The Punk Priest

19 March 2017: the Third Sunday of Lent

I started the third Sunday of Lent 2017 at Good Shepherd Episcopal. Somehow, the third week of Lent got away from me and so this post is a little late.

The Gospel reading that morning was about Jesus and the Woman at the Well. As love featured prominently in the sermon, the preacher began with, “In the name of the Lover, the Beloved, and Love Overflowing.” This might seem heretical from the point of view of Christianity in general and Episcopalainism in particular, but such a blessing really spoke to me. But, I’m a Christo-Pagan. Though the idea of a deific “Lover” often seems to have sexual connotations in Pagan frameworks, here it seemed to encompass more than that one type of love. It seemed to me that the deific Lover here was the embodiment of all forms of love.

A common response in many of the Pagan rituals I’ve attended and led has been, “In perfect love and in perfect trust.” This is often said at the end of a ritual when the gods and spirits are being thanked: “Stay if you will, go if you must, in perfect love and in perfect trust.” This love and trust is the basis of a faith community. I bring this up because that evening I attended a 12-step meeting for Pagans, and it was an “all-A” meeting.

While I’m still new to 12-step Spirituality, I’ve had many friends work through such programs. Love of the community is a key factor in supporting one another. And, trust is vital, too, when one considers what is shared in meetings. But at the same time, I know that there are those Pagans who struggle with the concept of being “powerless.” We generally believe that we have the power within us. But, our addictions and codependencies interfere with our ability to access and use our power. Therefore, we must trust in the love of our gods and guiding spirits to be our higher powers, aiding us to overcome what ails us.

Love and Trust might seem more compatible than Christianity and Paganism. But I don’t care. My path works for me. If other mortals can walk it with me, that’s great. If not, well, I know my path overlaps with the paths of others. We can love and trust each other as we wander through our wastelands, looking for liberation.

Amen, and Blessed be.

Discernment 2016 Review: What now?

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is [Divine] purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21

I had a major discernment process regarding my ministry that started with an email I’d sent to my primary ministry mentor in June 2016. She responded, asking me five questions which I answered in a series of blog posts:

  1. Are you actually Christopagan, “just” pagan, multi-faith with something else, or “just” Christian?
  2. If you do feel you still actually are Christopagan, is Jesus calling you to be a priest for Him (aka have you asked Him yourself, or do you need to have one of us horse (channel) Him so you can ask)?
  3. And if He [Jesus] is calling you to be a priest for Him, do you feel that that calling requires some sort of official human recognition?
  4. Are there any other trads, denominations, or groups that are poking you in the spirituals that maybe you should go and explore before you decide on ordination in the [Progressive Christian Alliance]?
  5. What type of ministry are you being really called to, and do you really need anything other than your Circle of Cerridwen ordination for it?

So, what have I learned from this process?

Well, I’ve learned that I definitely feel called to ministry. The way certain gods and spirits and dæmons call to me (and that’s a whole other blog series in the works) I think confirms that I’m called to something.

I learned that I do indeed feel that I am a Christo-Pagan, and not simply a Pagan, and that I consider the United Church of Christ (UCC) to be my Christian home. I had been toying with the idea of ordination with the Progressive Christian Alliance (PCA) because unlike the UCC, the PCA doesn’t require a Master of Divinity (MDiv) for ordination. But the more I think about this, I feel like I’m going about this the wrong way. Not because I was trying to fast-track my ordination by choosing an ordaining body that would ordain me sooner, but because I want to be a part of the UCC. And while I could have dual standing with both the PCA and UCC, there’s something that doesn’t quite feel right about that.

But also, the more I delve into the world of Christianity the more I feel that while I certainly am Christian laity that maybe I shouldn’t be Christian clergy. In spite of being involved in Christianity since my birth, I’m always finding new things about it. And a lot of what I’m finding lately disturbs me. So much of modern Christianity seems utterly disconnected from the what appears to be the message of Christ as recorded in the Gospels, both canon and gnostic. This seemed to happen a lot in an online discussion group devoted to the Progressive Christian Alliance.

I’ve seen the Golden Rule and the Second half of the Great Commandment applied selectively. One person had even gone so far as to describe treating other with the same respect he wanted to be shown as “onerous.” Respect for Other faith traditions is granted … to an extent. Some members of the group flat-out refused to grant respect to some traditions, even when presented with evidence of the good work those Others have done.

I never wanted to be one of Those Christians who becomes so disillusioned with the faith that I leave it. While I’m not at the point where I feel like I’ll be leaving Christianity entirely, I am at the point where I am renouncing my call to ordained Christian ministry.

This is right and proper. Am I content with “merely” being laity? I’d be lying if I said, “Yes.” I feel envy as I see the social media updates from those whom I used to attend seminary with as they finish their programs and prepare for their public ministries. I want to be with them: studying, working, ministering. But, there are a great many ways to minister.

In my coven, the word “priest” is more than a title. It’s also used as a verb. And can most certainly performing priesting without being Christian clergy.

Discernment question 5: What type of ministry are you being really called to, and do you really need anything other than your Circle of Cerridwen ordination for it?

Wednesday, 1 February 2017 (in response to this post)

Now, that is the $64,000.00 question.

I think of the ways in which I’ve benefitted from the ministry of others: leading worship, teaching/preaching, spiritual direction, chaplaincy, campus ministry, pastoral care. I feel like I’ve benefitted so much from the various ministers, priests, and witches who’ve done these things for me that I want to turn around and do the same for others.

Of all those ministries, chaplaincy is the one I’m currently least qualified for. I know that takes special training, and that’s usually above and beyond a Master of Divinity (MDiv). That said, I did serve as the chaplain for an adult spirituality retreat in Summer 2015. From what I understand, the same thing about special training could be said for spiritual direction, though I’ve heard varying opinions on this.

Clergy spouse/partner/family support is a ministry that seems to have a need. While I’m no longer a clergy spouse, I was for a time. So, that’s one type of (Christian) ministry I feel called to.

I know that I’d also like to do something to foster better inter-faith cooperation, specifically between Paganism and Christianity. I know I’m only one of many who want this work to happen, and there are certainly others who are probably much more qualified for this ministry than I.

It’s February 2017. And it seems like life for marginalized persons is falling apart right now here in the United States. I’m finding calls for emotional and spiritual support, both among those protesting and those living in genuine fear. Holding space and providing the requested spiritual encouragement are things I can do, and people have told me that the visible presence of clergy persons can sometime prevent the escalation of violence at protests, that police are less likely to be heavy-handed (at least while clergy are watching).

But, are these things (clergy spouse support, ministry to the marginalized, protest chaplain) things that I can only do as a Christian minister? No. I could also do those as a Wiccan priest for those Wiccans who might want such things.

So, I don’t know how well I’ve answered this question. Some of these things I feel called to do don’t require Christian ordination, even to do them in a Christian setting. Others, however, might require ordination.

Maybe a better question isn’t so much what am I called to do, but what am I capable of?

Discernment question 4: Are there any other trads, denominations, or groups that are poking you in the spirituals that maybe you should go and explore before you decide on ordination in the PCA?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017 (in response to this post)

To this day, I consider the United Church of Christ (UCC) to be my home denomination in the Christian faith. It would feel so fulfilling to be a minister in the tradition that I’ve gained so much love and support from. But, in order to be ordained in that denomination, one must have a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from an accredited seminary. Such education takes a lot of money. I don’t have the wealth to pay for the education and I don’t currently qualify for the graduate-level lending that would cover the costs. I’ve been effectively priced out of becoming an ordained minister for the UCC (or any other denomination that requires an MDiv).

Christianity has played such an important role my spiritual life, I really don’t want to give it up. I don’t want to become another person so hurt by Christians and Christianity that I leave the faith. But, the Progressive Christian Alliance (PCA) does not require an MDiv for ordination, so this body has its appeal if I am to pursue Christian ministry.

Other traditions? I’m loosely affiliated with the Ekklesía Antínoou, the modern Cultus of Antinoüs. And while I certainly feel a call from Antinoüs himself and the Tetrad++, I don’t necessarily feel called to seek to serve a faith community in that particular tradition at this time. I’m not entirely certain what that says about me, and that’s probably another whole discernment process right there. I am honored and proud to serve as a high priest and teacher of Open Source Alexandrian Wicca, and I know I can do meaningful work with this tradition.

Hmm, it seems discernment can raise as many questions as it answers.

Discernment question 4: Are there any other trads, denominations, or groups that are poking you in the spirituals that maybe you should go and explore before you decide on ordination in the PCA?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017 (in response to this post)

To this day, I consider the United Church of Christ (UCC) to be my home denomination in the Christian faith. It would feel so fulfilling to be a minister in the tradition that I’ve gained so much love and support from. But, in order to be ordained in that denomination, one must have a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from an accredited seminary. Such education takes a lot of money. I don’t have the wealth to pay for the education and I don’t currently qualify for the graduate-level lending that would cover the costs. I’ve been effectively priced out of becoming an ordained minister for the UCC (or any other denomination that requires an MDiv).

Christianity has played such an important role my spiritual life, I really don’t want to give it up. I don’t want to become another person so hurt by Christians and Christianity that I leave the faith. But, the Progressive Christian Alliance (PCA) does not require an MDiv for ordination, so this body has its appeal if I am to pursue Christian ministry.

Other traditions? I’m loosely affiliated with the Ekklesía Antínoou, the modern Cultus of Antinoüs. And while I certainly feel a call from Antinoüs himself and the Tetrad++, I don’t necessarily feel called to seek to serve a faith community in that particular tradition at this time. I’m not entirely certain what that says about me, and that’s probably another whole discernment process right there. I am honored and proud to serve as a high priest and teacher of Open Source Alexandrian Wicca, and I know I can do meaningful work with this tradition.

Hmm, it seems discernment can raise as many questions as it answers.

Discernment question 3: And if He [Jesus] is calling you to be a priest for Him, do you feel that that calling requires some sort of official human recognition?

Wednesday, 21 December 2016 (in response to this post)

After the Second Samhain my coven hosted, I feel that I am correct in that Jesus is calling me to be a priest for him in addition to my Wiccan priesting. But, why would priesting for Jesus need official human recognition?

Well, one reason for official human recognition is that one is taken more seriously in matters of ministry. Being a lay minister is considered a noble thing, but basically considered to be little more than a member of the laity with a deep commitment to GOD. Sure, one can be a lay chaplain, but trying to get a job as such seems extremely difficult if not impossible.

Another reason is pulpit supply. It seems churches are hesitant to ask lay ministers to preach, doubly so when those lay ministers are queer, transgender/gender-expansive, or both. Or when lay ministers are permitted to preach, they aren’t necessarily compensated financially for their work. And while I can indeed take the title of Reverend (both ordained by both the Circle of Cerridwen (Open Source Alexandrian Wicca) and the Universal Life Church), being a Reverend in a Christian tradition would make it possible to be considered a more viable candidate for things such as pulpit supply or leading workshops.

Should one charge money to serve a faith community? The Open Source Alexandrian Tradition doesn’t charge money for initiation or instruction or priesting. It’s not what we do. In fact, most Pagan groups I can think of don’t take money for these things. That said, it’s not unheard of to compensate a priest, priestess, or witch if they have to travel to perform their duties. But basically, Pagan priesting isn’t a way to make a living. So, the idea of being able to generate income with pulpit supply might be a bit off. I’d love to be able to make a living serving as a minister. But, what exactly is meant by the phrase “to make a living”?

For my part, “to make a living” means to be able to meet all my living expenses. Currently, I rent a room in an apartment. I would like to eventually be able to afford my own studio or 1-bedroom apartment. But also, I’m not ruling out the possibility of living in (or starting) an intentional community. In a capitalist society, capital is necessary for survival. I don’t seek riches; just what I need to live my life and leave my loved ones without having to worry about any outstanding debts I might have when I die. If priesting will not give me the necessary income to do that, then I will continue to work as I currently do, and attend to my ministry “after hours.”

My experience with religious people in general is that they seem to want some sort of vetting of their leaders. I’ve seen this in Pagan faith communities as well. “What’s your tradition,” some might ask. “Who initiated you, and who initiated them?” In some ways, it’s like the preoccupation with “valid apostolic succession.” It might be that it’s the faithful doing due diligence to be sure the leader is qualified to lead, but it could also be a way of saying, “You are not worthy.” Human recognition is a tricky thing, but religion is a human thing. And it seems that in Christian settings, the laity really wants to know where their clergy came from.

Advent 2016: Apocalyptic Love

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent.
The theme is Love and I was at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church
for worship again

The English word “Love” is so
simple yet complicated. When I tell my friends I Love them, it means
something different than when I tell my kids I Love them or when I’ve
told partners I Love them. Love is a word I’ve used to describe
books and movies and music and food, as well as my relationships with
people.

And earlier this week, I read a book
called Weird People by Jarrard Martin. It was a book about
Love and being bisexual. And with any book about Love and
relationships, reading it was thought-provoking. How have I been
experiencing Love in my life? How have I Loved? How have I been
Loved? How can I Love more?

I’ve encountered people who say they
Love me, and yet vote for legislation and for politicians that end up
threatening or limiting my civil rights. And, they are aware of what
they’re doing when they cast these votes. Can they truly say the
Love me when they take these actions? What is the Loving response I
should offer when legality of my life is challenged and threatened by
these votes?

Love is not the absence of challenge,
strife and adversity. In fact, it could be argued that those things
are necessary for one to truly Love those around them.

And that seems to be Apocalyptic Love:
Loving someone enough to be able to tell them they are causing you
harm.

Be blessed.