What is priesthood anyway?

The ordination of women to the priesthood (and the episcopate) this week provokes another round of defections from the Church of England to Roman Catholicism, with more to follow.

But a far more interesting question than ‘Can women be priests’ (or bishops) would be: ‘What is priesthood anyway?’ … or the episcopate?

Current practice in the Church of England and the Church of Rome makes it almost entirely about authority and structures of authority. Opponents argue that women have no place in that hierarchy. Proponents take the bait and argue that they have.

The argument is futile, because it shouldn’t be about authority at all.

The relevant sacrament is the sacrament of Holy Order, and it applies to the whole church. It is the way the whole church chooses to organise or order itself.

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