Sequential or Direct Ordination

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Joint Liturgical Studies 55

Tucked away within the 2001 statement of the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation (IALC), entitled Anglican Ordination Rites, The Berkeley Statement:
‘To Equip the Saints’, is a short recommendation that could radically reorientate Anglican understandings of the three-fold ministry. The brief paragraph with
the heading ‘Direct Ordination’ states:

‘Because the three orders are viewed as distinct ministries, direct ordination to the presbyterate, and even the possibility of direct ordination to the episcopate, are being advocated by some in the Anglican Communion. There is historical precedent for both sequential and direct ordination. In the pre-Nicene church, direct ordination was commonly practised, and sequential ordination did not become universal until the eleventh century. Provinces may therefore wish to consider the possibility of direct ordination to the episcopate and to the presbyterate:’

┬áThis particular paragraph is perhaps the most revolutionary of the entire document. The traditional processes, whereby candidates are ordained to the diaconate as a first step towards the presbyterate, and candidature to the episcopate is limited to those who have been presbyters for a certain prescribed number of years, could well be superseded by another pattern. According to this recommendation, lay people could be ordained directly to the presbyterate without ever having served as deacons. Logically, a deacon or even a lay person could be elected and ordained as a bishop. While the IALC recommendation notes both historical precedent for the current practice and even more ancient precedent for direct ordination, it leaves begging a rather important question: beyond sheer antiquarianism, why would provinces of the Anglican Communion ‘wish to consider the possibility of direct ordination to the episcopate and to the presbyterate’?

John St. H. Gibaut