a priest, a minister and a rabbi

i was talking with a few of "clergy" yesterday at our "monthly free breakfast and waist time talking about nothing" meeting of the area clergy; to be honest with you it felt like i was in the middle of a bad joke - "a priest, a minister and a rabbi were sitting at a free boring breakfast..." you get the drift :) anyway, soon our conversation turned to the idea of "the priesthood of all believers"

the united methodist ("the minister") - i'll bet you thought i was the minister right - nope, i was the dumb blonde in the second joke :) - anyway, he started to talk about the idea that his church believes all believers are "priests" - the catholic guy did not like that at all - as you can picture - and the rabbi did not care for it all either - but then neither did i - but not for the reasons of the other two, remember i was the dumb blonde from the second joke, but because i know that it's a lie - it is not what the church believes; well it is if you accept their limited definition of "priest." but in reality it is not what any, or all (i hate to place it as "all" but i think i am right on this) main-line/old-line churches that claim "the priesthood of all believers" truly do not mean it - let me share -

when a church speaks of a "priesthood of all believers" they speak in terms of the ability to go directly to God with prayers; an ability to serve the church in ministry (not "ordained" ministry - for them this is a big difference between a "ordained priest" and a "lay priest" - they see things in a dualism); an ability to do some, but not all, of the work of the church - for example. before i became this radical deconstructionalist independent minister i served (while at drew getting my mdiv) in the united methodist church (one that claims "the priesthood of all believers) - because i was a "student-minister" i was only allowed to serve communion to those people in the local church - they had to be members. a member of the church i was serving had a friend who was dyeing, and her friend wanted communion - keep in mind my friend was a "lay leader" in the church i served - she asked if she could serve communion and anoint her friend with oil - well, being new to the united methodist church and taking them at their word - i said, sure go for it. well, you would have thought i called for free tickets to the passion - i was not a popular boy in the group - it seems that it is actually a "limited priesthood of all believers" and some things need to be only done by "ordained" people -

one of the "bosses" said, "if we have people giving communion as they see fit, to whoever they desire, we will have people all over the community giving communion without our approval" - my vocal thought was, "duh, now you get it" (ok, i did not make points with him). you see, not being "raised" in the church and not having a "church theology background" i only knew what i read in scripture and nowhere in scripture did it call for a "priest" or other special person to do anything we do not - my reading of scripture shows that God wants all His people connected - and not under the control of a "special class."

what about it? i firmly believe in the priesthood of all believers - there is nothing i do that others can not - the ownership of the church has been passed - from "the ministers" to "all" - the fear i have found from many ministers, priests and rabbis is that they will not have a "job" if the theology is carried out to it's natural end - but that i do not think is the case - the position of "priest, minister and rabbi" will just change to one that guides the people, helps the people and supports the people - kinda like what jesus did :)

what do you think? how do you define "the priesthood of all believers" in a postmodern world - keeping in mind that we are not living in a "shifting paradigm" - we are living in a "paradigm shifted" - it is not that "change is coming" it is that "change is here" we now need to see it and run with it :)


Anonymous said...

There's a large church in Vancouver, WA (some might call it a megachurch) that gets it. Once a year, the pastor has an "ordination ceremony" where he "ordains" every believer. He tells them they all have the authority (in Christ, not in the church) to baptize, bless the sacraments, preach, whatever. He says they even have the authority to marry people if they get state licensure.

And he means it.


Anonymous said...

That is how I feel as well- and I grew up and now serve in the UM church. I am not ordained because of the whole "game" that is played in order to retain job security.
I see the role of pastor/minister as that of a guide pointing others to the calling that Christ has on their lives to be "priest." I sure wish mainline churches would "get it" and not just play like they do.

Buddy said...

I totally agree with you. I work with teenagers in a PCUSA church. I am constantly refered to as a member of the Pastoral staff. Yet i can't service communion. It really drives me nuts. But yet we talk about the preist hood of all believers. Yet what is really weird they are now allowing lay people to "deliever communion". the deacons take some of the left over juice and bread to the Shut-ins and serve communion, but to be safe commuion is delievered not served. It is like a freakin pizza or something.

Eddie said...

I think it has something to do with the "clergy's" definition of the word "church." I have now started deliberately using a lowercase "c" and an uppercase "C" to differentiate the institution/business (church) from the people of God (Church) - the preisthood of believers. Right now, I'm under the impression that the Church has been wrongly influenced by the church.

To say that exact phrase again in different words: Right now, I'm under the impression that the "preisthood of believers" has been wrongly influenced by the "clergy."

Control has become a driving force in church (little "c") leadership - as evidenced by a statement made by one of the "bosses" in your breakfast discussion.

I believe that "Church" (big "C") is synonymous with "priesthood of believers." And God is calling us to be just that.

Anonymous said...

A priest, a drunk and a pedaphile walk into a bar... and that was just the 1st guy!

Shane said...

Ignoring the crass pedophilia joke in the preceding post, I would like to offer a few of my thoughts in favor of preserving the distinction of ordination. I am not ordained myself, however, I intend to be eventually.

I think that it is vital to recognize that there are some people whom God calls especially to the service of public proclamation. This is a simple division of labor, i.e. not everyone in a church has the time, ability, or inclination for theological education. Ordination, as I understand it, is the church's recognition of an individual's vocation and an acceptance of that person's authority within the church.

Why do I think this is important? For two reasons, the first has to do with education, the second with the concept of authority.

First, the ordinand has to submit herself to a long process of training and education. In order to be able to minister a person has to actually know something and be able to communicate it to the members of her congregation.

On my blog (shanewilkins.blogspot.com "arrogance and ignorance"), I have recently observed that many Americans have the unfortunate idea that knowledge is determined democratically. In terms of religion, we often think that anyone knows about as much as anyone else and that it is therefore ridiculous to think that a priest/minister/rabbi might have better information.

My second point has to do with authority. De facto, there are structures of authority in a church, even a post-modern, 'emerging' one. Theological differences arise. So does interpersonal conflict. It is part of the calling of a pastor to shepherd her congregation. A shepherd has an amount of authority over the sheep. There are all sorts of caveats and qualifications that we need to make here about how a pastor should excercise her authority, and when it is appropriate to do so, etc. But I think my point remains clear.

All of this does not yet resolve the question that started this post: who ought to be allowed to administer the eucharist? Well, I'm not quite so sure. I understand why someone would want to make this a prerogative of all baptized Christians. (In fact, I believe that in extreme circumstances, episcopalian laity are allowed to administer the eucharist--though don't quote me on that.) On the other hand, however, the eucharist is supposed to be approached with reverance, and church discipline supposedly works by refusing communion to disobedient members. Most main-line churches have no concept of church discipline, so perhaps this is a moot point. But if one were interested in resurrecting the idea of excommunication, which I am, then restricting the celebration of the eucharist to the ordained clergy under usual circumstances is an important component of that process.

I'm sorry to have written at such length. This subject interests me a lot and (apparently) I have a lot to say about it.

Peace and Grace,
Shane Wilkins