7 thoughts on “What Really Matters?”

  1. I had to google your Latin quote…
    The clerical and lay parts of the Church…
    I would say that there are different parts to the clerical part of the Church.
    When it comes to some of the US bishops, I find that what seems to matter to them and matter to me belongs to two different realities. Theirs alienates me. Their behavior did turn me off. Possibly the same holds true when it comes to Rome and its behavior toward women.
    The Church, however, is so much greater than these few men. The Body of Christ, the teachings of Jesus, all this is so much more exhilarating and inviting…
    So to place the cleric and the lay parts of the Church in juxtaposition may be, in a way, unfair to the cosmic invitation that God sends to each one of us…

    I will continue to ponder this over the day. I thank you for this post. It has brought joy to my heart.

  2. My first reaction was that I’m not so sure that it’s simply a matter of clerical versus lay – I suspect that most of the Catholic clergy I have ever known would be less-than-entirely sympathetic to the apparent political preferences of some US Catholic bishops! But there is a polarisation that I find disturbing. While it seems particularly marked in some Catholic contexts, it cuts across different Churches, and too-easily leads to knee-jerk reactions rather than solid dialogue.

    One of the things that bothers me, and that may be related to the clerical-lay divide (although ultimately I hope not!), is the way Christian tradition and dogma often seems to be reduced either to something that is easily written off, or to a sort of necessary by-product of obedience to an institution – either way, it seems to have lost its life-giving quality. And then I can’t help thinking of the contrast with St Gregory of Nyssa’s account of how, during the Christological controversies, everyone was really invested in what was going on so that one couldn’t go and buy one’s bread from the baker without him discoursing on the nature of the Trinity! Dogma mattered and I suspect that we need to find a way of enabling people to see why and how it still matters today.

    Those feel like rambling thoughts, but for what it’s worth…

  3. My categorisation of ‘the clerical part of the Church’ and the ‘lay part of the Church’ was meant to be very broad and generalised. It’s not easy to find a shorthand for the kind of differences — if that’s the right word?— to which both Claire and Macrina allude. There are plenty of ‘clerical’ lay people and ‘nonclerical’ clerics, if you follow my drift.

    I agree that dogma is no longer seen by some as life-giving. That may be why a lot of so-called theological discussion online can be both ill-informed and ill-tempered, because it’s more concerned with scoring points than discovering truth.

    Thank you for giving me more to think and pray about, and the reminder that sparrows, too, can teach us something important about God.

  4. I read this with interest, belatedly this evening.

    While I don’t know that much about the current situation between Clergy and Laity in the Catholic Church of today, I can remember how it was in my youth in the 50’s and 60’s.

    As children in Care, we were taught to respect and defer to the Priests, Nuns and Brothers who care for us. We seemed to be being taught that they were set apart from us, by reason of the Vocation to the Priest Hood or the Religious life. I know that that attitude followed me into early adult life, although, things happened later which changed that view, particularly of the Priesthood.

    Now, many years later and an Anglican, I find myself in that strange position of having tested a vocation to ordained ministry, I wasn’t considered suitable, but was strongly recommended for Ministry in the Church of England. In this context, lay ministry.

    The Church of England is seeking to re-imagine it’s ministry, in that akin to the Catholic Church, there is a shortage of Stipendiary ministers, but many are coming forward for Self-supporting, part-time ministry. At the same time, laity are pressing for a wider definition of the ministry available to them and in many contexts. There has been a marked reluctance in the past for any change, but circumstances changing means that there is an urgent need to change, hence the re-imagining initiative.

    I have felt called to a ministry outside the narrowly defined parameters for Lay Ministry, in the main as Readers, but defining and describing such a role has been difficult. Eventually, my Vicar had a vision of a mission related role, which we are now seeking to take forward. The time and trouble he has taken to think and pray this through, the discussions he has had with Diocesan vocations teams and other agencies has for him, a busy Parish Priest and Reserve Forces Chaplain been costly, but he has been willing to do so as he believes in the holistic integrity of the ministry of both Clergy and Laity and want’s to see it blossom and develop.

    I know that there remains an invisible line between Clergy and Laity in the Anglican Church, but that line becomes thinner and more elastic, day by day. Re-imagining ministry seems to set us on a new direction where the Priesthood of all Believers becomes more of a reality than it has ever been in the Anglican Church. Will it spread to the Universal Church, only God knows. But we can pray that it does.

  5. Thank you, Ernie. As regards the situation in the Catholic Church, the Second Vatican Council issued a document called Christifideles Laici which encouraged the lay faithful to take up their proper role in the Church — and we have been arguing about it ever since! I think the role of the laity/non-ordained ministry in the Church would be a good subject for another post, don’t you?

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