The organism of the Church consists of the following:
- The Leader (Arkhegos)
- Masters (Apostles)
- Illuminates (Overseers, Bishops)
- Elders (Priests)
- Elect (Monks)
- Hearers (Listeners, Catechumens)
The Arkhegos, Mar Mani being the first, has the role of serving as the King of the Religion (a term used in Chinese Manichaean sources). As the Gospel of the Prophet States, the Arkhegos’ diocese is the world. His work is “to encourage amid persecution, to any falling away from the Founder’s lofty ideal of life.” The Arkhegos is addressed as Mar Mani Khaila.
The Apostles are also referred to as Teachers. “Like the Christian Apostles, each of these [oversee] one country for his scene of labour… [organising] the churches, and, touring constantly from place to place.” An Apostle is addressed as Mar Shlikha.
The Bishops, also serving in the role of teachers, are responsible for teaching correct doctrine according to the Gospel. A Bishop is addressed as Mar Abuna.
The Priests are “responsible for reciting the scriptures, prayers, hymns and confessions of public ritual and worship,” and in most cases are “in charge of a single local church.” A regular Priest is addressed as Abba. The term “Mar” is not used in reference to regular Priests; only priests of the rank of Arkhegos, Apostle or Bishop are given the title of Mar. The term “Abba” can also be used in reference to the head or father of a hermitage.
The Gospel of the Prophet Mani tells us that the “esoteric teachings and explanations” are entrusted to the Monks — also known as the Elect. “Their other names in Persian — the Celibates, and the Righteous Pure Ones — bespeak the lofty character of their life.” In more ancient times, the Monks “were easily picked out for persecution by their paleness and ascetic looks… Their only property might be a single black robe, to be replaced each year when worn out.” The Monks “depend wholly on pious offerings [from the Hearers], and when Hearers did not bring them any food on a certain day they might beg that evening.” Membership in this particular Order is regulated by the Arkhegos upon recommendation of the Apostles and Bishops, after proving, after several years, that the individual has been able to live a life of holiness, controlling their passions and living up to the very high demands the rank requires of them. Monks must be single and are not permitted to touch anyone of the opposite sex. A Monk is referred to as Barumra, while a Nun is referred to as Dereta.
The Hearers are also the laity of the Manichaean Church. They are also known as Catechumens or Listeners. They are “bound by the simple code of the Manichaean ‘Ten Precepts’… the Four Daily Prayers.” They help “protect and support the Religion, to train for its service a child of their own, an orphan… to accept the onerous duties of the higher Orders.” Hearers are permitted “to marry one wife only, and might labour in the fields, but [are] totally forbidden to take any part in war.” The Hears kneel to offer “to the Elect [Monks] of their own local church a sacramental alms, consisting of wavers, with fruits and vegetables like melons, grapes and cucumbers, together with fruit-juices.” All Manichaeans study and seek to practically implement the Manichaean teachings daily, attending services weekly and making regular tithes and alms in the prescribed manner traditional to the Holy Manichaean Faith. The goal of all members of the Church should be the proper cultivation of the Twelve Virtues, the practice of the Manichaean Ten Commandments and the liberation of the Light from Matter. Alms-giving (food offerings to the Monks) goes toward the liberation of the soul. All Hearers who are members of the Church are referred to as brothers and sisters.
Males and females can fulfill any of the above roles within the Manichaean Church.