Thursday, January 12, 2012

What is Ministry?

A Free Faith Writes,

I can’t imagine there won’t be a sudden surge in churches calling employees “ministers.”

It’s free discrimination day! « A Free Faith

I have been told by a UU Minister that blogging is a Ministry.  I’ve been told by a UU Minister that my membership on the Social Justice committee is a Ministry.  Whether doing Ministry makes me Minister, I’d like to know.

Also, read Alito and Kagan’s concurring opinion explaining the limits of Ministry applied to non-Protestant Churches and Faiths, and expanding the notion.


Robin Edgar said...

I was very happy to have a well respected Unitarian Universalist minister send an email to me on the Winter Solstice in which he or she wrote -

"Your persistence is a ministry."

This minister was of course talking about my "alternative spiritual practice" and even "prophetic work" of protesting against UU anti-religious intolerance and bigotry, UU negligence towards and effective complicity in all manner of clergy misconduct, and various other UU injustices and abuses. Just last Sunday an elderly member of the Unitarian Church of Montreal remarked -

"Your dedicated."

upon seeing my picket signs displayed in front of "The Church Of The Tarnished Image" for the first time in 2012. I responded to that well-meant compliment* by informing him about the UU minister who wrote "Your persistence is a ministry." and he promptly responded by saying -

"It is."

Now if only UUs were paying me a quarter of a million dollars a year for my ministry like they apparently pay *some* "star" UU clergy. . .

* It was clear from his tone of voice that he was sincere and not being sarcastic. . .

Robin Edgar said...

Typo/grammar correction -

Just last Sunday an elderly member of the Unitarian Church of Montreal remarked -

"You're dedicated."

JMP said...

The definition of "minister" will depend on the church/denomination/religion. The evangelical Christian denomination I used to be part of believed in the priesthood of all believers, so you could say that everyone was a minister, with each having a different talent, thus a different ministry. The question is does the government accept each denomination/religion's own definition of "minister" or does it need to specifically define what a minister is for legal purposes. Most people assume when you use the word minister you are referring to one who holds ministerial credentials from a denomination, or who is the recognized preacher of a church, or one who officially and formally directs a ministry. Minister vs. minister, so to speak. The definition will change as religions will use this ruling to their own advantage, even if formerly a denomination didn't consider all members to be ministers.

Does the UU consider every member to be a minister in the "priesthood of all believers" sense, or is this up to the individual congregation? I don't think I've heard it mentioned much in my church (though I admit my attendance can be sporadic, so I may have missed something).

Bill Baar said...

@JMP At my Church, we have a "called", and then we have lay ????? I want to say we call them lay ministers, but a I'm going to have to check the bulletin board next sunday. They do pastoral work, and our minister gives them some training, and manages them.

Alito and Kagan joined together in a concurring opinion that noted Minister was a protestant notion and in Catholic, Jewish, and other non-Protestant / non-Christian traditions the notion of Minister doesn't fit well, and they would broaden it.

In the case at hand, the Lutherans did have two classes of Ministers: one called, and the other kind had a name I'm blanking on, but they were both called ministers. Besides them there were plain old employees too.

Tom said...

The Supremes didn't define minister in the majority decision. Roberts just wrote that because she called herself a minister and the church called her a minister that was enough.

Stricter standards have been applied in court cases about the minister's housing allowance. Under the IRC up to half of minister's pay is exempt from income tax. This is a pretty big benefit.

Generally you have to be either doing a religious job or doing a key job for a sectarian religious organization. The rules are sort of weird. Professors at non-denominational divinity schools are not ministers but professors at schools controlled by denominations are.

I makes a big difference if you are ordained, commissioned or licensed by your church. The upshot is that if your church licensed you as "minister for social justice" you would have a good shot. Maybe UUs should imitate the LCMS and make all our credentialed DREs ministers. It would be a nice tax break for them and wouldn't cost us anything.