligations and rights to himself. Importantly, the Rector was responsible for the upkeep of the chancel of the church whilst the Wardens were responsible for the nave.
The dissolution of the monasteries in England saw an increase in the number of Lay Rectors who inherit the rights and responsibilities associated with the land that they own. Recent English case law has complicated the situation whereby a lay person may purchase a home on former church lands and thereby become responsible for the upkeep of the chancel of a parish church.
Modern use sees the word Rector used as a title for a more senior parish priest, such as the leader of a team ministry, or the head of an institution. In Roman Catholic use the head of a theological education establishment is often titled Rector and this usuage has spread in to Anglican circles.
Episcopal Church, USA Edit
In ECUSA use, a Rector is the tenured priest charged with pastoral care of a Parish, or self-supporting congregation. The Rector of a parish may call curates or associates to serve at the pleasure of the Rector.