Priest-in-Charge

The Dean of the National Cathedral has recently announced his intention to leave Washington and return to Trinity Church Boston, where he was rector for 12 years; the Dean’s new position will be, “priest-in-charge.” The Rector of St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York has recently announced his intention to retire in January, 2012; his second-in-command will then become “priest-in-charge” of the parish.

In both cases, the priest-in-charge has the right eventually to be appointed (or re-appointed) rector–a privilege denied to “interim rectors” and other clergy who guide parishes in transition. Yet the fact that this title has emerged as a new name for clergy leaders may be a sign of the pressures congregational leaders now face.

Not long ago, there were rectors and deans, and curates and canons, and that was it. (I have held all of these titles except dean, though I was once an “interim dean.”) Now diverse leadership titles proliferate, perhaps to help clergy and parish cope with the difficulties of church management in our time. —J. Douglas Ousley

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