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Bishop Mark Lawrence Addresses the 227th South Carolina Diocesan Convention

Before I go any further with my purpose, let me get something out of the way. Call it litigation—legal updates—the financial challenges it brings. You may think it is the elephant in the room. I suggest to you it is not. Certainly, the most recent legal volley from The Episcopal Church is an attempt to bring every congregation of the diocese (and even those outside the diocese) into their crosshairs. But, it is not the elephant in the room. An elephant in the room is a metaphor for what many fear is a problem that is do not acknowledge openly. Frankly, the legal battle is acknowledged everywhere I go. Whether at Bishop’s forums, coffee hours, vestry meetings, church door handshakes, evening phone calls, or casual dinners. Then there is the related question, such as, “If we should we lose, who will stay with the building and who will not?” All I will say of this for now is what I hear in my quiet moments from the Lord that now is no time to lose my resolve! Therefore, by God’s grace, I shall not. I suggest the same for you. But if your congregation needs a refresher course about the theological issues that led to our dissociation from TEC may I suggest you get a copy of the video that Al Zadig and Kendall Harmon are making at St. Michael’s entitled: “Why the Battle? Different God and Gospel.” Thank you, Al and Kendall.

So that said, I want to address what I believe is the real elephant in the room. I have been your bishop now for ten years. The first five years were in the context of theological and ecclesiastical struggles to remain “intact and in TEC”: the last five in litigation to be “intact and out of TEC”. As I reflect on this decade—just a mere one thirty-fourth of the time Anglicanism has been in Charleston and one twenty-third of the time the Diocese of South Carolina has been in existence, I realize I am sojourner among you. If the years that Anglicanism has been here were measured as one hour my years with you would be considerably less than two minutes. And in that hour there has been wars and rumors of wars. There have been rectors removed from their pulpits in the midst of British occupation and reinstated after the Revolution. There have been Union soldiers housed in our churches and surgeries performed on Southern gravestones. A Confederate submarine sunk in Charleston harbor and German submarines lurked off the Carolina coast. There have been fires and floods, earthquakes and plagues. The ironies abound. One of my predecessors in his Bishop’s Address in the late 19th Century wondered what could be done about the declining churches along the coast, for some of the parishes could hardly stay open—all the growth was inland. Parishes in the Low Country were languishing. Now the Low Country and the coastal regions are so bursting with people moving in from elsewhere one can hardly navigate the roadways. Instead, we ask what we should do about our congregations in the small towns of the Midlands and the Pee Dee. It is they who struggle to keep their church doors open. The hymn writer, Issac Watts might well have had them in mind when he wrote:

“Time like an every rolling stream bears all our years away; /they fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day. /O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, /be thou our guide while life shall last, and our eternal home.”

Indeed, are we not all sojourners? An ever-changing environment is the normal backdrop to life; change is the real constant. Hence there are always “good reasons” for the sower not to go out. This I believe is the elephant in the room. It is the main theme of this address. Jesus said, “A sower went out to sow.” It did not matter to our Lord that there was uncertainty—he went out to sow. Uncertainty is arguably, why we need to go out to sow. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” so must we go out into the field. I have spoken about this in one way or another at almost every diocesan convention. It seems always to lose out to other pressing concerns. Sadly, I have let it.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry

James DeKoven on his Feast Day–A Sermon on Christian Hope (1864)

“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail; whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus.”””HEB. vi. 19, and part of v. 20.

Life is full of changes and chances. It sounds commonplace to say so, and yet more and more one learns to realize that the commonplaces of life are the things we most frequently dwell on, and the things we most often need comfort about. Poverty and riches, sickness and health, prosperity and adversity, joy and sorrow, succeed one another in our lives in a way that men call chance, and Christians know to be the will of God. All external circumstances change and alter; friends fail us or are taken away; death breaks up family circles; we move away from the scenes of youth and dwell in other places; cities and towns lose their familiar appearance; nay, in this our day things that should be most stable shake and totter, and government and order seem about to fail, and the very Church itself partakes of the universal disquiet; and only the eye of faith can discern the sure and immovable foundations against which the gates of hell shall never prevail.

But, even if there were no external changes, the changes within us are still harder to bear. We are not what we were. Time more surely alters our inner selves than even it does what is without us. We do not love what we loved, we do not seek what we sought, we do not fear what we feared, we do not hate what we hated. We are not true to ourselves. However brave a front we may present to the world, we are compelled to acknowledge to ourselves our own inconsistencies. There is often a broad chasm even between the intellectual convictions of one period of life and of another; and our very religious convictions, except they are built on the unchanging rule of the catholic faith, contradict each other; and the weary heart, uncertainly reaching forth in the darkness, longs with an ever deeper longing for that immutable One “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Blessed, then, is it to hear of an anchor of the soul. The imagery is simple enough. The ship, beaten by waves, tossed by tempests, driven by winds, takes refuge in the harbor. The anchor is cast from the stern. The ship rides securely; the danger is over.

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Posted in Church History, Eschatology, Preaching / Homiletics

A Prayer for the Feast Day of James Dekoven

Almighty and everlasting God, the source and perfection of all virtues, who didst inspire thy servant James de Koven to do what is right and to preach what is true: Grant that all ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may afford to thy faithful people, by word and example, the knowledge of thy grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Saint Alcuin

O God, Who by Thine Almighty Word dost enlighten every man that cometh into the world: enlighten, we beseech Thee, the hearts of us Thy servants by the glory of Thy grace, that we may ever think such things as are worthy and well-pleasing to Thy Majesty, and love Thee with a perfect heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Frederick B. Macnutt, The prayer manual for private devotions or public use on divers occasions: Compiled from all sources ancient, medieval, and modern (A.R. Mowbray, 1951)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

A Song of Ascents. Of David. O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.

–Psalm 131

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Anglican Diocese of Christchurch Bishop Victoria Matthews will step down on May 1

Bishop Matthews describes her time here in Christchurch as “an extraordinary privilege.”

“I want to thank the people in this Diocese for their faithful service. This beautiful Diocese has been through many challenges brought about by earthquakes, wind, fire and floods. But through it all, people have been their best selves by helping others, working together and finding new ways of doing things.”

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Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

Professor Mike Higton–Teaching and Witness in the Life of the Church

I’m going to sketch an account of the origin of doctrine and doctrinal theology, and I’m going to draw on that to talk about two contexts of doctrinal thinking in my church today: storytelling, and decision-making in the context of division. I’m going to try to keep in mind the variety of doctrinal traditions (my first worry), and the variety of doctrinal practices within each tradition (my second worry), and to avoid an intellectualist account of the life of the church (my third worry) – and I’m going (at last!) to bring witness and teaching into the frame.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Theology

Charleston, South Carolina, Named as the South’s Best City by Southern Living

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Posted in * South Carolina, Urban/City Life and Issues

Church of England brings cashless transactions to its congregations

The Church of England announced…[yesterday] that it is making contactless, virtual terminal, and SMS mobile payments available throughout England, in a bid to make transactions faster and easier for the Church’s congregations. In an increasingly cashless era, churches will now be able to offer cashless payment options for events including weddings, christenings, church fetes and concerts, as well for making one-off donations and the booking of churches and halls.

Over 16,000 churches, cathedrals, and religious sites will now have access to portable card readers through the Church of England’s Parish Buying portal through a partnership with SumUp and iZettle. The readers will be used to take contactless payments, Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as chip & PIN capable. The pay-as-you-go pricing is well suited to the needs of religious institutions, charging only a small transaction fee when the reader is used. The decision follows a trial which began in summer 2017 in cathedrals and parish churches.

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Posted in Uncategorized

John Lennox Reflects on Stephen Hawking’s Life and Beliefs

Posted in Apologetics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Science & Technology, Theology

(NYT) Tim Wu–The Tyranny of Convenience

Americans say they prize competition, a proliferation of choices, the little guy. Yet our taste for convenience begets more convenience, through a combination of the economics of scale and the power of habit. The easier it is to use Amazon, the more powerful Amazon becomes — and thus the easier it becomes to use Amazon. Convenience and monopoly seem to be natural bedfellows.

Given the growth of convenience — as an ideal, as a value, as a way of life — it is worth asking what our fixation with it is doing to us and to our country. I don’t want to suggest that convenience is a force for evil. Making things easier isn’t wicked. On the contrary, it often opens up possibilities that once seemed too onerous to contemplate, and it typically makes life less arduous, especially for those most vulnerable to life’s drudgeries.

But we err in presuming convenience is always good, for it has a complex relationship with other ideals that we hold dear. Though understood and promoted as an instrument of liberation, convenience has a dark side. With its promise of smooth, effortless efficiency, it threatens to erase the sort of struggles and challenges that help give meaning to life. Created to free us, it can become a constraint on what we are willing to do, and thus in a subtle way it can enslave us.

It would be perverse to embrace inconvenience as a general rule. But when we let convenience decide everything, we surrender too much.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

Ashley Null on Thomas Cranmer Day–Conversion to Communion: Cranmer on a Favourite Puritan Theme

In the end, repentance, not love, has come to symbolise Cranmer himself, his life’s work being interpreted by his last days. In the eyes of his critics, Cranmer’s recantations prove that at best he was weak and vacillating. In the hearts of his admirers, however, Cranmer’s last-minute renunciation of his recantations proved his true commitment to the Protestant faith. But what of Cranmer himself, how did he interpret his last days and the meaning they gave to his life? According to a contemporary account, having previously been distraught, Cranmer came to the stake with a cheerful countenance and willing mind.

Fire being now put to him, he stretched out his right Hand, and thrust it into the Flame, and held it there a good space, before the Fire came to any other Part of his Body; where his Hand was seen of every Man sensibly burning, crying with a loud Voice, This Hand hath offended. As soon as the Fire got up, he was very soon Dead, never stirring or crying all the while.

His Catholic executioners surely thought Cranmer was making satisfaction to his Protestant God. Yet his doctrine of repentance would have taught him otherwise, for the God he served saved the unworthy.

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Posted in Church History, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Thomas Cranmer

Merciful God, who through the work of Thomas Cranmer didst renew the worship of thy Church by restoring the language of the people, and through whose death didst reveal thy power in human weakness: Grant that by thy grace we may always worship thee in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from BF Westcott

Almighty and most merciful God, Who hast given us a new commandment that we should love one another, give us also grace that we may fulfill it. Make us gentle, courteous, and forbearing. Direct our lives so that we may look to the good of others in word and deed. And hallow all our friendships by the blessing of Thy Spirit; for His sake Who loved us and gave Himself for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Frederick B. Macnutt, The prayer manual for private devotions or public use on divers occasions: Compiled from all sources ancient, medieval, and modern (A.R. Mowbray, 1951)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life.

–2 Corinthians 3:1-6

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Politico Profiles the most prominent African-American Republican in America, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina

The exchange crystallized the central dilemma of Scott’s political existence. Concerned about narrowing his brand, the senator long has tried to downplay his ethnic exceptionalism and avoid the role of race-relations ambassador for the GOP. And yet Scott, now more than ever, cannot seem to escape being perceived as such. He is not just a generic black Republican in a generic period of history; he is the most powerful and prominent black elected official in America, serving at a time of heightened racial tension and widespread accusations of xenophobia against his own party and the president who leads it. This ensures that Scott wears a target on his back regardless of the issue or crisis at hand. When race is involved, the stakes are even higher, forcing upon him decisions of personal and political identity: Scott can choose to stay silent and be accused of selling out his heritage, or speak out and be defined by his blackness.

“God made me black on purpose. For a specific reason. It has helped me to help others who have been locked out of opportunity in many ways,” Scott tells me over lunch at a Subway sandwich shop near his home, after the barber visit and a game of pickup basketball. “I am not pretending that this characteristic, this Earth suit that I’m in”—he pinches the skin of his arm—“isn’t being evaluated. It requires a response, or a reaction, to the situations at my level of government. I am fully aware of that. I just don’t want to play a game with it.”

“People are fixated on my color,” Scott says. “I’m just not.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Politics in General, Senate