Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Clavier: Coping with a sinful church

Corrected Wednesday, June 27, 2007. I got wrong both the authorship of two previous articles and the ordination history of Fr. Clavier. My apologies. See comments below.

The Episcopal Majority has published an essay called "Coping with a Sinful Church" by the Rev. Tony Clavier, a priest in the Diocese of West Virginia. The blog has published* two previous essays, "Maturity in the Midst of Conflict" and "Sanctification of the Faithful", which, while not intended as a trilogy, together contribute to understanding of what is happening in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Lisa Fox, one of the keepers of The Episcopal Majority, says that in his essay, Father Tony acknowledges that church councils may err and challenges the assumption that all doctrinal development is salutary. He also challenges those who would leave the church over developments they oppose.

I agree with Lisa that Father Tony has particular credibility on this topic, having served as a bishop in the "continuum" before being recieved into the Episcopal Church in 1999.* Fr. Tony serves St. Thomas a' Becket Episcopal Church in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Some excerpts:

To imagine that it is our duty to “leave the Church” when we perceive her to be in error or sinful is wrong-headed and probably a heresy. It is as heretical to stress the Divine over the Human as to stress the Human over the Divine. The human nature of the Church, unlike the human nature of Christ, is tainted with sin simply because we all are tainted with sin. It is true the Church is redeemed from its sinfulness, as we all are who have gone through the waters of baptism. It is true the taint of sin in the Church does not render the Church totally corrupt, although (to quote the Articles again) she often seems very far gone from original righteousness! We get indignant when parishioners leave because someone or other, or the vestry, or the priest have demonstrated vividly their humanity; yet we talk about leaving the Anglican Communion or leaving the Episcopal Church because neither lives up to our expectations.


In the best of Anglicanism, the Catholic, the Reformed and the Liberal are not alternatives from which we may pick and choose, or claim “party” allegiance, but rather a living symbiosis. Similarly, Scripture, Tradition and Reason occupy a symbiotic relationship. When that symbiosis is lived vividly in our midst, we witness the Holy Spirit, the “author of unity,” at work in the Church. When we see faction, party spirit and intolerant hegemony, there we see sin at work in our midst.

It is one thing to leave one church for another because one is drawn to the way that church worships, teaches, or lives out it's common life and ministry. That may be God calling one to a new, deeper call to discipleship. It is quite another thing to decide to both leave the church and rend the place you are called away from into shreds because the wider group doesn't agree with you.

Read the rest. The Episcopal Majority: Coping with a Sinful Church (Clavier)


Pierre said...

I was glad to see you quoting Tony Clavier, a remarkable Anglican. However, he never left the Episcopal Church, for he never was one until his reception in 1999. Tony's orders came through the Anglican Church of North America. As archbishop of that church, he tried hard i the early 80s to seek reconciliation with the Episcopal Church.

In Christ,
+Pierre Whalon
Bishop in Europe

Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for this notice, Andrew.

But let me correct one little item. You said, "He has written two previous essays, "Maturity in the Midst of Conflict" and "Sanctification of the Faithful." Not so. The former was written by Tom Woodward, David Fly, and me. The latter is by Paul Strid. We found it sort of synergistic that Father Clavier's piece -- not solicited or intended as part of a "series" -- echoed themes about which we've been writing for the last few days.

I am among those who have read Father Clavier's essays for quite a while now. Quite often, he makes me uncomfortable in asking hard questions that need to be asked. I hope more folks will read this essay.

Andrew Gerns said...

Thank you Bishop Whalon and thank you Lisa for reading, your kind words and for your corrections. I have made these changes in the blog entry, indicated with an "*".


Muthah+ said...

Andrew, I agree with you whole heartedly. I had to leave the Roman Church years ago in order to live out what God was calling me to. I did not agree with the RC's on many things: abortion, the role of women, etc. But I did not expect to change the RCC simply because I did not agree with them. Yes, I did try to make my point theologically, but it was rebuffed. I knew then that in order to be faithful to Christ I either had to subject myself to what I felt was inappropriat and unsound theology or I had to leave and go somewhere where I could live out a Christian life that was in keeping with a way of life that I called Christian.

All too often we expect others to change in order to live up to what we believe. To me that is not what the Christian call is: I believe that we work out what it means to be a Christian and find a place where we can live it out. It just is more honest and viable. Yep, it doesn mean that we don't necessarially "pass on the particular belief patterns to sucessive relations," but we do recognize the right of individuals to come to the faith that God leads them to. It makes the job of cleric a bit harder, but I the faith is more realistic and honest.