Institution of Ministers

christchurchparishNicely, the 1928 Office of Institution, included as part of the Ordinal, conveniently contains a section which delineates our standards of faith. We might call these standards, “the Books of the Church”. Together they sum Anglican Faith, Order, and Worship. Churches that use the 1928 prayer book might want to re-examine the same Institution Office, an office first known to the American version (1).

While the Protestant Reformation generally restored the role of laity in the church– generally giving protestant churches a ‘mixed’ government– American episcopal polity bowed in the direction of greater lay involvement. The rubric given in the American prayer book says,

“The Bishop having received due Notice of the Election of a Minister into a Parish or Church, as prescribed by Canon, and being satisfied that the Person chosen is a qualified Minister of this Church, may proceed to institute him into the parish”.

In particular the office illustrates how lay people (normally the vestry) elect their Rector, applying a commonsense republicanism to Reformation principle. When the Protestant Episcopal Church first constituted herself, founders like Bps. William White and Samuel Provost drafted a government that resembled the American Congress, establishing a bicameral system with a House of Deputies having the power to cast votes. The prior example of Parliament (and consequently Puritan jurism), not to mention the intervention of the Crown against Papal jurisdiction, provisioned the necessary precedent for greater lay influence within the Church. Shepherd Massey gives a bit more history:

“We know little or nothing of any rites of Institution of Ministers in teh early Church other than that the lay people had a responsible part in the selection and election of their clergy. The ideas behind the Office of Institution rest fundamentally on medieval and feudal conceptions of presentation and induction of a clergyman to a benefice. This was done by the Patron of the benefice, more often than not a layman, until the reign of Richard I, when the right of institution was vested in the Bishop or his deputy, an Archdeacon or Rural Dean. “

The Warden’s Part:
More interesting, the Office of Institution is the only prayer book rite that assigns a ceremonial role to the Warden. According to Massey Shepherd the distinction of a ‘senior Warden’ is Masonic, perhaps suggesting how Lodges and Parishes may overlap? Anyway, the senior Warden hands the keys of the Church (access to grounds, facilities, and property) to the charge of the Priest,

“In the name and behalf of N. Parish I do receive and acknowledge you, the Rev. AB, as Priest and Rector of the same; and in token thereof give into your hands the keys of this Church” (p. 570 1928 pew book).

The investing of keys has some analogy to the temporal supremacy of the Crown– the Warden having fundamental control over the annates, alms, and temporal goods of the Church in general. If a person wished to reconstruct a theology of Kingship from the rudiments of this office, the Warden might resemble a lesser ‘viceroyal’ or ‘lord-lieutenant’ of the Crown, having final charge (especially where property is locally owned) over ‘accustomed temporalities’ (BCP, p. 569). Again, the ceremony has affinity to the older custom of princely investiture but in this case conducted by the lay patron or highest (often socially) ranked layperson.

Prayer Book Standards:
Another fascinating portion of the Office is where the Bishop (or his deputy) hands the “Books of the Church” to the Incumbent. The Books of the Church ought to be a special interest for Anglicans since they cue our main standards–

“Then shall the Institutor receive the Incumbent within the rails of the Altar, and present him the Bible, Book of Common Prayer, and Books of Canons of the General and Diocesan Convention, saying as follows.

Receive these Books; and let them be the rule of thy conduct in dispensing the divine Word, in leading the Devotions of the People, and in exercising the Discipline of the Church; and be thou in all things a pattern to the flock of thy care. ” (p. 571)

When Anglicans speak of the “bible”, we are often pointing to either the Authorized version (or those versions following a proper textual method as outlined in the 1611 edition) or the “largest volume”. The ‘largest volume’ would the vernacular translation required by canon law of 1604 for display in churches, i.e, the bishop’s bible, which occasionally included the King’s articles of religion (Henry’s 10 Articles or later Elizabeth’s, depending on the age of the book).

Therefore, encompassed within the “largest volume” of scripture would be ‘method’ and ‘confession’, namely, the Bible as our final rule for faith and Articles as an exposition of such. Obviously, the Church provides a convenient and clear rule for dispensing the Word.  More about the Anglican Bible can be read here (see Cranmer on Necessary Doctrine). Both the Bishop’s Bible and King James belong to this textual family. In the USA, the lineage of the Authorized text likely ends with the 1901 American Standard Version.

Similarly, the book of common prayer refers to the 1928 version (or those prayer books of “like” ancestry stemming from the 1559 Elizabethan rite). An interesting article on the Prayer Book as the foremost, common  ‘magisterium’ is here. The primacy of the prayer book for Anglican identity is generally well-received, so there’s little to say about it other than recalling from the Preface that the American issue departs in no way from the substance of the 1662 standard prayer book.

Less known is the Anglican book of canons. Today, Anglican canon law varies widely from province to province. Dr. Norman Doe has brilliantly distilled their commonalities, the source of which are the Supremacy Acts and, after that, the Canons of 1604. Our interest in Monarchy is how the Crown (or ranked lay person) determines Discipline as supreme ‘Godparent’ or ‘Arch-warden’ of the church. The Injunctions, visitations, and other secular law surrounding the church and dating from the Reformation, and earlier, obviously grow from the basis of royal Supremacy. So, it’s from the Tudor monarchs the body of our canon law owes itself. There is some development in the American context and making of PECUSA, but for continuing Anglicans, the last set of canons typically recognized are those of 1958.

The “Sacerdotal” Priest 
The Institution is the only section of the prayer book which mentions the duty of the Priest as ‘sacerdotal’ not mere teaching. We ought to keep in mind the Office and part of the letter which contains this language is optionally read. What is meant by ‘sacerdotal’ might also be interpreted in light of the (American) Holy Communion office, significantly shaped by New England and non-juroring theology which adds an oblation and epiclesis to the ‘sacrifice of praise’. The Instituter in his petition mentions the type of sacrifice given by the instituted priest in his first collect: 

“Be graciously pleased to bless the ministry and service of him who is now appointed to offer the sacrifices of prayer and praise to thee in this house, and the meditation of his heart, be always acceptable”(p. 572).

Massey Shepherd admits the influence of high churchman theology within the Office where he credits “the ‘high church’ tradition and outlook of Seabury and his fellow clergy of Connecticut”. This theology owes itself to a fleshing of Carolines who emphasize the commemorative nature of the Eucharistic prayer. So, far the language of sacrificial praise sounds familiar since it belongs to the Holy Communion,

“And we earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving”.

But special attention should be given to the phrase “prayer and praise” since “prayer” in the American eucharist service not only includes the Thanksgiving but also the Invocation and Oblation prayers which beg the blessing of elements (see pages 80-1), , “with these holy gifts, which we now offer unto thee” and “to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of blood and wine… may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood, etc..”.

Especially for the American book, “a sacrifice of prayers and praise” suggests something of Scottish theology where the eucharist canon includes a ‘three-fold consecration’ of oblation, institution, and invocation. This tends to give the elements a certain objectivity within the context of a commemorative sacrifice, and perhaps this is how a “sacerdotal  relation” mentioned in the certificate (p. 569) is best understood– reinforcing a second-opinion about spiritual Presence, or power, through the elements.  At this point it should be mentioned the moderate non-juror opinion has an early Reformer precedence, later resuscitated by English divines like Robert Nelson, Herbert Thorndike, Charles Wheatly, John Grabbe, George Bull, William Nichols, and especially John Johnson. The non-juror Rt. Reverend George Smith‘s Two Discourses is highly recommended, published in 1732 for the sake of facilitating Scottish Reunion. I’ve tried to tackle some of the questions of Anglican eucharistic theology here but a follow-up article is long due. 

The ‘altar’ is of further interest respecting its development within Carolinian thought, but overall Table and Altar should be considered interchangeable terms. The Institution Office says, “O Lord my God, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; yet thou hast honored thy servant with appointing him to stand in thy House, and to serve at thy holy Altar” (p. 573). This is significant in so far as the altar invokes the Tabernacle image. With the Tabernacle comes the service of Levites, lending a prop for male-only clergy and a divine institution of the priesthood.

The Institution Office contains much terminology familiar to High Church theology as inherited from Scotland, and therefore it tends to reinforce the communion liturgy. Yet the office’s ‘optional’ status leaves (what might be called) non-juror theology as a laudable second opinion, likely corresponding to a high calvinist or ‘virtualist’ spin on eucharist presence through prayer upon the consecrated elements. In this sense, the priesthood is ‘sacredotal’ yet avoiding the extremes of “old Usager” arguments.

Rather than get wrapped up in disagreements over the extent Holy Communion is a conversion ordinance, moderate non-jurors have let Usager practice remain a legitimate second opinion. That said, English critics were likely correct about non-juror confusion of alms with the eucharistic elements set on the altar since the plate offerings have no part in the institution of the Supper. Thankfully, the American compilers rightly left the mention of alms bracketed and therefore optional in the whole state prayer. Also, we might want to say something of the abuse of incardnation ceremonies for men who otherwise might be rectors where a form for the Instituter or Induction already exists(2)– e.g., passing on the ‘church books’ followed by a solemn vow.

Significant also is the role of the Sr. Warden, and it’s likely through stricter criteria placed upon this Masonic-derived lay office we might reconstruct something of the older lay patronage or aristocratic ethic, not entirely alien to the American experience. However, without a seriousness regarding standards, lay patronage and aristocratic elements are useless. Nonetheless, the Office of Institution contains an enrichment and adaptation worth considering.

1.  Massey Shepherd says, “The service was drawn up by the Rev. Dr. William Smith (d. 1821) of Norwalk in 1799, at the request of the Diocese of Connecticut, which accepted the Office in 1804.” New York also adopted a similar institution but prior to Convention. 
2. Milord Peter Robinson said, “Incardination is something that American Anglicans have picked up of the Romans. The old PECUSA Canons talk about Canonical residence, and that is the terminology which we prefer to use in the UECNA. It is usually a paper exercise and really does not need any liturgical or quasi-liturgical recognition. Someone starting their ministry as a Rector is a different matter as to a certain extent there is a public pastoral relationship. In the UEC, when someone wishes to establish Canonical Residence they have to do the required paperwork, and then a license is issued attaching them to the diocese in which they are resident, and if they move, they are granted letters dimissory to the appropriate diocese.”

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