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 Issues | Questions | Clergy Structure

“Please could you send me a hierarchical structure for the Church of England. ie from vicar upwards to the Bishop.”

One difficult concept to get hold of is that there are orders of ministry and then there are the jobs people do. A brief summary follows.

Within the Church of England people sometimes refer to three orders of ministry - Deacon, Priest (or Presbyter) and Bishop. Though properly speaking Bishops are just Priests who have been set aside (consecrated) for a wider area of ministry. All would be referred to as clergy.

But there are various job titles such as Curate, Vicar, NSMs, Diocesan Bishop, Suffragan Bishop.

Parishes
Sometimes have a Curate - who is an assistant/trainee. They are usually ordained Deacon and then after a year ordained Priest but remain an assistant.
A Vicar or Rector - the boss - almost always a Priest with overall oversight and responsibility. (See page jargon.)
A clergyman can be Vicar of several parishes at once.

Team ministries
A Team Rector - who has overall oversight and responsibility.
Team Vicars - normally having oversight and responsibilty for one or more churches in the team.
Team Curates - like parish Curates, but within a Team.

Non-stipendiary ministers (NSMs) - these are ordained Priest but do not get paid for it as such.
Some act as Vicars, Team Vicars etc.
Others are assistants in a parish.
Others may see their main area of ministry in their workplace.

Non-parochial clergy
Chaplains in Hospitals, Prisons, Armed Services, Colleges, Schools, Diocesan jo bs (such as Press Officer, Bishops Chaplain) or in other work (General Secretary of Church Society etc).

Deaneries
These are collections of parishes.
Each has a Rural or Area Dean who is usually a Vicar (or whatever) with some responsibilities within the Deanery.

Dioceses
There are 44 Dioceses in the Church of England which includes Europe, Sodor and Man and within Winchester Diocese the Channel Islands. There are probably some other anomalies such as the Falkland Islands.

Each Diocese has a Diocesan Bishop.
A Bishop is set apart (consecrated) for a particular role which includes ordaining other clergy, discipline, oversight and so on. Evangelicals see a Bishop as a Priest given a wider area of ministry. Anglo-Catholics tend to see the Bishop as the real business and the Priests in his Diocese as his assistants.

A Bishop may be assisted by Suffragan or Area Bishops - who do Bishop like things but are not Diocesans.

Every Diocese consists of one or more Archdeaconry.
An Archdeacon is, contrary to the name, a Priest who takes on certain roles, more practical than pastoral, to keep the Diocese ticking over.

Every Diocese has a Cathedral, which is like a big parish church but with certain wider responsibilities.
There are usually a few clergy serving at a Cathedral. The chief clergyman is usually the Dean, and others tend to be called Residentiary Canons but there are some variations.

Just occasionally a Bishop may be in charge of a parish - the last Archbishop of York retired to look after a parish in the Yorkshire Dales and some Bishops come back to this country from abroad and take a parish post.

Five Diocesan Bishops are by their office members of the House of Lords (Lords Spiritual) and a further 21 by seniority.

There are two provinces in England (Canterbury and York) each with an Archbishop who has some legal responsibilities over t he Diocese within his province and a role in the appointment of other Bishops.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the chief Bishop, but remains a Diocesan Bishop. He has various legal and state functions. He also has responsibility within the wider Anglican Communion of churches.
(Incidentally the Bishop of Sodor and Man is by right a member of their parliament too.)

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