Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, 2010! A Prayer for Peace.

Let us join our voices with those of the angels who brought us the Christmas message of Peace on Earth.

Glory to God in the Highest and, to All on Earth, Peace and Goodwill !

Here is a a portion of a prayer for peace....

"May the Lord banish from the hearts of all men and women whatever might endanger peace.
May He transform them into witnesses of truth, justice and love.
May He enkindle the rulers of peoples so that in addition to their solicitude for the proper welfare of their citizens, they may guarantee and defend the great gift of peace.
May He enkindle the wills of all so that they may overcome the barriers that divide, cherish the bonds of mutual charity, understand others, and pardon those who have done them wrong.
May all peoples of the earth become as brothers and sisters, and may the most longed-for peace blossom forth and reign always among men and women."

Pacem in Terris
Pope John XXIII, 4/11/63

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009!

A Holy and Blessed Christmas to all you...

One of my most favorite Christmas carols is the plaintive "I Wonder as I Wander." Its origins lie in a song fragment collected in Murphy, NC in 1933 by folklorist and singer, John Jacob Nies. Here is a beautiful performance. More information, including the lyrics, is below. One can surely hear the Appalachian Scots influence. I especially like the characterization of humankind as "poor or'ny people like you and I..."

While in the town of Murphy in Appalachian North Carolina, July 16, 1933, Niles attended a fundraising meeting held by evangelicals who had been ordered out of town by the police. In his unpublished autobiography, he wrote of hearing the song:
A girl had stepped out to the edge of the little platform attached to the automobile. She began to sing. Her clothes were unbelievable dirty and ragged, and she, too, was unwashed. Her ash-blond hair hung down in long skeins.... But, best of all, she was beautiful, and in her untutored way, she could sing. She smiled as she sang, smiled rather sadly, and sang only a single line of a song.
The girl, named Annie Morgan, repeated the fragment seven times in exchange for a quarter per performance, and Niles left with "three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material—and a magnificent idea". (In various accounts of this story, Niles hears between one and three lines of the song. Based on this fragment, Niles composed the version of "I Wonder as I Wander" that is known today, extending the melody to four lines and the lyrics to three stanzas. His composition was completed on October 4, 1933. Niles first performed the song on December 19, 1933 at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. It was originally published in Songs of the Hill Folk in 1934.

1. I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on'ry people like you and like I...
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

2. When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God's heaven a star's light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

3. If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God's angels in heav'n for to sing,
He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Shopmas and John the Baptist: An Advent Message from the Bishop of South Carolina

Dear Friends,
It’s a lot like bringing the boxes of Christmas decorations out of the attic or wherever you have them stored. Like pulling the Christmas sweaters from the wardrobe closet—that to my mind is the way the Church, each Advent, drags him out of the liturgical mothballs. His given name is John bar Zechariah. You know him as John the Baptist. He is completely out of step with what I have dubbed the Shopmas season. That is a word I coined some years ago to describe the season that begins the day after Thanksgiving and lasts until December 31th. It is celebrated with lights, glitter, cards, parties, presents, and most of all shopping accompanied by holiday music. It is enchanting how puissant such songs as “Winter Wonderland” or “White Christmas” can be for the shopkeeper’s business. Some preachers complain about this festive celebration. I kind of like it.

Continue reading at....

Friday, September 18, 2009

It's an Easy Thing to Fall into Worry...

....given all of the roiling of the waters - The Episcopal Church and our own diocesan stuff, tremendous anxiety about our care of the physical creation, the struggle over universal health care efforts, changes in strategy about the defense of our country and our allies, and our own smaller- but none the less important to us - concerns. Here are some words that I find genuinely comforting. May they bless you too.

"We must overcome our fear of the future. But we will not be able to overcome it completely unless we do so together. The 'answer' to that fear is neither coercion nor repression, nor the imposition of one social 'model' on the entire world. The answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the 20th century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty. And the 'soul' of the civilization of love is the culture of freedom: the freedom of individuals and the freedom of nations, lived in self-giving solidarity and responsibility.

"We must not be afraid of the future. We must not be afraid of man. It is no accident that we are here. Each and every human person has been created in the 'image and likeness' of the One who is the origin of all that is. We have within us the capacities for wisdom and virtue. With these gifts, and with the help of God's grace, we can build in the next century and the next millennium a civilization worthy of the human person, a true culture of freedom. We can and must do so! And in doing so, we shall see that the tears of this century have prepared the ground for a new springtime of the human spirit."

--Pope John Paul II during his remarkable address to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City on Oct. 5, 1995

(Thanks to T1:9)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The E100 at St. James Santee!

This past Sunday, September 13th, we began the E100 Challenge. This is an exciting program which helps congregations and individuals increase their biblical literacy and understanding of the broad themes of the bible - something that is difficult to do with many individual reading programs.
There are a number of ways to approach the program, and we will be preaching sequentially through the Essential 100 Bible Stories. The first 50 stories are from the Old Testament, and the second 50 are from the New Testament. Congregations and individuals who have particpated in the program report very positive experiences.
It will take us quite a while to get through all 100 stories because we will be pausing during Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, Easter Day, and the Second Sunday of Easter. Please see the link to the reading schedule at the right.
For more information about the E100 Challenge, check out this link

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bishop Lawrence's Address to the Clergy

This post will remain at the top of the blog page for the present time. Any other relevant documents will be posted just below it. Please see the Vicar's commentary on Bishop Lawrence's letter posted just below.

On August 13th, our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, addressed the clergy of the Diocese of S.C. His paper was distributed, and he read it aloud word for word to the gathering. Below is the link to his paper (on the diocesan web site). It is closely argued piece of writing and bears study.

Bishop Lawrence was under an extreme amount of pressure to make a significant statement, and I believe he has done just that. In his comments to the clergy, he said it was his desire to begin a conversation with the clergy and people of the Diocese of SC, and, in his paper, he has laid out a description of the landscape as he presently sees it along with his thoughts about how to proceed from this point.

The paper has received quite a bit notice, and the reaction has been all over the map. Bishop Allison (SC XII) said during the Q & A time that "“No living bishop that I know, in my opinion, is capable of having the faith, the scholarship, the courage, the wisdom to put out this paper.”

Here are some responses from a variety of perspectives:

The Living Church -

ENS (Episcopal News Service)

From David Virtue

My hope is to offer some personal commentary and analysis shortly. I look forward to our congregational discussion Sunday (the 23rd). I will publish my commentary here after our discussion.

Yrs in Christ,

PS. I've posted David Stoney's synopsis below.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Commentary on Bishop Lawrence's Letter

Dear Friends and Members of St. James Santee, In the post above, I promised that I would offer my own commentary on Bishop Lawrence's letter. This appears below. To any reading this, please note - this was written for the congregation I serve. If there are any errors or misrepresentations of Bishop Lawrence's paper, I take total responsibility. Original comments 8/22/09. Edited 8/24/09.

Bishop Lawrence's Address to the Clergy, August 13, 2009
Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina—August 13, 2009

I. Introduction:

Comments reference what follows below and are in BLUE.

Bishop Lawrence begins by warning the clergy about the danger of thinking it is possible to find a place of safety and security in order to avoid the storms that are presently impacting the life of The Episcopal Church. To think that such a place exists is delusional – the truth is that we have to go through the storm. Going through the storm for many Episcopalians has already meant struggles and suffering (conflict, division, loss of the use of their church buildings, being subject to lawsuits, loss of livelihood, loss of loving relationships with long time Church brothers and sisters and, perhaps, most difficult, profound grief over the loss of a known and trusted Church). South Carolina has been protected, with a few exceptions, from this storm for a time, but now it is coming our way.

This may seem upsetting but we always need to remember two things:
1. The Church and we are in God’s hands, and we can trust God to get us through.

2. And, things that look permanent now may not be because the political landscape in TEC and the larger Anglican Communion is shifting rapidly.

He sees four basic approaches that the people of the Diocese of SC are trying to use (those who are unhappy with the direction of General Convention). The first group thinks the way to deal with the troubles in TEC is to leave TEC and join forces with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) or some other church body. A second group believes that the Archbishop of Canterbury (and others in authority in the world-wide communion) will find a way and save us. The third group is stuck in a kind of paralysis and can’t decide what to do. The fourth group is in denial that the problems of TEC will affect us. But, none of these approaches is good or workable. In fact, we deceive ourselves if we think that it is possible at the present time to get away from the struggles happening in our church.

Among the many doctrines of our Faith to which I might ask you to turn your thoughts this morning it is first to that wonderful doctrine of God’s Providence. It was to this doctrine that my distant predecessor, The Rt. Reverend Robert Smith, first bishop of South Carolina, turned when he addressed the Colonial Assembly which gathered at St. Philips Church in the early months of 1775 as the winds of war were blowing on the eve of the American Revolution. Of course he was not at that time a bishop. There were no bishops on these shores, though Anglicanism was well into its second century on this continent. Nor was he a bishop when he returned to Charleston from imprisonment and banishment in 1783 to give his homecoming sermon, where once again he spoke of an “overruling Providence”. As perhaps you know, his banishment to a northern colony was due to his having taken words and arms against his former king and country—and having thrown in his lot with his adopted home, he risked and lost everything. He was taken to Philadelphia bereaved of wife (she had recently died), and bereft of home and parish. But on that public occasion in February 1775, before he had ever fired a musket towards a British troop, this unlikely patriot declared his deepest allegiance:
“We form schemes of happiness and deceive ourselves with a weak imagination of security, without ever taking God into the question; no wonder then if our hopes prove abortive, and the conceits of our vain minds end in disappointment and sorrow. For we are inclined to attribute our prosperity to the wisdom of our own councils, and the arm of our own flesh, we become forgetful of him from whom our strength and wisdom are derived; and are then betrayed into that fatal security, which ends in shame, in misery and ruin.”
Is it not towards such false peace or fatal security that we are tempted too often and too soon to fling ourselves?
I believe for us to discern God’s purpose and role for this diocese in this current challenge, and then to live it out faithfully, will involve each of us in more struggles and suffering than we have yet invested—for we have invested as yet, so little. This is not a challenge for a bishop or even a Standing Committee to face alone. None of us can afford to keep the members of our parishes uninformed of the challenges that lie ahead. Consequently, since I see struggle and suffering before each of us, it is towards God’s beneficent providence I chose first to turn our attention this morning. And where can we find a text to so focus our thoughts on this strengthening doctrine than that which is found in the prophet Isaiah—spoken to those in exile?
“Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.” (Isaiah 40:21-24)It is under such a godly Providence that we live—and it is under this godly providence, whether we act or merely stand firm in prayerful posture, that we “shall mount up with wings like eagles, [we] shall run and not be weary, [we] shall walk and not faint.” In our present situation some would counsel us that it is past time to cut our moorings from The Episcopal Church and take refuge in a harbor without the pluralism and false teachings that surround us in both the secular culture and within our Church; others speak to us of the need for patience, to “let the Instruments of Unity do their work”—that now is not yet the time to act. Still others seem paralyzed; though no less distressed than us by the developments within our Church, they seem to take a posture of insular denial of what is inexorably coming upon us all. While I have no immediate solution to the challenges we face—it is certainly neither a hasty departure nor a paralyzed passivity I counsel. Either of these I believe, regardless of what godly wisdom they may be for others, would be for us a false peace and a “fatal security” which in time (and brief at that) would only betray us. Others in their given circumstances must do what they believe God has called them to do.
One must remember, however, that it is an ever changing landscape in Anglicanism today so there is a need for dynamism lest one becomes too passive, and for provisionality ‘lest one should not notice the engagement has moved on to a new field of action.

II. The false Gospel of an Indiscriminate Inclusivity

In this section, Bishop Lawrence identifies what he thinks the real problem is. Those on the “conservative” side think they have been fighting against the national leadership of the Episcopal Church. The fight really is against something that is much larger – cultural trends that are masquerading as Church teachings, but which are at odds with creedal Christianity as found in the Nicene and Apostles creeds. He refers to a “false gospel” and names it as “the false Gospel of Indiscriminate Inclusivity". He says these teachings and trends are like a creeping vine which might initially appear attractive but, before you know it, has taken over the whole place and causing real damage. (Kudzu!)

It is perfectly understandable to me that many among us may look at the developments during the last several decades and believe it is The Episcopal Church (TEC) that is our problem. Those of us who refer to ourselves as reasserters, conservatives, Anglo-Catholics or Evangelicals, or sometimes under the sweeping moniker of “orthodox” have often felt ourselves driven, if not out, then to the margins of this Church. We refer sometimes with derision to the Presiding Bishop (whether Bps Browning, Griswold or Jefferts Schori). We speak of 815, the “National” Church, the General Convention, as problems we have to react to, and believe we know what it is we are fighting, or are in conflict with. Sometimes it all comes under the title of TEC. Never realizing perhaps that here at least in South Carolina we are the Church: The Episcopal Church. It is only as I’ve allowed my Lord to remove the anger toward these “institutions” of the Church that I can recognize with greater clarity what it is I need to engage—and even fight against.
When the apostle Paul heard that the churches of Galatia (Gal 1:2) were being misled by a “new” gospel, turning away from Christ and his grace it was not the churches themselves he attacked. Certainly he spoke firmly when he penned or dictated the words “O foolish Galatians! who has bewitched you…..” Or stated in those opening verses of the letter “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” His sharp words addressed the false teaching and those who preached it. (Galatians 1:6—9). So too in our present context it is not The Episcopal Church that is the problem, it is those who have cloaked it with so many strands of false doctrine that we can well wonder if indeed it can be salvaged. Like an invading vine unnatural to the habitat that has covered a once elegant, old growth forest with what to some looks like a gracious vine it is in fact decorative destruction. What may look like a flower may be bramble.

He goes on to describe some of the different ways these trends coming from outside the Church are impacting the most basic teachings of Christianity.

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. I must by necessity be brief and cannot give any of these concerns the attention they deserve.

Classical Trinitarian formulations are disappearing from our worship ( JTCO- what appears at General Convention usually is on its way to the folks in the dioceses and heralds prayer book revisions) and especially the use of “Father” as an address to God.

The Trinity.

One of the doctrines under barrage in our Church is an orthodox understanding of the Trinity. 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? As many of you know there is more here than I have time to explore this morning.

Is Jesus Christ the “only begotten Son of the Father” or not?

Uniqueness of Christ.

In my opinion the current Presiding Bishop has repeatedly been irresponsible with her comments regarding the doctrine of the Uniqueness and Universality of Christ. This will not surprise you, for I said as much to her when she visited us shortly after my consecration. In answering questions about the Uniqueness and Universality of Christ she has repeatedly suggested that it is not up to her to decide what the mechanism is God uses to save people. But, quite to the contrary, it is her responsibility as a bishop of the Church to proclaim the saving work of Jesus Christ and to teach what it is the Scriptures and the Church teach. Anything less from us who are bishops is an abdication of our teaching office. Otherwise how will the world know to whom to come? How will the unschooled within the Church know what they should believe? I do not cite this to be controversial but to reference the pervasiveness of this inclusive gospel that would, in its attempt to include all people and all religions, fail to rightly delight in, celebrate and worship him before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord. It does not honor another religion to not be forthright about one’s own. As the English Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali observed , “Fudging important issues and attempting a superficial harmonization gives a sense of unity that is untrue and … prevents real differences from being acknowledged and discussed.” And we haven’t time to discuss brief swipes toward confessional approaches to the faith except to ask—wasn’t the Lordship of Christ the first confession of the faithful—even in the face of Caesar’s claim to Lordship? Did not St. Paul teach that if we confess with our lips and believe in our hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord we shall be saved? Does not the baptismal rite require such a formulaic statement of the individual before the assembled body who witness it? Such statements, unfortunately, make it necessary for us to correct rather than to support leadership.

Trends at work in the culture (post-modernism and deconstructionism) teach us that there is no such thing as genuine authority outside of ourselves. Post-modernism asserts that the most compelling authority is individual experience. Bishop Lawrence heartily disagrees with this. He believes that the Bible is a trustworthy guide to matters of salvation and manner of life.

Scriptural Authority.

This is such a comprehensive dimension of our present crisis in the church that one hardly knows where to begin. But one can hardly do better than St. Ambrose’s statement that “the whole of Holy Scripture be a feast for the soul.” How seldom one hears upon us who are bishops in Tec such glowing statements about the Bible. In my experience all too many of our bishops and priests seem to mine the scriptures for minerals to use in vain idolatries. There is too little confidence expressed in its trustworthiness; the authority and uniqueness of revelation. Indeed, as J.V. Langmead-Casserly once put it, “We have developed a method of studying the Word of God from which a Word of God never comes.” Too often supposed conundrums or difficulties are brought up, seemingly in order to detract from traditional understandings, never considering the damage to the faithful’s trust in God and his Word. Ridiculous arguments such as shellfish and mixed fabrics are dragged out (long reconciled by the Fathers of the Church, as well as the Anglican Reformers) in order to confuse the ill-taught or the untutored in theology. And those who are intellectually sophisticated, schooled in many academic disciplines, but dreadfully untaught in the Bible and theology, are, through little fault of their own, except for naively trusting generations of slothful priests and bishops, are led astray. We must be willing to speak out against this.

Our church’s teaching about the meaning of Holy Baptism has been altered. Is ordination a right?

Baptismal Theology detached from Biblical and Catholic doctrine.

The phrase heard frequently at General Convention 2009 was “All the sacraments for all the Baptized”. One suspects that great Catholic teacher of the 4th Century, St. Cyril of Jerusalem would have been unconvinced for he wrote tellingly of Simon Magus, “he was baptized, but not enlightened. His body was dipped in water, but admitted not the Spirit to illuminate his heart. His body went down and came up; but his soul was not buried together with Christ nor with him raised.” (see Acts 8:9-24) Nevertheless, this inadequate baptismal theology was used to argue for the full inclusion of partnered GLBT persons to all the orders of the Church—deacons, priests and bishops. What it singularly misses is the straightforward teaching of the catechism, not to mention of the New Testament’s “teaching that baptism is a dying to self and sin and a rising to new life in Christ.” (N.T. Wright) Even if one would turn to the simplicity of the catechism one would encounter this question and answer: Q. What is required of us at Baptism? A. It is required that we renounce Satan, repent of our sins, and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Since when has baptism been the ticket to ordination in the Church? The Archbishop’s perceptive comment in section 8 of “Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future” is pertinent here.

Proponents of changing the church’s understanding of Holy Matrimony deny the overarching theology of Holy Matrimony embedded in the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.

Human Sexuality. While it has been a clever device of some in recent years to refer to the varied approach to marriage in the different epochs of biblical history, often done in ways that are intended to bring more confusion rather than clarity, (ignoring that well honored hermeneutic of interpreting the less clear passages of Holy Scripture by the clearer, or not interpreting one text in such a way that it is repugnant to another) we are back with that tendency of ordained leaders of the Church and professors of religion to confound the faithful rather than to instruct—it has been used repeatedly in this current debate regarding Human Sexuality and the establishment of an inclusive moral equivalency of GLBT sexual unions with the Christian understanding of marriage between a man and a woman.

The General Convention, in its drive to accommodate cultural trends, has systematically rejected any and all authority both within and outside of itself – even to the point of contradicting its own Constitution and Canons. General Convention has assumed the right and power to declare alone what will constitute authentic Christianity for TEC.

Constitution & Canons—Common Life.

These, and other examples that could be cited, are illustrative of this “new gospel” of Indiscriminate Inclusivity that began with a denigration of the Holy Scriptures, then, step by step has brought the very core teachings of the Christian faith under its distorting and destructive sway. Thus, if the Scriptures should teach something contrary to this “gospel’s” most recent incarnation, (take for instance the full inclusion of GLBT) then the Scripture’s broad themes or individual passages, which plainly oppose current understanding of same-sex genital behavior, must be deconstructed. And if the bonds of affection within the Worldwide Anglican Communion are a hindrance to this gospel of inclusivity then the moral authority and role of the Instruments of Unity are downplayed. Most recently at GC’09 when the BCP’s marriage service, rubrics, and catechism, as well as the Constitution & Canons speak of marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, therein conflicting with this inclusive “gospel”, resolution CO56 was passed contrary to our own order of governance and common life—thus one by one, the Holy Scriptures, the teachings of the Church, the Anglican Communion, the Ecumenical relationships with the other bodies of the Church Catholic, and now even our own Book of Common Prayer and Constitutions & Canons are subjugated to this “new” gospel. It is a foreign vine like kudzu draping the old growth forest of Episcopalianism with decorative destruction.
Below Bishop Lawrence discusses an additional problem with the “false gospel” at work in the Episcopal Church. TEC is part of a worldwide communion – one in which we exercise a great deal of influence because of how rich the Episcopal Church is in this country. Many of our sister Anglican churches in other countries are utterly impoverished. While TEC will give them aid, it has strings attached. In order to receive financial assistance, those churches and their bishops must embrace the “false gospel” being exported by TEC. Further, it is not just TEC but our Western culture which is spreading this false teaching, and this must be opposed. The culture should not dictate to the Church what its teaching should be. Quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury who suggests the Church’s life cannot be “wholly determined by what society at large considers usual or acceptable or determines to be legal”.

As I wrote in my post-Convention Letter to the Clergy ”There is an increasingly aggressive displacement within this Church of the gospel of Jesus Christ’s transforming power by the “new” gospel of indiscriminate inclusivity which seeks to subsume all in its wake. It is marked by an increased evangelistic zeal and mission that hints at imperialistic plans to spread throughout the Communion. This calls for a bold response.” It is not in my opinion the right action for this diocese to retreat from a thorough engagement with this destructive “new” gospel. As the prophet Ezekiel was called by the Lord to be a Watchman, to sound the alarm of judgment—to warn Israel to turn from her wickedness and live. We are called to speak forthrightly to The Episcopal Church and others, but even more specifically to the thousands of everyday Episcopalians who do not yet know the fullness of this present cultural captivity of the Church. Clearly this is not about the virtue of being “excluding”; it is about being rightly discerning about what is morally and spiritually appropriate. As the Archbishop of Canterbury suggests the Church’s life cannot be “wholly determined by what society at large considers usual or acceptable or determines to be legal”.

This is why those who want to leave really will not be able truly to escape this storm because it is all around us – it’s not just in TEC or confined to the religious sphere, but it affects every aspect of our thinking and life experience whether it is about education, the environment, or how we interpret the constitution.

Quite beyond this challenge within our Church this “gospel of indiscriminate inclusion” is as much a movement of the larger European and North American culture as it is a movement within the church. Thus, if one should seek to get away from it by leaving TEC, joining some other denomination, or continuing Anglican body (and please know, I do not say this critically of those who have chosen or felt called to leave) it will not free us from having to engage this challenge. As I’ve said on more than one occasion, this indiscriminant inclusivity is coming to a neighborhood near you. If you are in TEC and resisting this aggressive march you are already on the front lines. If you have a stomach to engage the battle you are rightly situated. It is now a matter of whether one is prepared to engage the challenge or not. We may prefer a false peace or fatal security but don’t think for a minute this challenge will not find us.

III. Our Present Strategy: Four Guiding Principles

Here, Bishop Lawrence proposes four basic principles (from which arise the actions proposed below). Each of these actions needs to be ratified by our diocese . Therefore, a special diocesan convention is being called for this purpose. The bishop and standing committee don’t want to act unilaterally and want to consult with the diocese as a whole on these basic strategies. (Comment JTCO: in my opinion, none of these actions violate the Constitution and Canons of TEC as presently formulated. None of these actions represent a “secession” from TEC. They represent “conscientious objection.” )

(1) Action proposed: Ordinations: When we ordain a priest or deacon in this diocese, we will attach a letter expressing our understanding of vows they make especially with regard to being bound to obey the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church. Each person who is ordained in TEC must sign an oath in order for their ordination to be recognized in TEC and in the larger communion. General Convention in the process of so altering the Doctrine of the Church so that it is in contradiction to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures (another promise) and the practices of our communion. This places our ordinands in an untenable position. (We have several ordinations coming up so this really is a pressing issue). Principle: It is confusing to church members when the actions of General Convention contradict themselves and the Holy Scriptures. We desire our ordinands to affirm unequivocably the basics of creedal Christianity which include The Lordship of Jesus Christ and the Sufficiency of Holy Scripture.

The Lordship of Jesus Christ and the Sufficiency of Holy Scripture: The first principle I wish to affirm in our diocesan life is that the Church lives its life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and under and upon the authority of Holy Scripture. As Article XX in the Articles of Religion states, “…it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.” (BCP p. 871) Since so many within our diocese may have been confused or disturbed by the newspaper and journal reports of the actions of General Convention 2009, and through reading the very resolutions D025 and C056 themselves, as well as the various contradictory statements by leaders in this Church interpreting what these resolutions mean, the Standing Committee and I are proposing that a Special Meeting of Convention (Diocesan Constitution Art.II sec.2) be called for Saturday, October 24th to deal with several concerns that need to be addressed. One such concern is what may be actually understood by the candidate for ordination as he or she makes the Oath of Conformity, and what the worshiping congregation will in the present climate understand by such a vow. When the ordinand pledges himself to “… solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church.” and variations thereof, “in accordance to the canons of this Church…” does that imply adherence to these recent resolutions of GC’09? The Standing Committee and I are proposing a resolution for Convention to approve the reading of a letter prior to the spoken vow, and attached with the signed document of conformity, at every ordination in this diocese, thereby making clear what the Church has historically meant by such an oath—explicating what the Book of Common Prayer means by loyalty “to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them.” (All quotations above may be found on p. 526 and 538 of the BCP)

2. Action proposed: Put some distance – for a time- between our selves and those members and bodies of General Convention which have embraced the “false gospel”. While we do not want to withdraw from TEC, we can not recognize the actions of General Convention as legal with regard to TEC’s own constitution and canons. Consequently, we need to put some distance between ourselves and the elements of TEC who have embraced the “false gospel”. Bishop Lawrence did not specify precisely what this means, but (and here I, JTCO, am speculating - it possibly might include the House of Deputies and Bishops, Province IV governance.) This could mean either not attending meetings or attending as observers only. Principle: Healthy boundaries are a necessary when one we love is behaving in ways that are destructive towards us.

The Appropriateness of Godly Boundaries - Withdrawal: Secondly, there is a need to establish appropriate boundaries and differentiation. Why? There is a need for this Diocese and the faithful across TEC to recognize that the actions of General Convention 2009 in adopting resolutions D025 and C056 along with going contrary to 1) Holy Scripture, 2) tradition—that is 2000 years of the Churches interpretation of these very scriptures—understood as the catholic principle of the consensus of the faithful, 3) the mind of the Anglican Communion as expressed in the resolutions of successive Lambeth Conferences and the considered conversation of Lambeth 2008, The Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates as well as the expressed hopes of the Archbishop himself, quite staggeringly also went against 4) even TEC’s own BCP, Catechism, and Constitution & Canons. It is my contention that a resolution adopted by a legislative body, contrary to the Constitution & Canons of that body, by its very adoption is made null and void. Such an institution is in violation of its own principles of governance. Therefore we cannot recognize the actions of GC”09 in passing resolutions DO25 and CO56 and believe that any diocese or bishop which allows partnered gay or lesbian persons to be ordained in holy orders, or allows blessings of same sex unions or “marriages” is in violation of the Canons. Frankly, it is rather staggering that many in the HOB after arguing in DO25 that we needed to return to being guided by our canons in regard to the ordination process instead of BO33, that this same convention then gave permission for bishops to disregard those very canons’ teaching toward marriage. I have personally witnessed the House of Bishops deposing sitting bishops for what they believe was an indiscreet disregard of the Church’s Constitution & Canons. Now hardly a year later the same governing body votes to give certain bishops the permission to do so!
This begs the question—how an institution, having jettisoned what for 2000 years has been the understood teaching of Holy Scripture and collective wisdom of Christendom, and taken refuge in its vaunted polity as expressed in its Constitution & Canons, can allow itself to proceed without first changing those canons? Two reasons: 1) The agenda of Inclusivity is viewed by many to be of such overriding importance as an issue of justice that it subjugates everything under its rubrics. 2) The level of conformity is so staggering that only a few would seem capable of resisting its pressure. And too often, even then the resistance is “This will not fly back home” rather than “I believe this is theologically wrong”. The Standing Committee and bishop will be proposing a resolution to come before the special convention that this diocese begin withdrawing from all bodies of governance of TEC that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture; the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them; the resolutions of Lambeth which have expressed the mind of the Communion; the Book of Common Prayer (p.422-423) and the Constitution & Canons of TEC (Canon 18:1.2.b) until such bodies show a willingness to repent of such actions. Let no one think this is a denial of the vows a priest or bishop makes to participate in the councils of governance. This is not a flight into isolation; nor is it an abandonment of duty, but the protest of conscience. It is recognition that the actions of GC’09 were in such blatant disregard and violation of Holy Scripture, the bonds of affection, and our own Constitution & Canons that one is led by reasoned conviction to undertake an intrepid resistance to the tyranny of the majority over judicious authority; therein erring both in Faith and Order.

3. Action proposed: Develop more engaged relationships with other dioceses and congregations who do not support the actions of General Convention. This could also includes developing relationships with other dioceses and provinces in the larger communion. Note: This would be a kind of “Companion Diocese or Congregation” type relationship. This should be strongly led by the laity of the diocese. By working together, we can overcome what seems to be the isolation of holding theological positions contrary to General Convention.
Principle: Instead of investing ourselves in theological debate with positions that have “won the day” in TEC, it would be more productive to work with others to move forward with the mission of the Church.

Domestic Engagement for Relief and Mission: Thirdly, I have noted in my Post-Convention Letter to the Clergy of the Diocese that we need to find a place not only to survive, but to thrive, and that this needs to be faithful, relational and structural. But this is not merely for our sake, but for others. I have been in conversation with bishops of other dioceses in TEC which find themselves in similar positions of isolation. We have discussed the possibility of developing gatherings of bishops, clergy, and laity for the express purpose of encouragement, education and mission. These gatherings in different regions of the country could bring internationally recognized Christian leaders from across the Anglican Communion to address such things as Holy Scripture, Christian doctrine, issues of pressing concern within the church, as well as the ever important work of ministry, evangelism, mission and church planting. These Dioceses in Missional Relationship I believe can create an environment which will lead to positive growth and concerted actions not merely for future survival but more importantly for growth and expansion.
There is also a need to find ways to support conservative parishes and missions in dioceses where there is isolation or worse. I would like to encourage congregations in this diocese to create missional relationships with “orthodox” congregations isolated across North America. There, consequently, is a need for the laity in South Carolina to be awakened and mobilized for engagement. This includes but is not limited to courses in theology which enables them to articulate their faith in the face of an aggressive displacement biblical and catholic teaching—not only in order to evangelize the lost, but to encourage the laity across the church who are surrounded by teaching that is clearly contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let me say it quite candidly, there may be effective initiatives the laity can undertake that would not be possible for the clergy in this present climate.

Action: Assert our proper authority as a diocese - the basic organizational unit of the Church - to embrace the Anglican Covenant the current version of which is known as the Ridley-Cambridge Draft. The purpose of this is to remain in good standing with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the rest of the world-wide communion. The possibility of a two-track communion is very real. We want to stay in relationship with those provinces, dioceses, and churches who faithfully reflect creedal Christianity. Note from JTCO: TEC comprises approximately 2.6% of the total members of the worldwide communion which now numbers approximately 77 million members. Principle: The relationships we have within TEC and in the larger communion are a gift of God. This is not a time to stay in our ivory tower.

The Emergence of 21st Century Anglicanism: Fourthly, we need to be guided by the principle that we are called to help shape an emerging Anglicanism that is sufficient of the 21st Century. The Archbishop in his recent “Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future” rightly noted that “it would be a great mistake to see the present situation as no more than an unhappy set of tensions within a global family struggling to find a coherence that not all its members actually want. Rather, it is an opportunity for clarity, renewal and deeper relation with one another—and so also with Our Lord and his Father, in the power of the Spirit.” He went on to note, “If the present structures that have safeguarded our unity turn out to need serious rethinking in the near future, this is not the end of the Anglican way and it may bring its own opportunities.” Indeed, I believe it not only “may”; I believe it will. You have heard me say on several occasions, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” Well, I believe we should not waste this crisis—neither the ecclesiastical crisis nor the attending economic one. And certainly we should not waste it by taking refuge in a false peace that expresses itself in a retreat into an insular parochialism or a “fatal security” which for us, at least now, would be an escape. We have the opportunity to help shape the emergence of a truly global Anglicanism—Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age. I believe we have a unique role to play within the Anglican Communion. If at present we play that role by being in but not of the mainstream of TEC is it any less important? We passed at our Diocesan Convention in March a resolution which asserted our authority as a diocese to sign onto the Anglican Covenant. The final section read,
“Be it further resolved, that as the Diocese of South Carolina did choose at its Diocesan Convention in 1785, to organize as a diocese, (one of the first seven dioceses in these United States to so organize in that year), and to send delegates to the first General Conventions to organize the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and thereby freely associate its clerical and lay members with the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society—presently known as The Episcopal Church; so this same Diocese does also assert its authority to freely embrace such a Covenant in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to seek to remain a constituent member of the Anglican Communion should the Instruments of Unity allow such diocesan association.”
The Archbishop has expressed in section 25 of “Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future” his strong hope that “elements” [dioceses?] will adopt the Covenant. I believe we ought to sign on to the Ridley Draft of the Covenant as it presently stands in all four sections. (If it means we need to withdraw from a lawsuit we withdraw from a lawsuit). Therefore we need to begin the process of studying the Ridley Draft in every deanery and parish and be prepared to vote on it either in the special convention in October or, if that’s too ambitious a time frame, no later than our Annual Diocesan Convention in March 2010.
You need to know that the Anglican Communion Development Committee has already had its first meeting and will begin this fall to vigorously establish relationships with a broad array of Provinces across the Communion. You have heard me speak of this often, including during my Bishop’s Address last March. This still strikes me as one of the most important activities we should pursue. We can work with several of the Provinces within the Communion, and, if they are so inclined to partner with us, we should work with GAFCON and ACNA from within TEC to further gospel initiatives.
I believe we are as financially strong, and as spiritually and theologically unified as any conservative diocese left in TEC. We have I believe the resources to focus on the mission and ministry within the diocese of South Carolina as well as working within TEC to shore up and encourage the faithful; and at the same time to help shape the emerging Anglicanism of the 21st Century. Admittedly, this is a tall order. Though accurate statistics are hard to come by I believe there are still more theologically orthodox believers still inside of TEC than have left. Yet they seem increasingly isolated, with few leaders to encourage them. I believe we have a moral and spiritual call/obligation to stay in the fight with those still in TEC who look to us for hope; and to stay for as long as it is within our consciences to do so. On this last caveat, clearly the clock for many of us is loudly ticking. Few of us doubt there will be a strong push to make what is now de facto, de jure in GC2012. Along with this the number of partnered GLBT priests—and quite likely bishops will continue to increase (given the recent nominees in Episcopal elections in Minnesota and Los Angeles)—putting facts on the ground which the rest of us have to react to or deal with as best we can. As events unfold it will be necessary for us to put risky facts on the ground as well.

IV. Concluding Thoughts
Here Bishop Lawrence comments:
1. There may be some who disagree with the directions and decisions of the Bishop, Standing Committee, and Diocesan Convention. If this is the case, he will work with such parishes to help them find a Bishop (and diocese) with which they can work – as an alternative. (JTCO: In my opinion, I believe the Bishop was thinking of the parishes in our diocese who generally support the actions of General Convention. )
2. We will not and cannot tolerate prejudice against LBGT persons especially since heterosexual persons also suffer from and bear the scars of sexual brokenness. To do otherwise is hypocrisy.
3. Call for a special convention. Laity need to be educated about the issues before us.
4. Let us rise to the challenge.

But before I conclude I need to address a sensitive issue. 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 of South Carolina. 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. I hope all can recognize in the things I have addressed above the three marks of the church recognized in Evangelical Anglicanism—1) Proclamation of the Word of God; 2) the sacraments duly administered; 3) order and discipline (Art. XIX)—yet there is that fourth mark (that to which Bishop and Martyr Nicholas Ridley referred, echoing of course St. Paul in I Corinthians 13; Galatians 5:22 and nurtured in the life of the church by the Holy Spirit), 4) the mark of charity, without which we are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. And then for most of us there’s the one I just mentioned, 5) the beneficence of the historic episcopate.
I must address another thing under the rubric of love—and in this I follow the lead of Lambeth 1.10, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and I trust with the Church Catholic around the world: we are not to be in this Diocese about the business of encouraging prejudice or denying the dignity of any person, including, but not limited to, those who believe themselves to be Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, or Transgender. As those who know me well will acknowledge, it grieves me that so much of the battle has been waged here, and if the full story were to be told I believe that many who understand themselves through these categories wish it were not as well. 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.
It is an increasingly fluid landscape in which we are called to do our work and at times seems to change from week to week as developments take place on several fronts. While our principles may stay consistent our strategy must be dynamic and provisional. To this end the Standing Committee and I are calling for a Special Convention of this diocese to be held on Saturday, October 24th at Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant. As bishop I am asking every parish and mission to call a congregational meeting to broadly engage these matters and to inform the delegates who will represent them at this upcoming convention. I am also asking every deanery to engage these challenges at a clericus level and in deanery meetings for clergy and lay delegates. Frankly, I don’t know how to say this in any other way but to tell you that this is a call to action; of mobilization of clergy, parishes and laity. What I have stated here is only a start—the turning of the ship. While striving to stay as intact as possible—we need believers who are informed, engaged, missional and faithful.
For now our task is clear: 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. In our pursuit of these principles I remind you of where I began in this address—Bishop Smith’s eschewing of a fatal security which he feared would end “in shame, in misery and ruin.” He refused such a comfortable course and in time it led him to risk—and to lose everything. This may one day come to us. For now what lies before us is to engage this challenge with all the will and resources of a strong and growing diocese. With the clarity of God’s call, the courage to walk in step with the Spirit, and the confidence of an overruling Providence in, with and through Christ, we shall not only endure, but prevail. I leave now with this—we cannot choose to follow God without following what God has chosen for us. So, “Lead kindly, Light.” Amen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

David Stoney's Synopsis

I've no doubt left out some important things, but this hits what to me seemed to be the main points. I used the copy that Cheves sent and printed it out to get the page numbers - David

Synopsis of Bishop Lawrence’s Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina – August 13, 2009

“This is a call to action; of mobilization of clergy, parishes, and laity.” (p10)
“I see struggle and suffering before each of us.” (p1)
“To risk – and to lose everything. This may one day come to us.” (p10)

I. Bishop Lawrence complains:
The Episcopal Church (TEC) is associated with “pluralism and false teachings.” (p2)
Orthodox clergy have often felt themselves “driven, if not out, then to the margins of this church.” (p2)
“[S]trands of false doctrine” and “a multitude of false teachings” have coalesced into a “false Gospel of Indiscriminate Inclusivity.” (p3)
False teachings include
Too little reference to “God the Father” and the Trinity; lack of “Eucharists according to the rites in the Book of Common Prayer” at General Convention. (p3)
Repeated “irresponsible” comments by the Presiding Bishop regarding the “Uniqueness and Universality of Christ.” The Presiding Bishop has failed “to proclaim the saving work of Jesus Christ and to teach what it is the Scriptures and the Church teach,” namely that anyone who wants to go to heaven must “delight in, celebrate, and worship him before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord.” (p3)
Scriptural authority has been compromised because “there is too little confidence expressed in its trustworthiness; the authority and uniqueness of revelation.” (p4)
The “faithful’s trust in God and his word” has been damaged by inappropriate argumentation. (p4)
Baptismal theology (“All the sacraments for all the Baptized”) has been incorrectly used to argue for the full inclusion of the of partnered GLBT persons to all the orders of the Church – deacons, priests, and bishops.” (p4)
Confounding arguments have been used in the “debate regarding Human Sexuality and the establishment of an inclusive moral equivalency of GLBT sexual unions with the Christian understanding of marriage between a man and a woman.” (p5)
· Bishop Lawrence concludes that the examples above illustrate how the “new Gospel of Indiscriminate Inclusivity that began as a denigration of the Holy Scriptures,” has “step by step has brought the very core teachings of the Christian faith under its distorting and destructive sway.” (p5)

II. Bishop Lawrence warns and admonishes:
Clergy (and Bishops) may become involved “in more struggles and suffering.” He sees “struggles and suffering before each of us.” (p1)
Something dangerous “is inexorably coming upon us all.” (p2}
“It is not TEC that is the problem,” (p4) nor is it TEC that must be engaged and fought against. (p2)
“There is an increasingly aggressive displacement within this Church of the gospel of Jesus Christ’s transforming power by the ‘new’ Gospel of indiscriminate inclusivity which seeks to subsume all in its wake.” (p5)
This diocese should thoroughly engage “this destructive ‘new”’ gospel,” that “we are called to speak forthrightly to The Episcopal Church and others, but even more specifically to the thousands of everyday Episcopalians who do not yet know the fullness of this present cultural captivity of the Church.” (p5)
Leaving TEC will not “free us from having to engage this challenge.” (p6)
“Clearly the clock for many of us is loudly ticking. Few of us doubt that there will be a strong push to make what is now de facto, de jure in GC2012.” (p9)
“As events unfold, it will be necessary for us to put risky facts on the ground...” (p9)
No one in this Diocese should encourage prejudice or deny dignity to “any person, including, but not limited to, those who believe themselves to be Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, or Transgender... so few of us are free from scars of sexual brokeness.” (p10)

III. Bishop Lawrence concludes and suggests certain resolutions and actions:
“[R]esolution CO56 was passed contrary to our own order of governance and common life – thus one by one the Holy Scriptures, the teaching of the Church, the Anglican Communion, the Ecumenical relationships with the other bodies of the Church Catholic, and now even our own Book of Common Prayer and Constitutions & Canons are subjugated to this ‘new’ gospel.” (5)
A “Special Meeting of Convention” is called for Saturday, October 24th “to deal with several concerns that need to be addressed.” (p6)
One such concern is the need to approve a letter to be read prior to any ordination that would repudiate the recent resolutions of GC’09. (p6)
Since the resolutions passed by GC’09 are contrary to the Constitution & Canons of TEC,” their adoption is null and void.” Therefore, “any diocese or bishop which allows partnered gay or lesbian persons to be ordained in holy orders, or allows blessings of same sex unions or ‘marriages’ is in violation of the Canons.” (p7)
A resolution to begin withdrawing “from all bodies of governance of TEC that have assented to” such actions. (p7)
Congregations in the Diocese of South Carolina should work toward creating “missional relationships with ‘orthodox’ congregations isolated across North America.” (p8)
The Diocese of South Carolina should “sign on to the Ridley Draft of the [Anglican] Covenant as it presently stands in all four sections” and vote on this decision in October 2009 or March 2010. (p9)
Establishing relationships “with a broad array of Provinces within the [Anglican] Communion,” under the Anglican Communion Development Committee, is “one of the most important activities we should do,” including “GAFCON and ACNA from within TEC to further gospel initiatives. (p9)
“This is a call to action.” (p10)
“Should a parish find it needs to be served by alternative Episcopal care I will work with them toward that end....[T]hese are challenging times, and if I am called to lead in such an assertive manner as I have suggested here, pastoral sensitivity suggest I should give space to those who feel they need it.” (p9)

Prepared by S. David Stoney, August 20, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

VBS wrap up

VBS was a great time. 53 children registered. More than 40 adults helped and, nearly 140 folks attended the Friday night closing and cookout. Thanks to one and all. It was terrific working with the four churches - St. James, New Wappetaw Presbyterian, McClellanville First Baptist, and McClellanville Methodist. We are on for the same time next year...July 12-16, 2010.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Today we gathered and did a decoration marathon. It is a wonderful thing to work with such an energetic and talented group. Check out the transformation above. is not too late for your child or you to join us. Registration is 8:45 tomorrow and kids can come throughout the week.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day....

There are those, I Know, who will say the the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American dream. * Archibald MacLeish

Dear Friends, Let us dream on and on.......

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Prayer in a Time of Change

The Church Times is published in England. Founded in 1863, it is the world's leading Anglican newspaper. The following article by the Rev. Richard Lamey is from the June 26, 2009 issue.

Lord, take my heart and break it: break it not in the way I would like, but in the way you know to be best. And, because it is you who break it, I will not be afraid, for in your hands all is safe and I am safe. Lord, take my heart and give to it your joy, not in the ways I like, but in the ways you know are best, that your joy may be fulfilled in me. So, dear Lord, I am ready to be your deacon, ready to be your priest.
Archbishop Michael Ramsey (1904-1988)

THIS prayer by Archbishop Michael Ramsey was used with ordinands on the eve of their ordination. It is the climax of an ordination charge built on St Paul’s description of life as a disciple of Christ: “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6.10).
It is the perfect prayer for ordina­tion-eve. It is the perfect prayer for any time of change, of fresh chal­lenge, of moving deeper into God’s purpose. It says that serving God will not always be easy or smooth or com­fortable, but that it is the only way to be fully alive, fully human, fully our­selves.
For those about to be dea­coned, there is a real sense of standing on the cusp of something at once ex­citing and uncertain. It has been a long road to this moment, but now the ques­tions rush in. Am I ready? Will I be able to bear the expectations placed on me? How will it feel to wear a clerical collar? Will I still be me? How will I cope when I don’t know the words to say, the comfort to offer, or the chal­lenge to give?
Deacons about to be priested know perhaps a little more, and have begun to work out something of what it is to be called to this place in the life of the Church. Sometimes that brings only more questions.
All of us, at different times, face un­certainty and disorientation. All of us lose our landmarks, the things we take for granted. Illness, grief, be­trayal, and un­employment have that effect on each of us. So does the call to take a risk for God, to dare to love, to dare to be vulnerable.
We do not always know where God and experience will lead. But we do know that God promises to be with us in everything, redeeming what wounds us, and laughing with us when we re­joice.
This prayer reminds us that the Risen Christ is both Lord and scarred. We meet the God of our salvation. We put our trust in him. And we place our­selves at his disposal.
When self-image and laziness in­ter­rupt, we ask God to break us out of our selfishness. When we need en­couragement, we ask God to fill our hearts with unexpected joy.
Archbishop Ramsey says that, in everything — in brokenness and joy, in frustration and fulfilment — he will not fear because he knows that he is safe in the hands of God. This is the prayer and the confidence he offers to those he will ordain in the morning.
Here is a prayer for everyone facing fresh adventures for the gospel. It is a prayer for those coming to terms with tragedy, for those waiting for the light of Christ to dawn, for those who feel joy bubbling within them.
This is a prayer for everyone who would take the immense risk (which is no risk at all) of giving their heart and their life back to God. “In your hands all is safe, and I am safe.”

The Revd Richard Lamey is Priest-in Charge of Newton in Mottram and Rural Dean of Mottram, in the diocese of Chester.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Trinity Sunday Pt. I

The Te Deum is one of the Church's great hymns of praise to the Holy Trinity. This version is sung by the Monks of La Grande Chartreuse in France (the head monastery of the Carthusian Order). The Te Deum is said to have been chanted by St Ambrosius and St Augustine. It is part of the midnight prayers, the vigil, and is chanted at night before Sundays and feast days. This one is chanted in the darkness by candlelight. Very beautiful.

The English translation of the Latin is below.

I remember loving singing this as a child chorister at Trinity Church, Columbia. The phrase "thine adorable, true and only Son" might have been my favorite line...somehow I don't think adorable meant what I thought it meant. Jesus is pretty adorable though - in both senses.

Te Deum laudamus - We Praise Thee O God

We praise thee, O God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord. All the earth doth worship thee the Father everlasting.To thee all the angels cry aloud the heavens and all the powers therein.To thee cherubim and seraphim continually do cry Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of the majesty of thy glory. The glorious company of apostles praise thee.The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise thee. The noble army of martyrs praise thee. The Holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee; the father of an infinite majesty;thine adorable true and only Son; also the Holy Ghost the comforter. Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ. Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man, thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb. When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Thou sittest at the hand of God in glory of the Father. We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge. We therefore pray thee, help thy servants, whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood. Make them to be numbered with thy saints in glory everlasting.

O Lord save thy people and bless thine heritage.Govern them and lift them up for ever.Day by day we magnify thee;and worship thy name, ever world without end. Vouchsafe, O Lord to keep us this day without sin. O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us.O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us, as our trust is in thee. O Lord in thee have I trusted let me not be confounded.

English Translation - Wikipedia

Trinity Sunday, Pt. 2

...and here is another hymn of praise to the Holy Trinity. This one very different but equally wonderful.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Pentecost!

Thanks to David Dubay for finding this great video

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ

"This Ascension Day is properly the most solemn feast of our Lord Jesus: for this day first in his manhood he began to sit on the Father's right hand in bliss and took full rest of all his pilgrimage before. Also this is properly the feast of all the blessed spirits in heaven: for this day they had a new joy of their lord whom they saw never before there in his manhood. And also for that day began first to be restored the falling down of their fellows, and that in so great multitude and number of blessed souls of patriarchs and prophets and all those holy souls that this day first entered into that blessed City of heavenly Jerusalem, their kind heritage above."
The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ (translated by Nicholas Love).
Illustration from The Hermanoleom Collection

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Rescuing Hug

Jesus said to his disciples, "Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." Touch communicates what is most is a wonderful story about the power of touch.

Heidi and Paul Jackson's twin girls, Brielle and Kyrie, were born October 17, 1995, 12 weeks ahead of their due date. Standard hospital practice is to place preemie twins in separate incubators to reduce the risk of infection. that was done for the Jackson girls in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Medical Center of Central Massachusetts in Worcester.
Kyrie, the larger sister at two pounds, three ounces, quickly began gaining weight and calmly sleeping her newborn days away. But Brielle, who weighed only two pounds at birth, couldn't keep up with her. She had breathing and heart-rate problems. The oxygen level in her blood was low, and her weight gain was slow.
Suddenly, on November 12, Brielle went into critical condition. She began gasping for breath, and her face and stick-thin arms and legs turned bluish-gray. Her heart rate was way up, and she got hiccups, a dangerous sign that her body was under stress. Her parents watched, terrified that she might die.
Nurse Gayle Kasparian tried everything she could think of to stabilize Brielle. She suctioned her breathing passages and turned up the oxygen flow to the incubator. Still Brielle squirmed and fussed as her oxygen intake plummeted and her heart rate soared.
Then Kasparian remembered something she had heard from a colleague. It was a procedure, common in parts of Europe but almost unheard of in this country, that called for double-bedding multiple-birth babies, especially preemies.
Kasparian's nurse manager, Susan Fitzback, was away at a conference, and the arrangement was unorthodox. But Kasparian decided to take the risk.
"Let me just try putting Brielle in with her sister to see if that helps," she said to the alarmed parents. "I don't know what else to do."
The Jacksons quickly gave the go-ahead, and Kasparian slipped the squirming baby into the incubator holding the sister she hadn't seen since birth. Then Kasparian and the Jacksons watched.
No sooner had the door of the incubator closed then Brielle snuggled up to Kyrie - and calmed right down. Within minutes Brielle's blood-oxygen readings were the best they had been since she was born. As she dozed, Kyrie wrapped her tiny arm around her smaller sibling.
By coincidence, the conference Fitzback was attending included a presentation on double-bedding. This is something I want to see happen at The Medical Center, she thought. But it might be hard making the change. On her return she was doing rounds when the nurse caring for the twins that morning said, "Sue, take a look in that isolette over there."
"I can't believe this," Fitzback said. "This is so beautiful."
"You mean, we can do it?" asked the nurse.
"Of course we can," Fitzback replied.
Today a handful of institutions around the country are adopting double-bedding, which seems to reduce the number of hospital days. The practice is growing quickly, even though the first scientific studies on it didn't begin until this past January.
But Heidi and Paul Jackson don't need any studies to know that double-bedding helped Brielle. She is thriving. In fact, now that the two girls are home, they still steep together - and still snuggle.

(From, Nancy Sheehan, Readers Digest, May 1996)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Easter Season...Tell a Joke!

Easter Season is my favorite time of year for humor. Here is a YouTube piece that sums up Church History in a mere two minutes and thirty-three seconds. Enjoy!
Please note: A single click on the play button below will allow you to view the video on this page. A double click will take you to the YouTube website where other works of this comedian are posted. One church member has alerted me to the fact that while this video is "good clean fun", other videos by him which are posted closeby are fairly bawdy. Please be forewarned and look at the video right here with a single click. O the joys of the internet!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Brick Church Sunday is Tommorrow - April 19th, 2009

...and we hope you can join us. It will be a great day. Our bishop, The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence and Mrs Lawrence (Allison) will be with us. The service will be RT I and Confirmation (go Gabbe!) and Reception.

The service begins at 11:00 am. Bring a covered dish, your most joyful spirits and join us.

The picnic will still be on even if it is raining. In the event of SEVERE weather (tornadoes), the picnic will be moved to the Morrison House (the parish house of the Chapel of Ease - directions to the right).

For directions from Charleston, click on the link to the right.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jesus Christ is Risen Today! Alleluia!

A Most Blessed Easter to you and yours ! May you be deeply enlivened by the Resurrection power of the Risen Christ.

Benvenuto di Giovanni - "The Resurrection", probably 1491 Samuel H. Kress Collection

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday

The church is dark now. The altar is stripped and bare. Some are getting up and leaving in silence. Others remain kneeling, looking into the darkness. Holy Saturday is ahead, the most quiet day of the year. The silence of that silent night, holy night, the night when God was born was broken by the sounds of a baby, a mother’s words of comfort and angels in concert. Holy Saturday, by contrast, is the sound of perfect silence. Yesterday’s mockery, the good thief’s prayer, the cry of dereliction—all that is past now. Mary has dried her tears, and the whole creation is still, waiting for what will happen next.Some say that on Holy Saturday Jesus went to hell in triumph, to free the souls long imprisoned there. Others say he descended into a death deeper than death, to embrace in his love even the damned. We do not know. Scripture, tradition and pious writings provide hints and speculations, but about this most silent day it is perhaps best to observe the silence. One day I expect he will tell us all about it. When we are able to understand what we cannot now even understand why we cannot understand.--Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Around the World

Every year the BBC publishes photographs of Christians around the world marking Good Friday. This one is from Pakistan. Take some time and have a look. The rest can be found in the full article at . More pictures are here

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Poem for Maundy Thursday

The Last Supper by Ranier Maria Rilke

On seeing Leonardi Da Vinci's "Last Supper", Milan, 1904.
Translated by Albert Ernest Fleming

They are assembled, astonished and disturbed
round him, who like a sage resolved his fate,
and now leaves those to whom he most belonged,
leaving and passing by them like a stranger.
The loneliness of old comes over him
which helped mature him for his deepest acts;
now will he once again walk through the olive grove,
and those who love him still will flee before his sight.

To this last supper he has summoned them,
and (like a shot that scatters birds from trees)
their hands draw back from reaching for the loaves
upon his word: they fly across to him;
they flutter, frightened, round the supper table
searching for an escape. But he is present
everywhere like an all-pervading twilight-hour.

Click on the picture to see a larger image.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Holy Week , Easter Day and Brick Church Calendar

April 9 - Maundy Thursday – 7:00 PM - Foot Washing & Holy Eucharist

April 10 - Good Friday – Noon – Liturgy of the Day

April 12- Easter Day -10:00 AM – Flowering of the Cross followed by Festal Eucharist.

April 18 – Saturday 9 til – Set up at Brick Church - All hands needed and welcome!

April 19th – 11:00 AM – Brick Church – Confirmation and Holy Eucharist, Rt. I – Celebrant – The Rt. Rev Mark Lawrence – followed by Covered Dish Picnic

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Word From the House of Bishops Spring 2009 Meeting

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Episcopal Church meeting in Hendersonville, North Carolina, March 13-18, 2009 to the Church and our partners in mission throughout the world.

"I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

--Philippians 4:11b - 13

As the House of Bishops gather at the Kanuga Camp and Conference Center for our annual Spring Retreat, we are mindful of the worsening financial crisis around us. We recognize there are no easy solutions for the problems we now face. In the United States there is a 30% reduction of overall wealth, a 26% reduction in home values and a budget deficit of unprecedented proportions. Unemployment currently hovers at over 8% and is estimated to top 10% by the end of the year. There are over 8 million homes in America that are in foreclosure. Consumer confidence is at a 50-year low.

Unparalleled corporate greed and irresponsibility, predatory lending practices, and rampant consumerism have amplified domestic and global economic injustice. The global impact is difficult to calculate, except that the poor will become poorer and our commitment to continue our work toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 is at great risk. A specter of fear creeps not only across the United States, but also across the world, sometimes causing us as a people to ignore the Gospel imperative of self-sacrifice and generosity, as we scramble for self-preservation in a culture of scarcity.

The crisis is both economic and environmental. The drought that grips Texas, parts of the American South, California, Africa and Australia, the force of hurricanes that have wreaked so much havoc in the Caribbean, Central America and the Gulf Coast, the ice storm in Kentucky—these and other natural disasters related to climate change—result in massive joblessness, driving agricultural production costs up, and worsening global hunger. The wars nations wage over diminishing natural resources kill and debilitate not only those who fight in them, but also civilians, weakening families, and destroying the land. We as a people have failed to see this connection, compartmentalizing concerns so as to minimize them and continue to live without regard to the care of God's creation and the stewardship of the earth's resources that usher in a more just and peaceful world.

In this season of Lent, God calls us to repentance. We have too often been preoccupied as a Church with internal affairs and a narrow focus that has absorbed both our energy and interest and that of our Communion – to the exclusion of concern for the crisis of suffering both at home and abroad. We have often failed to speak a compelling word of commitment to economic justice. We have often failed to speak truth to power, to name the greed and consumerism that has pervaded our culture, and we have too often allowed the culture to define us instead of being formed by Gospel values.

While our commitment to the eradication of extreme poverty through the eight Millennium Development Goals moves us toward the standard of Christ's teaching, we have nevertheless often fallen short of the transformation to which Christ calls us in our own lives in order to live more fully into the Gospel paradigm of God's abundance for all.

Everyone is affected by the shrinking of the global economy. For some, this is a time of great loss—loss of employment, of homes, of a way of life. And for the most vulnerable, this "downturn" represents an emergency of catastrophic proportions. Like the Prodigal who comes to his senses and returns home, we as the people of God seek a new life. We recognize in this crisis an invitation into a deeper simplicity, a tightening of the belt, an expanded Lenten fast, and a broader generosity. God's abundant mercy and forgiveness meet and embrace us, waiting to empower us through the Holy Spirit to face the coming days.

In a time of anxiety and fear the Holy Spirit invites us to hope. Anxiety, when voiced in community can be heard, blessed and transformed into energy and hope, but if ignored, swallowed or hidden, fear and anxiety can be corrosive and lead to despair. We Christians claim that joy and hope emerge for those who have the courage to endure suffering. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul goes so far as to boast of his suffering, because "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." Our current crisis presents us with opportunities to learn from our brothers and sisters of faith in other parts of the world who have long been bearers of hope in the midst of even greater economic calamity.

We can also learn from our spiritual ancestors, who found themselves in an economic and existential crisis that endured for forty years – on their journey from Egypt to Israel. While they groaned in Egypt, they murmured at Sinai – at least at first. And then after their groaning, complaining and reverting to old comforts of idol worship, they were given Grace to learn and understand what the Lord wanted to teach them.

They learned that they needed the wilderness in order to recover their nerve and put their full trust in God--and to discover their God-given uniqueness, which had been rubbed away during their captivity in Egypt. They adopted some basic rules that enabled them to live in a community of free people rather than as captives or slaves – the God-given Ten Commandments. And perhaps most importantly, our spiritual ancestors discovered that the wilderness is a unique place of God's abundance and miracle, where water gushed out of a rock and manna appeared on the desert floor – food and drink miraculously provided by God.

As we go through our own wilderness, these spiritual ancestors also point the way to a deep and abiding hope. We can rediscover our uniqueness – which emerges from the conviction that our wealth is determined by what we give rather than what we own. We can re-discover manna – God's extraordinary expression of abundance. Week by week, in congregations and communities around the world, our common manna is placed before us in the Eucharist. Ordinary gifts of bread and wine are placed on the altar, and become for us the Body and Blood of Christ, which, when we receive them, draw us ever more deeply into the Paschal mystery of Christ's death and resurrection.

As our risen Lord broke through the isolation of the disciples huddled in fear for their lives following his suffering and death, so too are we, the Body of Christ, called to break through the loneliness and anxiety of this time, drawing people from their fears and isolation into the comforting embrace of God's gathered community of hope. As disciples of the risen Christ we are given gifts for showing forth God's gracious generosity and for finding blessing and abundance in what is hard and difficult. In this time the Holy Spirit is moving among us, sharing with us the vision of what is real and valued in God's world. In a time such as this, Christ draws us deeper into our faith revealing to us that generosity breaks through distrust, paralysis and misinformation. Like our risen Lord, we, as his disciples are called to listen to the world's pain and offer comfort and peace.

As we continue our Lenten journey together we place our hearts in the power of the Trinity. The God who created us is creating still and will not abandon us. The Incarnate Word, our Savior Jesus Christ, who in suffering, dying and rising for our sake, stands in solidarity with us, has promised to be with us to the end of the age. God the Holy Spirit, the very breath of God for us and in us, is our comforter, companion, inspiration and guide. In this is our hope, our joy and our peace.