The clergy of the Orthodox Church have been called by God to fulfill specific functions of service and leadership in the Church (Acts 6:1-6, 13:3; Titus 1:5; I Tim. 4:14; II Tim. 1:6). They are not worthy in themselves to serve in these ways, but by the grace of ordination, God enables them to carry out His will. This is why after an ordination is complete, the people shout the word Axios! (which means “Worthy!”), not because the Church is saying that he is worthy to be ordained (since he has already been ordained by that point in the service), but rather because the Holy Spirit has descended upon him and given him this ministry.

Clergy are not inherently higher or better than the laity in the Church, who are also ordained to a specific ministry as the royal priesthood of Christ. The ministry of the clergy is a more intense and potentially spiritually dangerous role, since its business is the ministry of the holy mysteries and the responsibility of the teaching of the people of God. God will hold clergy accountable for the responsibility He gave them.

There are two basic categories of clergy in the Church - minor orders and major orders. The minor orders currently in use in the Church are reader, cantor (chanter) and subdeacon. The major orders which are from apostolic times and remain permanent within the Church are deacon, presbyter (priest/elder) and bishop. The bishops are all sacramentally equal, working together in council to work through tough questions for the Church. Though certain bishops have more seniority and more responsibility than others, there is no Orthodox equivalent to the Roman Catholic pope, either administratively or doctrinally.

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Series provided by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick and St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church