Friday, June 28, 2013

A Layperson's take on Mark Lawrence's June 21 Letter: from Lynnette Ras, Guest Author

axtwosix is reposting this piece because of the comments at the end of the article. I encourage participation in this conversation. I even will allow you to comment anonymously, although I would very much like to know who you are. See how nice and understanding I am? Seriously, though, I realize that some of these responses may well be  anonymous because the writers may fear for their jobs---sympahetic, but trapped, in PECDSC (Mark Lawrence's group). My colleagues in PECDSC are in jeopardy of being deposed by the Episcopal Church in short order. For most, this was "done unto them" by PECDSC leadership with no choice or say in the matter. Won't they at least TALK to Bp. von Rosenberg? Weigh their options? Look at what's happening? I have read that both in San Joaquin and in Pittsburgh the clergy were advised to lay low in the run-up to schism in those dioceses. See Jim Simons' post in his blog "Three Rivers Episcopal" (it can be found in the blog list in the side bar to the right). Look for the article entitled "The Case for Staying in the Episcopal Church".  Really sad. Whatever happened to transparency and openness and collegiality? It's not too late. Every bit of what has happened since last October could still be undone with little, if any, consequence. Lynn wonders below what TEC's response would be if any clergy and/or congregations sought to "come back". They would, in fact, be welcomed joyously and with open arms. 

Also, be sure to check out "Why I Stayed" in this blog under "Chris' Reflections"  CH +

This reflection is from Lynnette Ras, Guest Author for axtwosix. 

It is her take on Mark Lawrence's open letter dated June 21 (shown below), describing his thoughts on the former Diocese of South Carolina and its observation status with ACNA and other self-professed "Anglican" entities, bishops and representatives. I put "Anglican" in quotes because, while these entities claim to be anglican in ethos, liturgy and form, they are not officially recognized by Canterbury as in union with the worldwide anglican communion. Indeed, it is the hope of some in ACNA, participants in GAFCON, CANA and the Southern Cone and Africa that some conservative provinces and dioceses will "break off" from Canterbury completely. They will then become their own separate anglican identity with no need, nor desire for, union with Canterbury. The numbers involved would represent a schism in the church that rivals East/West and Rome/England. 

Thanks to Lynnette Ras for her contribution to the conversation. She has a burning desire for God, and for truth among His people. May her search not be fruitless. She is 28 years old, and is really going places.

       "I was just cleaning out my email box and came across this letter (printed below).  You may have seen it already.  The word "transparency" jumped out at me immediately.  The terms that the disassociation of the breakaway church left on seem anything but transparent.  It's hard for me to believe that he would knowingly scheme especially quoting scripture like "refuse to practice cunning".  I found him to be such a good preacher and was particularly intrigued with his gift of praying over people about their spiritual gifts so profoundly.   I think I take it really hard when preachers let me down.  Maybe I hold too high a standard; but maybe not, since the Bible holds preachers to a higher standard.  I don't know.  I do know that I get really offended when it seems like the institution or the Word get twisted into a mechanism for a personal crusade.  Some people think that gay bishop (Robinson) in the Northeast who was the first (openly gay)  to be elected sought to rise to that rank of religious leader to further his own personal plight for his cause.  I'm not sure that's the case.  I'm not sure if his ascendance to that position furthered the welcoming message of the Gospel or did damage to the Body.  I'm inclined to believe it didn't damage because conservatives who leave usually find a safe place to shelter, while those who feel shut out or ostracized don't necessarily keep searching until they find their safe place.  So in any case where a religious leader stands up for something controversial, whether or not it tore or mended the Body (or to what extent) is something we may never know until we reach Eternity.  I'm sure they realize their accountability to the Lord and I hope that if they are in denial, if they suspect something about their motives was self-centered instead of Christ centered, that they do what they can to make amends.  I hope.

I had always liked the diocesan motto "Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age: Helping to shape emerging Anglicanism in the 21st Century"... until now.  Now I see what it meant all along was "Making Biblical Conservatives for a Global Age: Helping to Return Anglicanism to the Old Ways and Preserve it from Being Tainted by Society"  I keep having this weird imagining of what would happen if Bishop Lawrence were to feel the path they took was wrong and try to make amends or reassociate, or even if certain churches that left would become disillusioned and want to come back, how TEC would respond.  In my hopes it would be graceful and forgiving and exemplify Christianity at it's best. I don't know if that's what would happen, but I like to imagine it and anytime I hear a voice say it'll never happen and that it's wishful thinking like a child wishing divorced parents would reunite I try to remember  that with God all things are possible..."
--Lynnette Ras

editor's note: ACNA stands for Anglican Church in North America. It is a confederation of congregations and dioceses thathave left the Episcopal Church of the United States, theonly official branch of the Worldwide Anglican Communion in the United States. CH+

Diocesan Delegation Observers at ACNA's Provincial Council

Dear Friends in Christ,

As many of you know I am at Nashotah House in Wisconsin at the Anglican Church in North America’s Provincial Council (which just concluded yesterday with a Festival Eucharist—an inspiring and joyful worship). This morning they will begin their House of Bishops Meeting. I am present as an observer. Joining me at the Provincial Council was The Very Rev. Peet Dickinson, Dean of the Cathedral, and Mrs. Suzanne Schwank, a member of our diocesan Standing Committee. They returned this morning to South Carolina and I will stay on for the House of Bishops Meeting and return on a late flight Friday in order to be at St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center for its 75th anniversary this weekend.

As I told the Diocesan Council last month and said at various deanery gatherings, not to mention many parish forums, it has been my intention to attend various gatherings within what I’ve referred to as the Anglican Diaspora in North America to learn the various players and seek greater unity as may be appropriate. So when I met with Archbishop Robert Duncan at the recent New Wineskins Conference, he invited me to attend this Council as an observer and bring a delegation. This struck me as a good way to follow-up on my expressed intentions. 

It has been an enlightening and, frankly, encouraging few days. Near the conclusion of the ACNA Council yesterday, Archbishop Duncan, invited our delegation to address the assembly of bishops and delegates. What follows are my brief comments on this occasion (reconstructed from my notes):

Your Grace, fellow bishops, and brothers and sisters in Christ, I appreciate this opportunity to address you, however briefly, in the midst of your work and business for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I make just three comments under the categories of: Gratitude, Observations and Where we are in the Diocese of South Carolina.  

Gratitude: Let me express our gratitude for the gracious hospitality extended to us during these last two days. We have felt welcomed and honored among you—and are profoundly thankful for the prayers that so many have assured us have been offered on behalf of the Diocese of South Carolina: Indeed, for your words of encouragement let me say “Thank you”—for the assurance of your prayers—you have our inexpressible gratitude.  

Observations: We have much to learn about what I have previously referred to as the Anglican Diaspora in North America and therefore are grateful for this invitation to be among you at your Provincial Council. We have been positively struck by an atmosphere of transparency, humility, and prayerful and godly worship.  This combined with your vision for a Biblical, Missionary and United Anglicanism has been heartening. Making these observations has led me to reflect upon the words of St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:1-3. Here the apostle speaks of his ministry by the mercy of God as a tested, transparent, and truthful ministry. He writes: “Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.”  Here is the inferred reality of a tested ministry.  I know from those of you I have known over the years, and from those with whom I’ve shared conversation in the last two days, that many of you, lay and ordained alike, have experienced and demonstrated a “tested ministry.” That has been quite evident in our observation in these last two days. St. Paul goes on to write: “We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word;” Here is his commitment to pursue transparency in his ministry. We believe we’ve seen a similar spirit among you.  He goes on to assert: “but by an open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.” While seeking transparency he also strives for a truthful ministry committed to the truth of God’s Word. So we have witnessed this among you as well. Thus we are encouraged by and encourage you in such a ministry.

Finally, under the rubric “Where we are in the Diocese of South Carolina:”Let me say a few words as well.  I have been guided since my first year as bishop by what I trust is the God-given vision of “Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age: Helping to shape emerging Anglicanism in the 21st Century.” Whether we were within The Episcopal Church or now disassociated from TEC we have sought to have our vision guide our decisions. Put another way our vocation guides our decisions rather than decisions guiding our vocation.  

We are presently an “extra-provincial” diocese, not in any formal or officially ecclesial way, but as a fact rooted in our relationship with provinces and dioceses within the Anglican Communion. So we are a diocese without provincial affiliation—we are so provisionally but not, I believe, precariously.  

I have made it repeatedly clear that any provincial affiliation will not be made by the bishop or Standing Committee, unilaterally. As we chose in the late 1700's to affiliate with the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America as a diocese voting at our convention, so in this present era it shall be the diocese in convention that makes any such decision regarding provincial affiliation.  

So we are grateful for this gracious invitation, first to be present among you, and secondly for this opportunity to address you with these few words. May God continue to guide you in your work.

I will be attending the ACNA House of Bishops Meeting these next two days in the capacity of an observer and will look forward to sharing my perceptions with you whenever and wherever appropriate.  As always I remain grateful to serve you as your bishop.

Faithfully Yours in Christ,

Mark J. Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina


  1. Lynn, regarding your reflection on all this and the prayer and quiet times of listening which I know you devote yourself to, all I can say is "Amen, Sister." My prayer is just as child-like as those you've spoken of. Seems appropriate since the Lord we all profess to love, adore, and follow, asks that of us. May our hearts, souls, and minds reflect Him and may our differences come together as a blessing to the Body of Christ reflecting Him on all who still live in darkness!

  2. With so many enemies in front of us, why must we turn and fight our brothers and sisters? Has the body that is the church not been cut and carved enough so that we must find petty differences in order to suit our wants and split the body even further

  3. Perhaps what "tore it" for me was when I learned that Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop, received death threats and had to wear bullet-proof vests to pubic ceremonies.

    They will know we are Christians by our death threats?

  4. They will know we are Christians by our death threats. That was profound. It's one thing to sing "they will know we are Christians by our love and quite another to live it.

    If this split has taught us anything, it's we've failed as a body to follow Jesus. We have deep, deep inner work to do. Like Jesus said, it's what comes out of us that defiles us. Much of Christianity has bypassed this in favor of "truth" as if we can know God without dying to ourselves. Jesus didn't think it was possible, but somehow we'd rather worship Jesus' journey, rather than walk it. It's less painful to sing songs about Jesus than it is to face our selves, die, descend into hell, so that we can be resurrected with Him.

    I've never like the idea of "biblical Anglicans". Yes, you can put it on a tee shirt, but that's about it. It wasn't a bible that hung on a cross... it was Jesus... God incarnate. If being biblical doesn't lead us to live the way, truth, and life of Jesus, then we've completely made God into an extrinsic religion to shelter us from ourselves and pain.

  5. You know, I am no biblical scholar....three things come to mind...First, was from our LORD & SAVIOR, CHRIST JESUS.....( please, correct me if I am wrong..) " love one and other , as I have loved you..". I don't know, this is not what I am seeing here........Secondly, when the apostles argued amongst themselves, about who would sit at the right hand of JESUS , at our Fathers table, brings to mind our church leaders. Bishops, priests, and the like. Perhaps much like the high priests, and Pharisees? And Third,JESUS said to Peter " take care of my flock".Now not even mentioning " judgement" JESUS said " I am not here as your judge, but to be your lord & savior". Call me simple, I try ,my best to follow my LORD & SAVIOR, CHRIST JESUS, FIRST & FOREMOST. All this......B.S. ( for lack of a better term..) in my eyes does NOTHING TO CARE FOR HIS FLOCK.It sickens me, and the lost sheep are not being found. All I can say is " As for me & my house, we WILL SERVE THE LORD! I continue to pray for healing in the church..................may GOD HAVE MERCY, UPON US ALL! AMEN.+

  6. To non believers, this bickering, & fighting is NOT, What JESUS told us to do. This is not our LORDS intention for any of us.He wants us to have " Abundant life"...all of us.May Peace & Love, be upon you and your house. To all!
    ..,,Let us go forth into the world TO LOVE & SERVE THE LORD! AMEN!

  7. Someone close to me mentioned that this blog is one perspective and to be mindful of the other viewpoint. I try to be, but I don't see much dialogue from the PECDSC besides unrest about legal matters (court, state vs. federal, pension, etc). I'm not trying to say those fiscal matters aren't pertinent, but I'm curious what the heartfelt beliefs and passion behind the choice to leave is. I also noticed a Spirit of we're carrying on and leaving the painful past behind. Does that mean the "problem" has been dealt with effectively by leaving or is it that the "problem" was left behind for someone else to deal with. I'm wondering what those who left feel about the tearing of the Body of Christ. If they feel it was worth it, or necessary. I also understand that many didn't have a choice. The church they go to is their home. Unless strongly convicted to the reasons to stay or leave, many will not leave home. If St. Georges was one of the churches that separated, I would still disagree that it was necessary to leave, but I wouldn't have left St. Georges. The people are my church family and the teachings remain Spirit filled. I'm sure this is true for the other churches of the diocese. I understand the desire to remain anonymous, but do wonder where the dialogue is for those who think parting ways was the right thing to do. Please forgive me if I'm overgeneralizing anything. That is not my intent.

    As far as PECDSC updates. I'm not finding it readily available on the website or the general letter emails sent out. Does anyone know of a good resource to hear some of their thoughts?

  8. Blessed Lyn, Chris There is no side in this issue that is without sin. But as one who is about to be deposed by Bishop von Rosenberg for "violating my ordination vows", I do have a dog in this hunt. To the best of my knowledge I have never violated my vow: I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God, and have remained faithful to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church--never violated in my life, yet I am being deposed. I still love you all, and the clergy colleagues who followed their consciences to remain in TEC. My personal relationships have not been impacted by these differences. I do think it is a bit naive to assign to the PEDofSC a focus upon property and monies; the steps taken in court were in response to TEC's history in every other case of dioceses seeking to disassociate. Always court and deposition, never a real attempt at hearing the concerns and reconciliation. The real issues are biblical authority, and the voice of the Church catholic. My own hope was that we would have found a way to continue on the path, a witness to our perspective in the midst of TEC. The Standing Committee's "Doomsday Device", paired with the duplicity of the Presiding Bishop and the Disciplinary Board put an end to that possibility.

    I am confident that all parties could benefit from "inner work". The wounds of our pasts continue to shape our response to the present until healing takes place. And though I am certain that I am not sinless in my responses, my conscience is clear as far as I can see the landscape. Although as priest and Vestry, Holy Trinity could have decided to stay or leave without involving the congregation, I believed it was too important to not have a congregational discussion and vote. I was prepared to resign if the congregation voted to leave to reaffiliate with TEC. Here at Holy Trinity, we took a significant hit by remaining with the Diocese, and, as the one who personified the change, I was subjected to vicious attacks by those on the other side. My challenge is to forgive, and continue to love, trying to leave the door open for reconciliation, whether that leads to reunion or not. I have been lead to understand that this step was not taken at St. George.

    The Church belongs to God. The sad divisions are his responsibility to heal. However, historically centuries have been required to begin to heal earlier divisions. I sign here, because I don't know how to post otherwise: Robert Horn

  9. Robert! Thank you SO much for conversing here. I have a question. Have you at least spoken to Bp. von Rosenberg? I would think you would have. You owe yourself that much. One assumption of yours I would challenge is the one about the Disciplinary Board and the Presiding Bishop being duplicitous. That certainly is the spin we hear around here. We may never know the real truth on this. How do we know what would happen if Mark let the HOB discuss and vote on the matter? HOB, according to some, was bending over backward to create room for us. Why not play it all out and THEN make the move, or do what was "necessary"? It appears that Mark and the Standing Committee were, to use an analogy, daring the girl to break up with them so they could claim being the victim. How do we know she wasn't requesting confidentiality on the matter because she wanted to leave options open for Mark? Looking at San Joaquin's strategy, one can see pre-meditated and duplicitous schismatic behavior on the part of Schofield, et al. It has been said that "we could never find another bishop" (like Mark)if he were deposed. Perhaps not, because the HOB and other Standing Committees around TEC are ruing the day they reconsidered his confirmation. Their original hunch, in their eyes, has been confirmed. Anyway, more later. I'm sad to see you get caught in the crossfire. You have had your share of misery AND some. I love you.
    At St. George's, we had two congregational meetings and shared at both that the vestry and clergy saw no reason to do anything other than what we've always done, specifically, to remain in the Episcopal Church. We invited any who wished to come and meet with us privately. Many took us up on it. A clear majority agreed with us. A very few did not. Of those, half have remained at St. George's, and two have changed their opinion toward TEC. All in all, we have lost 3 and 1/2 families, with one more in the balance. A congregational vote was neither mandated by by-laws nor consistent with Anglican polity. We WERE, however, listening to the people.

  10. Fr. Robert! Thank you so much for offering another priest's perspective. I did not mean to say money and property is the primary focus. I meant that the only emails I get for news updates seem legalistic or finance related. Or of course fun day to day stuff like a retreat at camp st. Christopher. Think what kind of picture that can paint for a layperson unaware of why the split happened. That is what I meant by the general lack of transparency. With no effort I was given easy access to the fiscal challenges/attacks. What about the rest of the issues? I may not even know what all the issues are. Not to mention congregational meetings are great but don't hold attendance of the whole church like the old days. Email or written correspondence reach more people. Writing also holds a lot more water. It gives the writer a chance to be prayerful and not let emotions run the show (if you stew and share for editing before release). It gives the reader as much time as they need to review points, discuss, and think. I'm not against an open forum anyone who knows me knows I love a chance to stand on my soapbox and raise a few eyebrows. I just wonder where the dialogue is. This last letter from Bishop Lawrence I found refreshing because it's been few and far between. Granted it raised some questions in my mind which is aften why people don't write. They don't want to be crucified to their words. I say if we're all walking in truth let us speak in love and stand behind our words even if we catch a few (or get riddled) with arrows.

  11. Chris, I have not spoken to Bishop von Rosenberg, but we pray for him every week. I did have a meeting with John Buchanan for several hours, but was unconvinced. The issue came around to the "trust of the property of past Episcopalians." Nevertheless, as I said earlier, no one is sinless in this.

    Ultimately, I cannot see a way around the change in theology and the reading of Scripture that TEC has taken.

    And Lyn, I appreciate your zeal.

    Robert Horn

  12. As part of those who were once in division in the splinter groups of the 1980s. I think I have some perspective. Division never produces health. Scripture says "the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. " There is a certain virulence in fundamentalism that appeals to the "flesh" and not the Spirit. Fundamentalism is more based on perfection rather than the reality of human frailty. Do schematics believe that that which they fled will not follow them? Are we he arbitrators of God's grace. We read in first John: "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." 1 John 5 New International Version (NIV) Theology is grappling with difficulties and the church has never been without it. However, as I have said in marriage counseling, "do you want to be married or do you want to be right?" In the kingdom of God we will all find out in the end that we were all wrong about something. One thing remains, love. (I Corinthians 13)