Authority

February 3, 2012 at 7:12 am Leave a comment

My church, Unity Unitarian has been focusing each month on what they call a “Worship Theme”. The sermons and programming all connect with that theme somehow. I have been meaning to blog on these topics- well here is a start. Both Pagans and U.U.s tend to be very anti-authoritarian in their spirituality. This is often a reaction to  religious backgrounds  that are more authoritative.

Unitarian Universalism is congregationalist, that is each congregation is governed by its members, who also choose and ordain their ministers. The Unitarian Universalist Association is more of a practical and administrative entity than a religious authority- we have no bishops or anything like that. The UUA oversees the seminaries, humanitarian mission programs and publishes the UU World and other publications through Beacon Press. As U.Us, we all follow a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning”. Unlike most religions, we have neither an orthopraxy- a right practice or an orthodoxy- right beliefs. We look to thinkers and theologians of the past, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Ellery Channing, Henry David Thoreau and other people with three names. We find inspiration in world religions, nature and in the arts. But none of these sources are authoritative for all U.U.s

Some Pagan groups, such as traditional Wiccan covens (Gardnerian and Alexandrian) have a hierarchy, based on a system of training, led by the High Priest & Priestess.  Many other Pagan groups, particularly feminist/Goddess based circles and eclectic groups have a much looser leadership, and many of them practice consensus-based decision making.

The national Druid group I’m a part of, Ar nDraiocht Fein, fall in between. ADF is democratic- the Arch Druid and other members of the Mother Grove, the governing body are elected by the entire membership. Each sub-group- grove, guild etc. holds its own elections for its leaders.

The local (non-ADF) druid grove I participate is somewhere in between the two in its governing structure. As with traditional Wicca, there is an initatory system of three levels. The members of the highest level, the Oaks make the major decisions for the grove, like any changes in liturgy or whether someone should be dedicated or initiated. However, from the impression I get they are really the “buck stops here” decision makers- the rest of the grove gets input in many things.

So that’s political authority- what about spiritual authority? What sources- be they written, natural features, spiritual beings, or our own ideas hold our personal paths or traditions together? Tell me, dear reader, what basis does your religion/spiritual tradition or path have? Where does it come from? I don’t mean who founded it, what culture it came from, or its history, but where do your beliefs and practices come from? Outside of yourself, what determines them?

I will put my own thoughts on this in the next post.

 

 

 

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Entry filed under: Concepts & Definitions, Unitarian Universalism.

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