Derived from the Greek presbyteros, “elder, or “old man, ” the term is used as a synonym for presbyter. Presbyters constituted a collegiate ruling body of institutions in Judaism. The Cathechism notes that “the ministry of a priest or presbyter” is “to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to proclaim the gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God” (BCP, p. 856). The term “priest” is more frequently used than “presbyter” in the Episcopal Church. The ordination service for this order of ministry is titled “The Ordination of a Priest” (BCP, p. 525). After the Reformation, the Anglican Church used the term “priest” for the second order of ministry. Some Protestant churches began to use the term “presbyter” for the minister who preaches the Word and administers the sacraments. The 1979 BCP uses both terms.
The Commission on Ministry (COM) assists the bishop in selecting candidates for ordination and overseeing a process of formation for both priestly and diaconal leadership in the Diocese of Rhode Island. It is also sponsors programs and processes that assist laity in discerning their vocations.
The Commission, as required by our canons, is composed of six clergy, at least four of whom shall be presbyters, and six lay members nominated by the Bishop and confirmed by Convention for 3 year terms. The canons outline the requirements which the COM has organized into the files below. Begin with the Guide for Discernment and the two timelines to give you an overview of the process. If you have questions, contact the COM Chair, Betsy Fornal (Betsy@episcopalri.org).