Churchy Term of the Week – Direct Ordination

Direct Ordination

Sometimes called persaltum (by a leap), it is ordination directly to the order for which one is chosen. In the early church those elected presbyter or bishop were commonly ordained directly to that order. Although direct ordination continued in Rome and elsewhere until the eleventh century, notably in the elevation of archdeacons as popes, after the fourth century ordination gradually became sequential. One was expected to pass through a sequence of orders to get experience in leadership and ministry. By the late middle ages, under the influence of Augustine’s teaching about the Donatist heresy, orders were considered indelible and therefore cumulative. One was understood to remain in a “lower” order even after being ordained to a “higher” order. In the Episcopal Church in recent years there have been efforts to allow direct ordination. Although there is no historical or theological barrier, the restoration of direct ordination has been deferred for study and dialogue with Anglican and ecumenical partners.


From Don S. Armentrout’s An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User-Friendly Reference for Episcopalians Church Publishing Inc., 2000.

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