Who Are the Anglican Clergy?

by Amanda Graber

In the Anglican Church, there are three orders of ministry: bishops, deacons and priests. Within these orders, there are several different titles that correspond to various positions and responsibilities in the Church. In addition to these orders of ministry, there are many non-parochial clergy called chaplains, who work in settings such as hospitals, armed services and universities.

Bishops

Bishops are members of the clergy who are commissioned to lead a group of congregations, called a diocese, and oversee the priests and deacons who serve that diocese. Bishops have the authority to ordain bishops, deacons and priests. An archbishop is the highest ranking bishop, overseeing several dioceses within a region and supervising the bishops who lead those dioceses. The Church of England is divided into provinces, each led by an archbishop. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the archbishop of the Southern Province, and the Archbishop of York is the archbishop of the Northern Province.

Priests

Priests, sometimes called presbyters, are members of clergy who have the primary pastoral and leadership responsibilities in Anglican congregations. Each priest was previously an ordained deacon, and as a new priest assumes the role of leading and teaching a congregation and the surrounding community. Priests are generally considered either Priests-in-Charge, who tend a congregation on a temporary basis at the discretion of the bishop, or Incumbents, who have been formally inducted to lead their congregations. Priests are not always assigned to a single congregation; the misnomer "archdeacon" refers to a priest who is appointed to assist a bishop with administrative and pastoral duties.

Deacons

Deacons are members of the clergy who have been ordained to assist other clergy members with a congregation’s ministry. While a deacon does not carry the primary responsibility of leading a congregation, he does shoulder some of the priest’s administrative and clerical responsibilities. Deacons are also charged with setting an example for believers, and they have a responsibility to proclaim the gospel, assist at the Holy Communion and encourage the Church in its ministries to the community.

Other Positions

In addition to the three orders of ministry, there are several other titles used to refer to ministers of the Anglican faith. Chaplains, for example, do not lead congregations in a traditional sense and instead minister to people in other settings, such as hospitals and prisons. Commissaries are persons who have been appointed to temporarily fulfill the administrative functions of a bishop in the bishop’s absence. "Canon" is an honorary title conferred upon both members of the clergy and lay persons who have faithfully served the church for a number of years and are, therefore, worthy examples to be followed.

About the Author

Amanda Graber has been a writer and editor since 2009. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications. As an editor, she has worked for both a commercial magazine and a children's literary agency. Graber holds a master's degree in writing and publishing from DePaul University.

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