Saturday, February 27, 2010

Does ordination make a difference?

An issue being mentioned here, here and here (for starters).

I would say that ordination is primarily a separation sideways - baptism is the separation vertically.

I would also say that there is such a thing as the grace of holy orders. Have I been enabled to be a different person since being ordained? Surely.

Ordination does not elevate a person in any sort of moral or 'righteousness' sense; there is no spiritual superiority conferred. Yet there is an authority conferred.

Within the body of Christ, these are given responsibility for exercising judgement, for speaking the yay and the nay.

This is not trivial.

I sometimes think that those most concerned to deny any reality to ordination - whether called 'ontological' or not - are like Oedipus, stabbing out his eyes, because he cannot bear to see.

I wouldn't want to push that image too far :)

My views on the related issue of lay presidency can be found here.


  1. Very interesting question. I'd say yes, I perceive a difference between myself and those who are ordained. Primarily it is the 'set apart'ness that I perceive most clearly, and which I admire. I feel an expectation that an ordained person (especially one 'in uniform') will behave a certain way and generally take God seriously at all times. That said, I also enjoy then getting to know the real (flawed) person behind the collar and the authority.

    I guess I feel like I 'know what I'm getting' when I speak to someone who's been through the vicar factory. I find this reassuring.

    With some priests the setting apart feels horizontal, but in most cases the setting apart feels vertical. I suspect however that this is a function of age difference. You are my age Sam so when I met you I didn't perceive anything like the same sense of heavy authority that I would if you were 20 years my senior.

    That said, you obviously have a lot of 'Authority B' - the sort that comes from maturity, experience, wisdom.

  2. Fr Sam,

    Would you care to expand on the sideways/vertical separation idea? I've never quite thought of it like that, but it's interesting...

    Justin Martyr


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