What About Priests?

What is the work of priests?

Serving Christ with their bishops, priests (or presbyters) nurture God’s people through the ministry of Word and Sacrament and pronounce absolution and blessing in God’s Name.

To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism, question #144

We usually call the minister here “Pastor.” Nonetheless, Anglicans have for centuries called their pastors priests. Why? Doesn’t the New Testament talk about all believers being priests?​

Well, English is a funny language. Let’s start with the Greek word often translated in the New Testament as ‘Elder.’ It’s presbyteros ​which became presbyter and then prester (dropping the by syllable) in various forms of Latin. Prester became Old English preost, which became the word priest. Unfortunately, the same English word is used to describe the people who were the intermediaries between God and his people in the Old Testament–but different Greek words were used. When we say ‘priest’ we mean the God-ordained order of ministry represented by elders (presbyters) in the New Testament–not people who stood between God and his people.

Anglican priests/presbyters are called to care for the flock of God’s people through the godly ministry of unfailingly administering the Word of God and sacraments of God’s grace (Baptism and Holy Communion).

Some Anglican Christians refer to their priest(s) as “Father.” This is a term of great endearment and spiritual trust. St. Paul told the Corinthians that they had many guides in Christ, but very few fathers. He goes on to say, “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” (1 Corinthians 4:14-15) Anglicans are saying much the same thing when they refer to their priest(s) as Father.