Horizontal Church: The Priesthood of All Believers and Collective Organizing


I want to thank you all for following along with this series on Horizontal Church this week. As I said at the beginning, my thoughts on this are all in process. Though these thoughts are unfinished and still emerging, I’m glad to be writing about these things, because when it comes to church and spiritual communities, I believe these are important conversations for us to be having.

I’m going to continue discussing some of these things next week, particularly some of the ways I believe vertical structures and cultures (not limited to, but certainly including entrenched hierarchy) are falling short. These thoughts are all in process too. There is much for me to learn, and I’m glad to explore a variety of ways that communities are organizing their collective life.

But I will say this: In large part, I base all these emerging thoughts on the foundation of two things. . .

The theological conviction of the Priesthood of All Believers


The wisdom of activist organizing

Early Christian communities were pretty radical in their forms of collective community life, particularly in the ways they included people in belonging, participation, and leadership across economic, ethnic, and gender lines. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood. . .” the epistle of 1 Peter says.  Much later, the concept of “The Priesthood of All Believers” became one of the foundations of the Protestant Reformation, with the conviction that people should have access to the scriptures themselves (not just priests and scholars) and participate directly in their interpretation.

Part of my curiosity with pondering all of these emerging ideas and convictions is rooted in wondering, “How can we put this conviction — the Priesthood of All Believers — into practice in concrete, life-giving ways, in the context of our particular 21st century culture?”

And along with that, much of this has become important to me because I’ve experienced what horizontality can look like outside of the context of church. Horizontal organizing, in practice and as a term, comes in large part from the world of activist organizing, including Black Lives Matter. I have witnessed and participated in organizing collectives where there is no formal leader. I have watched communities utilize shared procedures and practices to guide their community life, without setting apart a particular class of leadership roles. And if I may be honest, all of these ideas and wonderings became especially important in my mind because I saw that organizing collectives were more committed to egalitarianism as a core principle than most churches I know. I think that’s a core conviction of our tradition. And though it’s never practiced perfectly in any context, I see that this principle is important to a lot of people who do not typically connect with organized religious communities.

So keeping these frameworks in mind, both theological and cultural, what might we learn? What might we try? How might we change?

(And also for your enjoyment, here’s a funny: This is definitely not Horizontal Church.)

Renee Roederer

This post is part of a series. Feel free to check out the other pieces as well:

This Week: Horizontal Church
Horizontal Church: Who Speaks, Prays, and Preaches? — Why?
Horizontal Church: Participatory and Empowering (Part 1)
Horizontal Church: Participatory and Empowering (Part 2)
Horizontal Church: Accountability
Horizontal Church: Christian Education


6 thoughts on “Horizontal Church: The Priesthood of All Believers and Collective Organizing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s