By Rev. Rebecca

What is Ordination?

Ordination is very simply, the setting aside or consecrating of a person who the community believes has been called to minister in a particular role. The ordination itself generally occurs in the context of a celebrative worship service.

Scripture provides for at least three offices of ministry: the diakoneo (translated "deacon" or "servant"), presbyteros (translated "elder" or "priest" in Latin), and episkopos (tranlated "bishop").

St. Paul describes these roles in 1 Timothy:

3:1 : "The saying is sure; whoever aspires to the office of episkopos (bishop) desires a noble task."

3:13: "For those who serve well as diakoneo (deacons) gain a good standing for themselves and in great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus."

5:17: "Let the presbyteros (elders/priests) who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching."

Of "presbyteros" St. Peter writes, "So I exhort the presbyteros among you, as a fellow presbyteros and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:1-3).

While the Latin translation of "presbyteros" is "priest," it should be noted that every Christian is a "priest" because all Christians share in Christ's priesthood, the priesthood of all believers, and mediate God's grace and redemption to the world. Some "priests" are simply called to a particular function and office in the Church and set aside explicitly for that task. "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

In the Anglican tradition, deacons, priests, and bishops are ordained to particular roles, but ministry is still considered to be a vocation of all the baptized. Ordination is also considered a sacrament because it is believed that God empowers the person, through the Holy Spirit, to fulfill their particular ministry and calling. Ordination is always conferred by the laying on of hands by one or more Bishops as an outward sign of of the inward reality of God's call. In a priestly ordination, all the priests of the Diocese lay hands upon the ordinand following the example of Scripture: "Neglect not the gift that is in you, which was given you with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery" (1 Tim. 4:14, see also Acts 8:18). Because of the sacramental nature of ordination, it is believed that once someone is ordained they are forever is not something that can be "withdrawn."

Priestly ordination in the Anglican tradition can be confusing because ordinands called to the priesthood are ordained twice: first to the "Transitional Diaconate" and then to the Priesthood. Transitional Deacons recieve futher training and experience as clergy members and are given particular roles of service to fulfill ministerially and liturgically. Once a Transitional Deacon is made a Priest they are able to celebrate Communion and provide blessings and absolutions as well as perform all other Sacramental rites. This is simply one type of service and "role" in the church among many.

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