Who's Online Now
We have 140 guests and no members online
“Renewed by the Spirit”
A Sermon by the Very Rev. Robert S. Munday, Ph.D.,
Dean and President of Nashotah House Theological Seminary,
219th Annual Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina,
April 26, 2010
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, take these imperfect words of mine, and speak through them a word for us this morning. Lord Jesus, be present with us as you were present with your disciples and be our teacher. Holy Spirit of God, come and take our hearts, and set them on fire with love for you. Amen.
It is a pleasure to be in the Diocese of South Carolina. I am very thankful to Bp. Lawrence for his invitation to preach this morning—although he may not have known what a risk he is taking. You see, seminary professors and deans are used to lecturing for 50 minutes!
Our lesson this morning is from Luke 11. Most of this passage consists of words that are very familiar to us. They are the Lord’s Prayer.
“And it came about that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’”
Notice that, as this section on prayer begins, Jesus is praying. Jesus didn't just use words to teach on prayer. He taught by example—He prayed. Jesus’ disciples see Him praying; they see his relationship with the Father, and they want what he has. And so they say, “Lord, teach us to pray…” There are several lessons in this passage that I want us to see this morning, but first I want us to notice this simple observation: The disciples see Jesus praying and so they ask him, “teach us to pray.” And I want to ask the question, “Are people around us seeing the quality of our spiritual lives and, as a result, asking us to teach them how to have that life?”
Today is a votive of the Holy Spirit, and in the next few minutes I want us to look at the relationship between the Holy Spirit and prayer, but before I do, I want to plant the question, and I ask that you keep it in the back of your minds: “Is the world around us seeing us in prayer, and, seeing the quality of our spiritual lives, desiring to experience what we have in Christ?”
Now, let’s look at this Gospel passage and let Jesus teach us about prayer. He knows about it from both ends: he prayed as a one who was fully human; and he receives and mediates prayer as the One who is fully God. There is no better teacher on prayer.
Lesson #1. Prayer is always supposed to be God-centered and God-exalting.
The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray and the first thing he does is give them a sample prayer—a kind of summary prayer: “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come.’”
The first thing we notice is that the name of God is the first and main thing to be prayed about in prayer. “Hallowed be thy name.” That is, “Lord, I ask that your name—your reputation, your character, and your honor—be revered and worshipped and glorified and exalted and esteemed and cherished.” First and foremost in prayer, we ask God to work in human hearts to cause them to hallow his name.
And notice that we are to pray this “when” (literally the Greek says: “whenever,” hotan) we pray. In other words, this isn't just a formal prayer that we pray on Sunday morning. This is the model for our everyday prayers. “Whenever you pray,” express a desire for the name of God to be valued more in your own heart and in the church and in the world. “Hallowed be thy name,” is a prayer that there will be greater passion in our souls, revival in our congregation, our diocese, and the church, and spiritual awakening throughout the world. And Jesus is teaching us to desire this “whenever” we pray.
Lesson # 2. God answers prayer for penitent sinners, not perfect people.
I am emphasizing this as a balance to the teaching, also found in Scripture, that unconfessed sin can shut the door of heaven. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” This truth should make us search our hearts every time we pray and especially after every prayer that doesn't get answered the way we hoped. Did we fall short because of sin in our lives—attitudes or actions that are displeasing to the Lord and hinder our prayers?
I have a friend from Texas who told me several years ago about something funny he had seen. In was in the days right after the infamous September 11, 2001, when our country had been attacked by terrorists. He was driving through a town in east Texas and he stopped at a traffic light. While he was sitting at the red light, he happened to look over at a building on the corner of the intersection. It was a sort of “honky-tonk” bar. In the window of this “honky-tonk” bar was a sign that said, “Live Nude Dancers.” But then, because this was in the days right after 9/11/2001—when the whole nation was feeling patriotic—below that first sign was another sign that said in big letters, “God bless America!” We are like that sometimes. We want God to bless us. We believe God ought to bless us; but there are, unfortunately, things in our lives that are incongruous with receiving God’s blessing.
We are sometimes like “the Curates Egg.” (I am sure some of the clergy will know this story.) There was a young curate, in England, who was invited to spend the night at his Bishop’s house. The next morning at breakfast with the Bishop and his wife, the young curate began eating his egg (in one of those little egg cups you may have seen), and he discovers that his egg is rotten. Not wanting to give offense, he picks at his egg and pretends to eat it. Finally, the Bishop, seeing the curate’s predicament, looks over and says, “I’m afraid you’ve gotten a bad egg, Fr. Jones,” to which the curate, still desperate not to offend his host, replies, “Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!”
Our lives are like the curate’s egg. Parts of us may be excellent, but we have been touched by evil that pollutes everything we do. We are simultaneously sinners and redeemed. And so we pray, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” And, if we are honest about our sins and look to the cross of Christ as our hope, then God will hear us and answer our prayers.
Lesson # 3. Our Father in heaven never gives us a snake when we ask for a fish.
The key verses here are verses 11-13:
“Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? Jesus says that, just as ordinary parents will not give snakes and scorpions to their children when they ask for fish and eggs, neither will God our heavenly Father.”
Why then are our prayers not always answered as we would like? We must keep this simple fact before us: God is Father and we are children. The Father always keeps the right to do what is best for the children even if they don't understand why it is best. If we ask him for a fish he will not give us a snake, but he may give us Tylenol or Penicillin, or grapefruit. He will give us what is good for us.
Lesson # 4. Persistence in prayer will prevail where giving up won't.
This comes from verses 5-8. Jesus tells a parable to illustrate exactly this point.
And He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him;’ and from inside he shall answer and say, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”
Why does Jesus compare God to a friend who is unwilling to get out of bed for the sake of friendship, but willing to get out of bed to stop the knocking on his door? Is it to say that God is tired or irritable or stingy? That can't be, because elsewhere in our lesson, God is portrayed as being so ready and able to give. Then why does Jesus put it this way?
I think it is simply Jesus’ way of saying that God has his reasons for waiting that for us may seem as strange to us as a friend who doesn't want to get out of bed but then does. If the man had gone home after the first refusal, he would not have gotten the bread he needed. But since he stayed and kept on knocking, he got “as much as he needed” (verse 8). The point for us is: Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.
Lesson # 5. The reason for prayer and the aim of abiding in prayer is that we will come to know life in the Holy Spirit.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” I can still remember years ago when I first gave this passage serious consideration. I thought, “That’s not even good sentence construction. It ought to say something like: ‘If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give good gifts to His children or good gifts to those who ask Him?’” But that isn’t what it says. It is always a problem when Scripture doesn’t say what we think it ought to, isn’t it? How many of you know people who think, “Cleanliness is next to godliness” is in the Bible? Or at least it ought to be? Or how about, “God helps them who help themselves?” It’s not in the Bible, is it?
So what does this passage actually say?” It says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
I said in beginning that we would see the relationship between the Holy Spirit and prayer, and here it is: The reason for prayer and the aim of abiding in prayer is that we will come to know life in the Holy Spirit.
Did you ever stop to think what the Church was like before Pentecost? The band of disciples and the other followers of Jesus waited in Jerusalem. They went to the temple. They knew Jesus was the Son of God. They knew he had risen from the dead, and that because of his death and resurrection their sins were forgiven. They would have continued as faithful followers of Jesus to the end of their days. But, they did not proclaim the gospel with boldness. They did not see thousands come to faith in Christ. They did not see the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness gentleness and self control—Galatians 5:22). They did not see miracles and works of great power being done in their midst, both to be a blessing to them and as a sign to the world. And they were not the Church that would change the world, and that is still changing the world in those places where the power of the Holy Spirit is working in fullness through the Church.
Friends, many of us and many of our churches are living as if Pentecost never happened. We continue to worship and have godly fellowship. We know and believe that Jesus is our Lord, and we would be faithful followers of his to the end of our days. But, we aren’t proclaiming the Gospel with clarity and boldness to those in our communities who need the Savior. We aren’t experiencing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the gifts of the Spirit in our congregations. And we are not being used to change the world around us to any appreciable extent. We are living as if Pentecost never happened!
What are we to do? The answer is in our lesson: ““If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Even as Jesus teaches us this important lesson on prayer, he teaches us that the ultimate thing for which we should be praying, and the fruit of our abiding and persevering in prayer, is the power of the Holy Spirit. God wants to give the power of the Holy Spirit to empower his Church.
Not long ago, a group to whom I was speaking asked me what I thought were the three greatest issues facing the Church today. I am sure they expected me to mention the issues we read about in the newspapers—issues having to do with sexuality, and the other controversial issues of our day. They were quite surprised when I answered that I thought the three greatest issues facing the Church are: 1. Evangelism, 2. World Missions, and 3. Youth Ministry.
1. Evangelism. We must evangelize, because, unless we do, our congregations will die. The average Episcopalian is 57 years of age. That means that, given average life expectancies, one half of our membership will die in the next 18 years. How many congregations will survive the loss of half their membership? But we do not evangelize simply to insure that our congregations will survive. We must evangelize because there are hundreds, and even thousands, of people in our communities who need to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and come into the fellowship of His Church.
2. World Missions. Through world missions we have the opportunity to be a part of what God is doing through his Church around the world. We can be used by God to be a blessing to others; and we will be blessed and transformed by being a part of what God is doing. The Diocese of South Carolina has done great things through your mission activities, in your companion relationship with overseas dioceses, and in the other opportunities you have to be involved with the Church throughout the Anglican Communion. I strongly urge each of you who are here this morning to become involved, in whatever way you can, in what your Diocese is doing in missions.
3. Youth Ministry. Statistics for the Episcopal Church statistics tell us that 59% of their adult members have come from another religious tradition. In a Church that is growing that would be a marvelous statistic. But in a Church that is not growing, it points to the fact that we are doing a deplorable job of keeping our own young people. The Diocese of South Carolina has far surpassed what most dioceses are doing. But let’s be clear: We do not call priests and youth directors to do youth ministry for us. Each of us has a part to play in helping our young people to deepen their faith in Christ and to grow in commitment to his Church.
Evangelism, World Missions, and Youth Ministry—these are the real issues that are vital to the Church. God has commissioned his Church to do each of these things, but we cannot do them as we should without the power of the Holy Spirit. The precious promise of the words we have heard from the Gospel this morning is that God gives us what we need to do his work, and he will give the renewing power of his Holy Spirit to us when we truly and earnestly ask him.
Heavenly Father, pour out your Holy Spirit on us. Fill us, renew us, and empower us to do your will. For yours is the majesty, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, now and for ever. Amen.
All five resolutions proposed prior to the 219th Diocesan Convention were approved. Resolution two was approved with an ammendment which further strengthened its resolve. View approved resolutions
All resolutions previously proposed for the 219th Diocesan Convention were passed. Resolution 2 was passed with one ammendment further strenghtening its resolve.
Resolution R-1 2010 Convention
Offered by: The Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, The Very Rev. Peet Dickinson, The Rev. Jeff Miller, The Rev. Arthur Jenkins, The Rev. Canon Jim Lewis, The Rev . James Taylor, The Rev. Rick Luoni , The Rev. Karl Burns, The Rev. Greg Snyder, The Rev. Marshall Huey, The Rev. Louise Weld, The Rev. Jennie C. Olbrych, The Very Rev. Craige Borrett
Subject: Recognition of the Heritage and a proclamation of the Identity of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina
RESOLVED, That this 219th Convention acknowledges that for more than three centuries this Diocese has represented the Anglican expression of the faith once for all delivered to the saints; and, be it further
RESOLVED, that we declare to all that we understand ourselves to be a gospel diocese, called to proclaim an evangelical faith, embodied in a catholic order, and empowered and transformed through the Holy Spirit; and be it further
RESOLVED, that we promise under God not to swerve in our belief that above all Jesus came into the world to save the lost, that those who do not know Christ need to be brought into a personal and saving relationship with him, and that those who do know Christ need to be taught by the Holy Scriptures faithfully to follow him all the days of their lives to the Glory of God the Father
Resolution R-2 2010 Convention
Offered by: The Standing Committee
Subject: Response to Ecclesiastical Intrusions by the Presiding Bishop
RESOLVED, That this 219th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina affirms its legal and ecclesiastical authority as a sovereign diocese within the Episcopal Church, and be it further
RESOLVED, That this Convention declares the Presiding Bishop has no authority to retain attorneys in this Diocese that present themselves as the legal counsel for the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and be it finally
RESOLVED, That the Diocese of South Carolina demands that the Presiding Bishop withdraw and terminate the engagement of all such legal counsel in South Carolina as has been obtained contrary to the express will of this Diocese, which is The Episcopal Church within its borders.
Resolution R-3 2010 Convention
Offered by: The Standing Committee
Subject: Addition of Canon XXXVII Of The Ecclesiastical Authority
The Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese is the Bishop. If there is no Bishop, the Standing Committee is the Ecclesiastical Authority. The Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese, with the advice and counsel of the Chancellor, is the sole and final authority with respect to any dispute concerning the interpretation of the Constitution and Canons of this Diocese and its interpretations shall be final and binding in all respects.
Resolution R-4 2010 Convention
Offered by: The Standing Committee
Subject: Amendment Canon XXX
Prohibiting the Desecration of Consecrated Buildings and the Alienation of Church Property Without Consent of The Ecclesiastical Authority and the Standing Committee
Resolved, that the following Section be added to Canon XXX.
Section 6. "It is within the power of the Ecclesiastical Authority of this Diocese to provide a generous pastoral response to parishes in conflict with the Diocese or Province, as the Ecclesiastical Authority judges necessary, to preserve the unity and integrity of the Diocese."
1. The actions of the Presiding Bishop’s office, now publicly acknowledged, have demonstrated a clear willingness and intent both to legally pursue congregations we consider parishes in good standing, and attempt to utilize diocesan resources to do so.
2. We’ve experienced now as a diocese, in the All Saints, Pawleys Island litigation, the destructive force of such litigation; how it has created animosities and divisions that are not easily healed. It has failed as a positive cohesive force for maintaining the unity of the church and has in fact had precisely the opposite effect. Christians are suing Christians (I Cor. 6:1-8); the reputation of the church is marred, and vital resources are diverted from essential Kingdom work. None of this is honoring to our Savior.
3. It has been the implicit understanding of this Diocese that the Bishop inherently has the authority to deal with such situations. The current practice of the Bishop to deal pastorally with parishes struggling with their relationship with the Diocese or Province must be given explicit canonical force. The discretion exercised by the bishop is the only way to successfully navigate the current challenges before us.
Resolution R-5 2010 Convention
Offered by: The Standing Committee
Subject: Removal of Canon XX Of Baskervill Ministries
Resolved, that Canon XX of the Diocese of South Carolina Canons be removed.
Explanation: With the consent of the Bishop, the original Baskervill Ministries and other attendant ministries were reorganized under the leadership and guidance of Holy Cross Faith Memorial parish. The Diocese is no longer responsible for the selection of board members.
Note: The following is taken from the Bishop's prepared written text. Variations appear in the audio/video version. Watch the video of this message on Anglican TV.
“When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest....” 2 Corinthians 2:12-13a
I have found these words of St. Paul strangely comforting in recent months. Evidently, upon leaving Ephesus, the apostle made arrangements to rendezvous at Troas with Titus who was returning from Corinth. His relationship with the Corinthian Church had become increasingly complex and was a continuous concern for him. When Paul arrived in Troas he found an excellent opportunity for preaching the gospel. Nevertheless, when Titus failed to arrive he grew restless. Even though a door was opened for him to preach the Gospel he could not go through it. Severe problems were afoot. Doubtlessly he was grieved in his heart to set aside church planting and evangelistic work, but the truth of the Gospel and the integrity of the Church were at stake. He could not turn a blind eye to the dismantling of his labors and the labors of others. Professor James Denney’s words are worthy of noting, even in the midst of a Bishop’s Address to his diocese: “[Paul’s] spirit was absorbed and possessed by hopes and fears and prayers for the Corinthians; and as the human spirit, even when in contact with the divine is finite, and only capable of so much and no more, he was obliged to let slip an occasion which he would otherwise have gladly seized. He probably felt with all missionaries that it is as important to secure as to win converts; …. The disorders of [a] willful community had engrossed the Apostle’s spirit, and robbed their fellow-men across the sea of an apostolic ministry.” Let no one suggest I am drawing any similarities but the one of comparing the circumstances he faced with what we in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina face at this hour. There are open doors for us to preach the Gospel. Opportunities are plentiful. The fields are ripe for harvest. We are quite unique among the dioceses of TEC--we have many growing, vibrant congregations poised to extended the Kingdom of God and grow the Body of Christ. How I would love to make this my chief business as a Bishop.
An All Too Brief Glimpse at Mission in the Diocese
I have read with wistfulness some of my predecessor’s Annual Addresses as they pointed to new construction or restorations across the diocese in prior eras. Or spoke of new evangelistic work making inroads in the mission of Christ and his Church. And let no one doubt we have these as well. I could speak of the remarkable enterprise of several of our large parishes (Church of the Cross, Bluffton, St. Michael’s, Charleston, St. Andrew's, Mt. Pleasant, Holy Cross, Sullivan’s Island) working in partnership with the diocesan Congregational Development Committee to restore St. John’s Chapel to pristine condition. These same parishes now partner with The Reverend and Mrs. Dallas Wilson to expand a ministry of transformation for young girls, youth and families amidst the violence, deprivation and hopelessness that all too often lies as pall over the East Side of Charleston. And there have been other restorations as well that are worthy of note, such as the remarkable preservation at Grace Church with its elegant lines and noble steeple, or the magnificent restoration of that jewel of the Florence deanery, Holy Cross, Stateburg. Then there are the building projects at St. Christopher's where Chris Warner and others from the diocese have labored to get the Camp and Conference Center back in sound condition. As for evangelistic work, here too, if things were different, we could speak at length of new initiatives and progress that has been made. Just to pick one department for instance—College Ministry: There is Daron Taylor’s ministry on the College of Charleston, Greg Smith’s work at the Citadel, John Foster and St. Bartholomew’s outreach at Coker College, or the new vicar of St. Paul’s Orangeburg, Fr. Jimmy Gallant’s ground-breaking ministry at Claflin University and South Carolina State University Campuses—with parishes such as St. Philip's Charleston, Redeemer, Orangeburg and others assisting with financial resources. Nor should we forget the outstanding leadership that Dr. Cleveland Sellars is exercising at Voorhees College. These and so many, many other remarkable accomplishments by faithful priests, deacons and laypersons must for now go relatively unsung.
Yet one notable work I must pause over since it has been a saga closely followed not just by many in this diocese but by so many elsewhere as well. It is a work of such profound reconciliation that only God’s grace and the sacrificial labors of his people could lay down such bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness at the cross of Jesus Christ. Therefore for me not to mention it would be a colossal oversight. Just yesterday I received word from the rector and vestry of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Waccamaw that the litigation with All Saints’ Church, of the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), is over. The case is resolved; and resolved out of court. The prayers of many have prevailed and the Glory is God’s. Our gratitude to the leadership of both congregations is now due. This has been a long and painful pathway to walk for those at All Saints’ Episcopal as they have stayed faithfully with The Diocese of South Carolina. They have often been misunderstood even by many within our own diocese, for one’s heritage, as any South Carolinian knows, is an almost unendurable thing to lose. The details of this agreement or resolution must be told in a separate story, but let it be known for now that the congregation that has gone for the last six years as All Saints’ Episcopal Parish, and grown under Fr. Ed Kelaher’s leadership from a mere 40 members to 200 members will very shortly be serving Christ and his Kingdom under a new name. The congregation and I will consult together to discern what our Lord has already chosen to name them—but let it be known and celebrated among us today as a church of Christ’s Reconciliation! Only those who believe in Jesus Christ and walk as ambassadors of reconciliation could have ever believed this would happen after so many hard words had been uttered, family gatherings divided, and pain and distrust felt on both sides. As recently as Wednesday, as I waited for my luggage at the Charleston Airport returning from the House of Bishop’s Meeting, I talked with Mr. Guerry Green. He informed me then of property the vestry was looking to buy in preparation for a new worship site and building. They are moving on—forgetting what lies behind they press on towards the upward goal of Jesus Christ. May our Lord reward them greatly with continued growth—not merely with transferred members but rescued souls.
There are many other things we could celebrate from every deanery within this diocese. Keeping just with the Georgetown deanery I could go on to speak of the sacrificial courage of the people of Resurrection, Surfside; or the plans of the Reverend Wilmot Merchant and the people of St. Stephen’s North Myrtle Beach to plant a congregation in the community of Loris; the forays in evangelism of Holy Cross-Faith Memorial, Prince George, Winyah, Trinity Myrtle Beach, St. Paul’s, Conway; or to shift to the Orangeburg deanery, there’s the building project of St. Matthias, Summerton; or the new property purchased in Santee for planting a church right in the middle an anticipated development. Clearly there is much progress and many Gospel opportunities to which I would prefer to give my wholehearted attention this morning. But, like St. Paul at Troas, my spirit is troubled.
The Trajectory of The Episcopal Church Continues Unabated
The distractions that come from the decisions others have made within The Episcopal Church have created restlessness in my spirit. And I am not alone among the people of this diocese to such a troubled mind. These are matters to which we must attend though it grieves our hearts to be distracted from the great work of gospel proclamation and ministry. It would be insufferable to see this great Diocese of South Carolina come under the sway of the same false gospel that has decked so much of The Episcopal Church with decorative destruction and dreadful decline.
Like those in the Church at Corinth with whom St. Paul was confronted, many within the leadership of The Episcopal Church have grown willful. They will have their way though it is contrary to the received teaching of God’s Holy Word, the trustworthy traditions of the Christian Faith, and the expressed will of the Anglican Communion—that rich multicultural body of almost 80 million Christians around the world, from many tribes, languages, peoples, and nations. Just last week the Archbishop of Canterbury released a statement from Lambeth Palace in response to The Episcopal Church’s consent to a partnered lesbian’s election as a Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles:
"It is regrettable that the appeals from Anglican Communion bodies for continuing gracious restraint have not been heeded. Following the Los Angeles election in December the archbishop made clear that the outcome of the consent process would have important implications for the communion. Further consultation will now take place about the implications and consequences of this decision."
It is not clear what these implications and consequences will be for The Episcopal Church or the larger Communion; but it is up to us to decide what they will be for this Diocese of South Carolina if we want to live freely in Christ in a world of spin. Frankly, we must be honest here; there has been precious little restraint within many dioceses of TEC even when the Archbishop of Canterbury and others within the Anglican Communion thought there was. The march of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Movement has gone on relatively unchallenged. And that is not the worst of the theological heterodoxy, as I and others have stated elsewhere. It is merely the boundary upon which the current challenge is waged. The leaders of the Anglican Communion should know the truth about these matters though some of the leadership of this Church has repeatedly shrouded it in misinformation or spin. Recently, however, the Presiding Bishop has written to the Primates of the Communion regarding the Glasspool election in a more forthright way: “Know that this is not the decision of one person, or a small group of people. It represents the mind of a majority of elected leaders in The Episcopal Church, lay, clergy, and bishops….” This at last is an honest admission of where the leadership of The Episcopal Church is today regarding partnered gay or lesbian persons as bishops of the Church. It is also where the majority of the bishops would appear to be regarding same-sex blessings or marriages. I believe it is also the desire of many in TEC to bring the rest of the Anglican Communion to embrace this as well. How could they not if they believe the Spirit of God has inspired it? As was spoken at the recent House of Bishop’s Meeting, “The Spirit has already been expanding our mission. We have become witnesses of what God is doing” —that is witnesses to what the Spirit is doing through same-sex relationships in the life of the Church, whether in same-sex marriage or partnered gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgendered persons in every order of ministry. It begs the question of among whom exactly is the “Spirit” expanding the mission? Is it within the Episcopal Church for now and the Anglican Communion later? It is being presented as it has for decades, ever since the late seventies, as paralleling the inclusion of the Gentiles in the first century into the Church without first having to become Jews. But under what apostolic or internationally ecumenical authority is one to claim such a monumental revelation?
Clearly these are disruptive challenges to the teaching we have received from the last two thousand years in the church of Jesus Christ. It was in part because the Standing Committee and I anticipated these recent developments and confirmation of TEC’s continued trajectory that we called the Special Synod last October and put before the diocese the resolutions for your support. We all need to face this challenge squarely. It is hard to imagine there will be any backing away from partnered gay and lesbian priests and bishops; and there is little reason to believe the move toward an ever wider embrace of sexual understandings for those in ordained ministry should stop here. This we must face without blinking, for as you may have heard me say before: though there are many across this country that hold us in prayer; though there are bishops and archbishops throughout the Anglican Communion who have written or called us to offer their encouragement and support, for which we are inexpressibly grateful, there is no one coming to rescue us—at least with any temporal hand. This is our battle to engage. We are not entirely alone, but our list of allies at home grows thin. This is our time to stand and be humbly counted among the faithful, just as others have in prior generations. We must face reality as it is: Not as it was in some prior time: Not as we remember it through the rose colored glasses of gentility or our gilded memories of an Episcopal Church of yesteryear: Not as we wish it were in our day: But as it is.
This false Gospel of Indiscriminate Inclusivity like kudzu in an old growth forest has suffocated the mission of the Church and has helped to set The Episcopal Church on a denominationally downward spiral of radically decreasing membership and increasing irrelevance. Consider just the Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) figures for The Episcopal Church within the dioceses of the United States: In 2002 the total ASA of domestic dioceses in the U.S. was 860,000; in 2008 the ASA was 670,000--a 22% decline in six years. The decline shows no signs of abating. Rather it is accelerating. Some purport to find comfort in the fact that other mainline denominations show decline as well, but few more pronouncedly than us. Frankly, to know that others decline is poor comfort at best. In contrast the Diocese of South Carolina grew, albeit modestly, during these same years with a 3.5% increase of ASA from 13, 441 in 2002 to 13, 906 in 2008. And if one would look at the growth of the diocese between 1998 and 2008, (12, 439 ASA in 1998 and 13, 908 in 2008, an 11.9% increase), it is rather clear that after 2003 our growth became less pronounced. Sadly, we may soon show a temporary decline, for understandably, some among us grow restless. Like St. Paul at Troas there is much to distract us.
The Presiding Bishop’s Incursion and Its Significance
I come now to the reason why this Annual Diocesan Convention was postponed. If the challenges I mentioned above were not enough for a diocese to face in a downturned economy, since our Special Convention in October, which addressed the many theological challenges before us, an entirely new challenge has surfaced: A constitutional question about the ability of a diocese to govern its common life in a way that is obedient to the teaching of the Bible, the received heritage of The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, and in accordance with The Constitution & Canons of The Episcopal Church. In December of 2009 our Chancellor, Mr. Wade Logan, was finally informed by a local attorney that he had been retained by the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor. In a subsequent series of letters he presented himself as “South Carolina counsel for The Episcopal Church” and requested numerous items of the Bishop and Standing Committee, as well as information regarding parishes in this diocese. This way of presenting himself fails to acknowledge that this diocese is the only recognized body of The Episcopal Church within the lower half of South Carolina. There is no other representative or ecclesiastical authority of The Episcopal Church here but our Bishop and Standing Committee. Furthermore, this was carried out without the Presiding Bishop even so much as calling me. Subsequently, the Presiding Bishop has stated publicly, as well as privately to me, that the retaining of this attorney was in keeping with the mutual litigation in the Pawleys Island case of All Saints’ Parish versus All Saints’, the Diocese of South Carolina and TEC. But as I pointed out to her privately, and Bishop Ed Salmon made clear during a brief discussion at the recent House of Bishop’s Meeting at Camp Allen, in the prior circumstances the Diocese and The Presiding Bishop’s Office were partners in a law suit in which both were named by the other party. This present matter is quite different. The retaining of counsel now has all the signs of an adversarial relationship—one of monitoring through a non-constitutional and non-canonical incursion how a Diocesan Bishop and Standing Committee may choose to deal with its priests and parishes.
What is astonishing is that this Diocese of South Carolina, while seeking to be faithful to the Holy Scriptures, historic Anglicanism and the received teaching of the Anglican Communion as expressed through its four Instruments of Unity, as well as to The Book of Common Prayer, and adhering to The Constitution and Canons of this Church, has experienced incursions not authorized by these very constitution and canons. A reference here to Powel Mills Dawley’s book in the Church Teaching Series, The Episcopal Church and Its Work, may be helpful for many. Writing of the Presiding Bishop’s authority, Professor Dawley notes, “[He] exercises no direct pastoral oversight of his own, nor does he possess visitatorial or juridical powers within the independent dioceses of the Episcopal Church.” The absence of the Presiding Bishop having juridical powers within an independent diocese makes the hiring of an attorney by the Presiding Bishop’s office an unauthorized act. The stated purpose for her incursion is the protection of Church property. Whether there are other more disruptive reasons for such non-canonical intrusion can only be surmised. But in addressing only this stated purpose we can summarize that the Presiding Bishop has decided that the best way to resolve the challenges TEC faces over profound questions of doctrine, morality and discipline is to interpret the so called Dennis Canon as demanding that every diocese institute litigation in the secular courts with parishes that decide to depart, therein exercising coercive power to the fullest extent of the law regardless of the local issues, or the decisions of the diocesan bishop and Standing Committee.
All this is a profound overreach of the Presiding Bishop’s authority. Certainly I know there are many within TEC who strongly disagree with my theological commitments, and regardless of how monolithic people may believe this diocese to be, there are those within this diocese who share their disagreement. I acknowledge this and respect it. Even more, some do not like the strong statements I have made criticizing certain actions and resolutions successive General Conventions have affirmed, as well as the steps that many leaders of the “national” Church have taken, tearing the fabric of the Anglican Communion. But the thing we are confronting now is not a challenge of this nature. It is a challenge to how for over two hundred years The Episcopal Church has carried out its mission and ministry. It is one of the ironies of this time that we in a diocese like South Carolina, which has been one of the most vigorous critics of the “national” church, should be the ones that are called to defend the polity of TEC—to defend the way Episcopalians have for so long carried out their mission. But history is full of such paradoxes. In standing up and protecting our autonomy or independence as a diocese in TEC, in protecting the diocesan bishop’s authority to shepherd the parishes and missions of his diocese, and in defending the bishop and, in his absence, the Standing Committee as the Ecclesiastical Authority, we are in fact defending how TEC has carried out its ministry and mission for these many years. Every Diocesan Bishop, every Standing Committee, indeed every Episcopalian ought to know that if this is allowed to stand, that if The Presiding Bishop and her chancellor are allowed to hire an attorney in a diocese of this Church, to look over the shoulder of any bishop or worse dictate to that Bishop or Standing Committee how they are to deal with the parishes and missions under their care, imposing upon them mandates or directives as to how they disburse or purchase property then we have entered into a new era of unprecedented hierarchy, and greater autocratic leadership from the Presiding Bishop’s office and his or her chancellor. It may then be the case that a chancellor who has heretofore been only a counsel of advice for the Presiding Bishop can now function, without election, confirmation or canonical authority, as the de facto chancellor of the Church, exercising power not authorized by this Church and therein dictating to the dioceses of this church how they shall deal with their parishes and property.
Recently, the Presiding Bishop and I have had a respectful conversation about this matter, during which she asserted once again what she has stated publicly on many occasions: That she has responsibility for the whole Church. That the property of The Episcopal Church must be protected and this is one of her duties. But if so, it is a duty that she has assumed, not one stated in the Constitution & Canons, nor assumed by any previous Presiding Bishop. The Presiding Bishop’s role is to guide the work that the several dioceses perform together as may be voted upon by General Convention. It is not to direct the work or ministry of the independent dioceses that make up the Episcopal Church. That has always been the role of the Bishop of the Diocese and the various elected bodies of the local diocese. The Standing Committee, the Bishop and perhaps the Board of Trustees of the local diocese alone have charge in various ways over these matters of property. As a case in point, should a diocese decide to purchase property to plant a congregation, or alienate or sell the property it possess, it seeks no further authority than itself for such action. So too if a diocese chooses to close a congregation there is no higher authority than the bishop. The Presiding Bishop’s decision to hire counsel in South Carolina leads us all into such precarious waters that every diocese and bishop in this Church ought to be concerned, lest the polity and practice of TEC be changed by a precedent without constitutional or canonical authority. As I have said to our various deanery gatherings, and as I stated to the Presiding Bishop, precedent unchallenged may establish practice and practice unchallenged in time may turn to policy. Therefore, we have a constitutional and canonical obligation to demand the removal of her legal counsel. Especially is this fitting in that her public defense of her position was that they had previously had counsel in this diocese to assist in the Pawleys Island law suit. Since the case is now finished there should be no further reason for such a retainer. Unfortunately, after lengthy and respectful conversation, the Presiding Bishop and I stand looking at one another across a wide, deep and seemingly unbridgeable theological and canonical chasm. At present both of us have signaled a willingness to continue the conversation even if it requires phone conversations from vastly different area codes.
So we proceed at this Annual Convention with our various resolutions. R-2 demands not only the withdrawal of legal counsel but a respectfully honoring of the Polity of The Episcopal Church as practiced consistently within this Church since its inception. Resolution R-3 makes explicit what has been implicit all along and affirmed by a federal court that the bishop of the diocese is the sole authority as to the interpretation of Diocesan Constitution and Canons. Once again R-4 declares explicitly what is implicit, and here for good reason. It is difficult not to conclude that in the Presiding Bishop’s opinion, any bishop or ecclesiastical authority which chooses to deal with a departing parish in a manner contrary to her stated position is failing in his or its fiduciary responsibility. Without so much as a nod to the apostolic teaching in I Corinthians 6:1-8, or the words of our Lord in Matthew 5:25-26, this model of litigation has become the official position of the Presiding Bishop’s Office—though it has received no endorsement from the General Convention of this Church and more grievous still denies the constitutional, canonical and even legally upheld authority of the Diocesan Bishop to be the ecclesiastical authority of his diocese, and to apply the teachings of Christ and the Church to the needs of his diocese, its parishes and members, as he believes is most in keeping with Christian charity, responsible stewardship, and godly judgment. This is not to imply that a Church, diocese or parish should never go to court or enter into litigation. It is merely to suggest that the imposing of a model of indiscriminate and unbridled litigation on the 110 dioceses of this Church, as if one model fits all, has brought bitter acrimony, a multiplication of law suits and what St. Paul feared so many years ago, public disgrace and scandal upon the Church. For her to demand in this diocese such a policy would be an egregiously inept exercise of non-canonical pastoral leadership. Furthermore, this is the wrong time in the life of The Episcopal Church for such a centralization of power, especially one so far removed from the ethos and issues of regions and dioceses. The irony is that such remote hierarchical authoritarianism without constitutional and canonical restrictions, and in the absence of theological unity, would only exacerbate the crisis of spiritual authority we are experiencing in The Episcopal Church and across the Anglican Communion.
Our Call Under God
Finally, what is it we want for this great and historic Diocese of South Carolina? I believe this diocese wants to be able to decide under God its destiny; to have a choice as to whether it goes down the same destructive path that has caused such statistical and spiritual decline as can be seen elsewhere among so many Episcopal dioceses and parishes across this country. I believe what we seek for this diocese is stated succinctly in Resolutions R-1: It is to be a gospel diocese, proclaiming an evangelical faith, embodied in a catholic order, and empowered and transformed by the Holy Spirit. To strive by God’s grace to remain unswerving in our belief that above all Jesus came into the world to save the lost, that those who do not know Christ need to be brought into a personal and saving relationship with him, and that those who do know Christ need to be taught by the Holy Scriptures faithfully to follow him all the days of their lives to the Glory of God the Father by taking their places as responsible members in His Church. As your bishop I also want us to be able to do this while maintaining mutually enriching missional relationships with dioceses and Provinces of the Anglican Communion, all the while exercising a responsible autonomy. That should an Anglican Covenant emerge as adopted by the breadth of the various Provinces of the Communion that we should hope for full participation in such a Covenant. To this end I will be attending the Global South to South Encounter gathering in Singapore in April. Along with Bishop John Howe from Central Florida, I will be one of the Communion Partner representatives. We, along with Bishops from The Anglican Church in North America, will be present as observers. This is all comes under the rubric of what I have summarized in last year’s Convention Address, as Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age.
Many speak to me of the difficult task I have as bishop at this time. They wonder how I am dealing with the stresses and pressures upon me. I respond by saying I draw strength from God’s call, and from the people of this diocese and from our history. For we have faced far more grievous challenges than the ones we face today; and as God was sufficient then He shall be so now. Forgive me if I remind you of chapters of gathering storms and seized opportunities, which you know far better than I. Among the catalogue of challenges I will remind you today of just one. You will remember that as the winds of war began to blow across this fertile land of South Carolina those Anglicans who professed and called themselves Christians had to make difficult decisions regarding not merely their allegiance to King and Country, but to the Church of England as well. Repeatedly I have drawn courage from the story of the Reverend Robert Smith, an Englishman who came to the colony of South Carolina to be the rector of St. Philip's Church, Charlestown, and who was later to become the first Bishop of South Carolina, and how he must have struggled as he faced the momentous decision before him. I reflect often upon his perseverance and the sacrifices he made. He, like many, stared boldly into the reality of his day. He faced reality not as it had been, but as it was at that time; and he along with others helped to create a future in which they and their children would live. Then as the young nation took form, these Anglicans or Episcopalians formed a diocese, elected a bishop, and helped to form the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America. Under a gracious Providence they controlled their destiny. Yet before these events unfolded he preached to the members of the Commons House of Assembly and the members of the Provisional Congress these words on February 17, 1775: “You have truly joined in owning the necessity of this day’s supplication and prayers; that as differences have arisen between our Mother Country and us; not on our part. I hope so some would insinuate through unreasonable [illegible] of power or factious discontent, but in the sole defense of undoubted rights, we should beg the Almighty to bless our endeavors and grant that peace, unanimity, harmony and love with healing in their wings, may again be established between us.” Such a prayer for peace and harmony was not answered as he had hoped. Though we believe God ultimately accomplished His purposes even showing, as the psalmist had once testified, His sustaining “love in a besieged city.”
As I bring this Address to a close I must say something about my decision, which was unanimously affirmed by the Standing Committee, not to adjourn but to recess to a date certain—that date being, Saturday, October 16, 2010. (Note, this date was later changed to October 15) If there is no further reason to meet we can adjourn at the chair’s announcement. This will have the unfortunate but necessary effect of causing those newly elected to office, or appointed thereto, to not assume their positions immediately, and for those presently in office to continue until that date. But in consultation with the chancellor and the Standing Committee it has seemed prudent to at least allow the newly elected Standing Committee members to attend meetings until such adjournment, therein allowing a smoother, even seamless transition. This is of course an unusual practice, but then these are unusual times. There are many unanswered questions before us, not least of which is, should this convention pass the resolution demanding the withdrawal of the Presiding Bishop’s counsel, “How will her office respond?” There are also questions which may arise from the Global South to South Encounter. Attendant to this last question is the Anglican Covenant. At our Special Convention in October we signaled our support of the Ridley Draft of the Anglican Covenant. Now it is in final form. How will the Global South and those Provinces and dioceses with which we have ongoing or developing relationships through the work of our parishes and our diocesan Anglican Communion Development Committee respond? What exactly does the Archbishop of Canterbury mean when he refers to implications and consequences to TEC’s consent to the Glasspool election in Los Angeles and her scheduled consecration on May 15? What do these consequences mean for The Diocese of South Carolina? All of these, as well as unforeseeable events which can arise quite abruptly, suggest we must carry out our ministry and mission upon an ever changing landscape. We need to give ourselves latitude of maneuver. We did this when we used such language at last October’s Special Convention in the resolution that stated we would “begin withdrawing from bodies of The Episcopal Church….” Such language was carefully crafted because we recognized the fluidity of the environment; that is, since anomalous situations were sure to emerge prudence suggested to us that we draft the resolution to allow for a principled flexibility; and so we did.
In conclusion, I must return to St. Paul and to his willingness, with much inner struggle and grief, to leave a work of evangelism to face the unpleasant demands of protecting the Church and defending the faith. A dreadful choice to be sure! Yet such a time is where some of us in diocesan leadership find ourselves. Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon most of our diocesan membership to stay engaged in the work of ministry, and for priests and deacons to continue equipping God’s people for such work, (Ephesians 4: 12ff) remembering that when the apostle wrote to the church in Ephesus encouraging them in their work he also reminded them to put on the whole armor of God that after having done all, they may stand firm. (Ephesians 6:10-20) He who has called us to this is faithful, and so I trust by God’s grace stand we shall.
Resolutions Offered at the October 24, 2009 Special Convention
Note: All five of the resolutions were offered by the Standing Committee and the Deans
First Guiding Principle for Engagement
The Lordship of Christ and the Sufficiency of Scripture
Whereas, The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, otherwise known as The Episcopal Church, is a constituent member of The Anglican Communion, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer, and Whereas, recent pronouncements by the Presiding Bishop and resolutions of the General Convention have raised questions about the content and nature of the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church, and Whereas, it has never been the intent of The Episcopal Church to depart from the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Church of England as we have received them, now, therefore, be it Resolved that the Diocese of South Carolina reaffirms its commitment to live its corporate life under the authority of Holy Scripture (Articles of Religion, Art. VI and XX) and the unique Lordship of Jesus Christ (Art. XVIII) and commits to exercising all such actions as the Bishop and Standing Committee may believe edifying to the Body of Christ in bearing that witness and bringing to light such actions as contravene those essentials to “upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order” (Constitution and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States: Preamble) as we have received them: and be it Further Resolved, that the following statement shall constitute our understanding of the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church and shall be read at all ordinations in The Diocese of South Carolina, and a copy of which shall be attached to the Oath of Conformity signed by the ordinand at such service of ordination: “In the Diocese of South Carolina, we understand the substance of the ‘doctrine, discipline and worship’ of The Episcopal Church to mean that which is expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Creeds, the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the theology of the historic prayer books.”
Second Guiding Principle for Engagement
Whereas the governing bodies of The Episcopal Church have failed to operate within the boundaries of its canons and continued participation in such behavior would make the Diocese of South Carolina complicit in this dysfunction, be it Resolved that this Diocese authorize the Bishop and Standing Committee to begin withdrawing from all bodies of the Episcopal Church that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture, the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them, the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference which have expressed the mind of the Communion, the Book of Common Prayer and our Constitution and Canons, until such bodies show a willingness to repent of such actions; and be it Further resolved that the Diocese of South Carolina declares that the most recent example of this behavior, in the passage of Resolutions DO25 and CO56, to be null and void, having no effect in this Diocese, and in violation of our diocesan canon (XXXVI sec.1).
Third Guiding Principle for Engagement
Domestic Engagement for Missional Relationships
Whereas the Diocese of South Carolina wishes to be in active and life giving partnership with those Dioceses and Parishes within the Episcopal Church with similar Gospel commitments, believes that it is uniquely positioned to be a source of encouragement and resource for equipping the faithful who feel isolated in other parts of the Episcopal Church and now seeks a place not only to survive but to thrive which is faithful, relational and structural; therefore be it Resolved that this Diocese, committing itself to remain focused on our gospel mission effectively to reach both the lost and unchurched, will work in partnership with such Dioceses as are willing to form Missional Relationships providing gatherings for Bishops, clergy and laity for the express purpose of evangelism, encouragement, education and mission: therefore, be it further
Resolved that the parishes of this Diocese are encouraged to enter into their own Missional Relationships with orthodox congregations isolated across North America and to pursue effective initiatives which are lay-led and supported.
Fourth Guiding Principle for Engagement
Emerging 21st Century Anglicanism
Whereas the Diocese of South Carolina has a vision of “Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age” that calls us to active engagement with the larger Communion, and Whereas, as a founding Diocese of the Episcopal Church, we have the inherent sovereign authority to pursue that engagement, and Whereas the polity of The Episcopal Church affirms this authority, and Whereas we believe God has called the Diocese of South Carolina to help shape the future of Anglicanism in the 21st Century through mutually enriching missional relationships with dioceses and provinces of the Anglican Communion (Romans 1:11-12; 2 Cor. 9:1-15) and through modeling responsible autonomy and inter-provincial accountability (Phil. 2:1-5; Eph. 4:1-6) for the sake of Jesus Christ, his Kingdom and his church, and Whereas this Diocese, as established at its 2009 Diocesan Convention, is actively pursuing such partnerships throughout the world as will enable us to support Gospel initiatives that strengthen the Church and its witness to the redeeming power of Jesus’ “life, death and Resurrection”, and the Anglican Communion Development Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina will recommend to the Bishop and Diocesan Council where re-directed resources for mission and ministry shall be directed; therefore be it Resolved that the Diocese of South Carolina endorses the Ridley draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant, as it presently stands, in all four sections, as an expression of our full commitment to mutual submission and accountability in communion, grounded in a common faith. [View the Ridley Draft.)
The Rubric of Love
Whereas the Diocese of South Carolina recognizes we have all been created in God’s image and are precious in his sight, and Whereas we acknowledge we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and stand equally in need of his mercy and grace, we thankfully and humbly, Resolve that this Diocese will not condone prejudice or deny the dignity of any person, including but not limited to, those who believe themselves to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. Nevertheless, we will speak the truth in love as Holy Scripture commends for the amendment of life required of disciples of Christ. It is love of neighbor and the abiding concern for their spiritual well being that compels such honesty and will never allow us to remain silent.