Can the UUA "recognize ordinations"?

Obijuan (Returning . . . .) wrote about the Service of the Living Tradition and then threw this out

What an absolutely boneheaded thing to say in that context as: (1) Many of us already are ordained, and (2) [WARNING: POLITY GEEKING AHEAD] congregational polity means the UUA doesn’t recognize ordinations. Period. That is the job of the congregations. You can welcome us into fellowship, which you’ve just done. Leave it there.

Oh dear, time to say something. I started writing this as a comment, but I believe long, long, long comments by other bloggers are kinda rude, so I brought it home. Here goes, all cut-n-pasted.

I’ll see your geek and raise you a wonk. In short, your take on the polity is wrong and I will demonstrate why.

You’re confusing independency with congregationalism. In both, a congregation has sole power to ordain. Why? Because, in the church does not exist in some nebulous sense apart from the explicit covenanted community, or as the Cambridge Platform calls them, “visible saints by calling.” There just isn’t any body, apart from the congregation, that exists to ordain. For independent churches, the matter stops there.

Unitarians, Universalist and others who practice congregational polity recognize that there is a communion between the churches which does not undermine their autonomy. Congregational polity means something different for different bodies that hold it: even Unitarian and Universalists meant different things from each other, and the UUA practices something between the two. (Which is why I bristle when some people say “we’re becoming Presbyterian” when it seems to me that we’re following some historically-valid Universalist polity choices.) The main difference of application in congregational polity between the Unitarians and Universalists, historically, was whether or not a standing body could exist that could judge whether the basis of communion was being kept for all of the churches which share this mutual communion. Unitarians, no; Universalists, yes. Viscinage councils — still used in some congregational fellowships, with the practice just surviving among some Unitarians — for the Unitarians and state and the central fellowship committees for the Universalists.

On this point current practice favors the Universalists, though with consolidation the authority became far, far more centralized. Fellowship, however it is couched or explain, is more than a fitness vetting, though it certainly includes this; it is also a representation on behalf of all the congregations in fellowship. Though your fellowship standing, the member congregations of the UUA are represented in your ordination; upon this lines of mutual responsibilty follows. Very mutual and meta, to use the current slang.

So I’ll cut Bill Sinkford some slack. By the UUA, I read how he’s increasing using the identity not as the administrative secretariat, but as the fellowship of churches.  And if that’s the case: yes, it can recognize some ordinations — those ordained under fellowship of the UUA — and not recognize those who aren’t.

Universalist prayerbook PeaceBang mentioned

The Rev. Victoria Weinstein (PeaceBang) wrote today about a funeral she performed yesterday and the risks for not having your liturgical elements prepared. She did not have her copy of the 1894 Universalist prayerbook at hand and discovered the canonical text of Psalm 90 isn’t the same used in the funeral service. Both her anecdote and the way the Universalists edited the text were about pastoral preparation, including the way she recovered. But more about that another time.

Continue reading “Universalist prayerbook PeaceBang mentioned”

Accidential clericalism

There’s a curious Unitarian Universalist practice where a good number of ministers use the writings of other Unitarian Universalist ministers “as a reading” for the pulpit, elevating to the defacto level of scripture. Much of what follows also applies to the endless references to popular writers and poets I heard used in Unitarian Universalist sermons.

I know the intent is to bring fresh ideas to the pulpit. I can appreciate that, if not adopt the practice. It seems to drastically compress the process by which ideas are tested as being normative for a group. Next, it allows preachers to cherry-pick agreeable ideas, leading to insularity. Last — and perhaps most pressing — it establishes the insider’s view and rewards prestige and power.

A funny conundrum, that. I’ll stick to the Bible.