The Holy Spirit preserved the continuity of the Church through the Sacrament of Holy Ordination. Through ordination, men who have been chosen from within the Church are set apart by the Church for special service to the Church. Each is called by God through His people to stand amid the community, as pastor and teacher, and as the representative of the parish before the Altar. Each is also a living icon of Christ among His people.
According to Orthodox teaching, the process of ordination begins with the local congregation; but the bishop alone, who acts in the name of the universal Church, can complete the action. He does so with the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the imposition of his hands on the person being ordained. Following the custom of the Apostolic Church, there are three major orders each of which requires a special ordination.
These are Bishop, who is viewed as a successor of the Apostles, Priest and Deacon, who act in the name of the Bishop. Each order is distinguished by its pastoral responsibilities. Only a Bishop may ordain. Bishops ordain priests and deacons and three bishops are required to ordain a fellow bishop.
Often, other titles and offices are associated with the three orders. The Orthodox Church permits men to marry before they are ordained. Both priests and deacons may chose either celibacy or married life, however bishops are selected from only the celibate priests of a church. All three clergy are necessary for a vibrant church community, and all three are charged with performing the saving work of Jesus Christ in this life.