The Honest Priest Project: 35 Theses

I'm not so cynical as to suggest that most priests aren't generally honest, and I'm not so narcissistic as to suggest that I'm doing anything particularly out of the ordinary, but I want to voice it: As I'm beginning the next stages of preparation for the priesthood, I'm going to be honest. I'm going to be committed to my principles around theology and liturgy, and I'm going to work to communicate those principles, rather than falling back on appeals to tradition and/or intellectual and personal laziness. I know this is a silly/teenagerish thing to say, but the religious world has enough folks towing the line. We need some smart ballsy honest leaders. We also, of course, need leaders who aren't buttholes, which is the difficult part - communicating so people can hear it.

A good place to start probably isn't a blog, but let's get started anyway. I've been mulling over some basic affirmations that I'd like to put forward - my hope is to come back to these throughout my (probably five year) postulancy, and probably write some more on them as my thought develops.

On being Episcopalian

1. Anglicanism is the healthiest form of Christianity - primarily b/c it's a set of traditional disciplines rather than a theology. (If I didn't think we were the best, I wouldn't be here!)

2. Based on number 1, I believe in taking an unapologetic missional/outward looking stance as Episcopalians.

3. I only care if people become a part of the Anglican/Episcopalian stream to the extent that it makes their lives (and the life of the community) better.

4. The insider/outsider concept doesn't really work - authentic Anglican 'evangelism' and mission aren't about joining or conversion - they're about growth in love and unity. The Anglican tradition has the potential to embody that.

5. It's a betrayal of the Anglican spirit if I don't figure out how to be friends and take communion w/people who hate me and everything I stand for.

6. The Episcopal Community is full of brilliant people who've been barking up some of the wrong trees for quite some time.

7. The Episcopal Community is in the process of rediscovering (the value of) its identity and mission. It lost that a while back, on a large scale.

8. Once we regain a widespread sense of mission and identity, we'll regain our mojo. We lost that a while back, on a large scale.

9. The Episcopal Church might be a turd in the Anglican punchbowl, but without the rest of the Communion we're just a turd.

On Theology

9. Theology is important, but intellectual assent to the Creed is not an adequate or realistic criteria for Communion.

10. My theology is most in line with the liberal/latitudinarian streams of the Anglican community, but I'm willing to learn.

11. Biological/evolutionary explanations of why we are and should be religious are as helpful as theological ones.

12. In that vein, theology is best approached as a synthesis of rational theory, aesthetic experience, and communal affirmation. We pray what we believe and we believe what we pray.

13. Rational theories about God should usually be adhered to in an ironic sort of way.

14. A God who would base righteousness upon a belief system (or membership in a club) isn't very God-like.

On Liturgy

15. Liturgy is 'the work of the people'. Liturgy that people aren't interested in isn't really liturgy.

16. It's better for a sermon to communicate than to impress.

17. Liturgical fundamentalism is (almost) as bad as theological fundamentalism.

18. Worship works better as a rhythm and a discipline than as a show.

19. The 'Church on Sunday' model of faith isn't that helpful for most people.

20. Liturgy is art that re-affirms communal beliefs and values and cements communal bonds. There will be traditional and emergent expressions of liturgy and both are right and good: Mass, Theology Pub, Rules of Life, Movies and Sports...

21. Liturgy is how we remind each other that our lives are meaningful.

22. Liturgy should tell our story in a way that people can understand.

On Miscellaneous Stuff

22. Please shoot me if I insinuate that giving 10% of your income to the local parish church is a fundamental spiritual discipline.

23. Please shoot me if I ever lose my sense of humor about religion.

24. Please shoot me if I ever say that my family has to sacrifice for the sake of the community. (It's not a zero sum game.)

25. We need a new approach to sexuality: my suggestion - sexuality as humanity and sexual acts as sacramental.

On Spiritual Formation

26. 'Spirituality' is a holistic trait, and formation has to be holistic.

27. Academic training and propositional knowledge are important.

28. Academic training and propositional knowledge are less important than apprenticeship and practical knowledge.

29. Formation is what we're all doing.

30. Tests are stupid ways to determine if people are Christian/Anglican/Ordained. Communities are better.

On the Priestly life

31. All effective priests also fulfill some deaconal role, listening to people who aren't on church membership roles and to people who are.

32. Priests really need to be members of their local/geographic community.

33. Parish Administrator is a different role from Priest.

34. Most priests don't get paid for it, and don't have a collar.

35. Facilitating liturgy is a priest's role because it is the priest's role to facilitate community.

Comments

Gian said…
I liked what you wrote here. I would have to re-read some of them, because they are in a kind of sarcastic English in which I am not very fluent. English is not my mother tongue. Anyway, I like to know that there will be a priest like you in the Episcopal Church, the only church that I found to be welcoming and open to my doubts and fawls.
Tim Mathis said…
thanks Gian. I love that you identified my native tongue - sarcastic english :)

hope you find a community that nurtures you spiritually.

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