Ordinance (Christianity)

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An ordinance is a religious ritual whose intent is to demonstrate an adherent's faith. Examples include baptism and communion, as practiced in the Christian traditions such as Anabaptists, all Baptist churches, Churches of Christ groups, and Pentecostal churches.[1][2] Ordinance is not to be confused with sacrament (see below).

Depending on the denomination, some churches also practice headcovering and footwashing as ordinances.[3]


Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and many historic Protestant traditions (Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, and Reformed) prefer the use of the term "sacrament" because this term is associated with being a means of grace.[4][1]

While a sacrament is seen as a means of grace, an ordinance is a practice that merely demonstrates the participants' faith. For example, some Christian traditions, such as Baptists, Churches of Christ, Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and Mennonites,[5] do not call them "sacraments" because they believe these rituals are outward expressions of faith, rather than impartations of God's grace. The ordinances are often observed in remembrance of Jesus—primarily his baptism and the Last Supper (Holy Communion).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 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.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Olson, Roger (2004). The Westminster Handbook to Evangelical Theology. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 259. ISBN 0664224644.
  4. ^ Daniel G. Reid, Robert D. Linder, Bruce Shelley, Harry S. Stout, Craig A. Noll (22 May 2002). Concise Dictionary of Christianity in America. Wipf & Stock Publishers. p. 301. ISBN 9781579109691. Protestants have accepted only the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper, with Baptists and heirs of the Continental Anabaptist traditions preferring to designate the rites as ordinances performed because Jesus ordained their use, rather than as means of grace.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Third Way Café: Sacraments/ordinances