The Ottoman Empire introduced the muhtar system in Istanbul in 1829, appointing lay headmen, called muhtar, to the lowest levels of urban administration: Muslim neighborhoods; Orthodox, Armenian, and Catholic parishes; and Jewish congregations. This reform resulted in the overlapping of state responsibilities and those of non-Muslim religious authorities, later leading to disputes between the groups. This article investigates such disagreements in an effort to understand how state officials perceived non-Muslim religious authorities’ participation in imperial governance. In so doing, this article argues that, as non-Muslim political movements began developing during the late nineteenth century, state officials adopted a cautious attitude toward non-Muslim clergy, viewing the latter as requiring more careful handling than the layman. This take on clergymen was a shift, a reconsideration of the exceptional treatment they had previously enjoyed, and ignited a growing desire to sever the ties, formerly tolerated, between muhtars and religious authorities.