Preaching in the Diocese of Ely

A female licensed lay minister preaching in churchPreaching in the Diocese of Ely

Preaching the Gospel is a great delight and privilege. It is a key part of the church's mission and ministry. It is also an important and responsible task requiring a depth of Christian experience and understanding.

Rather like an iceberg, the 1/9 we see or hear must have another 8/9 experience, understanding, knowledge and insight under the surface. That is why the canons of the Church of England (see Canon B18) require that a lay person should have the permission of the Bishop to preach, as well as the invitation of the local minister, and why the Bishop requires preachers to have theological training.

Bishop Stephen wishes to delegate some responsibility for this to the incumbent of the parish, who (under these guidelines) will assume responsibility for authorising 'occasional preachers’ and at the same time be responsible for their oversight and the content of their preaching. The authorising of an occasional preacher will also require the agreement of the parochial church council and be recorded in their minutes.

Of course, all Christians should 'be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you' (1 Peter 3.15, GNB) and so it is good to provide opportunities for all disciples to articulate their faith, but this is not the same as preaching the Gospel in church regularly as an ordained, licensed or lay minister. 

When St Paul writes about the church and its worship in 1 Corinthians 11-14, he emphasises that the whole body of Christ is involved in worship, but within the body there are different gifts which need to be recognised and used for the building up of the whole body. These gifts need to be exercised 'decently and in good order' and with the proper authority (1 Cor 14.40).

Though in the Acts of the Apostles there appears to be a distinction between teaching and preaching, both dimensions have always been required to be properly authorised in the Church of England as can be seen from the Act of Uniformity and the Book of Common Prayer.

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