One of the most important purposes of The Society is to guarantee a ministry in the historic apostolic succession in which our people can have confidence - in other words, to offer ‘sacramental assurance’. Registering priests as Priests of The Society is the mechanism for doing this.
Male and female permanent deacons, and male deacons preparing for ordination to the priesthood, are invited to register as Deacons of The Society.
Ordinands are invited to register as Ordinands of The Society.
Priests, deacons and ordinands are not being registered as ‘members of The Society’ (The Society is not a membership organization), but as priests and deacons whose ministry can be commended because they are ordained by a bishop in the male historic succession (and as ordinands preparing for such ministry). Registration is about sacramental assurance and commendation of ministry - not about membership.
The ministry of deacons and priests who are not entitled to minister in the Church of England (because they hold no office and have no licence or permission to officiate) cannot be commended to or received by our parishes, so they cannot be registered as Deacons and Priests of The Society. If Deacons or Priests of The Society cease to be entitled to minister in the Church of England, the Declaration that they have signed obliges them to inform the relevant member of the Council of Bishops of The Society immediately.
In order to become Deacons or Priests of The Society, deacons and priests make a Declaration and send it, with copies of their Letters of Orders and (if they are not incumbents) their Licence or Permission to Officiate, to the relevant member of the Council of Bishops. In response, the bishop sends them a Welcome Letter. In the letter, the bishop tells the deacon or priest to retain the letter and show it to anyone who wants confirmation of his or her status as a Deacon or Priest of The Society. (This might be an incumbent or priest in charge who needs priestly assistance, a churchwarden during a vacancy, or someone involved in making a parochial appointment.)
The relevant member of the Council of Bishops is normally the Society bishop for the diocese in which the priest holds a benefice, licence or permission to officiate (as indicated on the Dioceses pages) or, for Forces Chaplains who hold do not hold a licence or PTO for ministry in an English diocese, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet. Ordinands should approach the Society bishop for their sponsoring diocese.
The Declaration contains no rule of life and nothing about priestly or diaconal fellowship or mission. The Society is not a priestly society, and it does not fulfil the functions of societies like the Society of the Holy Cross or the Company of Mission Priests. Registration as an Ordinand, Deacon or Priest of The Society is not about membership, fellowship, holiness or mission. It is a way of identifying deacons and priests who can minister in parishes that are affiliated to The Society without the need for research about the nature of their Orders, and ordinands who are preparing for such ministry.