In Christianity, a minister is a person authorized by a church or other religious organization to perform functions such as teaching of beliefs; leading services such as weddings, baptisms or funerals; or otherwise providing spiritual guidance to the community. The term is taken from Latin minister, which itself was derived from minus.
In the Catholic Church, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox, Nordic Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox churches, the concept of a priesthood is emphasized. In other Christian denominations, such as the Baptist, Congregationalist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed churches, the term "minister" usually refers to a member of the ordained clergy who leads a congregation or participates in a role in a parachurch ministry; such a person may serve as a presbyter, pastor, preacher, bishop, chaplain or elder.
With respect to ecclesiastical address, many ministers are styled as "The Reverend"; however, some use "Pastor" or "Father" as a title.
Roles and dutiesThe Church of England defines the ministry of priests as follows:
Ministers may perform some or all of the following duties:
- assist in co-ordinating volunteers and church community groups
- assist in any general administrative service
- conduct marriage ceremonies, funerals and memorial services, participate in the ordination of other clergy, and confirming young people as members of a local church
- encourage local church endeavors
- engage in welfare and community services activities of communities
- establish new local churches
- keep records as required by civil or church law
- plan and conduct services of public worship
- pray and encourage others to be theocentric
- preside over sacraments of the church. Such as:
- * the Lord's Supper, also known as the Lord's Table, or Holy Communion, and
- * the Baptism of adults or children
- provide leadership to the, parish or church community, this may be done as part of a team with lay people in roles such as elders
- refer people to community support services, psychologists or doctors
- research and study religion, Scripture and theology
- supervise prayer and discussion groups, retreats and seminars, and provide religious instruction
- teach on spiritual and theological subjects
- train leaders for church, community and youth leadership
- work on developing relationships and networks within the religious community
- provide pastoral care in various contexts
- provide personal support to people in crises, such as illness, bereavement and family breakdown
- visit the sick and elderly to counsel and comfort them and their families
- administer Last Rites when designated to do so
- the first style of ministering is the player coach style. In this style, the pastor is a "participant in all the processes that the church uses to reach people and see them transformed
- the second style of ministering is the delegating style, in which the minister develops members of the church to point that they can be trusted
- the third style of ministering is the directing style where the minister gives specific instructions and then supervises the congregation closely
- the last and fourth style of ministering is the combination style, which a minister allows directional ministering from a pastoral staff member
- mention prayer of salvation to those interested in becoming a believer
Training and qualifications
Related titles and types of Christian ministries
Bishops, priests, and deaconsThe Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran,
Presbyterian/Reformed, and some Methodist churches have applied the formal, church-based leadership or an ordained clergy in matters of either the church or broader political and sociocultural import. The churches have three orders of ordained clergy:
- Bishops are the primary clergy, administering all sacraments and governing the church.
- Priests administer the sacraments and lead local congregations; they cannot ordain other clergy, however, nor consecrate buildings.
- In some denominations, deacons play a non-sacramental and assisting role in the liturgy.
High Church Anglicanism and High Church Lutheranism tend to emphasise the role of the clergy in dispensing the Christian sacraments. The countries that were once a part of the Swedish Empire, i.e. Finland and the Baltics, have more markedly preserved Catholic traditions and introduced far less Reformed theology and hence the role of bishops, priests and deacons are notably more visible.
Bishops, priests and deacons have traditionally officiated over of acts worship, reverence, rituals and ceremonies. Among these central traditions have been Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, marriage, the Mass or the Divine Service, and coronations. These so-called "social rituals" have formed a part of human culture for tens of thousands of years. Anthropologists see social rituals as one of many cultural universals.
The term rector or vicar may be used for priests in certain settings, especially in the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions.
In the Episcopal Church in the United States, a parish, which is responsible for its own finances, is overseen by a rector. A bishop is nominally in control of a financially assisted parish but delegates authority to a vicar.
PastorsThe term "pastor" means "shepherd" and is used several times in the New Testament to refer to church workers. Many Protestants use the term as a prenominal title or as a job title.
ClergyThe English word clergy derives from the same root as clerk and can be traced to the Latin clericus which derives from the Greek word kleros meaning a "lot" or "portion" or "office". The term Clerk in Holy Orders is still the technical title for certain Christian clergy, and its usage is prevalent in canon law. Holy Orders refer to any recipient of the Sacrament of Ordination, both the Major Orders and the now less known Minor Orders who, save for certain reforms made at the Second Vatican Council in the Roman Catholic Church, were called clerics or Clerk, which is simply a shorter form of Cleric. Clerics were distinguished from the laity by having received, in a formal rite of introduction into the clerical state, the tonsure or corona which involved cutting hair from the top and side of the head leaving a circlet of hair which symbolised the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ at His crucifixion.
Though Christian in origin, the term can be applied by analogy to functions in other religious traditions. For example, a rabbi can be referred to as being a clergy member.
Parson is a similar term often applied to ordained priests or ministers. The word is a variant on the English word person from the Latin persona used as a legal term for one having jurisdiction.
Dominie, Dominee, Dom, DonThe similar words "Dominie", "Dominee" and "Dom", all derived from the Latin domine, are used in related contexts.
Dominie, derived directly from Dutch, is used in the United States, "Dominee", derived from Dutch via Afrikaans is used in South Africa as the title of a pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church. In Scottish English dominie is generally used to mean just schoolmaster. In various Romance languages, shortened forms of Dominus are commonly used for Catholic priests for example Benedictine Monks are titled Dom, as in the style Dom Knight. Dom or Dominus, as well as the English equivalent, Sir were often used as titles for priests in England up to the 17th century who held Bachelor of Arts degrees.
Chaplains and padresas in English or almoner or their equivalents refer to a minister who has another type of pastoral "target group" than a territorial parish congregation, such as a military units, schools and hospitals.
The Spanish word Padre is often informally used to address military chaplains, also in English and Portuguese.
Elders in Christianity are involved in the collective leadership of a local church or of a denomination.
- Some Reformed/non-mainline Presbyterian denominations, Anglican and some Methodists call their ministers teaching elders as well. In Reformed tradition, a Ruling elders are also ordained laymen who govern the church along with the teaching elders as the Church session.
- In the Assemblies of God and the Metropolitan Community Church Elders are the most senior leaders serving, leading, and supervising the worldwide denomination. In the Metropolitan Community Church an Elder can be a lay person or clergy.
Types of ministries in non-denominational church
- Such as men's ministry, women's ministry, youth ministry, kids ministry, singles and campus ministries, married couples ministry, because it gives each congregation member of different backgrounds and age groups to have a chance to fellowship with people in a closer life group to them.
Leaders and pastoral agents
- Jehovah's Witnesses consider every baptized Witness to be a "minister"; the religion permits any qualified baptized adult male to perform a baptism, funeral, or wedding. Typically, however, each such service is performed by an elder or a "ministerial servant", one of the men appointed to "take the lead" in local congregations. Witnesses do not use "elder" or any other term as a title, and do not capitalize the term. They do not accept payment and are not salaried employees or considered "paid clergy". They support themselves financially. Appointments are made directly by Circuit Overseers under the authority of the local Branch, and Governing Body; appointment is said to be "by holy spirit" because "the qualifications recorded in God's spirit-inspired Word" and because appointing committees "pray for holy spirit".
- In many evangelical churches a group of elders serve as the spiritual "shepherds" or caretakers of the congregation, usually giving spiritual direction to the pastoral staff, enforcing church discipline, etc. In some denominations these elders are called by other names, i.e.; traditionally "Deacons" in many Baptist churches function as spiritual leaders. In some cases these elders are elected and serve fixed terms. In other cases they are not elected but rather they are "recognized by the congregation as those appointed by the Holy Spirit and meeting the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:1-7."
- A prelate is a member of the clergy having a special canonical jurisdiction over a territory or a group of people.
- Usually, a prelate is a bishop. Prelate sometimes refers to the clergy of a state church with a formal hierarchy, and suggests that the prelate enjoys legal privileges and power as a result of clerical status.
- "Father" is a term of address for priests and deacons in some churches, especially the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican traditions.
- "Padre" is frequently used in the military of English-speaking countries.
- A priest of the regular clergy.
- A pre-Scholastic Christian writer accepted by the church as an authoritative witness to its teaching and practice.
- "Mama" is the local native language term for English speaking Anglican priests in the Anglican Church of Melanesia. It means "father" in several local languages in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
- In Christianity, an archbishop is an elevated bishop, responsible for all churches belonging to a religious group of a particular district.
- A bishop at the head of an ecclesiastical province or one of equivalent honorary rank.
The ordination of women has increasingly become accepted within many global religious faith groups, with some women now holding the most senior positions in these organizational hierarchies. There is disagreement between various global church denominations, and within membership of denominations, regarding whether women can be ministers.
There was notable contention over the issue of ordination of non-celibate gay people in the 1980s within the United Church of Canada, and in the 1990s and early 21st century within the Presbyterian Church USA. The Episcopal Church, the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, was as of 2016 divided over the issue of ordination of non-celibate gay people. This conflict severely damaged relationships between Anglicans in North America and in the third world, especially Africa and southeast Asia, and has caused a schism in the American Anglican church.
Styles and forms of addressIn the majority of churches, ordained ministers are styled "The Reverend". However, as stated above, some are styled "Pastor" and others do not use any religious style or form of address, and are addressed as any other person, e.g. as Mr, Ms, Miss, Mrs or by name.
AnglicanIn Anglican churches the style for ordained ministers varies according to their office, as below.
- Priests and deacons, from ordination onwards—The Reverend
- Priests and deacons appointed as canons—The Reverend Canon
- Deans of a cathedral church—The Very Reverend
- Archdeacons of a diocese or region—The Venerable
- Bishops —The Right Reverend
- Archbishops —The Most Reverend
These are formal styles. In normal speech other forms of address are often used. For all clergy this may include the titles "Father" or "Mother", particularly in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, or simply the appropriate secular title for that person, particularly in the evangelical tradition; it is also increasingly common to dispense with formal addresses and titles in favour of verbal address simply by given name. Bishops may be addressed as "My Lord", and less formally as "Bishop". Similarly, archbishops may be addressed as "Your Grace", and less formally as "Archbishop". The titles "My Lord" and "Your Grace" refer to the places held by these prelates in the Church of England within the order of precedence of the state; however, the same titles are also extended to bishops and archbishops of other Anglican churches, outside England.
As Anglicanism represents a broad range of theological opinion, its presbyterate includes priests who consider themselves no different in any respect from those of the Roman Catholic Church, some parishes and dioceses in "Low Church" or Evangelical circles prefer to use the title presbyter or "minister" in order to distance themselves from the more sacrificial theological implications which they associate with the word "priest". While priest is the official term for a member of the presbyterate in every Anglican province worldwide, the ordination rite of certain provinces recognizes the breadth of opinion by adopting the title The Ordination of Priests .
Roman CatholicIn the Roman Catholic Church the form of address depends on the office the person holds, and the country in which he is being addressed as they are usually identical to the titles used by their feudal or governmental equals. In most English-speaking countries the forms of address are:
- A priest is usually referred to as Father, and sometimes as Your Reverence or Reverend Father.
- A monsignor is addressed as "Monsignor."
- A bishop is addressed as Your Excellency or, less formally, Excellency. In Britain and some other countries they are formally addressed as My Lord or My Lord Bishop.
- An archbishop is also addressed as Your Excellency or, less formally, Excellency. In Britain and some other countries they are formally addressed as Your Grace.
- A cardinal is addressed as Your Eminence.
- The Pope of the Roman Catholic Church is often addressed as Holy Father or Your Holiness.
Religious priests are addressed "Father" in all countries.
Up until the 19th century secular clergy in English-speaking countries were usually addressed as "Mister", and only priests in religious orders were formally called "Father". In the early 19th century it became customary to call all priests "Father".
In the Middle Ages, before the Reformation, secular priests were entitled as knights, with the prefix "Sir". See examples in Shakespeare's plays like Sir Christopher Urswick in Richard III. This is closer to the Italian and Spanish "Don" which derives from the Latin "Dominus" meaning "Lord;" in English, the prefix "Dom" is used for priests who are monks, a prefix which was spelled "Dan" in Middle English. The French "Monsieur" also signifies "My Lord", a title commonly used in times past for any person of rank, clerical or lay.
The term "minister" is used by the Catholic Church in some cases, such as the head of the Franciscans being the Minister General.
In the Greek-Catholic Church, all clergy are called "Father", including deacons, who are titled "Father Deacon", "Deacon Father", or simply "Father". Depending on the institution, seminarians may be titled "Brother", "Brother Seminarian", "Father Seminarian" or simply "Father". Their wives are usually addressed as "presvytera", "matushka" or "khourriyye" as in the Orthodox world and also by their first names. Greek-Catholic Patriarchs are addressed as Your Beatitude. Eastern clergy are usually addressed by their Christian or ordination name, not their surname.
Greek and other Orthodox churchesThe form of address for Orthodox clergy varies according to order, rank and level of education. The most common forms are the following:
|Addressee's Title||Form of Address||Salutation|
|The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople||His All Holiness... Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome, Ecumenical Patriarch||Your All Holiness|
|Other Patriarchs||His Beatitude Patriarch... of...||Your Beatitude|
|Archbishops of independent Churches, Greece, Cyprus, etc.||His Beatitude Archbishop... of...||Your Beatitude|
|Archbishops of Crete, America, Australia, England||His Eminence Archbishop... of...||Your Eminence|
|Metropolitans||His Eminence Metropolitan... of...||Your Eminence|
|Titular Metropolitans||His Excellency Metropolitan... of...||Your Excellency|
|Bishop / Titular Bishop||His Grace Bishop... of...||Your Grace|
|Archimandrite||The Very Reverend Father||Dear Father|
|Priest||Reverend Father||Dear Father|
|Deacon||Reverend Deacon||Dear Father|
|Abbot||The Very Reverend Abbot||Dear Father|
|Abbess||The Reverend Mother Superior||Reverend Mother|
Armenian ApostolicThe form of address to the clergy of the Armenian Apostolic Church is almost the same.
|Addressee's Title||Form of Address||Salutation|
|Catholicos of All Armenians||His Holiness, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians||Your Holiness|
|Catholicos of Cilicia||His Holiness, Catholicos of Cilicia||Your Holiness|
|Patriarch||His Beatitude, the Armenian Patriarch of...||Your Beatitude|
|Archbishop||His Eminence||Your Eminence|
|Bishop||His Grace||Your Grace|
|Supreme Doctor Monk||The Right Reverend Father||Right Reverend Father|
|Doctor Monk||The Right Reverend Father||Right Reverend Father|
|Celibate priest||The Very Reverend Father||Very Reverend Father|
|Archpriest||Archpriest Father||Dear Father|
|Priest||Reverend Father||Dear Father|
|Deacon||Reverend Father||Dear Father|