Minister or Priest?

The Church of St. Peter

When I was growing up, we used to call the rector of our church "the minister". Now we seem to use the word "priest." Why is that?

As Anglicans, we trace our church back two thousand years to the time of the apostles. We do this through a continuous "apostolic succession," which means that the ordained ministry of bishops and priests has been passed down through the generations since the time of St. Peter. Since those early days, individuals have been set aside (ordained) for particular forms of ministry by the laying on of hands and prayer. The New Testament tells us that among these orders of ministry were deacons, priests and bishops. As a continuation of that Early Church, we retain those same orders of ministry in our church today.

But there is another reason to use the word "priest" rather than "minister." In Baptism, all of us are called' to be ministers. Our covenant of baptismal ministry is laid out clearly on pages 158-159 of the BAS (Book of Alternatative Services). Using the word "minister" to describe only the ordained clergy undermines the vocation of lay people as ministers of Christ. Although lay ministry is different from ordained ministry, it is an equally valid form and expression of Christian ministry.