Posted by: AJ the Irish Lass | June 18, 2007

Why Priests, Correct Titles, Communion Reception

Since these are common questions which require shorter responses, I have condensed these into one article:

1. Why Are Your Ministers Called Priests?

The word priest comes from the Greek presbyter, which means “elder”. A priest is usually the leader of a parish. The term presbyter was used in the early Church times to distinguish elders or priests from bishops, or overseers (episkopos) and deacons ministers with a servant ministry (diakonos). The term pastor is also used in reference to the clergy sometimes. However, Episcopalians do not refer to their clergy as simply “preachers” because preaching is just one function of the ordained ministry. Also worth noting is that laypeople may be licensed to preach, however, this does not make them a member of the clergy.

Although the term minister is used to describe all three orders of ministry, it is usually not used in reference to a member of the clergy, because, by definition, all baptized persons are considered ministers, while the clergy are set apart of leaders in the following of the Apostles.

2. How Do I Address Your Clergy?

This may vary from parish to parish. High Church parishes usually address their clergy by Father or Mother, while Low Church clergy may prefer to be adressed as Mr., Mrs., or Ms. Clergy in many parishes usually prefer being called by their first names, and Pastor is also used by some. A bishop is usually addressed as Bishop. Episcopal clergy are not typically addressed as Reverend, because Reverend is part of a proper title, such as the Reverend Christine Hoeller, or The Right Reverend Robert M. Poll. If in doubt about how to address a clergyperson, feel free to ask him or her.

3. Can My Friend From Another Church Receive Communion?

If your friend from another denomination has been baptized, with water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Ghost), and their own denomination allows them to do so, they may. However, some Christian groups practice baptism in Jesus’ name only (such as Oneness Pentecostals), or spiritual baptism (such as Quakers and Christian Scientists), and such baptisms are not recognized by the Episcopal Church. Also, there is a lot of speculation about the validity of baptism in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier (used by some churches as a more “inclusive” name for the Trinity). Some parishes will accept this form, most won’t.

If your friend has not received Trinitarian baptism, or their church does not permit them to receive in another denomination, they are welcome to go to the altar rail and receive a blessing. All they have to do is make a X over their chest by placing each hand on the opposite shoulder to indicate they’re not receiving the sacrament, and the priest will give them a blessing. Although some Episcopal parishes welcome all to communion regardless of baptism or faith, this should be considered to be the exception rather than the rule.

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