1 S. Seabury, ‘Discourses on Several Subjects’ (1793), quoted in G. Rowell, K. Stevenson, and R. Williams (eds.), Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 326 7.

At least in this passage, Seabury developed a view of ministerial priesthood which centred on the cultic powers of offering and consecrating the Eucharist and which remained silent about priests being also called to preach the Word and act as good pastors to the faithful—two themes developed, albeit differently, by the Reformers and Vatican II. What he held about sacrificing bishops and priests sharing in Christ’s priesthood in a ‘measure and degree’ that differed from ‘the portion of Christ’s priesthood’ given to ‘the whole body of Christians’ coincided with the teaching of the Council of Trent. Seabury went beyond Trent by expressly recognizing, as Vatican II would also do, the kingly and priestly dignity of all the baptized. What Seabury wrote can set up the central issue for this chapter: granted that all the baptized share in Christ’s priesthood, is there some special, ordained priesthood beyond that ‘portion’? Or are all Christians endowed with equal spiritual privileges, powers, and responsibilities—as priests, kings/shepherds, and prophets? As we saw, the Reformers insisted that all the baptized are priests, in order to deny any ‘special’, priestly ministry derived from Christ. Let us begin with some relatively uncontroversial theses.


All the baptized share in the dignity and responsibility of Christ’s triple office; they are all priests, prophets/teachers, and kings/shepherds. We recalled how Romans and 1 Peter used priestly language for the Christian faithful. The priestly and kingly dignity promised to the Israelites (Exod. 19: 6; Isa. 61: 6) was extended to all the baptized (Rev. 1: 6; 5: 10). Hebrews understood Christ’s priestly self-sacrifice to have initiated sacrifices of praise and good works among his followers (Heb. 13: 15–16). We saw how Origen pictured the ideal Christian life as sharing in the high-priestly holiness of Christ. Chrysostom stressed the priestly holiness required of all the baptized. All believers should share in the priesthood of Christ through acts of virtue and the suitable interior dispositions that should accompany them, the priestly self-sacrifice of daily life. Augustine picked up the New Testament language about the royal priesthood of all the baptized. We could move on and cite other Christian witnesses down the centuries who appreciated how baptism conveys a share in Christ’s priestly and kingly office. That baptism also brings a share in Christ’s prophetic office may seem less clear. Significantly, Seabury, at least in the passages quoted above, acknowledged the priestly and kingly dignity of all the baptized but had nothing to say about their sharing in Christ’s prophetic function. Revelation portrayed faithful Christians in royal and priestly terms (Rev. 1: 6; 2: 26, 3: 21; 5: 10; 20: 6). The author of that book was understood to exercise a prophetic gift (1: 3; 22: 7, 10, 18–19). But did Revelation also regard the whole Church as a prophetic community, one that prophetically mediated between God and the rest of humanity? The book contains at least one passage where it takes ‘prophets’ more broadly and, seemingly, as equivalent to ‘saints’, God’s ‘servants’, and those who ‘fear’ his ‘name’ (Rev. 11: 18). Paul interpreted prophecy to be the special, charismatic endowment of a select number of Christians (1 Cor. 14: 1–33; see Rom. 12: 6; Eph. 4: 11), one of the greatest gifts that he listed as second only to that of being an apostle (1 Cor. 12: 28–9). The prophets were those whose intelligible preaching built up the Church in faith by explaining the mysteries of God. A Deutero-Pauline letter presented apostles and prophets as figures of the past, foundation-stones with Christ as the corner-stone (Eph. 2: 20; see 3: 5). Luke, however, took a broader view of prophetic utterance, taking up words of the prophet Joel about all the people in Judea and applying them to the Spirit being poured out on all human beings (even if the immediate need was to explain the phenomenon of the disciples speaking in foreign tongues).