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On the Divine Institution of the Three-fold Ministry

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image of Ecclesiology

Working within a largely Roman Catholic framework this paper explores the possible meanings of the notion of divine institution of the three-fold order of ministry. By locating that meaning within the realm of practical intelligence, viewing institutions as efficient and effective means for meeting recurrent needs, it argues for a position on divine institution which both recognises some normativity in relation to the three-fold structure of bishop—priest—deacon and allows some flexibility in relation to that structure, a flexibility evident within the Roman Catholic tradition itself. It is hoped that this approach creates an ecumenical space for consideration of the validity of other forms of church order.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield NSW 2135, Australia, Email:


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