What's With All that Stuff?
What's with the difference in clergy, the different colored shirts, crosses, and "plus" signs? Such have been a few of the questions I have received since my consecration as a bishop last month. Briefly--and I do mean briefly--here are a few words on the matter:
There are three types of clergy in the Charismatic Episcopal Church with all three being ordained ministers; deacons, priests, and bishops. The laity are also ministers by virtue of their baptism. Actually they are THE ministers of the church--the ordained clergy are like the "coaches" with the laity being the "players" on the field and in the game.
Deacons are not to be confused with evangelical protestant deacons. Evangelical protestant deacons, for the most part, are laymen, not ordained clergy, who serve on a "board" and may have other assignments. They are not normally authorized to do priestly or sacramental duties, although good deacons in an evangelical church are a very valuable asset to the pastor and the church.
Our deacons are fully ordained clergy and, under certain circumstances, may marry, bury, be a pastor, serve Eucharist with pre-consecrated elements, counsel, pray, baptize, and assist the priest or bishop, among other duties. Deacons in our communion wear a gray clergy shirt. On Sundays, they wear a stole that is diagonal. Deacons represent the servant heart of Christ. They wear a silver, pewter, or wooden cross on a black cord. Some deacons are "permanent deacons" and will serve God as lifetime servants, usually in one church, unless they move to another location, assisting the priest and bishop. Others deacons feel called to the pastorate and are "transitory deacons" who, one day, may be ordained to the priesthood and will plant a church.
Priests may perform all of the sacraments except confirmation and ordination. They wear a black clergy shirt, although they may also choose to wear gray at times. On Sundays, their stole hangs straight down, hopefully equally, on both sides in the front. They wear a silver cross and chain. Priests represent the father heart of God. A priest may use a cross, or a plus sign, after his name in correspondence, for example, Father John Brown +. The cross indicates that he is a priest. Priests should also be good deacons, as far as their "servant hearts" are concerned.
Bishops may perform all of the sacraments. They wear a purple clergy shirt but--guess what--they may also choose to wear black or gray! Confused yet? They wear a gold cross and chain and wear a ring on their right hand indicative of their office. A bishop is the chief pastor in a diocese and is a pastor to ALL the members of the churches but especially to the deacons and priests. In our communion, bishops who lead a diocese are to be pastors of their own churches--demanding, but good for keeping their feet on the ground and their heads out of the ozone.
The bishop represents the government of God--but he should also be a prime example of a servant and be a good spiritual father. The bishops may use a plus sign, or a cross, in FRONT of their name as in: + John Brown. The cross takes the place of the word "bishop." So, + John means "Bishop John." Deceased believers also have a cross in front of their name in special services such as All Saints Day. So both bishops and deceased people have crosses in front of their names, which says something--I don't know exactly what-- but something.
But the truth is that it's ALL about the High Priest and, if it's not, we are wasting our time. Jesus is the High Priest in the midst of his people and He is the consummate servant, father, and king. Don't get all hung up about this stuff. If you desire to know something, just ask. There are no dumb questions, although I just might give a dumb answer---it's happened before! :o)
On Sundays, I wear a purple "beanie-thingy" called a "zucchetta," not to confused with "zucchini." Actually, it's sort of a "red-purple." A young boy asked me the other week, "Why do you have to wear that pink hat?" "For humility," I said. "For humility."
Anyway, I hope that answers a few of the questions you might have on your mind. If there are any others, let me know! If I have shared any incorrect information, I am certain that someone will correct me--but it's okay. I wear a pink hat and am learning humility.
+ David Epps
I have always liked + David and this little article is part of the reason why. Blessed is the man able to find some humour in religion and his job!