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A sacramental rite of the church by which God gives authority and the grace of the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by bishops to those being made bishops, priests, and deacons (BCP, pp. 860-861). The three distinct orders of bishops, priests, and deacons have been characteristic of Christ's holy catholic church. Bishops carry on the apostolic work of leading, supervising, and uniting the church. Presbyters (often known as priests) are associated with bishops in the ministry of church governance, along with the church's ministry of missionary and pastoral work, in preaching of the Word of God, and in the administration of the sacraments. Deacons assist bishops and priests in all of this work, and have special responsibility to minister in Christ's name to the poor, the sick, the suffering, and the helpless (BCP, p. 510). The BCP provides rites for the ordination of bishops (p. 512), priests (p. 525), and deacons (p. 537). The earliest known text of ordination rites is in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (c. 215). The 1549 BCP did not include ordination rites. "The Form and Manner of Making and Consecrating of Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons" was published in 1550. Rites for ordination were included in many subsequent revisions of the Prayer Book. The Preface to the Ordination Rites of the Prayer Book notes that the church intends to maintain and continue the three orders of bishops, priests, and deacons. The ordination services are therefore appointed by the church. No person is to exercise the office of bishop, priest, or deacon unless he or she has been ordained. The manner of ordination in the Episcopal Church has been generally recognized by Christian people as suitable for conferring the sacred orders of bishop, priest, and deacon. 

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.
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