By the Rev Canon William Odom
The Church Bookroom (Published Prior to 1923)
Part V - I am a Churchman because I Believe in an Episcopal Form of Church Government and a Duly-Ordained Ministry.
A succession of Bishops may not be essential to the being of a Church, but it is most conducive to its well-being. Our Church declares a simple historical fact in the preface to the Ordination Services thus: “It is evident unto all men diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient authors, that from the Apostles’ time there have been these orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.” The English Church does not, as does the Roman Communion, unchurch members of other Christian Churches, nor does it condemn the ministry of other Churches, but simply states its own rule thus in Article XXIII.: “It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of public preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called, and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by men who have public authority given unto them in the congregation, to call and send ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.” At times it happens that unfit and unworthy men have a place in the sacred ministry, but this is inevitable in an age in which the evil is mingled with the good. How needful the prayer that God may so guide our Bishops and Pastors “that they may lay hands suddenly on no man, but faithfully and wisely make choice of fit persons to serve in the sacred ministry of His Church.”
Churchmen should carefully read the forms in our Prayer Book of “Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.” Before admission to a benefice the incumbent-elect is required by law to take the Oath of Allegiance to the King and his successors; and the Oath of Canonical Obedience to the Bishop of the Diocese; and also to make the Declaration of Assent to the XXXIX. Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer. Every Incumbent, on the First Sunday after institution on which he officiates in the Church of his benefice, must publicly and openly, in the presence of the congregation there assembled, read the XXXIX. Articles of Religion, and immediately after reading the same, declare his assent unto them.
The clergy are not ordained to hear confessions, nor to offer up propitiatory sacrifices as in the Roman Church, but, as our Ordination Service says, “to be 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.”
Nowhere in the New Testament is the Greek word for a sacrificing priest (hiereus) used to designate a minister of the Gospel. Christ, our Great High Priest, is the only Hiereus. The Prayer Book nowhere uses “priest” in any sense but that of presbyter or elder, of which it is the shortened form. It is a foundation truth that “the Kingdom of Christ has no sacerdotal system. It interposes no sacrificial tribe or class between God and man, by whose intervention alone God is reconciled and man forgiven. Each individual member holds personal communion with the Divine Head” (Bishop Lightfoot).
>> Part VI. - I am a Churchman because the Church of England is the Ancient Historic Church of this Country.