I’ve been thinking lately about the clericalism of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, that is, the idea that the church is dominated by those who wear collars and belong to orders of ministry other than the laity.

Look at the list of people who attended the recent meeting of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order:

The Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi, Primate of Burundi and Chair of Commission
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Georges Titre Ande, Congo
The Ven. Professor Dapo Asaju, Nigeria
The Rev. Canon Professor Paul Avis, England
The Rt. Rev. Philip D. Baji, Tanzania
The Rev. Canon Dr. John Gibaut, World Council of Churches
The Rt. Rev. Howard Gregory, West Indies
The Rev. Dr. Katherine Grieb, Episcopal Church (USA)
The Rev. Canon Clement Janda, Sudan
The Rev. Sarah Rowland Jones, Southern Africa
The Rev. Dr. Edison Muhindo Kalengyo, Uganda
The Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews, Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
The Rev. Canon Dr. Charlotte Methuen, England
The Rev. Dr. Simon Oliver, Wales/England
The Rt. Rev. Professor Stephen Pickard, Australia
Dr. Andrew Pierce, Ireland
The Rev. Canon Dr. Michael Nai Chiu Poon, South East Asia
The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Guen Seok Yang, Korea
The Rt. Rev. Tito Zavala, Bishop of Chile, Southern Cone
The Rev. Joanna Udal, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs
The Rev. Canon Dr. Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director for Unity, Faith and Order
Mr. Neil Vigers, of the Anglican Communion Office

Lot of Reverends in there. (And if you’re not a reverend it seems you have to be an academic. Better yet, be both!) Is that problematic?

3 thoughts on “Clericalism

  1. Heidi

    Not to defend clericalism, but it may be that clergy can spend time on this sort of work “on the clock” (if they work at a parish, school, or diocese) while most lay people can’t afford to take time to fly around the the world and on projects that don’t provide an income. I’m not saying that makes it ok, but might be a practical reason driving that membership list.

    Many clergy (deacons!) support themselves in “secular” jobs, and can’t come to clergy events that are scheduled on a weekday – and most are. Parish clergy are the majority, and so we receive a certain amount of privilege because of that.

    I do think the tides are turning, especially in the Episcopal Church, where the House of Deputies is headed by a layperson, we elect bishops, and make baptism the sacrament of ministry, rather than ordination. Movements like “total ministry,” lay empowerment, and dropping the word “lay” from eucharistic minister are signs that we are moving in the right direction. Of course, then we need to figure out what being ordained now means — how will a focus on lay ministry change how we think about ordination?

  2. jessezink

    I agree with your description of the issue but wouldn’t it be great if there were more lay vocations in the church so that lay people’s time spent on church business wouldn’t be volunteer?

    Sometimes I think we should reduce the clergy simply to a sacramental role and let lay people do everything else – and pay them what they need so they can focus their attention on that role.


  3. John Simpson

    Interesting conversation… Makes me think of the prominent parish priests who are so because they are efficient administrators (I know several.) Also makes me think of the several deacons and laity I know who embody the suffering Christ so naturally, in such instinctive response to God.

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