Before I conclude these remarks I must inform you of one further development that has happened this week. One of the tasks of leadership is to make available as best as one is able not only the opportunities but also the challenges, and with both, the risks involved. I have spoken of many of the opportunities we have seized in just the last six months. I turn now to a real challenge and a grievous risk. On Tuesday evening of this week as Allison and I were driving home from Sewanee I received a phone call from a fellow bishop. He said that he and five other bishops had received an email earlier that evening from the Presiding Bishop. She was encouraging each of them to speak with me as “the apparent focus of this diocesan gathering does not bode well for [Mark’s] status as a bishop who has sworn to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this Church.” Perhaps she has forgotten it has not boded well for my status as a bishop since the first election. But frankly for me it has never been about my status”” since that September morning in 2006 when Bishop Salmon called while I sat in a Board of Examining Chaplains meeting in Fresno, California to tell me I had been elected as the XIV Bishop of South Carolina it has been unswervingly about this diocese. It remains that to this day.
Well upon hearing of her email to these bishops I wrote directly to the Presiding Bishop on Wednesday morning addressing many of my concerns and reminding her of the concerns of this Convention; that she had been informed by certified mail of the resolution which expressed our expectation that she remove the attorney unconstitutionally retained within this diocese. I then wrote that after six months we had still not heard from her. While her email in response failed once again to address this concern, she did write of her fear about the havoc that she believes is likely to ensue if I keep on my present course. What she fails to address or I suppose to understand is the havoc that is likely to ensue if we depart from our present course. Thus while there is no absence of opportunities that come to us they come replete with a church filled with challenges. Several of those bishops who received the email have called me or sent me emails since that email was sent to them. More than a few of them said, “Mark, we need your voice in the house of bishops. We need the voice of South Carolina.” I said, “This is my voice. You need to understand. This is my voice.” So the question is, “Is there a place for a vigorously stated minority opinion in this church?” I believe it is also the voice of many of the people here in this Diocese of South Carolina. If you want our voice, then we’re giving it to you.
Thus, the opportunities come in a church filled with challenge. There is no risk free way forward for us. I leave you this morning with words of a preacher from another era, who wrote: “”¦if it be a man’s ambition to avoid the troubles of life the recipe is perfectly simple. Let him shed his ambitions in every direction, let him cut the wings of every soaring purpose, and let him assiduously cultivate a little life, with the fewest correspondences and relationships. By this means, a whole continent of afflictions will be escaped and remain unknown.” (J. H. Jowett)
And I might dare to add one final thought to this preacher’s words, that along with a whole continent of afflictions that will be escaped and remain unknown there will be an entire universe of opportunities that will be lost and will go unfulfilled. You must weigh, my brothers and sisters, you must weigh these opportunities and challenges along with their risks. You must weigh them on the scale of your heart.
It is indeed a great time to be alive. But it is also a time that tries men’s souls.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Read it all.