Religion Wiki

Roman Catholic candidates for the diaconate prostrate themselves before the altar of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to a group of individuals who are set apart for a special role or ministry.

In the Roman Catholic (Latin: sacri ordines), Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox (ιερωσυνη, ιερατευμα, Свештенство), Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Assyrian, Old Catholic, Independent Catholic churches and some Lutheran churches Holy Orders refers to the three orders of bishop, priest and deacon, or the sacrament or rite by which candidates are ordained to those orders. These Churches regard ordination as a sacrament (the sacramentum ordinis).

Protestant denominations have varied conceptions of church offices. In the Anglican tradition and some Lutheran churches the traditional orders of bishop, priest and deacon are also bestowed using ordination rites. The extent to which ordination is considered sacramental in these traditions has, however, been a matter of some internal dispute. Many other denominations do not consider the role of ministry as being sacramental in nature and would not think of it in terms of "holy orders" as such.

Historically, the word "order" (Latin ordo) designated an established civil body or corporation with a hierarchy, and ordinatio meant legal incorporation into an ordo. The word "holy" refers to the Church. In context, therefore, a holy order is set apart for ministry in the Church.

Other offices such as Pope, Cardinal, Monsignor, Archbishop, Archimandrite, Archpriest, Protopresbyter, Hieromonk, Protodeacon, Archdeacon, etc., are not sacramental orders. These are simply offices or titles.

Roman Catholicism

The Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Catholic Churches number Holy Orders, which is the Sacrament that confers ordination as bishops, priests, and deacons of the church, among three sacraments that create an indelible mark called a sacramental character[1] on the recipient's soul (the other two are baptism[2] and confirmation).[3]

The purpose of the Sacrament is to constitute a person as a minister within the Church.

Deacons are ministers of service, delegated to act in the name of the Church and therefore are able to witness marriages (the Sacrament of Matrimony is actually conferred by the couple on each other, with the deacon as witness), to baptize solemnly (any human being may baptize in an emergency but a deacon may do so on ordinary occasions with full ceremony), and to preach.

Priestly Ordination, a popular devotional depiction of ordination in the Roman Catholic Church from the 1920s.

In Roman Catholic theology, there is a belief that the apostle Peter had a role of leadership in the college of apostles, which the pope retains today among the bishops; this is often accepted by the Orthodox churches, but with significant modifications). Bishops, since they have the "fullness of orders," may administer all the sacraments (except marriage, which the man and women administer to each other) and are empowered to lead the Church in terms of sound doctrine and pastoral administration. Bishops are governors of the church to the point where a bishop in the Catholic Church, even if not given authority over a functional diocese, will be given a "titular" diocese (a diocese that no longer exists on earth) as a sign of the leadership with which all bishops are charged.

Priests, as cooperators of the bishops in their sacramental ministry, may confect all of the sacraments except Holy Orders, the sacrament of governance, itself.

Until 1972 the Latin Church inside the universal Catholic Church also had four minor orders leading up to the major order of subdeacon, which were conferred on all seminarians before they became deacons. The minor orders and the subdiaconate were not considered sacraments proper and were practically suppressed under Pope Paul VI as part of the implementation of the Second Vatican Council.[4] They were, however, retained by the Eastern Catholic Churches and by traditionalist Roman Catholics, including papally-approved priestly associations that use the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. Only the sacramental orders (deacon, priest, bishop) were retained in the reformed Latin Rite, but modern Catholic seminarians are "instituted" in "ministries" called acolyte and reader or lector, which replace the former "minor orders."

Eastern Christianity

Alexius II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, together with other bishops, conferring the Holy Order of bishop upon a Russian Orthodox priest.

The Eastern Orthodox Church considers Ordination (known as Cheirotonia, "Laying on of hands) to be a Sacred Mystery (what in the West is called a sacrament). This Mystery is limited in that it may only be conferred by a bishop, and not by a priest (all of the other Mysteries may be performed by a priest). Certain archimandrites may be given permission to bestow minor orders, but only a bishop may ordain a priest, deacon or, normally together with at least one or two other bishops, another bishop.

It was the mission of the Apostles to go forth into all the world and preach the Gospel, baptizing those who believed in the name of the Holy Trinity (Matthew 28:18-20). In the Early Church those who presided over congregations were referred to variously as episcopos (bishop) or presbyteros (priest). These successors of the Apostles were ordained to their office by the laying on of hands, and according to Orthodox theology formed a living, organic link with the Apostles, and through them with Jesus Christ himself.[5] This link is believed to continue in unbroken succession to this day. Over time, the ministry of bishops (who hold the fullness of the priesthood) and presbyters or priests (who hold a portion of the priesthood as bestowed by their bishop) came to be distinguished. In Orthodox termology, the terms priesthood and sacerdotal refer to the ministry of bishops and priests. All of the ordination ceremonies take place during the Divine Liturgy.

A bishop is the Teacher of the Faith, the carrier of Sacred Tradition, and the living Vessel of Grace through whom the energeia (divine grace) of the Holy Spirit flows into the rest of the church.[5] A bishop is consecrated through the laying on of hands by other bishops, normally at least two or three, but in emergency situations, such as times of persecution, a single bishop may ordain another. His consecration takes place before the Little Entrance of the Liturgy. A Gospel Book is laid over the head of the one being ordained, and the consecrating bishops lay their hands upon the Gospel Book, while the prayer of ordination is read, after this, he ascends the synthranon (bishop's throne in the sanctuary) for the first time.

A priest may serve only at the pleasure of his bishop. A bishop bestows faculties (permission to minister within his diocese) by giving a priest chrism and an antimension; he may withdraw faculties by demanding the return of these items. The ordination of a priest takes place at the Great Entrance of the Liturgy. During the Entrance, the candidate for ordination carries the Aër (chalice veil) over his head, and comes last in the procession. After the bishop takes the Aër from the candidate and covers the chalice and diskos with it, a chair is brought for the bishop to sit in that is in front of, but to the left (North) of the Holy Table (altar). Two priests then bring the candidate through the Holy Doors and escort him three times around the Holy Table, during which he kisses each corner of the Holy Table. He will also kiss the bishop's epigonation and right hand after each circuit. He is then taken to the southwest corner of the Holy Table and kneels on both knees, resting his forehead on the edge of the Holy Table. The ordaining bishop then places his omophorion and right hand over the ordinand's head and reads the Prayer of Cheirotonia (prayer of ordination), while the clergy quietly recite a litany amongst themselves and the faithful chant aloud, Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy). Afterwards, the bishop brings the newly-ordained priest to stand in the Holy Doors and presents him to the faitfhul. He then clothes the priest in each of his sacerdotal vestments, at each of which the people sing, Axios! ("He is worthy!"). Later, after the Epiklesis of the Liturgy, the bishop hands him a portion of the Lamb (Host) and says the words:

The laying of hands (Cheirotonia), elevating an Orthodox subdeacon to the deaconate.

Receive thou this pledge, and preserve it whole and unharmed until thy last breath, because thou shalt be held to an accounting therefor in the second and terrible Coming of our great Lord, God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ.[6]

A deacon is ordained after the Epiklesis, following the same ceremonial as at the ordination of a priest, except that he is taken three times around the Holy Table by two deacons, and he will kneel on only one knee during the Prayer of Cheirotonia. After being vested as a deacon he will be given an hexapterygion (liturgical fan), and is taken behind the Holy Table where he will gently fan the Holy Gifts (consecrated Body and Blood of Christ). An Orthodox deacon is not permitted to perform weddings or baptisms (except, in the case of baptism in extremis, under which circumstances any Orthodox layman may do the same). An Orthodox deacon will not normally preach, unless he has the bishop's explicit permission to do so.


The Anglican Communion believes its bishops to be in Apostolic Succession, though there is some difference of opinion with regard to whether ordination is to be regarded as a sacrament or not. The Book of Common Prayer provides rites of ordination for bishops, priests and deacons, and permits only bishops to administer ordination. Typically, within Anglicanism three bishops are required for ordination to the episcopate, and one bishop will perform ordinations to the priesthood and diaconate. Anglo Catholics will tend to be closer to the Roman Catholic position with regard to the sacramental nature of ordination and in the use of Minor Orders.


Lutherans reject the Roman Catholic sense holy orders because they do not think sacerdotalism is supported by the Bible. Martin Luther taught that each individual was expected to fulfill his God-appointed task in everyday life. The modern usage of the term vocation as a life-task was first employed by Martin Luther.[7] In Luther's Small Catechism, the holy orders include, but are not limited to the following: bishops, pastors, preachers, governmental offices, citizens, husbands, wives, children, employees, employers, young people, and widows.[8]

Process and sequence

At priestly ordination the bishop imposes hands upon the deacon who is by that matter and the form of the consecratory preface ordained to the priesthood. Pictured is the third imposition of hands as in the pre-1968 Roman Pontifical, in 1999, France.

The sequence in which holy orders are received are: minor orders, deacon, priest, bishop.

For Catholics, it is typically in the last year of seminary training that a man will be ordained to the diaconate, called by Catholics in recent times the "transitional diaconate". This is to distinguish men bound for priesthood from those who have entered the "permanent diaconate" and do not intend to seek further ordination. Deacons, whether transitional or permanent, are licensed to preach sermons (under certain circumstances a permanent deacon may not receive faculties to preach), to perform baptisms, and to witness Catholic marriages, but to perform no other sacraments. They assist at the Eucharist or the Mass, but are not able to consecrate the bread and wine. Normally, after six months or more as a transitional deacon, a man will be ordained to the priesthood. Priests are able to preach, perform baptisms, confirm, witness marriages, hear confessions and give absolutions, anoint the sick, and celebrate the Eucharist or the Mass.

Orthodox seminarians are typically tonsured as readers before entering seminary, and may later be made subdeacons or deacons; customs vary between seminaries and between Orthodox jurisdictions. Some deacons remain permanently in the diaconate; many go on to be ordained priests. Orthodoxy has two types of clergy: married (known as "white clergy") and monastic (known as "black clergy"). Monastic deacons are called hierodeacons, monastic priests are called hieromonks. Orthodox clergy must either marry or be tonsured as monks prior to ordination to the subdiaconate (although some jurisdictions delay this until the diaconate), though some bishops may make economia (dispensation) to allow a candidate to marry after his ordination to the subdiaconate. But once a man has been ordained a priest, he may not marry. If his wife dies, he may not remarry and must remain celibate. Often, widowed priests will take monastic vows. Orthodox bishops are taken from among the monks.

For Anglicans, a person is ordained a deacon once he or she has completed training at a theological college. The candidate then typically serves as a curate and may be ordained as a priest, at the discretion of the bishop, following a period of time. Other deacons may choose to remain in this order. Anglican deacons can preach sermons, perform baptisms and conduct funerals, but, unlike priests, cannot conduct marriages or celebrate the Eucharist. In most branches of the Anglican church, women can be ordained as priests, and in some, can be ordained bishops.

Bishops are chosen from among priests in churches that adhere to Catholic usage. In the Roman Catholic Church, bishops, like priests, are celibate and thus unmarried; further, a bishop is said to possess the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, empowering him to ordain deacons, priests, and- with papal consent-other bishops. If a bishop, especially one acting as an ordinary- a head of a diocese or archdiocese- is to be ordained, three bishops must usually co-consecrate him with one bishop, usually an archbishop or the bishop of the place, being the chief consecrating prelate.

Among Eastern Rite Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, which permit married priests, bishops must either be unmarried or agree to abstain from contact with their wives. It is a common misconception that all such bishops come from religious orders; while this is generally true, it is not an absolute rule. In the case of both Catholics- (Western and) Eastern Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox, they are usually leaders of territorial units called dioceses (or its equivalent in the east, an eparchy). Only bishops can validly administer the sacrament of holy orders.

Recognition of other churches' orders

There is mutual recognition of the validity of holy orders among the Eastern Orthodox, Polish National, Oriental Orthodox, and Old Catholic churches and the Assyrian Church of the East, as they have maintained the apostolic succession of bishops, i.e., their bishops claim to be in a line of succession dating back to the Apostles, just as Catholic bishops do. Consequently, if a priest of any of these Churches converts to another, he is generally received as a priest without need for re-ordination. Similarly, the Roman Catholic Church unconditionally recognizes the validity of ordinations in the aforementioned Eastern churches. Eastern Orthodox bishops can, and frequently do, grant recognition to the holy orders of converts who were earlier ordained in the Catholic Church (though there is much debate in Eastern Orthodoxy about this); that is part of the policy called church economy.

Anglican churches, unlike other Protestant churches, claim to maintain apostolic succession.[9] But, the succession of Anglican bishops is not universally recognized. The Roman Catholic Church judged Anglican orders invalid when Pope Leo XIII in 1896 wrote in Apostolicae Curae that Anglican orders lack validity because the rite by which priests were ordained was not correctly performed from 1547 to 1553 and from 1558 to the time of Archbishop William Laud, thus causing a break of continuity in apostolic succession. Eastern Orthodox bishops have, on occasion, granted "economy" when Anglican priests convert to Orthodoxy. Changes in the Anglican Ordinal since King Edward VI, and a fuller appreciation of the pre-Reformation ordinals suggest that the correctness of the enduring dismissal of Anglican Orders may be questioned. In order to reduce doubt concerning Anglican apostolic succession, since the 1930 Bonn agreement, many Anglican bishops have been consecrated by bishops of the Old Catholic Church whose holy orders are recognised by the Holy See.

Neither Roman Catholics nor Anglicans recognize the validity of ordinations of ministers in Protestant churches that do not maintain the apostolic succession. Rome also does not recognize the apostolic succession of (high church) Lutheran Protestant denominations.

Anglicans accept the ordinations of those denominations in full communion with the Anglican Communion, such as some Lutheran denominations. They may preside at services requiring a priest if one is not available.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) accepts the legal authority of clergy to perform marriages but does not recognize any other sacraments performed by ministers not ordained to the Latter-day Saint priesthood. Although the Latter-day Saints, who developed from private revelations and the wider Restorationist movement, do claim a doctrine of a certain spiritual apostolic succession, it is significantly different from that claimed by Catholics and is not recognized by the Holy See.

Marriage and holy orders

The rules discussed in this section are not considered to be among the infallible dogmas of the Catholic Church, but are mutable rules of discipline. See clerical celibacy for a more detailed discussion.

Married men may be ordained to the diaconate as Permanent Deacons, but in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church generally may not be ordained to the priesthood. In the Eastern Catholic Churches and in the Eastern Orthodox Church, married deacons may be ordained priests but may not become bishops. Bishops in the Eastern Rites and the Eastern Orthodox churches are almost always drawn from among monks, who have taken a vow of celibacy. They may be widowers, though; it is not required of them never to have been married.

In some cases, widowed permanent deacons have been ordained to the priesthood. There have been some situations in which men previously married and ordained to the priesthood in an Anglican church or in a Lutheran Protestant church have been ordained to the Catholic priesthood and allowed to function much as an Eastern Rite priest but in a Latin Rite setting. This is never sub conditione (conditionally), as there is no recognised true priesthood in the Protestant denominations. Such ordination may only happen with the approval of the priest's Bishop and a special permission by the Pope.

Anglican clergy may be married and/or may marry after ordination.

Other concepts of ordination

Ordination ritual and procedures vary by denomination. Different churches and denominations specify more or less rigorous requirements for entering into office, and the process of ordination is likewise given more or less ceremonial pomp depending on the group. Many Protestants still communicate authority and ordain to office by having the existing overseers physically lay hands on the candidates for office.

Methodist churches

The American Methodist model is an episcopal system loosely based on the Anglican model, as the Methodist Church arose from the Anglican Church. It was first devised under the leadership of Bishops Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the late 18th century. In this approach, an elder (or "presbyter") is ordained to word (preaching and teaching), sacrament (administering Baptism and the Lord's Supper), order (administering the life of the church and, in the case of bishops, ordaining others for mission and ministry), and service. A deacon is a person ordained only to word and service.

In the United Methodist Church, for instance, seminary graduates are examined and approved by the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and then the Clergy Session. They are accepted as "probationary (provisional) members of the conference." The resident bishop may commission them to full-time ministry as "provisional" ministers. (Before 1996, the graduate was ordained as a transitional deacon at this point, a provisional role which has since been done away with. The order of deacon is now a separate and distinct clergy order in the United Methodist Church.) After serving the probationary period, of a minimum of two years, the probationer is then examined again and either continued on probation, discontinued altogether, or approved for ordination. Upon final approval by the Clergy Session of the Conference, the probationer becomes a full member of the Conference and is then ordained as an elder or deacon by the resident Bishop. Those ordained as elders are members of the Order of Elders, and those ordained deacons are members of the Order of Deacons.

The British Methodist Conference does not have bishops but just the two distinct orders of presbyter and deacon.

Presbyterian churches

Presbyterian churches, following their Scottish forebears, reject the traditions surrounding overseers and instead identify the offices of bishop (episkopos in Greek) and elder (presbuteros in Greek, from which the term "presbyterian" comes). The two terms seem to be used interchangeably in the Bible (compare Titus 1.5-9 and I Tim. 3.2-7). Their form of church governance is known as presbyterian polity. While there is increasing authority with each level of gathering of elders ('Session' over a congregation or parish, then presbytery, then possibly a synod, then the General Assembly), there is no hierarchy of elders. Each elder has an equal vote at the court on which they stand.

Elders are usually chosen at their local level, either elected by the congregation and approved by the Session, or appointed directly by the Session. Some churches place limits on the term that the elders serve, while others ordain elders for life.

Presbyterians also ordain (by laying on of hands) ministers of Word and Sacrament (sometimes known as 'teaching elders'). These ministers are regarded simply as Presbyters ordained to a different function, but in practice they provide the leadership for local Session.

Some Presbyterians identify those appointed (by the laying on of hands) to serve in practical ways (Acts 6.1-7) as deacons (diakonos in Greek, meaning "servant"). In many congregations, a group of men or women is thus set aside to deal with matters such as congregational fabric and finance, releasing elders for more 'spiritual' work. These persons may be known as 'deacons', 'board members' or 'managers', depending on the local tradition. Unlike elders and minister, they are not usually 'ordained', and are often elected by the congregation for a set period of time.

Other Presbyterians have used an 'order of deacons' as full-time servants of the wider Church. Unlike ministers, they do not administer sacraments or routinely preach. The Church of Scotland has recently begun ordaining deacons to this role.

Unlike the Episcopalian schemes, but similar to the United Methodist scheme described above, the two Presbyterian offices are different in kind rather than in degree, since one need not be a deacon before becoming an elder. Since there is no hierarchy, the two offices do not make up an "order" in the technical sense, but the terminology of Holy Orders is sometimes still developed.

Congregationalist churches

Congregationalist churches implement different schemes, but the officers usually have less authority than in the presbyterian or episcopalian forms. Some ordain only ministers and rotate members on an advisory board (sometimes called a board of elders or a board of deacons). Because the positions are by comparison less powerful, there is usually less rigor or fanfare in how officers are ordained.

Latter Day Saint Movement

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a relatively open priesthood, ordaining nearly all adult males and boys of the age of twelve and older. Latter-day Saint priesthood consists of two orders: the Melchizedek and Aaronic. The offices, or ranks, of the Melchizedek order (in roughly descending order) include apostle, seventy, patriarch, high priest, and elder. The offices of the Aaronic order are bishop, priest, teacher, and deacon. The manner of ordination consists of the laying on of hands by two or more men holding at least the office being conferred while one acts as voice in conferring the priesthood and/or office and usually pronounces a blessing upon the recipient. Teachers and deacons do not have the authority to ordain others to the priesthood. All church members are authorized to teach and preach regardless of priesthood ordination so long as they maintain good standing within the church. The church does not use the term "holy orders."

Community of Christ

Community of Christ has a largely volunteer priesthood, and all members of the priesthood are free to marry (as traditionally defined by the Christian community). The priesthood is divided into two orders, the Order of Aaron, and the Order of Melchisedec (commonly known as the Aaronic priesthood or Aaronic Order; and the Melchisedec priesthood or Melchisedec Order). The Aaronic order is the “lesser priesthood” and the Melchisedec order is the “greater priesthood”. The Aaronic order consists of the offices of deacon, teacher and priest. The Melchisedec Order consists of the offices of elder (including the specialized office of seventy) and high priest (including the specialized offices of evangelist, bishop, apostle, & prophet). The Melchisedec priesthood is also commonly termed the “high priesthood”, but as noted, not all members of this priesthood are actually high priests. Paid ministers include “appointees” and the general officers of the church, which include some specialized priesthood offices (such as the office of president, reserved for the three top members of the church leadership team). As of 1984, women have been eligible for priesthood, which is conferred through the sacrament of ordination, by virtue of the laying-on-of-hands. While there is technically no age requirement for any office of priesthood, there is no automatic ordination or progression as in the LDS Church. Young people are occasionally ordained as deacon, and sometimes teacher or priest, but generally most priesthood members are called following completion of post secondary school education. Priesthood offices are not generally termed “orders of priesthood”, but certain offices constitute orders. For example, all bishops belong to the Order of Bishops. All evangelists belong to the Order of Evangelists. Other offices belong to quorums (seventies and high priests) or councils (apostles). The three presidents of the church form the First Presidency, which is sometimes termed council, and other times termed quorum. Deacons, teachers, priests and elders do not belong to permanent bodies, but may organize local quorums for all members of a given office within a particular city or region. In March 2007 a woman was ordained for the first time to the office of president.

Ordination of women

The Roman Catholic Church does not ordain women to any of the orders and has officially declared that it does not have authority to ordain women as priests or bishops. Ordaining women as deacons, however, appears to remain a possibility, but not in any sacramental sense of the diaconate. Many Orthodox, Old Catholic, Anglican and Protestant churches ordain women, but in many cases, only to the office of deacon or deaconess. Whether the Catholic Church historically ordained, or simply "set apart", women as deaconesses is a matter of theological and historical investigation.

Various branches of the Orthodox churches, including the Greek Orthodox, currently ordain woman as deaconesses. Some churches are internally divided on whether the Scriptures permit the ordination of women. When one considers the relative size of the churches (1.1 billion Roman Catholics, 300 million Orthodox, 590 million Anglicans and Protestants), it is a minority of Christian churches that ordain women. Protestants constitute about 27 percent of Christians worldwide and most which do ordain women have only done so within the past century.

In some traditions women may theoretically be ordained to the same orders as men. In others women are restricted from certain offices. The Church of England (in the Anglican Communion), for example, does not permit the consecration of women as bishops, though the Episcopal Church USA (the United States denomination that is part of the Anglican Communion) does. Similarly, in some Protestant denominations, women may serve as assistant pastors but not as pastors in charge of congregations. In some denominations, women can be ordained to be an elder or deacon. Some denominations allow for the ordination of women for certain religious orders. Within certain traditions, such as the Anglican and Lutheran, there is a diversity of theology and practice regarding ordination of women.

The Roman Catholic Church, in accordance with its understanding of the theological tradition on the issue, and the definitive clarification found in the encyclical letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994) written by Pope John Paul II, officially teaches that it has no authority to ordain women as priests and thus there is no possibility of female priests at any time in the future.

Ordination of homosexuals

Template:Homosexuality and Christianity

To many conservative Christians, homosexuality is interpreted in terms of behavior. A homosexual is a person who engages in same-sex behavior. A biblical world view of what homosexuality is can come from 1 Corinthians 6:9 as well as many others. This biblical view would place homosexuality as described in Leviticus 20 as sexual immorality and equal to adultery, lust, fornication, and incest. The ordination of gays and lesbians is not a new thing, but their ordination as openly practicing homosexuals has caused controversy among some churchgoers: two-thirds of weekly church-goers believe that it is inappropriate for gays and lesbians to serve in the clergy.[10] In the past, ordinands who were gay or lesbian did not admit their sexuality, and were ordained. Many educated people and mental health professionals in the western world now interpret homosexuality in terms of fundamental sexual orientation, not as lifestyle choice or character flaw. The term refers simply to a person who is attracted to persons of the same gender. A homosexual may choose to be celibate, or may be sexually active. Researchers note that there have historically been homosexuals in every society. Religious liberals, gays, lesbians, human sexuality researchers, and mental health therapists argue for the acceptance of homosexuals.

The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches is the most prominent American denomination with an official stance allowing non-celibate gays and lesbians to be ordained. Smaller denominations, like the Liberal Catholic Church, the Swedenborgian Church of North America and the Apostolic Johannite Church also do so.

The United Church of Christ, because of its decentralized model that arose from Congregational churches of New England, allows such ordinations by default since there are no official denomination-wide stances on doctrine.

Most of the mainline Protestant denominations, such as the Presbyterian Church USA, the Moravian Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA), are openly discussing the issue. The United Church of Canada and the Uniting Church in Australia already welcome gays and lesbians in permanent partnerships into the ordained ministry. The United Methodist Church has also been discussing the issue for many years, but its official position continues to deny ordination to "Self-Avowed Practicing Homosexuals." In theory, a homosexual who is celibate is a fit candidate for ordination within the United Methodist Church, but in practice this rarely happens.

In the Episcopal Church USA, bishops in some dioceses ordain non-celibate gays and lesbians, while those in others do not. In the wider Anglican Communion, which includes more conservative congregations in developing countries, the ordination of homosexuals is highly controversial.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, formed the Eames Commission due to controversy associated with the consecration of Gene Robinson to the order of bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, and the planned consecration of Jeffrey John (who was to be ordained Bishop of Reading) in the Church of England. Its findings, published as the Windsor Report, recommended that the consecration of individuals in same-sex relationships as bishops cease, although it conspicuously avoided discussing gays and lesbians ordered as priests and deacons. In response, the Episcopal Church placed a moratorium on confirming the consecrations of all bishops.

Episcopal Bishop J. Neil Alexander of the Diocese of Atlanta said he voted for the ordination of Gene Robinson as bishop because Robinson was open about his sexuality and honest about his caring relationship. In the past known gay clergy were ordained to the episcopate only because they lied about their sexuality.

The Roman Catholic Church allows the ordination of men who have, in the past, experienced same sex attraction, but only on the condition that they have lived without engaging in homosexual culture or acts for several years, and can be psychologically verified as having their same-sex attraction under control.[11] Previously ordination of these homosexually inclined males was strictly forbidden, even though this discipline was often not observed by local bishops after the 1960s. The Catholic community believes that the priest is the person authoritatively appointed to do homage to God in the name of society, even the primitive society of the family, and to offer Him sacrifice. The Christian law also has its priesthood to carry out the Divine service, the principal act of which is the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the figure and renewal of that of Calvary.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ordains to the priesthood only men who have covenanted not to have sex with anyone besides their wife. Some gay men have chosen to remain celibate, while others have chosen to marry.[12] Regardless of orientation, only married men may become bishops.[13] Transgendered persons who were born men may only receive the priesthood if they have not had, and are not planning to have, an operation to change their gender.(1999 Church handbook.) Women are not ordained to the priesthood.

look also

Holy orders(Orthodox church


  1. can. 1008, CIC 1983
  2. canon 845, CIC 1983
  3. can. 879, CIC 1983
  4. Paul VI, moto proprio, Ministeria quedam Aug 15, 1972, in AAS, 64 (1972) p529
  5. 5.0 5.1 Williams, Father Gregory (1979), The Sacramental Life: An Orthodox Christian Perspective (3rd ed.), Liberty TN: St. John of Kronstadt Press (published 1986), pp. 43–47 
  6. Hapgood, Isabel F. (1922), Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church (5th ed.), Englewood NJ: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese (published 1975), pp. 106 
  7. Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons, Ch.3, p. 79 & note 1.
  8. See Luther's Small Catechism
  9. The Ecumenical Patriarch on Anglican Orders
  11. Full text of the 2005 Vatican document on ordaining homosexuals into the priesthood
  12. Moore, Carrie A. "Gay LDS men detail challenges", Deseret Morning News, March 30, 2007
  13. Interview with Elder Oaks and Wickman

Print resources

External links