Bishop Lawrence's Address to the Clergy, August 13, 2009
August 13, 2009

Bishop Lawrence Explains the Diocesan Stratagy (Sections as abstracted by EFSC from full Address)

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I believe for us to discern God’s purpose and role for this diocese in this current challenge, and then to live it out faithfully, will involve each of us in more struggles and suffering than we have yet invested—for we have invested as yet, so little. This is not a challenge for a bishop or even a Standing Committee to face alone. None of us can afford to keep the members of our parishes uninformed of the challenges that lie ahead…………………..

In our present situation some would counsel us that it is past time to cut our moorings from The Episcopal Church and take refuge in a harbor without the pluralism and false teachings that surround us in both the secular culture and within our Church; others speak to us of the need for patience, to “let the Instruments of Unity do their work”—that now is not yet the time to act. Still others seem paralyzed; though no less distressed than us by the developments within our Church, they seem to take a posture of insular denial of what is inexorably coming upon us all. While I have no immediate solution to the challenges we face—it is certainly neither a hasty departure nor a paralyzed passivity I counsel…………..

It is perfectly understandable to me that many among us may look at the developments during the last several decades and believe it is The Episcopal Church (TEC) that is our problem. Those of us who refer to ourselves as reasserters, conservatives, Anglo-Catholics or Evangelicals, or sometimes under the sweeping moniker of “orthodox” have often felt ourselves driven, if not out, then to the margins of this Church. We refer sometimes with derision to the Presiding Bishop (whether Bps Browning, Griswold or Jefferts Schori). We speak of 815, the “National” Church, the General Convention, as problems we have to react to, and believe we know what it is we are fighting, or are in conflict with. Sometimes it all comes under the title of TEC. Never realizing perhaps that here at least in South Carolina we are the Church: The Episcopal Church. It is only as I’ve allowed my Lord to remove the anger toward these “institutions” of the Church that I can recognize with greater clarity what it is I need to engage—and even fight against. …………………

So too in our present context it is not The Episcopal Church that is the problem, it is those who have cloaked it with so many strands of false doctrine that we can well wonder if indeed it can be salvaged……………..

We face a multitude of false teachings, which like an intrusive vine, is threatening The Episcopal Church as we have inherited and received it from our ancestors. I have called this the false Gospel of Indiscriminate Inclusivity because I see a common pattern in how the core doctrines of our faith are being systematically deconstructed. I must by necessity be brief and cannot give any of these concerns the attention they deserve.

THE TRINITY - One of the doctrines under barrage in our Church is an orthodox understanding of the Trinity ………..

In the name of inclusion there’s the perception by some (a variant of radical feminism I suppose) that the references to the Father, and the pronoun “he” is some lingering patriarchal holdover………..

If one wants to locate the authority of the Church to worship God as Father one need look no further than Jesus himself………

UNIQUENESS OF CHRIST - In my opinion the current Presiding Bishop has repeatedly been irresponsible with her comments regarding the doctrine of the Uniqueness and Universality of Christ……………...

In answering questions about the Uniqueness and Universality of Christ she has repeatedly suggested that it is not up to her to decide what the mechanism is God uses to save people. But, quite to the contrary, it is her responsibility as a bishop of the Church to proclaim the saving work of Jesus Christ and to teach what it is the Scriptures and the Church teach………. Such statements, unfortunately, make it necessary for us to correct rather than to support leadership………..

SCRIPTURAL AUTHORITY - This is such a comprehensive dimension of our present crisis in the church that one hardly knows where to begin…………

In my experience all too many of our bishops and priests seem to mine the scriptures for minerals to use in vain idolatries. There is too little confidence expressed in its trustworthiness; the authority and uniqueness of revelation…………..

And those who are intellectually sophisticated, schooled in many academic disciplines, but dreadfully untaught in the Bible and theology, are, through little fault of their own, except for naively trusting generations of slothful priests and bishops, are led astray. We must be willing to speak out against this.

BAPTISMAL THEOLOGY DETACHED FROM BIBLICAL AND CATHOLIC DOCTRINE - The phrase heard frequently at General Convention 2009 was “All the sacraments for all the Baptized”……………..

Nevertheless, this inadequate baptismal theology was used to argue for the full inclusion of partnered GLBT persons to all the orders of the Church—deacons, priests and bishops…………….

Even if one would turn to the simplicity of the catechism one would encounter this question and answer: Q. What is required of us at Baptism? A. It is required that we renounce Satan, repent of our sins, and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Since when has baptism been the ticket to ordination in the Church?...............

HUMAN SEXUALITY - While it has been a clever device of some in recent years to refer to the varied approach to marriage in the different epochs of biblical history, often done in ways that are intended to bring more confusion rather than clarity............

-- it has been used repeatedly in this current debate regarding Human Sexuality and the establishment of an inclusive moral equivalency of GLBT sexual unions with the Christian understanding of marriage between a man and a woman…………….

These, and other examples that could be cited, are illustrative of this “new gospel” of Indiscriminate Inclusivity that began with a denigration of the Holy Scriptures, then, step by step has brought the very core teachings of the Christian faith under its distorting and destructive sway. …………

the Constitution & Canons speak of marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, therein conflicting with this inclusive “gospel”, resolution CO56 was passed contrary to our own order of governance and common life—thus one by one, the Holy Scriptures, the teachings of the Church, the Anglican Communion, the Ecumenical relationships with the other bodies of the Church Catholic, and now even our own Book of Common Prayer and Constitutions & Canons are subjugated to this “new” gospel...........

It is not in my opinion the right action for this diocese to retreat from a thorough engagement with this destructive “new” gospel. As the prophet Ezekiel was called by the Lord to be a Watchman, to sound the alarm of judgment—to warn Israel to turn from her wickedness and live. We are called to speak forthrightly to The Episcopal Church and others, but even more specifically to the thousands of everyday Episcopalians who do not yet know the fullness of this present cultural captivity of the Church………..

As I’ve said on more than one occasion, this indiscriminant inclusivity is coming to a neighborhood near you. If you are in TEC and resisting this aggressive march you are already on the front lines. If you have a stomach to engage the battle you are rightly situated. It is now a matter of whether one is prepared to engage the challenge or not. We may prefer a false peace or fatal security but don’t think for a minute this challenge will not find us………………

THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST AND THE SUFFICIENCY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE - The first principle I wish to affirm in our diocesan life is that the Church lives its life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and under and upon the authority of Holy Scripture. As Article XX in the Articles of Religion states, “…it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.” (BCP p. 871) Since so many within our diocese may have been confused or disturbed by the newspaper and journal reports of the actions of General Convention 2009, and through reading the very resolutions D025 and C056 themselves,......

the Standing Committee and I are proposing that a Special Meeting of Convention (Diocesan Constitution Art.II sec.2) be called for Saturday, October 24th to deal with several concerns that need to be addressed. One such concern is what may be actually understood by the candidate for ordination as he or she makes the Oath of Conformity, and what the worshiping congregation will in the present climate understand by such a vow. When the ordained pledges himself to “… solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church.” and variations thereof, “in accordance to the canons of this Church…” does that imply adherence to these recent resolutions of GC’09? The Standing Committee and I are proposing a resolution for Convention to approve the reading of a letter prior to the spoken vow, and attached with the signed document of conformity, at every ordination in this diocese, thereby making clear what the Church has historically meant by such an oath—explicating what the Book of Common Prayer means by loyalty “to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them.” (All quotations above may be found on p. 526 and 538 of the BCP)

This begs the question—how an institution, having jettisoned what for 2000 years has been the understood teaching of Holy Scripture and collective wisdom of Christendom, and taken refuge in its vaunted polity as expressed in its Constitution & Canons, can allow itself to proceed without first changing those canons? Two reasons:

1) The agenda of Inclusivity is viewed by many to be of such overriding importance as an issue of justice that it subjugates everything under its rubrics.

2) The level of conformity is so staggering that only a few would seem capable of resisting its pressure. And too often, even then the resistance is “This will not fly back home” rather than “I believe this is theologically wrong”.

The Standing Committee and bishop will be proposing a resolution to come before the special convention that this diocese begin withdrawing from all bodies of governance of TEC that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture; the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them; the resolutions of Lambeth which have expressed the mind of the Communion; the Book of Common Prayer (p.422-423) and the Constitution & Canons of TEC (Canon 18:1.2.b) until such bodies show a willingness to repent of such actions. Let no one think this is a denial of the vows a priest or bishop makes to participate in the councils of governance. This is not a flight into isolation; nor is it an abandonment of duty, but the protest of conscience. It is recognition that the actions of GC’09 were in such blatant disregard and violation of Holy Scripture, the bonds of affection, and our own Constitution & Canons that one is led by reasoned conviction to undertake an intrepid resistance to the tyranny of the majority over judicious authority; therein erring both in Faith and Order.

DOMESTIC ENGAGEMENT FOR RELIEF AND MISSION - Thirdly, I have noted in my Post-Convention Letter to the Clergy of the Diocese that we need to find a place not only to survive, but to thrive, and that this needs to be faithful, relational and structural. But this is not merely for our sake, but for others.

I have been in conversation with bishops of other dioceses in TEC which find themselves in similar positions of isolation. We have discussed the possibility of developing gatherings of bishops, clergy, and laity for the express purpose of encouragement, education and mission. These gatherings in different regions of the country could bring internationally recognized Christian leaders from across the Anglican Communion to address such things as Holy Scripture, Christian doctrine, issues of pressing concern within the church, as well as the ever important work of ministry, evangelism, mission and church planting. These Dioceses in Missional Relationship I believe can create an environment which will lead to positive growth and concerted actions not merely for future survival but more importantly for growth and expansion.

There is also a need to find ways to support conservative parishes and missions in dioceses where there is isolation or worse. I would like to encourage congregations in this diocese to create missional relationships with “orthodox” congregations isolated across North America. There, consequently, is a need for the laity in South Carolina to be awakened and mobilized for engagement. This includes but is not limited to courses in theology which enables them to articulated their faith in the face of an aggressive displacement biblical and catholic teaching—not only in order to evangelize the lost, but to encourage the laity across the church who are surrounded by teaching that is clearly contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let me say it quite candidly, there may be effective initiatives the laity can undertake that would not be possible for the clergy in this present climate.

THE EMERGENCE OF 21ST CENTURY ANGLICANISM - Fourthly, we need to be guided by the principle that we are called to help shape an emerging Anglicanism that is sufficient of the 21st Century………………..

I believe we have a unique role to play within the Anglican Communion. If at present we play that role by being in but not of the mainstream of TEC is it any less important? We passed at our Diocesan Convention in March a resolution which asserted our authority as a diocese to sign onto the Anglican Covenant. The final section read,

“Be it further resolved, that as the Diocese of South Carolina did choose at its Diocesan Convention in 1785, to organize as a diocese, (one of the first seven dioceses in these United States to so organize in that year), and to send delegates to the first General Conventions to organize the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and thereby freely associate its clerical and lay members with the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society—presently known as The Episcopal Church; so this same Diocese does also assert its authority to freely embrace such a Covenant in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to seek to remain a constituent member of the Anglican Communion should the Instruments of Unity allow such diocesan association.”

The Archbishop has expressed in section 25 of “Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future” his strong hope that “elements” [dioceses?] will adopt the Covenant. I believe we ought to sign on to the Ridley Draft of the Covenant as it presently stands in all four sections. (If it means we need to withdraw from a lawsuit we withdraw from a lawsuit). Therefore we need to begin the process of studying the Ridley Draft in every deanery and parish and be prepared to vote on it either in the special convention in October or, if that’s too ambitious a time frame, no later than our Annual Diocesan Convention in March 2010.

You need to know that the Anglican Communion Development Committee has already had its first meeting and will begin this fall to vigorously establish relationships with a broad array of Provinces across the Communion. You have heard me speak of this often, including during my Bishop’s Address last March. This still strikes me as one of the most important activities we should pursue. We can work with several of the Provinces within the Communion, and, if they are so inclined to partner with us, we should work with GAFCON and ACNA from within TEC to further gospel initiatives.

I believe we are as financially strong, and as spiritually and theologically unified as any conservative diocese left in TEC. We have I believe the resources to focus on the mission and ministry within the diocese of South Carolina as well as working within TEC to shore up and encourage the faithful; and at the same time to help shape the emerging Anglicanism of the 21st Century. Admittedly, this is a tall order. Though accurate statistics are hard to come by I believe there are still more theologically orthodox believers still inside of TEC than have left. Yet they seem increasingly isolated, with few leaders to encourage them. I believe we have a moral and spiritual call/obligation to stay in the fight with those still in TEC who look to us for hope; and to stay for as long as it is within our consciences to do so. On this last caveat, clearly the clock for many of us is loudly ticking. Few of us doubt there will be a strong push to make what is now de facto, de jure in GC2012. Along with this the number of partnered GLBT priests—and quite likely bishops will continue to increase (given the recent nominees in Episcopal elections in Minnesota and Los Angeles)—putting facts on the ground which the rest of us have to react to or deal with as best we can. As events unfold it will be necessary for us to put risky facts on the ground as well.

But before I conclude I need to address a sensitive issue. Should a parish find it needs to be served by alternative Episcopal care I will work with them toward that end. Please know this is not my desire for any parish. It would grieve me because I have enjoyed my relationship with every congregation in this great Diocese of South Carolina. Still these are challenging times, and if I am called to lead in such an assertive manner as I have suggested here, pastoral sensitivity suggests I should give space to those who feel they need it……………………..

... we are not to be in this Diocese about the business of encouraging prejudice or denying the dignity of any person, including, but not limited to, those who believe themselves to be Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, or Transgender……………….

It is an increasingly fluid landscape in which we are called to do our work and at times seems to change from week to week as developments take place on several fronts. While our principles may stay consistent our strategy must be dynamic and provisional. To this end the Standing Committee and I are calling for a Special Convention of this diocese to be held on Saturday, October 24th at Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant.

As bishop I am asking every parish and mission to call a congregational meeting to broadly engage these matters and to inform the delegates who will represent them at this upcoming convention. I am also asking every deanery to engage these challenges at a clericus level and in deanery meetings for clergy and lay delegates.

Frankly, I don’t know how to say this in any other way but to tell you that this is a call to action; of mobilization of clergy, parishes and laity. What I have stated here is only a start—the turning of the ship. While striving to stay as intact as possible—we need believers who are informed, engaged, missional and faithful.

For now our task is clear: As some within TEC are busy cutting the cords of fellowship with the larger Church through the unilateral actions of General Convention expanding policies which further tear the fabric of the Communion; our task will be to weave and braid missional relationships which strengthen far flung dioceses and provinces in the work of the gospel. As some in TEC find a hopeless refuge in the narrower restrictions of denominational autonomy, we shall find hope in a deeper and generous catholicity..........

....For now what lies before us is to engage this challenge with all the will and resources of strong and growing diocese. With the clarity of God’s call, the courage to walk in step with the Spirit, and the confidence of an overruling Providence in, with and through Christ, we shall not only endure, but prevail.

I leave now with this—we cannot choose to follow God without following what God has chosen for us. So, “Lead kindly, Light.” Amen.

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