Should Modern Hellenic Polytheists Have Clergy? Part 1

The priestess of Bacchus

Priestess of Dionysos (Bacchus) Image via Wikipedia

There is a lot of negative feeling currently among (at least one group of) Hellenic Recons surrounding the terms “clergy“, “priest”, “minister”, etc. because of how some monotheistic branches have employed these positions in combination with proselytizing.  Some don’t recognize clergy ordained by Hellenion (or other groups) and don’t want the creation of clergy in Hellenismos at all.  I think this comes from lingering resentment towards the dogma and attitude of some members of Christianity and Islam in particular.

Yes, historically there are cases of abuse – hence, in Christianity, the entire thrust of the Reformation – but that shows how Christianity itself hasn’t had a united view of church authority.

Yet, I think Hellenic clergy can, and will be, what we make of it. It need not be modeled on another faith, or have a disrespectful, dismissive, abusive, or personality worship approach. No, I don’t think that there is an inherent danger to making clergy, I don’t agree that it’s human nature to abuse these positions. I think clergy in Hellenismos can do a lot of good and that we can make it what we want it to be.

My opinion is grown out of my family experience: My parents are Unitarian Universalist ministers and my siblings are atheist (one of which spent significant time living among Quakers). I was raised with great respect and understanding for various faiths, with aversion to dogma, with embracing compassion, and with skepticism for all things. Theological debates are lively and welcomed at our table. When I was young, I asked my mother what religion I belonged to, and she told me I belonged to whatever I believed in.

Despite how many weddings and funerals they have led, how many couples and grieving families they have counseled, and their own respective approaches to spirituality (they argue with each other about the nature of their god), when they married my husband and me (my husband being a Norse Recon) they did so with respect for our beliefs which were quite different from their own.

So, coming from this background, I strongly disagree that clergy = bad, or that institutions = bad. It’s how we choose to employ them that is cause for concern. And some of us may choose not to employ them at all…

Even if one or more groups raise clergy, I don’t think they need to be formally recognized by other groups. If folks want to seek the advice, services, or ritual leadership of a priest/ess – great! If not, that’s fine too. It’s all good.

This is continued in Should We Have Clergy? II

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2 comments on “Should Modern Hellenic Polytheists Have Clergy? Part 1

  1. Sean MacDhai says:

    Wise words, and I have to agree with:

    “I think Hellenic clergy can, and will be, what we make of it. It need not be modeled on another faith, or have a disrespectful, dismissive, abusive, or personality worship approach. No, I don’t think that there is an inherent danger to making clergy, I don’t agree that it’s human nature to abuse these positions. I think clergy in Hellenismos can do a lot of good and that we can make it what we want it to be.”

    I have done a lot of thinking on this lately. Rather than being pessimistic, we should learn from the mistakes that humans have made in the past, and correct those mistakes moving forward. Rather than be afraid of clergy, perhaps we should claim that title and that office and show how it should be handled.

  2. Agreed completely. I think it would be most productive to start thinking about what we want clergy to be and how they can be helpful as spiritual counselors and resources for information, and direct our energies towards that.

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