Anglican Orders of Ministry Part II

In sixteenth-century England, unlike in much of Europe, circumstances allowed for reformation through the ecclesiastical hierarchy, rather than in (total) defiance of it. This has created a unique, sometimes confusing, but, as I hope to show, beneficial position for the Church of England. The Church of England both maintained her historic structure and embraced the Reformation, including a reform of how ordained Christian ministry is understood. We have (in Part I of this essay) explored the Anglican argument for episcopalianism generally, now we turn to a closer look at the orders severally.

In his Epistle to the Romans, Paul wrote:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (10.13-15)

This passage was central to the reform of ministry that took place in the sixteenth century. In his postil on St. Andrew’s Day (for which this passage is the proper Epistle), Dean Boys comments:

Here you may behold the Ministers’ Dignity, in respect of their Commission, as being sent of God, [and] Errand, as being ambassadors of good things, even such as bring tidings of peace between: God and man, man and man, [and] man and himself. Wherefore desire the Lord to send forth labourers into his harvest, honouring such Elders as rule well, and labour in the word, even with double honour, I Tim. 5.17, receiving them as Angels, yea as Christ himself, Gal. 4.14. [Here too behold the Ministers’] Duty; for if faith come by hearing, and hearing by preaching, so that the word of God unto faith is as oil to the lamp: such as will have their feet kissed, ought to bring tidings of good things.[1]

Preaching the Gospel is the chief dignity and duty of the ministers of Christ’s Church. In setting forth the Word, Bishop Jewell says in his Apologia, the preaching minister uses the very keys to the Kingdom, which the Lord entrusted to his Apostles,

Christ hath given to his ministers power to bind, to loose, to open, to shut, and that the office of loosing consisteth in this point, that the Minister should … offer by the preaching of the Gospel the merits of Christ and full pardon, to such as have lowly and contrite hearts, and do unfeignedly repent them, pronouncing unto the same a sure and undoubted forgiveness of their sins, and hope of everlasting salvation …

And touching the keys, wherewith they may either shut or open the kingdom of heaven, we with Chrysostom say, they be the knowledge of the Scriptures: with Tertullian we say, they be the interpretation of the law: and with Eusebius, we call them the word of God.

Moreover, that Christ’s disciples did receive this authority… to the end they should go, they should teach, they should publish abroad the Gospel, and be unto the believing a sweet savour of life unto life, and unto the unbelieving and unfaithful, a savour of death unto death; and that the minds of godly persons being brought low by the remorse of their former life and errors, after they once began to look up unto the light of the Gospel, and believe in Christ, might be opened with the word of God, even as a door is opened with a key. (p. 65-66)[2]

Accordingly, in the ordination a copy of the scriptures is given to new ministers immediately after hands are laid upon them (to bishops and priests, a Bible, to deacons a New Testament).

Deacon

It is not an accident that the office of deacon is first in the Ordinal, nor is it inconsequential that all priests and bishops must first be made deacons before they may proceed to the other orders. Deacon is but the English form (that is, the transliteration, rather than the translation) of the Greek word διάκονος (diakonos), a common word meaning minister or servant. This word, therefore, properly represents all Christian ministry. The Lord said,

Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20.25-28)

Jesus himself then identifies his role as that of a deacon, a servant; as Bishop Edward Reynolds[3] says “the Lord of all, whom the angels worship, ‘took upon him the form of a servant’ (Phil. 2. 7).”[4] Moreover, the word translated “minister” here in the 1611 Authorized Version is διάκονος, but the word translated “servant” is δοῦλος (doulos), which means slave. The Apostle Paul often introduces himself with this word in his letters, as in Romans 1.1. Bishop Reynolds observes:

Servants then we are; and accordingly must, in humiliation, in meekness, in condescension, stoop to men of the lowest degree. The very angels of heaven do so; they are λειτουργικα πνεύματα, ‘ministering spirits’ (Heb. 1. 14).[5]

Minister (or servant) refers first to all Christian people, in that they are subject to the Lord Jesus, called to show forth his praise “not only with our lips but in our lives,” and “to do all such good works as he has prepared for us to walk in.” Second, it refers to all those ordained or set apart by the Church for a special role and office. It is perhaps the most apt general term for all ordained offices in the Church, for (as we just observed) with this term Jesus and his Apostles characterized their own work. Finally, the word has a particular association with the office of deacon, as a very common English translation of the Greek διάκονος.

What is the origin of this particular office? The Ordinal ties it to this story recorded by Luke in his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles:

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration (διακονίᾳ). Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve (διακονεῖν) tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry (διακονίᾳ) of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly. (Acts 4.1-7)

While most modern scholars do not think the events described in this passage describe the origins of the diaconal order known throughout the Church by the middle of the second century, historically the Church has understood the order in terms of this passage.[6] The word deacon is not used as a title in this passage at all, but I have marked with parentheticals where the root of the word itself appears in the original Greek text. The presence of this root does not at all answer the historical question, but indicates why the Church later came to regard this passage as the paradigm for the office. Regardless of the historical connection of this passage to the later order of deacons, the Ordinal presents this passage as indicative of the fundamental character of the office.

The institution answered a practical necessity. The membership of the Church had grown to such an extent that the full administration of it was no longer practically possible for the Twelve alone. A division of ministry was, therefore, proposed. The Apostles needed sufficient time to devote to the study of the scriptures and to prayer; so they, with the consent of the whole Church, carved some responsibilities out of their own ministry — that body of tasks that the people rightly expected them to fulfill — and delegated those to others. Those others were elected[7] by the disciples (that is, the whole company of believers) collectively based on their own character and evidence of the Holy Spirit working in them. They were then set apart to this office; the rite having two parts: the laying on of hands and prayer. These prototypical deacons provided practical help to the Apostles, taking on administrative tasks that freed-up the Twelve to focus on spiritual tasks; which, we are told, contributed to the overall success of the ministry and Church. The role of these prototypical deacons, however, was not confined to administrative assistance. Bishop William Beveridge[8] explains:

[T]hey received power not only to look after the widows and poor; but also to baptize and preach the Gospel. For Stephen, who was one of the seven, was no sooner ordained, but we presently find him preaching so powerfully, that the Jews[9] were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake. And Philip, another of the seven, preached Christ so effectually to the Samaritans, that they received the Word gladly, and were baptized of him, and so was the Eunuch too, that was treasurer to Candace, Queen of the Aethiopians.[10]

And, so, in the Diaconal Ordination, the Bishop explains:

It apperteineth to the Office of a Deacon, in the Church where he shall be appointed to serve, to assist the Priest in divine service and specially when he ministreth the holy Communion, and to help him in the distribution thereof; and to read holy Scriptures, and Homilies in the church; and to instruct the youth in the Catechism; in the absence of the Priest, to baptise Infants; and to preach, if he be admitted thereto by the Bishop. And furthermore, it is his office, where provision is so made, to search for the sick, poor and impotent people of the parish; to intimate their estates, names, and places where they dwell unto the Curate; that by his exhortation they may be relieved with the Alms of the parishioners, or others.

This description should also, then, indicate why the Diaconate came to be the required training ground for the orders that concern the government of the Church. Whatever else Presbyters and Bishops are, they are deacons first; whatever other roles they take on, those duties must be assumed in a manner consistent with this principle and motive of service, not lordship. Bishop Reynolds helpfully explains in a sermon,

But you [laymen] must consider, we are servants to your souls, –not to your wills, much less to your lusts: so servants to you, as that we must give account of our service to a greater Lord, who gives us authority and power, as well as ministry and service. (Tit. 2. 15) And therefore, in the delivery of his message, we may not so be the servants of men, as to captivate the truth of God, and make his spirit bend and comply with their lusts. (I Cor. 7. 23; Gal. 1. 10)[11]

Let us keep these words in mind as we progress now to the higher two offices.[12]

Priest

The second order of ministry is termed presbyter (the long form) or priest (the short form). Both forms of the English word are transliterations of the Greek word πρεσβύτερος (presbyteros), which translates as elder or old man; the Latin equivalent is senex, from which we derive the English word senator. It is a common word in Greek, used as a title of respect, or for an ambassador, or a chief, president, or a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin. In the New Testament presbyter/priest is also used to describe a leadership role in the Church. It appears at that early stage to be used somewhat loosely rather than in reference to a clearly defined office. The word is never used in the New Testament, however, to refer to priests in the Temple, which can make things a bit confusing.[13] It is undoubtedly to avoid this confusion that some English Protestant traditions have dropped use of the transliteration “priest” entirely in favor of the long form, presbyter (as in the ill-fated 1637 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Scotland) or the English translation elder. The latter solution, the use of the translation elder in place of either the short or long transliteration is also the course adopted by English versions of the Bible. The Church of England has, however, retained the old transliteration priest and uses it (more or less) interchangeably with the word minister in the text of the Prayer Book (and use of the longer form “presbyter” is also not uncommon — it is used, for example, in the Prayer Book Calendar).

The Ordinal describes the office of priest this way, drawing from a number of different places in the NT:

Messengers, Watchmen and Stewards of the Lord; to teach and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord’s family; to seek for Christ’s sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children, who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.

One of the passages from which this description is taken is I Peter 5.1-3:

The elders (πρεσβυτέρους) which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight (ἐπισκοποῦντες) thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

The essence of the role then consists in preaching and overseeing. I mean preaching in a broad sense; the English word is derived, via French, from the Latin, praedicare, to proclaim, to publish abroad, to show forth. To preach, broadly speaking, is to show forth the Gospel, the good news. Therefore, it encompasses (1) evangelizing, that is, sharing the gospel where it has not before been shared, “to seek for Christ’s sheep that are dispersed abroad” (as the Ordinal says); (2) teaching the scriptures, which testify of Christ (John 5. 39); and (3) exemplifying the good news that Jesus is Lord. The metaphor “feed the flock” casts the presbyter in the role of pastor (indeed, the Greek could be translated there as “pastor the flock”). What is it to feed the flock? What constitutes their food? As noted above, the Lord himself answered that question when the Devil tempted him in the wilderness; he recited this passage from Deuteronomy:

And [God] humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. (Matthew 4.4; Deuteronomy 8.3)

The Word of God, which is recorded in the scriptures, is the food of God’s flock. This is why the Ordinal has the bishop give the new priest a Bible immediately after laying hands on him. This identification is reiterated throughout the scriptures. The prophet Jeremy prays, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (Jeremiah 15.16). Peter advises new Christians, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (I Peter 2.2). Instructing Timothy in his pastoral office, Paul assures him: “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained” (I Timothy 4.6). By teaching the scriptures, the pastors feed the flock; because, the scriptures testify of Christ (John 5.39), who is himself, John tells us, the Word of God made flesh, and “the bread of life” (John 6.35). “He that cometh to me,” Jesus says in John’s Gospel, “shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”

The importance of preaching to the Christian minister can hardly be overstated. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinithians, “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1.18). In A Priest to the Temple, George Herbert says that the parson “preacheth constantly, the pulpit is his joy and his throne.”[14] Hebert’s advice to the preacher aligns with St. Augustine’s maxim that a sermon ought to teach, delight, and move.[15] He warns that sermons are “dangerous things” and that, if the preacher has done his duty, “none goes out of Church as he came in, but either better, or worse.”

It is not only in preaching the scriptures, but also in presiding at the Lord’s Supper that pastors feed the flock. This is not another food, but the very same, the verba visibilia, as Augustine says (Contra Faustum 19.16), or visible speech, by which we, in Paul’s words, “show the Lord’s death till he come” (I Cor. 11.26). Dean Boys wrote, “His word is an audible sacrament and his sacraments are visible words.”[16] As often as we take and eat in remembrance of Him, the Lord himself is shown forth or proclaimed, the Gospel is preached. The Prayer Book, therefore, ties the proclamation of the Word and the administration of Communion closely together: every Communion service begins with the showing forth of Christ through reading and expounding the scriptures, then turns to showing forth Christ through the perpetual memorial that he hath commanded us to continue. So the bishop charges the ordinand, “be thou a faithfull dispenser of the word of God, and of his Holy Sacraments.”

The second aspect of eldership seen in Peter’s epistle is oversight. An overseer is a kind of leader, but is not the owner, neither master nor monarch, but the steward (another word the Ordinal uses for priests). The shepherd who tends the flock is not the owner of the flock, but the one charged to care and provide for them, and to keep them safe from harm. The Ordinal also contains this charge:

Have always therefore printed in your remembrance how great a treasure is committed to your charge. For they are the sheep of Christ, which he bought with his death, and for whom he shed his blood. The Church and congregation whom you must serve, is his spouse, and his body….Wherefore consider with your selves the end of your ministry towards the children of God, towards the spouse and body of Christ: and see that you never cease your labour, your care, and diligence until you have done all that lieth in you, according to your bounden duty, to bring all such as are, or shall be committed to your charge, unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God.

Like preaching, then, oversight involves aid to spiritual health, the “cure of souls.” This brings to mind another word the Prayer Book commonly uses to refer to a presbyter, namely “curate.” Though now we use curacy to describe a ministerial internship, the word derives from the Latin cura (care) and in the Prayer Book’s usage, describes one who is charged with spiritual oversight, that is, the pastor of a flock. The oversight envisioned by the Ordinal is not at all disconnected from preaching, showing forth the Gospel. Priestly oversight involves publicly reading the offices of the Church, the daily and the occasional: Morning and Evening Prayer; the Lord’s Supper; baptism; weddings; funerals, etc. It also necessarily means preparing the people to participate in the Church’s services by catechizing them. In other words, the priest’s duties encompass application of the Prayer Book system and facilitating all the means of grace prescribed in it.

Consequent upon these are countless administrative duties, which, as was already seen in Acts, can quickly consume all of a minister’s time, diverting attention away from the study of the scriptures and prayer. Therefore, a priest also, of necessity, delegates and assigns responsibilities which he must also oversee. This is oversight of the flock, too, the exercising and exemplifying of godly wisdom and biblical principle (the one Jethro taught to Moses; Exod. 18). Administration also provides ample opportunity for (and challenges to) the practice of Christian virtue, the cultivation of the fruit of the Spirit. This is itself a “showing forth” of God’s Word, not merely with lips but through godly living, a living sacrifice, which is our reasonable service; this is preaching through practical application, being (as the Ordinal says) an example to the flock.

The word translated as “oversight” in the passage we read from I Peter is ἐπισκοποῦντες (episcopountes), in which we hear the root of the English word episcopal, or “of bishops.” Oversight, then, belongs chiefly to that office, to which we now turn.

Bishop

Bishop is an Old English transliteration of the Greek word επίσκοπος (episcopos) which translates as watcher, overseer, or guardian.[17] It was a common word in Hellenistic Greek, not a religious one nor associated with exalted station. As we have already noted, it is used in the NT to describe a ministry and appears to be used somewhat interchangeably with presbyter.[18] It seems probable that one from among a local body of elders was chosen to oversee the rest (whether on a temporary or permanent basis cannot be determined).[19]

In the fully developed form of episcopal polity, everyone consecrated bishop must first serve as a deacon and then a priest. Every bishop, therefore, is also necessarily a deacon and a presbyter. All that we have said previously of these other offices above is true of this office; only those who learn to serve are set apart to lead, a principle Christ Jesus himself taught and exemplified (as previously noted).

How does the Ordinal characterize this office? After he is examined and consecrated, he is given a Bible, just as when he was ordained priest. At that point, the archbishop (or, alternatively, the chief consecrator) says,

Give heed unto reading, exhortation, and doctrine. Think upon the things contained in this Book. Be diligent in them that the increase coming thereby may be manifest unto all men. Take heed unto thy self, and to doctrine, and be diligent in doing them; for by so doing thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee. Be to the flock of Christ a Shepherd, not a wolf; feed them, devour them not. Hold up the weak, heal the sick, bind up the broken, bring again the outcasts, seek the lost. Be so merciful that ye be not too remiss; so minister discipline, that you forget not mercy: that when the chief shepherd shall appear, ye may receive the never-fading crown of glory.

The Ordinal describes the bishop as pastor, just as it does the presbyters from among whom the bishop is elevated. Summarizing Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), Bishop Lightfoot says, “The functions of the bishop and presbyter are thus regarded as substantially the same in kind, though different in degree” (pg. 84). Lightfoot continues,

More than a century and a half later, this view is put forward with the greatest distinctness by the most learned and the most illustrious of the Latin fathers. “There is one ordination,” writes the commentator Hilary, “of the bishop and the presbyter; for either is a priest, but the bishop is first. Every bishop is a presbyter, but every presbyter is not a bishop; for he is bishop who is first among presbyters.”[20]

The Ordinal prescribes I Timothy 3.1-6 as one of two options for the Epistle for episcopal consecration. The Apostle Paul advises his protege Timothy that proven good character is a prerequisite for anyone who would be an overseer. “He must not be a novice,” the Apostle warns. In the traditional polity preserved within Anglicanism this proving (and, indeed, building) of character is provided for in hierarchical sequence, first serving as deacon, then as presbyter, before being elevated to episcopacy.

The bishop is responsible for ensuring that the gospel is preached, the common prayers are led, and that baptism and holy communion are rightly administered in every congregation committed to his charge. While early bishops of the Ante-Nicene Age (like Ignatius of Antioch) led a single community, since the Post-Nicene Age, bishops have led larger geographic regions called dioceses (a word borrowed from the administrative districts of the Roman Empire). As the size of episcopal jurisdictions expanded, pastoral duties were largely delegated to priests.[21]

In the Anglican tradition, following ancient custom, two principle duties remain exclusive to the ministry of bishops: confirmation and ordination. Priests are to ensure that all baptized persons in their congregations learn the Prayer Book Catechism as soon as they are able (which teaches the Apostle’s Creed, Ten Commandments, and Lord’s Prayer, and provides a brief overview of the two sacraments and the requirements for receiving them); the priest then certifies to the bishop that the candidates are ready for confirmation. Through this practice, prescribed by the Prayer Book, the bishop ensures that all the baptized have learned the fundamentals of the Christian religion, which prepares them to hear sermons fruitfully and come to the holy table with “the marriage-garment required by God.”[22] In confirmation — the pathway between the font and the table — the bishop also meets with each soul committed to his care, laying hands on each one, praying that the Holy Ghost would strengthen and equip them for battle against “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” that is to say, all that entices us to worship the creature rather than the Creator, that tempts us to pride and selfishness, all that accuses us and leads to destruction and death. As chief pastor of his diocese, it is the responsibility of the ordinary (that is, the bishop diocesan) to ensure that all have at their disposal the equipment necessary to engage in this warfare and “fight manfully under Christ’s banner.”[23]

In a similar vein, the second exclusively episcopal duty is to ordain others to the ministry.[24] In order to ensure that all who are ordained at his hands are so called by God, apt to teach, of proven good character, and otherwise prepared to assume so great a duty in Christ’s church, it is the responsibility of the bishop to oversee an effective process of discernment, education, and training. This responsibility is, of course, a massive one, the effective execution of which requires bishops to identify and call upon the skills and resources of others, and to delegate wisely (just as prebyters do within their jurisdictions), but these practical, organizational matters lie beyond the scope of this essay. Here it is sufficient to say that through confirmations and ordinations bishops strive to ensure the present and future health and growth of the Church.

Conclusion

The Prayer Book envisions ordained ministry as a means of grace, an orderly means for ensuring that Christ’s flock is fed and cared for. Though all the gifts God has given — the gracious means for uniting us to his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, for delivering us from condemnation, danger, and death, for making us holy as God is holy, and for bringing us to completion on the Last Day — though all of these gifts appear diverse and distinct from our point of view, in reality they are united and undivided, the operation of the one and undivided Trinity. This understanding is beautifully summed up in a passage from Ephisians which the Prayer Book appoints to be read at the ordination of a priest:

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. … And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4.4-16)

Thus the Prayer Book presents ministry in much the same terms that it presents itself, that is, as existing for the edification, the building up, of the Body of Christ by showing forth the Word of God.

  1. Works (1629) p. 567. Though I am quoting from the 1629 edition, this text was first published some fifteen years earlier. I have modernized orthography (in this and other quoted material). The transcription also necessitated reformatting, as Boys formatted this passage as a Ramist-style chart, with the connections between elements indicated by French brackets.
  2. Patricia Demers, ed. (2016), An Apology or Answer in Defence of The Church Of England: Lady Anne Bacon’s Translation of Bishop John Jewel’s Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae, Cambridge: Modern Humanities Research Association, p. 65-66. The Apologia was written in Latin and first published in 1562, Lady Bacon’s translation was officially commissioned by Archbishop Parker and published with his endorsement.
  3. Member of the Westminster Assembly and, after the Restoration, Bishop of Norwich from 1660 to 1676. Bishop Reynolds contributed the General Thanksgiving to the 1662 Prayer Book.
  4. Vol. V of his Works, pg. 75
  5. Ibid.
  6. Lightfoot (pg. 17) argued that this passage does in fact record the historical institution of the order. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of debate about this and the present scholarly consensus is against it. See, for example, Giles (2017) pg. 221-222: “The seven are appointed to meet a particular and specific need of which we hear no more…. [They] were not appointed to a specific office, definitely not to the office of the deacon. Luke never mentions such an office.” See also Arthur G. Patzia (2001) The Emergence of the Church: Context, Growth, Leadership & Worship, pg. 166-167. The present examination does not depend upon any particular answer to this historical question; what is significant here is that, once the office was established and as it was maintained by the Reformed Church of England, it was understood in terms of this passage.
  7. By what means the selection occurred, the text does not recount.
  8. Bishop of St. Asaph from 1704 until his death in 1708; he was generally regarded as the greatest patristic scholar of his age.
  9. By which Luke often meant not Jews generally, which would include Stephen and all the Apostles and first deacons; rather, Luke often uses it to mean Jews who reject Jesus’ messianic claims.
  10. Sermon II on the Institution of Ministers, from Vol. 1 of his Works, pg. 36
  11. Works, Vol. 5, pg. 75
  12. Though it is common now to deny the hierarchical arrangement of the three orders, to say they are but different from each other in duties not relative authority, the text we have just read out of Acts describes very plainly a hierarchical relationship between these proto-deacons and the Apostles. The Ordinal too assumes a hierarchy among the orders. A hierarchy, it should be noted, does not at all suggest that those in higher offices possess arbitrary (much less unlimited!) power over those of lower office.
  13. The Greek word for that is ἱερεύς (hiereus; whence the English word hierarchy). Bishop Lightfoot explains “On no subject has more serious error arisen from the confusion of language. The word ‘priest’ has two different senses. In the one it is a synonym for prebyter or elder, and designates the minister who presides over and instructs a Christian congregation; in the other it is equivalent to the Latin sacerdos, the Greek ἱερεύς, or the Hebrew כֹּהֵן‬, the offerer of sacrifices, who also performs other mediatorial offices between God and man” (The Christian Ministry, pp. 14-15).
  14. Ch. VII.
  15. De doctrina Christiana IV.12.27; Augustine quotes directly from Cicero’s Orator 21.69, “docere, delectare, et movere.”
  16. Boys’s Works (1629) p. 837; see also Hunt, 1998, p. 55.
  17. How the transliteration came to so little resemble the foreign word from which it derives, Walsh’s Handbook of Literary Curiosities describes: “The English strikes off the initial and terminal syllables, leaving only piscop, which the Saxon preference for the softer labial and hissing sounds modified into bishop” (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1892).
  18. Commenting on the use of these terms in the Pastorals, Patzia (2001) outlines two plausible explanations of the available evidence: “either that bishops and elders were coequal and interchangeable (Tit. 1:5, 7) or that bishops were chosen from the body of elders” (173). Merkle (2003) argues for the former view in The Elder and Overseer: One Office in the Early Church; while Giles (2017) argues for the latter view in Pattern of Ministry.
  19. This is the position advanced by Lightfoot and it remains the present scholarly consensus; one notable dissenting voice is Alistair Stewart, who presents an alternative “hypothetical account” (pg. 298) in The Original Bishops: Office and Order in the First Christian Communities (2014) that the historical progression was nearly the inverse: the single leader of each individual house-church was known as the bishop; they were not liturgical leaders, but home-owners and benefactors who supplied the eucharistic feast. The office of presbyter developed out of that by delegation. Giles (2017) comments that this hypothesis is “evocative” but lacking in specific evidence (pg. 77).
  20. Ibid.; cf. also footnote 3 in Part I.
  21. Alvin Kimel, commenting on the difference between the office of bishop as understood by Ignatius and as known in our own time, explains: “it is crucial to note that the bishop of the Ignatian church is a pastor and liturgist. He exercises oversight and care of a single Christian community. He is more accurately described as a parish rector than as a diocesan bishop. …when the bishop of the Ignatian epistles gathers with his congregation, he always gathers with his presbyters and deacons, in the fullness of the threefold orders. Hence, the ancient ministry of bishop, unlike the ministry of the diocesan bishop today, was a ministry within the congregation… This oneness with his community is essential to his identity as the visible incarnation of the church’s unity.” Alvin Kimel (1995) “Who are the bishops? Episkope and the church.” Anglican Theological Review. 77:1, pg. 70.
  22. From the first exhortation in the Communion service.
  23. The words said when the newly baptized person is signed with the cross.
  24. It is uncertain precisely when ordination became the exclusive prerogative of the bishops. Evidence clearly points to the presbytery ordaining bishops in parts of the church. Paul and Barnabas were ordained in Antioch by “the church,” which description leaves the details entirely unclear (Acts 13.1-3). Timothy, whom tradition calls the first Bishop of Ephesus, was ordained by the presbytery (I Timothy 4.14-16). The Church of Alexandria continued to have presbyterial ordinations until the fourth century; though this custom was exceptional by the fourth century, other bishops did not deny the validity of Alexandrian orders on account of it (Lightfoot pg. 87).


Drew Keane

Drew Keane is a Lecturer in the Department of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University. He served on the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music for the Episcopal Church from 2012 to 2018. His current research focuses on residual orality in 16th C. English religious prose, and he is a PhD candidate in the School of English at the University of St. Andrews.


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