Maybe Our Ministers Are Really a Trade Union After All

In Iceland, this is literally the case:

A proposal to ban clergy from charging or accepting fees for funerals, weddings and baptisms has prompted threats of industrial action by the clergy union of the Church of Iceland (Þjóðkirkjan).

A little while back I lamented the following:

The second is that (with exceptions) our ministers and academics alike have a “trade union” mentality, that thinking and speaking/preaching of the deeper things of God is “bargaining unit” work and that the laity (“scabs” in union terminology) don’t have any business delving into this kind of thing on any level. Sometimes it’s framed as a replication of Roman Catholicism’s view of the priesthood, but that’s too high of a view of what’s going on.

As George Conger points out, the Church of Iceland is a state (Lutheran) church and its ministers employees of the government. They have a trade union with a collective bargaining agreement. One of the things that agreement permits is for same ministers to collect honoraria on things such as baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc. The church wants to revoke this right unilaterally, thus the threat of the ministers to strike. In the trade union setting I’m familiar with, the union would file a grievance for this kind of thing, but different contracts stipulate different responses.

My experience with ministers in the Church of God tells me that, if our church were to do the same thing, the reaction of the union (er, ministers) would make the threat of a strike look tame. Honoraria are a time-honoured practice from the lowliest exhorter right up to the Executive Committee. Our ministers may have different classifications but they are, ultimately, one bargaining unit.

But I also suspect that the reaction of ministers in the more “refined” churches I routinely cover on this site wouldn’t take such a revocation with more equanimity than their counterparts across the tracks, and the situation in Iceland demonstrates what I’m talking about.

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