Friday, April 14, 2017

Waiting for Life--And Learning to Reconcile with It

St. George's Episcopal Church, Summervile, South Carolina
Good Friday, 2017

The church is looking steadfastly toward resurrection now. We will have faithfully opened our schedules and our hearts to Jesus’ hardship and agony. We will have been impacted deep within our souls by the pathos of Mary as she watched her innocent  Son die upon the horrible cross. We will sense the uneasy hush of Saturday, when Jesus lay dead in the tomb, and we will relate to all the deaths of all the friends and all the loved ones we have ever lost.

I like to visit my father’s grave on Holy Saturday. As a priest I don’t always get the chance (this is the busiest time of the year at the church), but at least in my heart I go there. Off to the right a bit in that same graveyard is my sister’s gravestone. And now, within a mere few feet, the body of a dear, dear friend lies in waiting, having just been buried there last month. Waiting for what?

Whenever we lose someone we love, we begin the slow process of reconciling with death. People encourage us to get to the place of “acceptance”. They bear us up in our shock. They listen to our sadness, our anger, our emptiness. And they wait. They wait for us to return to “normal”, to be restored to them as the old friend we used to be before our life was altered by the finality of death. We try to reconcile with the fact that they’re not coming back. We have to find a way to go on. We have to find a way to be happy again.

On Sunday we will read the story of the greatest joy imaginable; that is, the resurrection of Jesus. The reversal of death. The stunned near-disbelief of his friends and family. He is alive! It was grief in reverse. Now they had to get used to the fact that He is alive. They had to come to the acceptance, not of death, but  of Life. It must have felt so weird and exhilarating all at the same time. It was as though they were going to have to figure out how to live with Life-- as though they were going to have to figure out how to experience sadness again because, after this, there was no more reason to be sad or to be afraid of death—ever again. 

These disciples were altered by Jesus’ death. But they were altered by His life even more. It is that way with the entire world. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, death does not mean what it used to mean. Death is now no more than a doorway. Jesus’ bodily resurrection was a sign and a promise that our own physical bodies will rise again to new life, as well. We say it every single Sunday in our creed: “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the Life of the world to come. Amen.” This Easter Sunday is the signature Sunday of that statement. The rest of Eastertide will be a time for us as the church to come to the acceptance of Life.

We have been altered by the deaths of our loved ones. And it feels so permanent. But even more permanently will we be altered by their life. My friend, recently buried, is not “waiting” for anything. He is enjoying the fullness of the presence of God. But his body waits, as mine will wait, in the hope of the resurrection.

I wait now to celebrate this mystery of God again this Sunday. And I pray for the joy of that hope to be with you all this Easter.

See You Around the Church,

Fr. Chris

Friday, February 17, 2017

What's a Christian to Do? What's a Christian to Think? A Message to My Parishioners About Living in These Times.

Living in Today’s Political and Social Environment

How is a Christian to live today? Quietly under the radar, living peacefully and in prayer for all people? Participating in social activism by anything from marching with placards to boycotting businesses with questionable stances on human rights? Home-schooling our children in order to protect them from what seems to be a downward-spiraling society? Sending them to public school and helping to improve the school system? Voting for conservative government? Voting for liberal government? Wearing a safety pin to show your support for equal rights? Wearing a Trump tee shirt to show your support for immigration reform and trade protectionism?

The truth is that devout Christians represent all and more of the positions listed above.

How should  I, your rector, approach these matters? Since I am duty-bound to minister with equal care to all people in our congregation and community, I do not “preach politics”. This is not because I do not have opinions--believe me, I do!-- but because God loves us all equally. But most importantly, I have something better to preach than politics; and that is, as Paul says, “I am compelled to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” I Corinthians 2:2

That leaves us with an important assumption by which we must live: Whatever political/social/economic position we take as individuals, we will care for one another with the love of Jesus that we have received, and we will treat one another with dignity and respect. This leaves us free to follow Jesus in our unique and widely-differentiated callings.

Several varied and lasting lines of thought have arisen to which Christians have adhered down through the ages . Each has helped to shape political and societal behavior. All of these approaches have validity and legitimacy. All of these approaches need to be balanced by the others. We should study their  development in order to have healthy perspective and respect for each. This is a large part of what used to be the glory and heritage of us Episcopal Anglicans; i.e., that our roof, our baptismal vows and our God is great enough to house people of all stripes and stances and that, above all, we preach Christ crucified.

Richard Foster’s book Streams of Living Waters traces beautifully the 6 main streams, or traditions, of Christian expression. It is well worth the read lest, ignorant of our rich heritage, we neglect and forget some of the important aspects of who we are as children of God.

1) The Contemplative Tradition    2) The Holiness Tradition   3) The Charismatic Tradition
         The Prayer-Filled Life                   The Virtuous Life           The Spirit-Empowered Life

4) The Social Justice Tradition     5) The Evangelical Tradition    6) The Incarnational Tradition
       The Compassionate Life              The Word-Centered Life             The Sacramental Life

The beauty of our congregation at St. George's is that we have people who represent all of these faith traditions. This diversity of branches in our Christian Family Tree is what keeps us a healthy, cross-pollenated and--to use a loaded term, but by now you know what I mean--truly inclusive people.

Many traditions have been built upon the cornerstone of our faith. We need to include them all. I hope that our brothers and sisters across the wider communion will remember this, as well. And that includes those who speak through social media, as well!

Fr. Chris

Monday, November 16, 2015

It's OK to Grieve for Paris

To Those Who Would Criticize Those Who Grieve for France

Yes, it is true that so far in 2015 there have been approximately 297 documented terror attacks around the world: In January-30,  in February-12, in March-22, April-20, May-27, June-30, July-40, August 32, September-16, October-48, and so far in November-20. In some of these attacks, only the perpetrator was killed or injured. Fatalities or injuries in other attacks ranged from one to over 2,000. Methods used were shellings, bombings (IED's as well as carbombs), suicide bombings, beheadings, stabbings,  arson,  shootings, poisonings, vehicular attacks and more.  Beirut, the West Bank, the Philippines, Copenhagen, the Ukraine, Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, China, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and other countries and regions have been affected. Some by militant crazies, others by rogue governments, lone wolves and many by radical jihadist groups and individuals. People who more visibly grieve over the IS attacks in France have been criticized by some for singling out France while purportedly ignoring other victims of terror attacks. Let me offer some reasons why the attacks in France may resonate more with those of us in the Western World:
1) France was a champion of "Liberte'" with us when we were struggling for independence as a nation.
2) France, like the USA, strives to live openly (which involves risk).
3) Paris, for goodness' sake, is universally known as "the City of Love" 
4) France and other Western European countries, like the USA, emulate principles of equality, freedom of speech and, for the most part, elective forms of government.
5) IS, by attacking innocent ones in Paris, brings a realization that it seems NOT to be so well contained, and is edging closer to us.
So when Paris comes under terrorist attack, many of us feel it more intensely and identify with it more. Many of us have been to Paris, and so grieve for it with more poignancy.
Take care to allow people to relate and identify. It can be part of their awakening,  and can serve as a reminder of what has happened to us on our own soil as well, lest we lose our vigilance.
Then indeed, let us also understand that the many other innocent victims in the many other countries are also just as precious in God's sight.
The best thing we can do is pray, and pray for our leaders, and pray for the free world (along with those who strive to be free) to band together in order to stamp out these threats and to live better than they do by enjoying our freedoms and thriving and prospering and living and loving to the fullest. And we must come to the aid of all victims and their families with our treasure and opportunity.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Good Article on Being a Pastor [Christian] in a 5-4 World

[In my church] the bottom line is this: all are welcomed in my church and loved unconditionally by God. And all are asked and enabled to become more than what they are when they walked in the door – a person who is continually growing and transforming into the likeness of Christ. --Travis Garner in "Being a Pastor in 5-4 World" (See link to article below)

We have been through so much change of late. Being an Episcopal priest born and raised and currently living in Charleston, South Carolina, a major flashpoint of the Civil War (politico-militarily in 1861, sociologically in the hospital workers' strike in 1969, and  ecclesiologically with the Episcopal Church schism in 2012), I have witnessed first-hand the difficulty with which change and progress is made. Now we have been stricken with community-wide grief over the racially-motivated Mother Emanuel murders, people have been divided over the confederate flag in part as a result, the Supreme Court made a ground-shaking decision by the narrowest of margins on the definition of marriage. Such a narrow decision bespeaks deep division in our society. I have experienced fear and anger from some of my friends over it. Finally, on a happier note, a man was elected, for the first time in history, as the first African American Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. A glimmer of hope that an institution can be so united over what was once a deep division of ideology among us, especially those of us in the south. But so much change at once. Some of it we happily fell into. In some of it we were pushed over the top by a clearer perspective brought on by tragedy. With some of the change, however, we remain in transition...and division.

And the reactions to all this change are still evolving. Last Saturday one of my daughters posted on Facebook, "My Facebook feed this week looks like a battle broke out between the Confederates and a Skittles factory." I appreciated the humor of that, and the disconnect it brought me from the vitriolic tenor and tension that seemed to come to a head late last week. Facebook had become a wasteland of frustration and raw emotion. I hope Facebook in this instance has proved an effective lance for this boil and that we can actually go back to being "friends" soon.

In times such as this, one thing is clear: We need Jesus. Those who feel as though the moral fabric of our society has been irreparably torn need Jesus. Those who are elated over the changes established by the Supreme Court need Jesus. Those who feel that a little bit will have died inside when the confederate flag comes down from display on the State House grounds need Jesus. Those who would climb the pole and impatiently tear it down themselves need Jesus.  All of us do. I came across this article this morning, and offer it for your contemplation. As a pastor ministering in a 5-4 world, we need Jesus--together. Not "my Jesus" or "your Jesus", but the One who loves us all. We believers, after all, have been given the ministry of reconciliation. The vision of God in Christ is that we be one in Him. I suppose the issues, or our opinions regarding them, should not, then, be our guiding force. Instead, can we love and minister to one another, despite them...and better yet, through them? I can guarantee only two things, and they are 1) that these issues and their attendant changes will not be our last and 2) Jesus shall reign where e'er the sun doth his successive journeys run. Let's count on the latter to guide us through the former.

Chris Huff +

Article here:Being a Pastor in a 5-4 World

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Hegelian Didactic of the Confederate Battle Flag

"This is, of course, what’s known as the Hegelian Dialectic. A manufactured problem elicits a manufactured solution that leaves everyone satisfied and allows the originating issue to simply fall from the spotlight, wholly unresolved. In this example, the red herring of the Confederate flag was the opportunists’ bait to ensnare the country in a brilliant diversion from the underlying—and inherently more critical—issue of institutionalized racism."
--Claire Bernish in "How the Entire Country Bought the Govenrment's Confederate Flag Ploy", an op ed appearing in Anti Media (see link below)

I don't agree with much of what the author says here. Its accusation seems out of touch with the reconciling intentions of our community in Charleston, and our local and state government. But it is a good piece off of which to bounce our local perception. The Hegelian Didactic has naturally occurred (not so much intentionally and with slick purpose) but as our community's, as well as our government's, loving response to a communal horror. Groping for SOMETHING....ANYTHING to do in response to the Mother Emanuel murders, most of us realized, having been jarred into a moment of clarity, that this now powerfully-negative symbol (the Confederate Battle Flag) must go from the State House grounds. As a first step (taking it off our government face), it is a good step. If it were our only step, how great then would our shame and error be. 

Think of it as a cancer-marker in a diagnostic study. A cancer marker is typically radioactive, and also gloms onto cancer cells, lighting them up like Christmas tree lights under radiography. Like that marker, the flag points to a cancer. The cancer of racism has glommed onto the flag. The marker is not the cancer--the flag is not racism--but it points to it, and now that we see it more clearly, we can do some hard work (surgery) and keep at it (chemo) until it is eradicated. During the surgery, the marker itself comes out along with the cancer that is stuck to it. It is no longer needed. Should we try to eradicate this marker/flag from history or from our minds? That would be impossible. Hopefully we learn from history, not seek to revise it, unless its reportage has proven to be in error. It should always be remembered as a sign that we once thought it was okay (black and white slave owners included) to own other human beings. And further, as our racism mutated and went underground and became more viral, stubborn and destructive (Jim Crow), the flag became a valuable marker that all was still not well with us. It is valuable, but no longer worthy of display as a descriptor of what we now believe more rightly as a more enlightened people with a more enlightened government. At this point the flag we should wish  to display on our government's face is Liberty for All....all races, all genders, all people. Now the hard work can begin afresh to live into that better and healthier reality.


I recommend, for another perspective on this whole matter, the article named here. How the Entire Country Bought the Government's Confederate Flag Ploy.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Take it Down

Take it Down

As a native James Islander who grew up with Secessionville literally in his front yard and Ft. Sumter just down Clark Sound and out Schooner Creek, I find what used to reside in my psyche as a reminder of a time gone by, and of people and kin and southern heritage, now, given the martyrdom of the Mother Emanuel Nine, to be a complete embarrassment. People will argue that symbols in themselves do not kill people. But symbols, especially this one, are powerful--negatively powerful. People will counter that banning a flag is easy, why not do the hard work required to change racism in our country? To that I say that taking the Confederate battle flag down from its lesser position of display on the state house grounds is a necessary and powerfully-symbolic first step, representing a major and much-needed shift in ideology, sensitivity and consciousness. While appropriate and effective follow-through may prove elusive and difficult, this first step must happen. Would any person who is truly against racism here in South Carolina prefer that we not take this step?

When I first arrived in Bennettsville, South Carolina, to take up my first ordained position as deacon-in-charge of St. Paul's Episcopal Parish, I and my son and daughter and wife were near the center of town, visiting the law offices of the church's senior warden. His office was directly across from the town hall steps. We were horrified to turn and behold a gathering of the Ku Klux Klan in sheets and hoods. I don't know what the leader was called, but he was arrayed in a shiny purple robe. A portable speaker was blaring something unintelligible. I was in shock that this sort of thing still existed. I always thought it was something relegated to old movies about the Jim Crow era. And then I noticed something quite strange. Their audience was entirely made up of black townsfolk. They were there, I presumed, to convey a message: 1) We're not afraid of you,  2) We respect your right to free speech, and so we expect that you will honor ours, and 3) How ridiculous you look, you anonymous, be-sheeted cowards. The only other thing I remember from that surreal moment is the confederate flags that the be-sheeted ones waved.

But now, the right to free speech notwithstanding, it is time for us to choose, as a state, to end this speech for all time; i.e.,the speech, that says by its very existence on the state house grounds, "We give homage to a past that fought, in part, to maintain the institution of slavery." Put it in a museum, like a holocaust reminder. But let it no longer speak its message from our official places of government.

Paul reminds us that we should no longer remember who we were as men, but now that we should embrace who He as made us in Christ:  In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:28

There has been a whole lot of church-going as people seek solace, comfort and unity in the wake of this racially-based mass murder. And as people are finding unity in the houses of God, it becomes ever apparent that any symbol of disunity and division simply no longer belongs in our midst. It's as simple as that.

As I post this, Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the flag's removal. Thanks be to God! Let's follow through on this call, and, having begun here, not stop there.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Breakaways in South Carolina are Offered a Gift

The thing that has always bugged me, ever since January of 2013, when the breakaway group of parishes in what was the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina sued the remaining parishes of the Diocese, is the absolute non-necessity of it all. Literally millions of dollars in legal fees, and for what? Now that hearings, trials and appeals have nearly finished wending their way through state and federal courtrooms, a "Christian moment" finally comes to light. Over a year and a half ago at a gathering of the clergy of the continuing Diocese (loyal to the Episcopal Church) this idea was broached: "Why don't we grant to all the breakaway parishes their property?" That sentiment was immediately followed by: "We are only interested in what's rightfully ours; I.E., the intellectual, financial and real assets of the Diocese." (Actually, work on this offer was begun by our chancellor  the day we were sued by the breakaways.)
This resonated quite positively with most, if not all, in the room. One priest exclaimed, "How reconciling this is! It's the Christian thing to do!" The Presiding Bishop was contacted, and her response was positive, with the caveat that she would be interested as long as ALL the breakaway parishes were included. Ironically, while this was the attitude and desire of our Presiding Bishop, our Diocesan Bishop, our Chancellor, diocesan officials and rank-and-file clergy, the breakaways continued with their rhetoric that "'They (the National Church, aka, dreaded 'TEC') are coming after our property!" So rectors and vestries of most of the breakaway parishes retained their own attorneys so that there was scarcely enough room in Judge Goodstein's courtroom last summer to contain the 40-plus lawyers that represented them all. And more ironically, the only thing that actually put these parish properties at risk was their joining in the lawsuit of the breakaway former diocese.
More recently, as a member of the Standing Committee of the continuing diocese, I joined brother and sister members in unanimously approving this offer. On the 2nd day of this month (June 2015), the attorneys of the breakaway parishes were sent written notice of this offer--this offer which has been in the works for over two years. My brother colleagues on the other side could be off the hook. They would no longer have to lie awake at night wondering where they would go and what they would do, and who would go with them, if a higher court overturned THEIR lawsuit which put THEIR parishes on the line.
St. Michael's, St. Philip's, St. Helena's, Holy Cross, St. Luke's, St. James, St. John's, Prince George...the list goes on. The rectors of these parishes are, owing to Mark Lawrence's decision to leave the Episcopal Church, no longer episcopal priests. But the way back, should any of them choose to take it, remains open to them because Bishop vonRosenberg chose to remove, rather than to depose them. This was an extraordinarily conciliatory move that underscores our hope of reconciliation.
And now, the Episcopal Church is preparing to elect a new Presiding Bishop. Bishop Katherine, their "whipping girl", will soon be out of office, and a new leader from among fine candidates will take the reins. Whence the acrimony then?
I am a native son of this state and diocese. Ever since, many years ago, my mental and spiritual fog lifted and I remembered that we are to love all and welcome all in Jesus' name, I have hoped for the church in general to generate a better witness than judgment, infighting and lawsuits. I can't imagine a better place to start than, even in the face of those who would question our motives, giving such a gift as we are offering.
Christopher Huff +

Monday, June 8, 2015

Redemption: Early Reflections on Son and Grandson

No doubt about it. There is a lifetime of redemption in a child. God knew that when He gave us His. It has been a few hours now since the birth of our second grandchild. As I gaze longingly at the pictures coming in from Hawaii where mom, dad and little Donovan (their first) take up their post-natal journeys together, the word keeps coming  to me. Redemption. Redemption. Redemption. Like the heartbeat of God beating in my own heart. It was a long, difficult day of deliverance for this child and mother...and dad. A few complications and a caesarian section later, he has arrived safely and more completely into this world.

First, I am grateful for the safe delivery of mom, baby....and dad. Thanks be to God and the wonderful medical staff who gave care and protection. Redemption. But let me go back to this new dad, my son, and his mother, my wife, who more than any other single person, gave her son hope and encouragement, and a reason to go on time and again through the challenges of his life. She saw this day long ago in her dreams and visions, and dared to share them with her son, who claims that this vision, in his darkest times, drew him forward into...Redemption. She had seen this child, and held this promise in her heart....and believed...and as St. Paul wrote in II Co. 4, "we believe, and therefore we speak [the Good News of Redemption]". "The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight." These words mean more to me now than they ever did before.

Diagnosed at age 6 with Type I diabetes, my son played hard and worked hard to live a full and "normal" life. Whenever he became discouraged (because diabetes is relentless), his mom was always there to care and to guide and to comfort and to encourage. Once, soon after his diagnosis, he was going for the Presidential Fitness Award through his school. He excelled at every aspect of the program. But there was the final obstacle--the mile run--maybe it was 2 miles--it could have been 100 from where I was standing.  . For a 7 year old, and much more for one with diabetes, this was big.  Familiar with every nuance and cue, this mom had already learned to read our son's condition at any moment. About two-thirds the way through the  course, she could tell he was flagging.  Protocol says that when a diabetic feels fatigue, he should immediately discontinue physical activity and address blood sugar issues with carbs. She was ready at course-side with a snack and said, while briefly running beside him "You can do this, Son. You're almost there. I know you can do it. Don't stop. I believe in you!" And he made it. Many would have quit. But he made it. The Presidential Fitness Award Certificate, signed by President Reagan, is still in his old room today.  This scene, played out at Osborne  Elementary School in Sewickley, Pa., became the metaphor of their relationship. Encouragement to finish the race. Redemption.

Throughout his life, because he has always tried to stay healthy by keeping his blood sugars as low as possible, he has often danced too near the "too- low blood sugar zone" and suffered a number of seizures. Somehow, God always provided a person familiar with what to do to be in his presence each time. Redemption.

Never lacking a girlfriend, he did at times wonder if  "the one" was out there for him. His mother said, "Son, I have SEEN your son. The creed says 'we believe in all things seen and unseen.' I am believing  it for you." Some months later, at the urging of his mother, he came to Christmas Eve services at the church I serve and, right there on the spot, lightning struck. They met. Love at first sight. Marriage less than a year later. At their wedding I preached, "God brought Christopher's wife halfway around the world (from Hawaii where she was born and raised) to meet him here in Charleston (via Joint Base Charleston Air Force and St. George's Episcopal Church)", and now she is taking him back there (soon after they became engaged, she was assigned to Honolulu). She, like his mother, is a beautiful, winsome, selfless encourager.  Redemption.

Their first pregnancy did not last long. He took it hard. They were discouraged, but they decided to try again. And here we are today. Redemption.

And when, as planned, my precious, faithful, ever-patient encouraging wife gets to hold that boy, whom she has held in her heart for so many years, in her own flesh-and-blood arms, there will be glad tears of redemption shed. Likewise, when I baptize that boy in the Pacific Ocean off the beach near Honolulu, he will more fully be included in God's plan of redemption, having been buried with God's own Son in His baptism and having been raised to the new life of redemption and resurrection. Son, to son,  to son, to Son.

There is so much more to this story, as with all stories. But it has been an exciting and nearly sleepless 24 hours. And as I drink in the picture above, with my son holding his son--his long-hoped for and hard-won son-- I see Redemption. All who are discouraged or weary, take heart in this picture. As Jesus says in Luke 21:28 "And when these things begin to come to pass (armies arrayed against you), then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."

Welcome, Donovan Mercer Huff, b. June 7, 2015,  9:20 PM, Honolulu time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Elegy for a Friend

One lone sentry. Set apart to bid watch.
The others loft and spring, a-cackle up and down the railing.
Plaintive laughter "I want! I want!" "Mine!" "Mine!"
The tide low and still, the gulls search impatiently, frantically.
Laughing, laughing, maws agape.
Life ebbs from the rock salt tomb back to where it came from.

One lone sentry. Set apart to bid watch.
Perched atop the dock pole, keeping silent vigil.
A single it him upon the pole?
Or a vizier of the heir who lies below in particulate form,
Water born again....not at journey's end,
But re-baptized in death, now to begin life anew.

One lone sentry. Set apart to bid watch.
Kindred depart to resume the journey.
The sentry gull, not laughing, neither sad
Stays until tide ' s turn.


In Memoriam, Donald Wayne Henry
April 28, 1939-April 10, 2015

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dealing With Tragedy in the Community, Resurrection Style

The following article first appeared in the Family Faith Formation Newsletter of St. George's Episcopal Church in Summerville, S.C.

Dealing With the Walter Scott/ Michael Slager Tragedy

The Gospel for this Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, is John 20:19-31. It includes the story of doubting Thomas, who would not believe that his fellow disciples had seen the risen Lord until he could see and touch Jesus' wounds. The only reality to which he could relate was the horror and brutality of Jesus' unfair and undignified death. He was traumatized beyond belief.

Our community has also witnessed an unfair and undignified death. And there are many things that we begin to doubt under the crushing weight of such sadness. Among them are: 1) We will never see justice and peace and security for all people. Evil always seems to prevail. But we are learning. So far people are binding together in community-wide understanding, and are opting for peace and openness, peaceful justice and change, rather than revolt and protest. 2) Police will never be honest and trustworthy. By far the overwhelming majority of police understand and practice sacrifice, courage and human kindness on a daily basis. Their families undergo the daily stress of the danger under which these officers work. They need our continued love, support and understanding. 3) This was the biggest, most avoidable local human tragedy in recent times. It is utterly senseless, and of no redeeming value whatsoever. I'm certain this is what the disciples thought as they watched their precious friend and Lord dying upon the cross. "The biggest mistake in history!" Thomas was so dejected in his grief and trauma that he could not imagine Life rising out of his situation. And while Walter Scott does not compare with Jesus, neither does Michael Slager represent the Evil One. A big, terrible mistake, misstep, unnecessary loss of two lives, essentially. But we can take comfort in something. Neither the closed door of the Upper Room, nor the stubborn refusal of Thomas to believe could keep Jesus out. And nothing could prevent God from accomplishing His purposes through Jesus, His Son.

If you find it appropriate to do, or if your kids ask you about it, talk with them openly, and let them ask questions. And all the while remember that no closed door (to our hearts or otherwise) and no doubts and questions can ever keep Jesus out of our lives. This is an appropriate time for you to model for your kids how to wrestle faithfully with the tough questions and challenges that life brings. They can learn so much from this, along with the rest of us.

Fr. Chris

The following prayer was offered at our services today:

Heavenly Father, whose will it is that all people should live together in peace, love and harmony, and in the new life of the resurrection procured for us by your Son Jesus Christ, look with pity upon our community, especially North Charleston,  grieved by the loss of Walter Scott’s life, as well as by that which caused the loss of Michael Slager’s freedom. Console their families with your presence. Strengthen us as we are challenged by our renewed awareness of the need for justice for all people. Comfort those in law enforcement, and grant them courage and compassion as they carry out their service. Give patience and wisdom to those who continue to experience injustice and oppression. Protect the weak, correct the sinful, rid us of our suspicions and heal our divisions. All for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, March 20, 2015

You Have to Die to Bear Fruit, Lent V

(excerpted and adapted from the Family Faith Formation Newsletter of St. George's Episcopal Church in Summerville, South Carolina)

"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."--John 12:24

 We've all buried seeds before, right? Well, it's true, we call it "planting" instead of "burying", but that's actually what we are doing; placing a seed into the earth so that it can "die" from being a seed (change), and become something else (transform)--that is, a plant. Many things change from one form to another, don't they? Even people! When we change, it can sometimes feel a little like "dying" from being one thing to becoming another. As we grow, we notice changes. For example, somewhere around the first grade we start to lose our baby teeth. Once when my grandfather surprised me and yanked out my first loose tooth (he said he just wanted to feel how loose it was!), my parents said I went white for moment. I was shocked, and when I saw a little blood, for just an instant I wasn't sure that I wasn't dying. But then they clapped and cheered me on for taking a new step into life. The reason my grandfather tricked me like that was because I was hanging onto that tooth! I was afraid to pull it myself or have anyone else do it for me. After that first tooth, though, losing all the rest of them was a snap! (Well, almost. Except for that basketball injury. Those were NOT baby teeth!)

In a far more costly and grim situation, Jesus knew that His time was approaching to be crucified and buried. His disciples didn't like such talk. So he used the analogy of a grain of wheat. If you don't bury the seed and let it "die", it can never do what it is designed to do; i.e., transform and bear much more grain. Jesus was trying to teach that He must first die, and then rise again to open the way to freedom and peace for us all.

After He rose, it all began to make sense to the disciples. There has to be a death before there can be a resurrection. It is the way of life. God wants us to trust Him in ALL our transitions, for if we will let go, He will lead us into transformation and life. Sometimes our transitions are painful and unexpected. But if we trust Jesus, even with the biggest transition of all--our deaths--He will lead us safely into new life. That is our hope and our heritage.

I have a good friend who has terminal cancer. He tells me (and I believe him) that he is grateful for his cancer. Although he never would have chosen this journey for himself, he has learned evermore to trust God for his care and peace, for his fulfillment and joy. He is understanding more each day that he is experiencing everlasting life now, because he is walking interiorly with Jesus. He has had to die to his plans, to his goals and to his very life. In dying to these things, he has found his life in the midst of the greatest transition a man can find himself. And Jesus is there with him. And Jesus has been there before him. And Jesus will show him the Way out of the tomb, because He IS the Way.

If you have children or grandchildren, help them to understand that whenever they experience a "little death" through some transition (new school, new grade, new sibling, new step-parent), that unless a seed "dies" (faces the death of the old situation and self) it cannot bear fruit (transform into the purpose for which God intended him or her to live). Teach them to entrust themselves to God at every step, for though weeping may last for a night, joy comes in the morning. When they are older, and more and more serious and painful changes occur (job loss, marital change, loss of a loved one) they will remember that unless a seed falls into the earth and dies.... They will know this pattern, and be able to find God right in the middle of it.

"Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Do you now? Go to your change-point. You will find Him there.


Friday, February 6, 2015

What's Their Spiritual Temperature? A Note to Moms and Dads (Grandparents, Too!)

A Long Introduction (excerpted article appears below)...

Here at St. George's Episcopal Church in Summerville, South Carolina, we have a passion for coming alongside families and helping them on their spiritual journeys together*. In my late 50's, I find that I now have more time to walk the Ancient Paths of the church, linger in a prayer, practice lectio, meditate, contemplate the Holiness of Beauty (word reversal intended) and do the daily office. But my heart has been burdened for busy families with young children for some years now. How are they to find the time to walk these paths when parental responsibility constantly calls them away from them? They can make a rule of life, for sure. But time for God within that rule is more scarce than hens' teeth. Sickness, chores, errands, discipline, nightmares, carpools, teachers conferences (both planned and unplanned) can exhaust and leave time for little else. Then...a veil was lifted, and a path for these families appeared, when...

A Lutheran Diaconal Minister named Jennifer Vasquez, who is studying for her D. Min. in Family Faith Formation, and who graced our doorstep along with her young family over a year ago, introduced us to Faith5, a practice developed by Dr. Rich Melheim (see to give families of all ages easy access to the ancient paths without using the words (self-examen, lectio, confession, meditation and anointing/blessing), and in a more simplified and time-friendly form, designed to be used at night before bedtime (when all kids and parents...and spouses, for that matter... should be doing a daily "check-in" anyway). The five steps are Sharing (highs and lows)--"self-examen", Reading a Bible verse or story (that relates to the highs and lows)--"lectio divina", Talking (about how the verse relates to their highs and lows)--"confession", Praying (about the highs and lows) and finally giving a Blessing (as the last words heard before slumber)--"anointing". Not only does this have immediate benefits for young families, it also establishes a spiritual path that even teenagers will find helpful in more difficult times.

Below is an article that appeared in our St. George's Weekly Family Faith Formation Newsletter today (to subscribe, write me at . It is based on the Gospel for this Sunday (Mark 1:29-39), where Jesus heals Simon's mother-in-law of a fever. It gives parents and grandparents a way to touch the souls of children, take their spiritual temperature and provide spiritual "medicine", just as we would for their physical bodies.


What's Their Spiritual Temperature?

Moms and Dads (Grandparents, too), do you sometimes wish you held stock in pediatric thermometers? It's that time of year, and so many of us have helped our children through high fevers, coughs, sniffles and worse. When we look in on our children, the first thing we do is touch those little foreheads and those little faces with concern, ready to apply a cool cloth and good medicine to bring the fever down if necessary.

In the Gospel lesson for this Sunday (Mark 1:29-39), Simon Peter's mother-in-law was sick in bed with a fever. The story tells us that Jesus went to her...and the first thing He did was to touch her ("He took her by the hand and lifted her up. And immediately the fever left her.") I wish I could have seen the look of concern on Jesus' face when He first felt that fevered hand. Just like a mom or a dad, He gave her His healing touch.

When we check on our kids, we want to touch their souls, too, to see how they are. Don't you wish sometimes that you had a thermometer for their souls? Well, you DO! Sometimes we call it "sharing our highs and lows" (step 1 in Faith5 devotions). Checking in on our spiritual temperature, then, is another way to look at it.

And don't you wish there was a good medicine to bring that spiritual fever down? Well, you HAVE it! It is God's Divine Touch administered through your loving hands. Don't forget to bless and TOUCH your children lovingly every night before bedtime after checking their spiritual temperature. The Bible tells us to anoint each other with oil for healing (the oil reminding us of our baptism and represents the presence of the Holy Spirit). This Sunday every family will receive a small bottle of olive oil for anointing (blessing) at night. Trace the sign of the cross on the foreheads with oil (just as at their baptism). Something tells me your little ones will come to treasure this in their lives. Around here, we have discovered that they love blessing us back!

Blessings and Peace,
Fr. Chris

From St. George's Weekly Family Faith Formation Newsletter 2-6-15 ed.

*Studies show that parents are the most effective and important spiritual mentors for their children.
Combine this fact with a statistic (By the time a child reaches grade school, he will  have spent more time with the television than he will with his father for the rest of his life), and one can see how life-changing something like Faith5 can be.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Muslims in the National Cathedral? What's Next? Dogs and Cats Living Together?

Under threat of cosmic cataclysm (the end of the world) in the comedy movie, "Ghost Busters", para-psychologist Dr. Peter Venkman, played by Bill Murray, at an emergency "high summit" meeting in the office of the mayor of New York, offered a "non-technical" translation for the local dignitaries assembled: "That's right. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!"

It had been a while since I had gotten into a rip-snortin' exchange of opinion on Face Book. I had learned (or so I thought) to leave others to theirs and simply pass along the occasional joke or catch up with a friend or family member. But then someone posted a piece by Franklin Graham decrying the National Cathedral's hosting of a Muslim prayer service. Other friends piled on. A "shame" and a "disgrace", they called it. A "desecration". Muslims were being compared to Baal worshipers and witches. "Mass hysteria!" And I began to wonder if there is any hope if some of us who claim to be followers of Jesus could be so non-conciliatory and indiscriminant with their hatred. But I remember that ignorance is the basis of much fear. And knee-jerk reactionism is far easier than taking the trouble to be measured and thoughtful--indeed, loving (especially if loving is to include our perceived enemies).

But I don't think these people intend actually to hate; they are some of the best and kindest people I know. They don't know what to make of a radical fringe of Islam that has declared a jihad against Western Civilization. Not having studied or experienced devout Muslims personally, they lump them all together as a group to be feared physically and spiritually (isn't that what they call prejudice?). They paint them all as wild-eyed murderers. So it is no wonder that when they hear of Muslims being invited into the National Cathedral of the Episcopal Church for a Muslim prayer service, they seriously ask (in ignorance) "Why is our National Cathedral inviting people who fly planes into our buildings in the name of Allah to offer prayers in the name of Allah? This is a desecration!" How fearful it must be for the average Muslim to be so easily lumped in with terrorists. How disingenuous it is for Christians to do this.

And about Franklin Graham. It was his blog article from which they drank this bowl of indignation, ignorance and fear. It's time for him to come out from behind his father's respected and honored robes and quit stoking the flames of mass hysteria and misunderstanding among the less educated on these matters with his cowardly potshots (the pulpit can be a coward's haven) at a denomination with which he has nothing to do (the Episcopal Church), nor any appreciation for. His rigid interpretation of scripture ("No one comes to the Father except through me"), as well as his virulent brand of xenophobia (Lord, WHY do these people always have such a big stage?) has maligned the reputation of a very large swath of humble, devout people. Indeed, these have put an innocent culture at risk. Would we Christians (seriously, think about this) deign to persecute an entire race, a heritage, a culture, a religion? Nationalism, combined with religious and racial exclusionism, can be a very dangerous brew. Read a little history, please. You don't have to go back even just a little bit.

Listen to the words of a Kenyan Christian who learned from his Anglican priest grandfather to appreciate and honor other religions:

"Today Kenyans face an enemy who is strategically creating distrust between Muslims and other religious communities, especially Christians, for his own purposes. This enemy has chosen to hide under the guise of Islam because they know that most Kenyans only understand the doctrine and ideologies of their own religion. They know that an average Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc tends to be completely ignorant of the doctrines and ideology of other faiths and in fact; in that funny way of religion, will often look down on other faiths and categorize them as false [if not downright evil!]."
"This enemy understands the ethnic schisms of our nation, the historical fault-lines of the Kenyan state, and the historical narratives of injustices and marginalization in our communities. He is now using this social environment to propagate a war of terrorism that he then presents to us as a warped ideology of Islam; one meant to make even the most tolerant of us angry; very angry!
Unfortunately it is working. It is also turning us against genuine adherents of Islam; those people my late grandfather admired. This ignorance of other faiths and exclusivity of our own is being used against us."   --NGUNJIRI WAMBUGU, in an opinion piece entitled "Kenya: We Must Not Allow Religious Intolerance to Thrive." (Credit Jim Simons in his blog "Three Rivers Episcopal": the article can be found here:  )

There are unfortunate similarities here in the United States, where prejudice is too often the easier path taken. A journalist friend of mine, Ellen Dooley, aptly stated:

"The issues we--humans across the globe--face at this moment in history demand the deepest, most critical thought, the most rigorous scholarship, the cross-disciplinary collaboration of all people of good will--lives are at stake and the very earth shudders with grief. We do no honor to God by refusing to listen, refusing to learn, insisting that self-righteous indignation and plainspoken ignorance is superior to the thoughts and ideas and traditions of those who have devoted enormous energy and effort to the study of history, politics, theology etc.

 Can we stop wringing our hands over the silly notion of "protecting" or "defending God's honor," as though the Creator were a fragile, simpering Victorian prone to fainting spells? This is the Lion of Judah we're talking about."--Ellen Dooley
As for the actual event in question, several hundred devout Muslims were invited to offer prayer in what Bp. Mariann Budde calls "a house of prayer for all people".

South African Ambassador to the United States, Ebrahim Rasool preached the sermon. Rasool and chief liturgist of the Cathedral, the Rev. Can. Gina Gilland Campbell had collaborated together on Nelson Mandela's funeral, and as they continued on in association and friendship, conceived the idea of this service as a call for peace and tolerance among the religions.

Rasool preached in part:
"Extremism is not the antidote to extremism. Extremism labels because it cannot debate. Extremism excludes because it cannot embrace. Extremism is angry because it cannot love. Extremism destroys because it cannot build. Extremism has perfected the art of dying for its cause because it has forgotten how to live for its cause."
Ironically, the hospitality of the moment was marred by an extremist, a woman who rose and interrupted, shouting:
“America was founded on Christian principles. . . . Leave our church alone!” She was swiftly ushered out by security aides, and the service continued. She was not arrested. She briefly became the poster child for those who fear sharing prayer with people of other religions. 
Some may ask, "Isn't this poking a stick in the eye of a people (red-blooded Americans) who have been attacked by terrorists who claim to be Muslims?" Ask any of the many Muslims who serve in our armed forces that question. I wonder if their blood is as red as any other American's. In times like this, reason, calm and tolerance must be upheld, exampled and held out as a lamp for the nations. 
As for us Episcopalians (not all of whom agree) modeling Christian hospitality and tolerance: If not us, who? If not now, when?
What we don't need in this world is encouragement toward "mass hysteria" with un-marinated, uncooked, un-filtered, un-thought-out reaction to constantly-breaking, un-marinated, uncooked, unfiltered and un-thought-out news.
We do need lots of prayer, meditation, community, acceptance and wisdom based on thought, hospitality, love and study. 
For some fascinating and enlightening reading, see:

Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque

What it's like to follow Christ embedded in Muslim culture. An interview with a Muslim follower of Isa [Jesus]. at

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Another Little Milestone, Thank You

Another little milestone was reached for Acts Two Six late last month when it reached 25,000 page hits. You know, all bloggers have inflated hits due to "robots", but even if 20% (a high estimate) readers aren't actually human, that still leaves 20,000 page hits by humans. Thank you, humans, and other bloggers who draw readers to my blog.

Since the parish I serve is so busy, I have so little time to share, to educate and to comment via my blog. But I will be back with a big article in a day or two concerning the National Cathedral's hosting of a Muslim prayer service. Stay tuned.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Uh-Oh. Even Contemplatives Must Beware the Mighty EGO or, Try As We Might to Become Self-Aware, We Can Still Shoot Ourselves in the Foot

Maggie Ross, an "experienced" contemplative (you'll laugh as you read on at my use of the word), warns, among other things, of the pervasiveness of "consumerism", an insidious ego-driven phenomenon of human nature that seeks to grasp and change every original and natural thought and experience of God into something own-able, archive-able--and yes, even profitable.

Also problematic is our use of the word "experience", in that we forget that all experience is mere interpretation, and not reality in itself. True contemplation submits experience to a far deeper Mind and Wisdom, both affirmed by holy writ and tested by a more ancient path.

Enjoy this (as yet) unfinished series as it unfolds. Parts I and II can be found at

Maggie Ross (Martha Reeves) is an Anglican solitary. A graduate of the Madeira School, Class of 1959, she is also a Stanford educated professor of theology and a mystic under vows to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

CH +

Monday, October 13, 2014

We Had the Experience But Missed the Meaning III

This simple (but not easy) reorientation goes against what most celebrity gurus are saying. Such people are masters and mistresses of staging artificial environments where people can have "experiences," for which these gurus charge an impressive amount of money. And when their customers come down off the high engendered by such events, they feel more hollow and depressed than they did before. So of course they immediately seek another expensive artificial event that will give them yet another "experience." This so-called spirituality is just another form of addictive consumerism.
Such consumerism is often based on a mis-use of the word "contemplative." The phrase "contemplative experience" is nonsensical, for contemplation properly speaking is about relinquishing all claims to experience, that is, all preconceptions.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sensible Words for Christians in America

Bp. Greg Brewer posted this and I am "stealing it" to show to my circle of friends. Pluralism is a reality that provides us with tremendous opportunity. We just have to see it for what it is, embrace it, and work within it.

5 Guidelines for Living in a Pluralist Society
Image: John Ashley / Flickr
Two months ago, I wrote an article for CT that explored the issues and complications surrounding the growing tensions between religious liberty and LGBT rights. I also suggested that Christians ought to pay greater attention to pluralism, an idea that I explore in more detail in this academic article (and in an upcoming book).
I am grateful to CT’s editors for the invitation to share some additional thoughts about these and related issues, and I plan to do so in a series of essays in the coming months. In this essay, I want to explore the contours of our society’s pluralism, and how Christians might engage with our pluralistic world regardless of where they find themselves in it.

Out of Many, One?

Our nation has many aspirations toward unity and a common good. Our Constitution sets a course for “a more perfect union.” Our politicians speak of a great “melting pot” that flows out of a “nation of immigrants.” Our pledge of allegiance refers to “one nation.” Our nation’s seal, E pluribus unum, promises “Out of many, one.”
These aspirations are to some extent realized. Almost all Americans agree about the background practicalities we need to live as a society. Most of us agree that we need public roads, national defense, fire departments, and the like. We also agree today on many basic features of a democratic society: the right to vote, the right to due process of law, the right to free speech. We disagree—sometimes sharply—about the contours of these rights, but we usually have enough of a baseline to recognize the nature of our disagreement. And importantly, we agree about many basic laws, like those protecting life and property, the payment of taxes, and the operation of courts and prisons.
Read the rest here: Winsome within pluralism

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Homily for the Am Ha'Aretz

I recently married my nephew and godchild, Michael Huff, to his beautiful bride on a barrier island off Charleston, South Carolina, called Folly Beach. It is a place of magic for many. Popularly dubbed the "Edge of America", it is a place where generations have returned to the womb, reconciled with Mother Earth, and found their way home to God. Michael and his bride, Leah (the name of my deceased sister) Eppehimer, share a unique love of mud and water (he is a crabber. oyster-man and sharker) and ocean (they both are free-spirited surfers).
Nature is our first home. The church, our second. We need to reconnect the two. They belong together.
The Am Ha'Aretz, or the "People of the Land", is a term found in the Tanakh. The Hebrews were an earthy people. So are we, although we have become disenchanted with earthiness. Lest we become too sterile of spirit, let us cross that bridge.
This wedding was performed under the threat of a coastal storm. God held back the rains and gave us one of the most beautiful sunsets seen in recent times.
A Homily for the Am Ha'Aretz (Michael's and Leah's Marriage Homily)
Michael and Leah remind me of Adam and Eve in that they met each other in the beauty of nature. Only….their relationship was conceived and fostered through an intimate connection with the primordial ooze of pluff mud and the primal, nurturing, mystical power of the ocean.

Their relationship has been baptized, you could say, in the waters of Folly Beach. And now a family whose own relationships have been fostered a bit north in the waters of the jersey shore have come to support in love and prayer the baby of her family, Leah, in her  marriage to the baby of his family, Michael. So here we all are, about to be baptized by water from the heavens themselves. What a joining, sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and family and matrimony and mud and sand and garden and love.

We in the church are familiar with the phenomenon described by the phrase, “Spiritual, but not religious”. Open to spiritual ideas, and hungry in heart for answers in life. Just not so enamored of churchy stuff.

I get it that for many “Mother Church” has come to seem “Old Fashioned”, perhaps even irrelevant, in the minds of some. And yet the faith into which you both were baptized has drawn us all here today, and through our prayers and love sustains you, as well as all of us. The transcendent God of the universe came, in the person of Jesus Christ to build a bridge between the ancient paths of the first magic of God’s creation to all of mankind and the future. We call it “Ancient-Future”, the gathering of all things past and present unto Himself.

Whether or not we realize it, we are all standing on that bridge that God built. From our baptism in the waters of the church… to where we stand today…not just physically here together, but situationally, wherever each one of us finds ourselves at this moment in time.

Do not burn that bridge. It has spanned human lifetimes and, although perhaps old and creaky here and there, it is large enough and plenty strong to hold us all on our journey through this life on earth to our eternal destinies, established in the heavens.

And now especially to you two, Michael and Leah. Anyone who has been married for longer than five minutes knows that storms will come. You will, and perhaps already have, hurt each other. As St. Paul says, “Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another and, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

In just a moment you will give your vows to one another. Not only are you giving vows; you are giving your souls to each other. And we who love you are witnesses. And we support you. May you ever deepen in the love that brought you here, and find the deep blessings of God in your lives, which now are becoming one in Jesus Christ. Amen.  
The Rev. Christopher M. Huff

Monday, September 29, 2014

Re-Arranging My "Why I Stayed" Series for Easier Reading

People have been asking how to find all ten parts of my series entitled "Why I Stayed" (In the Episcopal Church). As the blog has grown, some of the older bits have become buried. So now, for your convenience, I have labeled them all under one label. If you will look at "My Categories" near the top of the right hand column, you will see "Why I Stayed". Click on that, and all ten  (plus an introduction) will appear in sequence.

Also, if you're interested in perusing, there are lots of good articles in addition to my own writing. If you're feeling adventurous, while in a category, when you get to the bottom and can't scroll any further, be sure to click on "see older posts". A new page of posts will appear.

I hope this helps. And thanks for reading.

CH +

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dagnall Free: The Return of a Breakaway Priest to TEC in South Carolina



I was honored and thrilled to recommend, as a member of
the Standing Committee of TEC in SC, the reinstatement
of Dagnall Free to the Episcopal Priesthood. It was a unanimous
CH +
The following is borrowed from The Episcopal Church in
South Carolina website.

Returning priest welcomed, reinstated through new path for reconciliation


September 18, 2014

Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg has welcomed a returning member of the clergy back into good standing as a priest, hailing the reinstatement of the Reverend H. Dagnall Free, Jr. as an important day for The Episcopal Church and an encouraging step toward reconciliation in South Carolina.

On Tuesday, in a brief liturgy led by Bishop vonRosenberg, Fr. Free reaffirmed the vows he took at his ordination in 2010 and signed a formal declaration promising to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church.

Fr. Free was a priest serving at St. John’s Episcopal Church on John’s Island in 2012, when a breakaway group under Bishop Mark Lawrence announced it was leaving The Episcopal Church. After the schism, a number of clergy remained with The Episcopal Church. However, Fr. Free stayed at St. John’s, which followed the breakaway group under Mark Lawrence.

Yet in the eyes of The Episcopal Church, he remained under Bishop vonRosenberg’s authority. Over a five-month period in 2013, the Bishop made efforts to contact each breakaway clergy member. In most cases there was no reply. In August 2013, with the advice and consent of the Standing Committee, the Bishop formally removed Dagnall Free and more than 100 other priests and deacons from the ordained ministry.

  read the rest here.........Episcopal Priest from Breakaway Parish Reinstated

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Reply to Dr. Caldwell

A parishioner of one of the breakaway parishes, after personally observing one day of the trial, was incredulous upon hearing testimony from lay leaders that they had never considered themselves members of the Episcopal Church. After doing further research, he who once sided with the decision of his parish to join other parishes in following Mark Lawrence out, is re-evaluating his stance (I originally said he changed his mind--he prefers that I stick with his original word, "re-evaluating"). Note: If they never considered themselves a part of the larger Episcopal Church (TEC), what was the leaving for?
CH +

August 5, 2014
My Reply to Dr. Caldwell
Ignorance being bliss, I almost wish I'd never seen beautiful St. George, Home of the Grits Festival. But I was curious and witnessed something that's forcing me to anguishingly reevaluate my thoughts on the schism:

Senior Wardens, under oath, testified that they had NEVER considered themselves members of TEC, but ONLY of their parishes and the diocese. I couldn't believe it.

At 58, I considered myself a member of PECUSA/ECUSA/TEC from the moment my "Episcopal" priest grandfather baptized me as an infant in his Columbus, Ga., parish church, through my confirmation in Charleston by Bishop Temple, through four years in high school at "Episcopal" St. Andrew's School adjacent to the "Episcopal" University of the South at Sewanee with "Episcopal" priests and seminarians, "Episcopal" Order of the Holy Cross monks and an "Episcopal" Order of St. Helena nun on our campus, through my reaffirmation 10 years ago in Charleston by Bishop Haynesworth [Central American Missionary Bishop (ret) (dec)] - no one EVER informing me differently - up until the moment my current parish's unanimous disaffiliation vote was announced to no one's surprise. And, although I strongly supported that outcome based on the information available, I wept to have left the Church which had nurtured me for a lifetime, and the more so since as tales of riven parishes and missions, communities and families, have trickled out.

And individuals in parish authority older and wiser than I could testify they'd NEVER considered themselves members of TEC? ESPECIALLY when it didn't make one whit of difference under state "neutral principles" nonprofit corporate law, principles Judge Goodstein emphasized again and again she was bound by in deference to our Supreme Court's All Saints, Waccamaw decision?

I've discovered since the trial and highly recommend for consideration Fr. Chris Huff's thoughtful 10-part "Why I Stayed" essay on his ACTS TWO SIX blog: Chris doesn't mention it but in "staying" he and wife Kim sacrificed communion with their elderly mothers and many, many others. He and I also attended "Episcopal"-affiliated Porter-Gaud School which employed an "Episcopal" chaplain.
--Mr. Beau Booker

Is It Worth It? A Version Much Closer to the Truth.

Editor's note: I have posted this Open Letter because I was absolutely nonplussed and rendered almost speechless after reading how former colleague after former colleague testified at the recent trial in Dorchester County that they had never considered themselves or their parishes to be a part of the larger Episcopal Church. Stunning. You will want to read Ron's letter in its entirety.
The next post will contain a response from a Breakaway parishioner who, as a result of personal observation of the trial in Dorchester County, as well as his personal research, is re-evaluating the whole matter.  Key: "DSC" - (breakaway) Diocese of South Carolina under Mark Lawrence. "TEC"-The (National) Episcopal Church, represented in South Carolina by The Episcopal Church in South Carolina under The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, and the only officially recognized province of the Anglican Communion in the United States, as well as in South Carolina. 
CH +

Posted with permission from Dr. Caldwell, as found on the link at
The Episcopal Schism in South Carolina (blog)
Dr. Ron Caldwell, Editor

Ron holds a Ph.D. in History from Florida State University, and is a Professor of History Emeritus at Jacksonville State University in Alabama.  He is the former Assistant Head of  the  South  Carolina Room at the Charleston Public Library and author of several books on Episcopal Church history. He is currently working on a history of schism in South Carolina.
--An open letter to the communicants of the independent diocese

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

We have just gone through fourteen agonizing days of a shameful and disastrous scene in what was once known as the most sedate, reasonable, rational, and beautiful of all major denominations. The venerable old establishment church in South Carolina has reached a new low. It lies shattered on the floor of Courtroom D of the Dorchester County Court House in St. George. Will it ever recover? Will its wounds ever heal? Will it ever return to its ancient glory as the premiere religion of the establishment society of South Carolina?

This is an open letter to the majority in that once grand old church, people who have felt the need to leave their ancestral home in the Episcopal Church. Your side will "win" this trial. But when all is said and done, what will you have won? I ask you to consider: Is it worth it? Look at what has happened. Look at the cost and ask yourself, Is it all worth it? I ask you to consider the following factors:

1-On the causes of the split. The old diocesan leaders said the diocese had to leave TEC because of theology, polity, and sexuality. On theology, they said TEC had abandoned the belief in the uniqueness of Christ. On polity they said TEC had acted illegally under its own rules. On sexuality they said TEC was forcing everyone to accept same-sex marriage and transgendered clergy. None of this was true. In fact, TEC has never changed its theology of the uniqueness of Christ. That would take action by the General Convention. It will never happen. On government, TEC operates under a Constitution and Canons which it follows by detailed directions. On sexuality, TEC has allowed diocesan bishops to choose whether or not to have the blessing of same-sex unions. That is not marriage. As for transgendered clergy, all ordinations are at the discretion of the local bishop. He or she cannot be forced to ordain anyone.

The leaders also said that DSC was forced to leave TEC because Bishop Lawrence was mistreated. As I have pointed out in other posts, the public records are very clear that Lawrence was in fact well treated by TEC. Documents show that the Standing Committee planned the schism by unanimous and secret resolution on Oct. 2, 2012 before Lawrence was even informed that he had been certified with abandonment. It was put into effect on Oct. 17, retroactive to Oct. 15. Lawrence refused all efforts of the Presiding Bishop to resolve the crisis after that. In fact, the leaders, and Lawrence, voluntarily left the Episcopal Church. Lawrence was not mistreated. The diocese was not pushed out.

Moreover, the leaders said they had to go to court first because they were about to be attacked by TEC. They did go to court and initiated the first lawsuit, on Jan. 4, 2013 before TEC even had time to reorganize the diocese. There was no sign that TEC was about to attack anyone. The communicants of the old diocese have been misinformed on the causes of the split, on why the diocese left TEC, and on why the diocese went to court. All of this will be clear when the historical record is fully revealed.

2-The old diocesan leaders led the majority to abandon the church of their forbearers and ancestors, a church they had been a part of for 225 years. A great deal of the historic economic, political, and social establishment of South Carolina proudly called themselves Episcopalians. With the possible exception of Virginia, no state in the country was more attached to the Episcopal Church.

3-The old diocesan leaders have developed an institutional structure in the diocese that is far more authoritarian than it has ever been. The bishop has been given the sole power to interpret the constitution and canons of the church, to appoint the deans, and to appoint and dismiss all clergy. The clergy have been given control over local property. For years now, all of the important diocesan councils and committees have been monopolized by like-minded people. For years they have routinely voted unanimously on resolutions. For years they have controlled all public relations in the diocese. Diocesan conventions have become rubber-stamping dumas. Power rests at the top.

4-Since Lawrence became bishop in 2008, the diocese of 29,000 has lost about one-third of itself. 2,000 people left with St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant. About 7,000 people remained with TEC. Forty percent of the clergy remained with TEC. DSC has 52 local churches, TEC has 30. Exact communicant numbers are impossible to know. DSC claims 80% of the old diocese, a figure that is certainly exaggerated. Two-thirds is more realistic.

5-The economic cost has been and continues to be great. The diocese shows declining revenues. Local parishes are challenged to keep up income. Meanwhile, 35 local churches have joined the lawsuit, each with lawyers to pay. There were 40 lawyers attending the trial. The trial lasted 14 days. If each lawyer charges $100/hr (a very conservative figure) and each trial day had 8 hours, that amounts to 112 hours and $11,200 per lawyer. 40 lawyers would cost $448,000. And this is just trial time. It does not count the many hours of lawyers' preparations. A fair estimate for this trial would push a million dollars. Imagine how far that amount would have gone to missionary work and to caring for the poor.

6-The ill will that has been generated goes deep and will likely last quite a while. Before the trial, Lawrence called his opponents "the spiritual forces of evil." Alan Runyan et al went after their courtroom opponents with hard-hitting aggression. Genteel Episcopalianism disappeared in the dust. Memories last.

7-Many local churches have suffered the heartbreak of separation. This is especially true in small cities and towns. Friend has left friend, neighbor has left neighbor as long-term relationships have fallen victim. One has only to speak to the people caught in this to see their pain and anguish.

8-All of this has done great damage to the work of the Kingdom of God in lower South Carolina. Both sides have had to devote so much time, money, attention, and energy into the separation that too much has been lost along the way. This is no way to do Christ's work in the world. Besides, how can a church at war attract new members? People want to go to church for solace and comfort, not for conflict. Most people already have enough of that in their lives.

9-The old diocesan leaders have led the majority off to drift into nowhere. What has happened in South Carolina is unique to South Carolina. When Lawrence staged his dramatic pre-planned walk-out from the House of Bishops in July of 2012, not one other bishop joined him. Not one bishop has followed him since then. Not one other diocese has gone along with South Carolina. Why is South Carolina unique? It's because of the leadership that long ago began deliberately distancing the diocese from the Church. It was a revolution from the top down. Not being a popular revolution, it has not been replicated anywhere else.

The alternate primatial oversight scheme with the Global South is a meaningless sham meant to fool communicants into believing they are in the Anglican Communion. The leaders have not even explained how it works. A discernment committee is at work to decide on new affiliation, but the committee were all hand picked by Bishop Lawrence who has steadfastly refused to join the Anglican Church in North America, the supposed replacement structure to take the place of TEC. The independent diocese has no identity. It is not in the Anglican Communion. It is not recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury or by the official structure of the AC, nor will it ever be.

Thus, the good communicants of the old diocese should ask themselves, Has it been worth it? Is it worth it now? Look at where you have been since you left home, where you are now, and where you are going. Why are you better off now than you were two years ago? Why do you think you will be better off in the future? Again, Is it worth it?

What do you think? I'd like to hear from you. E-mail me