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What Are 'Clergymen'?

What Are 'Clergymen'?
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This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Ichiro in Japan. He writes:


Dear VOA, Japanese people don't understand Christian religious terms such as “religious leaders” “clergy” and “clergymen.” What are the differences?

-Ichiro, Japan


Hi Ichiro,

The terms “clergy” and “clergymen” are general and can describe any official leaders within established religions. “Clergymen” is plural and used when the leaders are men. “Clergywomen” is the plural form for women.

Within Christianity, there are several terms for the leadership roles. Many are less commonly known, even by some Christians.

Christianity is divided into several smaller sub-groups, or sects. Examples of Christian sects include Catholics, Baptists and Protestants.

Catholic church

The Catholic Church has a long list of religious leaders.

In Catholicism, priests are leaders who perform religious services, such as worship services, and ceremonies.

In fact, all clergy in the Catholic church, including priests, bishops and deacons, are permitted to give sermons, or religious speeches. They also can lead worship and perform religious ceremonies, such as marriages and funerals.

The highest leader in the Catholic church is the pope, who lives in the Vatican, an independent city-state inside Rome, Italy. The current pope is Pope Francis.

Baptist, Protestant churches

Baptist and Protestant churches have far fewer leaders than the Catholic Church.

They call their main religious leader any of three names – “pastor” “minister” or “reverend.” This person leads church services, performs religious ceremonies, and gives spiritual or religious guidance to church members.

There is, however, one role common to Catholics, Baptists, and Protestants. It is that of “deacon.” Deacons have a lower status than a church’s main religious leader. They are considered “servant leaders” and help carry out the duties of priests and pastors. They are also expected to build a relationship with the local church community.

And that’s Ask a Teacher for this week.

I’m Alice Bryant.

Alice Bryant wrote this lesson for Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.


Words in This Story

Plural - adj. relating to a form of a word that refers to more than one person or thing

Role - n. a part that someone or something has in a particular activity or situation

Worship - n. to show respect and love for God or for a god especially by praying, having religious services, etc.

Status - n. the position or rank of someone or something when compared to others in a society, organization, group, etc.