Ordination, the act of conferring holy orders, or of initiating a person into the ministry of religion, or setting him apart for performing ecelesiastical rights and duties. All the Christian denominations which have a special ministry use some kind of ordination, but their opinions greatly differ respecting the authority by which it is conferred, its essence, and its effect. The Roman Catholic, the eastern (Greek, Armenian, Nestorian, and Jacobite), and the Protestant Episcopal churches agree in maintaining that ordination is a prerogative of the bishops. The Roman Catholic and the eastern churches, and the "High Church" party of the Protestant Episcopal church, deny the validity of the orders, and even the legiti-mate existence, of a church where there is no bishop. The Presbyterian churches hold that the presbytery have authority for this purpose, and that bishops and presbyters are in Scripture identical. The ordination of Wesleyan Methodist ministers takes place in the annual conference, with a president at its head and without the imposition of hands. Among the Calvinistic Methodists, ordination is performed by the sanction and assistance of their own ministers.
Among the Independents and Baptists, the power of selecting for ordination lies in the congregation, which tries the qualifications of the candidate, and gives him a call to be its minister. Ministerial brethren of standing assemble by request of the congregation, to examine his credentials and to inquire as to his religious and moral character and his theological views; and should all these prove satisfactory, they ordain him by prayer and laying on of hands. The society of Friends reject all ceremonies of ordination. In the Anglican church and other Protestant Episcopal churches, a candidate must be 23 years of age before he can be ordained deacon, and 24 before he can be ordained priest. He is also obliged to subscribe to the thirty-nine articles. The council of Trent appointed that unbeneficed candidates for the secular priesthood must possess a competency, and a similar rule still obtains in the church of England. The stated times of ordination are the four Sundays immediately following the Ember week; i. e., the second Sunday in Lent, Trinity Sunday, and the Sundays following the first Wednesday after Sept. 14 and Dec. 13. The bishops have the right, if circumstances make it desirable, to ordain candidates at any time.
In the Roman Catholic church the ordination for the four lower orders may be bestowed in exceptional cases by priests, but that for the three higher orders (subdeacon, deacon, and priest) is reserved to the bishop. The Roman Catholic church makes the validity of an ordination dependent on the apostolic succession of the ordaining bishops; she rejects therefore the ordination not only of the Danish, but also of the Anglican church, on the ground that the latter has not proved the apostolic succession of her bishops. The ordination of the Greek and the other eastern churches is not regarded as invalid, but only as illicit, as is the ordination by any bishop who is not in communion with the pope. - The Roman Catholic and the eastern churches regard ordination as one of the seven sacraments, called by the Latins the sacrament of order or of ordination, and by the Greeks extending of hands (voting by show of hands, election by vote), and xeipodecla, imposition of hands. In the opinion of the Protestant churches it is only a rite for setting apart a minister for his ecclesiastical duties. In the Protestant Episcopal and the Lutheran churches, the essence of the ordination is a subject of controversy.
According to the Roman Catholic doctrine, ordination confers supernatural grace and fitness for the sacred office, and impresses on the ordained minister an indelible character, separating him for ever from the laity. On this point there is a difference among the Protestant churches, some regarding ordination only as an initiation into the ministerial office.