List of current Christian leaders
The following is a current list of the highest-ranking leaders in major Christian churches or denominations. The list is in descending order based on the number of congregants. Data on numbers of adherents are based on church membership.
- 1 Catholic Church
- 2 Eastern Orthodox Churches
- 2.1 Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
- 2.2 Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria
- 2.3 Patriarch of Antioch
- 2.4 Patriarch of Jerusalem
- 2.5 Patriarch of Moscow
- 2.6 Catholicos-Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church
- 2.7 Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church
- 2.8 Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church
- 2.9 Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church
- 3 Oriental Orthodox Churches
- 4 Church of the East
- 5 Old Catholic Church
- 6 Anglican Communion
- 7 Other
- 7.1 Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance
- 7.2 President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches
- 7.3 President of the World Methodist Council
- 7.4 President of the Lutheran World Federation
- 7.5 Chairman of the Pentecostal World Fellowship
- 7.6 President of the Baptist World Alliance
- 7.7 President of the Southern Baptist Convention
- 7.8 President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- 7.9 Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, Inc.
- 7.10 General of The Salvation Army
- 7.11 Community of Christ
- 7.12 Patriarch of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church
- 7.13 President of the Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States
- 8 References
The reigning Pope is Pope Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013. As Bishop of Rome the Pope is the earthly head of the Roman Catholic Church and is considered by Roman Catholics to be the successor of Simon Peter. The Pope is also sovereign of the Vatican City State.
Peter was the most prominent of the Twelve Apostles, and according to the Petrine primacy doctrine, he was distinguished by Christ to hold the first place of honor and authority among the Apostles. As Peter is traditionally regarded the first bishop of Rome, the Papal primacy doctrine of Catholics states that this primacy extends in perpetuity to the Pope and throughout the Catholic Church.
Eastern Catholic Churches
- Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church: Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk
- Syro-Malabar Catholic Church: Major Archbishop George Alencherry
- Syro-Malankara Catholic Church: Major Archbishop Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos
- Maronite Church: Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi
- Melkite Greek-Catholic Church: Patriarch Gregory III Laham
- Romanian Greek-Catholic Church: Major Archbishop Lucian Mureșan
- Ruthenian Catholic Church: Metropolitan William C. Skurla
- Armenian Catholic Church: Patriarch Nersès Bédros XIX Tarmouni
- Chaldean Church: Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako
- Hungarian Greek Catholic Church: Bishop Péter Fülöp Kocsis
- Slovak Greek Catholic Church: Metropolitan Ján Babjak
- Ethiopian Catholic Church: Archbishop Berhaneyesus Souraphiel
- Coptic Catholic Church: Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak
- Syriac Catholic Church: Patriarch Mar Ignatius Joseph III Yonan
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
The Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I is the spiritual leader and bishop of well over 250–300 million Orthodox Christians. Though the Ecumenical Patriarch is not considered to be the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, his position does carry authorities that places him as the leader de facto of the Church, although his position is not at all equivalent to that of the Pope of Roman Catholicism. His official rank is primus inter pares (first among equals). The title "Ecumenical Patriarch" is a title that is exclusive and specific to the Patriarch of Constantinople and distinguishes the position, role, and responsibility of the office within the broad family of the fourteen autocephalous or self-governing Orthodox Churches around the world.
He presides in person or through a delegate over any council of Orthodox primates and/or bishops in which he takes part and serves as primary spokesman for the Orthodox communion, especially in ecumenical contacts with other Christian denominations. He has no direct jurisdiction over the other patriarchs or the other autocephalous Orthodox churches, but he alone among his fellow-primates enjoys the right of convening extraordinary synods consisting of them and/or their delegates to deal with ad hoc situations. His chief function as leader is as the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the protector of orthodoxy in church.
Additionally, because of his work and the work of his predecessor, Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios, who established September 1 as the day for the protection of the environment, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has also been called the "Green Patriarch".
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria
Patriarch Theodore II has the title Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, and as such, has been the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Africans since 2004. The church is one of the autocephalous Orthodox churches, ranking second in order of seniority after Constantinople.
Patriarch of Antioch
Patriarch John X has the title Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, and as such, has been the spiritual leader of the Antiochian Orthodox Church since 2012. His see is based in Damascus. The church is one of the autocephalous Orthodox churches, ranking third in order of seniority after the two churches listed above.
Patriarch of Jerusalem
Patriarch Theophilos III has the title Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, Syria, beyond the Jordan River, Cana of Galilee, and Holy Zion, and as such, has been the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox in the Levant since 2005. The church is one of the autocephalous Orthodox churches, ranking fourth in order of seniority after the three churches listed above.
Patriarch of Moscow
The Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill I of Moscow is the spiritual leader and bishop of well over 100 million Christians. As patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest autocephalous Christian church of Eastern Orthodoxy and the second largest after the Roman Catholic Church, the Patriarch of Moscow has direct leadership of the largest church in Asia and the Eastern World. The Church is one of the autocephalous Orthodox churches, ranking fifth in order of seniority after the four churches listed above.
Catholicos-Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church
Patriarch Ilia II has the title Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, and as such, has been the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Georgians since 1977. The church is one of the autocephalous Orthodox churches, ranking sixth in order of seniority after the five churches listed above.
Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church
Patriarch Neofit since 24 February 2013. His full title is His Holiness Neofit, Patriarch of Bulgaria and Metropolitan of Sofia. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is the oldest autocephalous Slavic Orthodox Church in the world, which was added to the Pentarchy of the original Patriarchates - those of Rome (i.e., the Roman Catholic Papacy), Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem - and the autocephalous Georgian Catholicosate.
Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church
Patriarch Irinej is the 45th Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Serbs, since 22 January 2010. His full title is His Holiness the Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Serbian Patriarch Irinej. Between 1975 and 2010, he served as the Bishop of Niš.
The church is one of the autocephalous Orthodox churches, ranking seventh in order of seniority after the six churches listed above. It is the second oldest Slavic Orthodox Church in the world (after the Bulgarian Orthodox Church), as well as the westernmost Eastern church in Europe. It exercises jurisdiction over Orthodox Christians in Serbia and surrounding Slavic and other lands, as well as exarchates and patriarchal representation churches around the world. The Patriarch of Serbia serves as first among equals in his church.
Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church
The Romanian Orthodox Church is the second largest autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church after the Russian Orthodox Church. The Patriarch of Romania is responsible for oversight of the entire territory of Romania for the Eastern Orthodox communion along with surrounding territories such as Moldova and Hungary.
Oriental Orthodox Churches
Pope of Alexandria
Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria is the 118th Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. He also holds the title Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Apostolic See of Saint Mark the Evangelist and is the spiritual leader of more than 16 million Copts.
Patriarch of Antioch
Ignatius Aphrem II Karim is the 123nd reigning Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, he presides over the entire Syriac Orthodox Church. He was enthroned at St. Ephrem's Monastery, Maarat Saidnaya, on 29 May 2014 in a ceremony overseen by Baselios Thomas I, succeeding Ignatius Zakka I Iwas.
Catholicos of Armenia
Catholicos of the East
Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II is the 91st Catholicos of the East in the lineage of Apostle Thomas in the Indian Orthodox Church; 8th Catholicos after its reinstatement in India and 20th Malankara Metropolitan. Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II is currently seated in the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas as the Catholicos of the East.
Patriarch of Ethiopia
The church of Ethiopia is the largest church in Africa, the largest of the Oriental Orthodox churches, the second largest Eastern church (after the church of Russia), and the third largest autocephalous church in the world. The Patriarch of the Church is the Archbishop of Axum, who presides over the see of Tekle Haymanot.
Patriarch of Eritrea
Abune Dioskoros is the 4th Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, though the legitimacy of his assumption of office has been questioned due to his predecessor Abune Antonios being removed from office, which is largely seen as non-canonical, for criticizing the civil government.
The church of Eritrea was recognized as an autochephalous church by the then Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church after Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The means of this movement was criticized by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, though the separation has been accepted.
Church of the East
Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East
After the assassination of Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, the Church of the East had an urgent need to restore its leadership. In 1976, the prelates of the church convened in London to elect a new Catholicos Patriarch and chose Dinkha as the most qualified candidate to fill the post. Once consecrated, Mar Dinkha IV became the 106th successor to the Apostolic See of Seleucia-Ctesiphon.
The Patriarchate is currently in exile in Chicago, Illinois.
Catholicos-Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East
The current Catholicos-Patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East is Mar Addai II Giwargis. The Ancient Church of the East is a result of a schism within the Assyrian Church of the East due to the changing of the liturgical calendar from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar. The see of Seleucia-Ctesiphon is currently located in Baghdad, Iraq.
Old Catholic Church
Archbishop of Utrecht and Primate
The Old Catholic Archbishop of Utrecht is Joris Vercammen, the principal leader of the Union of Utrecht. The Old Catholic Church is a result of a schism with the Roman Catholic Church over the issue of Papal infallibility. The Old Catholic Church is in full communion with the Anglican Communion.
As a primate of the Old Catholic Church in communion with the see of Utrecht, he is considered first among equals though he does not have jurisdictional authority.
Prime Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church
The Prime Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church, Anthony Mikovsky is the principal leader of the Union of Scranton. The Polish National Catholic Church left the Union of Utrecht over the issue of the ordination of women.
The Monarch of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II, is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England which places her as the titular leader of approximately 13 million Anglican Christians. She is one of two Christian leaders to be a head of state, the other being the Pope. English and British monarchs have held this position in the Church of England since 1534 when Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church.
Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is the principal leader of the Anglican Communion which makes him a spiritual leader of about 77 million Christians. In most contexts however, the Archbishop of Canterbury is considered just the spiritual leader of the Church of England, with about 13 million.
As Primate of the Church of England and the bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury, the see that churches must be in communion with in order to be a part of the Anglican Communion, he is the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Also known as First Among Equals, he leads through example and persuasion but has no legal jurisdiction outside England.
Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance
President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches
President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches Jerry Pillay oversees what is currently recognized as the third largest Christian communion after the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
President of the World Methodist Council
President of the Lutheran World Federation
Although the president does not have any jurisdiction outside of his own regional church, as president of the LWF he oversees the meetings of the leaders of other regional churches. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and interfaith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work.
Chairman of the Pentecostal World Fellowship
President of the Baptist World Alliance
President of the Baptist World Alliance John Upton oversees the Alliance of Baptist churches and organizations around the world.
President of the Southern Baptist Convention
President of the Southern Baptist Convention is Rev. Fred Luter Jr.
President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Thomas Spencer Monson (born August 21, 1927) is the 16th and current President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). As president, Monson is considered by adherents of the religion to be a "prophet, seer, and revelator" of God's will on earth. Members of the church consider him to be God's spokesperson to his people on earth. Monson succeeded the previous church president, Gordon B. Hinckley, on February 3, 2008. As of October 2013, church membership stands at more than 15 million worldwide.
Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, Inc.
Charles E. Blake Sr of Los Angeles, CA is the Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle of the Church of God in Christ, Inc. COGIC founded by Bishop C.H. Mason in 1907. He assumed (interim) the post on the death of the his predecessor, Gilbert Earl Patterson in 2007. He was elected to complete the unexpired term of his predecessor in November 2007, and re-elected in 2008 & 2012 to four-year terms respectively.
General of The Salvation Army
Community of Christ
Stephen M. Veazey is the current Prophet-President of the Community of Christ. He was chosen to succeed the previous church president, W. Grant McMurray who had resigned, by a joint council of church leaders in 2005, only the second time in the church's history that a church president did not designate his successor.
Patriarch of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church
Tomáš Butta is the eight Patriarch of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church who was elected in 2006 after the resignation of his predecessory, Jan Schwarz. The Czechoslovak Hussite Church considers itself as the modern successor to the medieval pre-Protestant reformation group, the Hussite where they acknowledge and trace their tradition back to the Czech reformer Jan Hus.
President of the Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States
President of the Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States is Rev. Jim Sawtelle.
- http://www.goarch.org/news/patriarcal_ency-08-31-2009 and http://environment.about.com/b/2009/09/01/september-1-day-of-prayer-for-the-environment.htm and also see http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/sep2009/2009-09-01-093.asp
- See: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/2008/09/15-Green-Spiritual-Leaders.aspx?p=2
- Vladika niški Irinej novi patrijarh
- Babic, Boris (22 January 2010). "Profile: Serbia's new Patriarch Irinej, a Traditionalist and Diplomat". Retrieved 22 January 2010.
- Eparchy of Niš: Нишка Епархија од пада у Турско ропство до данас (Serbian)
- "His Holiness Abune Mathias elected as sixth Patriach of Ethiopian Orthodox Church". The Sheba Post. 28 February 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- "Analysis: Damage done to Episcopal church". USA Today. 25 September 2007. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
- "15 Million Member Milestone Announced at Church's General Conference".