Sunday, December 4, 2011

Patriarchs, and Metropolitans, and Cardinals, Oh My!

There is one thing that members of the Independent Sacramental Movement do well--create titles. It is amazing to see the plethora of titles and offices that members of the ISM have created. Equally amazing are the number of doctorates these same people have awarded themselves!

While this is amazingly entertaining, it's also a bit unfortunate. Don't get me wrong--I admire anyone who has the guts to parade around on the internet in a mismatched outfit and call themselves Patriarch! But, is it really warranted? Sure, there are leaders of historic churches who use such grandiose titles. Perhaps they should refrain from doing so as well. After all, who is really "all holy?" But when your See survives 2,000 years of invasions, persecutions, etc. perhaps you get to call yourself whatever you want. I don't see many ISM folks whose jurisdictions will last that long.

The most beautiful and most poignant name one can use are the terms "Father" or "Mother". They encompass so very much. The priest has been entrusted with the most sacred gift imaginable--the gift of spiritual guidance. To have a spiritual father and to trust someone with your spiritual well being is a very lofty, important decision. It's not an easy thing to do and we clergy certainly haven't made it any easier. Our behaviors, narcissism, and downright craziness have given people legitimate reasons to be skeptical.

In fact, it is not uncommon for some traditions to have a seperate name for their own priest as opposed to other priests in different villages or visitors. This cements the sacred relationship between the people and their priest. Traditionalists and others demand that each priest is properly called "Father Doe" or "Father Joe," but perhaps it is truly significant to earn that name. For instance, I am fortunate to have many clergy friends. While we address each other by our first names, I will still infrequently call them "Father" to remind them of my admiration and respect for their office but, more importantly, for their character.

So, titles are something of weight and importance. To throw around exalted names and positions is colorful. But, if one seeks to earn admiration and love for Christ perhaps something more simple is appropriate. 

"A certain ruler asked Him, 'Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus replied, "'Why do you call me good?'

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