Lewis and ecclesiastical discipline

Feb 12th, 2012 | By | Category: Church of Ireland Comment

Inspector Lewis occupies two hours on a Sunday evening. Twelve years on from the death of Morse, there is still a lingering expectation that the irascible  chief inspector might appear, yet it was often Lewis who offered the words of wisdom. At the end of a long day, Lewis expresses concern for his chief’s health:

“You want to get off home.  You look done in”.

“I am done in . . . art and life, Lewis, art and life”.

“Oh, yeah?”

“I always preferred art myself.  I don’t know about life . . . Today, I suppose because I’ve always thought art was  . . . because it gave me so much . . . I’ve always thought of artists as . . . as being something different”.

“My dad used to love football, but he didn’t like footballers.  You have to keep the people who do things apart from what they do; that’s what he said”

“He was right”.

Sergeant Lewis’ dad would not have only met with the approval of the weary Inspector Morse; his words go a good way to explain a proper way of looking at clergy.  It’s what they do that matters, not what they are.  If you don’t like them, keep their personality apart from their ministry.

The Sixteenth Century Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, (a foundation document for Anglican clergy), anticipated questions about the ministry of ‘bad’ clergy; they might not be very likeable, but that is not what is important.  Article 26 outlines the position:

XXVI. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.

Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.

‘You have to keep the people who do things apart from what they do’. Lewis might have offered useful advice on how the Church of Ireland might order its affairs; a pity he is no more accessible than his late chief inspector.

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