Throughout the years I’ve had many people ask me about the differences between a Priest and a Pastor. This is a difficult question because there are several interrelated strands…. Most people aren’t interested in the historical or theological intricacies. Rather, I find most people are interested in practical differences.
Here is a simple question that might help to frame the issue: What’s the difference between a President and a King? Both of these titles distinguish a person who rules but the structure behind these titles and their roles include differences. For example, a King may employ a president (lower-case) to enforce different offices. It works the same way with a Priest and a Pastor. Both titles denote a person who leads in some spiritual sense but the systems and functions have nuances that modify the duties and perception of the position.
Within Christendom, often Protestants call their spiritual leaders “Pastor” whereas Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox adherents call their spiritual leaders “Priest”. However, there are instances when these two terms are used interchangeably.
For example, Anglican or Episcopal Priests can be married and have children but Roman Catholic Priests usually cannot. Hence, both are called Priests but because they belong to different traditions, their positions are different. Think of French fries and potato wedges…..
Here are some quick snippets:
- Pastors do not have a standardized ordination process unless they are members of a specific denomination (Presbyterian/Lutheran/Methodist…etc); Priests do have a standardized ordination process.
- Pastors may get married; Roman Catholic Priests cannot but Anglican and Eastern Orthodox can.
- Pastors may have children; Priests cannot but Anglican and Eastern Orthodox can.
- Pastors may dress in any appropriate manner; Priests wear the clerical apparel.
Obviously this blog is not exhaustive but this question is certainly bigger than a blog posting. Here is a blog that goes into more detail: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/blackwhiteandgray/2012/01/what%E2%80%99s-the-difference-between-a-pastor-and-a-priest/