Through arrangements negotiated before the arrival of Mark Lawrence to the Lowcountry, the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, was invited to the diocese of South Carolina in 2008. The scheduled visit, on February 24-25, included a choral evensong service at Saint Philip’s Charleston, an extended and frank exchange of views with diocesan clergy at Saint Andrew’s, Mount Pleasant, and a tour of various diocesan ministries. The diocesan tour was led by the Rev. John Burwell and the Rev. Craige Borrett and featured visits to Saint John’s Chapel, Charleston, Holy Cross, Sullivan’s Island, Christ-St. Paul’s, Yonges Island, and the Bishop Gadsden Retirement Community on James Island.
The time of conversation with diocesan clergy included a focus on four topics: the exclusivity of Christ, the concern that the national leadership is not telling the truth of what is occurring in our common life, the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the authority and text of Holy Scripture, and the nature of communion and what it means to be in communion with one another as Anglicans. These topics were dealt with through back and forth exchanges and included brief topic introductions from Bishop Mark Lawrence, the Rev. Kendall Harmon, the Rev. John Barr, and the Rev. Dow Sanderson, as well as questions from the floor, which came from other clergy.
The interchange provided an opportunity for clarity and charity and, for many, the size of the theological divide it revealed was quite painful and stark.
“There was a propensity to avoid giving direct answers to many of the questions put before her,” noted the Rev. John Burley of Saint Andrew’s, Mount Pleasant. “When Kendall Harmon commented that the report given to the Anglican Consultative Council had not truthfully represented a process of discernment in our Province of the theology in that report given at Nottingham in 2005, Katharine Jefferts Shori avoided the real issue by commenting that she had not been the Presiding Bishop when the presentation was made at Nottingham. She seemed to request a pass on answering questions concerning the theology of that presentation and yet she kept bringing up slavery and that the church was a huge proponent of a biblical argument for slavery. Her repeated references to the slavery issue seemed to indicate that she wanted all of us to take the responsibility for the misguided interpretation of scripture 150 years ago but she was unwilling to comment on a report to the Anglican Communion setting forth a defense of full inclusion which was prepared just a few years before her election. In a very cavalier way, she was very quick to tell us at every turn what offended her and I was highly offended that we were so speciously lumped in with the horrible mistakes of long distant past. It was clear that she was making a comment on the way she believes we are misinterpreting scripture for these present day issues.”
–This article will appear in an upcoming edition of the Jubilate Deo, diocesan newspaper of South Carolina