clergyman, priest, minister

Discussion in 'English Only' started by paddycarol, Nov 19, 2006.

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  1. paddycarol Senior Member

    Chinese, China
    I'm quite confused by the words "clergyman, priest, minister, bishop" and it seems this is not the end. What on earth do these people? Do they belong to different religions? Waht's else do you have?
     
  2. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Jerusalem
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    It really can be confusing, paddycarol!

    "Clergyman" is the most general term. It refers to anyone who fulfills one of those other functions in the list.

    The actual definitions of the rest of the terms and of any additional ones really depends on which Christian Church or ecclesiastical community is in question. (These are not different religions, but different branches of the same religion.) I am a Latin Catholic (in the US, that's called "Roman Catholic") and I will give the answers for my own Church.

    There is a hierarchy of clergymen, and in my Church they are all men. The first step is ordination as "deacon". A deacon has certain, limited, functions in the celebration of the Holy Mass and also performs other community functions in collaboration with, and under the direction of, the priest. Some deacons are called "permanent deacons"; they may be married, but they may not become priests. Other deacons are in prepartion to become priests.

    "Priest" is the next step. The ordained priest has full faculties to administer the sacraments, including full celebration of the Holy Mass. He works in collaboration with and under the direction of the Bishop.

    The "bishop" is the head of what we call the local church or diocese, though there are bishops without dioceses, too. This gets even more complicated, I'm afraid. In any case. episcopal ordination (ordination to be a bishop) is considered "the fullness of the sacrament of Orders", but only a minority of priests are eventually ordained bishop. The bishop works in collaboration with all the other bishops and the pope.

    We also have "archbishops" and "cardinals", who are just bishops with special functions.

    At the top of the hierarchy, we have the pope, who is a bishop who became a cardinal and who was elected by all the cardinals in the world to be pape after the death of the previous one. It is a lifetime position.

    I'm sorry that I cannot speak for the other Churches; I don't know enough about them. You can find more information about what I've written here by googling any of the words in quotes or the phrase "Catholic hierarchy".

    Good luck at unravelling us!
    :)
     
  3. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Adelaide
    Australia English
    As Nun Translator says, a clergyman is a general term.

    In those Christian religions which have priests, priests are believed to have special powers. Certain religious services can be conducted only by priests.
    Christian religions with priests include Catholic, Orthodox and Mormon.
    There are many varieties of Orthodox Christianity.

    In general, Protestant denominations do not believe that anyone has special powers, and thus do not have priests.
    In those religions, the leader of the congregation is called a minister.
     
  4. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    U.S.A.
    Greek Greece
    Brioche now I am confused. You mean that in most Protestand denominations anyone can perform a christening or a marriage?

    As to the Orthodox church it's a bit harder to translate since the terms don't always translate well. In general, no ministers and the rest are the same as Nun-Translator described for the Catholic Church.

    If you are indeed interested you can find the exact meaning of the words in the Greek Orthodox Christian Church here
     
  5. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    And to muddy the waters further ....

    A minister is any leader of a protestant congregation.

    In England, a minister of the Church of England is also referred to as a vicar - I don't believe that other denominations use this term. They are also, to the best of my knowledge, the only denomination other than Catholics to use the word "priest".

    Evangelical congregations, at least in North America, usually refer to their ministers as pastors.

    A clergyman is a religious leader for any religion, be it Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. ..... Ditto for the words clergy and clerical.

    Deacons are lay (congregational members) assistants to the clergy.

    Hope that this helps to untangle things a little.
     
  6. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    In Quaker circles this is possible, as we are all clergy. Some congregations do hire a pastor, but this does not in any way diminish the spiritual authority of the rest of the congregation. We do not do christenings (children choose when they are adults). Because we believe that only God can solemnize a marriage, nobody "marries" a couple - they make their promises to each other before the whole Meeting, and a member who has been given authority to register marriages signs the document afterward. Usually at weddings and funerals an elder will speak before Meeting begins to explain the Quaker procedure (if you can call it that) to people from outside the tradition.
     
  7. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    U.S.A.
    Greek Greece
    Chaska thank you for the useful information. However while this may hold true for the Quakers I am not quite sure if it does for other Protestants (I use this umbrella term on purpose since that was used before).

    I realise this question seems like a Cultural Discussion one (and I admit to be interested in a discussion on the matter there) but the reason I am asking here is so as to be sure I am not mistaken when using the word "minister" really :) I always thought that, in most cases -not in the case of the Quakers i.e.-, it is more or less the equivalent of a priest.
     
  8. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    In North America, at least, "minister" is used for the Protestant denominations, and "priest" for the Catholic and Orthodox ones. "Priest" in reference to the Anglican (Church of England) clergy is used internally only, in my experience.

    And no, in most Protestant denominations you have to be ordained to perform marriages etc.
     
  9. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Adelaide
    Australia English
    The ins and outs of theology are well beyond these discussion groups.

    In Catholicism and Orthodox christianity, priestly ordination is a sacrament. It gives religious power to the priest, power that only a priest has, and which the priest retains for life.

    Protestants don't believe that ordination is a sacrament. Generally speaking, a Protestant minister has "power" only for as long as his congregation accepts him. Protestant elders and ministers can lose their job, and with it their power.
     
  10. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    U.S.A.
    Greek Greece
    Not really in this case Brioche :)

    paddycarol asked about the word "minister" among others. You defined a "minister" as someone who is the leader of a congregation in denominations in which no one has special powers. It follows that a minister has no special "function" that only he or she might perform. This is why I asked if anyone can perform marriages etc.
     
  11. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Adelaide
    Australia English
    According to Catholic and Orthodox teaching, a priest has the power to change the water and wine of the Eucharist into the body and blood of Jesus Christ; a priest has the power to forgive the sins of people who confess those sins to him. These are special, supernatural, religious powers which only priests have.

    Protestants believe that the individual can relate directly to God, and does not a priest to stand between the individual and God.

    Protestants do not believe that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, and do not believe that any person has the power to forgive sins. These are the special powers I was referring to.

    Protestant ministers are essentially "ordinary" people, who take on a teaching and leadership role in their churches. They do not have any supernatual powers.
     
  12. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Just a note - in English, "clergy" applies to all "holy men", regardless of religion. A Buddhist priest,a Jewish rabbi, and a Muslim imam are all considered members of the clergy.

    As for deacons, elders, and ministers, the different ways these roles are defined within a church community are part of what distinguishes the different denominations of Christianity. As far as I know, bishops only appear in hierarchically organized forms of Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant. Much of it has to do with church government. Presbyterians and Baptists, for example, do not have bishops. Methodists, Anglicans/Episcopalians, and Lutherans do.

    In other words, each denomination has its own definition of many of these roles, including their duration, qualifications, and educational requirements. Having worked in multiple Protestant denominations over the years, I believe the difference between denominations has far more to do with organizational structure and church government than a fundamental difference in beliefs.

    As for performing marriages, I think there are very few types of churches where anyone in the congregation may perform a marriage. That function is usually reserved for the minister/priest/pastor.
     
  13. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
  14. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    << This post and the following two have been moved to this thread from a minister of >>


    A minister of religion would be, in contrast, a priest.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 13, 2010
  15. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    Texas
    English - US
    First, a minister is not a priest nor is a priest called a minster in most religions. Second, there is still the possibility of a government with a Ministry/Department of Religion whose head would be the minister of religion..
     
  16. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    One of the charms of WR is that you can find yourself brought up short when making what you think are the most blandly obvious statements.

    What's the distinction you are drawing here, Myridon? Here is a little piece on Ministers in Christian religions. Do you think these people are not priests, despite their ability to dispense grace at sacraments? When priests talk of their ministry are they not referring to their priestly work? Is the Free online dictionary way out when it describes ministry as

    a. The profession, duties, and services of a minister.
    b. The Christian clergy.
    c. The period of service of a minister.

    I suspect you are making a subtle distinction here, but you have contradicted me, and I am extremely keen that neither of us should mislead anyone.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2010
  17. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Jerusalem
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    "All priests are ministers, but not all ministers are priests."

    A priest who "dispenses grace at sacraments" is indeed ministering and is therefore a minister. Not all faiths (not even all Christian denominations) have sacraments and they often define grace very differently one from another. It would be a mistake to say that every minister is a priest.
     
  18. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Thank you, Nunty.

    In some forms of English, operatic English, for instance, a priest is almost any religious attendant. In The Magic Flute, the Chorus of Priests, is a group of initiated (I assume) attendants round Sarastro, the High Priest of Isis and Osiris.

    I wondered if Myridon, in saying that a minister was not a priest, was applying some AE or some specifically denominational definition of a priest. I suppose those extreme protestants who believe in the universal priesthood of believers would deny special privileges to any individual in the church, which is effectively to deny the possibility of having priests. Some people don't even know that ordained ministers of the Church of England are frequently referred to as priests.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2010
  19. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    In ordinary conversation, we understand minister to refer a Protestant clergyman, and priest to indicate that we are speaking of a Catholic or Orthodox clergyman.

    I am referring to how these words are commonly used in casual conversation in AE. I do not deny that these have different and more nuanced meanings in other contexts, and that people who were more informed or concerned would use them differently.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2010
  20. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    That is standard usage here too.
     
  21. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I thought it might be. I don't think it's true, however, in Central Southern England.
     
  22. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Ah yes, but you are probably thinking of Anglican Central Southern England.

    In the minority world of Anglican Northern Ireland, the terminology is probably the same as in Anglican Central Southern England.

    This discussion, however, is rapidly sinking into detail that is far remote from the remit of this forum.

    I think it is time to draw a line.
     
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