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There are a number of theories relative to ethics and ethical behavior, however, a universal truth for resolving moral dilemmas, is non-existent. Ethics by definition is the systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. Ethics 1 will explore professional ethics as it applies to the ADF clergy-lay relationship.

Primary Goal

The primary goal of this course is for students to enhance their knowledge of professional ethics, as it relates to their work as ADF Clergy, through research, analysis, self-introspection and the development of a personal Code of Ethics.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will increase their knowledge of basic ethical concepts and explore the impact of these concepts on the clergy-lay relationship.
  2. Students will identify their own personal morals and values and examine the potential impact of their morals and values on their work as ADF Clergy.
  3. Students will utilize their existing knowledge of the ADF Nine Virtues and as well as newly acquired knowledge of other widely accepted ethical principles and codes to develop a personal Code of Ethics.

1.    Find and provide an appropriate definition, discuss your understanding, and provide illustrative examples for each of the following seven terms: morals, values, personal bias, professional boundaries, confidentiality, right and wrong (100 words each minimum, not including definitions)

Morals

1 a :  of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior :  ethical moral judgments
b
 :  expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior a moral poem
c
 :  conforming to a standard of right behavior took a moral position on the issue though it cost him the nomination
d
 :  sanctioned by or operative on one’s conscience or ethical judgment a moral obligation
e
 :  capable of right and wrong action a moral agent

(Merriam Webster)

Morals are the principles by which one makes decisions about what is right and wrong in behavior. Societies have morals (or moral-like structures) that guide them, as well as individuals having their own ‘moral compasses’, so to speak. Often a society’s hot button issues (our current ones seem to be gay marriage and abortion) come about when individual morality conflicts with societal morality. My ninth-grade civics teacher always said that legislating morality didn’t work, but I’ve come to believe, as an adult, that it’s restrictions on morality that are hard to legislate. Permissive moralities are still moralities, they’re just a lot easier to maintain laws about. Ethical dilemmas come about when a person’s morality conflicts in some way – either with itself, or with society.

Values

3 :  relative worth, utility, or importance – a good value at the price – the value of base stealing in baseball – had nothing of value to say

(Merriam Webster)

Values are the big picture ideas from which definitions of right and wrong are derived. They are bigger than “right and wrong” in the sense that morals dictate behaviors specifically, where values are principles on which morals are built. Much like morals, values can exist at a societal or personal level, or on a group level such as within a grove. Nine Waves Grove values study and learning, so we make decisions about our group meetings that emphasize and prioritize those things that we value. It would not be morally wrong to prioritize something else as a grove, but that is what we have chosen to value, as our group began as a study group, and we would like to continue that tradition. If, over time, our values change, we can change the way we structure our behavior to mirror those changing values.

Personal Bias

3 a :  benttendency
b :  an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially :  a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment :  prejudice
c :  an instance of such prejudice
d (1) :  deviation of the expected value of a statistical estimate from the quantity it estimates (2) :  systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others

(Merriam Webster)

Biases are a tendency for a person to think or respond a certain way in certain situations, especially in a way that is unfair to or slanted towards a certain outcome, regardless of the actual details of the situation. Systemic biases in a culture can be inherited, and often are inherited, by the members of that culture as personal biases – often in subtle and insidious ways. A good example of a systemic bias is found in resumes and job hunting, where names that are non-white-sounding are judged more harshly than stereotypically Western names, even by people who have been trained not to have racial bias affect their decisions. Personal biases like this often get in the way of treating a situation fairly, and should be identified and sought to root out as much as possible.

Professional Boundaries

1 :  something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent – Those two trees mark the boundary of our property. The mountain range that forms the country’s northern boundary

(Merriam Webster)

Professional boundaries set limits on interactions between professionals and the groups they serve. They prevent misbehavior (and the implication of misbehavior) of a sexual, personal, financial, or religious nature. Especially, they prevent someone in a position of power (like a clergyperson, but also like a doctor, teacher, or employer) from interacting with people in their organizations in a way that is inappropriate. My primary experience with professional boundaries is in the workplace, where sexual, religious, and political conversations are not relevant to our work, so I do not engage in those conversations with coworkers, and my bosses do not expect me to be forthcoming with my thoughts on those kinds of subjects. Boundary setting is especially important in the Neopagan community, where often political, religious, and sexual values are different than within the wider society.

COnfidentiality

1 :  marked by intimacy or willingness to confide – a confidential tone

2 :  privatesecret – confidential information

(Merriam Webster)

Confidentiality is the status of something as private or secret between two (or more) parties. This can be explicit, such as someone pulling someone aside for a conversation and asking specifically that the contents of the conversation be kept private, or implicit, such as within relationships where the details of the relationship are understood not to be public. In some religions, the relationship between laity and clergy is understood to be confidential in certain situations (such as within the sacrament of reconciliation in the Catholic Church), and sometimes those bounds of confidentiality are so strong as to be respected within a court of law. In a Neopagan clerical sense, confidentiality is something I would seek to uphold, simply because I value being trusted by my grove, but as always, the mandatory reporting requirements in Texas (and my own personal morals) would require that I break confidentiality if I thought someone was harming a child, for example.

Right and Wrong

Right:

2 :  being in accordance with what is just, good, or proper – right conduct

Wrong:

2 :  something wrong, immoral, or unethical; especially :  principles, practices, or conduct contrary to justice, goodness, equity, or law

(Merriam Webster)

Right and wrong are exceptionally subjective measures that vary wildly from culture to culture. In the broadest sense, ‘right’ action upholds the laws of the society, and ‘wrong’ action breaks those laws. Personal morals, however, might dictate doing a ‘wrong’ action (from a societal standpoint) because it is ethically the ‘right’ thing to do. Civil disobedience is perhaps the most well-known action of this type. As well, individuals must weigh their actions versus their own sense of right and wrong in a challenging situation. Morals, values, ethics, and fairness all weigh into an individual sense of right and wrong, leading to a lot of ‘gray’ area between black and white polarities. These grey areas are seen even in the legal system, where one person killing another person can be judged more or less harshly depending on the circumstances of the killing. Someone accidentally hitting a pedestrian with their car will usually get a much lighter sentence than someone who premeditates and brutally murders another person intentionally, despite the law regarding “one person killing another person” as wrong.

2.    Self-awareness is key to the implementation of professional ethics. Discuss how your personal morals, values, bias and ability to maintain adequate boundaries, confidentiality and determine right from wrong might both positively and negatively impact your professional relationships. (200 words minimum)

All of the topics in question 1 have instances where they could create potential conflicts – either internal or external – along the path of being a public, pagan clergyperson. For myself, I tend to hold myself to very strict standards, especially where confidentiality is concerned, but also in terms of doing the right thing for myself and for my group. The one place where I struggle now, and expect to continue to struggle in the future, is in maintaining adequate boundaries. Not necessarily in a sexual or professional sense (that’s something I don’t think I will need to worry about), but in the sense of maintaining an appropriate amount of distance and “proper behavior.”

When I started Nine Waves as a study group, I was the de-facto leader, but I was not a clergyperson. Over the years, I have begun to act as clergy for the group that is now my grove, but in general, the members who have been around since the beginning treat me more as a friend than they do as a priest. This is fine, as they certainly are my friends, but I worry that there will be the perception of bias or improper conduct there. I’ve also felt a sometimes heavy burden as a Grove Organizer and then Senior Druid to constantly act as an ambassador of ADF, and I expect that will only grow, serving to enforce my need for boundaries and ‘right’ behavior – where that expectation of myself will be higher than I would put on others. As well, I can find it easy to get excited and not set good boundaries for myself and my time, which is not so much a question of right and wrong as it is a question of maintaining my own personal health and well-being.

My personal values and morals are not likely to conflict in professional relationships with most pagans, but in Texas, it is possible that I will run into pagans who have very different morals and values than I do, especially where it comes to race, sexuality, and gender-orientation. I expect my own professionalism will be the best way for me to navigate those interactions, as well as my virtue practice with ADF. I can be hospitable without compromising on my values and morals, and I can ensure that my group does the same.

3.    Discuss how an individual learns to determine right from wrong and explain the factors that influence this determination? (100 words minimum)

Learning right from wrong is a process that starts from very early childhood, with the first expressions of consciousness. As I watch my niece and nephew grow up (they are currently two and a half years old), they are like little sponges, absorbing the culture, morals, and ethics of the people around them. They learn from what they do, from what they are told, and from the media that surrounds them. Some of my own formative memories come from interactions with my parents, but also from the television shows Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood – both shows that teach fairness, tolerance, understanding, and compassion to children, as well as helping them grow into (what I would call) ‘good people.’

As children grow up and enter school, societal factors grow much larger in their determinations of right and wrong, and peer pressure especially becomes a much larger factor that extends well into the teenaged years.

Even as adults, though, our determinations of right and wrong can and do develop, whether from interaction with others, life experiences, or our own changing perceptions of the world. Religions, social groups, political movements, and (increasingly) social media all affect how adults make decisions about right and wrong behavior. Like teens though, if surrounded by enough voices to do something more or less ethical, our morals and values can change. My own morals and values have changed dramatically since I left college, largely due to my surrounding myself with people whose beliefs I respected, and through the complete abandonment of my childhood religion.

4.    Describe several reasons why an individual would strive to “do the right thing”? (100 words minimum)

I can think of two primary arguments for why someone would strive to ‘do the right thing’, one internal, and one external.

As an external argument, a person would do the right thing because it comes with some sort of feedback that they see as positive. Whether an actual monetary reward, social appreciation, a feeling of belonging, or otherwise feeling rewarded for making the correct decision, the attitudes and opinions of those around us often influence the way we behave and can pressure us (in a good or bad way) into ‘doing the right thing’. This audience can also be ‘cosmic’, in the sense of karma or other forces that may judge a person’s actions on a grander timeline and scale. Though John Wooden says that “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when nobody is watching,” having an audience definitely influences why people do the right thing.

As an internal argument, many of us also have values and ethics that we strive to live up to. ADF’s nine virtues are perhaps a strong reminder of the internal compass that we place on ourselves. We do the right thing because it fulfils our values and promises to ourselves. This is the argument that places how we feel about ourselves next to how others feel about us, and weighs our personal opinion as more important. This is also the ‘right decisionmaking’ that happens when there isn’t anyone around to see that we make the right choice, but prefer to do so to live up to our own moral compass.

5.    Discuss how an individual’s values relate to the decision making process. (100 words minimum)

Values, as defined in question 1, are the big picture ideals around which we base our morals and ethics as people. These big picture ideals might be things like ‘tolerance’, or ‘compassion’, and they serve as the foundation of our decision-making process most of the time. We weigh our decisions against what our values say is important, and (ideally) make decisions that are in line with those values the majority of the time. Emma Restall Orr defines decision making axes as: intuition and conscience, emotion and feeling, rational sense, balancing pleasure and pain, religious law, social and political law, rights, and personal freedom (Orr 68-95).

These can be looked at through a lens of win/loss – when there is a decision to be made, and a person sees that they will ‘win’ from that decision, in the sense of gaining something or being closer to their own ideals, they will usually decide to act according to their values. Similarly, if something is viewed as a loss – even if it’s a loss of integrity or other personal judgment – they will usually decide not to act in a way that is contrary to their values. In the ‘gray area’ between moral absolutes, multiple values may come into play, and decision-making gets more complicated.

6.    Discuss the importance of ethics to the clergy-lay relationship. Do you believe a clergy person has ethical responsibilities? If so, what are these responsibilities? (300 words minimum)

Ethics are extremely important in the clergy-lay relationship because of the expectations placed on that relationship and the expectations placed on the clergyperson. The folk of ADF do not expect a simple fire-priest or liturgist, they expect pastoral care and counseling because of our culture’s relationship to priests in other, specifically Abrahamic, religions. Whether or not the ADF priest wants those responsibilities, the folk will frequently expect that kind of care and consideration based on the society in which we find ourselves, and so there is an ethical component to priesthood that is important to consider.

Perhaps the most immediately obvious in this is confidentiality – when people approach a priest, they do so expecting to find a person who will listen to and help them with issues (often moral dilemmas!) without the threat of those conversations becoming part of the public discourse, especially within a grove. Whether or not the priest can actually help solve the problems, people expect that the nature of those interactions will stay private. As well, they expect that priests will be people of virtue and ethics, and will be able to help them navigate their own ethics and values.

Above all, clergy must interact with the folk with a sense of trust and fairness, especially because of the power (whether perceived or actual) that priests have within the structure of a religious group. This type of power dynamic can distort relationships in the same way that bosses/reportees, teachers/students, and even older/younger relationship dynamics can work within families. Priests hold positions of leadership, and as such there are expectations of trust and fairness, especially in a group like ADF where the folk give the mantle of priesthood to the priests. Those expectations may not be entirely fair, and they may not be entirely realistic (see: The Dogma of Archdruidic Fallibility), but they are important to consider when defining what behavior is ethical as a clergyperson.

7.    Discuss the meaning of confidential privilege, the laws in your state that provide for this privilege and the extent to which it applies to clergy-lay communications in your community. (200 words minimum)

Confidential privilege is the assumption in a court of law that communication between a clergy and a lay person when made privately and not intended for further disclosure. Within the state of Texas, ADF clergy fall under the designations of clergy members, and thus fall under the statutes of Rule 505 about confidential privilege. The exception to this is when there is abuse that has happened or is believed to have happened, per Sec. 261 of a minor, or per Sec. 48 of the elderly or persons with disabilities.

Within ADF, however, we do not have a religious doctrine that privileges the clergy-lay communication with confidentiality in certain situations. That does not mean that ADF clergy should not strive to act ethically when things are told to them in confidence, however, it does mean that on an organizational level we are not required to do so. This is probably for the best, as it allows our clergy to act within the laws of their particular states.

Rule 505: Privilege for Communications to a Clergy Member

(a) Definitions

(1) A “clergy member” is a minister, priest, rabbi, accredited Christian Science Practitioner, or other similar functionary of a religious organization or someone whom a communicant reasonably believes is a clergy member.

(2) A “communicant” is a person who consults a clergy member in the clergy member’s professional capacity as a spiritual adviser.

(3) A communication is “confidential” if made privately and not intended for further disclosure except to other persons present to further the purpose of the communication.

(b) General Rule. A communicant has a privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent any other person from disclosing a confidential communication by the communicant to a clergy member in the clergy member’s professional capacity as spiritual adviser.

(c) Who May Claim. The privilege may be claimed by:

(1) the communicant;

(2) the communicant’s guardian or conservator; or

(3) a deceased communicant’s personal representative.

The clergy member to whom the communication was made may claim the privilege on the communicant’s behalf—and is presumed to have authority to do so.

(Varghese)

SUBCHAPTER B. REPORT OF CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT; IMMUNITIES

Sec. 261.101. PERSONS REQUIRED TO REPORT; TIME TO REPORT. (a) A person having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect by any person shall immediately make a report as provided by this subchapter.

(b) If a professional has cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected or may be abused or neglected, or that a child is a victim of an offense under Section 21.11, Penal Code, and the professional has cause to believe that the child has been abused as defined by Section 261.001 or 261.401, the professional shall make a report not later than the 48th hour after the hour the professional first suspects that the child has been or may be abused or neglected or is a victim of an offense under Section 21.11, Penal Code. A professional may not delegate to or rely on another person to make the report. In this subsection, “professional” means an individual who is licensed or certified by the state or who is an employee of a facility licensed, certified, or operated by the state and who, in the normal course of official duties or duties for which a license or certification is required, has direct contact with children. The term includes teachers, nurses, doctors, day-care employees, employees of a clinic or health care facility that provides reproductive services, juvenile probation officers, and juvenile detention or correctional officers.

(b-1) In addition to the duty to make a report under Subsection (a) or (b), a person or professional shall make a report in the manner required by Subsection (a) or (b), as applicable, if the person or professional has cause to believe that an adult was a victim of abuse or neglect as a child and the person or professional determines in good faith that disclosure of the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of:

(1) another child; or

(2) an elderly person or person with a disability as defined by Section 48.002, Human Resources Code.

(c) The requirement to report under this section applies without exception to an individual whose personal communications may otherwise be privileged, including an attorney, a member of the clergy, a medical practitioner, a social worker, a mental health professional, an employee or member of a board that licenses or certifies a professional, and an employee of a clinic or health care facility that provides reproductive services.

(d) Unless waived in writing by the person making the report, the identity of an individual making a report under this chapter is confidential and may be disclosed only:

(1) as provided by Section 261.201; or

(2) to a law enforcement officer for the purposes of conducting a criminal investigation of the report.

8.    One of the main principles of ethics is to “do no harm”. Discuss the meaningof this principle as it applies to the clergy-lay relationship. (100 words minimum)

Harm is an incredibly difficult concept to gauge, and striving always to “do no harm” is a largely impossible task. However, as an ethical guideline, if we expand it from “do no harm” to “do the least amount of harm, to the smallest number of people,” it becomes a much more applicable structure to clergy ethics. As clergypersons, ADF priests are often found in leadership roles, whether in local groves, in larger communities, or on the national scale of the organization. As leaders, they are tasked with making decisions, and it’s a useful exercise to examine what the downstream costs are in terms of who might be harmed by a decision – from the grove, to the larger community, to the priest themselves. Ethical decisions will always have consequences, and it is nearly impossible to make a difficult decision that will not have both positive and negative consequences in the long run, but evaluating potential harm is at least a good starting place for a priest making a difficult decision.

9.    Compare and contrast the Nine Virtues described in the ADF Dedicant Path and prominent values in the dominant culture of the country in which you live. (200 words minimum)

ADF’s nine virtues are Wisdom, Piety, Vision, Courage, Perseverance, Integrity, Fertility, Hospitality, and Moderation. These virtues allow me to live as both an American and an active ADF member, though the variations of their practice are different within the two social groups for sure.

Wisdom – the virtue of knowing the truth and essence of a situation – is especially valued in American society as the ‘wisdom of elders’, but we find wisdom in many places. Those of us who are around the Unitarian Universalists often find that they value the wisdom that comes from quieter voices, and seek it even in unlikely places.

Piety, in ADF, is defined by right action in a religious sense. American piety is twofold, encompassing both religious belief and patriotic duty. While this is generally (at least in mainstream society) expressly confined to Christian religious practice and the strongly conservative, often Christianity-laced expressions of patriotism, more Americans are valuing the piety that comes from other religions, and those who have stood up to the face of American culture often do so from a sense of patriotic piety.

Vision is strongly emphasized in American culture. We like visionaries, people who see the world for what it could be, instead of simply the way it is right now, and we also really like it when people have the Courage and Perseverance to stick to those visions and make them into a new reality.

Integrity, which I often conflate as much with wholeness as with right action, is something that individuals must strive for, and while some Americans do value it, others place value in other, flashier virtues. I would say that, however, integrity is baked into our national mythology with stories such as George Washington not being able to tell a lie, and Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Honest Abe’ moniker.

Fertility, to Americans, is more often regarded as fecundity and related to sex, I think largely because of the associations our culture has with Puritanism. However, when explained, most people think creativity and being prolific with ones gifts are virtues worth cultivating.

ADF’s strong focus on hospitality is not always a virtue that Americans understand. While we instinctively cultivate relationships with our communities, the American ideal is much more individualistic than any of the Indo-European cultures would have recognized, and that triumph of the individual over their society often works counter to how reciprocal hospitality works. As well, American society places a lot of emphasis on the responsibilities of the host, and less on the responsibilities of the guest.

Moderation, however, is a virtue that Americans often say they find as an ideal, but as our society was founded by religious zealots seeking freedom, most often American moderation is found in our willingness to let each other do as they will, and to define one’s own boundaries for themselves. As such we value moderation as a society, but many individuals struggle with being moderate in their beliefs, especially in today’s political climate, which is exceptionally polarizing.

Overall, I find that ADF’s virtues are not in conflict with my living in American society directly, but the emphasis in the two groups is often different enough to be notable. I find it especially interesting that the so-called ‘warrior virtues’, of courage, perseverance, and integrity, are the ones that translate the most easily, while the producer virtues are the ones that are the most different. This is especially interesting when you think of the agricultural basis of so much of our society, and I do wonder if my understanding of American culture would be different if I lived in a rural community instead of in the large city where I currently reside.

10. The Nine Virtues described in the ADF Dedicant Path are proposed as a starting point for individuals embracing a value system inspired by traditions of the past. Utilizing the ADF nine virtues, develop a Code of Ethics for your use as ADF Clergy. Describe how you derived this code from the Nine Virtues and how you would apply this Code. (No minimum word count for the Code; however the Code must contain a minimum of five principles; 300 words minimum for the description)

I will nurture the fire of piety in myself and others. As a Priest, I will maintain my own spiritual practices and nurture spiritual practices in others. I will tend the fire of piety.

I will be kind and encourage kindness. As a Priest, I will seek always to be kind to others, and when I am faced with a challenging person or situation, I will first ask how I can be kind in that situation or to that person.

I will walk the path of justice. As a Priest, I will seek to correct the many injustices in the world, as much as it is within my power to do so, even if I can only act in the microcosm that is my smaller community.

I will act with integrity and fairness. As a Priest, I will be a person worthy of trust, and as unbiased and impartial as I can be in each situation that requires it.

I will uphold the laws of nature and ecology. As a Priest, I will remember that nature lives according to laws and that I must act within those laws. I will seek to minimize my negative impacts on the environment and to maximize my positive impacts.

I will uphold the dignity of all persons, human and non. As a Priest, I will remember that I serve the Gods, the Folk, and the Land, and thus all beings are worthy of dignity and respect.

And if I may steal from the Methodists the quote most often attributed to John Wesley, I will seek to:

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.

(“John Wesley”)

I found this question both difficult and easy. Difficult to begin, but once I began, I found that my last four years as a Dedicant and my last two years as a Senior Druid prepared me well for writing out what kind of Priest I would strive to be. As with any code of ethics, my values are on display here, and many of those come directly out of ADF’s nine virtues.

  • Wisdom, in that all of these virtues will require wisdom and in that they come out of my collected wisdom from my time living as a human on planet Earth.
  • Piety, in that the first thing I focus on is the fire of piety that I seek to nurture in myself and in others, and in the way that all of my values are influenced by my dedication to the Kindreds.
  • Vision, in that this is a vision statement for my future as a Priest, and in that I must have the ability to see something through to the future in order to create that reality for myself.
  • Courage, in that some of these statements will be difficult, and I must be courageous in facing hard decisions.
  • Perseverance, in that none of these principles will be easy to uphold all of the time, and that I must work at it, in the long haul, to become the Priest I wish to be.
  • Integrity, in that justice, trust, fairness, loyalty, and dignity all stem from being a person of integrity.
  • Fertility, in that these principles will encourage my own spiritual growth, and ideally the spiritual growth of others – whether in ADF or outside of our organization.
  • Moderation, in that I must always know where my boundaries are, and I must always know what is possible – even if I will always strive to do just a little bit more, it is good to be balanced. As well, moderation and balance are some of the laws of ecology, which I find as a Druid it is important to maintain.
  • Hospitality, in that all things come down to relationships, and I, as a Druid Priest, must be willing to embody *ghosti as often and as strongly as possible, for it is on those relationships that the rest of this code of ethics will fall.

Any code of ethics is only as good as the Priest who follows it, and I intend to post this publicly, as well as to share it with my grove. I must be accountable first to myself, but second to them, as I walk the path of Priesthood in ADF.

Works Consulted

–. The ADF Leadership Handbook. Tucson, AZ: ADF Publishing, 2014. PDF file. 28 August 2017.
<https://www.adf.org/system/files/members/publications/leadership-handbook/leadership-handbook.pdf&gt;.

“Bias.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

“Boundary.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

Hereford, Z. “Healthy Personal Boundaries and How to Establish Them.” Essential Life Skills.net. Web. 3 Sept 2017. <http://www.essentiallifeskills.net/personalboundaries.html&gt;.

–. “John Wesley.” Wikiquote. Web. 25 Sept 2017. < https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Wesley >.

“Moral.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

Orr, Emma Restall. Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics. Hants, UK: O Books, 2007. Print.

“Right.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

“Value.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

Varghese, Benson. “Rule 505: Privilege for Communications to a Clergy Member.” TexasEvidence.com. Web. 25 Sept 2017. < http://texasevidence.com/article-v-privileges/rule-505-communications-to-members-of-the-clergy/&gt;.

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I spent a lot of time this last week in contemplation, just of things in general. I got back my Liturgical Writing 1 submission, which is exciting, and I’ll be sharing it here, but otherwise it was a quiet week of offerings, prayers, and a lot of mantra meditation. I’ve been working on my Trance practice (not journaling it on the blog because it’s been a lot more of a learning process, and I didn’t feel like I wanted that out in the open), and working on what it means, or will mean, to be an ADF Priest, and to be a priest in general.

There’s a lot of quiet, personal work that is being asked of me right now – a lot of divination, a lot of meditation and prayer. I feel like I’m being “geared up” to do something bigger in time, but for now I’m getting used to a deeper relationship with Ing Frey, and what it means to serve a god of frith, a god of prosperity, a god of protection, a god of harvest. I wrote a prayer to him for my LW submission that I think I’d like to share, because it’s encompassed so many aspects of this deity that has become the central focus of my practice. (House spirits and ancestors always get offerings, but right now He is demanding a lot of attention.)

Hail Frey, Lord of the fields!
Beautiful lord of the Vanir
Golden of hair as the fields of wheat and corn,
Bringing riches of heart and hearth to the folk.

We hail you with the grain that springs forth
And falls again to nourish us.
We hail you, on your mighty boar in flight,
Lord of Frith that is bound to land,
You who can warm the cold heart,
Warrior without a weapon
Who give your prosperity to all of your kin,
You guide and sustain your descendants.

Lord Ing, Providing god,
God of the bees and the barley,
You who make the grain spring forth,
We sacrifice this, our first loaf,  to you
As the grains are sacrificed for us each year.

It is late summer here, and my plants are spent – in need of pruning, fertilizing, and resetting for the autumn growing season. In many ways, I am preparing for the inward turn that winter brings – but also the outward turn that is being asked of me in my work in leading Nine Waves grove.

My rune readings for last week were:

  • Wynn – Joy – contentment, having enough, being fulfilled
  • Lagu – The Sea – an uncertain time, one that may feel unsettled and uprooted
  • Sigel – The Sun – victory, good advice

Find joy in this time in your life, despite the upheaval that surrounds you in your path. Look for those who can guide you and give good advice, for theirs is the way to victory.

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1.   Why do you want to be a Priest, and what is your plan for making that goal happen?

I have had a calling to priesthood since I was in elementary school, but in each phase of my religious journey, I have hesitated to seek (or been denied) access to the priesthood. This was no different when I found ADF. I devoured my dedicant year, completing the DP in just 11 months, but I fully intended to proceed immediately into the Initiate’s path. I knew I had a calling to clergy, but I also was a solitary druid and had no idea the changes that would come about in my life and my practice over the next year.

Shortly after beginning my work on the Initiate’s Path, I started a study group. I have led that group for three years, and now they are Nine Waves Protogrove and are in the process of preparing to apply for a grove charter. In that time, it has become crystal clear to me that the work that I have spent my life preparing for is this work – the work of building a church, of leading this little group, of being a resource for them and teaching them what I know. I’ve gone from a solitary, introspective pagan to trying to be a public presence in my community (or as close to that as I can get, it’s a work in progress). My calling to serve these people is stronger than ever, and it expresses itself in the oddest of ways. Since I began the preliminary courses, I have become a spiritual resource not only for my in-person community, but for my online community as well. I regularly provide spiritual guidance and counseling to people online (both in and out of ADF), and mentoring those folks is as important to me as the mentoring work I do in my Protogrove.

From my Baptist minister grandfather, I learned how to care for people, how to talk to them, and how to lead them; I learned how to be a minister. From the Methodist church, I learned how to step away from the inevitable drama while still taking care of the people who needed help. From the Catholic Church I learned personal devotion, private prayer, and the effect that private practice has on public service (and a minor addiction to prayer beads). As a solitary pagan, I learned how to create my own, meaningful spirituality. From my Wiccan coven, I learned the power of a devoted small group of individuals, I learned how to serve the gods, and I learned how to learn a new tradition from scratch. From my Protogrove, I’m learning patience, humility, perseverance, and the virtue of building something from the ground up. I’m learning to live the virtues in public and in private.

From all of these paths, I have learned different aspects of what is needed in a priest. It is now up to me to fulfill that calling, and to do the work necessary to become the priest I’ve spent pretty much my whole life preparing to be. From a purely practical standpoint, I intend to complete approximately one course a month until I have finished the First Circle of training.

2. Why do you want to be an ADF Priest in particular?

ADF is my spiritual home. I’ve studied a lot of theology, and tried on a lot of religious hats, but it wasn’t until I found ADF – and specifically a devotional polytheist current within ADF – that I truly felt like I’d found the tradition I was supposed to call home for good. In ADF I’ve found a tradition that values both study and piety, ritual and action, history and inspiration. Reimagining the Indo-European religious practices has given me a depth and breadth of spiritual practice unlike anything I’ve known before – and unlike my days studying Christian theology, the more I study, the more sure I am that I’m in the right place.

3. What does being a Priest mean to you in the cultural context of your Hearth Culture?

Sadly, the concept for an Anglo-Saxon heathen priesthood is troublesome and really exists only through secondary accounts. Pollington believes that it is evident that “certain people had to perform specific ritual functions at public ceremonies, but who these people were and how they were chosen is nowhere made clear” (Pollington 116). Perhaps the term “ritual specialist” is more applicable, as presumably people had duties for opening and closing public ceremonies, guarding holy symbols, and caring for sacred groves. Pollington offers the following description of what an Anglo-Saxon priesthood probably looked like:

The notion of a priest as an ‘officiant’ is probably closest to the heathen idea: the leader of the community held sway in religious, legal, and secular matters. He presided at feasts, in acts of worship, at court and in war. He was able to mediate with the gods on behalf of his community. He kept safe the holy objects used in ceremonies. (117)

I should mention as well that all of these “priests” were male. While there is evidence of sacred roles for women in Anglo-Saxon England, they were not typically chieftains and priests, though it is possible that the existence of such women would have been suppressed by the Christian monks writing about them (Pollington 120).

This is not at all the model of priesthood that I intend to follow, merely being a keeper of religious objects and a person who knows how to make sacrifices. I think there is a need for real spiritual leadership in our communities, and that leadership extends beyond simply knowing when and how to have a ritual. Mentorship, spiritual counseling, teaching and sharing wisdom are as important to my definition of priesthood as are things like being able to host a ritual or perform a wedding. A priest also should not (in my opinion) be the same person who leads you in war and makes legal decisions for the group, though leading feasts sounds at least like it might be fun and less like it would be a huge conflict of interest.

Pollington, Stephen. The Elder Gods: The Otherworld of Early England. Little Downham, Ely, Cambs: Anglo-Saxon Books, 2011. Print.

4. How long have you worked the ADF Dedicant Discipline, what has been your experience of the Work, and what do you expect when you begin the Clergy Student Discipline?

I have been an ADF Dedicant since October 3, 2013. As part of my dedicant oath, I drew the following omen:

  • Jera: Year, the harvest, hard work
  • Fehu: Cattle, Wealth, Generosity
  • Algiz: Elk-sedge, Offensive/Defensive Balance

Though I no longer read with the Elder Futhark, I have always taken these runes as both a blessing on my dedicant year and as a prediction for the work I will do as an ADF Dedicant. It has been a path of hard work and also great reward– I have started a Protogrove, and am actively leading them toward Grove status. That work has involved a great deal of my time, money, and energy – time, money, and energy that I give generously, because that is part of my calling. But it has also been a work of determining boundaries – like the elk-sedge determines the boundaries between dry land and marshes, and protects both. I cannot give everything – I must refill my own cup before I tend to filling the cups of others.

I have kept to regular daily and monthly practices for the last two years, as well as recently adding a weekly devotional. I fully intend this work to continue as I set forth to do the Clergy Student Discipline. I expect that the demands on my time and energy will continue to grow as I grow toward my ordination, and I hope that these runes that have defined my dedicant work– rewards for hard work, reciprocity and generosity, and setting appropriate boundaries – will continue to bless me as I move along this path.

*****

Hello, Lauren,

Several questions have arisen concerning your application to enroll in the Clergy Training Program. Please respond back to me and I will pass the answers back to all the Clergy Council Officers.

You stated: “A priest also should not(in my opinion) be the same person who leads you in war and makes legal decisions for the group…”

  • Comment #1: I would like to see her clarify what the conflict of interest is to her with a priest assisting to “make legal decisions”.
  • Comment #2: I would like to know what “war” means to her in a modern context as well as how she interprets “making legal decisions”.

We look forward to your clarifications.

Blessings,
Drum

*****

Hi Drum –

I’m happy to clarify, though I think I can answer both questions at once.
My main point with this sentence had to do with the way that priests functioned in the Anglo Saxon society – where they were not just religious leaders, but also political, legal, and war leaders. In an ancient tribe, that breakdown certainly works – the tribe is small and culturally homogeneous (for the most part). But I think in a modern context, the separation of church and state is a good thing, and we should encourage that. I would not want my position as a priest to be anything other than a spiritual leadership role – leading a spiritual group.
As an extremely hypothetical example, should I somehow become Governor of Texas, I would not want my position as an ADF priest to be in any way related to that role. Certainly my values would be influenced by being part of ADF, but as a political leader, I expect that leader to make decisions for all Texans, not just the ones s/he agrees with spiritually, because political leadership in the United States is over a large group of ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse people. This is where I think the conflict of interest is a problem in the ancient model if we apply it to today – the religious leader of group of people also being the political leader leads to a lot of opportunities to abuse power, and I think that’s a bad thing (and, in fact, that sort of situation is exactly what brought many people to the United States in the first place).
As a leader in ADF, I fully understand that there are administrative roles that priests fill. And, in fact, I am a grove organizer, and expect that I will begin to serve as Senior Druid sometime in the next six months or so (as Nine Waves finishes up our bylaws and applies for our grove charter). But that leadership will remain in a spiritual organization to which it is related, and Nine Waves is also structuring our group so that if I become an ordained Priest, I will be able to step into a separate leadership role (which is yet unnamed), and allow someone else to take on the administrative duties of a Senior Druid.
As far as war leadership goes, I think that again is a different skill than priesthood. Certainly chaplaincy is related – but a chaplain doesn’t lead troops on the battlefield. That job is left to battlefield leaders. (And, in fact, the Geneva Conventions specify that chaplains be non-combatants, and in the United States military, chaplains are unarmed.) I expect that, should I be asked to do chaplaincy work, that I would do my best to counsel in that situation, but I don’t feel like that is a war leadership position, at least not in the sense that the Anglo Saxons were talking about it. I also don’t feel like “leading the charge” in things like social justice work is comparable to the type of war leadership that the Anglo-Saxons were talking about. Certainly it’s powerful, important, strategic work, and you could argue that it is definitely “fighting a battle”, but I think we’d be talking about two different kinds of leadership and two completely different skill sets (only one of which involves killing people).
Hopefully that makes my answers a little more clear. Perhaps I was too literal with my reading of this question, taking much more from the Anglo Saxon model and not expanding it into what is realistic for a modern-day priest?
Let me know if you need me to clarify anything else.
Blessings,
Lauren

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1.   Explain why public, inclusive ritual is important to ADF. (200 words min.)

Public, inclusive ritual is one of the cornerstones of ADF, and as such is written directly into the constitution:

“Since one of the primary duties of the ancient Druids was to lead their tribes in magical and religious activities, ADF advocates and practices, as an integral part of our faith, open, inclusionary, and public ceremonies to worship the Earth Mother and the Old Gods and Goddesses, rites of passage to mark the cycles of our lives, and magical rituals to accomplish our other goals in an honest and ethical manner.” (ADF Constitution)

Public ritual is “where non-members get to see the organization at work and get a feeling for the aesthetics” (Gold). It opens up our ranks to outsiders, and allows us to act as ambassadors for the Kindreds, putting our worship out in the open and allowing new people to experience and worship and make sacrifices with us. Open rituals foster community in a large sense, and follow in the traditions of the ancient world, where large public community ritual was typical.

“In the Druidic tradition the obligation to perform public ritual has always been strong. The ancient druids were the administrators of ceremony and acted as sacrificers, diviners and counselors for their folk. We hope to follow their example, and our work centers around modern public Paganism” (Corrigan “Magical”).

Being open and being a modern face to public Paganism also helps Paganism become more mainstream and accepted in the current culture. When Pagan rites are secret and mysterious, it opens the door for all kinds of false things to be said about them. Open rituals are easily attended by any non-disruptive person who wishes to see for themselves what these Druids are really on about. Keeping things open allows that person to learn about us and our ways without relying on the (generally inaccurate) media portrayals and entertainment portrayals of what Paganism is and is about.

This also allows us to bring Paganism out into the open in areas where it might otherwise be inaccessible. While there will always be room for mystery traditions, if someone doesn’t get along with a local coven, they may be out of luck when it comes to being part of a Pagan community. ADF offers to change that with open, inclusive rituals that do not demand anything other than a willing, community-minded spirit to participate in our work.

2.   Describe the duties and function of clergy in ADF. (100 words min.)

The duties and function of the priest in ADF is summed up quite succinctly in the essay “The Role of the Priest in ADF”:

  • To formulate and articulate the theology and liturgy of ADF and to act as spiritual advisers to its membership.
  • Ordain, train and supervise all of ADF’s Clergy, both in ceremony and in the common lives of our members.
  • Establish and conduct an ADF prison ministry and will train, authorize and supervise ADF Prisoner Spiritual Advisers.

Starting from these points, the role of the priest is to ensure that sacrifices are made at the proper times and in the proper ways, to engage in training and provide training to others, and to aid others in developing relationships with the Kindreds. While not all priests will be called to pastoral care, all priests are expected to be capable sacrificers and ritualists. ADF priests serve both the Kindreds and the Folk, and in doing so help further the overall goals of the organization – to create a public and accepted Neopagan church with well trained and accessible clergy.

ADF’s “Subgroup Charter Manual” further elaborates on the role of the priest in ADF, including in their list of activities determining ADF liturgical and ordination standards, representing ADF Druidry in theological matters outside of ADF, and researching, writing, and publishing works based on ADF Druidry. As well ADF priests govern the various Orders of ADF.

3.   Explain why ADF has an Indo-European focus, and why we use the term “Druid” in our name. (200 words min.)

ADF has an Indo-European focus because that was the goal of Isaac Bonewits when he founded the organization. From the ADF Constitution: Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, Inc., also known as “ADF,” is the legal structure for a Neopagan Druidic religion based on the beliefs and practices of the ancient Indo-Europeans, adapted to the needs and sensibilities of modern people. It’s in our founding documents that we are Indo-European focused, and that focus keeps us from being overly generic in our Paganism. Everyone needs boundaries of some sort, and Indo-European cultures have enough similarities with each other as to be familiar in a cultural and religious sense, as well as enough time since their existence as a contemporary religion to not approach cultural appropriation of existing minority religions.

Bonewits created ADF on the premise of a pan-Indo-European Neopaganism that was founded in scholarship but still created an approachable, meaningful religion for a modern person. He saw “Druids” as the “artists and intellectuals, magicians and clergy” of their respective communities, and in seeking to recreate that in a modern context, the word “Druid” got appended to what we do (Bonewits Essential Guide 107-9).

While a large portion of ADF does work in the Celtic hearth culture, there are many who do not, and who would be just as capable using the term “flamen”, “brahmin”, “godi/gythja”, or other culturally appropriate names for the priest class. However, Druidry is what Druids do (Bonewits Essential Guide xix), and the word “Druid” in its modern context incorporates all of us. ADF never really defines the term “Druid” in the sense that one must be seeking to re-create the ancient Celtic Druid class of people and scholars. Instead, a Druid is simply “a polytheistic, non-dualist, non-sexist, non-racist, scientific, holistic, and ecologically oriented” person who worships in the Indo-European context in some way (ADF Constitution).

(more…)

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I started in on this on twitter, but realized there was a lot more than I could cover in even a series of tweets here.

ADF is, at its core, welcoming to Pagan laity. We hold public high day rituals because we want people to come and worship the Gods. We don’t force everyone who comes to our rituals to join ADF, and we don’t force everyone who joins to complete their Dedicant work, and we don’t even require attendance at regular study meetings, let alone mandatory ritual celebration (solitary or in groups). Can you spend a lot of time studying in ADF? Absolutely. And I think there’s a ton of value there. But if you just want to show up, get your worship on, and then go home and continue with your life… THAT’S OKAY.

It is 100% okay to want to be a practicing Pagan and just do your thing, practice your devotions to your gods, and live your life.

ADF is a public Pagan church. That inherently includes both priests and laity. And this is good! Not all Pagan groups are run with laity in mind!

So let’s knock off the shit about how we’re more spiritually enlightened because we have bookshelves worth of study materials and enjoy debating the finer points of paleo-religious theory. You can be pretty damn spiritually enlightened with a small home altar, some candles or a triple hallows, and heartfelt devotion to the Kindreds or your spiritual beings of choice. And, in fact, if you’re actually practicing and doing the religious devotional work, you might even be MORE spiritually enlightened than someone who never does any actual religious work but spends all their time reading without applying or doing anything with what they’re learning.

ALSO WHILE I’M WEARING THE RANT PANTS.

Someone believing in the disproved “Great Ancient Mother Goddess Religion” of Gimbutas and her ilk DOES NOT MAKE THEM WICCAN. It makes them ignorant of current scholarship. There are lots of ways to be Wiccan (of various flavors and types – it’s a hugely diverse religion), and most of those ways are at least duotheistic, if not truly polytheistic (the Trad coven I was part of the outer court with was polytheist). Also there is an entire religion devoted to a Great Mother God that has nothing to do with Wicca.

(Also with the “this person believes a stupid thing about a goddess therefore WICCA”? WTF? Wiccans are not uneducated morons.)

If someone says “I believe in the Goddess, but I’m not Wiccan” you say “okay”. You are not the arbiter of other people’s religion. You don’t try to force them to change their mind about how they’re really secretly Wiccan. Double especially if you’re trying to convince them to be Wiccan because they’re disruptive and embarrassing, and you just want them to go away and stop coming to your particular group’s meetings. Be straight with people about their behavior. If they’re a pain in the ass, tell them so and ask them to shape up or stop coming. The Wiccans don’t want embarrassingly disruptive people either.

So. Let’s be welcoming to the laity, and encourage them on their spiritual path(s). Let’s encourage, rather than one-up, each other, and remember that studying might make you knowledgeable, but it doesn’t make you a better person. And let’s quit it with the ridiculous assumptions about Wiccans. Many Wiccans (especially coven/Trad Wiccans) have just as much homework as the more well-known-for-being “studious” traditions, and often more spiritual discipline to go with it.

And in case it wasn’t painstakingly clear from the rest of this post, if you choose to use my comments section to bash Wicca, I will send your comments straight into the spam oubliette.

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“Cat hoovering (also Cat vacuuming) – 1. any excuse to avoid writing, even vacuuming the cat (Gerri); 2. A pointless exercise used to avoid real work. (HughSider)”

I was reading this article by John Beckett (if you don’t read his blog, you should) on what priests are and aren’t. He said the following:

A priest serves as an exemplar.  He should model the behaviors and lifestyles he advocates.  He is human and will not be perfect in any of this, but he should strive to live a life in alignment with his highest values and in the spirit of the Gods and Goddesses he serves.  Or, to borrow a phrase from my Baptist childhood:  “practice what you preach.”

A priest will be a counselor.  Show a little competency in leadership and begin exemplifying the Divine to any extent and people will begin telling you more than you want to know about themselves.  One of the most valuable services a priest can provide is simply to listen and be an unanxious presence.

While a proper mixture of divination, prayer, ritual, and counseling can be helpful, a priest can’t solve people’s problems for them.  What he can do is to be with them and support them until they can solve their problems themselves.  A priest must also recognize the limits of his expertise – is what you’re hearing a spiritual problem or is it mental illness?  A priest must know when to say “I can’t help you – you need to see a mental health professional.”

A priest serves as an organizer.  He should make sure the trains run on time:  rituals are performed, offerings are made, classes are held, this-world actions are taken.  A priest doesn’t have to do all that himself (nor should he, in most cases), but he should make sure his religious community does the things it needs to do.  People can – and should, and at least occasionally – be allowed to fail.  Communities can never be allowed to fail.

Now, to start all this off – IANAP. I am not a priest. (or a priestess.) I am a Druid, and an ADF dedicant, and a student working towards Initiation. After which I intend to do at least the first circle of clergy training, so someday I will (maybe) be a priest.

However, I’m doing a lot of things that are similar to the work of priests right now (as would anyone who is in a position of leadership in a pagan group), and gradually getting more and more familiar with that role. But it’s a hard one, and one that I contemplate a lot. I don’t know if I have the personality or the credentials to do this “right.”

And I’d be lying if I said that my mental illness didn’t sometimes factor into my worries about my future in ADF. There’s a reason I started with the IP – Initiates are called to individual service, where Priests are called to community service. Individual service lets me set more boundaries to my own availability and time.

Plus? I’m a human being. I screw up. I get frustrated and say angry things that I don’t mean, or use a tone of voice that makes people feel defensive and hurt. I’ve only been working in an ADF community role for about 9 months, and I’ve already done that at least once that I am aware of. I haven’t had the chance to make amends about it either. (Having done so makes me feel doubly unqualified to do this work.)

I know this is what the virtues are for. They are guides, things to strive for, things to judge my actions against. Have I been a good host? Have I been a person of integrity? Have I shown wisdom? What is my vision? I know I did a bunch of essays on this in my dedicant work, but somehow I still feel like I’m redefining and reimagining those things in my life. As a solitary, the virtues were very personal, and were thus much easier to write about. In a position of leadership (even of a small group), the virtues get stickier. How do I maintain my focus and still be open to others? How do I maintain the traditions of the group but allow for change and growth? How do I respect that my local group has been around for 10 years (but not had much/any growth) but still convince them that growth is possible?

Yngvi would say (and has said) “We do the best we can with what we have, and the rest will follow.” And he’s right, but there’s a lot of in between to that kind of thing. Plus it’s getting hard to juggle supporting the protogrove, planning lessons for the study group (which includes dedicant mentoring), my increasingly complex daily practice, and my own studies on the IP. I’ve completed two courses, and I’m tackling the journaling portions of Liturgy Practicum and Divination II right now, plus the reading for I-E Studies (which will probably be my next submission). Things have changed rapidly from my writing some essays over a year into Druidry taking up a big chunk of my life – which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s something to think about. (And maybe think about ways to maintain my identity as a person who is more than just a Druid.)

I’m probably thinking too hard about this, but it feels like I’ve gone from being someone who can do as she pleases with very little or no ramifications to anyone else to someone who is now *responsible* for stuff. And I dunno if I always like that feeling. But then, I also know I get a lot of fulfillment out of the work I do for the study group and the protogrove, so perhaps it’s a trade off. It’s one I think I’m glad I’ve made, but sometimes it’d be nice to not have to think deeply about every action, and just fly by the seat of my pants for a bit.

Lots of thoughts, not all of them productive, I’m sure.

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