Monday, 9 March 2009

William Stringfellow on ordination

In view of the publisher’s special discount, I’ve decided to have a week of Stringfellowing here at F&T

Both in his writing and in his personal life, William Stringfellow presented a powerful critique of the cult of ordination. (A couple of weeks ago, I myself visited a church that used the term “full-time ministry” – a sure sign of theological confusion and spiritual decay.) Nowadays, Stringfellow argues, the priesthood “is so radically misconceived that the clergy have become a substitute laity whose function is to represent publicly – in place of the laity – the presence of the church in the world.” Thus the clergy has become “a superficial, symbolic, ceremonial laity” (A Private and Public Faith, p. 38).

One of the formative events in Stringfellow’s own life was his early decision to renounce ordination: “I would be damned if I would be a priest. That was what I decided. I would not be a priest and, moreover, I would spend my life refuting any who suppose that to be serious about the Christian faith required ordination. I would be a Christian in spite of the priesthood, in spite of all the priests” (A Second Birthday, p. 82).

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