You Can’t Build Something Positive Out of the Lowest Common Denominator…or, Can’t We Chuck the Principles Now? pt.2

Tim Bartik, in a comment on my last post, writes (not picking on you Tim, but the comment has made me think):

Second, I think it would be better to start with what we have as principles, and try to modify them to be more inspirational and a clearer focus for UUism as a positive religion.

I have no doubt that the Principles could be prettified and made more inspirational. Yet if any of you were at the GA where the Commission on Appraisal presented a revision of the Principles, you know there would be a significant pushback. Which I think brings up the more important issue with the Principles.

Can you build something positive when you’re stuck with the least common denominator? Because, let’s be real about it, that’s what the Prinicples are; the lowest common denominator for a culturally liberal religious group that doesn’t want to use religious words.

Sound harsh? That’s because it is. But again, let’s be real. If we just went by the Principles, what would distinguish a Unitarian Universalist congregation from the local Rotary Club or Optimist Club or the Junior League (or for that matter any of the historically African American sororities and fraternities)? Why would anybody want to join a religious group that, for all intents and purposes, is no different than those organizations?

No matter how much you try, it is very hard to build something positive when you stuck with the lowest common denominator.

Time To Rid Ourselves Of Our Pseudo-Creed…or, Can’t We Chuck the Principles Now?

Whenever there is a lot of blog chatter about UU identity, and most recently about congregational polity, there is an 800-pound elephant in the room that we don’t want to talk about; the seven Principles and the almost creedal status that they have amongst some in our midst.

Now I know that the second that I said “Principles” and “creedal” in the same sentence, there are going to be some who will say that I am overstretching the definition of the word “creed”. So let me be plain; I am NOT saying they are a creed (although I think I could make an argument that they are). I am saying that they are, and are being treated as, a pseudo-creed and as such the UUA needs to take them out of the by-laws and put them out to pasture.

Why do I call them a pseudo-creed? Because we have all heard stories of people who have been beaten over the head with them because of honest disagreement they may have with a church policy. Or of somebody being told that they aren’t “UU enough” because they have the audacity to critique the Principles. And G-d forbid somebody say they don’t find inspiration in them.

If the UUA rid itself of the Principles then congregations would actually have to do the hard work of coming up with their own, original, and local theology-based congregational covenants. Then who knows, maybe members of congregations would understand what congregational polity really means and what their rights and responsibilities are as members of that congregation and the rights and responsibilities congregations have as members of the Association.

As an Association of Congregations, the UUA would function just fine with only the Purposes and Sources talked about in the by-laws. If we rid ourselves of our pseudo-creed, then congregations (and the members thereof) would actually have to articulate what they believe to the wider community in a community-relevant way. Ridding ourselves of the Principles would mean that UU congregations could no longer avoid that thing which many of them have been so adept at avoiding; talking theology.

Yet I know that some will continue to clamor for something to rally around. If not the Principles, then what? Might I suggest that we go into the “everything old is new again” file. These are just suggestions; I am not advocating that these replace the Principles in the UUA by-laws as that would create the same problem we have now.

The following was presented by William Channing Gannett in 1887 to the Western Unitarian Conference. It is more progressive than the Principles and has the added advantage of being called “Things Most Commonly Believed Among Us”

Things Most Commonly Believed Today Among Us

  • We believe that to love the Good and to live the Good is the supreme thing in religion;
  • We hold reason and conscience to be final authorities in matters of religious belief;
  • We honor the Bible and all inspiring scripture, old and new;
  • We revere Jesus, and all holy souls that have taught men truth and righteousness and love, as prophets of religion;
  • We believe in the growing nobility of Man; We trust the unfolding Universe as beautiful, beneficent, unchanging Order; to know this order is truth; to obey it is right and liberty and stronger life;
  • We believe that good and evil invariably carry their own recompense, no good thing being failure and no evil thing success; that heaven and hell are states of being; that no evil can befall the good man in either life or death; that all things work together for the victory of the Good;
  • We believe that we ought to join hands and work to make the good things better and the worst good, counting nothing good for self that is not good for all;
  • We believe that this self-forgetting, loyal life awakes in man the sense of union here and now with things eternal—the sense of deathlessness; and this sense is to us an earnest of the life to come;
  • We worship One-in-All — that life whence suns and stars derive their orbits and the soul of man its Ought, — that Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, giving us power to become the sons of God, — that Love with which our souls commune.

The word “man/men” could be changed to reflect the fact that we are using it in the 21st century, but it combines the best of Unitarian and Universalist thought and with the title “Things Most Commonly Believed” it’s much easier to change than the Principles seem to be.

So this is a call-to-arms. It is time for us to rid ourselves of the albatross of the Principles and enter the world of true congregational covenant. We don’t need a pseudo-creed.

Ethelred Brown, John Haynes Holmes and Why Congregational Polity Is Always Modern

I love reading about U/U/UU history. And I think that if one takes a look at UU history, then one can see that the number one advantage that congregationalism has over the other forms of polity is that those in the minority (of whatever stripe) always have rights.

Here’s one example:

“To any Unitarian Minister in New York City,” begins the nearly 60-year relationship between Ethelred Brown and the American Unitarian Association, which started in 1900.

The letter Ethelred wrote ended up in the hands of Rev. Frank Southworth, President of Meadville Theological School in Pennsylvania. Southworth responded to Brown that he would be welcome at Meadville however there were no “colored” Unitarian churches in the United States and white Unitarians only wanted to deal with white ministers. Even with that discouragement, and several botched attempts, Ethelred began his studies at Meadville in 1910. At the end of his studies in 1912, the school ordained him and he returned to Jamaica with hopes of starting a Unitarian church in Montego Bay, not too far from his birthplace in Falmouth.

Ethelred spent eight years trying to plant a Unitarian church in Jamaica; first in Montego Bay and then Kingston. But after receiving little support or understanding from either the AUA or the British and Foreign Unitarian Associations, Ethelred and his wife boarded a boat and headed to New York City. In a letter that he wrote talking of the help (or lack thereof) that he received, Ethelred said, “No missionary Association could have done any less, and dozens have done infinitely more.”

Life was no easier in New York for Ethelred on the AUA front either. Ethelred established the Harlem Community Church within days of his arrival in New York-the first service was held on March7, 1921. As all missionaries do at the beginning of their mission, they have to ask for donations of supplies and such. Since relations between Ethelred and the AUA were contentious at best, Ethelred did his solicitation outside of the normal system. When word of his solicitations were received in Boston (at AUA headquarters), there began an active campaign to discredit Ethelred and the work that he was doing in Harlem.

After five years, and having only the support of John Haynes Holmes (minister of the Community Church of New York), Ethelred received a letter from the AUA stating that, since the Harlem church was “not in sympathy with the Unitarian spirit and purpose,” and as he was not employed full-time as a minister, that the Ministerial Fellowship Committee saw no reason to keep him on the list of fellowshipped ministers unless he showed them otherwise. As you can see, this became a no-win situation. How could Ethelred ever gain employment as a full-time minister if no established Unitarian church was willing to have an African American as their minister AND the AUA would not give him monetary assistance in his missionary efforts? And the Harlem Community Church was set up as a Unitarian congregation, so how could it not be “in sympathy with Unitarian spirit and purpose?”

While this attempt at removing Ethelred from the fellowship roll was unsuccessful (as was a second attempt in 1928), the third attempt was successful and Ethelred was removed from the fellowship roll in 1929. It was only through the help of the ACLU and their threat of a lawsuit that Ethelred was able to have his fellowship reinstated-six years later, in 1935.

The Harlem Community Church-later the Harlem Unitarian Church-continued to exist under Ethelred’s leadership until after his death in 1956.

Imagine what would have happened to Ethelred Brown had the AUA been an actual denomination and that denomination was set up in Episcopal or Presbyterian polity.

And lest you think that I’m only talking about racial minorities, think again.

John Haynes Holmes (same one as mentioned above) was in a minority position in the AUA; he was a pacifist and against United States involvement in World War I. At the General Conference of Unitarian and Other Christian Churches that took place in Montreal in 1917, JHH came head-to-head with William Howard Taft (yep, the former President of the US). Taft won the day that day. Yet Taft and his compadres couldn’t make the Church of the Messiah (which eventually becomes Community Church of New York)  run JHH out of the pulpit; as the deacons of the church had re-affirmed the freedom of the pulpit just a few months before. Taft and his compadres were able the next year to bring to a vote that would take away AUA funds from any church that had a minister that dissented on the issue of US involvement in World War I. [If anybody could point me to where the actual result of the vote is, I would be everso grateful.]

Imagine what would have happened to JHH had this occurred in the Methodist Church instead of amongst the Unitarians. Taft and his compadres could have gone to the District Superintendent that would have been over JHH and had him removed from the pulpit; never to be able to return to it.

Some have asked what is the use (or helpfulness) of congregational polity in the modern world. Only somebody who has never been a minority in any way could ask that question with a straight face. There is a reason that there are more “out” lgbt (plus qqi) ministers in congregational polity churches than in the other systems. There is a reason that there are more known ministers of minority theological and political positions in congregational polity churches than in the other systems. Congregational polity means that those in the minority have just as much right and access to the pulpit as those in the majority. In the other polity systems relationships can be triangulated more easily because there is a third party on the outside whose interests are always the majority’s interests.

Congregational polity will always be modern because there will always be a minority; there is always going to be dissent. And only in congregational polity can retribution only be brought because of action; not because of a thought or because of who a person is.

Polity Is NOT The Problem, Vision (and Lack Thereof) Is…or Congregational Polity 101 pt.6

I’ve studied churches for a long time (even before going to seminary). Primarily my study has been in/on/with black churches, but not exclusive.

And from my study I have found that there are two things that vibrant, growing churches (no matter what denomination or polity) understand that are worth looking at–for this conversation.

1. Growing, vibrant churches understand that they must be INTENSELY LOCAL.

Tip O’Neill once preached that “all politics is local.” Don’t let the smooth taste fool you my friends; if all politics is local, all religion is even more local. Growing, vibrant churches are hubs in their communities. Things are always happening in-and-around those churches. They are the churches that are having the vigils when there is a shooting or some other act of violence in the neighborhood. (how many UU churches do that?) They are the churches that are doing the food basket give-a-way at certain times of the year and not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas. (how many UU churches do that?) These churches are as much community center as religious center. (how many UU churches are that?) They are the churches that when they and/or their leaders speak truth to power, power actually listens. (how many UU churches can claim that kind of influence?)

Becoming local is more than being in the city-wide Pride parade or advocating against ballot measures banning gay marriage or whatever the “issue” of the day is. (how many UU churches are involved in “immigration” because of GA but aren’t involved in an after-school program to help low-income kids that’s happening two blocks away?)

One of the things I remember most from my Writing classes at seminary is Susan Yanos reminding us to be as particular as possible. For by becoming more particular, you become more universal. I see this in growing churches.

2. Growing, vibrant churches have VISION.

UU churches cannot grow as long as their primary vision is of what they are not. You don’t grow by being anti-[blank]. You get interest for a while by being anti-[blank], but you do not grow. Where is the positive UU vision? And don’t tell me the principles; they are neither a vision nor mission statement.

Scripture tell us that “where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Prov. 29:18) Growing, vibrant churches have a vision…whether you call it “beloved community” or “kingdom of G-d” or something else. But even more, they work about bringing their vision to fruition. (see #1) They do more than just talk about it.

Here’s the other thing growing and vibrant churches understand about vision: vision does not come from the outside. It is homegrown and grounded in a tradition.

So hear this…vision will not come from 25 Beacon St. It will not come from giving the MFC more power than it already has. Vision comes from 1 Memorial Drive or 2020 Sherwood Forest Lane or 13769 Columbia Blvd. Vision will come from churches that decide they want to be part of their communities and are grounded in a tradition and get about the business of bringing their vision into fruition.

Congregational polity is NOT UUism’s problem. Not having codified ordaination standards is NOT UUism’s problem. UUism’s problem is that too many UU churches are NOT LOCAL and have absolutely NO VISION. And codifying ordaination standards will not change that.

What Would Be The Penalty For “Going Rogue”?…or Congregational Polity 101 pt.5

Over at Material Sojourn first comes this:

I don’t want to take away the power of the congregation to choose their leadership, including their minister, DRE, ect. I don’t want everyone to be in lock-step.

Yet a couple of lines later says:

I just want to make sure that they are all still being UU at their core.

And in the next post says:

What I am talking about, in the bigger sense, is abuse of the Polity system by rogue congregations as much as rogue ministers.

As I have said before, I have many problems with this type of thinking. You can read my previous posts in this thread to see why. But for this post, I’m going to go in a different direction.

Here’s a scenario:

East Podunk UU Church wants to ordain JerMichael Finley. JerMichael has been involved with the congregation for a number of years, has an M.Div. (or its equivalent), but wasn’t particularly interested in going through the fellowshipping process at that point in time. After a congregational meeting, East Podunk formally calls JerMichael Finley. After a few months, East Podunk ordains JerMichael.

Now if Thomas over at Material Sojourn had his way and there were codified ordaination standards, both JerMichael and East Podunk would both be considered to have “gone rogue” because they went outside the system. Here’s the question…what would be the penalty to East Podunk and JerMichael for going rogue?

Why is it that if the church in East Podunk were Baptist or Church of Christ or some Pentecostal denomination, nobody would be concerned that the East Podunk congregation ordained somebody? Why is it UUs who are trying to restrict who can spread the gospel?

As someone who sees some major class issues in the current MFC process, I want more people who can’t afford to go through the process to become ordained UU ministers. Codifying ordaination standards will just increase the class differential and make it that much harder for those who can’t afford to go through the process to be able to share their gifts. I don’t want that. Do you?

Why Worry About Somebody Stealing A “Brand” You Can’t Give Away? (Congregational Polity 101 pt. 4)

Over at Material Sojourn comes this little gem:

What I am talking about, in the bigger sense, is abuse of the Polity system by rogue congregations as much as rogue ministers. We do need covenant. We need it in congregations, between congregations, and between individuals; between every minister and every Unitarian Universalist; between every UU and the entire UUA.

What the what?!?!? “Rogue” congregations? “Rogue” ministers? Granted…it’s been a year since I worked in a UU congregation, but I have my ear pretty close to the ground. And there hasn’t been a breakout of “rogue” UU ministers or congregations to my knowledge.

Anyway…the definition of rogue is (pay special attention to the adjective definition):

   [rohg] Show noun, verb, adjective

1. (of an animal) having an abnormally savage or unpredictable disposition, as a rogue elephant.
2. no longer obedient, belonging, or accepted and hence not controllable or answerable; deviating, renegade.

3. a dishonest, knavish person; scoundrel.
4. a playfully mischievous person; scamp.
5. a tramp or vagabond.
6. a rogue elephant or other animal of similar disposition.
7. a usually inferior organism, especially a plant, varying markedly from the normal. (used in biology)
verb(used without object)

8. to live or act as a rogue.
verb(used with object)

9.    to cheat.
10. to uproot or destroy (plants, etc., that do not conform to a desired standard).
11. to perform this operation upon.
Going by that definition, St. Sabina Catholic Parish can be rogue. Asbury United Methodist Church can be rogue. Ladue Chapel Presbyterian Church can be rogue. Trinity-Wall St. Episcopal Church can be rogue. And the reason they can be rogue is that they can be deviating or renegade, disobedient or not controllable.

So, using that same definition, how, by any stretch of the imagination, can a congregation in a NON-CREEDAL congregational polity tradition ever be rogue? By their very nature non-creedal, congregational churches are beholden to nobody except the members of that congregation. And unless something has changed recently, they can’t deviate or be renegade or disobedient.
So what’s a rogue congregation in the UUA? One that practices animal sacrifice? One that’s run by a commune? One that meets in the middle of the road with the dead armadilloes? Really…I want to know. And more than that, I want to know who gets to decide what is a “rogue” congregation and what is not. What’s the standard?
And what makes a “rogue” minister? I’m not talking about somebody who does something illegal or unethical. But if a minister is not doing something illegal or unethical, what makes them “rogue”?

There seems to be a lot of strum-und-drang about the UU “brand” that I don’t understand. If we were Coke or Nike or Apple, I could understand.  Religiously, if we were Episcopalians or Methodists or Presbyterians, I could understand. But friends…let’s try to stay on the temporal plane. And on the temporal plane, ain’t nobody BUYING our brand, much less stealing it. If UUism were a book, it would have long been out-of-print. If UUism were some other type of consumer product, we would have long been discontinued. Hell, there would be a hard time GIVING it away.

Instead of worrying about somebody trying to steal a brand that nobody’s buying and you can’t give away, why not try to encourage interest in the brand. And you don’t encourage interest in the brand by trying to stifle or limit those who can spread the gospel.

“They Will Know You By Your Love.”…or Congregational Polity 101 pt.3

Over on the Material Sojourn blog was this:

I just want to make sure that they are all still being UU at their core.

Deja vu anybody? If so, maybe because it sounds a lot like this:

Although many ministers get outstanding training at other schools, none of those schools are prepared to offer the resources for in-depth study of UU history, theology, and polity to ground at least some of the newest ministers in our specific tradition. Graduates of other schools may be exquisitely educated and are often well trained in pastoral skills. But their UU identity is blurry.

Ok…let’s cut the crap and start calling spades spades.

It’s plain that there are some UUs who think that there is only one way to be UU and that THEY should be the arbiters of whether or not somebody is “UU” enough to be in the ministry.

So what would make somebody unqualified to serve in the UU ministry? I’m not talking about the obvious psychological things (which are already handled under the current MFC system). Really…what disqualifies somebody?

Not having a degree of any kind? Reading and enjoying “Fifty Shades of Grey”? Not listening to NPR? Not being a card carrying member of the Democratic Party? Hating the grey hymnal? Thinking that for all our supposed intellectualism, most UU worship services don’t even come up to the standard of college lecture?

Really? I wanna know. What disqualifies somebody? Being pro-life? Supporting voter ID laws? Not giving a damn about “social justice”? Having cheated on a math test in middle school? Having a need for speed and having a few speeding tickets?

Where would the disqualifications start? And where would they end?

But the bigger question is…who the hell are you to say that somebody is or is not “UU” enough to be in the ministry? When did you become the standard-bearer of all things UU?

It is a wonderful thing to me that the Baptists, the Disciples, and the nondenominationalists aren’t so worried about their brand that they’re talking this kinda crap. Maybe it’s because they actually paid attention to what Jesus says in John 13, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

So instead of talking this crap about codifying ordination standards, why don’t we try doing what our polity cousins the Baptists, Disciples, and nondenominationalists do? How about letting everyone know that we are the Spirit’s disciples by OUR LOVE? Quit worrying about who the Spirit calls—that they might not be “UU” enough—and MENTOR them in their calling?

[I’ll be doing family things most of the day on Saturday, so I probably won’t respond to any comments before Sunday evening. ]

Power Tends To Corrupt, And Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely…or Congregational Polity 101 pt.2

Do I think congregations are perfect? Hell no. As we say in the church I grew up in, “There are just as many devils in the church as out of it.”

Do I think congregationalism is the best form of church governance? Damn skippy.

Why? Because I’ve seen what can happen in the in-between.

Some of my friends are members of the Church of the Brethren. Now if you’re not familiar with the CoB, they are part of the Anabaptist and Pietist movement. And polity-wise they are essentially a hybrid…Congregational and Presbyterian.

Institutionally, the CoB is a lot like the UUA; they have a “home office” (in Elgin, Illinois), districts, and congregations. Like the UUA, they have an annual assembly; theirs is called Annual Conference. The biggest difference, aside from theology (although you might be surprised), is how they handle ministers and ordaination.

The CoB’s Annual Conference carries a little more weight than GA, primarily on districts but also some on congregations. This is especially true when it comes to the handling of things ministerial. Wanna know what Annual Conference has been discussing for the last two years…whether those who have an M.A. in religion/religious studies instead of an M.Div. should be allowed to be ordained. Even us, uppity/arrogant/elitist as we can be, ain’t talking that sh*t.

But if you really want to know how messed up this can be, be an LGBTQIA Brethren and trying to be ordained. It all depends on the district that you want to be ordained in, who the District Supervisor is, who is on the committee that interviews candidates. If you’re lucky, you might be in the Pacific Southwest district (which encompasses all of California and Arizona). If you’re unlucky, you might be in the Southern Plains district (Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma). And woe to the church in a district that doesn’t really want to have to deal with the issue; as the Manchester Church of the Brethren found out when they ordained a gay man. All because the church took it upon themselves to ordain someone who they felt was called but couldn’t make it through the committee.

And there are districts that are still debating whether it is good to ordain women.

Most of us have heard the Lord Acton quote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” What most people haven’t heard is the next sentences:

Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.

And in another letter Lord Acton wrote:

Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.

And finally, Lord Acton said:

Whenever a single definite object is made the supreme end of the State, be it the advantage of a class, the safety of the power of the country, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, or the support of any speculative idea, the State becomes for the time inevitably absolute. Liberty alone demands for its realisation the limitation of the public authority, for liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition.

So let’s say that somehow ordaination standards were going to be codified. What’s going to be the code? How much is going to be objective? How much is going to be subjective? Who’s going to do the codifying? What makes them the right people to do the codifying? Who’s going to do the deciding whether candidate X meets a certain criteria? How are you going to eliminate class/race/gender/sexuality/educational bias that becomes inherent when things become codified? To bastardize Plato…who will guard the guardians?

I end this post as I ended the last post.

Congregationalism requires trust. Trust in the individual congregations to know what is best for their locality. I have that trust. Do you?

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.

Chapter Ix.

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?

The Invisible Man and Clint Eastwood

Ok…as someone who really likes Clint Eastwood, I don’t think I can truly express my concern that a black man was rendered invisible in such a public way.

Don’t get me wrong, I find it funny that Clint Eastwood was talking to an empty chair…and if it were just that then I would say that there is nothing to this, even though it did happen at a MAJOR political event. But that’s not all this is.

This country has a long history of rendering black people invisible on one hand and using them into oblivion on the other. And at this point in time—with 1-in-3 black men either on probation/on parole/in jail or in prison (which renders black men invisible in a different way), black children being shuttled into special education at the drop-of-a-hat, and the black unemployment rate being at least twice that of the national number—to have an 82-year-old white man pointing his finger at and having an imaginary conversation with an invisible black man disturbs me.

Talk amongst yourselves.