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Ordination is the term for the authorization given to a minister of religion to function as a member of the clergy. In the liturgical churches, it is common to hear of such a person as having "taken Holy Orders", being "in Holy Orders" or, simply, "in Orders." All of these refer to the minister having been consecrated, licenced by the church organisation, or bestowed with subordinate authority by a superior religious authority (such as a Pope, bishop, or church board).

A person who is in preparation for, or who is undergoing the process of ordination, is sometimes termed an ordinand.

A person ordained as a Christian minister of religion is typically allowed to officiate at religious ceremonies, notably the sacraments: Baptism (also called Christening), Holy Communion, and—depending upon the denomination--Matrimony, Unction (or Healing), and Penance (also called Reconciliation or Confession). Confirmation (or Chrismation) and Holy Orders are considered to be sacraments in some church bodies but are often reserved for a higher authority in the church than the (ordained) pastor of a congregation. Funerals and other familiar church services are performed by ordained ministers, but those services are not usually considered to be sacraments. In those jurisdictions where a religious wedding ceremony can be considered an official marriage, the jurisdiction may require that the official performing the wedding be ordained (though some may only require that the official be licensed by a church or denomination).

In some Protestant denominations, ordination services may be held for elders and deacons before they take the office. As with pastors/ministers, the usual procedure is to first examine the candidate for eligibility and suitability to hold the office, then if found suitable (and the person wishes to hold the office) the service is held at a later date which is usually a time of prayer and dedication.

Ordination of women

The ordination of women is a controversial issue in some religions or denominations where either the ordination itself, or the role that an ordained person fulfills, has traditionally been restricted to men. Generally speaking, women may be ordained in liberal denominations along with Pentecostal and charismatic churches, while conservative Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches do not ordain women for any office.

See also