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A presbyter is, in the Bible, a synonym for bishop, elders or pastor, and is today also called priest in various Christian denominations.

In later times there was a differentiation in the usage of the various synonymous names, giving rise to the appearance of several, specialised offices.

The Roman and Eastern Catholic churches, plus the Episcopal ones and some others, have differentiated believers between presbyters and layman and led to the reservation of the priest title to presbyters. This is seen by Protestants as having stripped laity of its original priestly status. The term, father, for presbyters is generally restricted to Catholic and Orthodox usage.

In the mediŠval churches the predominant presbyter came to be called the bishop, while the pastor title came into disuse. The priests other than the highest came to be almost exclusively called fathers, and eventually this evolved in a hierarchical situation where each diocese has one and only one bishop, but each parish its priest.

The name presbyter is still used in some Eastern Orthodox and other liturgical denominations, even if they have also the differentiated office of bishop.

In Presbyterian churches, the title of bishop was abolished, the heads of local churches using the name pastor. But pastors' leadership is shared with presbyters or elders, who help him shepherd the church while keeping their secular professions. The term presbyter is generally restricted to the churches which use the term Presbyterian while Reformed churches use the term elder.

See also Presbyterianism