So, buckle up church-going buttercups. Unless your church decides to observe All Saint's Day this Sunday, you're going to hear Matthew quoting Jesus' rant about Scribes and Pharisees and his final wind up and pitch right across home plate to call no earthly person "Rabbi" or "Father" or "Instructor".
Here are the lectionary lessons for this week
For the last 40 years - at least - I've been hearing the argument about how we, in The Episcopal Church, need to stop calling men who are priests "Father" - and, likewise, stop calling women who are priests "Mother".
Or, conversely, if we call men "Father" then we should absolutely call women "Mother".
I am really, really weary of this conversation so I'm going to cut right to the chase here.
Yes, I know. The title "father/mother" is meant to be a spiritual honorific which alludes to the ancient tradition of the church recognizing the nurturing and guidance of spiritual leaders in the life of faith in the Spirit.
What amuses me - when it doesn't flat-out annoy me - is that the very ordained men and women who adhere most to that title usually don't know the first thing about being a "spiritual nurturer" much less a "spiritual guide".
In my experience, most of them haven't worked through their own ... spiritual crap .... to guide anyone anywhere. They may be fine biological parents (although a surprising number have no children) but that is a very, very different role from being a spiritual guide and providing spiritual nourishment/sustenance.
Yes, I know. That passage is taken way too literally. Yes, I know, the applications in today's world are very different. No, I'm not being anti-Roman Catholic - although I note that more and more RC clergy are being called "pastor".
And yes, I know, there are clergy - male and female - in The Episcopal Church, who demand it. They usually follow it up with either "that has always been the tradition here" (See also: seven last words of a dying church) - OR - "but, the people like it - they WANT to call me Father/Mother."
Yada. Yada. Yada. See also: 40 years of conversation.
And, of all of the things I've heard that last one is the most transparent. It's simply shocking how many clergy have absolutely NO insight into their own behavior. I mean, if you are in your 20s or 30s (I wouldn't pay to be 20 or 30 again!), I suppose it's understandable. But, eventually - like it or not - we all have to grow up, kids.
*It is absolutely poor pastoral theology to call clergy "Father" or "Mother".I don't know how many times I'm going to have to say this, but I'll say it again:
*It infantilizes the laity.
*It sets up the congregation as a repository for all their family dysfunction - and then we wonder why our congregations implode when there is conflict.
"Mother is a false equivalent to Father."Like it or not, it just is. "Mother" simply does not have the same authority and power as "Father" in the authority structure of a family dynamic.
Now, I will agree with those who say that the effect on our psyches of the archetype of "Mother" can be more powerful than the archetype of "Father" - but, more often than not in a very damaging way.
Do we really want that dynamic operational in a congregational setting?
There is so much more to this than just a title.
What will it take for us to come out from behind the protective wall of church tradition, stop dressing up our neurosis in church satin and lace, put down the thurible that blows smoke everywhere and listen to what we are doing to ourselves, the church, the Body of Christ?
And, with that question, here endth the rant.
PS: Someone just posted this on my FB page. I wanted to make sure I added it in a place where I could return to it:
Marion Hatchett, of blessed memory, always said that the ordination rites in the book of common prayer answered this question quite succinctly:
"When the ordinand is presented, his/her full name (designated by the symbol N.N.) is used. Thereafter, it is appropriate to refer to him/her only by the Christian name by which he wishes to be known." BCP 536, 524