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JLeslie's avatar

How are religious leaders chosen in your religion?

Asked by JLeslie (59506points) July 31st, 2012

I recently asked a friend of mine about the Mormon religion, because some of my family members don’t like that Mitt Romney held some sort of position in his church. They think it is a problem of separation of church and state. My Mormon friend explained how it works:

We have a lay ministry in our church which means everyone who serves in a calling in the church does it voluntarily and without pay. That is what Mitt was referring to. Basically, you are invited to serve in a certain assignment, you accept and then you do that to the best of your ability until you are released. Then the cycle repeats. For example, right now I am a Seminary teacher. I don’t know how long I’ll be doing this but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

I asked if there was a heirarchy, and her reply was:

As for hierarchy, there isn’t one. One assignment might be as president of some organization, and the next could be teaching the 3-year-old class on Sundays. There’s lots of variety. Some assignments are only made to women or men, but that’s about as much hierarchy as there is.

I found that very interesting, and I think most people don’t know this about the Mormon religion.

So, I was curious about other religions. Please name the religion you are talking about (be specific, ie: Baptist, Methodist, Chassidic) and then describe how “leaders” of the congregation are assigned, hired, and how they study to be a leader. As far as I know Catholic Priests are assigned to churches, while other Christian churches hire a Minister? Not sure of the specifics. In Judaism I think anyone who has studied the right things can lead a congregation, I am not sure how they become a Rabbi for a specific synagogue.

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33 Answers

Judi's avatar

I was raised Lutheran (ELCA) and raised my kids Mossouri Synod Lutheran. In those denominations, a pastor gets a 4 year degree then spends another 4 years in seminary. They are required to learn Greek and Hebrew, but I’m not sure how will they have to know it.
After an internship they put their name on a list of pastors available for a call. Congregations can then interview them. There is usually a Call Committee that narrows down the prospects and puts it to the congregation for a vote. After a call is issued, the pastor prays about it and decides if he will accept the call.
If a pastor feels its time to move on, he will submit his name to the call list.
If a member wants to submit the name of a pastor that isn’t on the call list, that is ok too.
I am now a member of United Church of Christ and I think the process is very similar.

zenvelo's avatar

Roman Catholic priests arise from those who have a calling to ministry. After years of study in seminary, they may qualify for the priesthood by passing examinations and taking vows. Promotion is based on performance and qualification as seen through the local Bishop’s office or through the hierarchy of the priests order.

A priest must be seen by the Vatican as being qualified for Bishop, and any promotion from there on is strictly from the Vatican, although in consultation with other Bishops and Cardinals in the country. All such appointments are ultimately made by the Pope, although the Vatican bureaucracy plays an important role.

thorninmud's avatar

I’m Zen Buddhist. The process for choosing leaders (or ‘teachers’) varies a little from one lineage to the next, but the basic principle is that one can only become a teacher by being formally approved by another teacher. Over time a sort of “family tree”, or “lineage”, emerges, so that every teacher can theoretically trace the chain of approval all the way back to the Buddha. This is to assure that no one can just decide that he’s going to set himself up as a teacher.

The established teacher will look at many criteria in making this judgment. Most importantly he will have to be thoroughly convinced of his student’s personal insight into the “Dharma”, the esoteric truth of Zen. The teacher will know this because the student will have been put through a grueling training in which he has to demonstrate his understanding of many hundreds of koans (paradoxical texts that point to this truth in its various aspects). This typically takes many, many years. Even more importantly, the teacher will have to see that the student’s life and behavior are in harmony with the teaching; he has to “walk the walk”.

The approval is a two-stage process. The first stage is a kind of probationary period of several years. If all goes well, then final approval (inka), confers full independence on the new teacher, and gives him the right to approve teachers himself.

The whole process typically takes around 20 years.

bolwerk's avatar

If a leader emerges, he is promptly assassinated.

King_Pariah's avatar

As a nihilist, we totally would, but it’d be pointless.

Lightlyseared's avatar

By the quality and quantity of their research.

Rarebear's avatar

They go to rabbinical college and then they apply for a job.

DrBill's avatar

majority vote of the church members

digitalimpression's avatar

It varies by the church. There exists no rigid selection method. It is up to the current pastor to lead as they see fit.

Ron_C's avatar

I was a catholic. A group of old men close themselves in a room and argue and burn paper until they give up and elect some looser to be Pope. The pope makes a fool out himself wearing Parade shoes and riding in a clown-mobile until he dies and they pick another old dude to be the boss. It is all pretty silly and very very expensive that’s why the priest talks more about donations and finance than religion on Sundays.

dabbler's avatar

The closest thing I have to a chosen religion is the ancient Vedanta, which in fact is not a religion but a philosophical system, that guides us to realize God, perfection and direction within. It is a method and process of discovery of one’s true nature.

Lots of religions note the spark of divinity within each of us. Vedanta demands that you claim it, know it, ride its tempestuous currents in the physical manifestation, on the way to eternity. It’s easy to live in rapture however, all nice and ethereal and stuff. The real challenge of the spiritual path is manifesting divinity on earth, day to day, moment to moment.

Leadership is from the core of the soul, accepting it involves a fundamental responsibility and honesty that is not demanded by any religion that provides external guidance.

SuperMouse's avatar

I am Bahá’í and we do not have clergy. In our faith every community with more then nine Bahá’í‘s has a Local Spiritual Assembly that consists of nine members who are elected annually. The LSA is not considered clergy, they plan and organize the Nineteen Day Feast, holy days, and other events within the community. Each country also has a National Spiritual Assembly that is also elected by members of the faith. Finally, there is the Universal House of Justice.

Patton's avatar

Bare-knuckle boxing match.

digitalimpression's avatar

@JLeslie I am a Christian. My upbringing was mostly independent baptist churches.

JLeslie's avatar

@digitalimpression Do the clergy have to have a specific certification of some sort? I have a friend who is an ordained Baptist Minister, but I have no idea what that really means? What he had to do to get that designation? I also have no idea if Baptist churches require their Pastors to have such a designation? My friend actually started a church, but he did an interdenominational church. He doesn’t like some of the rules the Baptists have.

digitalimpression's avatar

@JLeslie There are a lot of different types of Baptists. I most closely associate with Independent Baptists because they aren’t part of the much larger fundy baptist world. They operate independently.

I’ve never been a pastor, so I don’t know the rules for that but.. the “clergy” (sounds so very catholic xD) are selected (from what I’ve seen) because:
1. They volunteered
2. They attend regularly
3. They are skilled in the area for which they volunteered

JLeslie's avatar

@digitalimpression So, they don’t have to have passed some sort of test or religious education? They can interpret the bible however they want? It seems like someone can just decide to become a Minister, and the religion itself has no requirement, as long as the congregation likes the person that is enough. Is that right?

Are they viewed as teachers? Closer to God in some way? Or, just a lay person who is a good leader?

And, you say independent. So does that mean your church is not connected to any other church, but there are Baptist churches that are? Like I know Catholic churches and Jehovah for instance are always all on the same mention every week. Is that how it is for the Baptist churches that are not independent? There is some sort of heirarchy, and at the top they decide what is the topic to be discussed?

I hope you don’t mind all the questions. I live down in the bible belt now, and I have always been curious how all this works. I didn’t know any Baptists growing up. Or, at least none that I knew of. In college I had two friends whose boyfriends were Baptist, but we never talked about religion much.

digitalimpression's avatar

@JLeslie As I said, I don’t know what the requirements for being a pastor are. You’d have to ask a pastor.

Everyone interprets the bible the way they want to. The pastors I’ve had were just far more educated on what is actually in the bible. They are viewed as teachers, leaders, and mentors. They are not necessarily closer to God. But most of the time, as it turns out, they are.

There are Baptist churches that have a sort of chain of command and a hierarchy of sorts.. I don’t like those. However, I’ve never heard of them dictating the topics taught each week.. that’s just weird.

dabbler's avatar

“Everyone interprets the bible the way they want to.” That sounds correct to me.
Any honest person who will read it will have as good a bead on what the bible has to teach them as their pastor. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very useful to discuss with your fellows, and your designated shepherd, the wisdom you find therein. But at the end of the day the truth for you is what you’ve reflected in your soul that brings you peace there.

mattbrowne's avatar

By using a democratic process

Evangelical has a different meaning in Germany, perhaps best translated as progressive Lutheran. And definitely not like the American evangelicals.

JLeslie's avatar

@digitalimpression Thanks.

I don’t think it is weird to be on message. One of my friends who is Catholic said she can go anywhere in the world and the church will be on the same topic, and back in the day they were all in Latin, so all Catholics were basically hearing the same thing. If she visits me and goes to the local church here, it isn’t like she really missed anything because she was a away from home. The little independent churches make me more uneasy somehow. I don’t mean “Independent Baptists” specifically, and I would say it is a small percentage of the independents that I actually have a problem with, not the majority.

Another friend of mine raised Jehovah could go to church in FL and discuss what was talked about with her parents who attended in CT. She is not longer Jehova, but attends once in a blue moon on holidays or when visiting her parents.

But, I can see arguments on both sides for and against being very organized and linked to other churches, and for being independent.

digitalimpression's avatar

@dabbler I disagree that everyone will have “as good a bead” as their pastor. Well, I suppose it depends on the pastor.

E.G. I could read a passage from the bible and think I had something figured out.. but my pastor might say “look at these other 19 passages that discuss the same topics”. It may change my interpretation of what I’ve read when I see the rest of the context.

Most of my pastors have also had at least some knowledge of the original language of the bible and can shed light on some of the translated-to-english words.

My only point is that the more someone has delved into the bible, the more they are likely to know about it. A lamen is not as learned as a pastor.

So while everyone does have their own interpretation .. it may or may not be from the correct perspective.

But to get back on topic:

I suppose it’s weird to me because I’ve got a few Catholic friends and the way they’ve described what goes on sounds peculiar to me. Everything just seems so rigid and ritualistic.. but I’m not Catholic so what do I know? =)

GracieT's avatar

The funny thing about the Roman Catholic Church is that I, someone who is no longer Catholic but now a non-denominational Christian can go back to a Catholic church and know exactly what will be said and why. I also remember what the congragtions’ response will be. ;0)

SuperMouse's avatar

@GracieT amen to that! I have always found comfort in that whenever I return to Mass. It is kind of like the comfort that comes from knowing that a Big Mac will taste exactly the same no matter where in the world it is purchased.

JLeslie's avatar

@GracieT Do you find some comfort in it? The familiarity? I always find it a little off putting not being Catholic when I am attending a Catholic service of some sort. Usually it is at a wedding. Everyone answering the priest in unison, sit, stand, kneel. But, I would think as a Catholic it is simply familiar and the rituals reinforce good feelings. I went to an Episcopal funeral service last year and it was great. They handed out what specifically was happeing, the Priest explained everything. Rabbis usually do that at weddings. They say Jewish prayers, but then also in English and explain to those in attendance why certain rituals are done. It feels more inclusive to me, while in Catholic church I feel more on the outside. But, since I am rarely in a church it isn’t a big deal, and most of my friends and my husband’s family are Catholic, and I feel more comfortable around them generally than other Christian faiths. It’s a generalization, I have friends who are Christians non Catholics who are wonderful, but I would say with them better to not talk about religion.

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse Oh, you just answered the question I asked @GracieT. We were writing at the same time.

zenvelo's avatar

@GracieT I hope you know the liturgy was recently revised. “And also with you” has changed to “And with your spirit”, plus there were other small changes.

You can tell who goes to Mass regularly because they have finally adapted, but those who don’t still mess up.

GracieT's avatar

@zenvelo, I haven’t been in a few years. My brothers and their families are Catholic, but I’ve never gone with them. My father and step-mother converted before they left Kentucky, so I haven’t had a reason to go for a wile. I would definitely expect to mess up! Why the change?

SuperMouse's avatar

@zenvelo be still my heart! I seriously swooned when I read that. Changing the liturgy is a pretty big deal. @GracieT I would be so behind and I would mess up too, that’s for sure.

DrBill's avatar

I believe that every person should interpret the bible for themselves
In a debate class I proved to the entire class that Cain did not sin when he killed Able.

GracieT's avatar

The evangelical church I go to now is made up mostly of Home Churches. The main church itself was founded by 2 men whom had gone to seminary, but our smaller Home Groups are led by people that don’t have to have been trained in seminary. These people have taken MANY classes. The are very well trained. Almost like Deacons. They aren’t called that, though.

zenvelo's avatar

@GracieT @SuperMouse The RC English liturgy was revised to take it back to a closer translation of the Latin. I guess the Vatican felt the 1970s translation was a bit too vague and not necessarily an improvement. I personally like “and with your spirit” better than “and also with you”.

In my parish we now say the Apostle’s Creed rather than the vague creed rewrite that had been said after the homily.

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