Given that I have had a few people ask me about what the Threefold Ministry in the Anglican Church is and/or consists of- I thought I would take a moment to elaborate.
There are three offices or orders in the Anglican church, and each one supercedes another- First would be the Bishop, and then the Priest, and lastly the Deacon.
In our prayer book- the respective ministry(s) of each office are outlined in the Catechism:
What is the ministry of a Bishop?
” The ministry of a bishop is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as apostle, chief priest, and pastor of a diocese; to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the whole Church; to proclaim the Word of God; to act in Christ’s name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up of the Church: and to ordain others to continue Christ’s ministry.” (BCP, 855)
What is the ministry of a Priest?
” The ministry of a Priest is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God.” (BCP, 856)
What is the ministry of a Deacon?
” The ministry of a Deacon is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as a servant of those in need; and to assist bishops and priests in the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments.” (BCP, 856)
Though all three offices supercede one another, they also have alot in common in that all three can do baptisms, weddings, and funerals. They all can preach, and help with specific duties in the Eucharist. They differ in that both a Bishop and Priest can celebrate the Eucharist, but a Deacon cannot unless he or she has elements that are already consecrated with which a Deacons Mass may be performed.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul adresses overseers and Deacons and how their lives should reflect Christ as much as possible, and the character traits that come with holding offices in the church, as he says ” Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in there faith in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 3:13), and in 1 Timothy 4: 15-16 he says ” Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholy to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closley. Perservere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
Those who serve in ministry as a vocation, as well as the laity, have a common calling in bringing honor and glory to God and sharing Him with the world. These three offices enable those who serve in them to do just that- working together for the glory of God, and for the expansion of His kingdom as we are told to do in the Great Commission.
It is my hope that this has either enriched your understanding of these three offices, and/or given you some understanding of what the historic threefold ministry is, and how vital it is not only to the church ,but also to our personal spiritual growth.