I have been sitting on the fence on the subject of pagan 'clergy.'
I have been swayed in both directions. To me paganism is all about finding your own personal path to divinity, whatever that is.
You can't tell me how to connect to the goddess, I can't tell you. All the research and education in the world is only one small tool along that path. A good tool, a necessary tool, but still just a tool.
OTOH, the arguments for presenting a public face that doesn't speak of Buffy or teenage Goths has great pull. We all want to be respected in our beliefs, in our lives. We all get tired of saying "I'm-pagan,-no-it-is-not-satanism" as if it were all one word.
Having someone ELSE front and center to make explanations and create good will is very very tempting these days.
My mind was made up this week in a gigantic leap, a vivid light bulb moment. I sincerely wish that I could credit the person who caused this, but I have been unable to. Instead I will relate how this happened.
Driving to work, listening to an NPR story about the Pope in Africa. Someone from one of the many health organizations trying desperately to stop the relentless advance of disease in Africa was being interviewed. I started listening at the very end of the interview, which is why I don't know who this was.
The questions and answers turned to the Pope's remarks against the use of condoms and the interviewee said:
"...he cares more for his dogma than for his people's lives."
Raised Catholic, I think I had always known this, but never said it outloud. Yes, he does.
And I realized that we must NEVER EVER fall into the trap of believing that my way or your way or anyone's way of approaching the gods must look a certain way or feel a certain way or contain certain words. The moment that we anoint people to step forward and say that they represent Pagans, we are heading for the slippery slope of caring more for dogma (and for appearances) than for connection and knowledge.
Most of us are so indoctrinated, more honestly we are brainwashed, into thinking that 'religion' must look a certain way and act a certain way. Even when we think we have thrown off the shackles and started down a path of freedom and knowledge, those old beliefs start to tug at us.
Clergy, temples, sacred texts tipping into dogma. We are conditioned to it, we must resist it or this path can just become another way to control other people.
double posted, here and A Pagan Tapestry