Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Wild and Crazy Clergy: 1309-1439

Toward the end of the Medieval era, the Church clergy, both local and papal, began to decline in morals and authority.

The local clergy had many problems.  Celibacy: God did not create people for celibacy, and if he did, it is in their unmarried state.  The Bible also decries celibacy because God wants people to marry, have children, and propagate their culture.  Biologically, these unmarried priests began taking concubines and having affairs with women because they burned with unbridled passion that would not exist had they been allowed to marry.  Some of them had children to take care of, which became a burden on the laity.

Absolute obedience: this is a time when cities and nations developed independence and did not want to follow a leader in Italy when they lived all the way in France or England.  They wanted local autonomy.

Feudalism: this system has never worked.  The state tried it and failed.  The church copied the state, making it more worldly and creating caste systems that would appall the people of the New Testament.

In two situations, the pope had to move to France.  The Babylonian Captivity: Clement V, the pope, was a weak leader with sketchy morals.  He fell to the influence of the French king and moved to Avignon.  Non-French men and women such as Catherine of Siena, campaigned to move the pope back to Rome.  Gregory XI did so, and that ended the Babylonian Captivity.

The Great Schism (not the one where the Eastern Orthodox church left the west), began when Gregory XI died.  Urban VI succeeded him, but people did not like his bad temper and arrogance.  The people elected Clement VII as pope, and Clement moved the papacy to Avignon again.  Both the popes claimed Christ's authority as Peter's true successor.  Europeans had to decide which pope they would follow.

Having two popes helped to increase taxes.  They went beyond God's command to give of the tithes, and they imposed burdens Christ came to relieve.  They had salaries, travel expenses for the pope, paying property to pope upon death, Peter's Pence and constant fees.  England, at enmity with France, did not want to send money to the pope who live there.  The nations in general rebelled against the centralized authority.

Does this happen today?  I'm certain of it.  Preachers will work extra hard to be holy and before you know it, they are having an affair, again, or they are in some tax evasion scandal, or even covering up people on their staff who behave unethically.  These are preachers who are allowed to marry.  It seems prestige and image become more important than preaching the truth and placing family above career.

Is the Church divided?  You bet.  The RCs have Pope Francis, the Nazarenes just elected a new general superintendent, different versions of Presbyterian have general assembly moderators, the Methodists follow different bishops, the Episcopalians likely follow the Archbishop of Canterbury, and it never ends.  I would not have time to mention all the other self-proclaimed bishops who decide to make their own church because they got offended or disciplined.  Who do we follow?  Jesus, of course.  We need to read 1 Corinthians again.  Did Peter die for your sins?  Are we saved under the name of Apollos?  No, Christ is our head.  Christ offered himself as a sacrifice to endure God's wrath for our sins in our place.  Christ lived the perfect life in our place.  Christ established a church that will ultimately unite in him.  Different church leaders are to work together in accountability to prevent despotism and major egos that try to upstage Christ.  People are to call foul if the leaders insist on veering from Scripture to add other rituals or taxes or burdens that make the people feel guilty for not giving more than the tithe that Christ requires.

We are all the same in the Church, and we still have not learned from the Corinthian mistakes.  Those, however, who have, are together.  Despite disagreements, they still form one church, whether Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc.  I look forward to Christ returning to finally solve this.

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