Paid Clergy: Not Just a Pagan Debate

I used to think that the argument about whether to have paid clergy was a uniquely Pagan thing. So imagine my surprise when Pastor Phil brought it up in the context of the Christian Church on his synchroblog post from yesterday. Then I found a post by Adam Gonnerman detailing some of his own thoughts on paid clergy. (He’s for it, but with certain qualifications). It’s a fascinating read and I highly recommend giving it careful consideration.

Beyond my own surprise at this discovery, I think that it’s important. Christians have had paid clergy for a long time now, and if they’re re-evaluating their own take on the matter, I think that we as Pagans would do well to pay attention and consider what they have to say. Even if Pagans, in part or as a whole, do decide to continue the quest for developing paid clergy, we can at least benefit from hearing the lessons people like Adam and Phil have learned through their own experiences and those of their predecessors. In effect, perhaps we can avoid a few mistakes by being attentive listeners.

Personally, I still have mixed feelings on the idea of Pagan getting paid (and especially full time) clergy. And I think I’m still against it in some ways (at least for my tradition, which I strongly feel calls for each member to be their own priest, which would make paid full-time clergy unnecessary and wasteful), but I don’t feel as strongly about it as I once did.

9 thoughts on “Paid Clergy: Not Just a Pagan Debate”

  1. It’s funny, I used to think Christians were the only ones who were worried about how postmodernism was changing their faith, with the question of how far one could go and still be a “Christian”…until I read a post by Dianne Sylvan.

    I think maybe some religious problems are often universal.

  2. I agree with you about some religious problems being universal.

    And thank you for the link to Dianne Sylvan’s post. It was a great read. I particularly enjoyed reliving the memory of another person accusing Deb Lipp of being “trailer-park” because she cussed in a comment she left on Jason Pitzl-Waters’s blog. That was a humorous day.

  3. In our Protestant traditions we too believe in the priesthood of all our members, yet that does not negate the belief that some are “called” to care for the community full time.

    Of course, it is in Protestant circles that some of the anti-paid-clergy thinking is being developed.

    Thanks for being around the blog world with me Jarred.

  4. You’re most welcome, Pastor Phil. I’ve always enjoyed our exchanges.

    I hope you’ll check back again regularly. This is actually a topic that comes up in my own mind a few times, and I suspect I’ll be posting more thoughts at some point or another.

  5. Jarred,

    I’m glad you enjoyed my post for the Synchroblog! I was unaware that in some Pagan circles there might be some stirring towards paid ministry. It is a tricky thing to do well, and the Christian church has never done it well consistently. Human nature I suppose.

    Your comment on Phil’s post was golden. I had an urge to copy it for extended quotation in a future post, but I won’t. Maybe just a paragraph or two. 🙂

  6. Adam,

    Oh yes, there’s actually a pretty strong stirring in that direction. In fact, one person actually began the process of forming a seminary in order to better train interested Pagans in the skills often used by other members of the clergy. (I believe Cherry Hill is still unaccredited at this time, though they are working towards that goal.)

    You’re welcome to quote as much or as little of my comment. However, I do hope you’ll drop me a line when you make your post. I’d certainly love to make sure I read it.

  7. Great discussion Jarred (and Pastor Phil and others.) It’s an issue I’ve thought about for years.

    Truth is, the MAJORITY of clergy in this country (from what I’ve observed and studied) is grossly UNDERpaid, living far below the average income of their church members. The minority are the ones raking in the millions off their slick marketing campaigns and TV “ministries.”

    Do I believe God rewards people financially? Yes. Do I believe that some abuse their position? YES.

    Paid ministry (at least in the Christian world) is a Biblical idea, and I think it would be ludicrous for any to suggest that it shouldn’t be done at all. (Not sure if that’s a part of the debate, as I haven’t read it all, but…)

    Anyway, I’m rambling, but great discussion!

  8. And here I thought it was only a Christian thing. 😉

    I can see both sides of it, but I’m inclined to think it’s a positive thing to pay clergy. 🙂

  9. Craig,

    I wondered if this topic on my blog might rouse you out of your silence. 😉 I’m glad to see it did.

    Apparently, some people are suggesting that paid clergy in Christianity is a bad idea. But no one who has commented here is making that argument. I’m questioning the way paid clergy as it is often modeled in Christianity actually works and whether it’s a model that Pagans would be wise to adopt. It’s not so much that I’m opposed to the idea of serving a religious community full time, but that I question whether the current concept of what constitutes a “minister” and the duties involved are the best approach. (In many ways, I think that a lot of the duties of a “minister” as I’ve seen them should be split over different people so that each job is handled by someone with the best skills and gifts to do so, for example.)

    As an aside, I’m leery of suggesting that it’s only televangelists and mega-church ministers that abuse their position and salary. I’m reminded of the pastor of the church I attended growing up. It was a small church (and we actually shared the minister with another church). In many ways, he always struck me as being a “Sunday and Wednesday evening minister.” Most of the other days, he seemed far more interested in pursuing various business ventures he had going than doing the things I’d normally associate with a full time, paid minister. Of course, in his case, I don’t feel he was overpaid so much as I feel he simply didn’t do the job his profession called upon. But like I said, I think it’s a mistake to think this is solely a “big church” problem.

    I am inclined to believe (and hope) that you’re right about the majority of ministers being much better and often underpaid for the amount and kind of work they do.

    And thanks again for contributing to the conversation.

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