Thinking allowed

Rites of Ordination: Their History and Theology

book cover
Paul F. Brad­shaw Rites of Ordin­a­tion: Their His­tory and Theo­logy Lon­don: SPCK, 2014 ISBN 978–0‑281–07157‑9. pp. ix + 218. £19.99 pbk.

What does it mean to be ordained as a min­is­ter? This ques­tion stands in large print on the back cov­er of Paul Bradshaw’s excel­lent book. If it attracts those hop­ing to find voca­tion­al dir­ec­tion or insight into min­is­teri­al iden­tity, they will be sur­prised by the con­tents. Brad­shaw is not unin­ter­ested in these mat­ters as they are expressed in ordin­a­tion rites, but they are not at the centre of his study. 

With an envi­able com­bin­a­tion of pro­fund­ity and eco­nomy, he has pro­duced a sur­vey of east­ern and west­ern rites of ordin­a­tion that stretches from the prac­tices of the earli­est Chris­ti­an com­munit­ies to the present day. This approach makes it pos­sible to show what ele­ments have been essen­tial, which bib­lic­al images have been sus­tained in the lan­guage and theo­logy of ordin­a­tion, how rela­tion­ships between orders have been under­stood, how the role of the laity has been acknow­ledged or eclipsed, and how can­did­ates have been chosen. The first three chapters, which deal with typo­logy of min­istry, min­istry in the earli­est Chris­ti­an com­munit­ies, and min­istry in the earli­est ordin­a­tion rites are par­tic­u­larly help­ful in set­ting the scene for what is to come.

Brad­shaw is the sort of his­tor­i­an who makes the evid­ence of his work­ings excit­ing. As his explor­a­tion moves to the rites them­selves, we learn a good deal about how to estab­lish a likely ‘ori­gin­al’ text by com­par­ing ver­sions of it in dif­fer­ent near-con­tem­por­ary doc­u­ments, or by sift­ing out com­mon fea­tures of later rites which must have come from a shared source. The account of the East takes up one chapter to five which might be defined as pre­oc­cu­pied with the West. This does not neces­sar­ily mean that the ori­gins of the East­ern rites of ordin­a­tion are more straight­for­ward: only that they sta­bil­ised where­as pat­terns in the West con­tin­ued to change. Thus it was not too long before bish­ops began to be appoin­ted by the Pope and not by the pop­u­lar acclaim of the loc­al community.

Rites con­verged as the Church grew and spread. The ordin­a­tion ser­vices which res­ult from the meet­ing of Roman and Gal­lican tra­di­tions become far more elab­or­ate than the indi­vidu­al streams which have come togeth­er. At the same time, there was a move away from loc­al acclaim, rela­tion­ship to place (the idea of a title), and the involve­ment in the laity in the choice and ordin­a­tion of min­is­ters. What increased was an emphas­is on the sac­ri­fi­cial priest­hood, to the exclu­sion of oth­er aspects of this order, like shep­herd and proph­et. This attrac­ted the cri­ti­cism of the Reformers, begin­ning with John Wyc­liffe and trenchantly uttered by Luth­er and Calv­in. Once again the ques­tion of what clergy were for, and how they differed from the laity, was at stake.

These are ques­tions that the Churches, includ­ing the Church of Rome, have gone on ask­ing – although it was not until 1990 that Rome had an ordin­a­tion rite sig­ni­fic­antly dif­fer­ent from the first prin­ted pon­ti­fic­al of 1485. There is now con­sid­er­able con­ver­gence on many of the desir­able char­ac­ter­ist­ics named by the World Coun­cil of Churches doc­u­ment, Bap­tism, Euchar­ist and Min­istry (1982). But Brad­shaw gives us a pic­ture of work still very much in pro­gress. Churches con­tin­ue to pon­der how to accom­mod­ate the lay­ing on of hands in the ordin­a­tion pray­er without split­ting it into three. They go on seek­ing ways to allow the voice of the laity to be heard in the rite and to rep­res­ent loc­al com­munit­ies where ordin­a­tion is cel­eb­rated in cent­ral loc­a­tions. They keep try­ing out sec­ond­ary sym­bol­ism to accom­pany the lay­ing on of hands and pray­er for the work of the Holy Spir­it. No Church seems as yet to have got this quite right, and part of Bradshaw’s achieve­ment is in show­ing how cho­reo­graphy can assist in solv­ing cer­tain prob­lems. There is plenty of mater­i­al here to guide prac­tice, and to root it his­tor­ic­ally without allow­ing any irre­spons­ible and badly-informed appeals to the Early Church. It is unlikely that any Church will embark on the revi­sion of its ordin­a­tion rites in future without first study­ing this book. 

Buy this book.


The Study of Liturgy and Worship

Ben­jamin Gor­don-Taylor and Juli­ette Day The Study of Liturgy and Wor­ship Lon­don: SPCK, 2013 ISBN 978–0‑281–06909‑5. pp.272. £25.00 pbk.

Back in the day when ‘Liturgy’ was Dix and ‘Wor­ship’ was Under­hill, ‘Study’ ten­ded to focus on detailed ana­lys­is of increas­ingly nar­row top­ics. When those who stud­ied liturgy had been nur­tured on a Tri­dentine Mass or a Pray­er Book Com­mu­nion ser­vice, much could be taken for granted.

So a book that takes litur­gic­al study out of its strait­jack­et is highly wel­come. Here, in a single volume are 22 essays of roughly equal length, grouped under four head­ings. ‘Found­a­tions’ opens with essays on Wor­ship and Liturgy. The second sec­tion, ‘Ele­ments’, looks at Time, Space, Music, Lan­guage and Min­is­tries. The third sec­tion, ‘Event’, deals with spe­cif­ic occa­sions for liturgy, whilst the most chal­len­ging chapters are per­haps those of the fourth sec­tion of the book, described as ‘Dimen­sions’. Here, in the chapter on Eth­ics, Siob­hán Gar­rigan notes how at times ‘liturgy has failed to change, and might even have aided, some of the world’s greatest uneth­ic­al situ­ations.’ She notes that the Old Test­a­ment proph­ets were only too well aware of the need for wor­ship to be eth­ic­al. We neg­lect their warn­ings at our per­il (‘I hate, I des­pise your fest­ivals’ Amos 5.21 and ‘Do not trust these decept­ive words “This is the temple of the Lord”’ Jeremi­ah 7.4). She notes how Karl Rahner, at the Second Vat­ic­an Coun­cil, argued that ‘if you do not get life right, you can­not get liturgy right.’

Ruth Mey­ers in the fol­low­ing chapter reminds us of the place of wor­ship in form­ing people for Mis­sion, and build­ing a ‘Mis­sion-Shaped Church’. Philip Tovey’s chapter on Cul­ture reminds us of how slowly and grudgingly pro­gress has been made. The Second Vat­ic­an Coun­cil had raised the issue but going bey­ond ver­nacu­lar masses (which was a huge step), real change express­ive of dif­fer­ent cul­tures has been lim­ited. He also notes that The Anglic­an Com­mu­nion, with pray­ers for ‘us and for all men’ has been slow to adopt inclus­ive lan­guage and pro­duce litur­gies for occa­sions when a sig­ni­fic­ant pro­por­tion of com­mu­nic­ants are children.

‘Dimen­sions’ con­cludes with Myra Blyth’s chapter on Ecu­men­ism. She writes as a Baptist min­is­ter who spent many years at the World Coun­cil of Churches. Churches have moved from prid­ing them­selves on fine dis­tinc­tions and divi­sions to heed­ing Jesus’ pray­er that all should be one. The Lima doc­u­ment on Bap­tism, Euchar­ist and Min­istry was a real mile­stone. But, Blyth notes, there have been set­backs. She writes, ‘For Mar­garet Käss­mann, former Bish­op of Ber­lin-Branden­berg, the (2003) report and espe­cially the frame­work for com­mon pray­er, rep­res­ents a back­ward step on the ecu­men­ic­al jour­ney. It is “a doc­u­ment of fear which takes great care to estab­lish the bound­ar­ies that divide us”’.

The inclu­sion of these themes as equal has pro­duced a well-roun­ded study. But this has meant that much has had to be abbre­vi­ated and the valu­able list of fur­ther read­ing at the end of each chapter will need to be accessed in order to explore each top­ic in more depth. I might have looked for a longer chapter on ‘Euchar­ist’ but the chapters on ‘Ritu­al’, on ‘Pray­er’ and on ‘Sign and Sym­bol’ and ‘Word and Sac­ra­ment’ provide valu­able insights to add to what is found there.

The import­ance of ‘Word’ is also stressed in chapters on litur­gic­al lan­guage, and on Pro­clam­a­tion, which can bring us back to not­ing the import­ance of a chapter on Eth­ics. These dis­crete essays fit togeth­er superbly. The rich­ness and diversity of con­tent has meant that the review­er has found a great deal of import­ance bey­ond what might have been expec­ted; essays on Euchar­ist, Ser­vices of the Word, and those which mark mem­ber­ship and rites of pas­sage. The way the book is con­struc­ted means that no aspect can be treated in isol­a­tion, and the total­ity of what it offers will make a great con­tri­bu­tion to enabling those respons­ible for wor­ship to make it a trans­form­ing and enrich­ing experience.

Buy this book.

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Church Times articles

Over the last few years I have writ­ten a num­ber of pieces which have been pub­lished in the Church Times. These have appeared on their monthly com­put­ing / inter­net pages, and have included reviews and sur­veys of web sites on vari­ous topics.

The most recent of these art­icles is now avail­able on the Church Times web­site: a pre­view of Apple’s new Mac mini com­puter. You can read the art­icle here

[Foot­note, 12 April 2005: Apple today announced that the next ver­sion of Mac OS, Mac OS X 10.4, code-named ‘Tiger’, will be avail­able from 29 April. So, now is the time to go and buy that Mac mini, safe in the know­ledge that you will get the latest ver­sion of the OS. I placed my order for a Mac mini this afternoon!]

Some of the earli­er pieces can be found in this list


bestselling artist of all time?

The BBC web­site reports that this accol­ade is claimed (by the pub­lish­er) for Annie Vallotton.

Who’s Annie Val­lot­ton you might ask?

She is the Swiss woman who illus­trated the Good News Bible in the 1970s.

Sample quote:

One of the most mem­or­able examples is of the cru­ci­fix­ion in Luke’s gos­pel. The thorn-crowned head hangs for­ward, below the single line of the shoulder. Above it, two right-angles are the cross.
Some­how this plain sketch con­veys the des­ol­a­tion of Jesus far more power­fully than two hours of Mel Gibson’s blood-spattered film, The Pas­sion of the Christ. 


The Great Schism

This morn­ing I listened to anoth­er pro­gramme in the BBC Radio 4 series, In Our Time. This must be the best pro­gramme on the radio, and this week it looked at the Great Schism between the east­ern and west­ern Church, con­cen­trated in the mutu­al excom­mu­nic­a­tion in 1054.

What is even more remark­able is the rel­ev­ance of much of what they were talk­ing about to the cur­rent goings-on at Lam­beth. Here we had a dis­pute primar­ily about author­ity, and about a shift in the bal­ance of power, from the ‘old church’ in the Greek-speak­ing east, towards the Lat­in-speak­ing west, culim­in­at­ing a determ­in­a­tion by the up-and-com­ing west and its pat­ri­arch at Rome to con­cen­trate author­ity in its hands, rather than shar­ing it in a more demo­crat­ic ‘first among equals’ basis.

My only caveat would be to won­der about the author­ity of an ‘expert’ who thinks that com­mu­nion in one kind, increas­ingly prac­tised in the West, meant that the laity were lim­ited to receiv­ing only the chalice, and not the bread — a state­ment which no one corrected.

Any­way, the broad­cast is worth listen­ing to, wheth­er or not you see any par­al­lels, or wheth­er you agree with my sug­ges­ted par­al­lels (per­haps it’s like a good ser­mon, which every listen­er thinks is dir­ec­ted solely at them). Then, if you haven’t done so before, enjoy you­self brows­ing through the archives listen­ing to pre­vi­ous broad­casts over the last couple of years.


Future Shape of Church

In his web­site Future Shape of Church Edward Green, an ordin­and at West­cott House, Cam­bridge, explores what it means to be Chris­ti­an in a post-mod­ern world. This devel­op­ing web­site con­tains a num­ber of inter­est­ing essays, includ­ing one on sexu­al­ity and anoth­er on the need for the exist­ence of God: ‘reli­gion,’ he writes, ‘is a thing of value that can exist inde­pend­ent of the actu­al­ity of a divine being’. The site also includes essays and ser­mons by oth­ers, includ­ing Dr Fraser Watts, Star­bridge Lec­turer in Theo­logy and Sci­ence at Cam­bridge University.