T Polyphilus (paradoxosalpha) wrote,
T Polyphilus

How I Bishop

In response to my claim to be "religious, not spiritual," an interlocutor recently said that what he liked least about his own religion (American Episcopalianism) was the church hierarchy, particularly that "The idea that a church or a bishop has any say over my beliefs or actions is against my belief." I observed to him that that's not my role as a bishop, for several reasons.

First: Our clergy don't "have any say over beliefs" of anyone. Our church does have a creed, but its function is primarily liturgical, and it serves to enumerate those things that our members are drawn to think about, rather than to tell them what to think. Even less do we presume (as clergy) to judge the actions of our members in their lives outside of worship.

Second: As a bishop, I primarily serve and instruct the clergy rather than the laity. My episcopal role is to provide a sort of ceremonial quality control, and to help clergy understand the (quite narrow!) limits of their magisterial authority, while leading them to a more profound and differentiated understanding of our mysteries.

Third: The episcopacy of the Episcopal Church, like that of Rome and the various Christian Orthodoxies, is founded in the notion of apostolic succession, transmitting the organizing authority of (supposedly) Jesus himself through a historical chain of supervisory relationships. My own episcopal authority is granted instead by gnostic extension, transmitting the guidance of the Holy Spirit through a contemporary connection with the Sovereign Sanctuary dedicated to our highest sacrament.

Fourth: There is no mechanism by which any of our clergy occupy a position of mediation between the congregant and his or her god. Instead, we offer ceremonies to illustrate by symbol and metaphor the process by which congregants may come to their own direct knowledge of the divine. Nor do we audit the consciences of our members; we encourage every individual to "test the spirits" for themselves.

There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.
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