Monday, March 03, 2008

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church visits the Diocese of South Carolina *UPDATED*

A report from Al Zadig, rector of St. Michael's, posted by Steve Wood, rector of St. Andrew's:

. . . Bishop Lawrence then talked about the four main issues needing to be addressed. He said we first need to talk about the spin that is coming out of the national church regarding the orthodox in the church…ie..how many orthodox people, churches and dioceses have actually left the Episcopal Church? The second issue being the often repeated statement by the national church that the Holy Spirit is doing a new thing in the church. Thirdly, the canons of the church and not Holy Scripture are increasingly becoming our authority, and the canons (church law) are being exalted over Scripture. Finally, the issue of the Uniqueness of Jesus Christ as savior of the world (a niche’ of theology called Christology).

Having noted the format, you might be asking, well, what about the P.B.? How did she respond? Throughout the day the P.B. answered in very short sentences, often with no connection to the topic. Following a powerful talk given by Bishop Lawrence on Christology, her response was to speak about the need to be in conversation with a willingness to think of God beyond the boxes we put him in…full stop. Her theme of the day seemed to be re-reading Scripture, re-evaluating our understanding of Jesus Christ, re-interpreting marriage all through the lens of experience. That our very experiences of life and theology are on equal ground with the authority of Scripture. This gives way to the new theology of same-sex blessings, Jesus as one among many Gods etc.

What came out of our time together? Only time will tell, but for many it was an eye opener to the extent of the differences that exist between the national church and the orthodox dioceses of this country. I would say objectively that we fulfilled the title of the day which was charity and clarity. Charity was displayed, and even greater clarity given..clarity that we are not two churches under one roof but two very different religions. . .

One of the most profound learnings for me during our day of Clarity and Charity was a simple vacuum of any coherent theology coming from the Presiding Bishop. There was no there-there, no center of theological gravity. The most often repeated word from her was experience. Re-evaluating marriage, Scripture, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ through our own experience. I felt as if the head of the Unitarian church was at the microphone and not the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. . .

Read it all.

UPDATE: A clear juxtaposition in perspective to the above is this story from EpiscopalLife Online with its "official" report on the meeting in South Carolina [boldface mine]:
Charity and Clarity

The private conversation for active clergy at St. Andrew's, called Charity and Clarity, drew nearly 100 active priests and deacons from all areas of the diocese. After a presentation by Lawrence and an invitation to conversation from the Presiding Bishop, Jefferts Schori and the clergy engaged in an open, honest and frank discussion, ranging from biblical interpretation and church politics to congregational growth.

"You've come to one of the few dioceses in the Episcopal Church which is growing," Lawrence said. "In fact, it's one of the few dioceses of the Episcopal Church which is growing faster than the demographic growth in the area."

Noting that "not all are of the same theological stripe," Lawrence stated the clergy share an "unwavering commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ."

Lawrence asked for an "earnest and focused conversation about the things that are so troubling to us."

In the ensuing two-hour discussion, the Presiding Bishop was asked about numbers, about apostolic succession, and about the needs and wants of the Diocese of South Carolina. A dominant concern voiced was that their more conservative views are not heard or represented by the national church leadership.

The Presiding Bishop addressed each comment that was presented. She expressed her appreciation for the conversation and her hope that the conversation won't end when she leaves the diocese. "The gift of this community is our ability to have real conversation and dialogue with each other," she said. "We have need of all parts of the body.". . .

Read it all.

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