Many of our friends will be attending their first Anglican service when they attend my (God-willing and people consenting) ordination. I put together this guide to help answer many of the questions many of you might have.
As always, I would much rather talk about this in person. That being said, I hope this serves as a helpful primer. Click below to jump ahead to different sections.
Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, oh my!
Sometimes called the “Threefold Order of Ministry,” many churches today still structure themselves after a very early Christian practice modeled on different orders of ministry seen in the New Testament.
There are three types of ordained leaders in the Anglican tradition (same with Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and many Lutheran and Methodist churches):
Bishops (episkopos, sometimes translated Elder in English Bibles) oversee a region of churches. They are the chief pastor of an entire diocese.
Priests (presbyteros, also sometimes translated Elder in English Bibles) serve under a Bishop, usually at one specific church. They are the pastor of that church. They are given the authority to Preach and administer the Sacraments.
Deacons (diakonos) serve under the Bishop, and assist Priests and Bishops in worship. Deacons also preach, and are given authority to assist in the administration of the Sacraments. Their focus is often on serving the marginalized.
These Holy Orders are the three different ways of serving in ordained ministry.
Anyone who takes Holy Orders is always ordained a Deacon first. Many people remain Deacons for life, and this is sometimes referred to as the Permanent Diaconate.
A Priest is first ordained a Deacon, and then usually six months later they are ordained a Priest. They do not stop being a Deacon at this time, and the Diaconal focus on servanthood and ministry to the neglected remains in all Priests.
Bishops, likewise, do not stop being Deacons and Priests upon their consecration as Bishop.
Don’t take my word for it: the Book of Common Prayer has some very helpful language about all these things.
Holy Orders, in General (BCP p. 510)
The Holy Scriptures and ancient Christian writers make it clear that from the apostles’ time, there have been different ministries within the Church. In particular, since the time of the New Testament, three distinct orders of ordained ministers have been characteristic of Christ’s holy Catholic Church. First, there is the order of bishops who carry on the apostolic work of leading, supervising, and uniting the Church. Secondly, associated with them are the presbyters, or ordained elders, in subsequent times generally known as priests. Together with the bishops, they take part in the governance of the Church, in the carrying out of its missionary and pastoral work, and in the preaching of the Word of God and administering his holy Sacraments. Thirdly, there are deacons who assist bishops and priests in all of this work. It is also a special responsibility of deacons to minister in Christ’s name to the poor, the sick, the suffering, and the helpless.
The persons who are chosen and recognized by the Church as being called by God to the ordained ministry are admitted to these sacred orders by solemn prayer and the laying on of episcopal hands. It has been, and is, the intention and purpose of this Church to maintain and continue these three orders; and for this purpose these services of ordination and consecration are appointed. No persons are allowed to exercise the offices of bishop, priest, or deacon in this Church unless they are so ordained, or have already received such ordination with the laying on of hands by bishops who are themselves duly qualified to confer Holy Orders.
It is also recognized and affirmed that the threefold ministry is not the exclusive property of this portion of Christ’s catholic Church, but is a gift from God for the nurture of his people and the proclamation of his Gospel everywhere. Accordingly, the manner of ordaining in this Church is to be such as has been, and is, most generally recognized by Christian people as suitable for the conferring of the sacred orders of bishop, priest, and deacon.
Deacons (From the Ordination service for Deacons, BCP p. 543)
My brother, every Christian is called to follow Jesus Christ, serving God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit. God now calls you to a special ministry of servanthood directly under your bishop. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely.
As a deacon in the Church, you are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them. You are to make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you live, and work, and worship. You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. You are to assist the bishop and priests in public worship and in the ministration of God’s Word and Sacraments, and you are to carry out other duties assigned to you from time to time. At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.
My brother, do you believe that you are truly called by God and his Church to the life and work of a deacon?
Priests (From the Ordination service for Priests, BCP p. 543)
My brother, the Church is the family of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. All baptized people are called to make Christ known as Savior and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world. Now you are called to work as pastor, priest, and teacher, together with your bishop and fellow presbyters, and to take your share in the councils of the Church.
As a priest, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in accordance with its precepts. You are to love and serve the people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach, to declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God’s blessing, to share in the administration of Holy Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood, and to perform the other ministrations entrusted to you.
In all that you do, you are to nourish Christ’s people from the riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.
My brother, do you believe that you are truly called by God and his Church to this priesthood?
Pastor, Father, Priest?
There are many analogies used to described people who are called to help lead the church. They are like shepherds leading a flock of sheep, so we sometimes refer to them as Pastors. They are like parents leading a family, so we sometimes refer to them as our spiritual Fathers. (While Jesus condemns the Pharisees for their use of the words Rabbi, Father, and Teacher as titles of power, Christians have long understood this to be a teaching against their pride, not those words themselves. Paul calls himself a Father in 1 Corinthians 4:14-15 and elsewhere. The title Teacher is used positively throughout the New Testament as well.) They lead the people in offering prayers and sacrifices, so we sometimes refer to them as Priests.
You can call me whatever you are most comfortable calling me. For many of you, I have been Mr. Jordan for our entire relationship, and I will certainly still answer to that. If you already call me Jon, I would keep doing that, too.
If you want the more formal answer, here you go:
Deacons are titled Reverend, and I will most often be called “Deacon Jon” in our church while I am a Deacon.
Priests are also titled Reverend, and I will most often be called “Father Jon” in our church once ordained a Priest.
Enveloped addressed to me will say something like “Rev. Jon Jordan” or “Fr. Jon Jordan.”
The biggest thing you may notice is that after I am ordained a Deacon my outfit will change. When I explain the Collar to students, I like to talk about it like a Uniform.
A Uniform tells us something important about the person wearing it. A collar and clerical shirt tell you that I am someone who has taken a vow to be available to any and all who are in need of ministry. That includes you, no matter who you are.
A Uniform reminds the person wearing it of something important about themselves. The collar is a reminder to me that I have taken a vow of servant ministry to all who are in need.
A Uniform masks the individual identity of the person wearing it. Whether in church on a Sunday or walking around town on a Tuesday, the outfit is a symbol that I represent Jesus and His Church, not my own personality, preferences, or desires.
What is a Priest Today?
If you are interested in exploring the Priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, the first line you read in the discernment brochure is the following:
There is of course only one priest, one mediator between God and humanity, our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5, Heb 3-10).
As you continue to read about becoming a priest, you are reminded that all Christians belong to the priesthood:
So the priesthood of Christ has been given as the common, spiritual vocation of every member of his Body (Ex 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:5).
So if there is only one Priest, and all Christians are priests, why would someone be ordained a priest in the Church today? The ordained priest leads the congregation of priests in Word and Sacrament.
Given the priesthood of Christ, and by extension the priesthood of all believers who are called by Christ to participate in the offering of himself “once for all”, what then is the role of the person standing at the altar, who looks and acts priestly, who does seemingly priestly things, all the while uttering prayers that proclaim the priesthood of Christ and of all the faithful in him? Inasmuch as the liturgy denies that it is a sacrifice by pointing to the real sacrifice, the priest too embraces the fact that he or she is in fact not a priest in a special or elitist sense, but is an enduring and fitting symbol of the priesthood to which Christ calls all the faithful. The ordained priest provides the form of that which is signified, all the while denying his or her own individualistic claims to that priesthood.
This has been a long road for Viv and me. Here is a glimpse at a few of the milestones along the way.
Fall 2019 – God willing and the people consenting, will be ordained to the Sacred Order of Priests.
Early 2019 – God willing and the people consenting, will be ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons.
January 2019 – Complete my Certificate of Anglican Studies.
December 2018 – Ordination interviews with Commission on Ministry and Standing Committee. Recommended for ordination by both.
September 2018 – Passed Ordination exams.
August 2018 – Interviewed by Standing Committee, granted Candidacy for the Priesthood.
July 2018 – Hired by Church of the Incarnation to help prepare for the new satellite campus to launch in Fall 2019.
March 2018 – Completed CPE unit. Studied for a month at Nashotah House Theological Seminary. Additional coursework taken towards a Certificate of Anglican Studies from Wycliffe College.
October 2017 – Began a five-month unit of CPE, serving as a hospital Chaplain at Methodist Dallas.
May 2017 – Transitioned to Coram Deo Academy’s Dallas campus to serve as Logic School Principal.
January 2017 – Interviewed again by the Commission on Ministry after discerning a call to the priesthood. Granted postulancy for the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas.
April 2016 – Interviewed again by the Parish Committee on Vocations, this time to discern a call to the Priesthood. Recommended as a Nominee.
January 2016 – Interviewed by the Commission on Ministry for the permanent Diaconate. Told “not yet” and was asked to take a year to become more aligned as a family and explore the Priesthood instead of the Diaconate.
April 2015 – Interviewed by the Parish Committee on Vocations to discern a call to the permanent Diaconate. Recommended as a Nominee.
March 2014 – Completed M.A.R. by successfully defending my thesis on early Christian Eucharistic interpretation of Malachi.
August 2013 – Began work as Dean of Students at Coram Deo Academy. Continued to teach history and theology.
January 2013 – Entered the discernment process for the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. Encouraged to explore permanent diaconate as well, since I desired to be bi-vocational.
December 2012 – Confirmed in the Anglican Communion at Church of the Incarnation.
August 2010 – Hired as history, science, and theology teacher at Coram Deo Academy in Flower Mound, TX.
June 2009 – Began study at Reformed Theological Seminary.
June 2008 – Began ministry with Young Life in Richardson, TX.