Bishop Lawrence Mark Lawrence's Address to the 224th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina

I still remember a letter I received as a young rector. The letter concluded with, “Always remember, Fr. Mark, the Church primarily exists to serve the needs of its long-time members.” Even in the relatively more churched-culture of the late 1980s it struck me as shocking statement. Former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, wrote in the 1930s that the Church is the only institution in the world that exists to serve the needs of those who are not yet its members. But there is something more foundational than the recent debates about Missional vs Attractional. The Church by its very nature is missional. It is not that the Church one day decided to have a resolution, brought it forward and voted to be missional. It was the Risen Jesus Christ, whose mission we continue, who commands us””“As the Father has sent me so I am sending you.” The only thing left to ask is to whom, and where, and how He would have us go!
Missionalisation on a diocesan level also means to intentionally create a culture within the diocese that cultivates a missional approach to ministry and life. Cultures, as it has been observed, cultivate. To initiate outward thrust in congregational life and witness; to celebrate that which goes out in creative ways to where people gather rather than hunker down in Christian circles; to interact with the unchurch, unreached, uninterested is the challenge we face in today. It is to recognize that Jesus often crossed boundaries in his ministry and once he crossed boundaries he made contact, cultivated curiosity and then touched the place of need in the other person’s life which they hardly knew they had or could even whisper to others. It is, among other things, to take pre-evangelism, as well as evangelism, seriously. What is pre-evangelism? It is conveyed well by what an agnostic said upon the death of Pope John XXIII: “Pope John has made my unbelief uncomfortable.” Missionalization is to have such an aroma of Christ that when we go into the world meeting others we graciously make the agnostic and religiously unaffiliated uncomfortable in their unbelief.

Missionalisation also means for us to practice Big Picture thinking. As your bishop I have been mindful of the need to look at the big picture within the emerging Anglican world. Through the 2008 Lambeth Conference; the Global South gatherings in Singapore or elsewhere; the various GAFCON conferences; and from bishops or primates who have come to us from abroad to sojourn a few days or weeks in the Diocese of South Carolina the challenges and opportunities have been kept before me. Certainly the Anglican Communion Development Committee (ACD) has been a diocesan committee which has strategically looked at the larger world seeking to address what we could do to help shape the Anglican scene in the 21st Century. I am heartened that some of our larger parishes, such as St. Helena’s, Beaufort and St. Michael’s Charleston (which has a vital missional thrust through its Global Impact Celebration) are now seeking input from the ACD Committee as they rethink their missional relationships around the world.

Nevertheless I am often troubled by a recurring personal concern regarding the Big Picture….

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, Theology

4 comments on “Bishop Lawrence Mark Lawrence's Address to the 224th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina

  1. MichaelA says:

    This is really healthy stuff, conducive to fostering a missional church which is focussed outward rather than inward:
    [blockquote] “I begin by acknowledging a basic conviction that the most important ministry done by the Diocese of South Carolina is done in and by the congregations—our parishes and missions. Yours is the real work; the important work; the lasting work. The work and ministry of the diocese (that is, what we often call the diocese— diocesan staff, various committees, commissions and councils) exists primarily to help your ministry to be more fruitful. It is we who are here to serve you; not you here to serve us.” [/blockquote]

  2. MichaelA says:

    “There are many leaders we have to thank for bringing this relationship about but this might be an appropriate moment for me to express my gratitude for the work of the Anglican Communion Institute in assisting this diocese both in this relationship with GSPSC and also in our litigation challenges with TEC.”

    Must be a typo – surely the bishop meant “Anglican Communion Office” who have been so helpful to faithful Anglicans? 😉

  3. MichaelA says:

    This is very interesting – clearly people in Dio SC have both vision and implementation:
    [blockquote] “Now to a related but different initiative: In last year’s address I shared an embryonic dream of establishing a “St. Augustine School for Anglican Leadership Development”. While the issues of the trial and the day to day challenges of diocesan life has held this in abeyance I’m delighted to say that just recently Bishop Allison, Bishop Hathaway, the Very Reverend Dr. Peter Moore, and I met to initiate the next step in realizing this vision. A member of the diocese has offered us $1,000,000 toward this project. While it will take more than this to fully carry out this plan it is certainly enough to launch this project.” [/blockquote]
    What I find particularly encouraging about this is the precedent already set by the Mere Anglicanism conference. Its a different concept of course, but it really has set a standard for a leavening conference within North American Anglicanism that is in touch with the global Communion also. That gives me hope that this St Augustine School could also be used mightily by the Holy Spirit to rejuvenate his Church.

  4. SC blu cat lady says:

    Bishop Lawrence mentioned his dream of this sort of school for Leadership Development at last year’s convention. I don’t know if you caught it but the plan is for the first year of this school overlap the Mere Anglicanism Conference in 2016.
    If I were someone in TECSC, I would be very worried that one member in this Diocese has a million bucks to start this school! TEC loves to brag about their deep pockets but this should make them worry about messing with the diocese.