On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 140: Clericalism (4/02/17)

“and the rain came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:27  RSV)

 Last week we talked about the foundation of our Church crumbling and that we have lost our direction, our purpose.  Let’s look at why this is happening, the impediments to fulfilling Christ commandment to go forth and make disciples.  Why are we using the time, talent and treasure that God has given us for everything but what He had commanded us to do?

 There are two impediments, maybe more, but two that I believe jump out at an unbiased observer.  The first is Clericalism.  Most of us would say, “What in the world is that; never heard of it!”  Before I define it, let me say that the Orthodox Church is not the only one struggling with this, the Catholic Church has a big problem with it also.  Interesting that we are both suffering and declining and both have like impediments.

The dictionary definition is, “the policy of maintaining or increasing the power of the hierarchy.”  The problem is best described by Pope Francis, “in the majority of cases, it has to do with sinful complicity; the priest clericalizes the lay person, and the lay person kindly asks to be clericalized.”  What in the world are you talking about you ask? 

The answer is relatively simple.  The laity has given over our baptismal identity to the clergy, deacons and where appropriate, the nuns making them “super-Christians” as stated by Fr. James Mallon, Divine Renovation.  This brought about two issues; the isolation of the clergy and the immaturity of the baptized.  In other words, we leave the priests to be holy and do the work proper to the members of the Church, the body of Christ.  We trap our clergy in this vale of being super-Christian, weighing them down with every task imaginable in the Church such that it is impossible for success or at least very challenging.  We relinquish our duties as disciples to the clergy.  We prop up our priest and deacons and other “religious” types in the Church and applaud them from a safe distance.

Here is where the second impediment comes in.  Minimalism allows us to do the above and fosters the sense of “leave me alone” I pay my dues, I come to Liturgy, and I go to confession.  I have done what is required of me to be a parishioner in good standing!  You do not want to be challenged and/or accept responsibilities needed for salvation.  Unfortunately, this may have  become the norm in the Orthodox Church.  So the perception of the “good” Orthodox is to be passive in carrying out the mission of the Church beyond the temporal.  We have given up our baptismal rite to be disciples.

Spiritual Education, spiritual knowledge, knowledge and familiarity with scriptures, for the most part, is foreign to most Orthodox.  Ask a parishioner to say the opening prayer at a dinner, event or function and watch the beads of sweat form on the forehead! 

We need to re-evaluate the priorities of our time, talents and treasure to use them for the true mission of the Church, to make disciples.  We need to rejuvenate the discipleship culture.  How are you using the gifts God has given you?  Are you using them as He has commanded you?

This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

Mark Your Calendar Now for the 2nd annual Stewardship Retreat will be held September 22-24, 2017.

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