April 26th, 2006

lindisfarne gospels

Plus ca change

J.E. Neale, in his classic history, Elizabeth I and Her Parliaments, relates this scene at court. The Queen was receiving pledges of monetary support from the clergy, as represented by Archbishop Whitgift and others. The starchy Whitgift and the Puritan-leaning Lord Burghley got into an exchange over the state of the clergy.
'Truly, my Lord,' broke in Burghley, 'her Majesty hath declared to you a marvellous fault, in that you make, in this time of light, so many lewd and unlearned ministers.'

Elizabeth hastened to Whitgift's defence: 'My Lord of Canterbury said well. Draw articles and charge them with it that have offended.'

'I do not burthen them that be here', Burghley hastily explained; 'but it is the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry that I mean' -- the worldly William Overton -- 'who made seventy ministers in one day for money: some tailors, some shoemakers and others craftsmen. I am sure the greatest part of them are not worthy to keep horses.'

After a further exchange between Whitgift and Burghley, the Archbishop pointed out that it was impossible to have learned ministers in all of England's thirteen thousand parishes.

'Jesus!' exclaimed Elizabeth, 'thirteen thousand! It is not to be looked for . . . My meaning is not [that] you should make choice of learned ministers only, for they are not to be found, but of honest, sober and wise men and such as can read the scriptures and homilies well unto the people.' With that she rose, thanked the bishops, and bade them farewell.

The parties and issues have changed much in the almost 500 years since this exchange took place, so there is no direct analogy between the groups jockeying for control of the Church today and those long ago factions. But still the issue of supplying the faithful with fit clergy goes on. And still there are those who will cover up incompetence, destructive behavior, radical ideology, and so on.

I'm with Good Queen Bess on this one. I'd rather have a simple person who can "read the scriptures and homilies well unto the people" than someone -- educated or not -- who will lead them astray or neglect one's duties.

My liberal colleagues all tout my erudition, but they don't understand what it's really for. They wish they had my credentials (a Ph.D.) or my reputation as a preacher, but that's not what makes me a good pastor. It is love, faithfulness, patience, devotion to the truth, and a desire to protect the weaklings of the flock that make a good pastor. They have these not, so they think they are all a matter of credentials or technique, something it's nice to have but totally unnecessary to being a success in the ministry -- which they view themselves as, despite their dismal performance.

To be complimented by some of them in the terms they use is to be presented with a bouquet of roadapples.

The Countdown

Four weeks from TODAY, I drive to Washington, DC, for a two-day visit and Annual Meeting of NAUMS.

Six weeks from TODAY, we leave for Tanzania.

Eight weeks from TODAY, we return from Tanzania.

NINE weeks from TOMORROW, the movers come to load our stuff on their truck and move us to Ellettsville.