Posts Tagged ‘diocese of south carolina’

“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.

Many of us are still reeling from last week’s news of Bishop Mark’s restriction and the Diocese of SC’s subsequent departure from The Episcopal Church. Sunday November 11th at 4:00 pm, Bishop Lawrence will be coming to a yet to be determined location in our area to discuss the issues at hand. I would encourage everyone invested in Trinity to consider coming to hear Bishop Mark.

The Diocese of SC has just released this information. The Disciplinary Board for Bishops has sent confirmation to Bishop Mark and the Diocese of South Carolina that he has, in their opinion, abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.  This conclusion has been based on three charges that have been anonymously leveled against Bishop Mark.  Ironically, two of the three allegations had been previously dismissed by the Disciplinary Board in a previous accusation made last fall.  However, it is apparent that they have resurfaced and the Disciplinary Board has reversed its previous decision declaring that Bishop Mark has abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.  This is an offense which, if confirmed, could result in Mark’s removal as the Bishop of South Carolina. Because of recent changes to the disciplinary canons of the Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop and the Disciplinary Board hope to restrict Mark’s ministry among us until a vote by the House of Bishops to depose him. 

This news is as shocking as it is saddening. It would appear that the fracture between the Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Church has reached a tipping point. I have already heard reports that Mark has backed out of peace deals initiated by The Presiding Bishop and Bishop Waldo. This is categorically false. In fact, Bishop Mark initiated these talks in the hopes of working together with the office of The Presiding Bishop to create a peaceful resolution to the situation created by General Convention 2012.  While Bishop Mark left an initial meeting with the impression that the conversation would continue, this Monday the Presiding Bishop notified him of the Disciplinary Board’s decision to seek his removal.  It is hard to interpret these actions in any other way than as a clear sign that only those who are willing to submit to a specific agenda whether they agree with it or not are welcome in this church. As an ordained priest in The Episcopal Church who has made vows before God to be faithful to this church, I have often witnessed and  felt this hostility, and it grieves my spirit.

In anticipation of just such an event, and given the reality of a history of intrusions into the life of this diocese (to include the employment of legal counsel to investigate Trinity Myrtle Beach), the Standing Committee had passed a resolution that in the event of this type of an incursion, the diocese “withdraws its accession to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church and disaffiliates with the Episcopal Church by withdrawing its membership from the Episcopal Church.”  You can read the full resolution here.  I cannot comment on the full implications of this resolution beyond its plain meaning.  Certainly, the Standing Committee’s intent was to allow the Diocese of South Carolina to determine its future without the interference of any external entity.  This Friday, I will be attending an emergency clergy day in Charleston where I hope to learn more regarding this situation.

What does this mean for Trinity?  I can assure you that we will continue to be passionate about applying the Gospel to all of life and making disciples who change the world.  I can assure you that Trinity will continue to be a place where people of all walks of life are welcomed and embraced.  And I can assure you that I will do everything possible to keep Trinity together, informed, and prayerful about this crisis.  I would ask of the members of Trinity that we be very careful to prioritize our loyalties.  Our loyalty needs to rest first and foremost on the one “who loved us and gave Himself for us” (Galatians 2:20).  Trinity belongs to Jesus Christ.  Next, our loyalty to those with whom we sit face to face is infinitely important than the loyalty we have to any human institution or ideology.   Finally, we are called to labor together to fulfill the Great Commission.  If our relationship to any denomination frustrates our ability to fullfill our calling, we must reassess our alignment in order to be faithful to Christ.  If we keep these priorities in front of our faces, I am fully confident that Trinity will not only weather this storm but come out stronger on the other side.  

In the meantime, I covet your prayers for Trinity, myself as Rector, our Bishop Mark, the Disciplinary Board of The Episcopal Church, and The Presiding Bishop.

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina just released this statement in anticipation of this summer’s upcoming General Convention.  The General Convention has historically been the main governing body of the Episcopal Church.  In anticipation for GC 2012, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has published this 84 page document entitled Excerpts from ‘I Will Bless You, and You Will Be a Blessing’ Resources for Blessing Same Sex Relationships.”  This document ends with two resolutions.  Resolution A049 intends to ‘Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships’ and Resolution A050 intends to “Create [a] Task Force on the Study of Marriage .  The clear intent of this document and the resolutions is to begin blessing same sex relationships.  While the Standing Committee’s message is clear, I want to let you (especially members of Trinity Church) know where I stand as your Senior Pastor.

First off, let me simply reiterate that while I will be dealing with the issue of same sex blessings here, it is not the real issue.  The real issue in the Episcopal Church today is that we belong to a denomination that is increasingly abandoning the uniqueness of Jesus, His substitutionary death for sinners, and the authority of the Scriptures. 

The issue of same sex blessings/marriages, as an expression of these issues, has been to date one of the most controversial issues in the history of Anglicanism.  In the past decade it has threatened to tear apart one of the largest international Christian fellowships in the world.  It does not look like the issue is about to resolve itself either in the Anglican Communion or in the culture at large.  At the same time, this is an intensely personal issue.  It effects everyone who struggles secretly with same sex attractions, afraid of what friends and family will think if they find out.  It effects those who have taken the radical step of embracing a homosexual lifestyle as part of their identity.  And it effects everyone who knows and loves any of these people.  As such, it behooves the Christian to deal with this issue sensitively and in obedience to the full council of Scripture. 

You can expect a fuller treatment from me on the issue of homosexuality and same sex relationships from a biblical perspective in the future.  Suffice it to say today that I am in agreement with the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina’s statement.  Marriage exists as a central piece of the Biblical narrative.  The Bible begins with the marriage of Adam and Eve and ends with Christ being united with His Bride, the Church.  Furthermore, the New Testament teaches that marriage is a living symbol of the reality of the Trinitarian God (Ephesians 5:28-32, 1 Corinthians 11:3). The relationship between a husband and a wife is designed by God to show the relationship between God the Father and God the Son as well as the Relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church.  Because these relationships are essential to the Christian faith, any change in either the doctrine of marriage or the practice of marriage jeopardizes the Biblical understanding of who God is.  Recently I preached a sermon about how God is love because of His inter-Trinitarian relationship.  This sermon would be meaningless if we changed the doctrine of Christian marriage.

That being said, it is my opinion that the church has much to repent of in how we have dealt with people who have same-sex attractions.  Romans 3:23 states very clearly that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  That includes the homosexual and the heterosexual.  The church has been all to ready to condemn not only homosexual sin above heterosexual sin, but sexual sins above other kinds of sin.  The Gospel exists to free us from every kind of sin from adultery to envy, murder to gossip, the hatred of racism to the ambivalent acceptance of human pain and suffering while we live in opulence.  This means that no heterosexual Christian can boast in his sexuality.  According to the Scriptures, every human being is sinful and broken in every arena of their lives in desperate need of the salvation of Jesus Christ. 

Furthermore, the Gospel is readily available to forgive and cleanse any who would accept it.  To state that any non-Biblical behavior is beyond the transforming power of the Gospel is to deny the Gospel’s efficacy and relevance for our lives. In Romans 1:16, Paul says “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation to everyone who believes.”  If the Gospel were not powerful to overcome sin, I would be lost.  I must sensitively say then that the Gospel has the power to overcome any sexual desires condemned in Scripture. 

What Can You Expect at Trinity

Now that you know my personal stance here, what can you expect from your leadership in reaction to these upcoming events?  You can be sure that I will labor as vigorously as I always have to keep the Gospel in the very center of our vision.  I cannot communicate to you the level of concern I have that we would be sidetracked from the mission of the Gospel by these sideline issues.  Trinity must continue to labor to become a City on a Hill, a community that shines with the light of the Gospel.  There is no other option for us.  You can also be assured that I, the clergy, and the staff will continue to treat all people at Trinity with the same level of respect that we always have, regardless of sexual identity.  The ground at the foot of the cross is level ground and none of us has grounds to boast above another.  Finally, you can be sure that the Gospel, not morality, politics, or tolerance, will continue to be our message as long as I am here. 

In conclusion, I beg everyone at Trinity to “remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,” (2 Timothy 2:8 ESV).  Remember that it is He who has died for your sin.  Remember that it is He who lives for you today.  Remember it is He who will judge the living and the dead.  In light of that truth, let us treat one another charitably with respect knowing that none of us would be salvageable apart from the work of Christ.  I so dearly love being your pastor.  My prayer is that we would continue to move into a deeper and deeper knowledge and love of the One who died for us, and that we would do so together.

In Him,

Iain

n.b. I have decided to keep comments open.  Please remember to seek to honor Christ in every comment you make.

Preached by Bishop Mark Lawrence on June 21st 2009, confirmation service.

click here to watch

Upon being ordained into the deaconate in the Diocese of S.C., I received from the Bishop’s hands an English Standard Version of the Bible. As many of you know, I believe this translation to be one of the very best (if not the best?) currently available. It is a common thing at Trinity for the clergy to translate every scripture that we will be preaching on from the Greek into the English (although admittedly, I have lapsed in this as of late). Having completed our own translation, we then check it with current translations (NKJV, NIV, ESV, NRSV) as well as the translations found in commentaries to note differences and emphases. While I’m FAR from being an expert in N.T. Greek (I’m actually below amateur!), I am nevertheless able to appreciate the subtle differences in translation. It is for this reason that I preach from and commend at every opportunity the ESV Bible. The ESV describes the translation in this way:

The English Standard Version (ESV) Bible is a new, essentially literal Bible translation that combines word-for-word precision and accuracy with literary excellence, beauty, and depth of meaning.

What makes the ESV Bible unique and special?
First and foremost, the ESV is special because the Bible itself is like no other book. The words of the Bible are the very Words of God. As Jesus said, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63)

Second, the ESV is special because it is a “word-for-word” (click link for their translation philosophy) translation. The Bible says every word was “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). For this reason, the ESV seeks to translate the original Greek and Hebrew words with the greatest possible accuracy and precision.

Third, the ESV is special because it carries forward the great historic stream of Bible versions in English—with literary excellence, beauty, and depth of meaning, in a fresh and compelling way.

The ESV is unique and special. It’s the Bible to read and treasure through all your life—a great choice for young and old, for daily reading and personal study, for church and family, for teaching and preaching, and for memorizing the words of life.

So why is this posted under “Thought and Practice in the Dioceseo of S.C.?” Well, it applies immediately at Trinity Church, Myrtle Beach, because it is the Bible translation that the clergy rely on for personal devotion, teaching, and preaching as well as the Bible we always recommend to people. But also, and perhaps of greater significance, is recently the largest Episcopal church in the Diocese of S.C., St. Andrews Mt. Pleasant, made the ESV the official teaching, preaching, and study Bible of their church. They just finished replacing all of their old NIV translations with ESV. You can read about it on the official ESV website (with picture of all their new Bibles) here.

It is noteworthy that all newly ordained clergy in the Diocese since at least 2006 were issued the ESV, that several clergy depend upon it for personal devotion and preaching, and now the largest church in the Diocese is using it as their official translation. Perhaps you should consider it as well? Buy one here.

Also, the much anticipated ESV study Bible is now available. Learn about by clicking on the video below…

I don’t comment publicly or post regularly on the situation in the Episcopal church because it can so easily become an unhealthy obsession for so many people. I encourage myself and encourage my people to focus on Christ and when an action or response becomes necessary for us at Trinity then I will be happy to do whatever is necessary under Christ. Nevertheless, from time to time, important statements are made by people who directly affect our congregational life. Below is one such statement. I encouarge you to read it all.

All of this leads me to believe that the challenges that lie before a predominately conservative diocese like South Carolina have now been enormously increased if only because of the perception of our parishioners and clergy—but, more pertinently from what I fear is a failure of the present House of Bishops to realize just how far from historic Christianity our church has drifted. To many of our minds this, far more than Pittsburgh’s present challenge to TEC’s discipline and polity, is what has led to this current crisis. Beyond this the checks and balances previously given to us in the Constitution & Canons seem profoundly weakened. Phrases long understood as clear apparently can be spoken of as ambiguous. If what appears to be the plain meaning of a canon can be dismissed with apparent ease and with no recourse; if the request from such a monumental gathering as Lambeth 2008 urging greater dialogue and forthright conversation within the body of Christ seems to count for so little here in the first action of the House—even after so many TEC bishops report being profoundly moved by the grace exhibited toward us from those provinces grieved and hindered by our prior actions; and when there seems to be so little recognition that it has been the very actions of our General Convention and HOB in recent years that has so alienated dioceses like San Joaquin, Pittsburgh and others that their laity and clergy vote in such large majorities to remove accession clauses—judicious governance and Christian unity will drain like water from an opened hand. One might have wished for a more generous spirit and greater patience toward our own aggrieved members. Indeed one has to wonder where such tone deafness and purblindness come from.

I hesitate to write such words because I have been treated with respect within the House of Bishop since my first meeting in March 2008, then again at Lambeth, and most recently at this last meeting. But since to hold my words on such a crucial matter will serve no one well, including my own diocese of South Carolina, I try to present these concerns respectfully and for the purpose of more forthright conversations within the House of Bishops and the Church at large.

read it all here