A Sermon at the Consecration of an Episcopal Bishop

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...the Chief Pastor of the Church is a workman--working for God, working with God, working under His eye, and for the welfare of the immortal souls committed to his charge.

The Bishop then is a workman. This accords with what St. Paul wrote in his 1st Epistle to Timothy, when he said “If a man desireth the office of a Bishop, he desireth a good work," His life and duty may be summed up in one word--work.

This implies that his life is not a rest, or a state of ease. That he is not to be a cloistered theologian, or dwell in ecclesiastical quietism. That he is not to be a mere dignified functionary of grace and power to be dispensed only in a perfunctory manner. That he is not to be the mere figure-head of a Diocese, placed there as a simple presiding officer, and machine-like to impart the grace of confirmation and orders, in the laying on of hands.

So far from this, the Bishop is to be instinct with life and work. He is to be the Shepherd and leader of the flock--the wise ruler--the diligent teacher--the faithful counsellor--the prompter and supporter of all Churchly activities; ever holding himself ready for labor, or for sacrifice. In the New Testament the office of a Bishop, to which we shall confine ourselves at this time, is represented under various similitudes, but it is to be noted that each one of them involves the idea of work. Is he called a Fisher of Men? He must work, in casting his net, and drawing it to land; and even when, at times, he ceases to throw the net, in order that he may mend it, or wash it, even then, he is working in private that he may perfect his implements of labor, and more ffectively launch out into the deep, and let down his net for a draught.

Is he called a Builder? He must work, not only in building up himself in the most holy faith, but also seek to excel to the edifying of the Church, building it up of lively stones, on Christ the living corner-stone, so that as a wise master builder, the structure which he erects, may become the Temple of the Holy Ghost.

Is he called a Steward? He must work in administering the trust, that deposit of truth and faith, committed to him, so that he shall rightly divide the word of truth, give to each of his Lord's household his portion in due season, and bring forth, out of his treasured mysteries, things new and old.

Is he called a Herald; a Preacher? He must work in preparing and proclaiming the good tidings which he is commissioned to make known. The command of Jesus is, “Go preach the Gospel;" the injunction of the Apostle is, "Preach the Word;" "be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all Long-suffering and diligence;" but to do this, demands work of the [7/8] severest and most wearing kind, so that he may not, after having preached to others, be himself a castaway.

Is he called a Shepherd? He must work in tending the flock; now gathering them into folds, now leading them to green pastures, now seeking out the straying, now taking up the lame, now guarding from wolves, and now resting with them at noon beside the still waters. In the words of good Bishop Hall, "he must discern in his sheep between the sound and the unsound; in the unsound between the weak and the tainted; in the tainted between the nature, qualities, and degrees, of infection; and to all these, he must know how to administer a word in season."

Read it all but before you do, please try to guess the diocese and the date--KSH.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* TheologyPastoral Theology

2 Comments
Posted June 23, 2010 at 6:18 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. evan miller wrote:

Splendid sermon. Thanks for posting it.  How far we have fallen from such as these.

June 23, 10:35 am | [comment link]
2. alabamadinosaur wrote:

Several years ago I attended the 35th anniversay of the ordination of two brothers as Roman Catholic priests. Their bishop spoke. In his sermon he mentioned how the laity often considered that the priests “worked for God.” The bishop commented that he prayed that no priest in his diocese worked for God. He only wanted priests “in and through whom God was working.”

June 23, 11:30 am | [comment link]
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