SC Bishop: “TEC has crossed a line I cannot personally cross”

Posted: August 1, 2012 by boydmonster in Anglican Communion, Thought and Practice in the Diocese of South Carolina

For those who missed the parish meeting this Sunday, the most important bit of the presentation had to do with reporting from the Bishop’s meeting with the clergy Wednesday July 25th.  Jim has helpfully condensed the Bishop’s sentiments in this letter.  Perhaps the most important section reads:

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.

Also pertinent, but not included in this letter, was the clear expression of several church leaders that either they or their churches (or both) could no longer remain in TEC given the actions of the General Convention.  This puts considerable pressure on the bishop and diocesan leadership who have worked tirelessly to hold together a diocese that now seems on the verge of fragmentation.   What exactly this will mean for Trinity or for the diocese is not entirely clear.  While speculation is not always helpful, prayer is.  I would encourage everyone’s prayers for Bishop Mark.  To say that he is burdened by this is an understatement.  I would add on to that an admonition to obey the words of Jesus and “pray for your enemies.”  Many of us will classify different people as our enemies in this fray.  To follow Jesus doesn’t mean you will be without enemies.  Rather, followers of Jesus know themselves to have been enemies of God without the cross and act accordingly to their own enemies. 

I cannot go without saying that my intention and desire in all of this is to preserve as well as I can 1. the platform that Trinity has for preaching the Gospel in Myrtle Beach and 2. the unity of our church body in the objective truth of the Gospel.  If we fix our eyes as firmly on Jesus as God’s grace will allow us, we might just make it through this!

In Him,

Iain

P.S. Comments are open for a reason, just keep them charitable!

Comments
  1. Matt C. says:

    The good thing about TEC is that there is no Rome ruling over us all and General Convention is not some magisterial decision maker. The Diocese and the Bishop do not have to “cross that line.” The resolution simply gave churches and dioceses who desire to bless same sex unions the right (and rite) to do so. It should be noted, since many of the “conservative” bloggers are leaving this out, that the resolution in question did not change the biblical definition or the churches official definition of “marriage.” TEC still holds that “marriage” is between man and woman. However, this resolution solves some issues for dioceses and churches in states that have legalized marriage equality by giving them a “blessing” for said unions. The word marriage is never used, but thats semantics anyway. My point is, I am Episcopalian for many reasons, one of them being the complete openness and inclusiveness of the church. But I also have deep connection to the liturgy, the tradition and the beauty of TEC, and feel closer to Christ when there. My hope is that if Bishop Lawrence makes the decision to pull out of TEC that churches wishing to stay in TEC will be able to fall into the Diocese of Upper SC, who is not concerned with this issue. My stance is, no one is forcing anyone to do anything. But before it comes up, any churches that leave should not continue to call themselves Anglican, as TEC is still the representative of the Anglican Communion in America, and that’s not likely to change. Hopefully, it won’t come to that, and maybe we can get back to loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

  2. boydmonster says:

    Matt, Thanks for the thoughtful and heartfelt response. I really appreciate your care for the church. I do want to disagree with you on a couple of points. First off, the problem for many of us does not have to do as much with the same sex blessings as with resolutions D002 and D019. These resolutions do dictate to the churches that transgendered people cannot be restricted from any level of parish life. So, it’s not entirely accurate to say that the General Convention can’t make decisions for us. In this case, it’s very true. Anyone who disagrees with this canon may have to choose between following his/her conscience and following the canon. I would furthermore contend that as a change to the canons, it is an implicit change to the doctrine of the church. Second, the historical experience of many conservatives in the church has left us with some significant doubt that same sex blessings will not become mandatory in the future. Even though many (if not most) evangelical episcopalians agree with women’s ordination, we have seen how it was forced on the church. First, women were ordained in defiance of the canons. Next, it was passed with a conscience clause. Then the conscience clause was removed and dissenters were targeted and marginalized. I, personally, am very suspicious that this policy won’t be followed again in the case of same sex blessings. While I disagreed with a number of my Anglo-Catholic seminary classmates on a number of different levels, I would never want to be treated the way that they have been treated over women’s ordination. That brings me to my next point. I would simply disagree that the Episcopal Church is ‘open and inclusive to everyone.’ My experience, and the experience of many others, has been one of exclusion. I can’t tell you how many times someone has refused to talk to me after they found out, not what I thought or believed, but what seminary I attended! I have friends who, while in other dioceses, have been boo’ed and literally spat upon during their diocesan conventions. I know several faithful people who have been chased out of the church because of their scriptural convictions. I really could go on and on listing the discrimination that conservative/orthodox/biblical christians in TEC have experienced. My point is, that TEC, like any human institution, is open and inclusive to some groups, and closed and exclusive to others. My opinion is that they fail to mirror the Kingdom of God in its radical inclusivity of anyone seeking mercy and grace. Rather, what I’ve witnessed is a sort of self-righteousness that assumes that they are ushering in the Kingdom of God that allows them to dismiss anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Finally, I think the attitude that you have articulated in regards to departing parishes and dioceses has caused untold damage in our denomination. There have been churches where the entire congregation decided to leave. The remaining TEC congregation consisted of 0 people, and yet the congregation lost their buildings! This relentless protection of property over charity to their enemies has caused nothing but destruction in our church. I would point to two historical models as a correction. The first would be to the Episcopal Church’s treatment of bishops in the Confederate States during the Civil War. The Northern Bishops would have been well within their rights to kick the Southern Bishops out and replace them. However, they reasoned that the Holy Spirit would bring their brothers and sisters to repentance eventually, and so they left the door open. They even continued to list those seceding bishops in their role call at General Convention until finally they came back. Would that we could extend the same charity! Instead, we have created an environment of hostility and embattlement. The second example I’d point to would be the split up of the Presbyterian Church in the 70’s and 80’s. During that split up, churches were given a window to decide their affiliation. I could be wrong, but I sometimes wonder if fewer people would want to leave if they didn’t feel like they were forced to stay! In short, the tension in the Episcopal church gets worse with every General Convention. We need to honestly recognize that it exists and exhibit compassion to people on both sides of the aisle.

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