Types of Church Minister & Holy Orders

Episcopal Churches

There are two sorts as far as Holy Orders are concerned: Most are simplified in orders (Anglican, Roman Catholic etc), others have full orders (Orthodox, Liberal Catholic, Old Catholic). They are conferred at ordination by Apostolic Succession.
Simplified Orders:
Sidesmen These are laity and not therefore in Holy Orders No title
Deacon The first (lowest) of the orders, mostly but not always an intermediate step to priesthood Reverend
Priest The second and most numerically common order. Most services are conducted by priests Reverend or Father
Bishop The third order. Bishops are elected from the ranks of priests, and are priests themselves. Bishops give episcopal oversight to priests and deacons. Most Reverend
Rt Rev in some cases


Other titles (which are not in themselves categories of Holy Order):
Archbishop A senior bishop in charge of other bishops, but episcopally no 'higher' - still a bishop Most Rev. or Rt Rev.
Canon A member of a cathedral chapter or collegiate church (priest) Canon or Rev. Canon
Canon (Rural Dean) A priest acting as superintendent overseeing other priests, but only in administrative ways. (i.e. not episcopal oversight). Reverend
Cardinal Leading dignitary in the Roman Catholic Church, approximating Archbishop Monsigneur
Chaplain Clergyman attached to a private chapel, institution, ship, regiment etc. Reverend or Father
Curate Priest (or deacon) 'looking after' a church or congregation, nowadays usually temporarily.
Dean The head priest of a cathedral chapter or collegiate church Very Reverend
Metropolitan A senior bishop in charge of other bishops (some denominations call them Archbishop) Most Rev.
Padre Means 'Father'. A priest. Military Padre = priest serving in the military Father or Rev.
Precentor A minor canon in charge of choir and music in a cathedral
Prebender Historic term for a priest who receives a stipend of a canon. A benefice
(or one who is an honorary canon)
Rev. Preb.
Prelate Historic term for senior cleric (abbot, bishop, prior etc)
Primus Presiding Bishop, or other leader in some denominations Most Rev.
Provost Head of a cathedral chapter or collegiate church (some denominations call them dean) Very Reverend
Rector Priest who is the incumbent of a parish with legal benefits (a benefice). Reverend
Superior Spiritual leader of a religious community. Usually Mother Superior Reverend Mother
Vicar Priest in charge of the parish as a whole, as a representative of the Bishop Reverend
Vicar General Senior priest who exercises the power of a bishop, on a bishop's behalf. If limited to a geographical area will be called Episcopal Vicar. Very Revd Monsignor

Other functions like Reader, Church Warden, Bell-ringer, Doorkeeper, Youth Leader etc. in the simplified orders are sidesmen and so not Holy Orders.



Episcopal Churches using Full Orders:
There are Minor Orders and Major Orders.
Minor Orders:
Cleric First (lowest) order. Clerics are intended to be co-workers with Christ No title
Doorkeeper Second order. Intended to protect the church from spiritual intruders, who would disrupt the congregation No title
Reader Third order. Historically not all could read, it was the readers job to read scripture to them - of course! However, the Gospel is read in worship by the deacon. No title
Exorcist Their duty is to cast out devils, give priority to communicants and pour out Holy Water No title
Acolyte Acolytes carried the candles & presented eucharistic elements to the priest at the altar No title

The churches which use full orders no longer confine these duties to those ordained to the varying degrees of minor orders. They are however used symbolically and invested with moral significance as part of the progression to priesthood through the various orders.

Major Orders:
Sub-Deacon A grade of probation for the greater orders of deacon and priest Reverend
Deacon Ministers at the altar (but not offer the Eucharistic sacrifice), reads the gospel, preaches, and baptize in the absence of a priest Reverend
Priest Priests are to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice, to bless, to preside, to anoint, to preach and baptize. They 'lead' their congegations Reverend
Bishop Bishops are priests consecrated to the Bishopric (rather than ordained to it). Lead and give oversight to priests, and their congregations. Rt. Reverend

Non-Episcopal Churches


There are no Holy Orders in these churches. Ministers are called under various terms not all of which apply in each of the various denominations. Each respects and understands the other. Each is empowered by the Holy Spirit rather than through Apostolic Succession.
Deacon An assistant minister (not an order like episcopal churches) May or may not be ordained. Usually considered less senior than a minister. No title or Brother
or Rev.
Deaconess Female deacon, usually serving by pastoral care, home visits etc. Sister
Elder Usually not ordained. A member of a circle of people who act as church leaders (church council) Brother/Sister or no title
Laity After Christ the most important people there. The others are to serve Jesus and to serve you, the congregation!
Minister A generic term used for most non-episcopal clergy. The majority of churches call their servants minister Rev
Pastor Minister whose special emphasis is on spiritual guidance and pastoral care Pastor
Preacher A generic term for the person who delivers a sermon or exposition. Not necessarily ordained (i.e. Lay-preacher) No title
Presbyter Technical term for the single layer model of clergy (i.e. non-episcopal) Rev.
Moderator Elected leader of a synod or conference etc Deliberately Mr. (or Madam)

Some Apostolic churches have Reader, Teacher, Pastor, Prophet, Overseer, Apostle.
The Salvation Army have military style titles Colonel, Captain, Soldier etc. 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have Elder as a ministerial position. 
Note: Growing churches tend to involve every member of the church. The days when the clergy took the services and the congregation just watched are over. Many churches are very much like a family with everyone playing their part and sharing the burdens, joys and responsibilities. Being part of your local church is a great way to help your community!

Religious Communities - Holy Orders

Abbot The leader of a community of monks, (abbot from the greek word abbas which means 'father') Father
Abbess (historic) The female leader of a community of nuns. Nowadays usually called Mother Superior instead. Mother
Friar One who is a member of one of the four remaining mendicant orders. Always male. Brother
Monk Male member of a religious community living under vows, (e.g. vow of poverty, celibacy, obedience) Brother
Mother Superior The female leader of a religious community Mother or Rev. Mother
Nun Female member of a religious community living under vows (e.g. vow of poverty, celibacy, obedience) Sister
Priestess This term does not generally exist in Christianity. Only used for female minister in Catholic Mariavite Church - a very small number.
Prior (i) The superior of a religious house or community. (ii) a religious leader next under an Abbot in an Abbey community Father or Brother
Prioress  (historic) The female superior of a religious community. Nowadays usually called Mother Superior instead.