QUESTION AND ANSWER
Shouldn’t we expect Vicars to be better than us?
I suspect that this question arises out of a sad problem in a particular parish. And there are tragedies in human beings’ lives all the time. The trouble is that, when a clergyman does something wrong, it so often becomes a major cause of interest to the Press. It is perhaps significant that you never hear about the private lives of editors and the like!
You are, of course, quite right that a great many people think in that way. The Bishops of the church of England said as much in the report Issues of Sexuality when they asserted that it was right for the church to welcome into its fellowship lay people who are living in a situation which falls short of God’s plan but that this could not apply to clergy at this time and that they must live to a different standard.
And it is certainly true that, in view of the dangers of the Press, all people in positions of leadership ought to remember that their activities might cause scandal to the good name of the church or the state or the monarchy. This is a fact of life although, in previous generations, this consideration was less pressing because of the greater sense of respect that most people felt about personal privacy. Today anything goes for printing even if it is not entirely true. So the first answer to your question is that you are correct and we should expect higher standards from those in leadership.
However there is also another answer.
Every one of us, clergy and laity alike are under the same Word of God and are held by our Lord to the same standards. Therefore, even if we are not in an exposed leadership position, we cannot let ourselves off. To us also Jesus still says: “Be perfect”. (Matthew 5:48).
What a blessing that the Lord died to forgive us our sins!
John Pearce is Rector of Limehouse
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