An ancient question assumes new vitality in the face of the rapprochement of liturgical and non-liturgical traditions

Who gives the Holy Spirit? Under what conditions does the Holy Spirit come to the Christian and to the Church?

While it is not often discussed publicly, the question of the gift of the Spirit in relation to the claims of episcopacy and of the evangelical understanding of the Gospel is crucial to inter-church dialogue.

Questions of church order are important, and not simply the matter of whether churches should have pastors, or priests and bishops. There is a deeper question, the answer to which draws evangelical episcopal Christians of the Reformation tradition, evangelical non-conformist Christians, and Reformation Christians together, against the claims of the catholic tradition in the Anglican communion, in Roman Catholicism, and in Eastern Orthodox theology expressed through its more than twenty distinct churches.

This is the question: Does the Spirit come in response to faith in Christ through the Gospel, or does he come through rite or invocation in specifically designated religious ways at the hands of priest and bishop? Let no one underestimate the significance of this ancient question or its vitality in contemporary church-union discussions. At issue is not only church polity but also the theology of the Holy Spirit.

Most Christians agree that the Holy Spirit was given to the first Christians and to the Church at Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2. But thereafter there is little agreement on the working of the Spirit. Deep and vexing questions have troubled the Church from the earliest centuries. In the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, great stress has been laid on the function of the episcopacy in the ...

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