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christmas key 2The Promise of Christmas: “Every Lock Must Answer to a Key”

“O come, thou Key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path of misery.”

In many adventure stories and great epics, there comes a telling moment when a door or a lock must be opened or all will be lost. Such a moment takes place in J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf, Frodo, Aragorn and the others come to the The Doors of Durin. Here the key that opens the door is a spoken word, Mellon: the Elvish word for “friend.”   In other stories, what the sojourners need to complete their journey is an actual key that when inserted, fits the lock, turns the tumblers, and the mysterious door or lock is opened.  

This is akin to the idea that lies behind the fifth verse in the ancient Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” This well-loved hymn is based upon the O Antiphons; which are seven Latin prayers that the early church composed to prepare the faithful for Christmas. Each of these prayers takes up one of the mysterious titles the Church found in the Old Testament and attributed to Jesus the Messiah. These names are rooted in prophetic passages mostly from The Book of Isaiah. The verse quoted above regarding the Key of David is illustrative of this tradition.   It draws from two separate passages that reveal great human need and deep longing:

I will place on his shoulder the key to the House of David: he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut and no one shall open.” (Isaiah 22:22)                

“to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:7)

Bishop’s Address to the 225th Annual Diocesan Convention

Delivered by the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence XIV Bishop of South Carolina, at the Cross Schools Campus, Church of the Cross, Bluffton, SC on March 12, 2016. Note this printed version may vary some from the audio version. Download a printable version. Listen to the address.

lawrence barnum 225“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19)

A fascinating study for a student of the Bible is to compare the different narratives of St. Paul’s conversion.  It is told four times in the New Testament—thrice in The Book of Acts and once in the apostle’s Letter to the Galatians.  In the verse I’ve cited above St. Paul describes his experience to King Agrippa.   He also recalls the words the Risen Lord used to commission him—including the call to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles.  Earlier in the Acts of the Apostles Paul tells a hostile Jewish crowd that as he was praying in the Temple in Jerusalem that he fell into a trance and saw Jesus saying to him:  “Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”  Even earlier in Acts 9 Ananias is instructed by the Lord to go pray for Paul who is in prayer, fasting on a street called Straight.  When Ananias hesitates because of Paul’s reputation of persecuting Christians, God tells him: “Go, for he [Paul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

st johns johns island 2014 jason yandle

Christmas Eve
 24 December 2015

Dear Friends in Christ,

This Christmas Eve at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul in mid-town Charleston, as in other parishes across our diocese and nation, children and their families will gather for the annual Christmas Pageant.  Scripts that have been more or less memorized and rehearsed will be played out before the admiring eyes of family and friends.  Performances will lurch forward in the usual manner.  Archangels with wings and halos will stand in pulpits or announce with trembling voices from the lectern microphones: “Be not afraid, Behold I bring you good news of a great joy that will come to all the people….”  Shepherds will arrive at makeshift stables where the Holy Family gathers ‘round a manger.  Perhaps Shepherd #1 will speak his lines boldly and clearly; Shepherd #2’s muttered words will hardly be heard past the second pew; and Shepherd #3 will too obviously read his part from a page taped to the back of the stuffed lamb he nervously clutches to his chest.  Of course there will be the normal missed lines…as well as the directions uttered from off stage.  But there will also be those electrifying and unscripted moments that bring surprised laughter and joyous tears that every mother and father and grandparent cherishes—the unscripted and electrifying moments when grace and candlelight abounds.  

Sermons of Note

"Finishing Well; Thoughts on the Ministry," Sermon given by the Very Rev. Dr. Peter C. Moore at the ordination to the priesthood of his daughter Kate Norris, March 17, 2017.


Convention Addresses

Bishop Lawrence's address to the 226th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina

Bishop Lawrence's address to the 225th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina

Bishop Lawrence's address to the 223rd Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina

Note the audio version of the 222nd address was damaged and not recoverable. The print version is available.

Bishop Lawrence's address to the 221st Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina.

Bishop Lawrence's address to the 220th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina.


Listen to Bishop Lawrence's Sermons

Bishop Lawrence speaks on the Work of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life at the 2014 Men's Conference.
Session One (51 minutes)

March 24, 2015: Clergy Renewal of Vows Service, "Where to find your contentment, joy and confidence."

September 7 2014:  How the Church is to Deal with Failure, Holy Trinity, Grahamville

April 1, 2014: Clergy Renewal of Vows Service, "Do the Work of an Evangelist."

Clergy Conference October 2014

The Rt. Rev. Ken Clarke, retired bishop of the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh and now President of SAMS—Ireland spoke to the clergy of the Diocese October 27-29, 2014 at St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center

Bishop Ken Clarke: The Double-Vision of Jesus
Bishop Ken Clarke: Failure is Not Final
Bishop Ken Clarke: Do You Love Me?

The Rev. Mike Lumpkin, the retiring Rector of St. Paul's, Summerville, preached on "Living in Relative Obscurity," summarizing insights gained from over 30 years in parish ministry.
Bishop Mark LawrenceJuly 27, 2014
St. George, Utah

Dear Friends in Christ,

“… suffering produces endurance and endurance produces hope and hope does not disappoint us for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit….” Romans 5:3-4

Having spent much of the last three weeks at the Dorchester Courthouse in St. George, South Carolina it is rather serendipitous to be sending this from a Starbucks in St. George, Utah (a gateway to Zion National Park).  Allison and I will be traveling during the next few weeks in Utah, Nevada and California on vacation.  She’ll have some much needed time for relaxation and fun and I’ll be climbing the mountains and hiking the trails.  Nevertheless, I want to send you this report on the last three weeks.

Firstly, I’m glad to say our legal team led by Mr. Alan Runyan and Ms. Henrietta Golding, supported by a stellar cast of attorneys from the various congregations across the diocese, presented a strong case and did so in a professional, forthright, and convincing manner.  The teamwork was marvelous to observe and was only exceeded by what seemed to be the outstretched arm and the mighty hand of God moving again and again in a most timely manner.  I was proud to have them representing us from the Diocese of South Carolina. Frankly, having sat through all fourteen days I have to say it was a trial of tediously presented evidence by TEC fortunately punctuated during cross-examination by our attorneys with moments of sheer drama and stunning admissions. 

Bishop Lawrence with clergy at renewal of vows service“Do the work of an Evangelist!” charged Bishop Mark Lawrence in his sermon to the 75 clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina who attended the annual Renewal of Ordination Vows service, held April 1 at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul in Charleston.

“The clock is ticking,” said the Bishop. “There are seven billion people in the world – three times as many as when I was born – Seven billion trying to eke out a living and experience a meaningful life. Can you digest a fact like that and not hear the clock ticking?”

Teaching from the Gospel passage John 4:5-35, known as “the woman at the well,” the Bishop urged the clergy to follow Jesus’ example and:

  • Cross Boundaries
  • Make Contact
  • Cultivate Curiosity
  • Touch the Deepest Need or Place of Pain
  • Bring People to a Place of Personal Commitment
  • Unleash New Converts - the Best Evangelists

“That’s our job!” said Lawrence. “We may not have the gift of evangelism but we have to lead the church to be God’s agent for evangelism. Everything else we do is like rearranging the furniture when the house is on fire—everything else pales.”

“Give us a passion and desire to reach the lost,” prayed the Bishop at the close of the service. “Set a fire within us!”

The sermon is available online at
The following address was given by the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, XIV Bishop of South Carolina, at the 223rd Annual Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina held at Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant on Saturday, March 15, 2014. Download a printable version. Listen to the address.

Bishop’s Address to the 223rd Annual Diocesan Convention

“The Church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.” So wrote the Swiss theologian, Emil Brunner, several generations ago.  And it was clearly under the burning fire of the Holy Spirit that the apostles moved out to engage the world with the good news of Jesus Christ.  For what God had done in Jesus Christ for the world must be made known to the world.  “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?” wrote St. Paul. “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!’ … faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.”  (Romans 10: 14-17) So these early Christians sent out and so they went out.  Pressing on, as one missionary statesman has written, “… going from city to city as heralds of the King, not staying to argue with gainsayers….” We spend too much time arguing with those within the church who do not believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ needs to be proclaimed to all people while we remain in guilty silence about the Gospel in the presence of its many cultured despisers.  It was not so for the early disciples.  Inflamed as they were with a saving message and filled with an unspeakable joy they brushed off the dust of those who had rejected their message and moved on looking for the next opportunity.  The Holy Spirit never allowed them to let the need to consolidate what they had gained to replace the need to advance.   In fact advancement became the method of consolidation.  I am gripped by these words from Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, writing about the church’s need to press forward “… both to the ends of the earth and the ends of the world, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God.”  Of the Church’s need to press on in the strength of the Holy Spirit, living by grace, turning outward to engage the world, resisting the constant temptation to play it safe, he writes:

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