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CLERGY (Sl. Duchovenstvo) – A collective name for those who are ordained in the three-fold ministry of the Church – bishops, priests and deacons, as distinguished from laymen.

Clergy are those in the Orthodox Church who 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 fulfill these functions, but by the grace of ordination, God enables them to carry out his will. This is why after an ordination is complete, the word Axios! (“Worthy!”) is shouted, not because the Church is affirming the worthiness of this individual to be ordained (since he has already been ordained at that point), but rather because the Holy Spirit has descended upon him and done the work of granting the man the clerical 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, however, 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, those in minor orders and those in major orders. The minor orders which are currently in use in the Church are reader, cantor (chanter) and subdeacon (in some traditions, cantors are not used because choral music is the norm). The major orders which have survived from apostolic times and remain permanent within the Church are deacon, presbyter (priest/elder) and bishop. The bishops are all theologically equal, working together in council to work through tough questions for the Church. Though certain bishops have more seniority than others, there is no equivalent to the Roman Catholic pope, either administratively or dogmatically.