Eastern Orthodox Church Hierarchy

It is a well known phenomenon that the unity in the Eastern Orthodoxy is not of a very high degree, mainly in the North America. There is a discrepancy over the appointment of the metropolitans. But there is more or less consensus on the order and most orthodox Christians recognize the titles within the order and a negligible few are of a little different order.

The three major orders in the Orthodoxy are: Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons. The two minor orders are: Subdeacon and Reader. Initially there were other sub orders like the exorcists, doorkeepers and acolytes but are not applicable any more.

Eastern Orthodox Church HierarchyThe Major Orders are Sub-Divided into:


  • Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople

He is the first in order among all Orthodox Bishops; he is often considered equal to an archbishop in multiple traditions and varies in honour. He is considered a special patriarch.

  • Patriarch

He is a bishop who heads the ethnic or ancient church.

  • Archbishop

He is the head of the capital city or the Orthodox country.

  • Metropolitan

He is the head of a large city or a diocese.

  • Bishop

He oversees a special community of Orthodox church Christians or a diocese and possesses complete priesthood. He also proclaims clergy and is selected only from the monastic priests.

  • Titular Bishop

He is an assistant to a Bishop and is not in complete charge of a city.

Priest / Presbyter

  • Archimandrite

The monastic priests are awarded this title of honour. It was originally meant to be a supervisory abbot selected over and above others but recently is more of an honorary title. The archimandrites are only eligible to be assigned as Bishops.

  • Protopriest / Protopresbyter

This is a titular honour given only to the non-monastic priests and it means “first elder”.

  • Archpriest

This is again a title of honour given to the non-monastic priests and is placed over many parishes.

  • Hieromonk

He is a destined priest better known as a “priest monk”.

  • Presbyter / Priest

He is an elderly person, ordained and manages the sacraments.


  • Protodeacon

Literally meaning “first servant” this is a titular honour awarded to non-monastic deacons.

  • Archdeacon

He is a senor deacon in a diocese and is in charge of serving the hierarchical services. Normally he is always with the bishop.

  • Hierodeacon

He is a deacon monk and who has been ordained as a deacon.

  • Deacon

He is an ordained servant and one who assists the priests to administer the sacraments.

The Minor Orders

A subdeacon aids the bishop or the priest in multiple ways but never with the administration of the sacraments. He is not ordained during Divine Liturgy but is allotted other roles like the Reader. The subdeacons can be married and are not enforced by the canon laws. It is totally upto them to maintain celibacy or not.

Ordained by the bishop a reader is asked to read in the religious services of the church and the Divine Liturgy. The role was developed in the earlier days when there was low literacy rates to promote learning.