Episcopal Services – Preface to the Ordination Rites

The Holy Scriptures and ancient Christian writers make it clear that from
the apostles’ time, there have been different ministries within the Church.
In particular, since the time of the New Testament, three distinct orders
of ordained ministers have been characteristic of Christ’s holy Catholic
Church. First, there is the order of bishops who carry on the apostolic
work of leading, supervising, and uniting the Church.  Secondly,
associated with them are the presbyters, or ordained elders, in subsequent
times generally known as priests. Together with the bishops, they take
part in the governance of the Church, in the carrying out of its missionary
and pastoral work, and in the preaching of the Word of God and
administering his holy Sacraments. Thirdly, there are deacons who assist
bishops and priests in all of this work. It is also a special responsibility of
deacons to minister in Christ’s name to the poor, the sick, the suffering,
and the helpless.

The persons who are chosen and recognized by the Church as being
called by God to the ordained ministry are admitted to these sacred
orders by solemn prayer and the laying on of episcopal hands. It has
been, and is, the intention and purpose of this Church to maintain and
continue these three orders; and for this purpose these services of
ordination and consecration are appointed. No persons are allowed to
exercise the offices of bishop, priest, or deacon in this Church unless they
are so ordained, or have already received such ordination with the laying
on of hands by bishops who are themselves duly qualified to confer Holy

It is also recognized and affirmed that the threefold ministry is not the
exclusive property of this portion of Christ’s catholic Church, but is a gift
from God for the nurture of his people and the proclamation of his
Gospel everywhere. Accordingly, the manner of ordaining in this Church
is to be such as has been, and is, most generally recognized by Christian
people as suitable for the conferring of the sacred orders of bishop, priest,
and deacon.

510    Ordination

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