The Phoenix Empire has followed ‘the Church’ for so many years that its original name has gone lost in the mists of time. Almost all humans within its borders follow the ‘Imperial Church’, and while it is neither inherently xenophobic nor human-centric, most alien races have kept their own religions.
The basic beliefs of the Church are not directly related to any of the monotheistic religions of today, but they share most basic commandments and ceremonies, suggesting that the modern Imperial Church is a simplified amalgam of several pre-dark-ages religions.
Previous to the Second Succession War (SW II), the self-image and bearing of the Imperial Church could have been compared to our medieval catholic Christian church, including the corruption and political power. It was a monotheistic, missionary church selling absolution for money and obedience, promising a return to God’s grace and everlasting life after death.
With the emergence of Temple Aroona and the Purge of the Verata during SW II, the Church went through a fundamental change in appearance and self-understanding. Today’s Church is much less overtly political and less missionary. And while by no means silent, they have firmly placed themselves as helpers and caretakers into the public’s mind, making the Church less powerful but much more influential in the long run.
An important difference to our religions today is that the priests of the Imperial Church are able to work miracles if their belief is strong enough. Long time scoffed at as a manifestation of inherently mundane psionic powers, those miracles of late have come under new scrutiny. Rumours increase of sightings of alien gods, appearing in person and taking part in the lives of mortals, all of them well aware of the human god and not amused at all about his existence.
Church relevance varies wildly from planet to planet. On the low end, there is atheist / capitalist Guild Central, where the Church is tolerated as long as they pay. On the other hand, there are planets under Jehanni control like Kismet that feel more like a theocracy.
As Nobility avoids any involvement of others in their affairs like the devil avoids holy water, there is a clear separation of church and state, though. Only complication to this rule are fiefs directly owned by the Church, wherein the Church is considered the ruling noble house. Best know Church fief is Earth, the sacred birthplace of humanity, a park-like, pristine recreation of an unspoilt planet under firm Church control with almost no noble presence.
While religious fanaticism is not uncommon in individual members of the Imperial Church, the broad public can be considered ‘benevolently inactive’ towards their church.
In sum, the direct political relevance of the Church is relatively small due to its small number of fiefs, and can be compared to that of a Minor House. But as many priests are dearly beloved by the general population, nobles all over the Empire are very, very careful to stay on the Church’s good side.
Since the Second Succession War, the Church is divided into three branches, commonly known as ‘the Heart, the Fist and the Mind of the Church’. Those are Temple Aroona (the heart), Temple Belligra (the fist) and Temple Verata (the mind). No branch holds any true claim to leadership, though it is worth mentioning that while the Aroona make up most of the low-level-priests, the Council of Archbishops as highest authority under the patriarch is made up of all branches in equal parts.
Though the lines of hierarchy in the Imperial Church vary enormously from place to place, the basic structure is the same all over them Empire. Each parish is run by a priest, who answers to the Father (or Mother) Superior who in turn report to their local bishop. Usually, the highest church member on a planet with a small population will be a bishop. Most planets, though, have several bishops overseen by an archbishop, with the Council of Archbishop electing the Patriarch. Parallel to this geographic hierarchy runs the structure of the individual branches of the church. Those come with different titles and usually are organized by rank, education and age. Up until SW II those two overlapping hierarchies made for a perfect chaos, but since the Purge of the Verata, matters of precedence are sorted out surprisingly swiftly.
The Patriarch is elected for life, and the current Patriarch already wonders if he maybe has lived long enough. He's a tiny, old, shriveled man, bitter with seeing his 'empire' crumble under his hands. It is only a matter of time until we see a change of guard at that post as well.
The ideas the Church believes in have hardly changed, only the manners and perceived duties of the priests. It is a re-orientation towards the actual beliefs that made them throw out many bad habits and those who couldn't let go of them.
Church and magic / psionicsEdit
Officially, the church sees psionics and magic just as any other human talent, with the potential for good and evil in equal measures. While the Verata try for a perfectly neutral stance, the Aroona actually welcome any expression of Supernatural Powers, whereas the Belligra eye them with muted suspicion.
Neither mages nor psions see their powers as having a religious component, although that doesn't keep some of them from being deeply religious people on top of all else.
Psions usually are too independent to join anything like the Church, but there is a good chance that a mage might end up with the Verata.
Historically, the Church as been the driving force behind the hatred against any supernaturally gifted human other than theurges, so hiding there would have been a risky idea indeed. Today, though, the stigma has been lifted, and at least the Aroona and Verata are welcoming other paths into their fold.
Other articles about the Imperial ChurchEdit