Denominations have varied conceptions of Holy Orders. In the Anglican churches and some Lutheran churches the traditional orders of bishop, priest and deacon are bestowed using ordination rites. The extent to which ordination is considered sacramental in these traditions has, however, been a matter of some internal dispute. Many other denominations do not consider ministry as being sacramental in nature and would not think of it in terms of "holy orders" as such. Historically, the word "order" (Latin ordo) designated an established civil body or corporation with a hierarchy, and ordinatio meant legal incorporation into an ordo. The word "holy" refers to the Church. In context, therefore, a holy order is set apart for ministry in the Church. Other positions, such as pope, patriarch, cardinal, monsignor, archbishop, archimandrite, archpriest, protopresbyter, hieromonk, protodeacon and archdeacon, are not sacramental orders but particular ministry positions.
The Eastern Orthodox Church considers ordination (known as Cheirotonia, "laying on of hands") to be a Sacred Mystery (what in the West is called a sacrament). Although all other mysteries may be performed by a presbyter, ordination may only be conferred by a bishop, and ordination of a bishop may only be performed by several bishops together. Cheirotonia always takes place during the Divine Liturgy.
It was the mission of the Apostles to go forth into all the world and preach the Gospel, baptizing those who believed in the name of the Holy Trinity (Matthew 28:18–20). In the Early Church those who presided over congregations were referred to variously as episcopos (bishop) or presbyteros (priest). These successors of the Apostles were ordained to their office by the laying on of hands, and according to Orthodox theology formed a living, organic link with the Apostles, and through them with Jesus Christ himself. This link is believed to continue in unbroken succession to this day. Over time, the ministry of bishops (who hold the fullness of the priesthood) and presbyters or priests (who hold a portion of the priesthood as bestowed by their bishop) came to be distinguished. In Orthodox terminology, priesthood or sacerdotal refers to the ministry of bishops and priests.
The Eastern Orthodox Church also has ordination to minor orders (known as cheirothesia, "imposition of hands") which is performed outside of the Divine Liturgy, typically by a bishop, although certain archimandrites of stavropegial monasteries may bestow cheirothesia on members of their communities.
A bishop is the Teacher of the Faith, the carrier of Sacred Tradition, and the living Vessel of Grace through whom the energeia (divine grace) of the Holy Spirit flows into the rest of the church. A bishop is consecrated through the laying on of hands by several bishops. (With the consent of several other bishops, a single bishop has performed the ordination of another bishop, in emergency situations, such as times of persecution), The consecration of a bishop takes place near the beginning of the Liturgy, since a bishop can, in addition to performing the Mystery of the Eucharist, also ordain priests and deacons. Before the commencement of the Holy Liturgy, the bishop-elect professes, in the middle of the church before the seated bishops who will consecrate him, in detail the doctrines of the Orthodox Christian Faith and pledges to observe the canons of the Apostles and Councils, the Typikon and customs of the Orthodox Church and to obey ecclesiastical authority. After the Little Entrance, the arch-priest and arch-deacon conduct the bishop-elect before the Royal Gates where he is met by the bishops and kneels before the altar on both knees and the Gospel Book is laid over his head and the consecrating bishops lay their hands upon the Gospel Book, while the prayers of ordination are read by the eldest bishop; after this, the newly consecrated bishop ascends the synthranon (bishop's throne in the sanctuary) for the first time. Customarily, the newly consecrated bishop ordains a priest and a deacon at the Liturgy during which he is consecrated.