The Serene See is a religious organization in Gard. Based out of the holy city-state Urbield, the Serene See is the primary religious body for Ielda-worship in the Empire. Its authority is far less than absolute, but its actions and words are noted throughout Gard.
The Serene See claims the role of supreme religious authority for worshipers of Ielda, everywhere in the world. Its actual influence extends only to Gard, and Gard’s possessions in the Bocan Islands. The Serene See standardizes prayers, holy texts, holidays, rituals, and the ordination of priests throughout Gard. Clerics of Ielda in Gard probably underwent their original training using methods approved by the Serene See. Priests do not have to travel to Urbield to receive ordination, but they must be consecrated by one of the Serene See’s bishops before the See and its adherents consider someone a proper priest.
The See’s authority is not absolute, however, even among followers of Ielda in Gard. In fact, two major realms (Wick and Vaunoo) have their own central religious authorities whose teachings flatly contradict those of the See. They have their own rituals and traditions. In other realms, most followers of Ielda consider the Serene See the authority on the Merciful Goddess. But there are splinter churches and unorthodox churches here and there throughout Gard.
Unlike the Church of Lasant or the Synodic Church of Wick, the Serene See has no legal authority (except in Urbield, of course). So it is not able to stop these rival churches from practicing wherever they wish. Ielda herself does not seem to show much preference for one method of following her over another.
The Serene See is led by a Council of Archbishops, composed of 25 members. One archbishop is the High Priest. However, exactly which archbishop is the High Priest is a closely-guarded secret. Only the archbishops know which is the High Priest. This practice originated in the days of the Age of Conflict, out of concern that the High Priest might be assassinated by rivals. Today, of course, there is no such concern. But the practice is maintained, both out of tradition, and to keep politics out of the inner circle of a faith that’s supposed to be about love and harmony.
There are many bishops besides the archbishops. They are spread out around Gard, but they do not have their own specific territories. Their responsibilities are mostly to carry the word of the Serene See to the priests throughout the Empire, and to ordain new priests as needed. There is no fixed number of bishops. Bishops outrank priests, but do not have personal authority over them, only the authority to ensure that their worship and rituals are in compliance with the teachings of the Serene See and the Council of Archbishops. Bishops can be demoted by the Council – the most common reason for this is excessive pride, as bishops are supposed to remain as humble as priests.
The Serene See also issues commissions to paladins and warpriests of Ielda. There aren’t many of them. Their primary duties are keeping the peace, and helping the faithful of Ielda confront undead or fiends when necessary. Rituals for paladins and warpriests involve long prayers of penitence for any violent acts committed.
As for oracles of Ielda, they usually have nothing to do with the Serene See. Oracles have no need of churches. There are a few oracles who do associate with the See for mutual benefit, however. These oracles are not priests or ordained in any other way, but are sometimes given honorary titles such as Monsignor, Healer, or Oracle.