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A Letter from Bishop Lawrence to all Parishes to be distributed this Sunday

Dear People of God,

“Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”  2 Corinthians 1:7

I leave tomorrow for the Global Anglicans Future Conference in Jerusalem.  It is a gathering of global leaders—Primates, Bishops, Priests and lay leaders—from around the Anglican Communion.  I will be attending not only as a bishop of the Anglican Church in North America, but, more importantly, as your bishop, representing the Diocese of South Carolina among the larger Anglican family.  This gathering is another reminder that the spiritual issues with which we engage locally are part of a global crisis regarding the authority of the Bible and its place in Anglicanism in the 21st Century.

Before leaving, however, let me share a few thoughts regarding the denial of our recent petition.  The U. S. Supreme Court’s denial is not an affirmation of the SouthCarolina Supreme Court’s August 2 opinion nor of the merits of our position.  It leaves us, however, back in the Dorchester County Court with a conflicted and fractured ruling. Quite simply, regardless of what you may have read or heard elsewhere, this case is not over—, as they say, that is the good news, and that is the bad news.

This afternoon I met with all our clergy to have a “family” conversation, for after five long years of litigation it has certainly taken its toll.  It has also been a refiner’s fire.  The rectors also met with Henrietta Golding since our lead attorney, Mr. Alan Runyan, is presently in Jerusalem as a lay delegate to GAFCON.  Ms. Golding described the legal landscape so that your priest may be aided in answering some of your questions.  However, I would hasten to add; definitively predicting how a judge or court may rule in the future has been many a fool’s errand.

This has been and is still a very complicated ecclesiastical and judicial landscape. Yet sometimes a question is asked or a statement made that distills a very complex matter.  I received a text message yesterday from a parishioner that did this for me.   Here it is in text speak; just as it came to my I-Phone:

Hey, I know I’m kinda slow.  Sometimes don’t see “The big picture.”  BUT still praying.  It’s only “stuff” as far as I’m concerned.  Your friend in CHRIST.  Leroy

Of course, the stuff Leroy is referring to is the current legal and theological unpleasantness.  The Church buildings, property, endowment funds, identity, beliefs, heritage… to name but a few at stake.

Here’s my response in text speak:

Yes, it’s only stuff. But some stuff is worth fighting for and some stuff isn’t and discerning the difference is the stuff that much of life is made of. Blessings friend, Mark
Discerning what is worth fighting for and what is not is one aspect of the legal issues before us.  It is also, what is involved in the theological and spiritual matters before us as Anglican Christians— both locally and globally.  One could wish these were not connected, the legal and the theological, but for now, they are.  One could wish we would not have to engage in either one or that these struggles had somehow bypassed us.  But many generations have had like challenges in their day and had to decide what stuff to hold onto and what stuff to let go of.  When Saint Paul penned those immortal words, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love,” it was not romantic love of which he spoke.  Nor was it a love without discernment, without struggles, without truth, without faith, without hope; it was the love that led Jesus to the cross to save a sinful, scarred and tattered world and doing so in surrender and obedience to his heavenly Father.  It was a costly and sacrificial love.One of our priests asked me just the other day, “Bishop, what are you hearing from God?”  I replied, “Not as much as I would like.”  I spent several hours just last night on the night shift…listening.  God it seems has enrolled me in a graduate course in the School of Prayer.

With that in mind, I find myself spending no little time praying through Luke 18:1-8, the Parable of the Persistent Widow and the Unrighteous Judge.  “And [Jesus] told them a parable that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” I certainly do not have space in this letter to unpack much of the richness in this passage.  Therefore, may I encourage you to read it for yourself.  Let it inform your prayer.

In the last line of this teaching, our Lord poses a question, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  In reflecting on this, I am drawn to another teaching of our Lord on intercessory prayer, Matthew 9:35-38.  While Jesus was teaching and healing in cities and villages and seeing the crowds, “he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Here are two teachings regarding intercessory prayer.  Both are relevant to our situation in the diocese.  Both point to circumstances in which many of us find ourselves. Frankly, to pray only for vindication of our legal cause but have little compassion for the lost and needy; to turn a blind eye to the huge numbers of people moving into the Low Country; to seek God’s help in the court but not seek him for laborers for the harvest; is to fail to respond rightly to our Lord’s closing question in his teaching on prayerful persistence.  Frankly, we dare not let the legal questions of the courtroom dominate or hinder our pursuit of the God’s mission in the world.  Both the “stuff’ in the courtroom and the “stuff” of the Kingdom matter.  Let’s make sure we keep the order right.  “Seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.”  That’s the lodestar, the true manna, the pearl of great price, which keeps the main thing the main thing. May God grant us the grace to place the Kingdom before the buildings and use the buildings for the Kingdom.

Yours in Christ,

–The Right Reverend Mark J. Lawrence is XIVth Bishop of South Carolina

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Off To Gafcon 2018

No real clear sense of how much posting I will want or be able to do–KSH.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, GAFCON

The Rector Of Saint Helena’s, Beaufort, writes his parish about the current situation in the Diocese of South Carolina

Stay the Course

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On Thursday, I returned from the Aliquippa mission trip to attend the meeting of diocesan clergy with Bishop Lawrence and our legal counsel. It was hard to leave the team and the wonderful work they are doing, but the Lord made it clear that I needed to be at this meeting and to prepare for our time together on Sunday. It was also quite evident that our mission team was in capable hands under the leadership of our new Student Minister Camden Windham and our dedicated adult leaders. Please continue to pray for the team as they finish their work and return home Saturday evening.

Being together with the clergy and Bishop Lawrence was a blessing; I was encouraged to stay the course. Our legal battle in terms of property is far from over. Our Vision still guides and directs us in our ultimate purpose of reaching lost people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We were reassured yesterday that, contrary to the claims of TEC that all is settled, there are many months in court ahead. If we dwell on this protracted journey, we may be discouraged or tempted to lose heart. Let us fix our eyes squarely on Jesus Christ and dwell on the calling we have in this missionary moment. His Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth and will be the power we need to press on faithfully.

I will have more details on Sunday morning at the Rector’s Forum at 9:15 am. Please make plans to attend if you are able. In The Weekly eNews, we will post all of the pertinent information and links for those who are out of town or otherwise unavailable. Please know that your Vestry and your clergy stand ready to field your questions and guide you to helpful resources. Unfortunately, much of the path that lies ahead is unknown. But we cling to that which is known — the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and the eternal victory of the empty tomb.

Truly the best is yet to come,

–(The Rev.) Shay Gaillard is rector, Saint Helena’s, Beaufort, South Carolina

Posted in * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

The Daily Mississippian profiles a Same-Sex Couple

One thing the couple shares is their faith, a theme that has remained constant throughout their relationship.

“I prayed really hard when we first got together,” Blount said.

Smith was raised Pentecostal, and Blount grew up Southern Baptist, but both converted to Catholicism later in life. Though Blount jokingly refers to himself and Smith as “lazy sinners” who don’t go to church as much as they should, their faith is something they both value.

In fact, Blount believes it’s their duty as a religious couple to show everyone that God is love and what they have together is love.

“I think Christianity sometimes had a bad reputation,” Blount said. “Christianity is love, and, bless our hearts, we don’t always show it.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(ACNS) Archbp Josiah Fearon offers recent Reflections on his Travels among Anglicans

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal

(CC) Bobby Ross Jr–Wissam Al-Aethawi’s long road from Baghdad

The story of Al-Aethawi’s unlikely journey from Baghdad to Dearborn goes back to 1979.

That was the year Saddam Hussein rose to power — and the year Al-Aethawi was born to a poor family who lived in a mud house with steel sheets as the roof. In the winter, rain dripped on the young boy, his sisters and parents as they slept.

Each Friday, Al-Aethawi went to a neighborhood mosque to pray.

But he never felt comfortable with a religion he believed called him to hate people he didn’t know and offered no hope after his 4-year-old sister, Amina, died of food poisoning in 1996.

Wissam Al-Aethawi, right, enjoys fellowship with Steve Spiceland after preaching at the Sunset Church of Christ in Taylor, Mich. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)References to Bible verses in American novels that Al-Aethawi read piqued his curiosity, as did Tom Cruise picking up a Gideon Bible and reading from Job 3:14 in the movie “Mission: Impossible.”

At the massive Al-Mutanabbi flea market in Baghdad in 1997, Al-Aethawi — then an engineering student at the University of Baghdad — bought the Gospel of John….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Iraq, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Canons most critical in response to cathedrals consultation

Residentiary canons have objected strongly to proposals about their position, status, and accountability, prompting the Cathedral Working Group to reiterate its view that it is “essential” that deans have oversight of their work.

The final report of the group, published this week, also contains a warning from the Church Commissioners that they cannot bail out cathedrals that find themselves in debt.

The working group was set up last year by the Archbishops’ Council after the episcopal Visitation of Peterborough Cathedral, where a cash-flow crisis led to the involvement of the Church Commissioners, forcing out the Dean and making several staff redundant (News, 13 April 2017).

Its draft report, published in January, celebrated cathedrals as “an attractive brand, often understood better by the wider community than by the Church”, but warned that “serious governance mistakes” had been made, and concluded that legislative change was needed to correct “inadequacies” in their regulation (News, 19 January).

The relationship between deans and residentiary canons came under scrutiny: the group expressed concern that the latter could “function with a degree of unhelpful independence from either the collegial vision of the Chapter or the line management of the dean”. One of the findings at the Visitation at Exeter Cathedral was “poor communication and divisions among and between the Dean and Residentiary Canons” (News, 23 September 2016).

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Evelyn Underhill

O God, Origin, Sustainer, and End of all creatures: Grant that thy Church, taught by thy servant Evelyn Underhill, guarded evermore by thy power, and guided by thy Spirit into the light of truth, may continually offer to thee all glory and thanksgiving, and attain with thy saints to the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast promised us by our Savior Jesus Christ; who with thee and the same Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from BF Westcott

Almighty God, who hast sent the Spirit of truth unto us to guide us into all truth: We beseech thee so to rule our lives by thy power that we may be truthful in word and deed and thought. Keep us, most merciful Father, with thy gracious protection, that no fear or hope may ever make us false in act or speech. Cast out from us whatsoever loveth or maketh a lie, and bring us all into the perfect freedom of thy truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.

–Galatians 6:7-9

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on ‘The Great Partnership’ between Religion+Science

The human mind is capable of doing two quite different things. One is the ability to break things down into their constituent parts and see how they mesh and interact. This is often called “left brain” thinking, and the best example is science. The other, often called “right brain thinking,” is the ability to join events together so that they tell a story, or to join people together so that they form relationships. The best example of this is religion.

To put it at its simplest: science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. And we need them both, the way we need the two hemispheres of the brain.

Science is about explanation, religion is about interpretation. Science analyses, religion integrates. Science breaks things down to their component parts; religion binds people together in relationships of trust. Science tells us what is, religion tells us what ought to be. Science describes; religion inspires, beckons, calls.

Science practices detachment; religion is the art of attachment, self to self, soul to soul. Science sees the underlying order of the physical world. Religion hears the music beneath the noise. Science is the conquest of ignorance. Religion is the redemption of solitude.

One way of seeing the difference is to think about their relationship with time. Science looks for causes of events, and a cause always comes before its effect. How did the window break? Because I threw a stone at it. First came the throwing of the stone, then came the breaking of the window. Science looks back from effect to cause.

However, human action is always looking forward….

Read it all.

Posted in History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Bp Graham Tomlin–Grenfell’s silent protest sends a loud message

People walk silently, some quietly holding placards, faces serious and taut. Occasionally an arm stretches around a neighbour’s shoulder. A few tears are shed. A line of firefighters stand to attention, helmets at their feet while the crowd shuffles past. The predominant colour is green. Every now and again the march comes to a halt as a road is crossed, or an ambulance rushes past, and slowly, the thousands of people wend their way to the base of Grenfell Tower.

On the 14th day of every month since last June, a remarkable event has taken place around the streets of North Kensington. The Grenfell Silent March was the idea, among others, of a young man called Zeyad Cred.

I met Zeyad for the first time a few days after fire destroyed the tower block, when he was one of a group of local people hastily brought together to meet with the Prime Minister so she could hear the concerns of the immediate community around Grenfell.

I remember him then as articulate and thoughtful, with a controlled anger that occasionally broke out into passionate speech. Today, he and a group of others solemnly and expertly marshal the crowd in hi-vis jackets as it wends its way around the streets, stopping for a minute’s silence to view the ruins of Grenfell Tower, before a few short speeches are made and the crowd disperses.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NYT) Conservative Religious Leaders Are Denouncing Trump Immigration Policies

Leaders of many faiths — including JewsMainline ProtestantsMuslims and others — have spoken out consistently against the president’s immigration policies. What has changed is that now the objections are coming from faith groups that have been generally friendly to Mr. Trump.

A coalition of evangelical groups, including the National Association of Evangelicals and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, sent a letter to President Trump on June 1 pleading with him to protect the unity of families and not to close off all avenues to asylum for immigrants and refugees fleeing danger.

The Southern Baptist Convention, a conservative evangelical denomination that is the nation’s largest Protestant church, passed a resolution on Tuesday at its meeting in Dallas calling for immigration reform that maintains “the priority of family unity.” The measure called for both securing the nation’s borders, and providing a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants living in the country. It passed on a near unanimous vote of the thousands of delegates in the room.

“We declare that any form of nativism, mistreatment, or exploitation is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” the resolution said.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Item) 2 Sumter churches among 28 in South Carolina that may have to vacate property after Supreme Court denies request

After the U.S. Supreme Court denied a state church district’s petition for a hearing Monday, it is unknown what the future may hold for two local congregations’ properties.

The Rev. Marcus Kaiser, rector of Church of the Holy Comforter, 213 N. Main St., made his comments after the high court informed The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina that it would deny a request to hear its case to reverse a decision made last year by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Doing so leaves in place a sharply divided ruling from the state’s high court from 2017 that could deprive at least 28 parish churches of their right to properties – some of which have been held for more than 300 years.

Kaiser said the local congregation has owned and maintained the property and buildings associated with Church of the Holy Comforter since 1857 and that no money has ever come from the national Episcopal Church, with which Holy Comforter was previously associated.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(CT) Remembering the unlikely story of Dramatist, Author and Apologist Dorothy Sayers

At the height of her fame, Sayers was asked to write a play to be performed in Canterbury Cathedral for an annual festival. Having spent 15 years writing about a sexually adept aristocrat who entered churches more for aesthetic contemplation than spiritual renewal, Sayers hesitated. She finally accepted the commission, due, most likely, to the prestige of her predecessors in the job, T. S. Eliot and Charles Williams.

However, in writing a play about the 12th-century architect who rebuilt part of Canterbury Cathedral after its fiery destruction, Sayers experienced her own baptism by fire. As though a hot coal had touched her lips, she began speaking, through her characters, about the relevance of Christian doctrine to the integrity of work. Intriguing even professional theologians, her play ends with an angel announcing that humans manifest the “image of God,” the imago Dei, through creativity. After all, the Bible chapter proclaiming the imago Dei presents God not as judge or lawgiver but as Creator: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).

Even more radically, Sayers’s angel suggests that creativity is Trinitarian. Any creative work has three distinct components: the Creative Idea, the Creative Energy “begotten of that Idea,” and the Creative Power that is “the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul.” Indeed, Sayers’s angel says of Idea, Energy, and Power, “these three are one.”

Called The Zeal of Thy House, Sayers’s 1937 play ran for 100 performances, having moved from Canterbury to London’s West End. Audiences valued its unusual communication of Christian belief. Rather than endorsing pietistic practices, it celebrated the sanctity of work; rather than obsessing over sexual sins, it denounced arrogant pride as the “eldest sin of all.” The play’s self-aggrandizing protagonist, a womanizer who believes he alone can make the cathedral great again, is humbled by a crippling fall. Only then does he abandon his narcissistic need for mastery and acclaim, telling God, “to other men the glory / And to Thy Name alone.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Church History, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theology, Women