Laity as Teachers


I am told that the Laity cannot teach that only the priest can teach. I have read several good Orthodox books by Orthodox folks who are not priests and they do indeed teach. In fact, they teach very well. How can this be?


I am totally unfamiliar with the idea that only the priest can teach.

At St Vladimir’s Seminary, Prof. John Erickson and Dr Albert Rossi are several of the lay teachers. The recently-departed Dr John Boojamra, as well as Dr Constance Tarasar, also taught/teach at the seminary. At St. Tikhon’s Seminary, Drs David & Mary Ford have provided stellar instruction as well.

It is also quite possible for individuals who have no intention of being ordained—including women—to attend our seminaries in order to prepare themselves to teach within the Church. On the parish level, it is the norm in most parishes for laypersons to teach Church School, and in many cases well educated lay persons lead Bible studies, adult discussion groups, etc. as needs may dictate.

What does need to be avoided, of course, is placing poorly educated laypersons in teaching positions. Perhaps what you heard is that the laity cannot “preach” rather than “teach,” although there are exceptions to this, while far less common.


What does it mean, specifically, that the laity are the guardians of the faith?

I read this in the Orthodox book, 455 Questions Answered.


Since I have not seen the portion of the book to which you refer, I cannot answer this out of context.

One of the problems is speaking of “laity” is that the English word comes from the Greek “laos”—specifically “laos tou Theou” or “People of God”—which refers to all members of the Church, not just to the ordained clergy. If by his statement the author is referring to the “People of God” collectively, it would have a somewhat different meaning than if the author is defining the term “laity” as “unordained persons.”

It is the Bishop who is the guardian of the faith; by extension, with his blessing, the faithful, clergy and lay alike, are also expected to preserve the integrity of the faith by their lives, their example, and their involvement in and enthusiasm for the faith community.


As a Christian am I not to preach the gospel to the whole world as Jesus commanded us when he ascended into heaven?


If by “preaching” here you refer to delivering a formal sermon or homily during the course of a liturgical service, this is generally not the function of those who are not ordained. There are examples of lay preachers, but these are somewhat rare—and a lay preacher can only do so with the blessing of the bishop, for valid reasons, and out of recognition of the individual’s special gifts.

” Preaching” and “teaching” are not the same thing, and preaching—the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and the invitation and challenge to live the Gospel to our daily lives—is generally regarded as the prerogative of those who were ordained for this.