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This page last updated 15 April 2007  

A Reply to Ronald Young

The Reverend Anthony F. M. Clavier
13 September 2000

For those of you who have now read the two essays, I think I want to say that I had no intention of suggesting that synodical government is irrelevant or inappropriate. Rather I was suggesting that we have to beware that we look at the governmental system we have as the very essence of who we are as an ecclesial body and to treat the decisions made, in what ever form as delphic offerings on a par with Scripture, Tradition, Reason. To do so, in my opinion, subjects the church to the ideals of probably the second best attempt at democracy known to our world. So we have the proverbial apples and oranges in play!

I know that all of us have emotional and intellectual investments in various decisions made by the legislative process. These enactments are attempts to exercise "adjectivity" (my contribution to the the frightful word list) to subjects which have arisen through our Anglican process. I find it quite frightful to be accused of being a "conservative' by raising these issues. I'm told that by reading between the lines, my real motive is exposed. I don't write between lines, never have, and have always been bothered by magicians who claim to see invisible ink that has not been used. Anyone who takes the Pauline doctrine of Law-Gospel seriously - now we are with the Lutherans it's a defining contribution of Lutheranism we should at least try to understand - has some hesitancy in equating a legislative formula with the truth it attempts to define and limit. This problem besets any office or body which exercises power. How do we manage to legislate something which is of grace rather than of law?

I am constantly haunted by our church's approach to racism. We adopted all the right legislation. We are even demanding that all our dioceses involve themselves in seminars on racism. Lovely. But so many of our non-White clergy are limited in their ministry, we have retreated from the places where we could minister to Afro-Americans, even thought that a pastoral ministry might not fit in, and in effect abandoned Blacks as we have abandoned almost any constituency which does not meet our cultural expectations.

I believe that we are probably more elitist than we have ever been in our history. And yet we disturb the peace of the Anglican Communion by our image which like color and beauty is skin deep. At the same time people leave us because they think we ought to be spiritually and morally rigid, ignoring the patient pastoral inclusivity of our tradition which does not lower our sights but knows that the process of growing in grace is bloody difficult, that here we see puzzling reflections in a mirror, as dear old St. Paul reminds us.

So this is what I was trying to say. Jesus mixed with people, set their sights high and threw his love at them lavishly. General Convention is entrusted with affirming the standard and proclaiming the love, all in BE IT RESOLVED language. It fails. How could it not fail? But the attempt is utterly necessary.

The Reverend Anthony F. M. Clavier is rector of Trinity Church, Pine Bluff in the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas. He recently served on the Dallas panel of the “New Commandment Task Force.” For thirty years he ministered in one of the Continuing Anglican Churches as a bishop and Primus. He can be reached at