Wesley’s Prayer Book and Episcopal Ordination

Following up on United Methodism and Apostolic Succession, I took a look at the language John Wesley used in the book of worship he sent to the new Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. Surprisingly, I found that The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America speaks of “making” deacons and “ordaining” elders and bishops.

As I previously noted, United Methodism recognizes only two orders: deacons and elders. Bishops are “consecrated,” not ordained. This is precisely the language that one finds in the current United Methodist Book of Worship.  In some of his writings, Wesley appears to state that bishops and elders belong to the same Biblical order. So why, then, did he use the word “make” with regard to deacons and “ordain” with regard to bishops in his book of worship?

The answer, I think, is found is Wesley’s source: the 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. Wesley revised and amended his source material at several points. One immediately notices, for example, that Wesley speaks of “elders” instead of “priests”. Whether he intentionally preserved the BCP’s language about “making” and “ordaining”  or whether he simply retained his source material without much thought is unclear.

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