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Ministry and Money: Rejecting Professionalized Ministry

Ministry and Money: Rejecting Professionalized Ministry

As many congregations in the Episcopal Church struggle to pay a full-time or half-time priest and consider calling bivocational priests, in contrast, most American Quakers continue to understand their work as free gospel ministry. Micah Bales, a founder of the Friends of Jesus Fellowship, describes the tension of being a Quaker in Washington, D.C. and practicing free gospel ministry:

At its best, our practice of ministry can be a demonstration of what a love economy looks like. Friends perform ministry as a gift, without asking for cash payment, and we are blessed in return by the ministry of others. In this way, we recognize that God’s gifts are not meant to be bought and sold, they are to be freely shared!

Yet, there is a wrinkle in our economy of love, a tension that often goes unnamed and unacknowledged: While we have largely de-commercialized religious service, most of the rest of our existence is still deeply marked by the logic of market economics. Those whose primary calling in life is to religious ministry are expected to give their gifts freely, yet this expectation may not hold true for those with other types of gifts, other ministries. For example, we might find it a bit odd if someone were to suggest that doctors, lawyers, or engineers should give their gifts freely without expecting any form of payment for their labor.

Yet, as we reflect on the underlying logic of our testimony, maybe this idea doesn’t sound so crazy after all. If gospel ministry is freely given by God, maybe everything else we are and do is a free gift, as well! How might our communities be affected if we embraced this reality?

The rest of Micah’s article is here. Micah blogs at The Lamb’s War.


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So, Ms. Taylor, what do you say about your deacons of TEC?

Between the US and Canada, there are over 3,000 deacons who are engaged in a bi-vocational ministry. They have spent years in training and formation, and render a ministry without pay. Are they not functioning? If not, why not?

Kevin McGrane

Katie Taylor

I think it’s a noble idea for everyone to give of their talents freely, but unfortunately that ideal will never function on a large scale – not in our modern capitalist society. The infrastructure to support such a thing just isn’t there.

Given the thousands upon thousands of dollars in debt that doctors and priests go into just to receive their degrees (to use the examples given), if I were a priest or a doctor I would feel rather upset and offended if after putting myself through years of hard work and sacrifice and accruing that much of a financial burden someone asked me to perform my services for free. If you can’t get professional qualifications for free, I don’t see why anyone would expect a professional’s services to be rendered for free either.

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