Friday, October 19, 2012

Episcopal Church Hits Bottom, Keeps Digging.

If you are an Anglican or an Anglican Wannabe and have never been to Charleston, South Carolina, you MUST go.   And you may want to hurry.

Charleston is the most Anglican city in North America.  The spires of several Anglican churches are among the most prominent features of the city's skyline.  There are street corners on which you can stand and see more than one Anglican church in a single glance.  The only other city I have been where that was true was London.  But, of course, it is not in America.  Also, you would not find the churches in London nearly so well attended.

Wander into any of Charleston's downtown parishes on a Sunday morning and you will hear some of the finest Anglican choral music on either side of the Atlantic.  The Bishop of London, preaching at last year's Mere Anglicanism conference, at St. Phillip's Church in Charleston, praised the choir for one of the finest renditions of Sir Hubert Parry's "I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me" that he (or I, for that matter) had ever heard.   (If you aren't familiar with that piece, you can listen to it here, although you will have to settle for the choir of Westminster Abbey performing it at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.)

More importantly, if you visit most of the Diocese of South Carolina's parishes on a Sunday you will hear the Word of God exposited faithfully and well.   And therein lies the problem, at least as far as the Episcopal Church is concerned.  Anglicans/Episcopalians in South Carolina want the Word of God preached whole and entire, and unadulterated (no pun intended).  Consequently, they aren't on board with some of the new things the Episcopal Church has been promoting lately.  As the Episcopal Church's departure from biblical and historic Christian belief and practice has increased, the Diocese has sought to differentiate itself from the innovations of the Episcopal Church, while still remaining in it.

But it appears that some local malcontents, in concert with the Episcopal Church's leadership, decided that they were tired of the Diocese of South Carolina not getting with the program; all of which led to this week's news:  Panzer Tanks Invade Poland...  er, no...  Enemy Planes Attack Pearl Harbor ...  er, sorry, wrong war... 

Episcopal Church Takes Action Against the Bishop and Diocese of SC:
On Monday, October 15, 2012, Bishop Mark J. Lawrence, the 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina was notified by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, that on September 18, 2012 the Disciplinary Board for Bishops had certified his abandonment of The Episcopal Church. 
As the Diocesan website was quick to note, there is a serious question of who has abandoned whom:

Episcopal Church Abandons Bishop and Diocese:
Anglicans have been worshiping in South Carolina since its establishment as a British Colony. From the beginning, they have defended and upheld the doctrine, discipline and worship of the faithful generations who came before them. That freedom is now under direct assault.

As a founding Diocese of the Episcopal Church, we have taken steps in recent years to defend our freedom of worship and order of gathering. On Monday of this week (October 15), the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence (14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina) was informed by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church that a disciplinary board had certified that he was guilty of abandonment of the communion of the church – that he had, in effect, by his words and actions, left the church. We believe that these actions of the Episcopal Church are both invalid under the Constitution of the Episcopal Church of this Diocese and violations of rights and freedoms which all Americans hold dear. We emphatically reject them, as well as the attempted restriction upon the ministry of our Bishop.

An Assault on the Bishop

This action is a deplorable assault upon the Bishop of this Diocese. The attack came in the midst of negotiations whose stated intent was to find a peaceful solution to our differences with the Episcopal Church. It involved a process in which there was no prior notice of the proceedings, no notice of the charges against him nor any opportunity to face the local accusers (who remained anonymous until today).

An Assault on the Diocese

These actions, however, are not just an attack upon Bishop Lawrence. They also represent an assault on  this Diocese and its congregations....

Read it all.
What, then, are Anglicans in South Carolina to do?  A special Convention of the Diocese has been triggered by the actions against Bishop Lawrence, which will convene on November 17.  In the meantime, the best advice I have seen comes from the Rev. Chuck Owens, rector of the Church of the Cross, in Bluffton, SC, who wrote to his parish about a phone call he received from a reporter today:
"You guys are the biggest Episcopal church in the area so I called hoping you would give me a comment for my paper."  "About what?" I asked.  "About Bishop Lawrence abandoning the Diocese of South Carolina," the reporter continued.  "No such thing has happened; you must be confused."  "No," she insisted, "I read it on the internet just a short while ago."

Well, my friends, she was confused . . . very confused; and I don't want you to be taken in by her or anyone else for that matter!  In the coming days and weeks and perhaps even longer, much is going to find its way into newspapers, onto blogs and along human grapevines that will suggest to those who relish controversy that Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina, including The Church of the Cross, have fallen into an abyss.  Don't believe it!  Here is the truth in a nutshell.

Since 2003 the Diocese of South Carolina has been trying to stay in The Episcopal Church as an island of orthodoxy in an ever-widening, ever-deepening sea of liberalism and to do so without compromising its identity.  Actions taken to this end prompted The Episcopal Church this week to move against Bishop Lawrence and by extension the Diocese of South Carolina.  As a result a divide now exists between The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina that will likely take the parties into court at some point in the future.  That's the gist of it.

The question now becomes, "How should we respond as members of The Church of the Cross?"  First, pray for the leadership of this diocese and this parish.  Second, trust in the leadership of this diocese and this parish.  Third, support the leadership of this diocese and this parish.  Fourth, in the power of the Spirit do the work of the Gospel: proclaim Christ crucified, dead, buried and risen; witness to His grace and forgiveness; use your time, talents and treasure for His Kingdom purposes; and seek ways to rally the flagging, inspire the doubting, and buoy the drifting.  Fifth, humble yourselves before the Lord God Almighty and strengthen your faith in Him - He is sovereign over this and all things and His glory will ultimately be revealed.

We are in this together, you and I; and it's my firm conviction that God has brought us to this place not to wilt but to blossom . . . and blossom we will - praise God!  Read More

In His power and for His glory,

 That's all for now.  But I am sure there is more to come.  Stay tuned.  And keep praying!

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