The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United Kingdom and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject.(June 2017)
A priest in charge or priest-in-charge (previously also curate-in-charge) in the Church of England is a priest in charge of a parish who is not its incumbent. Such priests are not legally responsible for the churches and glebe, but simply hold a licence rather than the freehold and are not appointed by advowson.
The appointment of priests in charge rather than incumbents (one who does receive the temporalities of an incumbent) is sometimes done when parish reorganisation is taking place or to give the bishop greater control over the deployment of clergy.
Legally, priests in charge are temporary curates , as they have only spiritual responsibilities. Even though they lead the ministry in their parishes, their legal status is little different from assistant curates. However, the term priest in charge has come to be used because the term curate often refers to an assistant curate, who is usually a priest recently ordained who is not in charge of a parish — although it is quite possible for a priest previously beneficed to return to a curacy, sometimes as a matter of choice. The stipend of a priest in charge is often the equivalent to that of an incumbent, and so they are sometimes referred to as having incumbent status.
Incumbents include vicars and rectors.
In the Church of Ireland, priests in charge are referred to as bishop's curates.
A parish is a territorial entity in many Christian denominations, constituting a division within a diocese. A parish is under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of a priest, often termed a parish priest, who might be assisted by one or more curates, and who operates from a parish church. Historically, a parish often covered the same geographical area as a manor. Its association with the parish church remains paramount.
A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities. Their office or position is the 'priesthood', a term which also may apply to such persons collectively. A priest may have the duty to hear confessions periodically, give marriage counseling, provide prenuptial counseling, give spiritual direction, teach catechism, or visit those confined indoors, such as the sick in hospitals and nursing homes.
A vicar is a representative, deputy or substitute; anyone acting "in the person of" or agent for a superior. Linguistically, vicar is cognate with the English prefix "vice", similarly meaning "deputy". The title appears in a number of Christian ecclesiastical contexts, but also as an administrative title, or title modifier, in the Roman Empire. In addition, in the Holy Roman Empire a local representative of the emperor, perhaps an archduke, might be styled "vicar".
A curate is a person who is invested with the care or cure (cura) of souls of a parish. In this sense, "curate" means a parish priest; but in English-speaking countries the term curate is commonly used to describe clergy who are assistants to the parish priest. The duties or office of a curate are called a curacy.
A pastor is the leader of a Christian congregation who also gives advice and counsel to people from the community or congregation. In Lutheranism, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, pastors are always ordained. In Methodism, pastors may be either licensed or ordained.
A benefice or living is a reward received in exchange for services rendered and as a retainer for future services. The Roman Empire used the Latin term beneficium as a benefit to an individual from the Empire for services rendered. Its use was adopted by the Western Church in the Carolingian Era as a benefit bestowed by the crown or church officials. A benefice specifically from a church is called a precaria, such as a stipend, and one from a monarch or nobleman is usually called a fief. A benefice is distinct from an allod, in that an allod is property owned outright, not bestowed by a higher authority.
A churchwarden is a lay official in a parish or congregation of the Anglican Communion or Catholic Church, usually working as a part-time volunteer. In the Anglican tradition, holders of these positions are ex officio members of the parish board, usually called a vestry, parochial church council, or in the case of a Cathedral parish the chapter.
The ecclesiastical title of archpriest or archpresbyter belongs to certain priests with supervisory duties over a number of parishes. The term is most often used in Eastern Orthodoxy and the Eastern Catholic Churches and may be somewhat analogous to a monsignor, vicar forane or dean in the Latin Church, but in the Eastern churches an archpriest wears an additional vestment and, typically, a pectoral cross, and becomes an archpriest via a liturgical ceremony.
A dean, in an ecclesiastical context, is a cleric holding certain positions of authority within a religious hierarchy. The title is used mainly in the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and many Lutheran denominations. A dean's assistant is called a sub-dean.
A parson is an ordained Christian person responsible for a small area, typically a parish. The term was formerly often used for some Anglican clergy and, more rarely, for ordained ministers in some other churches. It is no longer a formal term denoting a specific position within Anglicanism, but has some continued historical and colloquial use.
In Christianity, the term secular clergy refers to deacons and priests who are not monastics or otherwise members of religious life. A secular priest is a priest who commits themselves to a certain geographical area and is ordained into the service of the citizens of a diocese, a church administrative region. That includes serving the everyday needs of the people in parishes, but their activities are not limited to that of their parish.
An assistant bishop in the Anglican Communion is a bishop appointed to assist a diocesan bishop.
In the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion as well as some Lutheran denominations, a rural dean is a member of clergy who presides over a "rural deanery" ; "ruridecanal" is the corresponding adjective. In some Church of England dioceses rural deans have been formally renamed as area deans.
In English ecclesiastical law, the term incumbent refers to the holder of a Church of England parochial charge or benefice. The term "benefice" originally denoted a grant of land for life in return for services. In church law, the duties were spiritual ("spiritualities") and some form of assets to generate revenue were permanently linked to the duties to ensure the support of the office holder. Historically, once in possession of the benefice, the holder had lifelong tenure unless he failed to provide the required minimum of spiritual services or committed a moral offence. With the passing of the "Pastoral Measure 1968" and subsequent legislation, this no longer applies, and many ancient benefices have been joined into a single new one.
The Anglican ministry is both the leadership and agency of Christian service in the Anglican Communion. "Ministry" commonly refers to the office of ordained clergy: the threefold order of bishops, priests and deacons. More accurately, Anglican ministry includes many laypeople who devote themselves to the ministry of the church, either individually or in lower/assisting offices such as lector, acolyte, sub-deacon, Eucharistic minister, cantor, musicians, parish secretary or assistant, warden, vestry member, etc. Ultimately, all baptized members of the church are considered to partake in the ministry of the Body of Christ.
Perpetual curate was a class of resident parish priest or incumbent curate within the United Church of England and Ireland. The term is found in common use mainly during the first half of the 19th century. The legal status of perpetual curate originated as an administrative anomaly in the 16th century. Unlike ancient rectories and vicarages, perpetual curacies were supported by a cash stipend, usually maintained by an endowment fund, and had no ancient right to income from tithe or glebe.
A parish church in the Church of England is the church which acts as the religious centre for the people within each Church of England parish.
Vicar is a title given to certain parish priests in the Church of England and other Anglican churches. It has played a significant role in Anglican church organisation in ways that are different from other Christian denominations. The title is very old and arises from the medieval arrangement where priests were appointed either by a secular lord, by a bishop or by a religious foundation. Historically, but no longer, vicars share a benefice with a rector to whom the great tithes were paid. Vicar derives from the Latin vicarius meaning a substitute.
The parish with its parish church(es) is the basic territorial unit of the Church of England. The parish has its roots in the Roman Catholic Church and survived the English Reformation largely untouched. Each is within one of 42 dioceses: divided between the thirty of the Canterbury and the twelve of that of York. There are around 12,500 Church of England parishes. Historically, in England and Wales, the parish was the principal unit of local administration for both church and civil purposes; that changed in the 19th century when separate civil parishes were established. Many Church of England parishes still align, fully or in part, with civil parishes boundaries.
A rector is, in an ecclesiastical sense, a cleric who functions as an administrative leader in some Christian denominations. In contrast, a vicar is also a cleric but functions as an assistant and representative of an administrative leader.