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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

Martin Davie–Human Flourishing and the Church’s Mission

As the Church engages in its God given mission to proclaim Christ faithfully to the nations it has to engage with the issue of human flourishing. This is because people will only begin to follow Jesus Christ, or continue to follow him if they do so already, if they believe that following him will lead them to flourish more than some other way of life.

We can see this point if we consider the famous words found at the beginning of Book I of the Confessions of St. Augustine, ‘Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in thee….’ The point that St Augustine is making is that human beings have been created by and for God and in consequence they can only truly flourish if they find rest in a right relationship with God. According to Augustine, the reason for being a Christian, rather than being a Neo-Platonist or a Manichee, is that Christianity enables people to find this rest and so to flourish as they were made to do. Just as being a flourishing rhubarb plant means having big green leaves and a big red stem, so being a flourishing human being means being people whose hearts find their rest in God and, says Augustine, being a Christian makes this possible.

If we are going to try to persuade people to follow Jesus Christ because doing so will best enable them to flourish we have to begin by understanding what they currently think about the matter. Think of St. Paul preaching in the Areopagus in Athens in Acts 17. The Athenians whom he is addressing hold that what enables human flourishing is worshiping the various gods of the Greek pantheon. What St. Paul tells them is that they are right to take the need to worship seriously, but that the objects of their worship are wrong. In order to flourish they need to give up idolatry and worship instead the one true God who made heaven and earth and every human being and to whom the Greek poets bore witness.

In similar fashion we have to target our proclamation of the gospel so that it addresses what the people we are in conversation with think makes for human flourishing.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anthropology, Theology

(AI) “Indissolubly Together”: GAFCON III at its Midpoint

The strength of GAFCON III rests upon the same foundation that Bonhoeffer observed at St Peter’s — a unity centered round, and resting upon Jesus Christ and his word. As Bonhoeffer expressed it: “standing under God’s rule means living in community with God and with the church.”

Happy families, are comprised of individuals — and not all of them are happy. GAFCON’s constituencies are in different places — ACNA delegates were uniformly upbeat. Their church has prospered, their work is bearing visible fruit. English delegates at the start of the week were discouraged and divided — battling a hostile culture and an indifferent or unpleasant ecclesial establishment. The Anglo-Catholic presence at GAFCON is smaller than at previous gatherings. Fort Worth has 14 members present, but many of its bishops are absent and not represented in the top leadership ranks. Sydney delegates voice mixed thoughts — some are fearful that the culture in Australia is moving against them, undercutting their complementarian viewpoint on human anthropology, while others see the universality of the Anglican way as a portent of the future of the church.

Small blips on the news radar have surfaced. The Church of Uganda has restated its views on Lambeth 2020 (they won’t go if ACNA doesn’t go). The Church of Kenya has restated its ambivalence about the relationship of GAFCON with the Anglican Communion (if GAFCON leaves the Anglican Communion it would have to reconsider it’s relationship to GAFCON). And primates whose first language is not English have made verbal slips that have not fully expressed their views. But as of this point — no surprises have arisen.

Read it all.

Posted in GAFCON

(JE) Jeff Walton–“Cross the Pain Line” in Preaching on Hell advise Harmon, Tice

That real possibility has an effect upon how Christians view evangelism, Tice explained.

“We need to cross the pain line in our preaching,” Tice advised, where Christians see that “I am an offense to God.” Tice said Christian must both call people to repent and simultaneously make clear that “I am for you.”

Tice offered three questions about Hell: “Do you believe it? Do you love people? Will you warn them?”

Harmon offered the scenario of a sign warning of a bridge out on a road ahead, where you see the sign but another family does not.

“What do you do?” Harmon asked. “Warn them of what is ahead.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Eschatology

An Interview at Gafcon2018 with Rico Tice of All Soul’s, Langham Place, about the situation in England

Dominic, Rico and Pete from GAFCON Official on Vimeo.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, GAFCON

Esau McCaulley–Church Fights and The Hope of Worship at GAFCON 2018

Self-righteousness lurks around every corner. There is the temptation to believe that I have the perfect mix of biblical faithfulness and social justice while my opponents on the left and right do not read the Bible correctly. More than that it is bitterness that crouches at the doorway. The cost that we bear as people of color in the ACNA is the unseen wound bleeding on the floor of North American Anglicanism. Ask the black bishops. Ask the clergy. Then there is the work. The unending feeling of responsibility to be both prophetic and responsible. Push, but not too hard. We get tired.

The danger, then, in the battles for North American Anglicanism is that one might lose the beauty of what drew us here in the attempt to protect or reform it. I had a vision of Anglicanism that I never experienced, a hypothesis of diversity and orthodoxy in one fellowship. It was a warm comfort on cold nights, a blanket to shield me from the chill of disappointment. That vision become flesh during GAFCON 2018. I walked into the lobby of the conference center and it was so gloriously black and brown that I almost wept.

I noticed first the women first. The Nigerian, Ugandan, Rwandan, and Kenyan women arrived draped in a dignified parade of color that made my heart smile. It felt like a Christian Wakanda. Then came the bishops and the men in African dress, especially the choir. So much swagger; so much pride. Have you ever finally sat down to eat and realized how hungry you were? Have you ever ended a run feeling good, until the fatigue washed over you, and you realized that you had pushed your body too far? I did not know how tired this battle for a diverse and orthodox Anglicanism had made me until I got a taste of it. I wished that they would have canceled the plenary talks and let the choir sing as long as the Lord tarried.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, GAFCON

(AI) Archbp Nicholas Okoh–Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations God’s Gospel

NORTH AMERICA-The Gospel in North American involves helping people know that they are alienated from God because of their sin which manifests itself in varieties of ways: materialism, idolatry, obsessions with sports, sex, drugs, alcohol, religion, and success. The only solution is to humble oneself before God, asking forgiveness of one’s sins based on the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection, and asking Him to come and indwell him/her with the presence of the Holy Spirit. This culminates in a day-by-day, alive, dynamic, relationship with God through Jesus Christ resulting in eternal life. The Church still keeps the orthodox Faith with focus also on aggressive Church planting. In that context, however, the Church should be on the alert to ensure that the influence of another gospel which is already entrenched in that environment is not imperceptibly adopted by the unsuspecting and innocent believers. It is especially from North America that a false gospel of inclusion without repentance has come.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, 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

Read it all.

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….

Read it all.

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