Ordination Sermon – Perth 28 October 2007

Christine. Just over 10 year’s ago, I sat where you are sitting, waiting to make my own response to the same questions which in a few moment’s time will be put to you.

As I think back to that time, I remember an incident which happened to me in my training before I was ordained. It took place in New College in Edinburgh where I was pretending to study theology.

There in a seminar, someone asked me what I was going to do after completing my studies. I said, rather casually that I would be entering the ordained ministry. I was going to be a priest, but first of all I would be a deacon.

All of a sudden, there was a tremendous outburst from someone else at the table. He went a hideous puce colour and started to rant and rave. He was obviously very cross and angry indeed. Truly, he was so bad tempered and angry and rude that I almost mistook him for an Episcopalian. Though in truth, I knew that he came from a Presbyterian background.

Well, I say that, but he was a Presbyterian without a presbytery. He had left all the moderate denominations that would have him. He had been thrown out of all the fiery ones that he thought might be close to the truth.
Anyway, on this day, he picked up his bible, which was indeed black and leather-bound. And, bless him, as he raved, he started to thump it against his hand.

I remember little of what he said, though I do remember the question that came at the end of the raving. He said, “The true church of God believes in the priesthood of all believers. How can you talk of being a priest? Don’t you believe in the priesthood of all believers in your faith?”

I sat, open mouthed. And I had no answer for him then.

Ten years down the line, I do have an answer. It has taken me that long to work it out, but you are going to get it tonight.

For my answer to that question is this sermon tonight.

And, I can sum it up in one sentence with three points. (Christine, watch and learn!)
I do believe in the Priesthood of all believers, and I believe in the Episcopate of all believers, and more importantly for tonight, I believe in the Diaconate of all believers too.
Let me explain.

We will begin with bishops. I’ve learnt a thing or two in those 10 years. And I’ve learnt that it is always best to begin with bishops and to butter them up a bit. I’ve learnt, rather later than I wish I had done that you need to give bishops their place and be nice to them. You can get away with far more in the long run if you do.

The thing is, we believe in our church in a sacramental ministry. That means that the things we call people to do are things we all do, but we recognise some people to do them publicly. I believe in the Episcopate. It is the ministry of leading and guiding. It is the ministry of authority and oversight and decision making. And it is a ministry for every one of us – the Episcopate of all believers. Just because someone is set apart to be the bishop, it does not absolve any of us from trying to make the best decisions we can, from being in charge of the things that we have been given charge of and being God’s missionary presence wherever we go. (And this is for all the people of God too, not just clergy).

A bishop has a distinctive role. A special role. And we need to love them and bless them and pray for them as they do it. One of the ways in which we can support them is to live the episcopate with them. That means each of us taking authority and each of us being responsible and each of us looking out for one another and each of us being as wise as wise can be. Our bishops would have a better life if we did that with them and shared that common episcopate of the everyday with them.
Tonight, Kenny takes on a special role sharing Bishop David’s ministry of oversight. He has been a blessing to others, and our prayer for him tonight is that he is a blessing to Bishop David and to the people of God in this diocese in that role. May you help Bishop David to lead with courage and to guide with love.

It is worth saying in passing, that I don’t buy this idea that bishops are supposed to be icons of the unity of the church. It is a strange idea to us in Scotland, where we have emphasised the role of the bishop in leading the church in mission rather than being a focus of unity.

If bishops think they are the focus of unity in the Anglican churches, they are doing a spectacularly bad job of it. However, church history tells us that bishops never have been particularly good at that role. In Scotland, our ordination service for bishops makes no mention of the bishop being a focus of unity. You do find it in the ordination service of bishops in England. And you can see the terrible consequences in the tortured soul of poor Rowan Williams.

No. Let us have leaders in mission, and let us pray for them and bless them as they are a blessing to us.

Now, onto the priesthood of all believers. We believe in that in our church too.

Priests bring God to people and bring people to God. And it is a job that is shared with all the people of God.

Tonight, three of those presbyters take on a new and special role as canons.

Jonathan, Alison and Shirley. I only have one piece of advice for you. When someone is ordained they are deaconed. Just remember that just because you have been made a canon, you have not been canonized. (That might come later).
I say to you all here tonight, new canons and mere mortals alike – continue in your ministry, every one of you, bringing God to the world and the world to God and you won’t go far wrong.

And now the diaconate. For I do believe in the Diaconate of all believers. It is a shared task, Christine, not one that you need to undertake alone.

The diaconate is the ministry of service of others. It is foundational to all that we are and all that we do as God’s people.
In a moment or two, you will be asked a series of questions. Don’t worry, we know that you have already begun to answer

Yes to the them in your life.

Jesus asked Peter again and again whether he loved him. And so it will be with you. Your true vocation will become real as you face these same questions tomorrow and every day of your life.

“Do you love me?” Jesus asks. We know because you have got to this stage in your life that you want to say yes to him.

And in saying yes, God will give you things to do. People to serve, people to preach to, people to love.
I’ve no doubt that some of the people who are most important in your life are here tonight. There are also plenty of other people here tonight whom you will not know, some of them those whom you will serve in ministry.

I believe in sacramental ministry and in the diaconate of all believers. Every one of us is called tonight to be a deacon, to be a servant.

As the questions are read to you Christine, remember they are founded on Christ’s question to Peter. He says, “Do you love me?” and we know you want to answer “Yes.”

And as the rest of you hear those questions being put, my challenge to each of you is, can you, in your heart make the same response that Christine is now to make?

Jesus says to each of us, “Do you love me?”

It is a cheeky question. The only right he has to ask us is that he loves us each one, more than we can ever express.
But now, the time has come. Christine, the moment is here. You are a blessing to God and the people of God. In saying yes to your calling tonight and every day that is to come, may you be blessed and known, and embraced and loved by the God who calls you right now.


  1. So, that’s the Strategic Review of Ministry done and dusted then.

    I hope they all laughed at the right places (especially the bishops).

  2. We did indeed 🙂

    And thanks Kelvin for answering the question my mum put to me a few weeks ago, too!

  3. After that discussion on how to deal with bishops, will +David ask you to preach in his presence again?

    Like Kimberly, I too would like to know if they laughed in the right places. The bit that really exercised my chuckle muscles was the remark about being “Canoinized”.

  4. Excellent sermon, Father. It made me laugh and I’m sure that little cathedral flock were proud to say, “He’s one of ours.” Yeh right!

  5. kelvin says


    In Perth?

  6. Kennedy says

    Interesting to compare your sermon from last night and its comments on bishops not having to be focii for unity with the sermon preached at +Mark’s consecration at Inverness (transcript recently posted at his blog).


  7. Kennedy says

    (always read your post before you press Submit!!)

    The sermon can be found at David Campbell’s blog

  8. kelvin says

    Yes, it is interesting. I wasn’t in Inverness for Mark’s consecration, and the bit of David’s sermon you refer to Kennedy was one of the bits that I had not heard about.

    I’m convinced that if we expect bishops to be the focus of unity in churches that are not particularly united, it is the bishops personally who will suffer terribly and that is not fair on them.

    One crucified Saviour is enough for any religion.

    It is in joint common activity that Christians tend to come together. And it is Jesus who will unite us, not any kind of Episcopate.

  9. Marion Conn says

    Amen to that Kelvin. You are right, we all have said yes to God and to Christ at sometime in our life. it doesn’t matter if we are Ordained, or lay,
    we are all in the members of the Episcopate, of the family of God, and it’s as that family that we come together to worship and share the peace.

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