UPDATE 0n The Episcopal Church & the Diocese of South Carolina
August 2, 2012

Diocese of South Carolina Leadership Meet To Consider Paths Forward

In This Issue:
The Episcopal Church remains vibrant amidst controversy
Church needs to be clear in teaching what is written
Bishop Lawrence Meets with Clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina Following General Convention
Links to Full Press Coverage of TEC post General Convention
Sierra Club boycotts Episcopal diocese over gay rights: National environmental group will stop using Camp St. Christopher
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The Episcopal Church remains vibrant amidst controversy
BY MELINDA LUCKA - Special to The Post and Courier Posted: Sunday, July 29, 2012.

I attended this year’s Episcopal Church General Convention as a visitor and saw a vibrant Christian church at work. There were daily worship services, legislative sessions held with dignity and mutual respect by bishops, clergy and lay deputations, and hard-working committees that heard comments on resolutions and toiled over the language of the resolutions before they were approved and sent to the House of Bishops and House of Deputies for final voting. As a mainstream Episcopalian, I found the experience to be uplifting.

In commentaries that I have read post-General Convention, some have expressed opposition to a few of the many actions; others have voiced support. Historically, the Episcopal Church has faced difficult social and theological issues, such as slavery, race relations and the ordination of women, and it has now addressed issues relating to gender and sexual orientation. The church, then and now, has responded in a kind and loving way.

The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, left the Convention, having objected to some of its actions, most notably the resolution to bless same-sex relationships. Resolution A049 is not mandatory, and it does not authorize same-sex marriages. It leaves the decision for the blessings to individual bishops within the church.

There are some who feel that the Episcopal Church has “left” the traditional church doctrines and polity. I am of the opinion that the leadership of this diocese over the past few decades has moved away from mainstream, traditional Episcopal doctrine and discipline. I have seen the local diocesan leadership and decision-making bodies vote to sever the legal relationship with the Episcopal Church, “differentiating itself” from the church.

For the past 25 years, the actions of the Diocese of South Carolina have moved it away from the Episcopal Church, slowly at first, with subtle changes, and then with rapid momentum. In 2004, the voting leadership of the diocese, known as the Diocesan Convention, became a part of a conservative, evangelical splinter group then known as the Anglican Communion Network. Symbols of the Episcopal Church, such as the Episcopal shield and signage, began disappearing from the diocesan website and from parish buildings. Seminarians were discouraged from attending traditional Episcopal seminaries such as Sewanee, Virginia Theological Seminary or the General Theological Seminary, and sent primarily to Trinity School for Ministry and Nashotah House Theological Seminary.

Perhaps the most drastic of all changes occurred in October 2010 and February 2011, when the accession to the Canons (laws) of the Episcopal Church was abolished, and accession to the Constitution of the church was qualified. The diocese charter was amended, proclaiming this a “sovereign diocese.” Five known parishes changed their by-laws to abolish accession to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. One parish broke away entirely.

We in this diocese are faced with the possibility that more parishes will leave to align themselves with other denominations. Of the 110 dioceses in the Episcopal Church, four have experienced the kind of break that we may be facing (San Joaquin, Calif.; Fort Worth, Texas; Quincy, Ill.; and Pittsburgh). Parishes in those dioceses left the church, but the dioceses remained. New bishops were elected and new priests were hired.

The difficulty in diocesan divisions arises when challenges are filed by breakaway parishes or loyal Episcopalians over the ownership of parish property. Leaders of the national Episcopal Church are obligated to safeguard property that has been held in trust for the diocese and the Episcopal Church. Ideally, there should be a way to amicably separate if parishes want to leave.

I feel strongly that the Episcopal Church is alive and well and is based upon a strong commitment to the Christian faith. It will weather this storm as it has weathered all others.

Melinda Adelle Lucka is a local attorney in the Charleston area, a member of the Ecclesiastical Law Society and president of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina.
Post & Courier Article

Church needs to be clear in teaching what is written
by: The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence-Special to The Post and Courier Posted: Sunday, July 29, 2012.

At the General Convention in Indianapolis this summer, the Episcopal Church was not content merely to change the standard of Christian marriage to include same-sex partners. It voted to step unreservedly into the normalization of transgender, transsexual, queer and questioning human self-understandings. It remains to be seen what new categories of gender or sexual expression may soon be forthcoming in the burgeoning world of options that seems waiting to be discovered as a protected minority and brought into the mainstream of society for approval. Frankly, anyone who believes that the main story at our recent General Convention is about same-sex blessings can’t see the forest for the trees. The Episcopal Church has moved so far beyond same-sex matters as to make any further discussion of the topic within the denomination passe. We’ve stepped into a braver and newer landscape altogether.

This has never been about whether we are to welcome people who come through the doors of our churches with the compassion and love of Jesus Christ. Clearly we are to do so. In 30 years of ministry I can think of only one person whom I asked to leave the congregation I served. He had almost single-handedly destroyed our ministry to single persons, and was constantly finding a reason to hang around our youth at inappropriate times. Some have described my approach to these present challenges as seeking to exclude people from God’s love and grace. This is sheer parody. I ministered to same-sex attracted persons in every parish I have served, and did so, I believe, with compassion and the hope of Jesus Christ.

We all have need of God’s forgiveness and grace for the many things we have done which we wish we hadn’t and the things we have left undone that we wish we had. Beyond this, there are things we’ve yet to discover that need God’s forgiveness, so blind are we to the things we hide from ourselves and which others may see only too well. Yes, the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. But it is also a place where Jesus Christ, the carpenter, still mends broken lives. This is the story we need to tell and live.

To that end we must stand for what God has revealed in Holy Scripture and preserved in the breadth of his church. Sadly, there have been seasons when segments of the church have strayed from this teaching. One example we remember all too painfully is the way some sought to justify slavery or defend institutionalized racism. But we ought not to forget it was primarily Bible-believing Christians who first brought to light the teaching of the apostles on the ungodly dimension of these institutions and practices. Today it is a different threat altogether. What is at stake among other things is the goodness of God’s created order and the power of God to sustain those who come to him seeking a holy life. The Bible teaches that we are created in the image of God as male and female and that marriage between man and woman is a God-given institution for the benefit of the human race in this fallen and fractured world.

This does not mean one lacks appreciation for those who, for a variety of reasons, are single — either from choice, divorce, death of a spouse or have not met a person with whom to share life in marriage. Nor does it mean we lack charity for those whose experience or perception is different. It does mean there is a norm, a “God given-ness” that is right, and for the good of all needs to be taught and celebrated. A great archbishop of Canterbury wisely taught 70 years ago, “The Church needs to be very clear in its public pronouncements so it can be very pastoral in its application.”

In my years in ministry, I have seen firsthand the problems
created when this axiom is forgotten or reversed. It’s altogether disastrous when the teaching of Holy Scripture is abandoned. These errors are increasingly what the national leadership of the Episcopal Church has embraced. It has led to departures from the church by many, a drastic loss of confidence from others and yawning disinterest from post-baby boomer generations. From such false choices the Diocese of South Carolina must distance itself. If ever there was a time for the church to be clear and hopeful, offering a moral compass to the confused and God’s grace, forgiveness and healing to all, it is now.

The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence is the 14th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.
Post & Courier Article

Bishop Lawrence Meets with Clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina Following General Convention
The following letter from the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary, summarizing the July 25 meeting Bishop Lawrence held with the clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina was sent to the active clergy July 30, 2012.

Dear Brother and Sister Clergy,

On Wednesday, July 25th, the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence met with the clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina at St. Paul’s Church, in Summerville, to discuss decisions made at General Convention 2012 and their significance for us as a diocese. In particular, he shared the address he made to the House of Bishops, while in executive session, announcing his decision to depart from Convention with five members of our deputation. The central purpose of his presentation to the Bishops was to convey his understanding that with the passage of Resolutions D002 and D019 (making all possible variations of “gender identity and gender expression” protected categories in the canons of the church), and the adoption of authorized provisional rites to bless same gender relationships, the doctrine, discipline and worship of this church have been profoundly changed.

He told the Bishops that the magnitude of these changes was such that he could no longer in good conscience continue in the business of the Convention. In fact, he was left with the grave question of whether he could continue as a bishop of an institution that had adopted such changes. It was with that question on the table that he took his leave from the House of Bishops. Since that time, and in the gathering of the Diocesan Clergy, the Bishop stated that he believes the Episcopal Church has crossed a line he cannot personally cross. He also expressed to the clergy that though he might act one way if he were a priest in a diocese, as a Bishop he feels deeply his vow before God to faithfully lead and shepherd the Diocese of South Carolina.

Both dimensions of this dilemma weigh upon him at this time. The Bishop has asked for a period of grace as he prayerfully seeks the face of the Lord, and asks for God’s direction (Psalm 27:7-9,14 or BCP Ps 27: 10-13, 18). He left yesterday evening, July 29, to begin several weeks of vacation. It will be a time spent on mountaintops and in deserts where the Bishop will seek refreshment and discernment. Upon his return at the end of August he will meet with the Standing Committee and the clergy of the diocese to share that discernment and his sense of the path forward. In the interim, the Bishop has asked that we hold this process in our prayers and pledge that there will be “no golden calves” or departures during his absence.

Those present heartily agreed to both requests. He would also encourage the clergy as they are able to gather in deaneries for prayer and intercession. I commend the prayers below as pillars around which to order your prayers for the Diocese in the coming weeks.
Diocese of SC Website

Links to Full Press Coverage of TEC post General Convention
The link below is to a PDF file from which you can access a number of relate articles. Link to related articles

Sierra Club boycotts Episcopal diocese over gay rights: National environmental group will stop using Camp St. Christopher
Adam Parker Posted: Sunday, July 29, 2012 12:01 a.m.

A national environmental advocacy group has sent a letter to the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina complaining about the diocese's opposition to gay marriage and stating its intention to stop patronizing Camp St. Christopher, a Seabrook Island retreat center affiliated with the diocese...........
Link to P & C Article

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