Is the West Virginia Episcopal Diocese Crazy? Jim Lewis Loses His License

I couldn’t say it any better than what the local paper has done:

Lewis also takes positions that ruffle feathers. If he thinks something is unjust, he stirs the pot. He has not always done so gently, and he has not always been diplomatic, so he has had his share of adversaries.

Now West Virginia Episcopal Bishop Michie Klusmeyer has revoked Lewis’ license to preach in churches where he was formerly pastor — not for his controversial positions, but because, the bishop said, Lewis visited the sick, prayed and even, Lord forbid, performed a funeral when a family asked him to do so.

Klusmeyer cited a church policy that says: “Clergy who have formerly had a pastoral relationship with a parish will not continue to minister in the former parish in any way.”

You can read the entire story here.

Rev. Lewis is a long time activist priest here in the Charleston area. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him for a few years (a while ago) and he was always there when I called. He was there to defend the weak and the helpless, regardless of the situation.  I suspect there is more than ‘Church Law’ behind it.

The things that the Episcopal Church insist on abiding by…

By the way, Rev. Lewis blogs here.

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

11 thoughts on “Is the West Virginia Episcopal Diocese Crazy? Jim Lewis Loses His License

  1. Crazy sh!t. My family is still in contact with our church's former pastor, and he even did a house blessing for us a few years ago. I wonder if he'll get in trouble for that (or if the UMC has a similar policy as TEC).

  2. Rev. Lewis does more than a few house blessings, I am afraid. He is sometimes political in his stances – he doesn't campaign, but he does take stances that others may deem controversial.

  3. We have a similar policy in the ELCA. As part of a healthy goodbye, a pastor is expected to be discrete in his dealing with former parishioners. It mainly has to do with letting the appropriately called pastor care for his flock. Exceptions are routinely made, former pastors come back to perform a marriage, funeral, or baptism…but, it usually involves the two pastors and the parishioners working out some kind of arrangement.

  4. I can understand that, but Rev. Lewis has been doing this for years. As a matter of fact, I have only known him as a retired priest – a very, very, active retired priest.

  5. The UMC policy is similar. They do not allow a pastor to return to even visit at the church unless they are formally invited by the current pastor for a special event. Continued relationships are discouraged.

  6. I think I can understand the idea if the pastor is not retired, but Rev. Lewis is. And , as he has been a figment in Charleston's religious scene for decades, why now?

  7. Today, Bishop Klusmeyer refused to attend the funeral of Rev. Esber Tweel, a longtime Episcopal priest and friend of Rev. Jim Lewis. Before he died, Rev. Tweel requested that Rev. Lewis perform his funeral. Rev. Tweel’s family begged the bishop to allow Rev. Lewis to perform the service. The bishop refused to formally approve the family’s request, and boycotted the service. The service was held at St. Johns Church in Charleston at 1pm. There were so many people in attendance it was standing room only. For a Bishop to abandon his own flock, in a time of deep grief and mourning over a leader in the community, for self-serving reasons… this smacks of negligence and frankly, a sin of pride.

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