Of Clergy and Laity

The principle/concept of clergy and laity is in scripture; however, the words clergy and laity are not found in scripture. Generally bishops are seen as part of the clergy. Clergy consists of bishops and those in training for potential bishopship. Those in training include licensed associate ministers. However, how one delineates clergy and laity is largely a function of the church leadership. For example, Deacons may be seen as part of the clergy (e.g., some Catholic and United Methodist Deacons) or part of the laity (e.g., National Baptist Convention USA Inc. Deacons). Indeed, some Catholic churches refer to their deacons as Reverend. Whether clergy or laity is simply an organizational/denominational choice rather than a biblical mandate as neither choice in and of itself violates any biblical principle.

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This classification of clergy and laity may be based on whether one is fulltime or totally dependent on the church for income, or other factors. Generally, ordained ministers are part of the clergy. However, licensed ministers may also be viewed as part of the clergy as a practical matter although their authority as clergy may be restricted.

There are some churches/denomination who have what they call lay pastors and lay elders. In such cases, such churches/denominations could conceivably have lay bishops. It all depends on how they distinguish between what they call clergy and laity.

For more info on a different perspective on clergy and laity see United Methodist Church Info on CLMs, Etc. In it you will see they have Certified Lay Ministers (CLM), Certified Lay Speakers, and Certified Lay Servants. Seemingly, Certified Lay Speakers and Certified Lay Servants may serve in pulpit supply.

Also for a Catholic Church view of Deacons in contrast to Bishops and Priests see Catholic Canon Law – What Can Deacons Do? Here we see that the Catholic Church considers the Deacon as part of the Clergy with a subset of the duties of the Bishops and Priests. This of course is a matter of human preference as the Bible does not require an specific organizational structure as long as certain biblical principles are adhered to.

Also for a generally accepted Baptist perspective concerning pastors and deacons see Baptist Distinctives – Church Officers. However, be mindful that some of this is also a matter of human preference and may not be a biblical requirement.

To God Be the Glory!

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