Clerical Titles and Precedence
By B. D. Kennedy, B.A., M.Div., Th.M., B.Ed.
Protodeacon, Eparchy of Toronto, UGCC

Clerical titles can fall under the following categories:

  • Title of order
  • Title of rank
  • Title of office
  • Title of address

Title of Order
Every cleric upon ordination receives a title. This title refers to the order conferred, e.g. lector, subdeacon, deacon, priest, or bishop. Such a title is connected to a place. One is either a deacon of an eparchy or a hierodeacon of a particular monastery or monastic community. Bishops are forbidden to ordain candidates without such a title. A title of ordination reads as follows: Ivan Bodnar, Deacon of the Eparchy of Toronto. The cleric by this title is incardinated into a local church. Thus the title of ordination implies both duties that the cleric owes the eparchy and duties that the eparchy has in regard to the cleric.
Titles of Rank
These titles determine precedence, liturgical and otherwise, among clerics, e.g. archbishops precede bishops. Among deacons the titles of rank in order of ascending precedence are deacon, hierodeacon, protodeacon and archdeacon. Note that monastic deacons precede eparchial deacons according to the Byzantine tradition. This is unlike precedence in the Roman tradition where the diocesan clergy precede monastic clergy. Precedence is also determined by date of ordination. For example Deacon Ivan who was ordained in July of 1982 precedes Deacon Gregory who was ordained in September of 1982. However, Protodeacon Thomas who was ordained deacon in October of 1983 and protodeacon in November of 1997 precedes both Deacon Gregory and Deacon Ivan.
Precedence serves to keep good order in liturgical services and helps to avoid idiosyncratic preferences.
Titles of Office
Offices such as pastor, pastoral vicar, rector, chaplain, dean (protopresbyter), consultor, syncellus, protosyncellus, judicial vicar or adjutant judicial vicar, require the candidate to be in priest’s orders. A deacon may serve as chancellor, assistant chancellor, notary, oeconomos/treasurer, archivist, teller, secretary of the patriarchal synod, eparchial judge, assessor, auditor, promoter of justice, or defender of the bond. These offices that may be held by a deacon do not confer precedence. It should be noted that the offices, that a deacon may hold do not bring to the office holder jurisdiction, except in a very limited sense in regards to the office of eparchial judge.
Jurisdiction in some offices does determine precedence. For example, the dean (protopresbyter) has liturgical precedence over the other priests of the deanery when he acts as dean. The pastor of a parish has liturgical precedence over the other priests of the parish and the protosyncellus has liturgical precedence over all the priests of the eparchy. This is a juridical precedence rather than one of liturgical rank, such as an archdeacon has over the other hierodeacons of a monastery or the protodeacon over the other deacons of an eparchy.