web analytics
nesting clergy dolls

A Bishop is not a Priest

nesting clergy dolls

In a recent blog post of his, Bishop Jim White quotes the rubric in the service to ordain a bishop in The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer (page 511):

The bishop-elect is vested in a rochet or alb, without stole, tippet, or other vesture distinctive of ecclesiastical or academic rank or order.

I cannot remember noticing this rubric previously, and I would be very interested in its history.

The person about to be ordained bishop stands there as a baptised person – wearing the ‘uniform’ of a baptised person.

I am not keen on the nesting-clergy-doll theory that inside every bishop there is a priest; inside every priest there is a deacon; inside every deacon there is a confirmed person; and inside every confirmed person there is a baptised person. I think serious international, ecumenical debate should discuss per saltum ordination – being ordained to the order that God calls you. I also think serious international, ecumenical debate should discuss the requirement to be confirmed prior to ordination.

The current approach demeans the diaconate, turning it into a mere stepping-stone required for priesthood. The diaconate should be for those involved in radical service, leading the sacrificial service ministry of the church – I envisage those leading the church’s care for the poor and the homeless, those spearheading the church’s response to injustice, these are leadership ministries for which one could be ordained to the diaconate.

I respect those who see priests as called from those serving radically in the diaconate in this manner, but that is not what is currently happening.

An interesting comment to the recent blog post about ‘part-time priests‘ was “I function as a priest when I teach, consecrate, bless and forgive. The rest of the time I function as a deacon.” Whilst I respect that priest, I think we should think twice about such a comment. It seems to me in danger of clericalising Christian service. As if real Christians are those who are ordained. In the nesting-clergy-doll approach (I’ve already indicated I do not follow this approach), might it not be better to say “I function as a priest when I teach, consecrate, bless and forgive. The rest of the time I function as a lay person.”?

I do not think in terms of collecting orders like postage stamps, or coin collections – the best is to have the whole set. I think we should renew our orders so that all the baptised are seen as equal, whatever their order: lay, deacon, priest, bishop. It is tragic, I think, that the church’s word for ordering our community, “hierarchy” (holy rule), is the one that most springs to mind when people are wanting a word that expresses a pyramid of unequal ranking!

We intensify this sense of inequality amongst the baptised by further ranking pyramidally within an order: Venerable, Canon, Very Reverend,… especially when these titles (often of increasing sounding holiness) do not indicate a role but are retained beyond their functional lifespan. I regularly get asked questions like: “Is a Canon above or below a Venerable?”

Theologically we get to bizarre comments like one I often hear, that a bishop presides at the Eucharist “because a bishop is still a priest”. That is about as back to front n regular ecclesiology as one can get. It is the bishop who presides at the Eucharist because of being the bishop!

I recognise that in the case of the bishop it is practically impossible to visualise a way of normally ordaining directly to the episcopate (although historically that has happened). The previous paragraph notwithstanding, there is another theological discussion to be had whether the bishop is the senior priest to whom priests have delegated their right to ordain (the indication of that being in the way we ordain itself). Such a discussion would help ecumenical discussions with denominations that do not have the episcopate but ordain presbyters. In any case, the practical difficulty to ordain directly to the episcopate is the exact opposite of the issue about ordaining directly to the priesthood. In the latter case, with rare exceptions, one is called to priesthood, and diaconate becomes little more than an apprentice-priest year, usually lost on many in the congregation who struggle to make sense of many of the church’s esoteric distinctions.

Some previous per saltum discussion is found here and here.

Image: nesting clergy dolls – Patriarch, Metropolitan, Bishop, Priest, Deacon, Subdeacon, Reader.

Similar Posts:

61 thoughts on “A Bishop is not a Priest”

  1. John Mark Hunter

    Thank you Bosco for a provocative essay here. I tend to agree with you all the way down, which is a little annoying, but we must bear our burdens. The ‘transitional diaconate’ is preposterous and mocks an important order in the church. I struggled with my own call for a long time and was relieved when one of my teachers proclaimed, “What this church needs is serious lay persons.” It served to free me from being locked in to the nesting doll sense of ministry. We don’t have to ordain every call.

    Another aspect of the theology of orders communicated in the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer is from the catechism. “Who are the ministers of the Church? Lay Persons, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons” (BCP, p. 855). The fundamental nature of our response to God’s call to us is our ministry.

    Finally, your mention of all the Reverend, Most, Very, Venerable, etc… brings to mind a pet peeve of my own. It is the grammatically egregious and philosophically reprehensible phrase, “Best practices.” Whenever I hear it, I always try to work in a comment about Second Best Practices, and Third Best, etc… Perhaps we might adopt Best Reverend, Second Best Reverend, etc…

    1. Amen, John (I hope I’ve called you the correct name). I’m taking from your comment that you are lay? I strongly want to affirm “serious lay persons”. I know of lay persons with serious theology degrees, for example, who (tiresomely) regularly get when-are-you-getting-ordained type questions (doubly strange in our context where a serious theological degree is not at all a requirement for ordination!) As for titles – what is wrong with just functional titles: Dean, Bishop, etc. Do we really need “Most Rev”, “Right Rev”, etc as well? (And let’s lose the title once we leave the role, please, once you stop being Dean, drop ‘Dean’ or Second Best Reverend, or whatever). Blessings.

      1. John Mark Hunter

        Yes, Bosco, an American Episcopal layman from Tennessee; so it is either Mark or John Mark. Meant to sign my first post, but neglected to. This past Sunday a lovely young woman from west Africa joined us. She gladly informed me that her father was a Venerable. All I could think of was Bede, but your above comments equipped me to hold back a Gomer Pile like, “Shazam!”.

  2. Chip Chillington


    The rubric is common to all three parts of the American Ordinal: candidates for ordination to episcopate, priesthood and diaconate are directed to vest in the same way.

    My copies of Massey Shepherd and Marion Hatchett’s commentaries on the BCP are (still) boxed in the garage, so I can’t help with the history of this rubric.

      1. Hatchett says that “Because each order has its own integrity the ordinand is to be vested simply in surplice or alb.” Very clear as to keeping the orders distinct and not stacked.

        In the Canadian church, the rubrics in the Book of Alternative Services provide: “A candidate for ordination MAY be vested in an alb or surplice (or in the case of a bishop-elect, a rochet) as the ordaining archbishop or bishop shall direct” (emphasis added). In practice, at ordinations to the priesthood, the candidate wear a stole deacon-wise, and after the imposition of hands, the stole is moved over both shoulders. At the one episcopal ordination I have attended, the candidate was vested in just a rochet. Mixed messages and theological confusion reign.

        I’m all for per saltum ordination. I was ordained in a rural diocese, and immediately placed as “deacon-in-charge” of a parish. For the 4 months of my diaconate, I functioned as a priest, except that I could not celebrate the Eucharist. While those serving curacies in large parishes might get some taste of servant ministry, it’s still does little more than cause confusion and misunderstanding of the ministry of those who are called to diaconal ministry.

  3. As you may have ascertained from any of my previous comments regarding the episcopate and the priesthood, my theology is that the primary ordained position in the Church is the bishop and that the authority of both the priesthood and the diaconate in a diocese, which are seperate and distinct callings to serve, flow from the authority of the bishop. And the authority of the bishop comes from the apostolic succession of those bishops who consecrate the new bishop and derives nothing from any previous ordinations to which the bishop may have been called in the past.

    And that once a diocese has a newly consecrated bishop, all authority held by the priesthood and the diaconate of that diocese that flowed to those orders by means of the previous bishop ceases and any authority those two orders obtain, flows from the new bishop.

    “If I were in charge,” any priest or deacon who did not 100% accept and submit to the ministry and authority of the bishop to whom they derive their authority, ceases to have any authority; their previous orders being null & void by reason of their failure to swear fealty & allegience to their current bishop!

      1. Your attempt to be cute, only shows an ignorance of the concept spoken.

        Democracy has nothing to do with the relationship between a bishop and the bishop’s priests, aside from the fact that the priests must enter the relationship of their own free will. And should they not be able to swear, promise, pledge, or whatever synonym you choose to use, their fealty, loyalty, fidelity, allegiance, trueheartedness, trustworthiness, faithfulness or whatever synonym you choose to use, then they have no business representing the bishop. Period. End of story.

        BTW, same concept, US school children in every state and territory swear fealty, pledge allegiance, to the flag of the US daily. The last I heard, most folks in the US and the rest of the world think of the US as a democracy.

        The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States is an expression of fealty to the Flag of the United States and the republic of the United States of America… (Wikipedia)

        “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

        1. John Mark Hunter

          Ach! You and Bosco and your logic and good examples. Good points, both. I still would never use the word ‘fealty’ whether ecclesiastic or patriotic. Perhaps my hubris is showing.

      2. John Mark Hunter

        I wonder, George, if there isn’t some regional distinction at play here. I’ve heard stories of wonderment from some southern cone bishops at the inability of American bishops to just tell the clergy and people what to do.

        Or perhaps Bro David was speaking with a bit of hyperbole. Please? It strikes me that there is a tremendous difference between obedience and fealty.

        1. We could too easily get into semantics, John Mark, and miss the point of what is being said. Br David has clarified, “swear, promise, pledge, or whatever synonym you choose to use, their fealty, loyalty, fidelity, allegiance, trueheartedness, trustworthiness, faithfulness or whatever synonym you choose to use”. Blessings.

  4. There are Permanent Deacons within the CofE and I suspect elsewhere. There roles are diverse and some hold teaching appointments.

    One that I know personally is serving a curacy in a parish nearby, which, because she’s not training for Priesthood, is more directed to community facing service and she is much more visible because of that ministry. Probably, more than her Vicar. She is self-supporting and having retired from teaching, has much to give and does so unstintingly.

    This was a ministry that I felt called too a few years ago, but was turned down as unsuitable for training for Ordination, debarring me from offering to serve in that capacity.

    Now, I am training for Licensed Lay Ministry, which will have an outward facing focus, similar to the ministry of a Permanent Deacon, but perhaps without the ties or submission to the Bishop in obedience that ordained ministry would have.

    We’re not sure how this will work, it won’t be a fresh expression, because it will be based on our existing parish and will work ecumenically with other denominations in the town. This was a ministry that has been mutually discerned in the parish, confirmed by the vocations team, and is part of a diocesan policy of empowering, equipping and deploying laity in new and innovative ways. Imagination and inspiration does exist in some places, thanks be to God for it.

    The point that you make about a Priest operating as a Priest when doing the normal priestly things, but as a lay person when not, makes sense in this context.

    1. Thanks, “UK Viewer”. Our prayers are with you and your community. I’ve asked you previously to just use your ordinary name. As you regularly contribute here, I know what your name is, and as there appears no reason for anonymity I’m of a mind to change to your ordinary name when you forget to put it. If there is any problem with that, please let me know. Blessings.

  5. I love the photo, Bosco.

    Bishop Gregory of Tours (539-594) recorded a nice anecdote from the 550s about a priest who, on the death of his bishop, presented himself as the obvious candidate for election:

    “Cato was a man filled with self-esteem and silly self-admiration. ‘You will know,’ he answered, ‘for it is common knowledge that all my life through I have lived as a religious, fasting, taking pleasure in almsgiving and enduring long vigils. I have stood the whole night through fervently chanting the psalms. The Lord my God will not now permit me to be deprived of my proper induction, for I have shown zeal in His service. I have been promoted through all the ranks of clerical preferment according to canonical precept. I was a lector for ten years; for five years I performed the duties of subdeacon; for fifteen years I served as deacon; and I have held the dignity of the priesthood for the last twenty years. What is left but that I should be ordained bishop as the reward for my faithful service?'” (History of the Franks, tr. L. Thorpe, Penguin Classics, p. 201)

    That attitude to clerical promotion had a long back history, which we can trace alongside the history of the Roman Imperial civil service. But it had a lot to be said for it too: I rather suspect that thirty years in the lower orders was better formation for the priesthood than three years in even a good seminary. Cato will have memorized the Latin psalter as a boy, experienced the liturgy daily in various roles, experienced progressively greater administrative responsibilities, and learned the faith of the Church at the feet of his bishop (who was, incidentally, a saint). He just hadn’t learned very much about how to be a GOOD bishop — and as it turned out, the archdeacon beat him to the post.

    The idea of resurrecting ordination “per saltum” obviously has a certain historical credibility. (St Ambrose wasn’t even baptized when the mob acclaimed him as bishop of Milan, and if a tree is known by its fruits…) But I do wonder about the rush over the last fifty years to impose fourth-century paradigms on twentieth- and twenty-first-century conditions. I am in any case very skeptical about whether there is a real historical foundation for the diaconate as a ministry of “leading the church’s care for the poor and the homeless”.

    It seems to me, Bosco, that your complaint about congregations’ lack of understanding about “esoteric distinctions” could just as easily be addressed by making the diaconate a ten-year commitment, instead of a one-year curacy. Why is this impractical? Because congregations don’t want to pay for a cleric who can’t preside at the Eucharist. And THAT, in my opinion, points us to the real problem. The historic orders of ministry don’t fit with the prevailing drive-thru, fee-for-service conception of the Church.

    (It was not always so. The historian Charles Plummer (1851-1927) served for years as chaplain of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, without ever proceeding beyond deacon’s orders. Nicholas Ferrar (1592-1637) led the community at Little Gidding as a deacon, an example that still inspires.)

    The fifth- and sixth-century clerical “cursus honorum” consciously imitated the old imperial civil service (a comparison made explicit by Pope Zosimus, d. 418). So what would twenty-first-century ordination per saltum imitate in our ambient culture? My guess: the dues-free instant stardom of American Idol.

    1. Thanks, Jesse.

      I’m pleased you like the photo. It took some finding 🙂

      I think what you are saying is underlining my point, “I respect those who see priests as called from those serving radically in the diaconate in this manner, but that is not what is currently happening.” And I stress (with you) that is not what is currently happening.

      Obviously I am influenced by my own context, which has quite a rush-it-through thread. It is not unknown here to have someone ordained to the diaconate (without seminary formation), be placed in charge of a parish, and either have communion from somewhere else, or have a (“retired”) priest step up in the middle of a service to consecrate.


    2. jesse said:
      ” I am in any case very skeptical about whether there is a real historical foundation for the diaconate as a ministry of ‘leading the church’s care for the poor and the homeless.’ ”

      Acts 6:
      Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. 2 And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.[a] 3 Therefore, friends,[b] select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, 4 while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.” 5 What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

      1. As ever, Bro David, you are quick in defence of the Tradition! Later liturgies and patristic writings do indeed link the “seven” of Acts 6 with the Order of Deacons. But you will of course have noticed that the seven men of Acts 6 are nowhere described as “diakonoi”. We must also notice that it is not at all clear that these seven men are being put in charge of “care for the poor”.

        For Luke, “diakonia” is the ministry of apostles par excellence. In Acts 6 the apostles are appointing assistants so that they can devote themselves to the “diakonia of the Word”. And it is very interesting that the “seven” are only ever subsequently described in Acts as preachers and evangelists, sharing in the apostles’ “diakonia of the Word”.

        We usually assume that the seven were effectively running a soup kitchen; but what our translations normally render as “the daily distribution [of food]” (at which the Greek-speaking widows were being neglected) is in Greek just “the daily diakonia”. It is arguable, therefore, that the apostles were in fact appointing assistant ministers of the word who, unlike themselves, were fluent in Greek and could minister the word to the Hellenist element in the Jerusalem Church.

        We might balk at this explanation, noticing that Peter has immediately spoken of “serving (diakonein) at tables”. But this phrase seems not at all to denote our modern conception of a table-waiter. It seems, rather, to refer to the ordering of the community’s interior life (tables as the place of gathering, of financial dispensation, of eating), in contrast to the apostles’ mission to the wider world. The seven are thus appointed as ministers of the Word within the Church.

        So we can indeed look to the “seven” as the first deacons. But that would not at all justify the modern tendency (current since Calvin) to equate the diaconate with “social outreach”.

        See, for example, John N. Collins, “The Diakonia of the Seven”, in his Diakonia Studies: Critical Issues in Ministry (OUP, 2014), pp. 152-62.

        And also his earlier study, Diakonia: Re-Interpreting the Ancient Sources (OUP, 1990), esp. pp. 230-31.

  6. Rev Andrew Gentry

    The “model” that the “imperial church” embraces or has embraced through much of its history is the “empire model” based on Roman practice and value. This is of course diametrically opposite to what Jesus taught
    In one sense we all are “ordained” by our baptism as members of a Royal Priesthood but we all are not “elders” nor deacons and certainly not a”chief stewards”otherwise known as bishops. Each is a precious gift of servanthood to the Citizens of the Kingdom and to the world around us. As I was taught by my bishop who was Eastern Orthodox but also a graduate of the North American Pontifical College even the apostolic succession is more than mathematics and pedigree!

  7. Two of the Bishops I have served under in the Church of England have described the role of the Bishop as being “first among equals” in the College of Presbyters.

  8. Interesting discussion! I need to do more thinking on the whole per saltum question. I can see the benefits of each approach.

    It is interesting that we talk about “transitional” and “vocational/permanent” deacons and yet we don’t talk about “transitional” and “vocational/permanent” priests, since just as any deacon can be ordained as a priest, every priest can be ordained as a bishop. Adding to that, we don’t talk about “transitional” versus “permanent/vocational” lay persons.

    I think it was mentioned upstream, but those being ordained as priests are also presented without a stole, as are deacon candidates. One difference is that when the Bishop ordains a person as a priest, other priests are invited to also lay their hands on the ordinand. In the ordination of a deacon, only the Bishop lays their hands on the ordinand.

    1. Thanks, David. I think your point about “transitional” is wonderful!!! There have been some who suggest that deacons should lay hands on those to be ordained deacon. Like you, I would need to do more thinking about that. Blessings.

      1. My hunch is that not having other deacons lay hands on a newly ordained deacon is tied to the original role of deacons. The deacon was the “bishop’s man” in a way that the priest/presbyter was not: the bishop was, rather, in some sense a primus inter pares with the presbyters.

        The “is the bishop just a super-presbyter” or “are presbyters deputies of the bishop” question is at least a thousand years old now. Peter Lombard (twelfth century) decided that bishops were just priests with special responsibilities, which is why Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin had no trouble dispensing with the services of bishops. Catholic-Orthodox-Anglican ecumenical dialogue (not to mention historical-theological reflection within those communions) has obviously come to different conclusions, with the bishop emerging as the central and essential order.

        My own feeling is that it was, and is, imprudent to dispense with bishops. (I’ve still never read a more compelling defence of episcopacy than Michael Ramsey’s “The Gospel and the Catholic Church”.)

        But we’re faked out by the sources either way. Ignatius wrote to Polycarp, addressing him as Bishop of Smyrna. And Polycarp begins his letter to the Philippians: “Polycarp and the [other?] presbyters who are with him…” Has anyone else read Gregory Dix’s collection of articles “Jurisdiction in the Early Church, Episcopal and Papal”? Much food for thought there about the early sacramental (rather than governing) office of the episkopos.

        In seminary they taught me that government by presbyters was a continuation of the structures of the Jewish synagogue (Jewish-Christian Church), whereas government by bishops arose in the Gentile Church. On that understanding, the bishops-plus-presbyters model that eventually became universal was, like so many other things in the Church, a synthesis of the two approaches. But somehow I’m still more persuaded by Ramsey’s argument that the episcopate is a direct descendant of the apostolic office (though not as portable: the bishop was wedded, at first permanently, to a single local church).

        All of this simply affirms my curmudgeonly stance that we should never alter anything in the liturgy until we’re sure we know why it was instituted in the first place. And once we’re sure why it was instituted, I’ll wager we won’t want to change it anyway. 🙂

  9. There are a number of problems with the bishop’s argument for direct ordination and that a bishop is not a priest. The central problem is that there is no central theology of orders in this essay. Some would say that Holy Orders is a sacrament and some would not. Also, there has been the return to the theology of three orders…bishop, presbyter and deacon in recent years. Before that there was an enduring medieval theology of one progressing through the minor orders to priesthood. Afterwards one may be consecrated a bishop but not ordained and the obex blocking one from exercising the full authority of priesthood was removed. We have not settled these distinctions as can be seen by the comment about a senior priest ordaining others.

    The bishop is right that the rubrics in the Episcopal/Anglican churches is that the bishop elect is simply dressed in an alb the same as a candidate for priesthood who has been previously ordained to the diaconate also only wears an alb at their ordination. In the Roman and Orthodox churches the ordinand wears the vestments of their order and the stole is either changed or the episcopal insignia is added. As these issues are discussed I think they need to be understood in a broader ecumenical context. Why do we choose to cloth or ordinands only in alb when other churches do not? Is there is a broader history here? Why do we clothe a bishop in stole and cope at an episcopal ordination only to have them change later into a chausable? Is that a sign as well? Should this mean that presbyter/priests cannot wear copes because they are not bishops? While vesture has sign value it is only part of an expressed theology.

    We often make the mistake of confusing office with order. Titles such as canon, venerable etc… are related to office and not order. A rector, an associate and a dean are all presbyters but they have different jobs or office. I think this point is crucial.

    In all of this I’m not sure what the issue is other than some feel like their order or identity is somehow degraded because of the perception that orders are grades. I would argue that this is not so. A deacon is not diminished because I was ordained a deacon and then a priest. It does not make me better than a deacon any more than a bishop is better than me as a priest. All ordination is for service and it is rooted in baptism. Orders do not rank one higher nor does it put a little deacon inside of me covered over by a priest.

    Sorry to be so long winded but it’s a topic I’ve been following for a long time. I’ve been following your blog for years but this is the first I’ve posted. Thanks for all you do for our Church.

    1. Thanks, Steven. And do post more (what you said was not at all long-winded; significant topics need more than a tweet-length response). I don’t think that wearing copes is somehow not appropriate for presbyters, and there are occasions when a recto or a dean is a bishop, not a presbyter. Here in NZ there seems to fixed pattern – I think most recently a bishop was ordained here, coming in dressed as a presbyter, he was ordained by bishops in office robes (even though it was a Eucharist, as required), and he then was vested in cope and mitre. My understanding is that a cope is a variant of a chasuble. Blessings.

  10. Thank you for writing this!
    in January I’m going to start writing a thesis (master degree in diakonia) about deacons in priests and permanent deacons within CofE.
    Even though much has been written about it the last 25 years, hardly any practical change has been seen.

    1. Emy,

      Best of luck with this – do check out the tragically under-read work by John Collins as mentioned above, such as Diakonia (OUP, 2009) and Diakonia Studies (OUP, 2014).


      1. Tristan, Fortunately the Lutheran Church in Norway is very forward with modern definition Diakonia, and JOhn Collins is basic reading here. Anything referring to Diakonia before his book is old school 🙂
        I am really fortunate to be able to study the subject here at diakonhjemmet universitycollege in Oslo.
        Although the NOrwegian Church has no threefold ministry, but three seperate ministries, although all our bishops are priests. But deacons are deacons and 99% of priests have never been deacon.

        1. Thanks so much, Emy. This seems a very important comment, IMO.

          Can you expand a bit on, “no threefold ministry, but three seperate ministries” – you then go on to say that your bishops are priests before they are ordained bishops, so that gives me the impression that two of your orders are not really separate?

          As well as trying to get an understanding of what you are saying, my interest particularly lies in that I understand that the Lutheran Church in Norway and the Anglican Church are in full communion. I have that right do I not?
          So, if I have that right, and there is full acceptance and interchangeability of ministries, that would mean that Anglicanism does in fact accept priests who have never been deacons!
          If there are websites about this (in English) that would be really helpful.

          And I’m obviously going to have to get these books.


          1. Books that are interesting are those written for PORVOO and Anglo-Nordic Diaconal research project.
            – Together in Mission and ministry. THe Porvoo common statement with Essays on Church and MInistry in Northern Europe. (London 1993)
            -The ministry of the Deacon 1. Anglican-Lutheran perspectives , Gunnel Borgegård 1999
            -Doctorate by Tiit Padam, Finland, Ordination of deacons in the churches of the porvoo communion.

            And yes, Norwegian priest who are not deacons first can become priests in the Church of England.

            THe problem in the church of Norway is the words used in ordination. A deacon is “vigslet til” consecrated to the ministry of deacon. A priest is “vigsla til” and “ordinert” Ordained” to the minstry of priest and a bishop is “vigsla av” which is a personal consecration as bishop and not to the ministry of bishop.
            Whether a deacon is ordained has been and will be a discussionpoint in the church of NOrway, but the ministry of deacon, cathechist, priest and bishop are seen as ministers in the church in a set aside function. (Tiit 2011:62)
            The church of NOrway refrains from the threefold ministry as it is a hierarchical framework, which according to them goes against the unity of the one “Mininstry ecclasticum” (Dietrich,2006:80 the ecclesiological reflections on the diaconal ministry LWC studies 2006)

            I do not always agree with Norwegian church politics, and find that they are very hesitant to be clear about structures, especially when there is a disunity within the church about them.
            BUt this is the place where I serve God (for now) and the reason I chose this Lutheran based theological college.
            Being an Anglican by confirmation and having had a calvinistic upbringing makes me critical but this is where I am placed for now. (working as a youth education officer in a group of churches here in Norway)

          2. In the USA, we have the situation of ELCA pastors who have never been ordained as a deacon able to serve in Episcopal congregations. The big issue that had to be worked out between TEC and the ELCA was that it had been possible for an ELCA pastor to be ordained by another pastor. One of the provisions of the Called to Common Mission agreement is that only pastors ordained by a bishop can serve in Episcopal congregations. Additionally, TEC had concerns about apostolic succession for ELCA bishops. I know the issue of the different approaches what diaconal ministry actually is was talked about, but never really settled.

            The Diaconal Minister (DM) in the ELCA is similar to the Deacon in Anglicanism, but the ELCA is very clear that the consecration (I might be wrong on the specific term used) of a Diaconal Minister is not an ordination, and that DM’s are lay people. They can serve in the liturgy, but are not allowed to wear a stole and do not wear clericals.

            I recall a personal conversation with an ELCA DM who told me that if you compare the ELCA consecration service with the ordination service for deacons in TEC, that they are very similar. She also told me that the big hang up for Lutherans is not so much about whether DM’s should be considered clergy, but rather that to consider DM’s as clergy opens the door for Bishops to be considered a separate order of ordained ministry. In the ELCA, a bishop is a Pastor who serves as a bishop for a specific term. Once the term of service ends, they go back to being a pastor. My experience of the ELCA (limited as it is) is that they tend to be more congregational and that there is a built in mistrust of bishops and giving them too much power.

          3. Thanks, David. What happened about the apostolic succession concerns you mention? Is there formal material about all this online somewhere? Advent Blessings.

          4. Here is the agreement between TEC and the ELCA. http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/agreement-full-communion-called-common-mission

            You can find specific sections about recognizing each others clergy, and how the two churches will deal with things like apostolic succession. There are sections that deal with how to bring ELCA bishops into the apostolic succession. Regarding deacons and diaconal ministers, the agreement pretty much says each will recognize the others for what they are.

  11. I agree mostly with what Jesse said.

    Essentially, there were/are two schools of thought (bishop = superpriest VS priests = deputies of the bishop). Unfortunately, the various agreements between Anglicans and Lutherans are based on ugly syncretism between these two opposed ecclesiologies.

    Notice that in the Byzantine Churches, traditionally (see the icons):
    – the reader wears the “shorted chasuble” only;
    – the sub-deacon and deacon wear alb+stole;
    – the priest and bishop wear the same vestments, but the bishop’s “supplement” is the omophorion/pallium only.

    This means a “hierarchical” vision. Also, in the BCP 1662, the bishop prays, about the deacons that they «may so well behave themselves in this inferior Office, that they may be found worthy to be called unto the higher Ministries in thy Church».

    Nevertheless, I am 100% for the ordinations “per saltum”, and for all of them, thus:
    – The readers should be ordained for their own office.
    – The altar servers should be ordained as acolytes and/or subdeacons.
    – The exorcists should also be ordained as such; is should not be obligatory that an exorcist also be a priest.
    – The preachers/teachers should be ordained as such. Saint Ephrem was ordained a deacon only to allow him to preach; Tertullian was ordained a priest for the same reason; but none of them really was a deacon or a priest.
    – The deacon should be a Christian social worker, ordained as such, but her/his participation in liturgy is an icon of what s/he does outside.
    – The priest should be ardained as such, with no previous ministry required.
    – The bishop should be ardained as such, with no previous ministry required.

    But in this vision, is it quiet possible that a bishop-candidate be a former subdeacon, or that a bishop-elect be a former singer in choir or a former deacon. In all these cases, it matters less in which vestments they are vested before the “final” ordination.

    Also note that in the Byzantine rite, the moment of the ordination during the Mass is different:
    – A reader or a cantor is ordained outside the Eucharist, before a reading or respectively before a gradual.
    – A subdeacon is ordained at the very begining of the Eucharist, immediately before the washing of the hands.
    – A deacon is ordained between the anaphora and the Our Father.
    – A priest is ordained before the anaphora.
    – A bishop is ordained before the readings.

    This has a huge signification.

    Note also that, in the Byzantine rite, if a priest wants to listen confessions, he should ask a special chirotesia from the bishop, and that the readers and cantors may be ordained by a priest delegated by the bishop.

    1. Thanks so much for these, Georges. Some of this is quite new to me (when different ministries are ordained in a service). I think your point is an important one to reflect on: “The deacon should be a Christian social worker, ordained as such, but her/his participation in liturgy is an icon of what s/he does outside.” Blessings.

  12. I am well aware that a call to the diaconate is different from one to the priesthood. I was a deacon for 15 years before God jerked me into seminary. I’ve been a priest for 8 years now. I am a different person – not just a person functioning differently. I think that per saltum ordination is the appropriate way to respect the diaconate and begin to see the orders of ministry as full and equal.

  13. Jonathan Streeter

    Reality check!

    In the American Epsicopal church,

    To become a layperson one is required to:

    -show up at church once.

    To become a deacon, one is required to:

    – be an active church member for three years
    – meet regularly for intensive discussions with a committee of the congregation
    – be approved by that committee
    – apply to the graduate school
    – attend and pass courses at the school
    – continue to be “examined” for soundness as a deacon
    – be ordained

    To become a priest, one is required to:

    – first, be a deacon (see above)
    – continue on through more graduate-level education and service
    – continue to be “examined” for soundness as a priest
    – be ordained.

    To say that priests, deacons, and lay people are co-equals is like saying “The President of the United States is just a citizen who serves the people.” It’s true, and it’s not true.

    1. Thanks, Jonathan. None of what you write is anything like true in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Some of it I wish were true – but it just isn’t. And a priest or deacon from our church is regarded as a priest or deacon in yours. I am also concerned if we, as church, are happy to model our life on that of the secular state. Yes, we obviously do – but should we? Is that Jesus’ intention? Blessings.

      1. The election of the current American president was not altogether dissimilar to a “per saltum” ordination. I couldn’t possibly comment on whether this is a good example for the Church to follow… 😉

    2. “To become a layperson one is required to:
      -show up at church once.”

      Good point, Jonathan. And quite a contrast to the early Church, where a three-year (if that short) catechumenate was required before someone became a layperson. (Three years… Just like a stint in seminary!)

      1. A very important point, Gregory. In the early church baptism was the BIG service – all the stops pulled out. Ordination, by comparison was relatively minor. We have reversed this – including with our certificates. Blessings.

  14. So what is the correct answer to “Is a Canon above or below a Venerable?”
    I’m reminded of a novel by Adrian Plass “An Alien at St Wilfred’s ( http://books.google.com/books/about/An_Alien_at_St_Wilfred_s.html?id=767pZg4jPI4C)
    There’s a scene where the alien is talking to the cleaner, who describes himself as the humblest person in the Church of England, at which point the alien proceeds to honour him as the greatest person in the church.

  15. What a refreshing and in-depth pursuit of a topic which was much discussed and researched in the early days of my theological education and ordination [30-50 years ago]. I need time to print it out and read in more depth. Meantime, there are a some observations”
    1. There clearly is early historical precedent for the diaconate not being a stepping stone to ‘higher orders’.I.e. there is historical precedent for ordination to priesthood without being ordained deacon first.
    2. That being said there was a move prior to the current [1979] American BCP for reverting to that practice, thus enhancing the important and character of the Diaconate in its own right.
    3. Many of us/were and are convinced, sadly, that until ‘Permanent’ aka ‘real’ Deacons are employed by parishes and other institutions on a par with priests [salary, benefits etc.] then there will be little headway in the effecting of a truly independent diaconate.
    Thanks again for the discussion.

  16. The comments about bishops being “first among equals in the college of presbyters” were made publicly in open discussion with clergy. Unfortunately, I have no internet links.

  17. I still remember in the dim, distant past in the Anglican Church in Fiji; the Bishop, John Charles Vockler, used to vest in dalmatic, tunicle and chasuble, to celebrate the Midnight Mass of Easter. Presumably, this had something to do with the fact that the bishop was not only a bishop, but also priest, deacon and sub-deacon.

    I suppose then that even Jesus: ‘A priest for ever, after the Order of Melchizedek’, would never have ascended to the height of episcopal authority – given the extant doctrinal situation.

  18. Yesternight I reflected upon this your question of who is the bishop and who are the priests, in relation to one another, and who are the deacons. I realized it’s the same as, in a hotel, the “downstairs” team formed by the hotel manager with the back- and front-office leaders, but all different from the housekeeping leader and team. I’ll develop that on my own blog.

  19. Thanks for thought provoking contributions though I wonder what a Jewish layman, Jesus for example, would make of some of this. I value my ordination as a deacon, and as a priest (presbyter/elder)of Sydney Diocese – and I do regularly wear a clerical collar – in the street and on hospital wards, I guess for mixed reasons, good and not so good. But I see as essentially the same as my role that of the – originally Congregational – minister of the Uniting Church I usually attend (in the absence of any moderate Anglican services in much of Sydney Diocese) or indeed a role much the same as that of two chaplaincy colleagues, Uniting Church and Assemblies of God laywomen, much more faithful than I am (all of us honorary), and not very different in what matters most, the devout ministry of the Egyptian man who is my Muslim colleague. Micah 6.8, and e.g. S.Matthew 20.25-27 and 23.4-11 challenge us all.

    1. Thanks, John. I certainly think the Jewish layman, Jesus, would not have much interest in the ranking of Rev, Very Rev, Highly Rev, Most Rev, and the embodying that in climbing corporate ladders, and wearing prettier (or uglier! sillier?) robes. Blessings.

  20. Interesting!
    As a United Methodist in seminary, I may be out of my element here, but I believe the historic CoE BCP uses “consecrations” for bishops (Article XXXVI), whereas newer BCPs for The Episcopal Church use “ordination”. This debate is certainly not new. Even in the early church, the questions: “Where? and at what time?” must be asked regarding the role of presbyters, deacons, and bishops. Some cities in the early church operated with a council of presbyters, others presbyter-bishops, in others, bishops and deacons, together but as distinct roles (deacons we not necessarily assistants to the bishop). The words “bishop” and “deacons” may appear in the New Testament, but there meanings could simply be roles rather than positions or offices.

    James Barnett’s “Diaconate: A Full and Equal Order” has influenced my understanding of the historic role of the deacon in the church more than any other work.
    I also believe Luther’s statement is useful here (he also uses consecration to refer to bishops) – if a people were cut off, could not a priest become a bishop for the sake of the others? Perhaps this is one Methodist argument – apostolic tradition and succession through the presbyteriate, and bishops -as consecrated elders- for the sake of the church. (a comparison between the World Methodist Council and Anglican Communion– both with equal numbers of communicants and similar struggles, will have to wait)

    I am excited at the ecumenical growth and reclaiming of the permanent diaconate (deacons, deaconesses, diaconal ministers)– wonderful movement of God to connect the church and the world.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.