Laity

(Gr. laos, “people”). In the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches and in High Anglicanism a sharp distinction is drawn between clergy and laity who owe them allegiance and depend on them for guidance and help. Evangelicals find this division unknown in the primitive church and, as they regard the ultimate authoritative ministry as that of the risen Lord and all Christian people as dependent on and sharing in the same, they would include the church's ministry within the laos, assigning to it, with varying degrees of emphasis, a functional and representative role. During the last twenty years, theologians within the mainstream churches have been much concerned to elevate the position of the laity and have paid some heed to the evangelicals' contention.