September 29, 2020

The Pastor: Tasks, Titles, and Texts

613EHnHjnfL._SL1076_As a part of my studies toward ordination, I have been reading Gordon W. Lathrop’s fine meditation on the ministerial life: The Pastor: A Spirituality. Lathrop states that he hopes his book will provide “a moment of deliberate delight in the central matters of Christian ministry.” Indeed, I have found it to be so.

For the next couple of weeks, I will offer a few posts reflecting on The Pastor so that we might discuss the fundamentals of this vocation and my concerns that we have abandoned basic and sound perspectives about pastoral ministry from Scripture and tradition, replacing them with inadequate, culture-bound substitutes.

In the introduction to The Pastor, Gordon Lathrop discusses the pastor’s tasks, the pastor’s titles, and the texts that form his or her spirituality among the congregation.

The Pastor’s Tasks

And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.

– Justin Martyr, First Apology 67

The traditional tasks of a pastor in a congregation are given in this passage from Justin Martyr. Summarizing Justin’s description of what the “presider” (“president” in the above translation) does when the congregation gathers each Sunday for worship, Gordon Lathrop says, “the ‘presider’ preaches a biblical sermon, gives thanks at the table as well as possible, and sees to it that there is a collection for the poor.”

Lathrop also notes that, outside the gathering, these same central symbols serve to order pastors’ lives “between Sundays.” As representatives of the assembly, they carry the words and promises of the Bible to the people of the community through instruction, counseling, and prayer. They administer the sacraments through giving communion to those who cannot attend the assembly and by pronouncing words of baptismal absolution to those who confess their sins. They also bring gifts of money, food, or necessities from the church to those who lack them.

Therefore, whether with the church gathered or as a representative of the church scattered, the pastor’s ministry involves these three tasks:

  1. Speaking God’s Word
  2. Administering God’s Sacraments
  3. Distributing God’s Gifts

Particularly striking to me is the emphasis on collecting gifts for the poor and the pastor’s role in distributing those gifts. Justin Martyr describes a congregation who understands that those with means are responsible to take care of the poor. On Sundays, its members who are able and willing to give contribute to a collection specifically for that purpose. This is not compulsory or forced, but “they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit.” The pastor is designated to oversee this collection, making sure it is gathered and then given to any in need.

I’m sad to confess how foreign this sounds to me, even after decades of ministry. Rarely have I heard congregational worship, bringing our offerings, caring for the poor, Christian love for one another, and the pastor’s daily work brought together like this and commended as a habitual pattern. Justin Martyr’s description and Lathrop’s appeal to it reflect a church experience that I have rarely witnessed in our culture, especially in the evangelical and Protestant churches of which I’ve been a part.

I have seen it in other places where folks who have few worldly possessions gather for worship. For example, at a small mission church in a ramshackle village in northeast Brazil, I observed a large basket on the altar, where each Sunday congregants brought food, clothes, and other items for “the poor” (!) each week. At the same church, a bulletin board displayed pictures of a half dozen missionaries the congregation sacrificed to support through regular financial gifts. These people who had next to nothing grasped the generosity that flows from hearts set free by grace.

At least in what I’ve seen, this is much rarer in our more affluent setting, though, of course, ours is not the first culture in which the Church has enriched itself at the expense of its mission to embody Good News for the poor. Nevertheless, Justin Martyr’s description of the pastor’s duty — along with that of the entire congregation — needs to be reemphasized more than ever in our day.

Saint_Justin_Martyr_by_Theophanes_the_CretanThe Pastor’s Titles

With rich insight, Gordon Lathrop deconstructs the various titles by which Christian pastors are called. He suggests that they are all good names, but that they also are never fully accurate. These are “broken” titles which we must use with care.

Priest. Christian leaders offer no sacrifices, nor are they priests alone, set apart from the priesthood of all believers. But the title, appropriately used, points to the pastor’s job of proclaiming Christ’s sacrifice and presiding as the assembly offers sacrifices of praise.

Presbyter (elder). The Greek word describes a person of age and, presumably, wisdom. The title, however, may refer to a younger person called and ordained to serve the congregation, reminding us that one’s wisdom is not to be found solely in one’s experience but in the One who has been made unto us “wisdom from God” (1Cor. 1:30).

He likewise deconstructs Reverend (even Jesus said, “Why do you call me good?”), Father (Jesus warned us, “Call no one father…”), Rector — which means “ruler” (“…it shall not be so among you”).

In our day, when Minister can represent a high government official and when “serving” others can often create unhealthy dependencies, we must be careful to clarify this designation.

Preacher, originally meant to describe one who announces Good News, has come to often designate one who scolds with a loud voice and pounding fists.

Justin Martyr used the word “Presider,” but today we say “President,” and immediately we are back in the realm of political power that may suggest authoritarian control.

What about “Pastor”? It is certainly a good word to describe the care and oversight a Christian leader must exercise. But what does it say about the church? Are congregation members then dumb animals who cannot think or act for themselves, who dumbly follow and wait to be fed? Furthermore, in the Bible “shepherd” was a metaphor for kingship, which more often than not led to the fleecing of the flock.

Lathrop even addresses our contemporary tendency to add one’s first name to the title: like, Pastor Mike. The common use of this form of address speaks to our culture’s casualness and desire for intimacy. But he is cautious about recommending this, reminding us of Bonhoeffer’s important reminder from Life Together that all relationships in the Christian community are not immediate but mediated through Christ. Lathrop warns us, “…this title, too, is symbolic, full of longing for a thing that cannot be delivered by [the pastor] alone…”.

Competent pastors and mature congregants will recognize that all these titles are “broken,” metaphorical, and insufficient to communicate the true nature of the vocation. We hold them lightly even as we seek to live up to the truths they tell us.

The Pastor’s Texts

One of Gordon Lathrop’s goals in The Pastor is to set forth a way of spirituality for the pastor. To be sure, the Christian minister does not pursue a spirituality that is separate from that of any other believer. Together, we are all the baptized. However, each of us experiences the spiritual life in a way that is congruent with his or her vocation. And so with the pastor. The catechetical texts of our Christian traditions are the materials by which all Christ-followers are formed, but the pastor learns them in in the context of ordination and the diaconal life. As Lathrop says,

One old idea of the Christian life, then, involved the proposal that all Christians might continually relearn these texts, continually receive again their gifts, surprises, and questions, and that this might happen in the midst of the actual circumstances of people in their vocations.

In the Lutheran and Reformed tradition, the three main texts for forming the spiritual life are the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. The Decalogue teaches us God’s Law. The Creed tells the story of the Gospel. The Lord’s Prayer enables us to pray with the Church that God’s agenda may be fulfilled in our lives and throughout the world.

The pastor goes ever deeper into such texts and calls the church family to join him in exploring and living them daily.

* * *

The pastor’s tasks are characterized by generosity. With open hands he or she gives Jesus to people through the Gospel — in Word, in Sacrament, in material goods.

The pastor’s titles are not to be taken too seriously. One with all the baptized, he or she is called out of and through the community of faith to preside and to represent the congregation.

The pastor’s texts are formative, designed to make the minister into a person who can say, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1Cor. 11:1).

Comments

  1. CM,
    Is the text from Martyr indicative of the structure and conduct of the early church in all locales, precincts, areas? Or was it a local embodiment that may have differed considerably from place to place? How universal, and normative, was it for that time, and by extension, for ours? Is there other documentary evidence supporting it?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      It seems a laudable model in any case; but one that would certainly need to be adapted to the times.

      It is difficult to imagine managing donations and money in that manner in the modern world; very likely someone would end up arrested. The fire-marshal [rightfully] is not going to allow large congregations to meet in houses, etc… it is unclear to me [very likely due to historical ignorance on my part] how the ‘early church’ or even early-ish church handled any fixed-costs / infrastructure-costs. It is important to keep in mind we are talking about a time before most people owned much of anything, probably nothing worth taxing, and no medical care – so no medical insurance, and no transportation expenses – they walked – no communication expenses – they couldn’t communicate, nothing like we do – essentially no utility expenses (water, electricity, heat, ….). A very different time.

      Whatever the modern emulation [if that is what is actually desired] of this looks like, it would look quite different.

      But I am confident it would also look quite different than what we have; at least in Protestant circles.

      I am generally impressed by how much more the poor and *disadvantaged* are front-and-if-not-center-just-slightly-off-to-the-side in the RCC. They come up continually in my experience of the RCC. They were a footnote in all my years of Evangelicalism, and often a footnote with an addendum of blame [blame, BTW, that statistically barely exists – the lazy welfare mom – but a notion of blame continually reinforced by often repeated *anecdotes* of a few congregants, and woe to one who tells that person to shut-up].

      • I too thought that the Catholic priests I know much more closely embody this style of ministry than the evangelicals.

      • I’ve recently begun wondering if the individualism that is so powerfully invoked in the individual/personal relationship with the evangelical Christian and Jesus isn’t translated into how they view society. You are an individual and you individually must pull yourself out of your problems. The sub-text is if you don’t then it is your fault and you must like your “sin” (poverty) more than you want to change.

        Not sure HOW the Catholic church changes that narrative, or if the general mantra of the poor as leaches of the “hard worker” is effecting change in the lay person’s view of the poor.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I’ve recently begun wondering if the individualism that is so powerfully invoked in the individual/personal relationship with the evangelical Christian and Jesus isn’t translated into how they view society. You are an individual and you individually must pull yourself out of your problems.

          Well, that does explain the Syncretism with Ayn Rand’s cult. Pre-existing Extreme Individualism would predispose you for a philosophy of Utter Selfishness like Objectivism. Like Evangelical Individualism is giving you a watered-down version and now you’re introduced to the full-strength original. You’ll OD — or at least go on a real bender.

      • The Episcopalian church I attended for a brief while on my way out of Christianity was very concerned with service to the poor. It took a night of the shelter service (as did 2 Catholic Churches, a Lutheran church, a Methodist Church and at least one Synagogue) and presented the gifts to the food pantry along with the more traditional gifts of water and wine for a blessing during Mass.

        Fr. Shawn was very concerned with service to the poor and preaching a policy of opposition to marginalization of any sort.

        • In general, it may be that churches with more respect for tradition – including mainline Protestants – have more investment in and structures for caring for the poor, though I also think many inner city churches, regardless of type, must face these issues out of necessity.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            This may be another application of Institutional Memory and established infrastructure through history.

            If you have some sense of history, you’re less likely to spend time and energy reinventing the wheel.

          • Of course, in this area, there really is not much of an evangelical presence. A little further east and a bit further west there are black evangelical churches and, yes, they do tend to take a very active position toward service to and care for the poor

    • I don’t know the full answer to that, Robert, but it resonates with me as compatible with what I read of Paul’s ministry in the NT as well, especially in letters like 1Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians.

    • Also, Robert, take a look at Scot McKnight’s blog today and his post on a new book, Reading Romans in Pompeii. Some fascinating information about the make-up of the early churches in Rome.

  2. Adam Tauno Williams says

    > speaks to our culture’s casualness and desire for intimacy

    That is one interpretation; or it is a desire, or trick, to deny authority or position. When I refer to someone informally I place them at my level [or lower], when I refer to someone formally I grant them dignity and position. With this simple verbal gesture the trained theologian or disciplined student can be moved squarely into the sights of my lame “yea, but…” refutation of his/her position [“ok, but God is Love, so….”]. Every worthwhile teacher knows this; and one thing a professionally trained pastor should be is “Teacher” – otherwise what are we paying for?

    The widespread cultural defect that someone who has spent years studying one-thing can just be disregarded with a glib cut should not be tolerated. This does not apply to only pastors; the housewife telling the doctor how vaccine’s cause disease, or the accountant scolding the physicist about the reliability of carbon-dating, or the college freshman accusing the one who can read Hebrew and Greek of not taking scripture seriously, the truck driver explaining to the social worker about the lazy poor… it is no wonder both our religious and political institutions seem frozen or mired. It is a tyranny of ‘equality’, and it is madness [it certainly is not equality].

    > the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things

    A scripturally illiterate congregation will implode, that is just a matter of time. The stunning epic-fail I’ve experienced in Protestant churches regarding teaching and instruction… I don’t know what the answer is. But I know one point: that it would be much easier to take Pastors seriously if they took themselves more seriously. Self-deprecation and humor does not make friends, it makes door-mats.

    • I understand what you’re getting at… My wife has a PhD, and I have a Masters, so I know what kind of work is involved is pursuing those things. However, I guess I have a hard time believing that simply having some sort of credentials automatically qualifies someone to be worthy of respect. I was in a church for a long time where the pastor had a PhD, and because of that he tended to intimidate a lot of people, and there was always a feeling that he could never be disagreed with. That sort of thing is simply not healthy.

      Yes, certainly, it is foolish for someone with no training in an area at all to assume that they know more than someone who dedicated their life to that subject, but I think we also need to be careful in getting too caught-up in titles. It cuts both ways.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        >some sort of credentials automatically qualifies someone to be worthy of respect

        It means their statements on the appropriate topic should be considered carefully.

        > but I think we also need to be careful in getting too caught-up in titles. It cuts both ways.

        Certainly; but I believe we are generally far down one end of that scale.

        The problem is not the credentialed person [for this particular problem] but the presumption practiced by the other party; everyone acting as though they have a trump card, and their [however true] experience demonstrates a wide-spread truth. I am less interested in the credentials than just that someone has expended a great deal of time and effort learning about a topic – that means their opinion or statements are worth more, or at least merit consideration. It is a fundamental tenant of civil society to recognize this; otherwise constructive discussion becomes nearly impossible.

    • David Cornwell says

      Following is a quote from Stanley Hauerwas on this subject. He is quite adamant for his insistence on adequate training for clergy.

      …”… people believe incompetent physicians can hurt them. Therefore, people expect medical schools to hold their students responsible for the kind of training that’s necessary to be competent physicians. On the other hand, few people believe an incompetent minister can damage their salvation. This helps you see that what people want today is not salvation, but health. And that helps you see why the medical profession has, as a matter of fact, so much power over the church and her ministry. The medical establishment is the counter-salvation-promising group in our society today.”

      He is never one to mince words, and one must know something of the context in which he speaks to understand it completely. However I think the above words speak to the subject.

      • Where is this quote from? I think I’d like to read more of this.

        • David Cornwell says

          I’ve seen this statement, or a similar one, in several of his writings and books. However I copied the quote from “ABORTION, THEOLOGICALLY UNDERSTOOD,” from http://lifewatch.org/abortion.html. It is from a sermon he delivered to the “Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality” in 1991.

          The entire article will make you think about what the role of the Church should be in these kind of issues. And it will take you beyond the usual conservative vs liberal understandings, just as all his writings do. What I like about him is that he makes you think once again, and sometimes think deeply, about issues once considered to be settled in one’s mind.

          He is not an ordained minister. But he taught at University of Notre Dame for many years and now teaches at Duke University and has a great heart and love for the Church.

          • It’s also an example of Hauerwas’ criticism of the priestly mystique surrounding the practice of medicine, and the practitioners of medicine, in our culture. “This helps you see that what people want today is not salvation, but health. And that helps you see why the medical profession has, as a matter of fact, so much power over the church and her ministry. The medical establishment is the counter-salvation-promising group in our society today.” That’s a very different perspective from the one that puts “health-and-wellness” at the center of all rational and worthwhile living.

            When we think about the debates surrounding health care in our society, it would be salutary to take into account Hauerwas’ criticism.

  3. CM, the example of the church in Brazil sums up my experience and readings as well. Those who objectively have nothing to give seem to give a portion of that “nothing” to those who have even less with care and concern. All too often, those with a surplus, especially in western culture, give only a token from their surplus. The widow continues to give her mite, while the wealthy Pharisee who prides himself on his sinless life tosses in a twenty and feels good about himself.

    I know less than nothing about being a pastor, but talking about money and giving to the Lord, while not seeming to be obsessed with riches, has got to be one of the more difficult roles of being the guy in charge….

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      >while the wealthy Pharisee who prides himself on his sinless life tosses in a twenty and feels good about himself

      This is an often used analogy, and quite probably it is often true. But some charity of thought could be employed here:

      “while the wealthy Pharisee who prides himself on his sinless life tosses in a twenty and ***and does not feel*** good about himself”

      It could be that ‘Pharisee’ just can’t see another way, does not understand how this can really matter in the ‘big picture’ [Ugh! The dreaded ‘big picture’], or that the Pharisee in question has wealth but actually little “surplus” [and lies awake at night in fear of loosing what he has, and what that will mean for his relationships, job, etc…]. It could be that this Pharisee arrived in his position, or dilemma, by making choices and decisions what with acquired wisdom or enlightenment he would not now repeat.

      Perhaps a good friend [should he be fortunate enough to possess such a rare thing] or a wise counselor [a pastor, maybe?] could help that Pharisee to see a new vision, and a better way forward.

      Perhaps the skant $20 he placed in the offering is a beginning. There is more hope to be found in that beginning than in all the dour glances at this paltry gift.

  4. We are all exposed by our giving…or lack thereof.

    To boot, I have never met a pure motive yet…from poor or rich alike.

  5. David Cornwell says

    This is an excellent subject. Several things come to mind.

    Many of the Catholic priests I have known about, do seem to relate to the poor in a more visible way. This may be due to the simple “catholicity” of that church. One can find Catholic parishes of every variety in urban areas. Some of them have been especially noted for their service and care for the poor. They do this in a variety of ways, but all are effective and do it from a simple outpouring of Christian love. I know of at least two in the city where I attend church. Both are known by, and because of, this outreach. Sometimes it includes assistance for medical care as well.

    Yesterday driving to church I was listening to NPR and heard a report on how the Amish handle the care of those who have serious medical needs. I live near the town they were reporting on, Topeka, Indiana. Anyway the Amish do not eschew modern medicine. What they are wary of is the government, so they go about providing for their people in a totally different way. What struck me is how similar the early church they seem to be.

    When someone has a serious medical need they raise money for them in their churches. (Where these churches meet is another interesting subject.) When the need is a huge one, involving many thousands of dollars, a negotiator meets with the medical providers in an attempt to bring the bill down. Then large events are planned to raise the money. Bake sales, auctions, quilts, and donations are arranged to bring in the money. The report said they are able to raise huge amounts, upwards in the hundreds of thousands of dollars doing this work.

    Most of all, I think, both the Catholic parishes I know about, and the Amish (though very different) find joy in doing this work. It is not just a chore they do reluctantly, cursing those in need and reluctantly doing the service.

    Some Protestants churches also find ways to give substantial assistance, especially churches near the city core. But there is also a lot of judgement sometimes pronounced in our churches, tying the poor to political goals, and almost pronouncing guilt without a trial. They have become a convenient scapegoat. For instance, the idea of demanding that everyone on food stamps be given mandatory drug tests is one that I’ve heard evangelicals espouse. This idea is neither Christian nor conforming to the American idea of presumed innocence. If we do not like these government programs, then we, in the churches need to once again listen to the words of Christ concerning the poor and repent of our hardness of heart.

  6. I live in the fourth largest Amish community in the world. It has been noted how they are similar to the ethos of the early church as described by Justin Martyr. However, I would like to remind us all about the post called riding the right wave….”For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe…….et al” Now the opening line of that old Christian writing does not describe the Amish. They are different in country( because as David Cromwell says about their wariness of government), language, and customs. They are certainly not people of Ten Commandments or Creed. They are Beatitudes and parables. ( I think it is interesting that the overlap to texts is in the Lord’s Prayer). As to Chaplain Mike’s summary position of a pastor, it must be seen that Amish use the Bishop of each community as others use pastor. As to him being generous, the title not to be taken too seriously, and to being an imitator of Christ……it is not universal in those communities. But then, that’s true in many Christian communities.
    To me the overall theme of this post is that our Christian communities have somehow lost something that should be true of our leadership. I concur and think it can be seen across Christianity.

    • David Cornwell says

      I agree. I’d never use the Amish as an example as to how we should relate to our modern social order. But I think they have important lessons to teach us. They are rural people for the most part and applying their life style to an urban setting would be impossible. But they may have some things to teach us about being the church and caring for one another.

      However the power the bishops hold is enormous and sometimes seems almost abusive.

      • It would be an interesting thought experiment to imagine what it would mean to be “urban Amish.”

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Probably something akin to urban green-organic hipsterism minus the iPhones and iPads [which would make hipsterism less obnoxious].

          There are a *lot* of urban gardens where I live. Even the local college police station grows peppers, tomatoes, and brussel sprouts in the stations ‘window boxes’.

          It is the hierarchy of the amish culture that would seem the hardest thing to replicate given some of the anarchic *aspirations* of hipsterism. Without the hierarchy it could never scale-up or sustain itself.

  7. Re the deconstruction of “reverend,” “father” and “rector” – is this simply reaction against “higher” churches? The whole “call no man ‘father'” thing relies on 1 verse that is repeatedly ripped out of context. In Mt 23, Jesus is talking about how the Pharisees with whom he is interacting are hypocrites, and warning against feeding their inflated, deluded egos. I’ll be the first to agree that there are some clergy in the “higher” churches who only want the title and the “bling” that goes with it. But is Jesus really saying that we should not call anyone (no man) “father”? What about our biological fathers? Is St Paul disobeying the Lord when he says *he* has been a father to the Corinthians and the Thessalonians? Or when he likens his relationship with Timothy in their ministry to a father and son? Or when he tells Timothy not to rebuke a presbyter, but appeal to him as to a father? Or when he says that Abraham is the father of all of us who believe?

    “Reverend” came into usage around the time of the Reformation as a term for anyone whom one would want to address as “honorable,” and over time became specific for church clergy. How is that anything Jesus saying “Why do you call me ‘good'”? – again, a verse ripped out of context. (It’s likely that Jesus was speaking with his tongue in his cheek there, trying to see if the questioner knew and/or could admit his own motives.) And “rector” is only a title found in the “higher” churches. It simply means the priest in charge of a larger parish with more than one priest, the one who is responsible (kinda like the “presider”).

    It’s not simply because I’m Orthodox that this bugs me. When I was growing up, people were addressed by their honorifics, because those were terms of respect and recognition of the realities of a person’s office or station, and most of the time of the character of the person doing the ministry (in this case). Even if one does not subscribe to the beliefs of the “higher churches” about their clergy, it’s simply polite to refer to them in the terms their own communities use. Or else to be consistent, one then cannot ever describe the Roman Catholic bishop of Rome (or the Coptic bishop of Alexandria) as “the Pope”, because that term means “father.”

    I think Adam at 6:23 and 10:34 a.m. puts his finger on at least part of it. Sometimes it’s a need to make sure that no one is “above” anyone else, whether the motive is the desire to truly treat one another like brothers and sisters, or to erase any distinctions between unique persons so that I am not “less than” anyone else – or somewhere in between – motives can be all along the continuum. The fact that these verses are taken out of context is an example of the biblicism/literalism that is usually avoided here.

    I’m glad for anything that is helping you, Ch. MIke. My beef is not so much with this particular author as with the continued generalized proof-texting problem. Yes, at the foot of the cross all are equal, and a truly humble person will not want or need recognition. And at the same time, we are not all equal in gifting, abilities, calling, station, many other ways – not all are ears, or hands, and some Body parts have greater “honor” than others – and it’s okay to recognize that and give honor to whom honor is due (1Tim 5.17), while at the same time all of us, including those so honored, consider others as greater than ourselves. (Phil 2)

    Forgive me, a sinner.

    Dana

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > And at the same time, we are not all equal in gifting, abilities, calling, station, many other ways –
      > not all are ears, or hands, and some Body parts have greater “honor” than others

      And we are not all equal in education and training and discipline. The cross does not nullify those things. And the absence of those things is disastrous.

      > and it’s okay to recognize that and give honor to whom honor is due (1Tim 5.17), while at the same
      > time all of us, including those so honored, consider others as greater than ourselves. (Phil 2)

      I am impressed with how the RCC handles this. The emphasis on the sacredness of human life, the dignity of the individual, they talk about that c-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-l-y yet they also have a hierarchy and systems enabling them to articulate coherent positions, facilitate civil debate, and to address real-world issues.

  8. Therapists obsess over their roles too, but rarely stop to ask whether therapists are really necessary. The fact that such discussions tend to be dominated by members of the profession concerned, inevitably distorts the conclusions reached. There’s an inevitable paternalism involved.

    • Even therapists, however, I would assume, discuss what are and what are not best practices and what should be done regarding those who reject or ignore them.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > There’s an inevitable paternalism involved.

      This seems prevalent in many professions.

      I work in IT; it is certainly not a raised question to ask… does new way X of doing things *really* improve anything? Of course it does, it is new. But we’ve managed to do this for the last 20 years without X…. “yes, but it was terrible”… “was it?” Will not X have its own terrible, and terrible with joined relationships that can only be exited with extreme pain. Shhh, don’t ask, if you do then you are a curmudgeon.

      Or, working with IT, I’ve been asked by local educators/colleges on several occasions about the dissatisfaction expressed with their programs or expressed by potential employes of their students concerning the scope and depth of their training…. so you think about and carefully compose an answer … then they inform you that no, you are wrong, you do not understand education and the focus of their program, but thank you. Er…. yea, shrug and move on. They can now check the box that they ‘collaborated with industry to identify their needs’. Never mind they ignored the input.

      My personal experience is that educators and protestant clergy have a *lot* of attitudes in common, and both are extremely insular groups with their own complete schemes for everything. But really, what does a pastor’s convention have with which it overlaps? At least in other professions you have people who practice those professions in other industries and get at least that different perspective. Pastors, are pastors. Perhaps urban vs rural, but within denominations there is even ***generally*** some racial, ethnic, and economic homogeneity.

      It is hard to take criticism, and most people, and nearly all institutions, do it poorly.