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Author Topic: What is Clergy?  (Read 15159 times)
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« Reply #15: April 14, 2007, 10:14:15 am »

I think I agree with you - at least, I like the part where you distinguish between "priest" and "clergy".  I am, though, a bit wary based on past experience; I've been scolded for "only doing part of my job" because I don't do the pastoral clergy thing outside my coven.  I'm guessing you're talking about the attitudes of the "look how free I am!  I don't need an intercessor!" idealists, not the attitudes of the non-pastoral priesthood, but I want to double-check.

(snip)
Sunflower

Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but it seems you are providing modern traditional clergy services (pastoral services beyond being a ritual leader).  You are only providing it to the coven you belong to or head.

Only providing pastoral services to your group sounds pretty normal to me when compared to main line / mainstream Christianity / Judaism.

I think it's wrong for the general pagan community to ask for any random coven leader / all coven leaders to provide pastoral support beyond their coven / membership congregation. To use a large group that aims at having open membership congregations (ADF), unless you are a member of ADF and if local, a member of the local ADF Grove you should not expect a lot of pastoral support from the local ADF Senior Druid.
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« Reply #16: April 14, 2007, 10:45:25 am »

No time to check your article out just now, but I'm sure there'll be some worthwhile thoughts in there.

However, I'm going to take issue right away with "moving the Pagan community to".  What, all of it?  The BTWs and the Hellenics and the Discordians?

I'm pretty sure you've got something more specific in mind (though you may not have more specific terms with which to refer to it) - apparently, something in which *every*flippin'*thing* got all caught in group-dynamics jockeying.

You shouldn't have to be the inner circle to practice your religion.  But is moving everyone to a congregational model the way to resolve that?

Sunflower

As usual, context is important.

The essay doesn't say it, but it was mostly written for an ADF audience which is promoting, at least orginially, a congregational model.

As for moving the pagan community, that is not to intend to move all the community to only a congregational model.  It is to move the entire community into accepting that a congregational model is not anti-thetical to paganism. I was on a number of lists, in particular one for pagan clergy, where the idea that any model beyond the small indepentent coven was not to be considered.

What I see at local pagan shop events, festivals of various sizes and on-line are thousands (mostly on-line listings) of individuals who are seeking a group to join. What I also see are dozens of small closed covens / groups that will accept maybe one person a year. I think the result is a community that has lots of people who want to be actively religious, define themselves as religous, but do not do much worship. Also look at the SIGs here about the new Hellenic, Celtic and Kemetic groups.

I think, that more pagans would be actively worshipping (yes, loaded term) if there were open congregational groups around. Would most of these people find the absolutely perfect form of worship? Probably not, but perfect is the enemy of good enough. Instead of saying they don't know where to start, they'd have someplace to start. Instead of not finding the perfect coven, they'd have access immediately to any of a small number of public membership worship groups.
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« Reply #17: April 14, 2007, 12:24:52 pm »

I think I agree with you - at least, I like the part where you distinguish between "priest" and "clergy".  I am, though, a bit wary based on past experience; I've been scolded for "only doing part of my job" because I don't do the pastoral clergy thing outside my coven.  I'm guessing you're talking about the attitudes of the "look how free I am!  I don't need an intercessor!" idealists, not the attitudes of the non-pastoral priesthood, but I want to double-check.

Or maybe we're coming at this from really different places - I'm not sure what's involved in ADF ritual or ADF priesthood, so that could be quite a different skill-set than mine, too.

That's another aspect of the original question - who exactly is the "we" that needs, or doesn't need, clergy?  There's going to be a lot of variation in that, and in what the various we's would want from clergy.  The ADF answer is not the Hellenic Pagan answer is not the FlameKeeping answer (and so on).

Sunflower

The "we" was kinda generic referring to anyone participation in the conversation. It was on a Hellenic livejournal community, but the poster was referring  to pagan religions at large (the post was essentially a huge list of things that tend to be taken for granted by Christianity, but may be more shaky for people who practice other religions. None of the other items on the list pertained to this discussion), so I was responding in kind, not particularly referring to ADF or Hellenics or any other specific group or religion.

As far as the attitudes, yes I am referring to the folks that are somehow convinced that having clergy and/or priesthood somehow automatically means an intercessor is needed.

As for how you've been treated, being told that you're only doing half your job...that sucks. Unless you're practicing in a religion that requires you to be available to the population at large, what right has anyone to make such a statement about what you're doing? (And even if you do act as clergy in a religion with such requirements, whether you're doing your full job or not is between you and whatever "governing body" there may be.)

My understanding of clergy vs. priesthood has been that, at least in contemporary times, "clergy" is not only a position in the religious body but a legal designation as well. As far as I know, most states have some sort of law regarding who may perform weddings (referring just to legally licensed weddings here), funerals, pastoral counseling etc with exceptions made for religions with no ordained clergy such as the Quakers (I'm am not forgetting about judges, funeral directors etc., they're just not relevant to this conversation)

"Clergy" also indicates a certain level of training and recognition- ordination. Just for grins I checked the dictionary for "clergy" and the definition was the ordained class within a religious body, as opposed to the laity.

(Yeah, I know. Universal Life Church will ordain your cat. "Recognition", no training. That's another discussion for another day- or at the very least, another church.)

So um...does that clear up what I'm trying to say? Cause I think it does and I feel like I'm rambling...lol
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« Reply #18: April 14, 2007, 03:25:27 pm »

I think I agree with you - at least, I like the part where you distinguish between "priest" and "clergy".  I am, though, a bit wary based on past experience; I've been scolded for "only doing part of my job" because I don't do the pastoral clergy thing outside my coven. 

I've been thinking about this one a lot - approaching 3rd degree status, approaching hiving = lots of thinking about this particular constellation of roles/issues/demands. Complicating that, for me, is the recognition that if I'm working full time (important, when my work is also a deity-encouraged vocation thing, never mind that whole needing to support myself bit), not only could I not handle a large congregational model group - but I can't even handle the kind of larger training circle model I've been trained in. (Or at least, not without seriously imbalancing other areas of my life, and I'm not willing to do that.)

There's lots of reasons for my decisions on that (and watching my HP's grin when I articulated this to him the first time was certainly amusing) - but it leaves me with the same essential question that Sunflower poses here: am I still clergy (in a way meaningful in my community) if I'm only working with what will be a small coven setting. And if so, why?

What it came down to, for me, was something a lot of my thoughts come back to: the idea of consentual relationships. I don't consider myself someone's clergy or potential clergy unless we somehow both are aware of and agree to that. The clearest cut situations are those where there are formal, ritual commitments (such as we have with our students now, and as I intend to have with whatever this eventual coven looks like). Both sides know what to expect from the relationship, and what's fair game, and what isn't.

In a sort of standard Christian model, the same thing happens - there are certain kinds of expected interchanges. If you take communion, regularly show up at services, etc. you are considered more of *that* person's clergy responsibilities than if you wander in randomly once. (Which isn't to say that they won't try and help, if possible - but that you won't likely get long-running help in the same way unless you go asking for it. And they won't do stuff like notice you haven't been there for a few weeks and ask someone to check up on you because you won't have history there.) There are all sorts of exceptions, but those generally involve actually asking something - "I know I haven't been around long, but I really need help with X, can you?" is a relationship negotiation, after all.

If I priestess a public ritual, I am responsible for dealing with the immediate fall out. (Not "OMG, it's 6 months later, and I'm now traumatised by X", but the immediate "I need help grounding" or "This really hit an emotional button for me, I'm crying" response. or whatever) In that case, we've both (presumably) agreed to that, them by stepping into circle, and me by agreeing to run it. While they may or may not be aware of their side (particularly at very open circles), I certainly am - and I won't volunteer to take a role in one if I feel I can't hold up my side.

On the other hand, I'm not responsible for taking their calls about exploding glasses of water with their power of their mind, or helping them banish the demons in their living room, or anything not directly related to the event in question just because they show up at such an event (or an open class, etc.) just because they ask/assume/expect.

Where I'm going with it, personally, is being really clear in my own head about what my personal boundaries are - and thinking about what things I do (and how) might come across to other people. I want an answer ready, in the situation Sunflower gives, so I don't have to think about it on the spot. (Some kind of "Y'know, I didn't know you looked at me that way." and then either some way to decline or help, depending on situation, maybe.)


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« Reply #19: April 14, 2007, 03:35:55 pm »

What I see at local pagan shop events, festivals of various sizes and on-line are thousands (mostly on-line listings) of individuals who are seeking a group to join. What I also see are dozens of small closed covens / groups that will accept maybe one person a year. I think the result is a community that has lots of people who want to be actively religious, define themselves as religous, but do not do much worship. Also look at the SIGs here about the new Hellenic, Celtic and Kemetic groups.

Thing is - I'm not sure that's the answer. I live in an area with at least 3-4 groups that have open rituals, and in 3 of the 4 cases, offer some level of training/education/etc. which is open to anyone, not just people focusing on initiation. (And then there are a couple of groups like the one I work with, which take more than 1-2 students in a given year.) In this case, the ones I'm thinking of are all Wiccan-influenced, but that's sort of a side-note.

I still hear complaints that the smaller groups aren't open enough, that there aren't enough ways to get small-group experience without having to work on it themselves (i.e. show up, behave politely, contribute in an appropriate way, be willing to make an ongoing commitment to the well-being of the group, etc.) So simply having the larger congregational offering doesn't seem to be the whole answer.

I think part of the problem is size: there are a number of people who like for there to be ritual - but who don't necessarily want to plan it, provide music for it, or anything else (except maybe a little light cleanup and setup.) The problem is, doing that work for other people without meaningful reward leads to rapid burnout (reward is not just money, but thanks or compliments, rather than criticism of "Gee, I would have done that differently" or "That didn't include everything I'd hoped for, so it was no good.")

Thing is, if there's no support for the people doing that kind of clergy work - people aren't going to do it. Or not for long. Groups of 20-60 people (the norm for the above groups, as far as I know) aren't big enough to financially support someone doing it full time - or even part time. In a small group, it's easier to filter out the people who are going to be negative no matter what you do - as you get much over 25 or 30 people, that gets trickier and trickier. (Or the person who's mostly okay, but half the time, their child is a major distraction. Or the person who half the group thinks is fascinating, and half the group actively avoids. All communities of any meaningful have these issues.)

But the person leading a group, for free, gets all the pain and potentially very little of the reward (as it's harder and harder to get meaningful personal religious experience in those rituals the more people you're juggling. Not impossible, but tricky, and unlikely to happen if something goes awry.) Until we answer "What's in it for the person doing the work?" with something better than "A general feeling of virtue and service to the community, mixed with the annoyance", we're likely to continue having this kind of issue.
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« Reply #20: April 14, 2007, 04:46:05 pm »

I think, that more pagans would be actively worshipping (yes, loaded term) if there were open congregational groups around.

I agree with you on this point, but I don't think you are going to have large enough groups for most Pagan religions outside of relatively large cities. Generic Wicca would not be a problem in most places, but other religions are less likely to be able to support a congregational model. Two Hellenic Pagans in Waco couldn't, for example. There might be a few others who would eventually come out of the woodwork if we held regular public services at a fixed and advertised location -- but there isn't a large enough group to start the ball rolling.
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« Reply #21: April 14, 2007, 07:23:48 pm »

Spinoff of the religion-building thread:

What is clergy to you?  Does your religion have a separation of clergy and laity?  What's the difference?

Is clergy a life calling, or a hat you wear at appointed times?

I'm really only quoting this to quote something, but I think before I defined clergy/laity in my path, I'd need to know more; I don't really know what separates the clergy from the laity in a mainstream path other than the name. What is expected of a member of the clergy that is not expected of the laity, and vice versa?
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« Reply #22: April 14, 2007, 10:24:45 pm »

I'm really only quoting this to quote something, but I think before I defined clergy/laity in my path, I'd need to know more; I don't really know what separates the clergy from the laity in a mainstream path other than the name. What is expected of a member of the clergy that is not expected of the laity, and vice versa?

Depends upon the religion as to the difference between laity and clergy.

Catholic's require that certain religious activities in a worship service only be done by an ordained priest.

Jews have no religious activities that require clergy (see exception later in post).  any religious worship can be done by any Jewish male over the age of 13 (for Reform and Conservative also women). the exception is certain prayers can only be said by members of the heridtary priests, but such priests are not clergy, and don't even have to be practicing Jews.

That covers the religious side.

On the pastoral side is the idea that clergy are leaders, counselors, confidants and such. Laity is a standard member of the congregation.

So, are there things that only certain members of your religion can do in a religious worship? Ie, can only the 3rd degree people call down the goddess?  If so, you have clergy. Are your leaders expected to provide counseling to the rest of the group? If so, you could be considered to have clergy and laity.
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« Reply #23: April 14, 2007, 10:37:48 pm »

Spinoff of the religion-building thread:

What is clergy to you?  Does your religion have a separation of clergy and laity?  What's the difference?

Is clergy a life calling, or a hat you wear at appointed times?

A clergy IMHO is a role, or roles, that allows the individual to immerse themselves in their belief system largely to the exclusion of other pursuits. Clergy provide the laity with a resource that follows simple beliefs to their ultimate conclusions and that ensures that required religious activities take place att eh same time that physically necessary activities are also seen to within the community.

My personal beliefs have no particular role for a clergy, as such; however, there is a role for teachers, which is broadly similar in that their life is dominated by the belief system, its exploration and its communication. It can be either a life calling or a sometimes thing, dependant on the ability of the sage to support themselves.

Cheers

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« Reply #24: April 16, 2007, 08:11:28 pm »

Before I say anything else, I want to apologize to anyone who found my prickliness excessive.  I've reviewed what I said, and am relieved to see that I don't seem to have said anything too far out of line, so my apology may be unnecessary, but the bottom line is that I was kneejerking at (or at least in the immediate vicinity of) people who are not part of the problem.

I'm not sure how well I can keep from showing the hypersensitivity.  I'm a bit distressed by this, because I believe this - both the initial "What is clergy?" question, and the organizational-models debate that's inseparable from it - is an important discussion, full of issues that must be addressed, and the notion of leaving it in the hands of those who favor the congregational model for what I believe to be wrong reasons gives me the shudders.  I'm even more disturbed when the issues are left unaddressed, effectively leaving them in the hands of non-Pagans - going along with whatever the local regulatory bodies consider normative whether it reflects the type of Paganism involved or not.  (F'ex:  "We have to call our clergy 'ministers'.  That's what [accrediting body] says.")

That's precisely what isn't happening here.  Addressing the issues is exactly what we're doing, and TC is hardly the place to find folks who crave conformity with the mainstream in how their religion does things.  This is the conversation I used to wish would happen, before I got all jaded and prickly (the one I tried, many times, to make happen, which is why I'm jaded and prickly).

Take the question I raised earlier, about whether there's an actual need for clergy.  I may have seemed to be saying, "What the heck do we need with that?" but I meant it quite seriously.  Too often, it's assumed that clergy - that is, folks who are both recognized internally as group leaders, and accredited by secular authority to conduct certain tasks - are the only possible route to take.  Well, what about the Quakers?  They don't internally recognize group leaders.  I'm not saying we have to follow that example, just that they demonstrate that other routes are possible.

Contained in that, is Shadow's original question.  For Pagans, does "clergy" imply both internal leadership and external accreditation?  What do we mean by "internal leadership"?  What tasks do we a) need to have performed in a religious context, and b) require secular approval to be legally performed?  (Very few things require secular authorization, but it may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; research is in order here.)

It seems to me that Pagandom at large is maybe in too much of a hurry about these things.  The focus I've seen (even when folks aren't directly engaging in "fluffy congregationalism") is too much on "How to make sure your 501(3)(c) paperwork goes through" and not enough on the importance of determining exactly what details of structure, etc, will best suit your particular group.  Sure, it's quicker and easier to change how your group/religion operates to conform to what the secular authorities consider normative, than to work to have your religion's particularities accommodated by those authorities - but I find it hard to see folks as being serious about their religion, if they're that ready to change anything nonstandard.

I don't think specific answers are really in the purview of our discussion on TC; that's what each group looking at clergy &/or congregation structure has to figure out in terms of its own needs.  But we most certainly can have the meta-discussion - if we come up with a really good set of questions/issues for such groups to consider, I'll feel we've made a huge contribution.

I thought I had some specific responses I wanted to make, but they're just not connecting right now.  I'm very grateful to Fiamma and Peter for their patience and many words, to make sure I had a handle on just where they were coming from - either of them could perfectly well have said to me, "Okay, so you meet fluffy-bunnies; we all have to put up with that.  Don't take it out on me!"

The obligatory quote-link - it's in the midst of the posts I come closest to directly responding to, so it'll suffice:

I'd like to see some specific sub-topic discussion on exactly what-all clergy/priesthood can be.  The "intercessory" role, while largely (but probably not wholly!) irrelevant to modern Pagan religions, has already been mentioned.  I would add "pastoral work", but not as a single category; off the top of my head, I'd break it down into "marry 'em and bury 'em" pastoral work, and counselling work, since the skill-sets are quite distinct.  There are pastoral matters not necessarily covered by those, but any that come to mind - visiting the sick and such, when trained counselling doesn't come into it - aren't clergy-specific.

What else?  Liturgists - the constructing of ritual.  Ritual leadership - the person who actually conducts the rite.  These two are seen as going hand-in-hand in much of Paganism, but are different skill-sets (yes, I am hyped on the "skill-sets" thing - if someone has a better way to look at this, feel free to bring it up and explain why it's better).  Teaching - Peter's article talks of religious instruction for the laity; I, OTOH, think immediately of training witches in the sort of witchcraft I practice.  Community relations - a congregation's clergyperson doesn't have to be their spokesman in dealing with the outside community, but often is; it's a "clerical" position in that it calls for a fair bit of theological understanding (unlike, say, the congregation's treasurer, who doesn't even have to be a practitioner of the religion).  Service to the gods - what the deity/ies require, and congregations/laity may not even come into it.  Theurgy is, maybe, separate from that, in that in some paths serving the gods might involve no magic, and in others, the magic might not be in service of the gods per se.

That's just as many as I can think of off the top of my head, to get the ball rolling.

Someone else talk now.  My typing fingers are getting hoarse.  Grin

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« Reply #25: April 16, 2007, 08:57:11 pm »

(snip)
That's precisely what isn't happening here.  Addressing the issues is exactly what we're doing, and TC is hardly the place to find folks who crave conformity with the mainstream in how their religion does things.  This is the conversation I used to wish would happen, before I got all jaded and prickly (the one I tried, many times, to make happen, which is why I'm jaded and prickly).

(snip)
That's just as many as I can think of off the top of my head, to get the ball rolling.

Someone else talk now.  My typing fingers are getting hoarse.  Grin

Sunflower

Sunflower,
Excellent post. You have raised many of the issues that any organization must look at.

I helped found one group, and paid for the 501(c)3 status for that group and one other.

General rule in the US is that if you have a couple of other people who are willing to say you are their clergy; and the group of you are willing to incorporate; then you are clergy. 

Details of what your clergy does, how it is trained is up to the organization. They just have to follow their own rules.

Groups are not required to have clergy, not even to do marriages. Might be a bit of fight, but the Society of Friends (aka Quakers) do it. Minor nit, the Quakers do have leaders, but it's not a simple clergy / no clergy. My 13 yr old was a leader of worship meeting for awhile.

Personally, clergy implies only internal leadership. Accreditation is done by the group, but then recognized by outside if needed. The extent of internal leadership is entirely up to the group. A concept I got from one of the founders of Hellenion was the giggle principle. You can call yourself clergy until the giggles from the other people get to be to much.

In the US, the only things that require clergy credentials are:
1 - right to perform legally binding marriages in lieu of seeing the town clerk
2 - being able to be a minister to prisoners and visit them under different rules than family, friends or lawyers.
3 - having access to people who are sick or dying under different rules than family; (ie seeing the sick outside of regular visting hours).

Only number one is written into the law. the others are policies of the appropiate organizations.

While you are probably correct about the specific answers are not the purview the TC, the questions to be asked of a group probably are.
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« Reply #26: April 16, 2007, 11:01:32 pm »

General rule in the US is that if you have a couple of other people who are willing to say you are their clergy; and the group of you are willing to incorporate; then you are clergy. 

Actually, you don't even have to incorporate, although that makes the government people easier to deal with. So long as the is some type of organized group regularly meeting to worship, the group can have clergy. There are various small Christian dominations who will not incorporate as they feel that that is subordinating the church to the state and against the will of God. They may have more trouble getting their clergy accepted as clergy by "check-off the boxes in this order" bureaucrats, but under the US Constitution the government cannot require churches to incorporate to be considered "real religions."
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« Reply #27: April 17, 2007, 12:40:02 am »

Actually, you don't even have to incorporate, although that makes the government people easier to deal with. So long as the is some type of organized group regularly meeting to worship, the group can have clergy. There are various small Christian dominations who will not incorporate as they feel that that is subordinating the church to the state and against the will of God. They may have more trouble getting their clergy accepted as clergy by "check-off the boxes in this order" bureaucrats, but under the US Constitution the government cannot require churches to incorporate to be considered "real religions."

The *really* easy way to do it is to join the ULC (Universal Life Church). You can become a non-denominational ordained minister in a few minutes, last time I checked. And it actually is legal.

I really do not think it should be this easy to become clergy, but if I were to decide that I wanted to be legally recognized as clergy (of course, already being recognized as such by my group, if that ever happens) I would do it this way. I think it is a pretty easy thing to abuse though.
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sailor_tech
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« Reply #28: April 17, 2007, 03:17:47 pm »

The *really* easy way to do it is to join the ULC (Universal Life Church). You can become a non-denominational ordained minister in a few minutes, last time I checked. And it actually is legal.

I really do not think it should be this easy to become clergy, but if I were to decide that I wanted to be legally recognized as clergy (of course, already being recognized as such by my group, if that ever happens) I would do it this way. I think it is a pretty easy thing to abuse though.

Ah contrare. ULC is not valid in VA, NC and I think Washington state.
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sailor_tech
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« Reply #29: April 17, 2007, 03:24:27 pm »

Actually, you don't even have to incorporate, although that makes the government people easier to deal with. So long as the is some type of organized group regularly meeting to worship, the group can have clergy. There are various small Christian dominations who will not incorporate as they feel that that is subordinating the church to the state and against the will of God. They may have more trouble getting their clergy accepted as clergy by "check-off the boxes in this order" bureaucrats, but under the US Constitution the government cannot require churches to incorporate to be considered "real religions."

Here we are getting into definitional problems.

You are correct that the government can not require a church to incorporate.

On the other hand, the government does not have to recognize the leaders of unincorporated groups as clergy. This Could apply to prison visits, tax exempt status for a group or military.

On the gripping hand, groups that don't need to interact with the government in those capacities don't need clergy that are legally recognized by the government.
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