Tony Clavier: On the Edge

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Over the years of my adult life and ministry I have witness[ed] Catholics and Evangelicals adopting more rigid and isolated positions in the face of Liberal triumphalism and in the process become more and more distressed by the abandonment of many in all sections of what we used to term Anglican Comprehension of a commitment to mutual tolerance and symbiosis. It is as if Anglicans have divided into two camps, the one planted in dogmatic conclusions about a past “golden age” of Anglicanism as solely authentic and the other intent on burying for good the traditions, spirituality and theological conclusions of Anglicanism in its “past” multifaceted ethos.

And now I find myself on the edge, on what a friend of mine describes as a conveyer belt leading out of the church I have loved all my life, first in England and now in America. Even during my long years as an extra-mural Anglican bishop, as I sought to serve those who left TEC, I worked hard to keep at the fore the breadth and depth of an Anglicanism which embraced the truths taught and lived by men and women of many forms of what we once termed Churchmanship which made up the whole cloth of our tradition.

I have mentioned before the irony of my entering TEC because it was the American expression of worldwide Anglicanism in communion with the See of Canterbury and now finding myself in a church which may purposely sever its links with that Communion as it affirms independence over mutual interdependence and may become the largest of those groups which have abandoned Anglicanism for sectarianism: a liberal trendy modern Deist group wrapped in the garbs of sacramentalism or a respectable form of Theosophy.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican IdentityEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Conflicts* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Theology

Posted January 31, 2009 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Franz wrote:

He also writes:

“Today I sought to sooth the mind of a parishioner who doubts whether he may introduce his friends to our parish because he cannot defend the notorious utterances of leading ecclesiastics in TEC. It was so difficult to get across that this parish and our diocese do not mirror that which seems to be the “flavor” of contemporary Episcopalianism but affirm the teachings of Scripture, the Creeds, the Catechism and the Prayer Book.”

And, yet, isn’t this the central problem we face, even if we are lucky enough to be in a parish with sound teaching and sound liturgy?  The ECUSA claims to be a hierarchical church—the fact that it has bishops makes it so.  It claims to be part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church.  As Episcopalians, we are not congregationalists.  Therefore, what the Bishop of New Hampshire says _does_ reflect on us.  What the Bishop of Los Angeles says and does matters, even if we are lucky enough to be in Fort Worth, Charleston, or Albany.  What the Presiding Bishop says or does (or does not say or do) matters, no matter where we are.  And if one is unlucky enough to live in an area with a bishop who is a cipher (such as the Diocese of SW Florida) and in a section of that diocese without traditional worship or anything even resembling the broad outlines of classic Anglicanism (or even “mere Christianity”) there comes a point where one certainly would not invite any friends or acquaintences.  In fact, you might be finally figuring out that you will no longer identify yourself as an Episcopalian by the time of GC 2009, if not before.

January 31, 8:17 pm | [comment link]
2. Fr. Dale wrote:

I am a bit puzzled and sense in his statements a dawning realization that leaving may be a possibility.
“And now I find myself on the edge, on what a friend of mine describes as a conveyer belt leading out of the church I have loved all my life, first in England and now in America.”
But then he says this,
“I don’t want to sacrifice my belief in the comprehensive witness of Anglicanism for ideological conformity. And so I say my prayers and do my best to be a good parish priest, and to retain that “moderation” I grew to love as a lad.”
Are you beginning to waiver Fr. Clavier?

January 31, 8:38 pm | [comment link]
3. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

It’s very telling that Tony Clavier, the only person I know of who has shifted from being a Continuing Church bishop to being an Episcopal priest, is now writing in these terms. That he looks set to throw in his hand testifies to the depths to which we have now sunk.   

Catholic and Reformed

January 31, 8:41 pm | [comment link]
4. TomRightmyer wrote:

My wife’s uncle, Cotton Cannon, of Spartanburg, SC, was a conservative Episcopalian and one of the founders of St. Francis Anglican Church in Spartanburg. I remember corresponding with Tony Clavier in 1965-66 when I was at General Seminary and he was beginning his ministry among extra-mural Anglicans, including my wife’s uncle. Cotton spoke highly of “that young Englishman.”

I’m delighted to read that Tony has completed ten years service in the Episcopal Church. There are some benefits from the Pension Fund that are limited to those with 10 or more years of service, and Tony has richly earned them.  I particularly appreciate the irenic and ecumenical spirit that has characterized his ministry in both the American Episcopal Church and the (Protestant) Episcopal Church.

Tom Rightmyer, Asheville, NC

January 31, 9:06 pm | [comment link]
5. wvparson wrote:

On the edge doesn’t mean over the edge!

January 31, 9:29 pm | [comment link]
6. Nevin wrote:

#1, you will find here in Pittsburgh among the “stayers” substantial opposition to your observation that what various Episcopal bishops say or publish matters at all outside of their own dioceses.  In fact, during the run up to the realigning convention a lot of ink was spilled pooh-poohing the notion that what the PB said or thought was even remotely relevant to Pittsburgh.  I believe the prevailing opinion among these TEC loyalists was that we could safely ignore all heretical or questionable theology from any Episcopal bishop…

January 31, 11:33 pm | [comment link]
7. Denise wrote:

Unfortunately, Nevin, you and your friends may “ignore all heretical or questionable theology from any Episcopal bishop,” but the world will still connect you to it.  Many times I have had to explain to my friends that what Spong, Pike, and Robinson say publicly does not matter to me as I belong to an orthodox diocese.  That leaves people walking away from me scratching their heads, wondering what kind of church I belong to that would permit such behavior by its leaders, and they are not about to become a part of it.  And I end up explaining away all the heretics instead of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Other Episcopalians may understand, but the ones who are looking for a church home do not.

February 1, 12:05 am | [comment link]
8. BlueOntario wrote:

“Other Episcopalians may understand…”
We have a word for that sort of thing amongst my disfunctional friends: enabling.

February 1, 12:17 am | [comment link]
9. John Wilkins wrote:

I enjoy Tony’s writings.  I hope that he continues to focus on his congregation.  The stronger parishes like his are, the more likely the Episcopacy will listen.  As it is, most are so afraid, they flee.

February 1, 1:46 am | [comment link]
10. Katherine wrote:

My US home is in a revisionist diocese.  It was when I realized that I could not, in good conscience, invite seekers to my parish that I knew I had to leave.  Apparently even in West Virginia people are struggling with the same problem—and I feel that Fr. Clavier’s parish is a much better place than the parish I left six years ago.

February 1, 3:03 am | [comment link]
11. Branford wrote:

John Wilkins, having known several churches that have left TEC and moved under overseas Anglican bishops, let me assure you that nothing was done out of fear. You keep mentioning this (in several comments), as though belittling those who have left. I have found it is the fearful, in some instances, who stay - those fearful of losing their buildings, those fearful of what others may say, those fearful of losing whatever financial benefit they get from their TEC diocese. Not one church group I know of that has left has done it out of fear - they have done it after prayerful consideration and in following what they truly believe is the calling of the Holy Spirit to separate from TEC. That is not fear, that is faith.

February 1, 3:24 am | [comment link]
12. BMR+ wrote:

I think this essay should probably be read in context with the one that immediately follows it.


Bruce Robison

February 1, 6:00 pm | [comment link]
13. Sarah1 wrote:

Branford—it’s okay . . . John Wilkins prefers to think “fearful” rather than “repulsed and grossed out.”  ; > )

Let him have his protective fantasy.

RE: ““The stronger parishes like his are, the more likely the Episcopacy will listen.”

There is no likelihood—none at all—that the revisionists will “listen” whether parishes, dioceses, clergy, laity or whatever else among the conservatives are “strong” or “weak.”

February 1, 11:50 pm | [comment link]
14. libraryjim wrote:

Over the years of my adult life and ministry I have witness[ed] Catholics and Evangelicals adopting more rigid and isolated positions in the face of Liberal triumphalism

Perhaps the rise of Liberal Triumphalism has forced the rest of us to sit down and condense what we truly hold as core beliefs upon which we cannot compromise and still remain Christian.  That’s not ‘more rigid and isolated’, that’s returning to our roots as Christians.

February 2, 12:34 pm | [comment link]
15. Jeremy Bonner wrote:


While your basic point may be true, a lament for the Anglican comprehensiveness that is passing is surely not untimely? That something becomes “requisite and necessary” is sometimes a matter for lament.

February 2, 12:45 pm | [comment link]
16. Fr. Dale wrote:

#15 Jeremy Bonner,
Maybe the Elizabethan Settlement was really only the Elizabethan Postponement or to put it another way, a shotgun wedding. “Anglican comprehensiveness” only works when their is a balance in the various streams and when the fabric is not stretched to accommodate heresy.

February 2, 12:55 pm | [comment link]
17. wvparson wrote:

Indeed I do lament our hardening partisan positions and our defensiveness which seems to inspire us not only to defend our positions but also to retaliate. I doubt whether anything authentically Anglican in temper, liberality and civility may long survive in such an atmosphere. True what does survive may be Christian, but there are plenty of fairly orthodox Christian expressions available in the American religious marketplace if what one seeks is that which is orthodox in core doctrines.

February 2, 12:56 pm | [comment link]
18. Sarah1 wrote:

Of course, the reason why we have “liberal triumphalism” is precisely because those on the evangelical and Anglo-Catholic sides did not appropriately defend the gospel, nor engage in the political work that the liberals did, preferring instead to rest within their “safe” congregations and indulge in the rosy glow of their “broad church” illusions, while in the meantime the liberals mouthed those words and vigorously worked the political process.

I am thrilled over what wvparson calls “hardening partisan positions”—they are a wonderful indication of life and rewewal within Anglicanism, not to mention the appropriate resistance and publicity that they have brought to the agenda of the revisionists and progressive activists.  May those “partisan positions” continue and grow!

I am also thrilled that wvparson has recovered from his illnesses and is back to blogging.

February 2, 1:07 pm | [comment link]
19. wvparson wrote:

Sarah thank you for your kind words about my having given up ill health and that I am blogging.

I would agree with you that our present state of things has induced many to tackle the ignorance of our day. I hasten to use the term “heresy” because on has to know orthodoxy to be a heretic! 

I would just make a plea for the winsomeness of the Gospel. None of us should stoop to the point when we lose our charity and give way to bitterness. Nor should we have the temerity to act as if God is not in charge, that He has gone to sleep and that the whole future of the church lies in our own hands.

February 2, 1:31 pm | [comment link]
20. libraryjim wrote:

Perhaps I wasn’t really clear. What I meant was that perhaps over the centuries, Anglicanism has built up a lot of ‘chaff’ that has been added on to basic or mere or central Christianity. 

Now when that chaff has gotten so heavy, and has become the central focus of what Tony C. called “liberal triumphalism”, that that chaff has to be burned away so that only the true ‘wheat’ or ‘gold’ remains. And that becomes SEEN as a rigid and isolate position by those who value the chaff more than the wheat.  But for those of us who value the wheat (gold), it is neither rigid nor isolationist, but rather the essentials with which we started out?

Then, it is true that SOME (but not all) have become contentious in defending this faith, and those few are the ones that get the negative publicity by the “Daily Chaff” Reporters, while the rest of us labor on faithfully in Christ. 

But in defense of contentiousness: Wasn’t Paul seen by some to be contentious? I mean, he had quite a few ‘fellow laborers’ abandon him because of this.  Yet he added greatly to the numbers of the Church.

I think some of us are called in the manner of St. Paul, and some in the manner of Mother Teresa.  Which is more effective? Only God knows, since He is the giver of the gifts.

In His Peace
Jim Elliott <><

In essentials unity
in non-essentials liberty
In all things charity.

February 2, 2:55 pm | [comment link]
21. John Wilkins wrote:

Branford, as I don’t know many churches that are leaving, I’ll assume you’re correct.  But I assume there would be a fear about staying, it seems, that would seem to initiate even asking the Holy Spirit - “how can we stay connected to Heretics?  What would God think?”  I recognize that this may NOT be the sort of question you would ask.

You also describe a fear about leaving, which I’m sure happens in parishes that decide to stay but don’t care for the direction of TEC.

I tend to think that if the liberal church is dying (which it may be) then the tenacity of conservatives would mean that TEC would eventually swing in a more traditional direction.  But over the last 50 years, conservatives have generally chosen to leave the church rather than work within the system.  I’ve seen some traditionalists and reexaminers work together, but it is usually when there is plenty of familiarity and trust. 

I also think that the internet doesn’t always help with the conversation.  People are bought into the churches locally, not through the internet.  If Clavier’s parish becomes stronger, it may change the dynamic of the entire diocese.

February 2, 3:23 pm | [comment link]
Registered members must log in to comment.

Next entry (above): Church of England calls for increased donations as recession hits finances

Previous entry (below): Alina Tugend with an interesting article on Procrastination

Return to blog homepage

Return to Mobile view (headlines)