HOME

TheInfoList




Ecclesiastical polity is the operational and
governance Governance is all the processes of interactions be they through the laws Law is a system of rules created and law enforcement, enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity ...

governance
structure of a church or of a
Christian denomination A Christian denomination is a distinct religious Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a rel ...
. It also denotes the
ministerial Minister may refer to: * Minister (Christianity), a Christian cleric * Minister (government), a member of government who heads a ministry (government department) ** Minister without portfolio, a member of government with the rank of a normal minist ...
structure of a church and the authority relationships between churches. Polity relates closely to
ecclesiology In Christian theology, ecclesiology is the study of the Church (congregation), Church, the origins of Christianity, its relationship to Jesus, its role in salvation, its ecclesiastical polity, polity, its Church discipline, discipline, its escha ...
, the study of
doctrine Doctrine (from la, Wikt:doctrina, doctrina, meaning "teaching, instruction") is a codification (law), codification of beliefs or a body of teacher, teachings or instructions, taught Value (personal and cultural), principles or positions, as the e ...

doctrine
and
theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed ...
relating to church organization. ''Ecclesiastical polity'' is defined as both the subject of ecclesiastical government in the abstract and the particular system of government of a specific Christian organization. The phrase is sometimes used in
civil law Civil law may refer to: * Civil law (common law) Civil law is a major branch of the law.Glanville Williams. ''Learning the Law''. Eleventh Edition. Stevens. 1982. p. 2. In common law legal systems such as England and Wales and the law of the United ...
.


History

Questions of ecclesiastical government are first documented in the first chapters of the ''
Acts of the Apostles The Acts of the Apostles ( grc-koi, Πράξεις Ἀποστόλων, ''Práxeis Apostólōn''; la, Actūs Apostolōrum), often referred to simply as Acts, or formally the Book of Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament The New T ...
'' and "theological debate about the nature, location, and exercise of authority, in the church" has been ongoing ever since. The first act recorded after the
Ascension of Jesus Christ The Ascension of Jesus (anglicized Linguistic anglicisation (or anglicization, occasionally anglification, anglifying, or Englishing) is the practice of modifying foreign words, names, and phrases to make them easier to spell, pronounce, or u ...
was the election of
Saint Matthias Matthias (Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. "Common Greek"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the koiné language, common supra-regional form of Greek language, G ...
as one of the
Twelve Apostles upright=1.35, Jesus and his Twelve Apostles, Chi-Rho symbol ☧, Catacombs of Domitilla">Chi_Rho.html" ;"title="fresco with the Chi Rho">Chi-Rho symbol ☧, Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome In Christian theology and ecclesiology, apostles, partic ...

Twelve Apostles
, to replace
Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot (; he, יהודה איש-קריות , "Judah, man of KeriothKerioth ( he, קְרִיּוֹת, ''Kriyot'') is the name of two cities mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. The spelling Kirioth appears in the King James Version of Amos ...
. The Twelve Apostles were the first to instantiate the episcopal polity of Christianity. During the
Protestant Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity File:Petersdom von Engelsburg gesehen.jpg, 250px, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the larges ...
, reformers asserted that the
New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus, as ...

New Testament
prescribed an ecclesiastical government different from the episcopal polity maintained by the
Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Catholic Church
, and consequently different Protestant bodies organized into different types of polity. During this period
Richard Hooker Richard Hooker (25 March, 1554 – 2 November 1600) was an English priest A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform the Sacred rite, sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more ...

Richard Hooker
wrote ''
Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity Richard Hooker (25 March, 1554 – 2 November 1600) was an English priest A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform the Sacred rite, sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more ...
'', the first volumes of which were published in 1594, to defend the polity of the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
against
Puritan The Puritans were English Protestants Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Je ...

Puritan
objections. It is from the title of this work that the term ''ecclesiastical polity'' may have originated. With respect to
ecclesiology In Christian theology, ecclesiology is the study of the Church (congregation), Church, the origins of Christianity, its relationship to Jesus, its role in salvation, its ecclesiastical polity, polity, its Church discipline, discipline, its escha ...
, Hooker preferred the term ''polity'' to ''government'' as the former term "containeth both
he
he
government and also whatsoever besides belongeth to the ordering of the Church in public."


Types

Though each church or denomination has its own characteristic structure, there are four general types of polity: episcopal, connexional,
presbyterian Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism Protestantism is a form of ...
, and
congregational Congregational churches (also Congregationalist churches; Congregationalism) are Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Crit ...
.


Episcopal polity

Churches having episcopal polity are governed by
bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Moravian Chu ...

bishop
s. The title bishop comes from the Greek word , which translates as ''overseer''. In regard to
Catholicism The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian r ...
, bishops have authority over the
diocese In Ecclesiastical polity, church governance, a diocese or bishopric is the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop. History In the later organization of the Roman Empire, the increasingly subdivided Roman province, prov ...
, which is both sacramental and political; as well as performing
ordination Ordination is the process by which individuals are , that is, set apart and elevated from the class to the , who are thus then (usually by the composed of other clergy) to perform various religious . The process and ceremonies of ordination va ...

ordination
s,
confirmation In Christian denominations that practice infant baptism Infant baptism is the practice of baptising infants or young child Biologically, a child (plural children) is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and wi ...

confirmation
s, and
consecration Consecration is the solemn Solemn may refer to: *"Solemn", a song by Tribal Tech from the album ''Dr. Hee'' 1987 *"Solemn", a song by Arcane Roots from the album ''Melancholia Hymns'' 2017 See also * Solemnity, a feast day of the highest rank i ...

consecration
s, the bishop supervises the
clergy Clergy are formal leaders within established s. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, but usually involve presiding over specific rituals and teaching their religion's s and practices. Some of the terms used for ind ...
of the diocese and represents the diocese both secularly and in the hierarchy of church governance. Bishops in this system may be subject to higher ranking bishops (variously called
archbishop In many Christian Denominations Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ (title), Christ'' an ...
s,
metropolitan Metropolitan may refer to: * Metropolitan area, a region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories * Metropolitan borough, a form of local government district in England * Metropolitan county, a type ...
or
patriarch The highest-ranking bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Or ...

patriarch
s, depending upon the tradition; ''see also
Bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Moravian Chu ...

Bishop
for further explanation of the varieties of bishops''.) They also meet in councils or
synod A synod () is a council of a Ecclesia (church), church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word ''wikt:synod, synod'' comes from the meaning "assembly" or "meeting" and is analogous with the L ...

synod
s. These synods, subject to presidency by higher ranking bishops, may govern the dioceses which are represented in the council, though the
synod A synod () is a council of a Ecclesia (church), church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word ''wikt:synod, synod'' comes from the meaning "assembly" or "meeting" and is analogous with the L ...

synod
may also be purely advisory. Also, episcopal polity is not usually a simple
chain of command A command hierarchy is a group of people who carry out orders based on others' authority within the group. It can be viewed as part of a power structure, in which it is usually seen as the most vulnerable and also the most powerful part. Milit ...
. Instead, some authority may be held, not only by synods and colleges of bishops, but by
lay Lay may refer to: Places *Lay Range, a subrange of mountains in British Columbia, Canada *Lay, Loire, a French commune *Lay (river), France *Lay, Iran, a village *Lay, Kansas, United States, an unincorporated community People * Lay (surname) * L ...
and clerical councils. Further, patterns of authority are subject to a wide variety of historical rights and honours which may cut across simple lines of authority. Episcopal polity is the predominant pattern in
Catholic The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Catholic
,
Eastern Orthodox The Eastern Orthodox Church, also called the Orthodox Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 220 million baptised members. It operates as a communion Communion may refer to: Religion * The Eucharist (also cal ...
,
Oriental Orthodox The Oriental Orthodox Churches are a group of Eastern Christian Eastern Christianity comprises Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings ...
, and
Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Christianity, Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation. Adherents of Anglicanism are called ''Anglicans''; t ...

Anglican
churches. It is also common in some
Methodist Methodism, also called the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations Denomination may refer to: * Religious denomination, such as a: ** Christian denomination ** Jewish denomination ** Islamic denomination ** Hindu d ...

Methodist
and
Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism that identifies with the teachings of Jesus Christ and was founded by Martin Luther, a 16th-century German monk and Protestant Reformers, reformer whose efforts to reform the theology ...
churches, as well as amongst some of the African-American
Pentecostal Pentecostalism or classical Pentecostalism is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Reformation reje ...
traditions in the United States such as the
Church of God in Christ #REDIRECT Church of God in Christ#REDIRECT Church of God in Christ The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is a Pentecostal– Holiness Christian denomination A Christian denomination is a distinct Religion, religious body within Christianity that ...
and the
Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship (FGBCF) or Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International (FGBCFI) is a Charismatic Baptist Baptists form a major branch of Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated wi ...
.


Hierarchical polity

Some religious organizations, for example
Seventh-day Adventist The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Criticism of the Catholic Church, errors in the ...
,
Jehovah's Witnesses Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian Millenarianism (also millenarism), from Latin ''mīllēnārius'' "containing a thousand", is the belief by a religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious ...
,
The Salvation Army The Salvation Army (TSA) is a Christian denomination, Christian church and an international charitable organisation. The organisation reports a worldwide membership of over 1.7 million, consisting of soldiers, officers and adherents collectivel ...

The Salvation Army
, and
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often informally known as the LDS Church or Mormon Church, is a nontrinitarian Nontrinitarianism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism ...
, describe their polity as ''hierarchical''. In practice, such polities are similar to an episcopal polity, but often have a much more complex system of governance, with several dimensions of hierarchy. Leaders are not called ''bishops'', and in some cases have secular-like titles such as ''president'' or ''overseer''. The term ''bishop'' may be used to describe functionaries in minor leadership roles, such as a parish leader; it may also be used as an honorific, particularly within the
Holiness movement #REDIRECT Holiness movement #REDIRECT Holiness movement The Holiness movement involves a set of Christianity, Christian beliefs and practices that emerged chiefly within 19th-century Methodism, and to a lesser extent other traditions such as Quak ...
.


Connectional polity

Many
Methodist Methodism, also called the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations Denomination may refer to: * Religious denomination, such as a: ** Christian denomination ** Jewish denomination ** Islamic denomination ** Hindu d ...

Methodist
churches use a (or ''connectional'') polity. It emphasises essential interdependence, through fellowship, consultation, government and oversight. The traditional
United Methodist Church The United Methodist Church (UMC) is a worldwide mainline Protestant The mainline Protestant churches (also called mainstream Protestant and sometimes oldline Protestant) are a group of Protestant denominations in the United States that contras ...

United Methodist Church
defines ''connection'' as the principle that "all leaders and congregations are connected in a network of loyalties and commitments that support, yet supersede, local concerns." Some Methodist churches have
bishops A bishop is an ordained Ordination is the process by which individuals are Consecration, consecrated, that is, set apart and elevated from the laity class to the clergy, who are thus then authorization, authorized (usually by the religious denom ...
, but these individuals are not nearly as powerful as in episcopal churches.


Presbyterian polity

Many
Reformed church Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christianity, Christian practice set ...

Reformed church
es, notably those in the
Presbyterian Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism Protestantism is a form of ...
traditions, are governed by a hierarchy of (or ''courts''). The lowest level council governs a single local church and is called the '' session'' or ''
consistory Consistory is the anglicized form of the consistorium, a council of the closest advisors of the Roman emperors. It can also refer to: *A papal consistory, a formal meeting of the Sacred College of Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church *Consistory c ...
''; its members are called ''
elders An elder is someone with a degree of seniority or authority. Elder or elders may refer to: Positions Administrative * Elder (administrative title), a position of authority Cultural * American Indian elder, a person who has and transmits cul ...
''. The
minister Minister may refer to: * Minister (Christianity)Image:LutheranClergy.JPG, upA Lutheran minister wearing a Geneva gown and Bands (neckwear), bands. In many churches, ministers wear distinctive clothing, called vestments, when presiding over service ...
of the church (sometimes referred to as a ''teaching elder'') is a member of and presides over the session; lay representatives (''ruling elders'' or, informally, just elders) are elected by the congregation. The session sends representatives to the next level higher council, called the '' presbytery'' or ''classis''. In some Presbyterian churches there are higher level councils (
synod A synod () is a council of a Ecclesia (church), church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word ''wikt:synod, synod'' comes from the meaning "assembly" or "meeting" and is analogous with the L ...

synod
s or general assemblies). Each council has authority over its constituents, and the representatives at each level are expected to use their own judgment. For example, each session approves and installs its own elders, and each presbytery approves the ministers serving within its territory and the connections between those ministers and particular congregations. Hence higher level councils act as courts of appeal for church trials and disputes, and it is not uncommon to see rulings and decisions overturned. Presbyterian polity is the characteristic governance of Presbyterian churches, and also of churches in the Continental Reformed tradition. Elements of presbyterian polity are also found in other churches. For example, in the
Episcopal Church in the United States of America The Episcopal Church (TEC), based in the United States with additional diocese In Ecclesiastical polity, church governance, a diocese or bishopric is the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop. History In the lat ...
, governance by bishops is paralleled by a system of deputies, who are lay and clerical representatives elected by
parish A parish is a territorial entity in many Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ ( ...
es and, at the national level, by the dioceses. Legislation in the
general conventionThe General Convention is the primary governing and legislative body of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. With the exception of the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Constitution and Canon law (Episcopal Church in the Unit ...
requires the separate consent of the bishops and of the deputies. Note that in episcopal polity, ''
presbyter In the New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Biblical canon#Christian canons, Christian biblical canon. It discusses the te ...
'' refers to a
priest A priest is a religious leader Clergy are formal leaders within established religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social w ...

priest
.


Congregational polity

Congregational churches Congregational churches (also Congregationalist churches; Congregationalism) are Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of ...
dispense with titled positions such as
bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Moravian Chu ...

bishop
as a requirement of church structure. The local congregation rules itself, elects its own leaders, both clergy and laity, ordains its own clergy, and as a "self-governed voluntary institution", is a type of religious
anarchism Anarchism is a political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge ...

anarchism
. Appointment of local leaders and councils by external authorities derives from a separate bureaucratic or associational polity. Members may be sent from the congregation to associations that are sometimes identified with the church bodies formed by Presbyterians,
Lutherans Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism that identifies with the teachings of Jesus Christ and was founded by Martin Luther, a 16th-century German monk and Protestant Reformers, reformer whose efforts to reform the theology a ...
,
Anglicans Anglicanism is a Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *W ...
, and other non-congregational
Protestants Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Criticism of the Catholic Church, errors in the Catholic Church. Protestants originating in the Ref ...
. Neither the congregations nor the associations exercise any control over each other, other than having the ability to terminate membership in the association. Many congregationalist churches are completely independent in principle. One major exception is
ordination Ordination is the process by which individuals are , that is, set apart and elevated from the class to the , who are thus then (usually by the composed of other clergy) to perform various religious . The process and ceremonies of ordination va ...

ordination
of
clergy Clergy are formal leaders within established s. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, but usually involve presiding over specific rituals and teaching their religion's s and practices. Some of the terms used for ind ...
, where even congregationalist churches often invite members of the
vicinage The Vicinage Clause is a provision in the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution regulating the vicinity from which a jury pool may be selected. The clause says that the accused shall be entitled to an "impartial jury of the State and di ...
or association to ordain their pastors. It is a principle of congregationalism that ministers do not govern congregations by themselves. They may preside over the congregation, but it is the congregation which exerts its authority in the end. Churches that traditionally practice congregational polity include
congregationalists Congregational churches (also Congregationalist churches; Congregationalism) are Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Crit ...
,
Baptists Baptists form a major branch of Protestant Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Reformation reject the Roman Cath ...
, and many forms of
nondenominational Christianity Nondenominational Christianity (or non-denominational Christianity) consists of church Church may refer to: Religion * Church (building) A church building, church house, or simply church, is a building used for Christian worship services an ...
. Because of its prevalence among Baptists, and the prominence of Baptists among Protestant denominations, congregational polity is sometimes called ''Baptist polity''.


Moravian polity

In the
Moravian church , image = AgnusDeiWindow.jpg , imagewidth = 250px , caption = Church emblem featuring the Agnus Dei is the Latin name under which the "Lamb of God" is honoured within the Roman Rite Mass, Roman Catholic Mass and, by extension, other Christ ...

Moravian church
, a trope is one of the divisions which forms the "Unity of the Brethren", borrowing the term from music.


Polity, autonomy, and ecumenism

Although a church's polity determines its ministers and discipline, it need not affect relations with other Christian organizations. The unity of a church is an essential
doctrine Doctrine (from la, Wikt:doctrina, doctrina, meaning "teaching, instruction") is a codification (law), codification of beliefs or a body of teacher, teachings or instructions, taught Value (personal and cultural), principles or positions, as the e ...

doctrine
of
ecclesiology In Christian theology, ecclesiology is the study of the Church (congregation), Church, the origins of Christianity, its relationship to Jesus, its role in salvation, its ecclesiastical polity, polity, its Church discipline, discipline, its escha ...
, but because the divisions between churches presuppose the absence of mutual authority, internal polity does not directly answer how these divisions are treated. For example, among churches of episcopal polity, different theories are expressed: * In
Eastern Orthodoxy The Eastern Orthodox Church, also called the Orthodox Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, second-largest Christian church, with approximately 220 million baptised members. It operates as a Communion (Christ ...
the various churches retain
autonomy In developmental psychology Developmental psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions ...

autonomy
but are held to be unified by common doctrine and
conciliarity Conciliarity is the adherence of various Christian communities to the authority of ecumenical councils and to synod A synod () is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word ...
, i. e., subjection to the authority of councils, such as
ecumenical council An ecumenical council (or oecumenical council; also general council) is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice in which those entitled to vote a ...
s,
Holy Synod In several of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, second-largest Christian church, with approximately 220 mil ...
s, and the former standing council, the Endemusa Synod. * The
Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Roman Catholic Church
understands herself as a single polity whose supreme earthly authority is the
Supreme Pontiff The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as supreme pontiff ( or ), Roman pontiff () or sovereign pontiff, is the bishop of Rome, head of the worldwide Catholic Church The Catholic Church ...
(Pope). * In
Anglicanism Anglicanism is a Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia * ...
the churches are autonomous, though the majority of members are organizationally united in the
Anglican Communion The Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion Communion may refer to: Religion * The Eucharist (also called the Holy Communion or Lord's Supper), the Christian rite involving the eating of bread and drinking of wine, re ...
, which has no governmental authority.


Plurality and singularity

''Plurality'' refers to systems of ecclesiastical polity wherein the local church's decisions are made by a committee, typically called elders. The system is in contrast to the "singularity" of episcopal polity systems as used in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches, or the pastor/president system of some
Protestant Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Reformation reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of , but disagree among themselves ...
churches. Plurality of elders is commonly encouraged, with variation of practice, among Presbyterians, some
Pentecostal Pentecostalism or classical Pentecostalism is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Reformation reje ...
churches, and
Churches of Christ Church may refer to: Religion * Church (building) A church building, church house, or simply church, is a building used for Christian worship services and other Christian religious activities. The term is used to refer to the physical build ...
, the
Disciples of Christ The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination in the United States and Canada. The denomination started with the Restoration Movement during the Second Great Awakening, first existing during the 19th ...
and the
Plymouth Brethren The Plymouth Brethren or Assemblies of brethren are a low church, Nonconformist (Protestantism), non-conformist, evangelical Christian movement whose history can be traced back to Dublin, Ireland, in the late 1820s, where they originated from Ang ...
(who employ congregational polity). The practice claims biblical precedent, acknowledging that churches in the time of the
New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus, as ...

New Testament
appear to all have had multiple elders. In the Church of England, two or more otherwise independent benifices may be 'held in ''plurality by a single priest.


See also

*
Hierarchy of the Catholic Church The hierarchy of the Catholic Church consists of its bishops A bishop is an ordained Ordination is the process by which individuals are Consecration, consecrated, that is, set apart and elevated from the laity class to the clergy, who are th ...
*
Organizational structure of Jehovah's Witnesses Jehovah's Witnesses Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination A Christian denomination is a distinct Religion, religious body within Christianity that comprises all Church (congregation), church congregatio ...
*
Polity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church The governance (polity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of institutionalized social relations, and have a capacity to mobilize resources. A polity c ...


References


Footnotes


Bibliography

* * * * * * *


Further reading

*
A study of religious authority (especially pp. 97–218) as well as the secular authority of the state. *
A study of the conflict and prestige of episcopal church authority with other forms of church polity as they affect inter-Christian relations and ecumenism. {{Authority control
Christian terminology Words or phrases used to refer to concepts associated with Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings o ...
Ecclesiastical polities