Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina gave an address to his clergy on August 13, 2009. The full text may be found at Kendall Harmon's blog, TitusOneNine. Read it all.
In the past, I have heard disparaging remarks about the Diocese of South Carolina coming from the mouth of one self professed liberal clergyman of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. Yes Virginia, there are two Episcopal Dioceses in SC, and they appear to be growing apart.
First, guess which Bishop, +Lawrence (a) or +Henderson (b) said the following:
"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."
Next, which Bishop wrote the following:
"...recent secular news reporting on the Episcopal Church has been filled with inaccuracies and misleading phrases..."
Ya'll are doing great! So who wrote this:
"At the last three General Conventions I have been concerned about the lack of Eucharists according to the rites in the Book of Common Prayer. Even this I might be able to overlook if the rites that were employed were not so devoid of references to God the Father. In more than a few of these worship services the only reference to God the Father actually in the liturgy was the Lord’s Prayer. 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. Yet it has always intrigued me that in all of the Hebrew Scriptures there are only a handful of references to God as Father. If one wants to locate the authority of the Church to worship God as Father one need look no further than Jesus himself. It was he who called God 'Abba' and taught the disciples to prayer 'Our Father.' Frankly, if Jesus got that one so wrong, why should we turn to him for anything?"
How about this:
"The new spirit began early and gradually built so that, by the close of Convention even the most liberal and the most conservative in the House of Bishops took to the floor to acknowledge and to express gratitude—even awe—to God, to each other, and to the Presiding Bishop. Each one noted, although in different words, the growing spirit moving among us, prompting us to listen, respect, and honor each other. I believe we came to recognize more clearly that, in fact, we are indispensable parts of a Church united in purpose. Perhaps I repeat myself, but we discovered common ground even when we were dealing with the most sensitive of matters."
How about his one:
"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."
And this one:
"In short, common ground led to common joy in both bearing one another’s burdens and discovering more effective, comfortable ways of living into the Great Commission. Sounds like 'One Body, One Mission…' to me."
Lastly, let us look at how dissenting parishes may be handled:
"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... 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."
Remember St. Christopher's or how about St. John's North Augusta?
Finally, my thoughts:
Would Upper South Carolinians embrace or reject the approach outlined in +Lawrence's address? Will they even hear about it? Newspapers in the lower half of the state may have given more or different coverage than upstate papers. The Rock Hill "Herald" for instance, had little, if any coverage of +Lawrence's address. It was mentioned in a small piece on the back page of the religion page. Was there better coverage in Charleston? Many people in the upstate have second homes and shared friendships in the Dio. of SC and this is the time of year for increased travel to the coast and back. Many of our up-staters had the opportunity to attend services in both dioceses this summer. This cross cultural contamination should not be forgotten. At the same time there is a certain animus between upper and lower SC. I once heard a liberal upstate priest remark that the diocesan border divides the state like the Maginot line. The impression he was giving was that the lower half of the state was analogous to pre-WWII Germany (AKA the bad guys), and the upper half of the state was analogous to France (AKA les bons hommes). In my opinion this was a poor choice of analogies, not just because it reveals a hideous prejudice, but because we all know how the French wasted time and money building a useless defensive structure, deluding themselves into believing in their superiority and security.
If there is to be a defensive line erected by liberal theology, will it be drawn through Columbia? If so the liberal clergy of Upper SC might want to look for a different model. Personally, I think liberal theology's fundamentally flawed defenses will, in the long run, be overrun by Biblical truths. Surely, my liberal clergyman was not thinking that the roles were reversed and that his offensive liberal theology was being stopped at the Siegfried line just south of Columbia by stubborn, thick necked, low country barbarians?
Before discounting +Lawrence as a fringe element, read his entire address and ask yourself, "Is this something that Upper South Carolinian pewsitters would agree with?"
"No, we have no business fostering unexamined prejudice; so few of us are free from scars of sexual brokenness. Rather, we are constrained by the love of Christ to be primarily about the task of proclaiming the Gospel—calling all people to
repentance—ourselves included; administering the sacraments; encouraging faithfulness in the body of Christ; and through the power of the Holy Spirit walking with charity in the world."
Pewster's score 100%, but I did write the test.