Wednesday, August 26, 2015

General Convention 2015 Explained by the Delegation and Bishop of Upper South Carolina

This past Sunday, a meeting was held at St. John's Episcopal church in Columbia which was advertised in the EDUSC web news as follows,
You are invited to come hear from your bishop and deputation to General Convention in person about their experience at General Convention 78. Come learn about the legislation that was passed, about our Presiding Bishop Elect and to ask questions. The meetings times and places are as follows: 
Sunday, August 23rd, St. John's Shandon, Columbia, 4 pm
Sunday, August 30th, Christ Church, Greenville, 4 pm
I had a feeling that this would be sparsely attended, but some thought that the Bishop's presence might draw in a few folks, while others thought it might have the opposite effect. 

For myself, the television was on the fritz, and we needed to go to Columbia for dinner anyway, so off we went.

The fact that the Bishop was late didn't help bring in any late-comers. It ended up being a  small group of retired and current clergy and a smattering of grey-headed lay people in a very large room. 

As expected, the Bishop's presence attracted as much attention as a brown banana at a fruit stand.

On to the presentation! A brief summary of the resolutions passed by General Convention went over like a lead balloon.

I had the feeling that no one wanted to bring up the elephant in the room, so we talked about the resolution to plan on Prayer Book revision. Someone asked, "Why revise the Prayer Book?", and after some hemming, hawing, and mumbles about "gender neutral" language by the rector, our Bishop came up with this zinger,
It's about creating more "expansive language."
I wonder if that will be the code word others in TEc use when trying to describe how gender neutral language should replace gender specific language not just in the Marriage Rite but in all manner of liturgies.

Someone asked if all this General Convention foolishness might be a cause of the decline in the TEc, and Bishop Waldo claimed that in 2013 EDUSC was growing (failing to mention that this was slower than the population growth) and that average Sunday attendance (ASA) was a lessor measure than total membership since some members only attend once a month, but through some complicated mental gymnastics and new math, we should believe that many more members are worshiping than meets the eye.

Waldo on confirmation: When he interviews a candidate he is more interested it how Jesus changed that person than checking to see if the candidate knows the creeds and catechism stuff. I guess he doesn't want to scare them away by being too hard on them, after all he only confirmed 15 children in all of 2013.

I posed the question why there were no resolutions on removing the Episcopal church from its affiliation with that pro-abortion group "The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice" given what we know goes on at Planned Parenthood. The response was that our Bishop is sure that there will be a resolution three years from now at the next General Convention. I was not reassured.

Finally, someone got tired of dancing around the elephant and brought up the same-sex marriage issue.

Bishop Waldo tightened his grip on the backs of the two chairs he was standing behind and volunteered the information that only six or seven of his 61 parishes have completed the Bishop's "curriculum" (I remember when he asked all of his churches to have done so by October 2014).  These churches will be permitted to conduct gay marriages after Advent 2015.

With such a tiny number of churches participating, I suspect the "bury their heads in the sand" types will go on thinking that this issue does not affect them.

Bishop Waldo, his speech accelerating a bit, continued to dig a deeper hole for himself as he attempted to justify the move by the church to authorize same-sex marriage.

His weakest argument was when he compared the Church's progress towards same-sex marriage to the progressive change in divorce rules in the last century and added that it is the Church's job to reinterpret scripture. How all of this will play out to the Church's benefit or decline he would not speculate. Using an approach reminiscent of Gamaliel, he shrugged, lifted his hands in the air, and basically said that only time will tell.

Following this there was a general love fest about the Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry. This led to a discussion of evangelism which is supposed to be his forte.

Did anyone ever check to see how effective his evangelism has been in North Carolina? I did.

In TEc circles, that rates a 2 on the evangelism scale (1 = stable, 2 = slow decline, 3 = moderate decline, 4 = precipitous decline, 5 = merger with another diocese).

One brave soul readily admitted that they did not know how to evangelize. Bishop Waldo suggested telling people about how your relationship with Jesus has changed your life, and he proposed that online resources might be made available through TEc.


I have some resources for him, though I doubt they would ever be considered acceptable by 815. The C.S. Lewis Institute recently posted Evangelization: Sharing the Good News with Delight by Gerard Long Executive Director, Alpha USA,
"Today we need to learn afresh how to evangelize. A recent Barna study showed that only 3 percent of sixteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds have a positive view of evangelical Christians! Instead of drawing people to Jesus, we’ve turned them away from Him!
Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ should not be something we dread. It can be something we love to do, flowing naturally from the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives... "
 " ...Regrettably, we’ve come to a place in our society where we don’t want to hear about hell. It’s uncomfortable and not 'politically correct.' Whatever we feel about hell, the key question is, what is the truth? Do we believe Jesus was telling the truth when He warned people about eternal judgment? If we believe hell is a reality, it should fundamentally change how we go about our lives. If we know the end of the story, and other people don’t, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve got an obligation to tell them about it. Not out of guilt, but out of a genuine concern and compassion for people, deep in our hearts. If a blind man was about to walk off a cliff, how hard would we try to persuade him to change course? If he’s convinced he’s on the right path, we’d have to be strategic in how we persuaded him to take another course..."
" ...There is an amazing YouTube clip of a magician named Penn, who shares how impressed he was by a man who gave him a New Testament and Psalms. He goes on say that although he is an atheist, he has never had a problem with Christians proselytizing because, 'If they believe what they say about heaven and hell, why aren’t they telling us more about them?' And, of course, he has a great point. Not that Christians should go about telling people they’re going to hell (that rarely works!), but we should be more active in sharing the Good News about Jesus Christ our Savior."
C.S. Lewis had a thing or two to say on the subject. I will include two choice quotations,
1) "If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, Wilberforce and the English Evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither." C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; repr., New York: Touchstone, 1996), 119
2) “You can’t lay down any pattern for God. There are many different ways of bringing people into his Kingdom, even some ways that I specially dislike! I have therefore learned to be cautious in my judgment."
“But we can block it in many ways. As Christians we are tempted to make unnecessary concessions to those outside the faith. We give in too much. Now, I don’t mean that we should run the risk of making a nuisance of ourselves by witnessing at improper times, but there comes a time when we must show that we disagree. We must show our Christian colors, if we are to be true to Jesus Christ. We cannot remain silent or concede everything away." C.S. Lewis The Final Interview
One more suggestion to the Episcopalian evangelist to be, you cannot evangelize a false gospel that has "conceded everything away" regarding sexual immorality. 


  1. Anonymous10:21 AM

    While Bishop Curry's diocese managed only a few thousand in decline in Worship Attendance from 2003 to 2013, the population of all of North Carolina went from 8,407,248 to 9,862,206. The increase in Bishop Curry's portion of North Carolina is even more dramatic because his diocese encompasses all of the areas of North Carolina which are growing in population. The number of baptized members increased slightly between 2003 and 2013, but I wouldn't put much faith in these numbers. My family still gets the monthly diocesan magazine, but the 4 of us have been attending Holy Trinity Anglican for almost 10 years.

    1. Correct, it is always best to look at the population change in the geographic area when analyzing the changes in a diocese or parish. Our city has skyrocketed in growth yet we lost one Episcopal church which was closed and the remaining one has been declining.

  2. Anonymous12:37 PM

    How Episcopal to say it's the church's job to reinterpret scripture.

    1. Perhaps by that he meant that it is the job of General Convention to reinterpret scripture.