Ordination is not merely appointment to an office.
It is the bestowal of a Divine gift by an outward sign, the laying on of hands.
Our Lord said,
Receive the Holy Ghost (John 20.22),
and His words are still used at ordinations,
though they are not necessary to ordination
as they are not found in the older ordination rites.
Bishops, priests, and deacons are ordained (or consecrated) to an order
and remain members of that order till death.
A rector, an archdeacon, or a dean may resign his office;
but a bishop or priest, when he resigns, does not cease to be a bishop or priest.
He resigns his office but not his order.
The law of England now allows a cleric to renounce the civil privileges and disabilities of the clergy;
but as Parliament did not bestow the CHARACTER of ordination, it cannot take it away;
and a bishop, priest, or deacon who takes advantage of the Clerical Disabilities Relief Act is still a bishop, priest, or deacon though he has no longer the right to act as one.
The gift of the powers of the ministry and of grace to exercise them rightly
comes from God and is conveyed by the laying on of hands, which is not the
mere ratification by the Church of the inward call of God but is the means,
and the only means, by which the Divine gift is bestowed.
Therefore ordination is rightly called a sacrament.
Though it has not the same nature as Baptism and the Eucharist (Article 25) since it has not an outward sign ordained by God (so far as we know), and since it is not necessary for all men like Baptism and the Eucharist.
The outward sign the laying on of the hands of the bishop is what assures
both those who receive the gift and those to whom they minister that they
are sent with Divine authority.
They do not depend on their own sense of vocation nor on the assent of the people, though both are required.
They depend on the gift of God and the recognition of the whole Church represented by the bishop.
This ought to protect them from pride and conceit.
Whatever they are, they are by God's gift.
Their representative functions are more important than their personal functions.
A man is likely to be less tempted to be conceited about his preaching if his preaching is subordinate to his ministry at the altar in which he is exactly the same as every other priest, and if even at the altar he is not so much God's representative to his people as their representative before God.
The SUBJECT of ordination is a male baptized person.
In the Anglican Communion no one can be made a deacon who is under twenty-three, or ordained a priest when under twenty-four, or consecrated bishop when under thirty, without a dispensation from the Archbishop.
These ages are different in other parts of the Church.
Women cannot be admitted to Holy Orders.
No part of the Church in any age has ever opened Holy Orders to women.
Our Lord appointed only men to be apostles,
though there were then in the world many queens (Acts 8.27),
priestesses, and prophetesses (Acts 21.9; Rev.2.20).
It is certain that any church or group of churches which should claim to admit women to Holy Orders would fail to get them recognized by the rest of the Church, and might even cause other churches to doubt the validity of its ordination of men.
Whether it is within the power of the universal Church to agree to the ordination of women is an academic question of no practical importance, for the assent of the Eastern and Roman Communions to any such proposal is so improbable as to be not worth discussing.
The usual arguments put forward for the ordination of women are that women
are equal with men and that they have special capacity for certain forms
of pastoral work usually done by priests.
These premises are true,
but it does not follow that women should be ordained.
Men and women are equal but different.
It may be that priesthood belongs exclusively to the male sex as motherhood belongs exclusively to the female sex.
The Blessed Virgin is universally accepted as the greatest of all saints, but she was not an apostle nor did she share in any of the work of the apostles.
Women are not hindered from doing any work for which they are especially suitable.
What they may not do is represent the Church.
A woman may (and sometimes does) hear confessions
and give counsel to the penitent,
but she cannot absolve.
Nobody can have special aptitude for performing certain rites and ceremonies,
but it is from these alone,
not from the exercise of any personal gifts,
that women are excluded by not being ordained.
The enormous practical objections to the admission of women to Holy Orders are obvious.
Deaconesses are not in Holy Orders but in minor orders.
Anglican pronouncements have sometimes treated the order of deaconesses as a fourth holy order, but the Anglican Communion by itself has no power to create such an order.
It is contrary to the whole tradition of the Church for any woman to do what is confined to those in Holy Orders or to perform any liturgical function: to baptize in public, to serve at the altar, or to administer the chalice.
The purpose of the ancient order of deaconesses was to minister to women in conditions such as we now find in India.
It disappeared in Eastern Christendom about 1200 and in Western Christendom a century or two earlier.
Modern deaconesses first began in Lutheran Germany as trained parish workers and spread throughout the Lutheran Communion.
Deaconesses as an order of the ministry are confined to the Anglican churches.
There are many deaconesses in the Churches of Sweden and Finland, but they do not perform any duties in church, and they are not ordained.
The ordination of an unbaptized man would be invalid.
A man ought to be confirmed before he is ordained.
The ordination of an unconfirmed man would be a grave irregularity,
but it would be valid.
In such a case confirmation is included in ordination, and a man who has been ordained but never confirmed does not require confirmation.
[F. J. Hall, Dogmatic Theology, v.8, p.338.
On the other hand, the Nonjuring bishop Robert Gordon had himself privately confirmed by the Bishop of Ross and Caithness (1769).
This was probably through ignorance.]
The MATTER of ordination is the laying on of hands.
The anointing with oil, practiced both in Eastern and Latin Christendom, is merely an additional ceremony.
The "delivery of the instruments" (for instance, of the paten with bread and chalice with wine to the priest) was held to be the MATTER of the sacrament in the later Middle Ages;
but as it was unknown in early times, this belief is now universally recognized to have been a mistake.
In the Anglican Communion the New Testament is delivered to the deacon, and the Bible to the priest and to the bishop.
The FORM of ordination,
by which ordination is distinguished from confirmation,
is a prayer for the gifts appropriate to the order that is being conveyed.
The MINISTER of ordination is a bishop.
Three bishops at least are required to consecrate a bishop
because it is the whole Church, not an individual, that consecrates;
but consecration by a single bishop is valid though irregular.
There has never been an Anglican consecration by fewer than three bishops since the Reformation, but there have been many instances in the Roman and Old Catholic communions even in modern times
[Consecration by one bishop is not allowed in the Eastern churches, and some of them hold it to be invalid.].
The priests who are present join with the bishop in laying hands on the head of a priest (I Tim.4.14), but not on the head of a deacon.
Ordination by priests alone without a bishop would be invalid.
A layman may be consecrated or ordained per saltum (by a leap) to
be a bishop or priest, or a deacon may be consecrated per saltum to
be a bishop.
The latter process was at one time usual at Rome and other places.
But there have been no consecrations or ordinations per saltum for centuries.
The consecration of the Scottish bishops in 1610 was a consecration per saltum.
They had been Presbyterian ministers and titular bishops.
When the bishops from whom the present Scottish bishops derive their succession were consecrated in 1661, they were made deacons and ordained priests first.
Each order includes those below it.
Every priest is a deacon.
Every bishop is both a priest and a deacon.
All the bishops who take part in the consecration of a bishop are ministers
of the sacrament.
If one of them had by mischance not been properly consecrated,
the succession would be secured by the others.
This theory is not universally accepted in the Roman Communion,
[Since the thirteenth century some Romanist theologians and canonists have held that the only minister of ordination is the principal consecrator.
This theory was unknown in earlier times,
as it still is in the East,
and its acceptance would make all ordinations very insecure.
See F. W. Puller, Orders and Jurisdiction, pp. 85-105.]
but it is the ancient theory and has always been held in the Anglican Communion.
If the succession were conveyed only through the chief consecrator, it would be very insecure; and Macaulay's criticism of the historical certainty of succession would be justified.
The accidental invalidity of the orders of a consecrator (if, for instance, he had never been baptized) might have far-reaching results.
But the chance that all three (or more) consecrators might have had invalid orders is so small as to be negligible.
[W. E. Gladstone claimed that it was one in 8000 (Church Principles, p. 235), and that the chance that three consecrating bishops should all have had three invalid consecrators was one in 512 thousand million!]
A candidate for ordination is asked whether he is convinced that God calls
and the congregation is asked to assent to his ordination.
However, it is not these which constitute ordination but the laying on of hands.
Nevertheless, ordination without the consent of the laity is irregular;
and for this reason ordinations and consecrations in private are highly irregular, though if properly performed they cannot be repeated.
The intention of ordination is that the bishop ordaining or consecrating
intends to admit the candidate to one of the three Holy Orders of the Catholic
It is not necessary that his personal belief about the functions of those who are ordained should be orthodox;
nor is the internal intention necessary,
for if it were, we could never be certain that anyone was rightly ordained.
["The Church does not judge about the mind or intention so far as it is something by its nature internal; but so far as it is manifested externally she is bound to judge concerning it": Pope Leo I, Bull Apostolicae Curae.]
(In Spain in the fifteenth century there were many bishops who were secretly Jews [F. W. Puller, loc. cit.];
the notorious Bishop Talleyrand, afterwards Napoleon's minister, was an open unbeliever, but those whom such men ordained were held to be validly ordained.)
The inward grace of ordination is the power required for ministering in
one of the three orders with the appropriate virtues.
The authority of the Church to perform the functions of the ministry is also conveyed.
This authority is called MISSION and is ultimately derived from our Lord through the succession of the bishops.
It can be exercised in any part of the Church with which the possessor of it is in communion, but its lawful exercise or jurisdiction is confined by the rules of the Church to a particular sphere.
A bishop may not act as a bishop outside his own diocese,
or a metropolitan outside his own province, without permission.
A priest may not act outside his own parish or the district to which he is licensed without permission.
But in case of necessity for instance when someone is in danger of death or in time of war or persecution all these rules may be ignored.
We find the three orders already fully developed in the letters of St. Ignatius
All the Fathers, all the Eastern churches, as well as the Anglican Communion,
have always recognized three Holy Orders those of bishop, priest, and deacon.
But the Schoolmen about the thirteenth century introduced a new arrangement.
They regarded the priesthood as the highest order and the episcopate as merely a superior form of it.
The cause of this change was partly exaggerated emphasis on the sacrificial function of the priest, and partly the tendency to weaken the episcopate in the interests of the papacy.
In earlier times the bishop had been regarded as normally the minister of the Eucharist.
In some places [Especially Rome.] the bishop had been commonly chosen from among the deacons who thus became in practice more influential than the priests.
But in the Middle Ages the deaconate in Latin Christendom sank to being a mere survival, while in northern countries bishops were few and largely occupied with secular duties.
Thus the priesthood became the only order with which the laity was ordinarily in contact.
When the priesthood came to be regarded as the highest order, the sub-diaconate,
which had before been a minor order, was raised to a major order.
Thus the major orders in the Roman Communion, and that only, are those of priest, deacon, and sub-deacon.
The Council of Trent sanctioned this reckoning.
The sub-deacon in the Roman Communion is bound by the rule of celibacy and must say the Divine office (the Breviary).
But relics of the older rule survive.
Ordination to the sub-diaconate is not regarded as a sacrament or as conveying an indelible character.
We must, however, reject this medieval reckoning and maintain the ancient
rule that the three Holy or Major Orders are those of bishop, priest, and
The essential function of the bishop is to ordain and consecrate.
the function by possessing which the bishop is a bishop
and which therefore no one but a bishop can perform
(for any one who could would be a bishop).]
The bishop alone can ordain a priest or deacon
or take part in the consecration of another bishop.
In the Anglican Communion and normally in the Roman Communion no one except a bishop may give confirmation.
In the Eastern communions and occasionally in the Roman Communion,
a priest may give confirmation, but he must use chrism blessed by a bishop.
Besides the functions that only a bishop can perform, the bishop has many
other duties that he can in case of necessity delegate to others.
He is normally the chief pastor and ruler of the local church, but he ought to consult his synod (that is, the assembly of all his clergy) before taking any important action.
He is the representative of the universal Church in his diocese, the link between his own flock and the rest of the Church.
It is his duty to administer the laws of the Church
and to judge anyone who breaks them.
In England this latter function is now delegated to a lawyer,
the OFFICIAL PRINCIPAL of Chancellor of the diocese (not to be confused with the Chancellor of the cathedral who is a priest and a member of the cathedral chapter or governing body).
The bishop is responsible for the care of all souls within his jurisdiction.
He delegates a portion of this responsibility to every priest whom he institutes to the CURE OF SOULS with the words "Receive thy cure, my care".
The bishop is also the representative of his diocese in the provincial synod
and in larger assemblies such as Lambeth Conferences and General Councils.
He is there to bear witness to the faith of his diocese, not necessarily to express his personal opinions.
For this reason the diocese ought to have an effective voice in his appointment.
In theory the cathedral chapter elects the English bishops, but since the reign of Henry VIII the chapters have been compelled by law to elect the nominee of the Crown (that is, in modern times, of the Prime Minister).
In most other Anglican dioceses the clergy and lay representatives of the diocese elect them.
A bishop is normally in charge of a district called a diocese.
But there are also COADJUTOR, SUFFRAGAN, and ASSISTANT BISHOPS who help the diocesan bishop in his work.
Coadjutor bishops usually have the right of succeeding to the diocese.
There are none in England, but there are in other Anglican churches.
The word "suffragan" is properly applied to a diocesan bishop in his relation to his archbishop.
The Bishop of London is a suffragan of Canterbury.
But it is also used in England in a special sense to mean a bishop consecrated to help a diocesan bishop.
In this sense the Bishop of Stepney is a suffragan of London.
A suffragan bishopric is a permanent office for which a man may be consecrated specially.
The assistant bishop has only made a private arrangement with a diocesan bishop after he has retired from some diocese or suffragan See, and it ceases at the death or resignation of the diocesan.
The word PRIEST represents both πρεσβύτερος,
and ἱερεύς, sacerdos.
The latter title was given to bishops from the third century onwards and later to priests as well.
It describes them as OFFERING SACRIFICE.
The Christian priest is not a priest in the same sense as the Hebrew priests under the Old Covenant.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only Priest in the proper sense under the New Covenant. In what sense the Christian "presbyter" is also "sacerdos", sacrificing priest, has already been explained (pp. 369-71).
The use of the word "presbyter" in the Catholic Church to mean a member of the second order of the Apostolic ministry is not to be confused with its use by the "Reformed churches".
The Calvinist "presbyter" is not a priest but a preacher, as we shall see (pp. 404-9).
The essential duties of the priest that cannot be performed by anyone but
(all bishops being also priests)
are to consecrate the Eucharist,
to give absolution to sinners,
to anoint the sick,
and to bless in the name of the Church.
(Anyone may bless as a father blesses his children,
but only the bishop gives the blessing of the Church,
or in his absence, the priest.)
All these duties of the priest belong properly to the bishop and are performed
by the priest as the representative of some bishop (or person with the jurisdiction
of a bishop).
In early times the bishop, when present, was always the celebrant of the Eucharist.
The absolution and the blessing in the Eucharist are still given by the bishop of the diocese (or the suffragan or assistant bishop who represents him), even though he is not the celebrant.
The priest is also ordinarily a pastor, teacher, and evangelist.
He is the normal minister of baptism.
Others can also perform these duties;
but they form the largest part of the priest's work,
and his training is chiefly directed to prepare him for carrying them out.
Experience has shown that though the functions that are confined to the priest are limited and can easily be learned, priests who should do nothing but perform those functions would be of little use.
The priest's highest duty is to consecrate the Eucharist,
and the next to give absolution.
But preaching and teaching must accompany the Eucharist, and counsel must usually accompany the absolution.
Therefore the priest must be a man of holiness, of learning, and of knowledge of human nature.
He must know his Bible and be trained in dogmatic, moral, and ascetic theology, and in the art of teaching.
The deacon in the early Church was entrusted with finance and with the relief
of the poor.
The business of the diocese was carried on by a staff of deacons attached to the bishop and led by the archdeacon or chief deacon (the word is now used in a different sense).
The deacons were also given the duty of administering the chalice to the congregation, carrying the reserved sacrament to the sick, reading the Gospel, baptizing in the priest's absence, and performing other liturgical functions.
In the ancient liturgies the deacon had his own part as well as the priest, and the Eucharist could not be celebrated properly unless a deacon were present.
This continues in the Eastern churches.
In the Latin churches the diaconate has become a mere survival.
In the Anglican Communion the deacon is regarded as one who is being trained for the priesthood, and the diaconate usually lasts a year.
Attempts to revive the permanent diaconate have not been successful,
and there are several strong practical reasons against it.
[One is that it cannot be prevented from becoming a back door to the priesthood.]
It must be emphasized that the deacon is in Holy Orders and that a man cannot
cease to be a deacon any more than he can cease to be a priest.
The Anglican deacon is bound, like the priest and the bishop, to say his daily office (Matins and Evensong in the Prayer Book).
The common notion that a man is not in "full orders" till he is ordained priest is a mistake. It is his ordination to the diaconate that separates the cleric from the layman.
Strictly speaking only the bishop is in "full orders".
He has the fullness of apostolic authority, portions of which he entrusts to the priest and to the deacon.
Besides the three Holy Orders, there are also minor orders.
They scarcely survive in the Anglican Communion,
though the sub-diaconate has been revived in some missionary dioceses.
The parish clerk an official once common but now rare is in minor orders and has the right to read the liturgical epistle.
Deaconesses are in minor orders but should have no liturgical functions.
Lay readers are not in minor orders, nor are members of religious communities who, if not ordained, belong to the laity.