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{{redirect|Layman|the community|Layman, Ohio|the surname|Layman (surname)|the butterfly|Amauris albimaculata{{!}}Amauris albimaculata}}In religious organizations, the laity consists of all members who are not part of the clergy, usually including any non-ordained members of religious institutes, e.g. a nun or lay brother.Laity at the Catholic EncyclopediaWEB,weblink lay person â€” definition of lay person by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia,, 2014-06-24, A layperson (also layman or laywoman) is a person who is not qualified in a given profession and/or does not have specific knowledge of a certain subject.In Christian cultures, the term lay priest was sometimes used in the past to refer to a secular priest, a diocesan priest who is not a member of a religious institute.{{cn|date=November 2016}} The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints uses the term "Lay Priesthood" to emphasise that local congregational leaders are unpaid. Terms such as lay priest, lay clergy and lay nun were also once used in Buddhist cultures to indicate ordained persons who continued to live in the wider community instead of retiring to a monastery.


The word lay (part of layperson, etc.) derives from the Anglo-French lai, from Late Latin laicus, from the Greek λαϊκός, laikos, of the people, from λαός, laos, the people at large.The word laity means "common people" and comes from the Greek λαϊκός (laikos), meaning "of the people".{{Citation needed|date=May 2016}}Synonyms for layperson include: parishioner, believer, dilettante, (wikt:follower|follower), member, (wikt:neophyte|neophyte), novice, (wikt:outsider|outsider), proselyte, (wikt:Special:Search/recruit|recruit), secular, (wikt:laic|laic), layman, nonprofessional.WEB,weblink Layperson synonyms, Layperson antonyms,, 3 April 2015,

Everyday context

The phrase "layman's terms"BOOK, Autism & Asperger's Syndrome in Layman's Terms. Your Guide to Understanding Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Pdd-Nos and Other Autism Spectrum Disorders, Cranendonck Coaching, 9789789079391, is often used to refer to terms that apply to the everyday person, as can the term "layman" or "layperson" itself.NEWS, Baum, Caroline, A Layman’s Guide to the President's Jobs Speech: Caroline Baum,weblink 3 April 2015, Bloomberg, 8 September 2011, In English law, the phrase "the man on the Clapham omnibus" is sometimes used to describe a hypothetical person who is reasonably educated and intelligent but has no special expertise in a specific business or profession.

Christian laity

In the Catholic and the Anglican churches, anyone who is not ordained as a deacon, priest, or bishop is referred to as a layman or a laywoman. In many Catholic dioceses, due in part to the lack of ordained clergy, lay ecclesial ministers serve parishes and in the diocese as pastoral leaders, sometimes as de facto pastor in the absence of an ordained priest.

Catholic Church

The Second Vatican Council [1962–1965] devoted its decree on the apostolate of the laity Apostolicam actuositatem''Apostolicam actuositatem''. Retrieved on 2013-12-15. and chapter IV of its dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium to the laity in a sense narrower than that which is normal in the Catholic Church. The normal definition of laity is that given in the Code of Canon Law:{{Cquote|By divine institution, there are among the Christian faithful in the Church sacred ministers who in law are also called clerics; the other members of the Christian faithful are called lay persons.There are members of the Christian faithful from both these groups who, through the profession of the evangelical counsels by means of vows or other sacred bonds recognized and sanctioned by the Church, are consecrated to God in their own special way and contribute to the salvific mission of the Church; although their state does not belong to the hierarchical structure of the Church, it nevertheless belongs to its life and holiness.Code of Canon Law, canon 207. Retrieved on 2013-12-15.}}The narrower sense in which the Second Vatican Council gave instruction concerning the laity is as follows: {{Cquote|The term laity is here understood to mean all the faithful except those in holy orders and those in the state of religious life specially approved by the Church. These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.''Lumen gentium'', 31. Retrieved on 2013-12-15.}}In this narrower sense, the Council taught that the laity's specific character is secularity: they are Christians who live the life of Christ in the world. Their role is to sanctify the created world by directing it to become more Christian in its structures and systems: "the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God". The laity are full members of the Church, fully share in Church's purpose of sanctification, of "inner union of men with God",Catechism of the Catholic Church, 775. acting with freedom and personal responsibility and not as mere agents of the hierarchy. Due to their baptism, they are members of God's family, the Church, and they grow in intimate union with God, "in" and "by means" of the world. It is not a matter of departing from the world as the monks and the nuns do that they sanctify themselves; it is precisely through the material world sanctified by the coming of the God made flesh, i.e. made material, that they reach God. Doctors, mothers of a family, farmers, bank tellers, drivers, by doing their jobs in the world with a Christian spirit are already extending the Kingdom of God. According to the repeated statements of Popes and lay Catholic leaders, the laity should say "we are the Church," in the same way that the saints said that "Christ lives in me."WEB,weblink You are being redirected...,, Lay involvement takes diverse forms, including participation in the life of the parish, confraternities, lay apostolates, secular institutes, and lay ecclesial movements. There are also lay ecclesiastical ministries, and where there is a priest shortage, lay people have to take on some functions previously performed by priests.

Vatican II afterwards

In December 1977, “A Chicago Declaration of Christian Concern” was published. The declaration looked back a decade to the Vatican Council II with appreciation for its “compelling vision of lay Christians in society.” As the Declaration interpreted it, the Council viewed the laity's “special vocation” as being the “leaven” for the “sanctification of the world” in their “secular professions and occupations.” However, lamented the Declaration, the Council's vision has “all but vanished” from the church.The Declaration was signed by forty-seven clergy, religious, and laity that included men and women in many occupations, and it served as the charter for the National Center for the Laity (NCL)weblink The NCL helps lay Catholics respond to their call to change the world through their daily activities and regular responsibilities,WEB,weblink Catholic Review - Archdiocese of Baltimore, and it publishes a monthly online newsletter Initiatives: In Support of Christians in the World.weblinkInitiatives: In Support of Christians in the World (January 2015) rejoiced that “50 Years since Vatican II” the increased lay ministry in parishes has “brought fresh vitality.” However, the newsletter lamented “the neglect of formation for the lay apostolate in the world.” Pope Francis is quoted as confirming this lament. Priests “tends to clericalize the laity” and view their ministry as only “within the Church,” discounting their “workaday” ministryweblink{{Catholic laity}}


The Orthodox Church in America’s web site has eleven articles regarding its Theology of Lay Ministries.WEB,weblink Accessed January 4, 2015., The term “lay ministries” refers to all the “people of God” (from the Greek laos tou Theou) including the ordained.WEB,weblink Parish Ministry Resources - Ministry of People,, Thus, every Christian has a vocation to ministry. A minority are called to ecclesiastical ministries. The majority are called to serve God and their fellow human beings in some way in the “everyday secular world.”WEB,weblink Parish Ministry Resources - Finding One’s Vocation in Life,, The Orthodox Church's assertion that all Christians are “appointed” as ministers is based on Scripture (1 Peter 2:weblink and the Church Fathers. The ministry of the laity complements the ministry of the priest in their daily lives in their families, their communities, their work: “in whatever circumstances they find themselves.” The most important “lay ministry” can be done anonymously. What one's ministry is depends on the abilities of the person: “landscaping, carpentry, writing, counseling, child care, sports, music, teaching, or just being a good listener.”WEB,weblink Parish Ministry Resources - An Orthodox Vision of Lay Ministries,, The relation within the laity as the “people of God” between those who are ordained priests and those not ordained is one of cooperation in three areas: (1) in the Liturgy, (2) Church administration, and (3) service (ministry) to others.WEB,weblink Parish Ministry Resources - Lay Ministry - A Shared Responsibility,, WEB,weblink the definition of ministry,, In spite of the church's teaching about the ministry of the laity in the world, the church gives more recognition to ministry within the institutional church. The “daily ministry” of the laity in their work, in their homes, and in their recreation remains hidden. Priests may intend to support their parishioners’ daily ministry, but their priority tends to be recruiting volunteers for the church's programs.WEB,weblink Parish Ministry Resources - Ministry of Laity in Daily Life,,



Anyone who is not a bishop, priest, or deacon in the Church.WEB,weblink Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors, "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians" (Church Publishing Incorporated, 2000), s.v. “Lay Order.” Online at, In the Anglican tradition, all baptized persons are expected to minister in Christ's name. The orders of ministry are thus laypersons, deacons, priests, and bishops.WEB,weblink The Book of Common Prayer according to the use of The Episcopal Church, 1979 edition, 855. Online at,
The ministry of the laity is "to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church".The Book of Common Prayer according to the use of The Episcopal Church, 1979 edition 855. Online at Much of the ministry of the laity thus takes place outside official church structures in homes, workplaces, schools, and elsewhere. It is “through their continuous participation in political, economic, educational, and kinship institutions” that the laity “powerfully influence the character of these instututions.”Gerhard Lenski, The Religious Factor: A Sociological Study of Religion’s Impact on Politics, Economics, and Family Life'' (Anchor Books, 1963, rev. ed.), Section on “Religions Impact on Secular Institutions,” 342-344.Laymen also play important roles in the structures of the church. There are elected lay representatives on the various governing bodies of churches in the Anglican communion. In the Church of England, these governing bodies range from a local parochial church council, through Deanery Synods and Diocesan Synods. At the topmost level, the General Synod includes a house of Laity. Likewise, in the Episcopal Church in the USA, the General Convention includes four lay persons from each diocese in the House of Deputies, and each diocesan convention includes lay delegates from the parishes.WEB,weblink Governance Documents of the Church - The Archives of the Episcopal Church,, On the local parish level, lay persons are elected to a church council called a vestry which manages church finances and elects the parish rector.Parish musicians, bookkeepers, administrative assistants, sextons, sacristans, etc., are all roles normally filled by lay persons. At higher levels, diocesan and national offices rely on lay persons in many important areas of responsibility. Often specialized ministries as campus ministers, youth ministers, or hospital chaplains are performed by lay persons.Lay persons serve in worship services in a number of important positions, including vergers, acolytes, lectors, intercessors, ushers. Acolytes include torch bearers, crucifers, thurifers, and boat bearers. Lectors read the lessons from the Bible appointed for the day (except for the Gospel reading, which is read by a Deacon), and may also lead the Prayers of the People.Some specialized lay ministries require special licensing by the bishop: the ministries which require a license vary from province to province. In the Episcopal Church, there are six specialized lay ministries requiring a license: Pastoral Leader, Worship Leader, Preacher, Eucharistic Minister, Eucharistic Visitor, and Catechist.Canon 4, Title III, Constitution & Canons Together with the Rules of Order for the Government of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Adopted and Revised in General Convention, 2006


Lay servant ministry

A very early tradition of preaching in the Wesleyan / Methodist churches was for a lay preacher to be appointed to lead services of worship and preach in a group (called a 'circuit') of meeting places or churches. The lay preacher walked or rode on horseback in a prescribed circuit of the preaching places according to an agreed pattern and timing, and people came to the meetings. After the appointment of ministers and pastors, this lay preaching tradition continued with local preachers being appointed by individual churches, and in turn approved and invited by nearby churches, as an adjunct to the minister or during their planned absences.WEB,weblink Roots (1736–1816) – The United Methodist Church, United Methodist, Communications, The United Methodist Church, The United Methodist Church recognizes two types of lay ministries. One is a “Lay Servant Ministry” of (a) assisting or leading local church meetings and worship or of (b) serving as lay missioners to begin new work within the church that requires special training.“Lay Servant Ministry,” Part VI, Ch 1, Sec XI, ¶¶ 266-271 of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2012 (The United Methodist Publishing House, 2012). Online at The other type is the "Ministry of the Laity" in their daily lives.“The Ministry of All Christians,” Part IV, Sec II, ¶ 127, “The Ministry of the Laity,” 95 of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2012 (The United Methodist Publishing House, 2012). Online at cokesbury.comIn addition to being appointed by members of their local churches, Local and Certified Lay Speakers of the United Methodist Church (more commonly in the United States) attend a series of training sessions. These training sessions prepare the individual to become a leader within the church.WEB,weblink ”Certified Lay Minister” at Accessed January 1, 2015., All individuals who are full members of the church are laity, but some go on to become Lay Speakers. Some preachers get their start as Lay Speakers.WEB,weblink Methodist e-Academy - Training, Super, User,, In the Uniting Church in Australia, that was constituted in part from the Methodist Church, persons can be appointed:
  • by the congregation as a Lay Preacher; and/or
  • by the regional Presbytery to conduct Communion.
A well-known lay preacher was the late King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga.The comparable term in the Anglican and Episcopal churches is Lay Reader.

Ministry of the laity

The Methodist Book of Discipline describes the "Ministry of the Laity" in their daily lives as being “Christ-like examples of everyday living” and “sharing their own faith experiences.”“The Ministry of All Christians,” Part IV, Sec II, ¶ 127, “The Ministry of the Laity,” 95 of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2012 (The United Methodist Publishing House, 2012). Online at

Worship Leader

In the Methodist Church of Great Britain, a Worship Leader is a trained lay person appointed by a Church Council to "take a leading and significant role in the conduct of worship within the life of a Local Church".Constutitional Practice and Discipline of the Methodist Church, Book III: Standing Orders, section 68: Worship Leaders


Presbyterians do not use the term "lay". Thus the Church of Scotland has "Readers", men and women set apart by presbyteries to conduct public worship. This arises out of the belief in the priesthood of all believers. Ministers are officially 'teaching elders' alongside the 'ruling elders' of the Kirk Session and have equivalent status, regardless of any other office. In the Church of Scotland, as the Established church in Scotland, this gives ruling elders in congregations the same status as Queen's chaplains, professors of theology and other highly qualified ministers. All are humble servants of the people in the congregation and parish.Ministers are simply men and women whose gift is for their role in teaching and possibly pastoral work. They are thus selected for advanced theological education. All elders (teaching and ruling) in meetings of Session, Presbytery, or Assembly are subject to the Moderator, who may or may not be a minister but is always an elder.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Many leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are lay ministers. Essentially all male members above the age of 12 who are judged by church leaders to be in good standing are ordained to an office of the priesthood and hold various positions in the church. Most church positions at the local level are unpaid, but the LDS church helps with the living expenses of top church leaders and some others (e.g. mission presidents). Many top church leaders serve in these positions after long secular careers. With the exception of members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the First Quorum of the Seventy who are at the top of the church hierarchy, and patriarchs, all leadership positions are temporary.

Buddhist lay persons

In Buddhism, a layperson is known as an upasaka (masc.) or upasika (fem.). Buddhist laypeople take refuge in the Triple Gem (the Buddha, his teaching, and his community of noble disciples) and accept the Five Precepts (or the Eight Precepts) as rules for conduct.weblink" title="">7. The Five Precepts. buddhanet.netFive Precepts Dictionary | Global Oneness {{webarchive|url= |date=2013-12-15 }}. Retrieved on 2013-12-15. Laymen and laywomen are two of the "four assemblies" that comprise the Buddha's "Community of Disciples."In Chinese Buddhism, there are usually laypersons, who are depicted wearing a black robe and sometimes a brown sash, denoting that they received the five precepts.{{citation needed|date=May 2019}}

Faith at work

The movement to help laity apply their faith to daily life has been divided into three eras by David W. Miller in God at Work.Donald W. Miller, God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement (Oxford, 2006), Contents.
* The Social Gospel Era (c. 1890s—1945) * The Ministry of the Laity Era (c.1946—1985) * The Faith at Work Era (c. 1985—Present)

Social Gospel

The Social Gospel sought to reform society by the application of biblical principles. Its major proponents were all clergy: Washington Gladden, Charles Monroe Sheldon, and Walter Rauschenbusch. They were better in diagnosing society's ills than finding remedies.Ronald Cedric White, Charles Howard Hopkins, The Social Gospel: Religion and Reform in Changing America (Temple University, 1976). xviii. The Social Gospel reached its peak just prior to World War I, a war that contradicted its optimism about Christianizing society.WEB,weblink WorldViewEyes -> strauss-docs,, The Social Gospel was promulgated by the preaching, writing, and other efforts of clergy on behalf of the laity rather than by the laity themselves.WEB,weblink Religious Revival: The "Social Gospel" [],,, In the early 1930s, the Social Gospel was described as “a preacher's gospel. It has not been the church's gospel. The laity have little share in it." Many were not aware what their clergy believed.Charles C. Morrison The Social Gospel and The Christian Cultus, (Harper & Brothers, 1933), 42.Most scholars hold that the Social Gospel movement peaked between 1900 and World War I. There is less agreement about when and why the decline happened.Boundless. “The Social Gospel.” Boundless U.S. History. Boundless, 14 Nov. 2014. Retrieved 16 Jan. 2015 from

Ministry of the Laity

The Ministry of the Laity in daily life premise was stated by Howard Grimes WEB,weblink Lewis Howard Grimes, Biola University, in his The Rebirth of the Laity.“Although it is not alone through our daily work that we exercise our call, there is a special sense in which we do so in that area, since so much of our lives are spent in our occupations as lawyer, doctor, manual laborer, skilled craftsmen, housewife, domestic servant, student, serviceman.”Howard Grimes, The Rebirth of the Laity (Abingdon, 1962), 95.In 1988, Dean Reber of the Auburn Theological Seminary wrote a retrospective of the Ministry of the Laity era based on research and survey. His research participants were women and men in equal numbers, aged 20 to 60, from six denominations. Reber found that “all were really interested to link faith with their daily life and work.” However, in his survey, Reber found that little had been done in the six denominations to enable laity to make this link. He observed a “preoccupation with activities inside the church,” as well as a lack of literature and programs on the subject. For these reasons, attempts to link faith and daily life “fizzled out.”Robert E. Reber, “Vocation and Vision: a New Look at the Ministry of the Laity” in Religious Education: the official journal of the Religious Education Association, 83:3, 1988. 402-411.For Miller, “hindsight suggests that the institutional church and its leaders never fully embraced or understood lay ministry”. Therefore, they stopped promoting the “ministry of the laity” concept to their members.Donald W. Miller, God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement (Oxford University Press, USA, 2006), 47.

Faith at Work

Miller deems “Faith at Work” to be “a bona fide social movement and here to stay.”WEB,weblink God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement, search, results, 14 December 2006, Oxford University Press, Amazon, Unlike earlier movements, business people (from evangelical and mainline Protestant denominations, Roman Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, and unaffiliated) initiated the faith at work movement and support it because they want to connect their work and their faith. Management training often includes a faith dimension.Laura Nash and Scott McLennan, Church on Sunday, Work on Monday (Jossey-Bass, 2001), xxi-xxiv.Examples of various kinds of faith at work initiatives follow:
  • The Theology of Work Project is an independent international organization that produces materials for "workplace Christians" to teach them what the Bible and the Christian faith can contribute to ordinary work.WEB,weblink About - Theology of Work, Theology of, Work,,
  • The National Center for the Laity (NCL) grew out of the 1977 “A Chicago Declaration of Christian Concern.” It propagates the Second Vatican Council’s teaching about laity’s vocation as “daily work.”WEB,weblink Archived copy, 2015-01-18, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 2015-09-23, The NCL's primary voice is Initiatives: In Support of Christians in the World. In its January 2015 issue, Initiatives listed worldwide initiatives taken by laity in connecting faith and work.
  • C12 Group, offers training laced with Christian principles for CEO/Owners by monthly all-day meetings led by former CEOs. In its name, “C” stands for Christ, “12" stands for its ideal training group size. Group membership costs up to $1,450 per month. Some 1,500 Christian CEO/Owners belong to C12.WEB,weblink Home - C12 Group,,
  • The Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative develops resources regarding ethics and vocation at work. It disseminates its learnings by programs for students, academics, and leaders in the marketplace.WEB,weblink Accessed January 17, 2015.,
  • The Industrial Christian Fellowship helps its “members and others to live out their faith at their work” by research and publications.WEB,weblink Accessed December 16, 2015.,
  • The Christian Association of Business Executives (CABE) “exists to Inform, Inspire and Influence Christian business people from all church backgrounds and all types of business, as they seek to live out their faith day to day.”WEB,weblink Home - Christian Association of Business Executives, Christian Association of Business Executives,

Workplace as a mission field

Some faith at work initiatives focus not on work itself but on the workplace as a “mission field.” In this “business as missions” concept, faith at work means “reaching people for Christ in the marketplace,” people that career missionaries could not reach.WEB,weblink Archived copy, 2015-01-18, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 2015-01-18, WEB,weblink Businessmen view marketplace as mission field - Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,, For example, “Member Mission “teaches the baptized to see themselves as missionaries out in the world in each of their daily places”WEB,weblink About Member Mission, 6 May 2013,

See also



Further reading

Roman Catholic Theology of the Laity

  • Burkhart, Ernst and López Díaz, Javier (2010, 2011, 2013), Vida cotidiana y santidad en la enseñanza de san Josemaría, 3 vols., Madrid: Rialp
  • {{Citation|last = Congar|first = Yves Marie-Joseph|title = Lay people in the Church: a study for a theology of laity|year = 1957|publisher = Christian Classics|ISBN = 978-0870611148|location = Westminster}}
  • {{Citation|last = Daniélou|first = Jean Guenolé-Marie|title = Sainteté et action temporelle|language = French|publisher = Desclée|year = 1955|location = Paris-Tournai}}
  • {{Citation|last = Philips|first = G.|title = Le rôle du laïcat dans l'Église|language = French|year = 1954|location = Paris-Tournai}}
  • {{Citation|last = Spiazzi|first = Raimondo|title = La Missione dei Laici|language = Italian|location = Rome|year = 1951}}
  • Thils, G. (1946), Théologie des réalités terrestres, Paris.

External links

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