Christian Cyclopedia

About the Cyclopedia


(from Gk. hieros, “holy,” and arche, “rule”). The word “hierarchy” may refer to the graded organization of angels (see Dionysius the Areopagite, 2), but usually denotes the organization of the clergy.* Since pre-Reformation times the RC Ch. has had a hierarchy of order (or orders) and a hierarchy of jurisdiction. The hierarchy of order consists of 3 orders usually considered of divine origin (bishop,* priest,* deacon*) and 5 orders usually considered of ecclesiastical origin (subdeacon, acolyte, exorcist, lector, doorkeeper [also called ostiary or porter]); the 1st 4 are major, or holy, orders; the last 4 are minor. The hierarchy of jurisdiction, charged with the gen. guidance and control of the ch., consists of 2 degrees claimed to be of divine origin (primacy of the Roman Pontiff and the episcopate) and many other degrees of ecclesiastical origin (e.g., that of cardinal, patriarch, primate, metropolitan, vicar, apostolic, and prefect apostolic).

The Angl. Ch. retained only the hierarchical order of bp., priest, and deacon as of divine origin.

In Lutheranism a hierarchy is not considered necessary for the existence of the ch. The Luth. Ch. does not recognize the pope as head of the ch. by divine right. Luths. believe that the ch. can exist without bps. (as distinct from other pastors). The power of order (to preach the Gospel, remit sins, and administer the Sacraments) and the power of jurisdiction (to excommunicate) belongs by divine right to all who preside over the chs., whether they are called pastors, presbyters, or bps., and all pastors may administer ordination by divine right (Tractatus, 60, 61, 65, 74; AC XXVIII 20–22; Ap XXVIII 13). There is no essential, divinely-appointed difference in rank bet. pastor and bp. But Luths. recognize the value of ordered ranks in the clergy. “It is not our intention that the bishops give up their power to govern, but we ask … that they allow the Gospel to be taught purely” (AC XXVIII 77); “[it is] our deep desire to maintain the church polity and various ranks of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, although they were created by human authority [and] to keep the ecclesiastical and canonical polity” (Ap XIV 1, 5). Luths. also regard the distinction bet. bp. (or pastor) and deacon as Biblical (AC XXIII 10; Ap XIII 12 Ger. tr.).

The Swed. Ch. maintains hist. episcopacy, though admitting that it is not of the essence of the ch. EFP

See also Apostolic Succession; Gallicanism; Ministerial Office; Polity, Ecclesiastical; Ultramontanism.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
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Content Reproduced with Permission

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