To the People of South Carolina,
“You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-16). Jesus of Nazareth used this simple image to inspire his followers to make a difference in the world. We are bishops of the Lutheran, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, and United Methodist Churches in the state of South Carolina. As shepherds of our churches, we are charged to lead the faithful in ways that direct our energies to the building up of the Kingdom of God and to make a difference around us. We believe that Jesus’ desire for the unity of his followers (John 17: 20-23) calls us to work together, and we are conscious as well that “no one should seek his own advantage, but that of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10: 24).
In support of the American experiment in democracy, our nation has realized that education is an essential component to equipping members of society who can in turn help lead the United States of America into a better future. The family remains the foundation of our society’s ability to nurture and develop people of character. Our congregational leaders and people work constantly to empower and lift up families, and we believe this contribution to the good of society — together with the efforts of all religious communities — is one of our most important contributions to our state.
Public education is also an essential component of ensuring that the people of our state are formed to be good citizens, prepared to be contributors to our economy, and given passion for the common good of society. Individual school districts in partnership with the State of South Carolina are primarily responsible for ensuring that the opportunity for a complete and empowering education is available to every child in our state. Unfortunately, our state is marked by disparities in the delivery of education. Many school districts are hampered by a scarcity of resources because they are located in economically challenged, often rural, counties in our state. We believe there is indeed a “Corridor of Shame” in our state. Crumbling buildings, inadequate funding, and low expectations mark too many districts at a time when a 21st Century economy demands more of our people. How can the next generation rise to the challenge of this day and age when they are not given the superior education they deserve? Even in the most successful of school districts, too many students underachieve, or worse, fall through the cracks and do not achieve success. All too easily they can become caught in the grip of poverty.
We, as pastoral leaders, pledge our commitment to support the full flourishing of public education in South Carolina. We ask our congregations — as well as all people of good will— to offer what we can to lift up our schools and those students who face hurdles to reach the best they can achieve in their education. Congregations and members of our churches already offer tutoring, mentoring, supplies, and expressions of appreciation to our schools. We pledge ourselves and the resources we are able to engage through our congregations to address concrete ways to support public education in an intentional way over the next five years and beyond. In this effort, we welcome partnerships with all religious communities and people who share our concerns. Over time, we also pledge to engage in a dialogue with our state legislators to craft and support initiatives to improve public education, especially where these issues are related to the areas of our state with schools that are not equipped to provide a superior education.
Finally, we commit ourselves to pray for our state’s leaders, educators, and students. We are convinced prayer that trusts God and longs for insight helps bring clarity regarding what is important and strength to make a difference for what is good. We invite our congregants and all people of good will to join us in prayerfully discerning how God calls us to make a difference—to be light for our world—in educating students of our state so that they will not only be good members of society, but empowered for their journey to a fuller life.
The Rev. Dr. Herman R. Yoos, III, Bishop
South Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, Bishop
The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina
The Rt. Rev. Charles Glenn vonRosenberg, Provisional Bishop
The Episcopal Church in South Carolina
The Most Rev. Robert E. Guglielmone, Bishop
The Catholic Diocese of Charleston
The Rev. L. Jonathan Holston, Resident Bishop
South Carolina United Methodist Conference