Why Do UUs Try To Complicate Sh*t That Ain’t Complicated?…or Congregational Polity 101
Since I’m in burning bridges mode I might as well stay there.
Over on the Material Sojourn blog a case is being presented that there needs to be codified ordaination standards. The thinking being that codifying ordaination standards will decrease the probability of clergy misconduct.
Here are sections 8 and 9 of the Cambridge Platform(called chapters):
Of The Election Of Church Officers
1. No Man May Take The Honor Of A Church Officer Unto Himself But He That Was Called Of God, As Was Aaron.
2. Calling Unto Office Is Either Immediate, By Christ Himself–Such Was The Call Of The Apostles And Prophets; This Manner Of Calling Ended With Them, As Has Been Said–Or Mediate, By The Church.
3. It Is Meet That, Before Any Be Ordained Or Chosen Officers, They Should First Be Tried And Proved, Because Hands Are Not Suddenly To Be Laid Upon Any, And Both Elders And Deacons Must Be Of Both Honest And Good Report.
4. The Things In Respect Of Which They Are To Be Tried, Are Those Gifts And Virtues Which The Scripture Requires In Men That Are To Be Elected Unto Such Places, Viz.: That Elders Must Be “Blameless, Sober, Apt To Teach,” And Endued With Such Other Qualifications As Are Laid Down: 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6-9. Deacons To Be Fitted As Is Directed: Acts 6:3; 1 Tim. 3:8-11.
5. Officers Are To Be Called By Such Churches Whereunto They Are To Minister. Of Such Moment Is The Preservation Of This Power, That The Churches Exercised It In The Presence Of The Apostles.
6. A Church Being Free, Cannot Become Subject To Any But By A Free Election; Yet When Such A People Do Choose Any To Be Over Them In The Lord, Then Do They Become Subject, And Most Willingly Submit To Their Ministry In The Lord, Whom They Have Chosen.
7. And If The Church Have Power To Choose Their Officers And Ministers, Then, In Case Of Manifest Unworthiness And Delinquency, They Have Power Also To Depose Them; For To Open And Shut, To Choose And Refuse, To Constitute In Office, And To Remove From Office, Are Acts Belonging To The Same Power.
8. We Judge It Much Conducing To The Well Being And Communion Of The Churches, That, Where It May Conveniently Be Done, Neighbor Churches Be Advised Withal, And Their Help Be Made Use Of In Trial Of Church Officers, In Order To Their Choice.
9. The Choice Of Such Church Officers Belongs Not To The Civil Magistrates As Such, Or Diocesan Bishops, Or Patrons: For Of These, Or Any Such Like, The Scripture Is Wholly Silent, As Having Any Power Therein.
Of Ordination And Imposition Of Hands.
1. Church officers are not only to be chosen by the church, but also to be ordained by imposition of hands and prayer, with which at the ordination of elders, fasting also is to be joined.
2. This ordination we account nothing else but the solemn putting a man into his place and office in the church, whereunto he had right before by election; being like the installing of a magistrate in the commonwealth. Ordination therefore is not to go before, but to follow election, The essence and substance of the outward calling of an ordinary officer in the church does not consist in his ordination, but in his voluntary and free election by the church, and his accepting of that election; whereupon is founded that relation between pastor and flock, between such a minister and such a people. Ordination does not constitute an officer, nor give him the essentials of his office. The apostles were elders, without imposition of hands by men; Paul and Barnabas were officers before that imposition of hands. The posterity of Levi were priests and Levites before hands were laid on them by the children of Israel.
3. In such churches where there are elders, imposition of hands in ordination is to be performed by those elders.
4. In such churches where there are no elders, imposition of hands may be performed by some of the brethren orderly chosen by the church thereunto. For, if the people may elect officers, which is the greater, and wherein the substance of the office does consist, they may much more (occasion and need so requiring) impose hands in ordination; which is the less, and but the accomplishment of the other.
5. Nevertheless, in such churches where there are no elders, and the church so desire, we see not why imposition of hands may not be performed by the elders of other churches. Ordinary officers laid hands upon the officers of many churches; the presbytery at Ephesus laid hands upon Timothy an evangelist; the presbytery at Antioch laid hands upon Paul and Barnabas.
6. Church officers are officers to one church, even that particular over which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers. Insomuch as elders are commanded to feed not all flocks, but the flock which is committed to their faith and trust, and depends upon them. Nor can constant residence at one congregation be necessary for a, minister–no, nor yet lawful–if he be not a minister to one congregation only, but to the church universal; because he may not attend one part only of the church to which he is a minister, but he is called to attend unto all the flock.
7. He that is clearly released from his office relation unto that church whereof he was a minister, cannot be looked at as an officer, nor perform any act of office in any other church, unless he be again orderly called unto office; which, when it shall be, we know nothing to hinder; but imposition of hands also in his ordination ought to be used towards him again: for so Paul the apostle received imposition of hands twice at least from Ananias.
Pay close attention to the sections in red. If ordaination standards are codified, doesn’t that create Diocesan Bishops or Patrons to be answered to that the Cambridge Platform expressly warns us about?
My uncle was ordained in the Baptist church when he was 14. A number of my Mississippi relatives were ordained before the age of 15. Two of my high school friends were ordained in their early teens. And a couple of my former boyfriends were ordained in their teens.
How is it that the Baptists can do it and the non-denominationalists can do it but UUs can’t do it? We are working off of the same foundation here people. Why do UUs try to complicate sh*t that ain’t complicated? Congregational polity means that CONGREGATIONS get to choose their leaders, not somebody from outside. If you want somebody from the outside choosing your congregational leaders, then you need to find a church that is Presbyterian or Episcopal in polity.
I understand the need to lessen the incidences for clergy misconduct. But if you believe that codifying the ordaination process is the answer, I have a piece of desert property right outside of New Orleans that’s up for sale that you can buy. If you think codifying ordaination standards is going to stop clergy misconduct, take a look at the Roman Catholic Church and tell me how codifying ordaination standards has worked for them.
Clergy misconduct happens. You cannot codify it out of existence. To think that you can is naive beyond belief.
Congregationalism requires trust. Trust in the individual congregations to know what is best for their locality. I have that trust. Do you?