Sunday, May 4, 2014



A GLORIOUS DAY!

By Ronald J. Caldwell, PhD, Professor of History Emeritus



Saturday, May 3, was a glorious day in every sense of the word. Well over 300 people took advantage of a perfect day weather-wise to converge on the most lovely and charming campus of the most gracious hosts at Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church in Pawleys Island for a grand day of worship, fellowship, support, and sharing. It was a sort of big family reunion of devoted Episcopalians from every corner of the South Carolina diocese and beyond.

The day started with a magnificent Holy Eucharist celebrated by the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The Rev. William Keith, rector of the church, delivered a lively, upbeat sermon. With the church's beautiful naturalistic Low Country setting revealed in its large, clear windows all around, all felt as one with God, God's people, and God's nature. It was a great festival of rejoicing, thanksgiving and celebration. It was a most uplifting moment that set the atmosphere for the rest of the day of that big family reunion.

Several speakers followed the Eucharist. The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, talked on "The State of the Diocese." In a nutshell, it is good and improving. The good bishop, ever the soul of peaceful reconciliation, exhorted the congregation to resist "artificial polarities": sad or liberated, litigation or rebuilding, progressive or conservative. The very character of the Episcopal Church is "the big tent" and not one view to the exclusion of the other; and certainly never to demonize people with whom we may disagree. He said that the diocese must do things differently in the future while reclaiming its history as one of the oldest and greatest of the dioceses in the Episcopal Church.

The Presiding Bishop next spoke on "Connections." She emphasized the work of healing relationships, that relationships lead to justice, that righteousness is in right relationships, that "restoring creation is God's mission." She continued that "mission is the ground of our being as Christians," that "we are sent to be a life-giving body in the world," that "the mission of the church is to reconcile all to God." She then went into detail about the Episcopal Church's Millenium Development Goals (2000-15) and Five Marks of Mission. She said "the church exists by mission" and holds a "vision of a healed world."

The next speaker was the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church who spoke on "Leadership in Challenging Times." She talked of challenging the boundaries, of being the "church we used to be and the church God is calling us to be." Times are changing and the church we knew is changing too. The challenge is how to lead in this time in a positive and healing way. She emphasized the collegiate nature of the Episcopal Church where power is shared across a broad spectrum of laity, clergy and bishops. This, she said, is a good guide for the future as we try to sort out the best way to proceed.

In the following question and answer period, Jennings responded to a question of whether the Episcopal Church has room for "traditional" views on sexuality. "Our unity is not based on thinking alike," she said. We are the church of diversity and toleration for different views. Bishop vonRosenberg reported on progress in reconciliation. One local church has returned to the Episcopal diocese and at least one clergyperson is in conversation to return to the Episcopal Church. "Reconciliation is our long range goal" he insisted.

Everyone than enjoyed a picnic lunch and fellowship while strolling around the magnificent broad green campus of grand old live oak trees well draped in long Spanish moss gently swaying in the cool breeze.

Afternoon sessions got down to the nuts-and-bolts of  survival and rebuilding after schism. The Rt. Rev. Kenneth Price, Jr., former Provisional Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, spoke of his experiences in rebuilding the fractured old Episcopal diocese of Pittsburgh. That diocese has experienced a marvelous resurrection since its traumatic schism in 2007. Along the way ten local churches and numerous clergy returned to the Episcopal diocese so that today, the Episcopal diocese holds fifty-five percent of the pre-schism diocese and is growing. Price emphasized a positive attitude, always respectful of the opposition, never criticizing its leaders or communicants. These were words that were not lost on the South Carolinians.

After Price's energetic and uplifting talk, the meeting broke out into workshops, one for small churches and one for larger ones. The one for small churches was conducted by representatives from Pittsburgh. The Rev. Kris McInnes is priest at St. David's in suburban Pittsburgh, a church that originally departed then returned to the Episcopal diocese and is growing well. He emphasized the point of simply being the Episcopal Church, of keeping all doors open, of working in love and compassion for the reconciliation of all people without judgment or qualifications. That approach has worked well in healing the schism in numerous places around that diocese.

Rich Creehan is Communications Director of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. He spoke on getting the message out into the public and of doing it in the most positive and constructive ways. He emphasized claiming the identity of the Episcopal Church, its history and nature so that the public understands just which Church is the true Episcopal and Anglican one. He cautioned, though, that this must be done with care and compassion for the other side and he gave practical guidelines on how to do that. He said a long d├ętente exists in Pittsburgh between the two sides of the schism and that this has worked well in the interest of both parties. He exhorted the audience to go out and tell their experiences to their communities. Simply getting their stories out to the people around them will do wonders, as it has in Pittsburgh. The attendees left that meeting encouraged and energized.

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina is slowly but surely rebuilding. It is doing so because of thousands of devoted people and because of their many great leaders. It is doing so as the church of the big tent, big enough to encompass all, big enough to heal all wounds, big enough to extend care and compassion to all of God's creation. This was the message of the day. This is the message of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and far beyond. This has been the story of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina for well over two centuries now. This will remain her message for ages to come.

There is an old saying that you can't go home again. That is not true. One can always go home again. Home is the place where they will always take you in because you are family, no questions asked. One can always go home to that ancient place in South Carolina that sustained generations of faithful Christians in the Episcopal Church.


See also Steve Skardon's report at www.scepiscopalians.com and many pictures at www.episcopalchurchsc.org . For a wonderfully detailed description of the conference see:  www.episcopalchurchsc.org/enthusiastically-episcopalian.html .

Thursday, May 1, 2014


A MOMENT TO CELEBRATE!


By Ronald J. Caldwell, PhD, Professor of History Emeritus



Come ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness!
God has brought His Israel into joy from sadness


Long-suffering, intrepid Episcopalians of South Carolina, it's time to rejoice in God's goodness and to celebrate the ongoing life of the Episcopal Church in the Low Country! A great weekend is at hand.

"Enthusiastically Episcopalian in South Carolina" is the name of the conference hosted by the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina at Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church at Pawleys Island on May 3. For a decade now, the Episcopal Forum has carried the torch for the Episcopal Church in this diocese. Along the way they were made to suffer many "slings and arrows" from those who wanted to depart from the Church. The Forum never flinched. They never quit. They never gave in no matter the odds against them. They are heroes. Every Episcopalian in South Carolina owes the leaders of the Forum a huge debt of gratitude.

The schedule of the day begins at 9:00 a.m. with the Presiding Bishop celebrating Holy Eucharist. The balance of the day will be a conference of speakers, panels, and discussions that will feature the Most Rev. Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. vonRosenberg, the bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Kenneth Price, former provisional bishop of Pittsburgh, and the Rev. Gay Jennings, president of the House of Deputies. Workshops will include "Rebuilding while Rejoicing" for small churches, and "Showing the Way while Staying the Course," for large ones. It will be a day of worship, celebration, sharing, learning, and support. At least 330 people have registered for the day.

Registration to attend the conference closed a couple of weeks ago. However, for those who cannot attend, there will be streaming information on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The diocese will also post a report on its website www.episcopalchurchsc.org . I expect to be in attendance and will post a report on this blog as soon as possible.

This will be the Presiding Bishop's third official visit to the diocese. How different those occasions have been! The first visit was on February 25-26, 2008. Jefferts Schori had been pointedly not invited to the consecration of Bishop Lawrence the month before. She was invited for a visit to South Carolina and a date was arranged. Her entire time was managed by the old diocesan leadership. She was not allowed to celebrate a Eucharist, preside at any service, or visit a pro-TEC church. On the first day she processed into St. Philip's for evensong alongside Lawrence. She was allowed only a brief prayer. Afterwards she stood by Lawrence in a receiving line until the crowd was told to clear out of the hall for a Lenten study group. 

The next day she was put to the test in a closed meeting with the diocesan clergy at St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant. Videos were made, apparently in secret by the staff of St. Andrew's. "Clarity Ensued" is still available in 12 parts on The Living Church website www.livingchurch.org/clarity-ensued . The videos total 90 minutes, about half of the entire meeting. They were heavily edited to remove many of Jeffert Schori's answers. Edited or not, these videos stand as invaluable evidence of the true feelings of the diocesan leadership toward the Presiding Bishop. I highly recommend these videos to anyone who wants to understand the attitudes of the pre-schism leadership toward the national Church.

The Presiding Bishop was placed alone in front facing the clergy in the pews. An image of a criminal under the lights in the interrogation room of the police station may come to mind. Another imagine may be the wolf surrounded by the ranchers who move in on the one that had been menacing their sheep. What was supposed to be a sort of informal discussion between the Presiding Bishop and the clergy turned into a scripted and choreographed presentation of the diocesan leadership to the Presiding Bishop. They made it plain they were there to present their grievances to her, not to listen to her. She remained cool and calm and endured nearly three hours of charges, accusations, and insults with serene dignity. Lawrence opened the show reading to her from the Bible and demanding that she take back her words from an interview with Time magazine. Kendall Harmon followed with personal accusations. She did her best to ignore them. She showed a ripple of emotion only once on the videos, when a clergyman said he was glad there was one orthodox bishop present (Lawrence). Jefferts Schori calmly stood and said quietly that she resented the insinuation that she was not orthodox. A hush fell over the crowd. The clergyman apologized to her. In the end, it was reported that the Presiding Bishop threw up her hands in frustration and exclaimed that she was struck by their inability to communicate.

The second visit to the diocese was the reverse of the first. It was to attend the special convention of January 25-26, 2013, when the old diocese was reorganized under a provisional bishop, Charles vonRosenberg. That was an occasion of festival celebration. Many a tear of joy was shed as she slowly processed down the grand aisle of that Gothic masterpiece, Grace Church of Charleston. It was as if the whole Episcopal Church filled the high vaulted ceilings of that old edifice.

And so the Presiding Bishop returns to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and once again she brings with her the presence of the entire Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church goes on in South Carolina. It goes on because of the thousands of ordinary, faithful Episcopalians who refused to be defeated and who refused to give in to the pressures of the misled crowd. They are all heroes. It goes on because of the Forum. It goes on because of her devoted deacons, priests and bishops. Even in bar-b-que stands, funeral homes, old schools, and borrowed sanctuaries, the Church goes on in South Carolina. Now is a moment to celebrate.