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Author Topic: Interfaith/Mail Order Ordination & Issues of Cultural Sensitivity  (Read 2744 times)

EclecticWheel

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From time to time I've toyed with the idea of mail order ordination.  I don't think I'd actually use it to get a full time ministry going or anything -- something about it feels too generic.  If I were going to go through an alternative route of ministry I'd probably go with an Independent Sacramental group if I could get in touch with one or possibly not seek legal recognition of my ordained status at all.  I already consider myself a priest.  Mainly I like the idea of being able to perform legal marriages as that's about the only thing I can't do now.  Other sorts of ministry are possible for me as a "lay person."

But there are some things that concern me.  Northernway I flat out rejected.  There is simply too much that reeks of a money making scheme on that website and if I remember correctly a ton of misinformation and New Age bullshit.  But even some of your more generic less esoteric brands concern me.  Consider for example the titles one may choose after ordination.  I have no problem with the title "priest" depending how its used.  Though that term means something specific in Catholicism or Anglicanism a Christian ordained through this non-traditional route might use it in a different sense -- perhaps (s)he considers her priesthood an extension of the priesthood of all believers and wants to underline that or she wants to emphasize its sacrificial role.  The person might also be claiming to be a priest in an eclectic neo-pagan sense.  As long as (s)he isn't claiming to be ordained by bishops within the historic episcopal succession (as Anglicans are) there is no problem that (s)he is using the term priest.  Likewise I see no problem with pastor, reverend, et cetera.

But I see that in this organization a person may choose the term Rabbi.  Is there potentially a problem here?  Perhaps misrepresentation or an insensitivity to Judaism?  It looks like anyone even a Gentile can claim this title.  Is that term actually flexible enough -- like the term priest is -- that anyone could reasonably select that title through a mail order interfaith process and use it in some other sense than Jews do similarly to the example I gave above with the title "priest?"

I look forward to hear others' take on this or any other issues one might wish to raise about interfaith and mail-order ordination.  Some of the concerns I have about mail order ordination apply equally to interfaith ordination organizations that actually require an Masters of Divinity.
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Re: Interfaith/Mail Order Ordination & Issues of Cultural Sensitivity
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2016, 11:04:49 am »
Quote from: EclecticWheel;190207
From time to time I've toyed with the idea of mail order ordination.  I don't think I'd actually use it to get a full time ministry going or anything -- something about it feels too generic.  If I were going to go through an alternative route of ministry I'd probably go with an Independent Sacramental group if I could get in touch with one or possibly not seek legal recognition of my ordained status at all.  I already consider myself a priest.  Mainly I like the idea of being able to perform legal marriages as that's about the only thing I can't do now.  Other sorts of ministry are possible for me as a "lay person."

But there are some things that concern me.  Northernway I flat out rejected.  There is simply too much that reeks of a money making scheme on that website and if I remember correctly a ton of misinformation and New Age bullshit.  But even some of your more generic less esoteric brands concern me.  Consider for example the titles one may choose after ordination.  I have no problem with the title "priest" depending how its used.  Though that term means something specific in Catholicism or Anglicanism a Christian ordained through this non-traditional route might use it in a different sense -- perhaps (s)he considers her priesthood an extension of the priesthood of all believers and wants to underline that or she wants to emphasize its sacrificial role.  The person might also be claiming to be a priest in an eclectic neo-pagan sense.  As long as (s)he isn't claiming to be ordained by bishops within the historic episcopal succession (as Anglicans are) there is no problem that (s)he is using the term priest.  Likewise I see no problem with pastor, reverend, et cetera.

But I see that in this organization a person may choose the term Rabbi.  Is there potentially a problem here?  Perhaps misrepresentation or an insensitivity to Judaism?  It looks like anyone even a Gentile can claim this title.  Is that term actually flexible enough -- like the term priest is -- that anyone could reasonably select that title through a mail order interfaith process and use it in some other sense than Jews do similarly to the example I gave above with the title "priest?"

I look forward to hear others' take on this or any other issues one might wish to raise about interfaith and mail-order ordination.  Some of the concerns I have about mail order ordination apply equally to interfaith ordination organizations that actually require an Masters of Divinity.

 
I've actually been toying with the idea of getting a degree or two from Esoteric Theological Seminary -- which, interestingly enough, also offers a "Rabbi Center" and seems to freely ordain rabbis. I think 'cultural appropriation' is a bit of a stretch. If, for example, after my conversion I decided to be ordained as a rabbi through ETC there is, quite simply, nobody who would take me seriously. Maybe interfaith couples, which are booming business for the 'alternative rabbi' crowd, but if I wanted to get a pulpit gig or a chaplaincy job nobody would treat my credentials with any respect.

Smicha, rabbinical ordination, used to be a fairly simple process. Since there's no real organising body in Judaism, the norm used to be private study with a rabbi; who would then lay hands and ordain you when he thought you were ready. With the advent of the Jewish Enlightenment and the establishment of consciously Christian-modelled seminaries across the board that approach has fallen by the wayside, but is still technically valid. South Florida is rather famous for a surfeit of privately ordained  rabbis, in fact, and most other rabbis reject their credentials. A six-year seminary education at an accredited seminary is more or less the norm now, and although there are alternatives (the Jewish Universalist Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute will ordain you after a year of work, the neo-Hasidic Rabbinical Seminary International will ordain you within one to three years, etc) and the offer of smicha by ETC or the AMC isn't in any sense valid unless they have a genuine rabbi somewhere to do the ordaining -- and even then, since you don't have to do any work to get the ordination it means little.

Cultural appropriation? Maybe. But nobody will take them seriously anyway, so the harm done is negligible. If someone wants to become a rabbi online there are better options, and that goes for those who want to be interfaith ministers, etc etc. As long as you commit to doing the work and don't care about accreditation I don't really see a problem, intrinsically, with such establishments; but I do think there should be some work involved.
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Re: Interfaith/Mail Order Ordination & Issues of Cultural Sensitivity
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2016, 12:44:05 pm »
Quote from: EclecticWheel;190207
From time to time I've toyed with the idea of mail order ordination.  I don't think I'd actually use it to get a full time ministry going or anything -- something about it feels too generic. (...)  
I look forward to hear others' take on this or any other issues one might wish to raise about interfaith and mail-order ordination.  Some of the concerns I have about mail order ordination apply equally to interfaith ordination organizations that actually require an Masters of Divinity.


'Too generic' is definitely the crucial problem. Ordained into what? The mandate to do what a babalawu do is not the same as the mandate to do what a Protestant minister do, and none of these are the same as the mandates, respectively, to do what an Eastern Orthodox priest or a Shinto kannushi/shinshoku do.

Someone is a priest(ess) or clergyperson on the behalf of a community. Outside a particular community, any religious title becomes useless, and this regardless of what the particular mandate is supposed to be: The function filled by an ancient Roman Flamen was very far from the ministerial-councelling role expected by a mainline Protestant minister today.

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Re: Interfaith/Mail Order Ordination & Issues of Cultural Sensitivity
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2016, 08:49:41 pm »
Quote from: FraterBenedict;190214
'Too generic' is definitely the crucial problem. Ordained into what? The mandate to do what a babalawu do is not the same as the mandate to do what a Protestant minister do, and none of these are the same as the mandates, respectively, to do what an Eastern Orthodox priest or a Shinto kannushi/shinshoku do.

Someone is a priest(ess) or clergyperson on the behalf of a community. Outside a particular community, any religious title becomes useless, and this regardless of what the particular mandate is supposed to be: The function filled by an ancient Roman Flamen was very far from the ministerial-councelling role expected by a mainline Protestant minister today.

 
Well unless they plan to start a congregation most of these people are probably planning to be chaplains or start marriage ministries or what have you.  Even for marriage purposes I'm a bit iffy about whether clergy in the legally secular U.S. should have the right to act as agents of state merely because they are clergy so that's another thing.  Mainly it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth I could go around legally calling myself a Rabbi.  The Jewish responses I've gotten to this query thus far insist that the term has a specific meaning associated with their religion and culture and that this is unethical.
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Re: Interfaith/Mail Order Ordination & Issues of Cultural Sensitivity
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2016, 08:55:49 am »
Quote from: EclecticWheel;190255
Well unless they plan to start a congregation most of these people are probably planning to be chaplains or start marriage ministries or what have you.


Marriage ministries does not exist in my whereabouts. A governmental body, awkwardly translated into The Collegiate Chamber, founded in 1539, issues licences to religious denominations to perform weddings for their own members, if the aforementioned denominations have demonstrated their ability to maintain their existence for at least a decade or so (stability), have a stable number of adherents (significant size), and are willing to follow Swedish Marriage Law (lawful). I believe that one denomination forfeited its licence a few decades ago, until its officiants participated in a course about Swedish Marriage Law.

Likewise, chaplains are only selected from mainline denominations of significant size and stability. Ordination outside a denomination wouldn't fly here. I really don't understand the concept: A Buddhist bhikku is not a Jewish rabbi is not a Coptic priest is not a Houngan.

Beryl

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Re: Interfaith/Mail Order Ordination & Issues of Cultural Sensitivity
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2016, 04:36:37 am »
Quote from: EclecticWheel;190255
Well unless they plan to start a congregation most of these people are probably planning to be chaplains or start marriage ministries or what have you.  Even for marriage purposes I'm a bit iffy about whether clergy in the legally secular U.S. should have the right to act as agents of state merely because they are clergy so that's another thing.  Mainly it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth I could go around legally calling myself a Rabbi.  The Jewish responses I've gotten to this query thus far insist that the term has a specific meaning associated with their religion and culture and that this is unethical.

Yeah, I would (as a Jew) be very uncomfortable with this, especially as the organisation calls itself a Church. Too many shades of 'Jews for Jesus', 'Messianic Judaism' and other fake-Jewish Christian groups who set themselves up as the 'real Judaism', essentially to trick Jews into converting to Christianity because they believe that X number of Jews becoming Christian is a prerequisite of their 'second coming' or some such thing*. (Obviously this is a #notallchristians type situation.)

Technically, 'rabbi' just means teacher (and is often a title said to have been used for Jesus in life - another reason why I'm a bit suspicious of Christians wanting to go round ordaining people as rabbis, frankly, seems like it might be more of this 'be like Jesus but without the actually being Jewish part', similar to Christian seders and such), so I wouldn't necessarily have an issue with, say, Jews who fall outside the mainstream of Judaism but feel some form of calling and who have undertaken a decent amount of study wanting to be able to call themselves 'rabbi' (well, I'd probably be a bit wary of what exactly they were hoping to achieve, but it's not automatically hackle-raising) but yeah, that's... not a title for Christians or gentiles more generally to be bestowing :/

*and, unlike other Christian groups, apparently aren't satisfied with just, I don't know, witnessing to Jews honestly and hoping that they'll 'see the light'
« Last Edit: April 25, 2016, 04:38:11 am by Beryl »

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Re: Interfaith/Mail Order Ordination & Issues of Cultural Sensitivity
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2016, 04:41:21 am »
Quote from: Beryl;190339


Technically, 'rabbi' just means teacher

 
(Although of course it has a much more specific meaning these days, after, what, 1500 years or so of Rabbinic Judaism.)

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Re: Interfaith/Mail Order Ordination & Issues of Cultural Sensitivity
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2017, 05:46:41 pm »
Quote from: Beryl;190340
(Although of course it has a much more specific meaning these days, after, what, 1500 years or so of Rabbinic Judaism.)

 
I know this thread is a bit old, but it came up when I posted another topic on online ordinations, and I wanted to add another thought since I browsed some of the sites again.

While individuals obviously can claim as they like I think the Universal Life Church itself can be argued to be using the term in a more generic sense on purpose, and this may lessen its offense -- well, maybe.

I mean, browsing the titles, which besides "minister" are honorary only, it says the title must accurately reflect a person's ministry, so perhaps it could serve someone's legal purpose who was ordained privately by a rabbi in an informal way.

But even without that it may very well mean something else because just off the top of my head one may choose the titles Angel, Baron, Abbott, Cardinal, Archbishop, Universal Rabbi, Religious Philosopher of Absolute Reality.  It's hilarious in a way.  Ha. I suppose if someone is clear who is offering these titles there is no dishonesty and should clear up the problem.

The only thing left that would concern me in regard to the Universal Life Church is whether they should recontextualize a term like rabbi that has aquired a specific cultural history.
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Beryl

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Re: Interfaith/Mail Order Ordination & Issues of Cultural Sensitivity
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2017, 04:10:19 am »
Quote from: EclecticWheel;206033
I know this thread is a bit old, but it came up when I posted another topic on online ordinations, and I wanted to add another thought since I browsed some of the sites again.

While individuals obviously can claim as they like I think the Universal Life Church itself can be argued to be using the term in a more generic sense on purpose, and this may lessen its offense -- well, maybe.

I mean, browsing the titles, which besides "minister" are honorary only, it says the title must accurately reflect a person's ministry, so perhaps it could serve someone's legal purpose who was ordained privately by a rabbi in an informal way.

But even without that it may very well mean something else because just off the top of my head one may choose the titles Angel, Baron, Abbott, Cardinal, Archbishop, Universal Rabbi, Religious Philosopher of Absolute Reality.  It's hilarious in a way.  Ha. I suppose if someone is clear who is offering these titles there is no dishonesty and should clear up the problem.

The only thing left that would concern me in regard to the Universal Life Church is whether they should recontextualize a term like rabbi that has aquired a specific cultural history.

 
I mean, it's always had a specific cultural history in English usage, i.e. a minister-like position within Judaism.

I just double-checked and it literally means "my master", and was originally applied to learned Torah scholars who were teaching students. So, it's always had a strong association with specifically Torah teaching, although its current usage - referring to a minister-like position - is a bit more recent.

And, well, I'm pretty uncomfortable if they are allowing anyone who wants to be a 'rabbi' to 'officially' call themselves that. It's a Jewish term, it's not for gentiles to be using or bestowing (any more than non-Muslims with no Muslim family/cultural background should probably be calling themselves Imam, etc). AFAIK the main purpose of their 'ordination' service is for people wanting to officiate at weddings, but I can't imagine any setting where you'd *need* a rabbi, specifically (such as a Jewish wedding in the UK which I believe has to be performed by a rabbi to be legal without additional civil ceremony, IIRC) where an internet-ordained rabbi would be suitable. I presume they have generic non-faith-specific titles available, 'minister' tends to have Christian overtones but is pretty bland, and tends to be used in phrases like 'minister of religion' which I believe is typically intended to be inclusive of non-Christian religions.

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Re: Interfaith/Mail Order Ordination & Issues of Cultural Sensitivity
« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2017, 01:47:53 pm »
Northernway I flat out rejected.  There is simply too much that reeks of a money making scheme on that website and if I remember correctly a ton of misinformation and New Age bullshit.

Okay so, returning to this. First and completely unrelated: Beryl, please stop being mean to the Messianic Jews :/ Yes, Messianic Judaism "does Jewish" differently than the rest of us' but I think if something as radical as Reconstructionist Judaism can still be Judaism than so can Messianic Judaism. Some MJ groups -- Hashivenu or the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council both spring to mind -- are very committed to a vision of Messianic Judaism that is authentically Jewish; as are prominent MJ theologians such as Mark Kinzer.

Now, Messianic Judaism does exist on a spectrum and one end is basically Evangelical Christianity in a tallis and the other is a very consciously Jewish form of MJ which quietly ignores some immensely complicated ecclesiology. It is hugely unfair to tar Messianic Jews as universally interested into turning the Tribe into a bunch of Joel Osteen clones.

Lastly, I don't even think there are any legitimate MJ institutions which confer rabbinical s'micha to non-Jews? None of the 'mainstream' MJ seminaries do AFAIK and although I've seen smaller groups willing to ordain Messianic-inclined Gentiles it's usually as a "Messianic Pastor/Minister" with the rabbinate reserved solely for Jews. Almost all of the well-known MJ rabbis are ethnic Jews who were raised in observant households. Jews for Jesus and suchlike groups definitely do exist but I think it would be inaccurate to say that they are representative of MJ as a whole.

TL;DR Messianic Jewish groups don't give rabbinic s'micha to Gentiles.

Moving onto something actually germane to the OP I've actually kind of changed my opinion on Northernway/Esoteric Theological Seminary. It turns out that an Orthodox rabbi that I'm acquainted with received one of his rabbinic ordinations from ETS; before going on to get another from an Orthodox tutor/mentor. When asked about ETS he said that the Rabbi Center, as it were, is somewhat separate from the Seminary as a whole because it is actually run by Jews under the ETS' auspices rather than just the Christians who run the rest of it. So it is at least in theory distinguishable from other mail-order ordination services which offer the title of Rabbi; because at least it's managed by unscrupulous Jews who can confer s'micha instead of unscrupulous Gentiles who just pretend they can.

IDK, the more I think about it the more reasonable ETS becomes. I've kept an eye on some of their alumni and more than a few of them have accredited BAs/MAs which they obtained before or after ordination. Many of them are even active in ministry and putting their ordination to good use. I also agree with ETS' contention that there is a real need for 'alternative clergy' processed outside the mainstream for those who are similarly outside the mainstream. In the end I don't think it matters how you got your ordination as much as what you do with it -- and even then ETS seems like a better option than a lot of others if you want to get the ball rolling.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2017, 12:24:43 am by SunflowerP »
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Re: Interfaith/Mail Order Ordination & Issues of Cultural Sensitivity
« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2017, 12:52:01 am »
Beryl, please stop being mean to the Messianic Jews :/

*** MOD HAT ON ***
Castus,

Do not tell other people how to post.

I'm specifically singling out that one sentence; the rest of it was a legitimate rebuttal. No strike, since it's very mild, but you notice I have my red hat on. You know better.


A Reminder:
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One, more white space please! I added a couple of gaps to that first paragraph (now three paragraphs) for you.

Two, please make sure you quote, with trackback, each post you're replying to. SMF doesn't have a 'multiquote' function like vB did, but it has something better: once you're on the reply page, the topic summary below the reply box includes, beside each post, a button that says 'insert quote'. Or, just making separate replies is always safe.

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Re: Interfaith/Mail Order Ordination & Issues of Cultural Sensitivity
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2017, 03:01:58 am »
*** MOD HAT ON ***
Castus,

Do not tell other people how to post.

I'm specifically singling out that one sentence; the rest of it was a legitimate rebuttal. No strike, since it's very mild, but you notice I have my red hat on. You know better.


A Reminder:
While I'm being staffly at you, a couple of other points for which I'm switching the red hat for the blue one, because they probably have to do with becoming reaccustomed to SMF.

One, more white space please! I added a couple of gaps to that first paragraph (now three paragraphs) for you.

Two, please make sure you quote, with trackback, each post you're replying to. SMF doesn't have a 'multiquote' function like vB did, but it has something better: once you're on the reply page, the topic summary below the reply box includes, beside each post, a button that says 'insert quote'. Or, just making separate replies is always safe.

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I, of course, defer to the wisdom of The Hats. Thanks for the formatting bits especially; it's been a minute since I've used SMF.
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