In today’s mail, I received a copy of Priests to Each Other by Baptist radical Carlyle Marney (1916-1978), who was originally from down the way in Harriman, Tennessee. I have only read the first few pages, but I can already tell this is going to be fun. (Warning to my professional clergy friends: If you read further, you may need to take a stiff drink and hold on to your chair!) I’ll post more when I get further into the book, but just to give you the flavor….
What if a kept clergy is always a harlotry? What if, as Krister Stendahl put it at a party, “no prophet has a salary”? What if clergy have a fatal disadvantage and have largely missed the meaning of their role? What if usurpation of place and power on a grand scale has emptied the only priesthood of its power to bless? And what if clergy cannot give the power of the priesthood back, even symbolically by defrocking themselves, but laymen have to come and take it? (p.2)
Relevant Christianity requires the healing of the inhabited world of men, and this demands a new priesthood: a priesthood that believes in the redemption of the world, not the redemption of the church. For centuries the church has refused to see the need to put a priest at every elbow. No professional clergy can do what the church is called to do. (p.3)
Since 1640, on this continent we have elevated the clergy into a kept harlotry. This coronation didn’t go too well. We have proliferated the “calling” until now it is broken into little specialties. We have multiplied institutions and orders and organizations, masking the needs behind the robe, the title, and the office; we have increased function and form over relation and redemption, and we do this in order to evade the cat on our own back, which is our own priesthood. The result has been the creation of a schizophrenic ministry that does not know what it is for, and a confused laity being used for the wrong ends. (pp.3-4)
And it just gets better from there! By some strange grace, I am reading this simultaneously with Theurgy: The Art of Effective Worship by Mouni Sadhu (pseudonym of Mieczyslaw Sudowski, Roman Catholic esotericist), which is, in a very real sense, about the same thing – claiming and practicing our priesthood in Christ!