Are Ordinations Too Elaborate?

This was originally published in the NECA (National Episcopal Clergy Association newsletter.) I understand the editor got hate mail about it from at least one bishop famous for an emphasis on lay ministry. It also touches on the discussion below

Are Ordinations and Celebrations of the New Ministry Too Elaborate?

There is a criticism which is often heard in our church these days that ordinations are too elaborate. The ceremonies and festivities that surround an ordination or the celebration of a new ministry are thought to imply an inappropriate significance for Holy Orders. If I may put words in the mouths of the critics, the complaint is that,”After all, baptism is the central and most important fact of Christian life. It is through baptism that one becomes a Christian and through baptism that the church reconstitutes its life. The ministry of the baptized is the fundamental ministry, and the ministry of the ordained is to be servants of the servants of God. By elaborate ordinations and celebrations of new ministry we give the impression that Ordination is more important than baptism, that the clergy are the real Christians. Our ordination and institution ceremonies reinforce an outmoded clericalism, have distasteful overtones of authoritarianism, and undermine the ministry of the laity. Look at the Celebration of New Ministry in the Prayer Book. The people give the new priest a Bible, stoles, Prayer Books. In the end nothing is left. Everything has been given away.”

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The Power And Dignity Of The Priesthood

This was published in an edition of the Sewanee Theological Review devoted to ministry. It touches on the discussion on this site about the priesthood.

The Power and Dignity of the Priesthood

A Talk given at the Annual Meeting of The Society for the Increase of the Ministry
At Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, November I, 1995, By the Rev. Leander S. Harding, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1994

Much has been written about the perception of a crisis in the priesthood. The Cornerstone Project was developed by the Episcopal Church Foundation in order to help strengthen ordained leadership at a time when clergy are reporting themselves to be discouraged, confused and highly stressed. One of the most recent findings of the Cornerstone Project is that the parish priests in the project had difficulty articulating a theology of priesthood. The staff found that the priests in the project could discuss theological readings with competence but that when they spoke about their parish ministries they did not tend to speak in theological categories. I was one of a group of clergy, theologians and Cornerstone staff who attended a conference at the College of Preachers in June of 1995 to attempt to understand the meaning of this finding and to suggest a course of action. The thoughts that I am going to share with you tonight represent my contribution to that discussion.

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