The Priest and the People of God: A Royal Priesthood – Sotirios Christou
Publisher: PHOENIX BOOKS
Publication Date: 2003
Binding: Soft cover
1 in stock
Church Times Review:
THIS book is, as one of the blurb contributors notes, “from the heart to the heart”. The author, baptised in the Greek Orthodox Church and priested in the Church of England, writes from his parochial experience in England, and with a deeply embedded spirituality of the Holy Trinity inherited from his native culture. His book started, he explains, as the autobiographical account of an Evangelical’s growth in faith. It emerged as a biblical reflection on the priest and the people of God in partnership. It issues, perhaps because his own ministry has not been without its bumps, in a plea for the provision of formation consultants in each diocese for each priest. His main point is that priesthood is God’s gift, and is the privilege of the whole people of God corporately, animated by the ordained person. He retells the accounts of the origin of this gift in the Old Testament and in the person of Christ in the New. He then describes the beginnings of the Church’s ordained ministry, accepting that the term “priest” has to be used rather than the New Testament “presbyter”, because the Church became institutionalised by acceptance in the fourth century. “Although the whole Church is priestly in a theological sense, it will still need its own priests in a sociological sense.” A significant controversy lies buried here, of course; and further comment might have been interesting. Christou then discusses the consequent partnership between the ordained and lay members of the Church’s royal priesthood, and how this partnership can promote biblical images of the priestly formation of the whole body.
Formation is a key word in his thinking, and one (in my own view) of which we cannot hear too much. Ours is an age in which it is notoriously difficult to talk about priesthood in a way that will commend itself generally. Christou’s reflections are pastoral rather than dogmatic (“‘divine discontent’ puts [us] in touch with the pulse of God’s heart”), practical rather than scholarly (“the way of priesthood is a way marked with the wounds of Christ”). He has read some of the classic Anglican writers (Moberly, Lightfoot). and some of the more recent apologists (Cocksworth, Leech). An enthusiastic innocence comes across. The book is easy to read — though, perhaps because it has been privately published, it would have been even more so had a sub-editor read it first.
Canon Armson is a former Precentor of Rochester Cathedral.