Ordinance (Christianity)

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An ordinance is a term used by certain Christian denominations for a religious ritual that was instituted by Jesus for Christians to observe.[1]

Examples of ordinances include baptism and the Lord's Supper, both of which are practiced in denominations including the Anabaptist, Baptist, Churches of Christ, and Pentecostal denominations.[2][3] Some churches, including those of the Anabaptists, include headcovering and footwashing as ordinances.[4][5][6]

The number of ordinances depends on the Christian denomination, with Mennonite Anabaptists counting seven ordinances,[7] while Baptists may name two or three, for example.[8]


Christian traditions, including Anabaptists (such as Mennonites and Schwarzenau Brethren), Baptists, Churches of Christ, Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, refer to "ordinances", rather than "sacraments".[9][8][10] While a sacrament is seen as a means of grace from God, an ordinance is a practice that rather demonstrates the participants' faith. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and many historic Protestant traditions (Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Moravians, Continental Reformed, Presbyterians and Congregationalists) prefer the use of the term "sacrament".[1]

Seven ordinances have been taught in many Conservative Mennonite churches, which include "baptism, communion, footwashing, marriage, anointing with oil, the holy kiss, and the prayer covering."[7]

The Dunkard Brethren Church, a Conservative Anabaptist denomination in the Schwarzenau Brethren tradition, includes baptism, feetwashing, communion, the holy kiss, headcovering, and anointing of the sick among the ordinances of the Church. Feetwashing, communion and the holy kiss occur during the lovefeast.[11]

Some Baptists teach two ordinances, baptism and the Lord's Supper, while others include additional ordinances, such as "the laying on of hands after baptism" as expressed in the Standard Confession (1660).[8][12]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) uses the term "ordinance", however the underlying belief is sacramental.[1][2] Rituals such as baptism, confirmation, initiatory (Chrismation)[see: washing and anointing], ordination, endowment (formal vows and reception of sacred vestments)[3] and marriage are referred to as "saving ordinances"[4], as they are considered transformative and necessary for salvation and exaltation. Similar to Catholic sacraments, Mormon ordinances are only considered valid if performed by ordained clergy with apostolic succession reaching back to Jesus through Peter.[5][6][7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Krahn, Cornelius; Rempel, John D. (1989). Ordinances. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia. The term "ordinance" emphasizes the aspect of institution by Christ and the symbolic meaning.
  2. ^ Engle, Paul E.; Armstrong, John H. (30 August 2009). Understanding Four Views on Baptism. Zondervan. p. 60. ISBN 9780310866985. John Calvin and most other Protestant leaders rejected the Roman Catholic sacramental system but retained its vocabulary, applying the term "sacrament" only to ordinances instituted by God himself (cf. Westminster Confession of Faith 27; Belgic Confession 33). ... Unlike Baptists and Anabaptists, who tend to speak of baptism only as an "ordinance," Calvinists have characteristically spoken of baptism not only as an ordinance but also as a sacrament or a mystery, a rite through which God applies grace.
  3. ^ Howe, Claude (1991). Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman & Holman. Christians agree universally that baptism and the Lord's Supper were instituted by Christ and should be observed as "ordinances" or "sacraments" by His followers.
  4. ^ Olson, Roger (2004). The Westminster Handbook to Evangelical Theology. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 259. ISBN 0664224644.
  5. ^ William H. Brackney, Historical Dictionary of the Baptists, Scarecrow Press, USA, 2009, p. 219
  6. ^ Chris Green, Pentecostal Ecclesiology: A Reader, BRILL, Leiden, 2016, p. 176
  7. ^ a b Hartzler, Rachel Nafziger (30 April 2013). No Strings Attached: Boundary Lines in Pleasant Places: A History of Warren Street / Pleasant Oaks Mennonite Church. Wipf and Stock Publishers. ISBN 978-1-62189-635-7.
  8. ^ a b c Cross, Anthony R.; Thompson, Philip E. (28 September 2020). Baptist Sacramentalism, Volume 3. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-7252-8608-5.
  9. ^ "Third Way Café: Sacraments/ordinances". Archived from the original on 2014-02-01. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
  10. ^ Durnbaugh, Donald F. (1983). The Brethren Encyclopedia. Brethren Encyclopedia, Incorporated. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-936693-04-0.
  11. ^ Dunkard Brethren Church Polity. Dunkard Brethren Church. 1 November 2021. p. 6.
  12. ^ Pinson, Jr, Wm M. (9 February 2012). "Baptists' Two Ordinances: Baptism and the Lord's Supper". Baptist Distinctives.