Archive for the ‘Thought and Practice in the Diocese of South Carolina’ Category

High Church Anglicanism

“Are you high and hazy or low and lazy?”  “They are low church, so they have, like, guitars and a praise band.” “I’m pretty high church. I love all the smells and bells.”  “I like the low church stuff, cause I’m just more of a casual person.”  “I’m glad we’re going back to a more Anglican way of doing things here and emphasizing traditional worship more.”  High Church and Low Church. This distinction is one that Anglicans will be all too familiar with. Unfortunately, the history behind this distinction has largely been lost so that today when people talk about “High Church” and “Low Church” they do so referring mainly to taste. The problem with this trend is that it ignores the significant theological differences that underpin High Churchmenship, Reformation Anglicanism, and Anglican Evangelicalism.

Today we consider the “High Church” movement. English seperatists (those who wanted the Church to be disestablished from the government in England) originally gave this name to those who advocated strongly for an Established Church of England, but more and more it came to be identified with those who would have been known as ‘Conservatives’ during the English Reformation because of their desire to hold on to more of the traditional elements of the churches teaching and practice. High Church Anglicans are sometimes identified historically with Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. This movement dominated the Church of England from the reign of Charles I until the Glorious Revolution. (more…)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

1 Peter 2:9

“So, what are we now?”  I have been asked this question countless times in 2013.  Of course, by now, though I’m not quite sure how to answer it, I at least know what the question means.  It means, “Are we Episcopal?  Are we Anglican?  If so, what kind of Anglican are we?”  What lies behind that question, however, is more varied.

For some, it is simple curiosity.  They love being a part of Trinity, and the broader association of our church is less important to them.  For others, it comes out of a place of grief.  Our entire spiritual and religious life has been formed in The Episcopal Church.  We feel a bit like people without a country.  For still others, we are finding it hard to invite people when we don’t know who we are.  As varied as these concerns are, they stem from the same root.  Identity.

I think few of us really give the issue of our identity its due attention.  Who we think we are sets the course for our lives.  When people never get a secure sense of who they are, they can spend their lives in an aimless kind of wandering, never really knowing where they fit in.

Our identity begins forming early in life, and continues to do so based on who we are, what we do, where we live, what we like, etc.  I have a cousin who years ago dropped out of college despite the fact that he had walked onto the football field and was making decent grades.  When another family member asked him why he said, “You and me, we’re just not the kind of people who go to college.”  Despite having the ability and talent to succeed in college, his identity was wrong.  That’s why that question “So, what are we now?” is so important to answer well.

In his epistle to the churches, the apostle Peter addresses the identity of the church.  He tells them, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [Christ’s] own possession.”  Who are we?  Peter says we are a chosen, royal, and holy possession of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He says we are a race of people formed into a nation of priests who live in the service of the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Who are we?  We are Christ’s.  We are His treasured possession.  We are honored dignitaries in His service.  Before we are Smiths, or Jacksons, or Petersons, or Americans, or black, or white, we are Christ’s.

Having our identity in Christ makes all the difference.  When we understand that we are Christ’s, then we understand that we are not our own.  We were purchased at a heavy cost.  We are not a people who stand on our own merits, but we are a redeemed people.  We are not failures, rejects, or victims, but beloved adopted children, “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”(Romans 8:17)  We are not individuals, but we belong to the body of faithful people throughout the ages, those who have lived by faith, not by sight.  We have a family joined together not with blood of genetic heritage, but by the shed blood of Christ.

Because this issue of our identity is so important, I’ve invited our Bishop to address just that at a luncheon forum following our 11 o’clock service.  Bishop Mark Lawrence will be addressing the question “Who are we?”  in a presentation followed by a brief time of Q&A.  But remember, no matter who we are, no matter what we call ourselves, no matter who we are related to, our identity is first and last in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Steve Jones has written this article for the Sun News.  I am grateful to him for allowing Trinity’s voice to be heard in part and to clear up some misconceptions that had been spreading in the last few weeks.  Overall, he has tried to listen to both sides of the story.

That being said, there are a few points I would like to address concerning this article.  First, there were a few inaccuracies.  The report that 300-400 members were not at the annual parish meeting where the vote was made is simply false.  There were somewhere near 150 members present out of a little less than 350 members.  Notice was sent out to each member via first class mail as well as multiple email reminders, announcements at services, and at least 5 public meetings beforehand where the annual parish meeting was announced as well.  Unfortunately, this level of attendance is fairly typical for this sort of meeting.  The idea that the rest of the church wasn’t there through some sort of malfeasance is simply false, and I would suspect the vast majority of those who disagreed with the vote would agree with that.  

Furthermore, there was no rigging of the vote.  Robert’s Rules of Order were followed diligently during the meeting with ample time for discussion from anyone who wished to speak up.  A motion could have come from the floor to table the discussion, which would have stopped the vote from happening.  No one chose to do so.  Furthermore, the idea that scores of vestry candidates were waiting to be nominated, but that they were restricted from doing so is almost comically inaccurate.  Just like every year I’ve been at Trinity, we had to scour the earth to find people willing to serve on vestry.  In fact, some of those nominated declined to serve.  I’m grateful that we were able to find a group of people who were not only willing, but excited to serve.  In my time as a priest, I have sat through several controversial votes both on the parish and diocesan level.  Every time, there are some people on the minority side who feel cheated and so they cry ‘foul’ regardless of whether any misdeeds were done.  I feel confident that the silent majority at Trinity feel the same way.

Also, while I am grateful to Mr Jones for giving Trinity a voice, I have to say that the article seemed a bit unbalanced.  It seemed as if only those who were left behind at St Stephen’s and only those who left Trinity were affected by this.  I have spoken to some of those who left St Stephen’s, and while they aren’t making any accusations against my former colleague Wilmot, they are hurt by his decision not to stand up to The Episcopal Church.  Wilmot is grieving because he’s lost people to whom he’s been a priest, but they are grieving because they feel like they’ve lost their priest.  I might add, that Trinity is feeling grief over the loss of those who have departed here.  It is not entirely fair to say that only those who are remaining loyal to TEC are grieving and feel hurt.  

Finally, I have to add that the description of the church in The Sun News is not one I recognize when I look at Trinity.  Trinity continues to be a place where the Gospel is working to change people’s lives.  It continues to be a community of love and care.  And it continues to be a community seeking to welcome people from all walks of life to taste and see the goodness of the one who loved them and gave Himself for them.  It is my sincere hope that we won’t lose sight of this in the midst of the cloud that seems to be hovering over us right now.  

January 4, 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to you in this Christmas season to share some news. Today, parishes representing approximately 75 percent of baptized members in our Diocese joined in filing for a declarative judgment in a South Carolina Circuit Court against the Episcopal Church (TEC).  We are asking the court to declare that The Episcopal Church (TEC) has no right to the Diocese’s identity and property or that of its parishes.

We are saddened that we feel it necessary to ask a court to protect our property rights, but recent actions compelled us to take this action.  As you know, The Episcopal Church (TEC) has begun the effort to claim the Diocese of South Carolina’s identity by calling for a convention to identify new leadership for the diocese, creating a website using the Diocesan seal and producing material that invokes the name and identity of the Diocese of South Carolina.

Our suit asks the court to prevent TEC from infringing on the protected marks of the Diocese, including its seal and its historical names, and to prevent it from assuming the Diocese’s identity, which was established long before TEC was formed.  It also asks the court to protect our parish and Diocesan property, including church buildings and rectories, which our forefathers built and even shed blood over, and you have maintained without any investment of any kind from the national church.

The underlying point is that the Diocese disassociated from TEC in October 2012, after TEC attempted to remove me as your bishop.  The congregations, participating in the lawsuit, many of the Diocese’s largest and oldest, join many others in disassociating from TEC.

Read the rest here:

On Monday December 3rd, we polled the congregation regarding the recent split between The Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Church.  This was not an easy vote for any of us.  I myself have been nurtured in all the rich diversity of worship of The Episcopal Church from the simple Rite I service in Summerall Chapel at The Citadel, to the High Church worship of St Paul’s in Monroe, NC where I was taught the heritage of The Episcopal Church and confirmed, to the contemporary worship of St Andrew’s in Mt Pleasant, the parish from which I went to seminary.  Yet in all these different settings, I could rely on the preaching and the worship to be grounded in the faith once delivered.  I have watched with sadness as that faith has been pushed more and more to the sidelines throughout The Episcopal Church.

Last week I had dinner with a parishioner who reminded me that a year and a half ago, I had predicted this chain of events, but he told me my timing was off.  I was hoping for 5 or 10 more years to get ready for this.  The Scriptures assure us, however, that God is sovereign and that He works all things for the good of those who love Him.  I have to remind myself of that frequently with the trials that currently face us.

From the time I came on as Rector, I have been working to be ready to respond should a split occur between the Diocese and the National Church.  My aim in this has been two-fold.  First, I have endeavored to make sure Trinity could make a choice unencumbered by threats, manipulation, or coercion.  I feel pleased with how well that has happened.  My second aim has been to keep Trinity together under the Gospel.  If Trinity is not together, our witness to the Gospel will be weakened.  If Trinity is not under the Gospel, our labor is in vain.  That is the task that now lies before us.

When I heard the count Monday night, I have to admit that my heart broke for those in the minority of this vote.  Having been an evangelical in The Episcopal Church I know what it’s like to hold a minority position.  I continue to hope that those who did not vote with the majority know that Trinity bears them no ill will, and they are welcome to continue to be a part of our church.  That being said, I know there are some who will not be able to follow us down this path.  While I understand and respect those decisions, I grieve over them.

I grieve as well at the damage done to the body of Christ.  Some will regard this move as schismatic.  I would gently remind you that what has happened at Trinity has not happened in a vacuum.  Neither have the affairs of The Diocese of South Carolina.  The pain felt from this is similar to the pain of divorce.  However, I would hold that Trinity did not vote for this divorce.  To carry the analogy, Trinity was put in a position much more like that of a child of divorcing parents.  We had the difficult and awkward choice to make about who we will now live with.  And while this move separated us from the less than 2 million Anglicans in The Episcopal Church, it has strengthened our ties with the 80 million Anglicans around the world.  Many will disagree with me, but I believe the diocese is more united with the body of Christ now than it was before.  Nevertheless, the fracturing that is taking place in the American church is still painful.

My thoughts turn now to the future of Trinity.  Certainly we face some difficult days in the future.  The posture that The Episcopal Church has taken towards departing parishes and dioceses has also been a source of grief.  I continue to pray, plan, and work to make sure that those forces do not disrupt the fellowship and mission of Trinity.

With all that there is to grieve over, we have more over which we can rejoice.  First is the Gospel.  The benefits of the Gospel can never be robbed from us.  I take great comfort in that as I wait to see if there will be any moves against Trinity from the steering committee being organized in South Carolina by the National Church.  As the Scottish Anglican pastor and hymn writer, Henry Lyte wrote

Let the world despise and leave me, they have left my Savior, too;
Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like them, untrue.
And while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me, show Thy face and all is bright.

God has a habit of showing His face most brightly in our darkest hours.  And in that I rejoice.

I also rejoice that for the time being, Trinity no longer lives under an ecclesiastical structure that has not only forgotten the gospel, but has forgotten its central place in the life of the church.  Although we will need to continue to contend for this right, we no longer live under the threat of having faithful leaders removed for their commitment to the gospel.  Trinity does not have to worry about future generations not having the ability to choose a rector who is orthodox and biblical.  Trinity, and the other churches in The Diocese of South Carolina, no longer have to establish their identity by telling people what we are not, but can now do so by speaking positively of who we are.

I have long understood that anything worth doing is not easy.  As I look at the road ahead of us, I am excited even in the midst of my anxiety.  We have the opportunity now to begin to put ecclesiastical wranglings behind us and labor to win Myrtle Beach for the Gospel.  Part of the dysfunction in both the conservative and liberal wings of The Episcopal Church is that though we talk about each other, we do not talk to each other.  Part of the blessing of being Rector is that I do not have the ability to only speak with those who agree with me.  I would encourage you to take your frustrations, concerns, and wounds and speak directly with your brothers and sisters in Christ with whom you disagree.  The other option is that we huddle into likeminded groups of people who will agree with all of our thoughts and who will neither challenge nor be challenged by us.  If the process of healing is to begin, we must begin talking to one another.

Most importantly though, is that we let the Gospel do its work on us.  At the core of the Gospel message is that you and I were evil beyond our own ability to save ourselves.  “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved!”(Eph 2:4-5)  God is not looking at Trinity and giving thanks that we are all so holy that we are able to save our church.  Paul goes on to tell us “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”(Eph 2:8-9)  As much as He rejoices when His children are faithful to Him, He does so knowing that His grace has preceded and enabled that same faithfulness.  As we move forward in this season of the life of our church, let us do so not boasting in our own righteousness but rather in the knowledge of how “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11-12).”

In Him,
Iain

The following are some statements from 2007 from the Diocese of Northern Michigan. I’ve given some definitions & as we read there statements see if what they say fits either of these definitions. If they do notice that Pantheism& Panentheism both are at odds with the Word of God.

pantheism:
Doctrine that the universe is God and, conversely, that there is no god apart from the substance, forces, and laws manifested in the universe. Pantheism characterizes many Buddhist and Hindu doctrines and can be seen in such Hindu works as the Vedas and the Bhagavadgita. Numerous Greek philosophers contributed to the foundations of Western pantheism. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the tradition was continued in Neoplatonism and Judeo-Christian mysticism. In the 17th century Benedict de Spinoza formulated the most thoroughly pantheistic philosophical system, arguing that God and Nature are merely two names for one reality.
Panentheism:
In panentheism, the universe in the first formulation is practically the whole itself. In the second formulation, the universe and the divine are not ontologically equivalent. In panentheism, God is viewed as the eternal animating force behind the universe. Some versions suggest that the universe is nothing more than the manifest part of God. In some forms of panentheism, the cosmos exists within God, who in turn "pervades" or is "in" the cosmos. While pantheism asserts that 'All is God', panentheism goes further to claim that God is greater than the universe. In addition, some forms indicate that the universe is contained within God. Much Hindu thought is highly characterized by panentheism and pantheism.

More could be said but these definitions should suffice & now to a Statement below responding to the Dar es Salaam Communique  in 2007

“We seek and serve Christ in all persons
because all persons are the living Christ.
Each and every human being, as a human
being, is knit together in God’s Spirit, and
thus an anointed one – Christ.

Here is something that if you hear you should run. This equates to the man who says he’s a “scrambled egg”. All persons(all humans) are not the Second member of the Trinity. You are knit together by God Psalm (139:19) in a human womb, not into God. This statement attacks scripture by trying to twist the words & at the same time deny the Uniqueness of Jesus, God’s only begotten Son.

We do harmful and evil things to ourselves and one another, not because we are bad, but because we are blind to the beauty of creation and ourselves.

There is no one who is good  (Rom 3:11-12) would disagree and speak specifically to our not worshiping God like He deserves (Rom 1:18-22). We are blind to the Glory of God until the Truth of the Gospel lands on us & the Holy Spirit makes us Born Again (John3).

Because each and every one of us is an
only begotten child of God; because we,
as the church, are invited by God to see
all of creation as having life only insofar
as it is in God; because everything,
without exception, is the living presence,
or incarnation, of God;

This statement joins together definitions at the top, mixes in some words you know, all the while deny the Uniqueness of Jesus & the testimony of scripture which never says that rocks are an incarnation of God. But Jesus tells the Pharisees that if the people remained quiet the stones would cry out in worship of Him (Luke19:39-40).

We affirm the full dignity and
autonomy and interdependence of every
Church in the Anglican Communion and
reject any attempt of the Primates to
assume an authority they do not have nor
have ever possessed;”

I think they mean only if you believe & affirm what “they” believe will they not try to kick you out.

Standing Committee
Core Team
Diocesan Council
General Convention Deputation
11 August 2007

Diocese of Northern Michigan

Bishop Mark responds to the recent noncanonical actions by The Episcopal Church in South Carolina to reorganize a Diocese for the purpose of pursuing litigation against The Diocese of South Carolina and her parishes.