Book of Common Prayer (ECUSA)/Episcopal Services/Ordination of a Bishop

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Preface to the Ordination Rites


The Holy Scriptures and ancient Christian writers make it clear that from the apostles’ time, there have been different ministries within the Church. In particular, since the time of the New Testament, three distinct orders of ordained ministers have been characteristic of Christ’s holy catholic Church. First, there is the order of bishops who carry on the apostolic work of leading, supervising, and uniting the Church. Secondly, associated with them are the presbyters, or ordained elders, in subsequent times generally known as priests. Together with the bishops, they take part in the governance of the Church, in the carrying out of its missionary and pastoral work, and in the preaching of the Word of God and administering his holy Sacraments. Thirdly, there are deacons who assist bishops and priests in all of this work. It is also a special responsibility of deacons to minister in Christ’s name to the poor, the sick, the suffering, and the helpless.

The persons who are chosen and recognized by the Church as being called by God to the ordained ministry are admitted to these sacred orders by solemn prayer and the laying on of episcopal hands.  It has been, and is, the intention and purpose of this Church to maintain and continue these three orders; and for this purpose these services of ordination and consecration are appointed.  No persons are allowed to exercise the offices of bishop, priest, or deacon in this Church unless they are so ordained, or have already received such ordination with the laying on of hands by bishops who are themselves duly qualified to confer Holy Orders.

It is also recognized and affirmed that the threefold ministry is not the exclusive property of this portion of Christ’s catholic Church, but is a gift from God for the nurture of his people and the proclamation of his Gospel everywhere. Accordingly, the manner of ordaining in this Church is to be such as has been, and is, most generally recognized by Christian people as suitable for the conferring of the sacred orders of bishop, priest, and deacon.

Concerning the
Ordination of a Bishop


In accordance with ancient custom, it is desirable, if possible, that bishops be ordained on Sundays and other feasts of our Lord or on the feasts of apostles or evangelists.

When a bishop is to be ordained, the Presiding Bishop of the Church, or a bishop appointed by the Presiding Bishop, presides and serves as chief consecrator.  At least two other bishops serve as co‑consecrators. Representatives of the presbyterate, diaconate, and laity of the diocese for which the new bishop is to be consecrated, are assigned appropriate duties in the service.

From the beginning of the service until the Offertory, the chief consecrator presides from a chair placed close to the people, so that all may see and hear what is done. The other bishops, or a convenient number of them, sit to the right and left of the chief consecrator.

The bishop‑elect is vested in a rochet or alb, without stole, tippet, or other vesture distinctive of ecclesiastical or academic rank or order.

When the bishop‑elect is presented, his full name (designated by the symbol N.N.) is used.  Thereafter, it is appropriate to refer to him only by the Christian name by which he wishes to be known.

At the Offertory, it is appropriate that the bread and wine be brought to the Altar by the family or friends of the newly ordained.

The family of the newly ordained may receive Communion before other members of the congregation. Opportunity is always given to the people to communicate.

Additional directions are on page 552.

The Ordination of a Bishop


Hymns, psalms, and anthems may be sung during the entrance of the bishops and other ministers.

The people standing, the Bishop appointed says

Bishop Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
People And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever.  Amen.

In place of the above, from Easter Day through the Day of Pentecost

Bishop Alleluia.  Christ is risen.
People The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia.

In Lent and on other penitential occasions

Bishop Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins;
People His mercy endures for ever.

The Bishop then says

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


The Presentation


The bishops and people sit. Representatives of the diocese, both Priests and Lay Persons, standing before the Presiding Bishop, present the bishop‑elect, saying

N., Bishop in the Church of God, the clergy and people of the Diocese of N., trusting in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, have chosen N.N. to be a bishop and chief pastor. We therefore ask you to lay your hands upon him and in the power of the Holy Spirit to consecrate him a bishop in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

The Presiding Bishop then directs that testimonials of the election be read.

When the reading of the testimonials is ended, the Presiding Bishop requires the following promise from the Bishop‑elect

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I, N.N., chosen Bishop of the Church in N., solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.

The Bishop‑elect then signs the above Declaration in the sight of all present. The witnesses add their signatures.

All stand.

The Presiding Bishop then says the following, or similar words, and asks the response of the people

Brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, you have heard testimony given that N.N. has been duly and lawfully elected to be a bishop of the Church of God to serve in the Diocese of N. You have been assured of his suitability and that the Church has approved him for this sacred responsibility. Nevertheless, if any of you know any reason why we should not proceed, let it now be made known.

If no objection is made, the Presiding Bishop continues

Is it your will that we ordain N. a bishop?

The People respond in these or other words

That is our will.

Presiding Bishop

Will you uphold N. as bishop?

The People respond in these or other words

We will.

The Presiding Bishop then says

The Scriptures tell us that our Savior Christ spent the whole night in prayer before he chose and sent forth his twelve apostles. Likewise, the apostles prayed before they appointed Matthias to be one of their number.  Let us, therefore, follow their examples, and offer our prayers to Almighty God before we ordain N. for the work to which we trust the Holy Spirit has called him.

All kneel, and the Person appointed leads the Litany for Ordinations, or some other approved litany.  At the end of the litany, after the Kyries, the Presiding Bishop stands and reads the Collect for the Day, or the following Collect, or both, first saying

The Lord be with you
People And also with you.

Let us pray.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


The Ministry of the Word


Three Lessons are read.  Lay persons read the Old Testament Lesson and the Epistle.

The Readings are ordinarily selected from the following list and may be lengthened if desired.  On a Major Feast or on a Sunday, the Presiding Bishop may select Readings from the Proper of the Day.

Old TestamentIsaiah 61:1‑8,or Isaiah 42:1‑9
Psalm99,or 40:1‑14,or 100
EpistleHebrews 5:1‑10,or 1 Timothy 3:1‑7,or 2 Corinthians 3:4‑9

The Reader first says

A Reading (Lesson) from_____________.

A citation giving chapter and verse may be added.

After each Reading, the Reader may say

The Word of the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.

or the Reader may sayHere ends the Reading (Epistle).

Silence may follow.

A Psalm, canticle, or hymn follows each Reading.

Then, all standing, a Deacon or a Priest reads the Gospel, first saying

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to_____________.
People Glory to you, Lord Christ.

GospelJohn 20:19‑23,or John 17:1‑9,18‑21,or Luke 24:44‑49a

After the Gospel, the Reader says

The Gospel of the Lord.
People Praise to you, Lord Christ.

The Sermon

After the Sermon, the Congregation sings a hymn.


The Examination


All now sit, except the bishop‑elect, who stands facing the bishops. The Presiding Bishop addresses the bishop‑elect

My brother, the people have chosen you and have affirmed their trust in you by acclaiming your election.  A bishop in God’s holy Church is called to be one with the apostles in proclaiming Christ’s resurrection and interpreting the Gospel, and to testify to Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings.

You are called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church; to celebrate and to provide for the administration of the sacraments of the New Covenant; to ordain priests and deacons and to join in ordaining bishops; and to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ.

With your fellow bishops you will share in the leadership of the Church throughout the world.  Your heritage is the faith of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and those of every generation who have looked to God in hope. Your joy will be to follow him who came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Are you persuaded that God has called you to the office of bishop?

AnswerI am so persuaded.

The following questions are then addressed to the bishop‑elect by one or more of the other bishops

Bishop Will you accept this call and fulfill this trust in obedience to Christ?
Answer I will obey Christ, and will serve in his name.
Bishop Will you be faithful in prayer, and in the study of Holy Scripture, that you may have the mind of Christ?
Answer I will, for he is my help.
Bishop Will you boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel of Christ, enlightening the minds and stirring up the conscience of your people?
Answer I will, in the power of the Spirit.
Bishop As a chief priest and pastor, will you encourage and support all baptized people in their gifts and ministries, nourish them from the riches of God’s grace, pray for them without ceasing, and celebrate with them the sacraments of our redemption?
Answer I will, in the name of Christ, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.
Bishop Will you guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church?
Answer I will, for the love of God.
Bishop Will you share with your fellow bishops in the government of the whole Church; will you sustain your fellow presbyters and take counsel with them; will you guide and strengthen the deacons and all others who minister in the Church?
Answer I will, by the grace given me.
Bishop Will you be merciful to all, show compassion to the poor and strangers, and defend those who have no helper?
Answer I will, for the sake of Christ Jesus.

All stand.  The Presiding Bishop then says

N., through these promises you have committed yourself to God, to serve his Church in the office of bishop. We therefore call upon you, chosen to be a guardian of the Church’s faith, to lead us in confessing that faith.


We believe in one God.

Then all sing or say together

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,      
maker of heaven and earth,      
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,      
the only Son of God,      
eternally begotten of the Father,      
God from God, Light from Light,      
true God from true God,      
begotten, not made,      
of one Being with the Father.      
Through him all things were made.      
For us and for our salvation         
he came down from heaven:      
by the power of the Holy Spirit         
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,   
and was made man.      
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;   
he suffered death and was buried.   
On the third day he rose again      
in accordance with the Scriptures;   
he ascended into heaven      
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,          
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.      
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.      
He has spoken through the Prophets.      
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.      
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.      
We look for the resurrection of the dead,   
and the life of the world to come.  Amen.


The Consecration of the Bishop


All continue to stand, except the bishop‑elect, who kneels before the Presiding Bishop.  The other bishops stand to the right and left of the Presiding Bishop.

The hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus, or the hymn, Veni Sancte Spiritus, is sung.

A period of silent prayer follows, the people still standing.

The Presiding Bishop then begins this Prayer of Consecration

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies and God of all comfort, dwelling on high but having regard for the lowly, knowing all things before they come to pass: We give you thanks that from the beginning you have gathered and prepared a people to be heirs of the covenant of Abraham, and have raised up prophets, kings, and priests, never leaving your temple untended.  We praise you also that from the creation you have graciously accepted the ministry of those whom you have chosen.

The Presiding Bishop and other Bishops now lay their hands upon the head of the bishop‑elect, and say together

Therefore, Father, make N. a bishop in your Church. Pour out upon him the power of your princely Spirit, whom you bestowed upon your beloved Son Jesus Christ, with whom he endowed the apostles, and by whom your Church is built up in every place, to the glory and unceasing praise of your Name.

The Presiding Bishop continues

To you, O Father, all hearts are open; fill, we pray, the heart of this your servant whom you have chosen to be a bishop in your Church, with such love of you and of all the people, that he may feed and tend the flock of Christ, and exercise without reproach the high priesthood to which you have called him, serving before you day and night in the ministry of reconciliation, declaring pardon in your Name, offering the holy gifts, and wisely overseeing the life and work of the Church. In all things may he present before you the acceptable offering of a pure, and gentle, and holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and power and glory in the Church, now and for ever.

The People in a loud voice respondAmen.

The new bishop is now vested according to the order of bishops.

A Bible is presented with these words

Receive the Holy Scriptures. Feed the flock of Christ committed to your charge, guard and defend them in his truth, and be a faithful steward of his holy Word and Sacraments.

After this other symbols of office may be given.

The Presiding Bishop presents to the people their new bishop.

The Clergy and People offer their acclamation and applause.


The Peace

The new Bishop then says

Celebrant The peace of the Lord be always with you.
People And also with you.

The Presiding Bishop and other Bishops greet the new bishop.

The People greet one another.

The new Bishop also greets other members of the clergy, family members, and the congregation.

The new Bishop, if the Bishop of the Diocese, may now be escorted to the episcopal chair.


At the Celebration of the Eucharist

The liturgy continues with the Offertory.

Deacons prepare the Table.

Then the new Bishop goes to the Lord’s Table as chief Celebrant and, joined by other bishops and presbyters, proceeds with the celebration of the Eucharist.


After Communion

In place of the usual postcommunion prayer, one of the bishops leads the people in the following

Almighty Father, we thank you for feeding us with the holy food of the Body and Blood of your Son, and for uniting us through him in the fellowship of your Holy Spirit. We thank you for raising up among us faithful servants for the ministry of your Word and Sacraments. We pray that N. may be to us an effective example in word and action, in love and patience, and in holiness of life.  Grant that we, with him, may serve you now, and always rejoice in your glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The new Bishop blesses the people, first saying

New Bishop Our help is in the Name of the Lord;
People The maker of heaven and earth.
New Bishop Blessed be the Name of the Lord;
People From this time forth for evermore.
New Bishop The blessing, mercy, and grace of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you, and remain with you for ever.  Amen.

A Deacon dismisses the people

New Bishop Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.
People Thanks be to God.

From Easter Day through the Day of Pentecost “Alleluia, alleluia,” may be added to the dismissal and to the response.