An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


Derived from the Greek presbyteros, “elder” or “old man”, the term is used as a synonym for presbyter. Presbyters constituted a collegiate ruling body of institutions in Judaism. The Catechism notes that “the ministry of a priest or presbyter” is “to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to proclaim the gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God” (BCP, p. 856). The term “priest” is more frequently used than “presbyter” in the Episcopal Church. The ordination service for this order of ministry is titled “The Ordination of a Priest” (BCP, p. 525). After the Reformation, the Anglican Church used the term “priest” for the second order of ministry. Some Protestant churches began to use the term “presbyter” for the minister who preaches the Word and administers the sacrements. The 1979 BCP uses both terms. Some members of the Episcopal Church have favored the use of “presbyter” because of historic association of the term “priest” with a narrow eucharistic piety or with OT sacrifice. See Presbyter, Presyterate.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.