Convention Convenes for the Diocese of South Carolina
Along these lines of the conversation changing, the diocese of South Carolina met for our annual meeting on Friday-Saturday March 9-10 here in Charleston. It opened with Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali speaking for 2 hours on the uniqueness of Jesus in a pluralistic world. Then, following the Bishop’s address, elections were held for leadership positions within the Diocese. I’m pleased to announce that our own Junior Warden, Bill Lyles was elected to the Standing Committee of the diocese.
Before the election, Bishop Mark Lawrence gave a strong address, in fact I urge you to read the whole text now on our website. Here is a snippet:
221st Diocesan Convention of South Carolina
…What does it mean to Make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age? Well it means to help our members joyfully encounter afresh the renewing and gifting Presence of the Holy Spirit. Without a renewed presence of the Holy Spirit even Christianity is dry toast. It is by the fire of the Holy Spirit that the Church moves, and lives and carries out its mission. It is clear from any alert reading of the New Testament that the Apostles’ were eager to keep the believers in Jerusalem, Antioch, Macedonia, Asia, Africa and Italy connected through prayerful fellowship and earnest support of one another even as these communities of believers continued the spontaneous expansion of the faith in all directions, gossiping the gospel as they traveled in their businesses or mission and often under the sovereign leading of the Holy Spirit….
When a congregation through a week-long event raises in pledges $300,000 for mission and 300 parishioners pledge themselves to be personally involved in mission, as just happened at St. Michael’s Charleston, such apostolic witness for Christ and his Church is still alive and breathes with the breath of Christ among us. Three hundred volunteered to engage in mission. Three hundred thousand dollars pledged for mission. The spirit breathes among us…
Stephen Neill once commented that “To be a bad Anglican is the easiest thing in the world; the amount of effort required in a minimum Anglican conformity is so infinitesimal that it is hardly to be measured.” But he went on to say, “To be a good Anglican is exceedingly taxing business.” If we substitute Episcopalian for Anglican we have just as telling and true a statement for our challenge today. To be a bad Episcopalian is easy. Just drift with the flow of whatever cultural stream carries you and you can be an Episcopalian. I remember reading as a seminarian, Bishop Allison’s debate with O.C. Edwards on evangelism. Fitz, as you might imagine was for it. If memory serves me well, Fitz opened with the line “You can be anything and be an Episcopalian. You can be immoral, and you can be heretical; as long as you are not tacky. And apparently there’s something tacky about evangelism.” Yes, it’s easy to be an Episcopalian sitting in the pews. But to be a good Episcopalian today, well this church is no place for ostriches or for the spiritually, intellectually, or morally lazy. There is a theological, moral and demographic challenge every minute …
Along with reviving our existing parishes and missions, we also need to take seriously the call to plant new congregations—especially where the population is growing and where demographics show we are under-represented. At this convention we have welcomed a new mission of the diocese: The Well by the Sea, Myrtle Beach. You may have heard me say on prior occasions: Bishops love their dioceses. Priests love their congregations. Wardens love their buildings. Altar guilds love vessels and linens. But God loves people. He yearns for their salvation. We need more church plants and more church planters. And we need to find more ways to get it done. Consider this: During this past week our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church in North America met in Plano, Texas. They met to further their vision of planting 1000 congregations in five years. Many of these fellow Anglicans have lost their buildings in lawsuits. Others have walked away from the buildings they have worshipped in for generations or given sacrificially to build, remodel or support. Others now meet in rather un-Anglican looking buildings. But they are still planting and dreaming of planting churches. Delusions of grandeur? Perhaps. But what a grand delusion! I love the pioneer spirit of that vision.
What is my dream? It is that each congregation whether large or small is fulfilling our call to make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age. If you ask, “What does a Biblical Anglican for a Global Age look like? How would you describe such a person?” I will say, “He or she is a disciple of Jesus Christ who embraces the Apostolic Teaching of the Holy Scriptures, endorses Catholic order and practice, has encountered afresh the renewing and gifting Presence of the Holy Spirit, is equipped with Evangelical Truth and with fervor engages in missional ministry in the world.” If that sounds to you like the Great Commission with an Anglican twist you have heard correctly.
Come Holy Spirit, Come! Renew the face of the Church. Renew the face of the earth! Amen.