Ed Rodman of the Diocese of Massachusetts has words of wisdom for those who wish to be ordained, and to those who are already in holy orders. He says “Don’t believe your own propaganda”.
“Aye, there’s the rub”: many of we the ordained believe our own propaganda.
That belief leads us to resist honest criticism from others, and more dangerously, it shields us from self examination and self-critique. It’s the deadly sin of clericalism, a sin in which I have indulged on many an occasion.
One of the bits of clerical propaganda which we in the Episcopal Church have swallowed hook, line, and sinker is that in ordination there is a change in our being.
It’s a Roman Catholic myth which has been swallowed by even the most evangelical of clerics.
It says that “when I was ordained I became a priest, and my very nature was changed. I am not a man or woman who serves as a priest, I have become a priest, and nothing can change that”.
(If you want to be technical the Roman view of ordination [accepted by many Episcopalians, but NOT by most world-wide Anglicans], is that ordination is “ontological” (look up that word!). It is typified by the ordination greetings cards which I received way back in 1976 which announced “you are a Priest forever”. What, even in heaven!)
The more biblical and reformed position is that ordination is functional. In other words my ministry has to do with what I do, not with who I am.
In fact when I was ordained I was set aside by the church for the “office and work” (1662 Prayer Book language) of serving as a minister of the Word of God and the Sacraments in a congregation.
It’s an important distinction.
For if I AM a Priest”, then who can question my authority?
But if “I SERVE as a Priest” then my ministry is rooted in the frustratingly glorious mess which is your average local congregation.
For the longest time I believed my own propaganda which said “Dammit I AM a Priest and who are you to question my authority”. I repent of that dangerous nonsense.
Years ago I rejoiced in being called “Father Michael”. I loved those words. They indicated that “father knows best”.