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Ministry in the Episcopal Church

The Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer teaches that there are four ministers of the church: “The ministers of the Church are laypersons, bishops, priests and deacons.” Thus, all Christians, because they are baptized members of the Body of Christ, have a ministry. Some exercise this ministry primarily in the world, representing Christ by their life and labor. Others serve Christ primarily in the Church. You can find video interviews with representatives of these ministry orders in our Diocese describing their ministries at:  [**weblink** ]

The Ministry of the Laity

“The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, work and governance of the Church (Page 855, The Book of Common Prayer).” 

Lay persons discern their vocation by understanding how best they can serve Christ in their work and minister in the world wherever that may be. Each Christian’s work, in diverse occupations, helps build up the life of the world and makes Christ present in every sphere of human activity. The Church also encourages each lay person to give of their time and talent in the work of building up the Body of Christ in the community of faith through such work as preachers, teachers, youth ministers, altar guild, and other church committees. They can serve the Church on vestry, at the Deanery level as representatives from congregations, at the Diocesan level on commissions and committees, at the National level as delegates to General Convention and on the numerous program groups that spring from its work.

For more information about the Ministry of the Baptized (laity), click here.

The Ministry of the Diaconate

“The ministry of a deacon is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as a servant of those in need; and to assist bishops and priests in the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.”(Page 856, The Book of Common Prayer).” Episcopal deacons are the bridge leaders of the church. They follow Jesus’s way of love in the world and bring the needs of the hurt and marginalized to the church. In the secular realm they serve all people, regardless of faith, but especially those who may be missed, neglected or feared by the majority. In the sacred realm they proclaim Jesus’s message of love and justice to the baptized. 

Among the ordained offices, the Diaconate is scripturally identified, originally as an appointive office. Best characterized by service in the pattern of Jesus Christ, it may involve providing acts of mercy, distribution of food, money, and other forms of aid to the needy, and the bringing of the world’s needs to the Church’s attention. Deacons often are found in institutional settings such as hospitals and hospices, prisons and schools, in ministry to the poor and the homeless, among immigrants and the marginalized. In the Diocese of Los Angeles, the Order of Deacons is a separate and distinct ministry order whose members are called Vocational Deacons to distinguish them from Deacons whose final order has been determined to be the priesthood, or presbyterate. 

For more information about the Ministry of the Diaconate, click here.

The Ministry of the Presbyterate

“The ministry of a priest is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God.” (Page 856, The Book of Common Prayer). 

The Priesthood developed as bishops permitted “elders” to perform some liturgical functions formerly restricted to bishops. This most visible of the Holy Orders is often associated with administration of the sacraments. Some of its more common functions are preaching, teaching, spiritual formation within the parish, and administrative responsibilities on behalf of the community. 

A full understanding of the Order to which a person is called occurs over time as the individual moves through the process of ministry assessment. The spiritual journey is one of learning, maturing, and challenge. Openness to the work of the Holy Spirit is of ultimate importance. It is also important to remember that each person’s process is unique, even though all go through certain steps along the way.

Ministry of Religious Orders and Faith Communities  

The Episcopal Church canonically recognizes 18 traditional orders and 14 Christian communities for men, women, or both. Religious Orders and Communities serve the greater church in several ways. Many offer retreat houses and individual spiritual direction. Each community has a rule of life and is committed to prayer, life in community, and hospitality.  

A Religious Order of this Church is a society of Christians (in communion with the See of Canterbury) who voluntarily commit themselves for life, or a term of years, to holding their possessions in common or in trust; to a celibate life in community; and obedience to their Rule and Constitution. A Christian Community of this Church is a society of Christians (in communion with the See of Canterbury) who voluntarily commit themselves for life, or a term of years, in obedience to their Rule and Constitution.