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Minister, Reverend. What to call the ordained?

Minister, Reverend, Cleric, Chaplian? What do they all mean? The definitions here are not definitive; many of the major denominations apply their own meanings, others have picked up differing connotations based on the traditions which use the term. Once you decide to be ordained, this list can help you decide on an appropriate title for your ministry.


Reverend
  • a title of respect for a clergyman
  • a member of the clergy and a spiritual leader of the Christian Church

Minister
  • a person authorized to conduct religious worship
  • one officiating or assisting the officiant in church worship
  • a clergyman especially of a Protestant communion
  • the superior of one of several religious orders

Priest
  • a clergyman in Christian churches who has the authority to perform or administer various religious rites
  • a spiritual leader in a non-Christian religion
  • one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God
  • ranked below bishop and above deacon

Cleric
  • A member of the clergy of a religion, especially one that has trained or ordained priests, preachers, or other religious professionals

Bishop
  • a clergyman having spiritual and administrative authority
  • appointed in Christian churches to oversee priests or ministers
  • considered in some churches to be successors of the twelve apostles of Christ

Monsignor
  • an ecclesiastical title of honor bestowed on some priests

Prelate
  • 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

Kahuna
  • Originally, “Kahuna” was the Hawaiian title for a shaman, and the term is still used in that context by some native Hawaiians.
  • A priestly class, including those with exceptional skills or knowledge

Father
  • “Father” is a term of address for priests in some churches (especially the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Catholic Church)
  • “Padre” is frequently used in the military
  • a person who holds an important or distinguished position in some organization
  • a priest of the regular clergy
  • a pre-Scholastic Christian writer accepted by the church as an authoritative witness to its teaching and practice

Archbishop
  • 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

Deacon
  • a cleric ranking just below a priest in Christian churches
  • a Protestant layman who assists the minister
  • a subordinate officer in a Christian church
  • one of the laymen elected by a church with congregational polity to serve in worship, in pastoral care, and on administrative committees

Clergy
  • is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion
  • group ordained to perform pastoral or sacerdotal functions in a Christian church
  • the official or sacerdotal (priestly) class of a non-Christian religion

Chaplain
  • a clergy member ministering to some institution.

Still confused about religious terms?
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Title Definition Sources:  OneLook and Merriam-Webster Online

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