Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Being a Priest/Pastor is NOT Just a Job

 but apparently this woman seems to think it is.  You can read the article for yourself.  What I found most disturbing was not that this woman became an atheist (otherwise I would never sleep at night considering how many people become atheist or are currently atheists), but that she continued to serve in the role of a pastor to this Methodist congregation for years while harboring and developing her atheistic leanings.  According to the article, she did leave, but it seems to have taken her quite a long time. I guess she needed the job

And this is hardly confined to the Methodist church.  I remember reading in a book (can't remember which, sorry) about a man in seminary for the Episcopal Church.  He was miserable there, not because he had doubts about the faith since He loved it very much, hence his decision to be a priest. He was miserable because no one else at seminary had any love for the faith.  He recounted that when sitting down to dinner one evening, a few of his classmates came up to him and said: "We've finally figured out why you're having such a tough time around here. It turns out that you're the only one around here who actually believes in God!"  Think about it.  These were students who were being prepared to serve parishes in the ECUSA and the vast majority of them did not believe in God.  I wonder if their future congregations knew they were getting atheists to shepherd them to God.

I'm sure there have been many Orthodox priests who were also atheists.  I'm sure that the communists had agents infiltrate their seminaries to become priests and try to destroy the church from within.  The point I'm trying to make is that the people who knowingly harbor such beliefs have no business serving in the role of a parish priest.  Doubt is itself not sinful and it is not the enemy of faith.  The enemy of faith is indifference.  But it is incumbent that a priest retain "The Faith" whether in great supply or in need of some filling.

Let's be realistic--pastors and priests are in short supply and that cuts across all confessions of Christianity.  There's genuine job security there. But if that's your sole reason for taking on a job, that's more than a problem.  I remember a person in one of my education classes saying that the only reason he wanted to be a teacher was so that he could have the summers off.  He didn't like kids too much. He didn't really like the subject matter he was training to teach.  He basically half-assed his way through the assignments.  But he did love time off and what other job paid you to take a two month vacation?  The priesthood/pastorate is not just on a list of jobs one would consider at a job fair.

St. John Chrysostom tells us that after the Incarnation, the greatest gift that God gave to man was the priesthood.  A GIFT!  It's not something chosen; it is bestowed upon the very few and the very worthy (though I know they think themselves unworthy). It's a mystery of the Church, above all human understanding.  Priests may be paid but if you were to take into account that they are on duty 24 hours a day and must endure a lot of pain (though also a lot of joy), heartache, frustration, I think (by earthly standards) their wage is way too insufficient.  But at the center of all of that must be a faith in God.  Priests, like the rest of us, have faith in various stages.  Whereas one may be gaining in faith, another is plateauing or even sinking.  But God must be at the center since He is the one bestowing the gift.  If one refuses or cannot acknowledge that, how can he possibly be entrusted with a flock?

Again, I begrudge no one their right to be atheist, but I cannot believe that an atheist would want to be pastor or priest in a Christian faith for any other reason but to sow dissent and confusion and convince others that, like the fool who says in his heart, "there is no God."  And if someone currently serving in a role becomes an atheist, he should immediately step down. 

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