One of the deepest differences of conviction in the Anglican Church at the present time, which has revived one of the sharpest conflicts of the Reformation, and is reproducing itself once more upon the ecumenical stage, concerns the issues of priesthood and sacrifice. In what sense are the ordained ministry (as distinct from Christians in general) priests? And in what sense is the Holy Communion (beyond being a feast upon the sacrifice Christ offered) the actual offering of a sacrifice, whether of his sacrifice, or of the spiritual sacrifices of Christians? In other words, how are Christ’s sacrifice and priesthood related to those of the Church, and, within the Church, to the work of its ordained ministers? To understand this debate, one needs to trace the main stages of its development in the history of the Church, and the present essay is an attempt to do this in brief compass, beginning with the New Testament and ending at the present day.
To read Roger Beckwith's essay originally published in Churchman 103/3 1989,