Friday, August 07, 2009

The Other Shoe Drops - Bishop Mark Lawrence on the future and finding a place to stand

BB NOTE: John Burwell, deputy for the Diocese of South Carolina, has a transcript from AnglicanTV's interview with the Bishop of South Carolina (and fellow Bob Dylan fan) Mark Lawrence that was conducted toward the end of General Convention in Anaheim. John writes: "Below is a transcript of the majority of the Bishop's responses to questions. Words within [brackets] are not the Bishop's words. They are added for purposes of clarity. I have included hyperlinks to also help clarify "insider" terms."

Here is a transcript from the Mark Lawrence interview:
Q: The question [of General Convention 2009] was how much would the House of Bishops be able to moderate the aggression and onward thrust of this agenda of this “gospel of inclusivity.”

Why are we losing this whole issue of human sexuality – both as a culture and as a church?

We are approaching this whole GLBT issue as if it is in a vacuum, rather than in the whole context of human sexuality. And I think that until we, as a Church began to deal with our own compromises we will always come across as somewhat hypocritical to the world and to those who press its agenda.

When we recognize that the divorce level among evangelicals and godly Christians is at the same level (almost) as the rest of the world; when we recognize the pervasiveness within the church of those who tinker with this or that in terms of sexual compromise – the things they allow themselves to engage with in terms of computers or television – we are in need of a profound repentance. [We must recognize] that we can not keep putting forward this standard for gay and lesbian people and allow ourselves to live in such profound compromise ourselves. There’s a Spiritual thing at work here that I don’t think we’ve plumbed the depths of, and it’s time we paused and looked at that.

We don’t do much thinking about the purpose for which God made us as sexual beings, and then begin to answer that question philosophically and biblically. Sometimes we take a few verses out of the Bible and put those forward and forget that from the Book of Genesis forward it says that God has made us male and female, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined with his wife and the two become one, all the way to the book of Revelation when the whole thing concludes with the marriage of Christ and His Church! We’re not just taking about seven passages of the Bible, we’re talking about the profound thrust of all of human history which began with Adam and Eve, male and female and concludes with Jesus and the Bride – the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. These are profound things we are dealing with and we need to put it within that context.

It seems to me that on the far side of General Convention 2009, the Diocese of South Carolina must find a place to stand and a place to thrive that is relational and structural, and we shall find that place to stand and that place to thrive. We will find a way forward in the midst of all of this and God will strengthen us for the challenges at hand. I am almost eager for the opportunity that lies ahead of us!

One of the untold stories of General Convention is that the Bishops had more than enough votes to do a lot more [damage] than they did. I suppose maybe they stood right at the periphery and lost nerve, and backed away, because there is unrest in the Church.

In 2003 all the debate in the House of Bishops was referencing Lambeth 110. In 2006 the debate and refrain was often, “we need to remember the Windsor process.” The Windsor process was a softening of Lambeth 110! And now in 2009 you hear a little about Windsor and the whole question was, “Well wait a minute, we don’t want to go contrary to B033.” So at each Convention we’re responding to a weaker resolve; a weaker position. And the somehow or another we can say, “Well we still believe that B033 is in place” never forgetting that B033 was not seen by all the primates as a sufficient response to the Windsor process. And the Windsor process was, for many, a weakening of Lambeth 110. So let’s put this in the context of what we’re really talking about: these are Communion-breaking issues and we soft-peddle it as if we are somehow holding to B033 when in fact we walked away from Lambeth 110 years ago.

This Convention has opened a door for “walking apart” [language from the Windsor report] but it’s not for us alone in North America to say that such has taken place. We have the instruments of unity that one by one need to respond one way or the other, The difficulty is that Lambeth is a good nine years off before that [instrument of unity]could respond; the ACC is a toss of the coin…I suppose what many people are waiting for is the Archbishop of Canterbury to weigh in. Waiting…waiting…waiting.

As we’ve spread the Anglican understanding of Christianity around the world we’ve been slow to put into place structures that sufficiently govern the spread of Anglicanism. With the spread of the Internet and intercontinental travel, we find ourselves playing catch-up with the “flat world” and as we’re playing catch-up there’s those who want to hold on to old methodologies of government that just are not sufficient for the 21st century. My contention is that what we are in the midst of right now – what is at stake – is not just Anglicanism in North America; it is Anglicanism throughout the world.

I have not been and we in South Carolina do not see ourselves as somehow or another reforming the Episcopal Church. The landscape of Anglicanism is shifting all the time and this General Convention will shift it once again. What is at issue now is the survival of the Communion, and the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform people’s lives rather than the gospel of inclusivity that is also aggressively being spread. And so as I look at our role in the Diocese of South Carolina, we are to work for the shaping of Anglicanism in the 21st century, and we need to find and remain and stay in that place that will give us the most leverage in doing that.

In the domestic landscape you have two entities. You have TEC [The Episcopal Church] and the Anglican Church in Canada, which from my perspective is promulgating the gospel of inclusivity that would displace the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what we know of as the core doctrine of the Christian faith. That entity would export, or would like to export this uncatholic teaching about Christ and His Church. Then you have in ACNA, a confederation of people that (speaking for myself), I do not see a fullness of catholic ecclesiology there. There seem to be some groups that are so wedded to their personal identity (even though their personal identity may have only been around five or ten years) that there is a hesitancy to surrender that identity. So what we have almost is a codified (and I hate to use the word) schism that looks of prenuptial agreements: “I’ll enter into this but I’m not going to surrender myself fully to one another.” Thomas Brown described [them] centuries ago: Those who schism with others who lightly bond among themselves. What those in ACNA have to get over is that unwillingness for mutual accountability, surrender and responsibility.

Here’s the thing: There is no place to go to get out of what we are encountering in North America. You can say, “Look - I am tired of these cultural wars; I’m tired of dealing with the GLBT stuff; I’m tired of this gospel of inclusivity. I’m going to find a church where I don’t have to deal with these things.” But you see, it’s the culture that’s bringing these things! It may not be in your neighborhood yet, but I guarantee you it’s coming to a neighborhood near you.

Those of us who have been battling this cultural war in the Episcopal Church are actually on the front lines. And we need to quit firing at one another and recognize that we are in a common battle here and each needs to find a place that they can leverage for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

The landscape is changing and will change almost monthly. And if you are not keeping up with the changing landscape you may find yourself asking questions of two or three years ago. We have a whole new set of questions to ask right now on the far side of General Convention 2009. When I go back to the Diocese I will meet with the clergy, the Standing Committee and the Deans and discuss what we are called to do looking at the landscape now. And what we’re called to do is to find a place to stand and to thrive that is both relational and structural and we shall do that!

I was at a House of Bishops meeting at Kanuga and we had a break and I went out to do some meditation and took my journal with me. And I was sitting on the bench journaling about all the sounds around me. I heard the wind blowing. At Kanuga they have three big flagpoles – one has the US flag, one has the state flag and one has the Episcopal church flag. And the wind was blowing the flag rope against the flagpole. It caught my attention, and I looked up and saw the Episcopal Church flag. And I felt anger. And as I felt that anger I thought, “Oh my. The anger of man can not work the righteousness of God [James 1:20]. You, Mark, can not enter into this spiritual struggle with anger and unforgiveness in your heart. You will become the mirror image of that which you do not like, that which you reject.” Whatever you do and whatever you create begins to reflect that which you have not forgiven – that which you have held in anger.

Those of us in the Episcopal Church and those of us who have left the Episcopal Church need to deal with that anger issue. We need to deal with the forgiveness issue. Because otherwise those who have left will create a mirror image of that which they have left. And those of us within – well, we can not do the work God has called us to do.

It doesn’t mean that we surrender the challenge or our surrender convictions or compromise on the Faith once delivered to the Saints. But it does mean that we hold that Faith, always, by asking ourselves “Can I do this work in the spirit of Godliness and the joy of the Lord, which is our strength?”

Read it all here. The original video interview is here.

5 comments:

texanglican said...

From my perspective the most important lines in the interview are the following:

"Then you have in ACNA, a confederation of people that (speaking for myself), I do not see a fullness of catholic ecclesiology there. There seem to be some groups that are so wedded to their personal identity (even though their personal identity may have only been around five or ten years) that there is a hesitancy to surrender that identity. So what we have almost is a codified (and I hate to use the word) schism that looks of prenuptial agreements: “I’ll enter into this but I’m not going to surrender myself fully to one another.” Thomas Brown described [them] centuries ago: Those who schism with others who lightly bond among themselves. What those in ACNA have to get over is that unwillingness for mutual accountability, surrender and responsibility."

I think these lines are the most important because, while there seems to be a clear desire on the part of +Lawrence to do more than the standard "differentiation" that orthodox dioceses within TEC have been doing for years ("yes, TEC is all screwed up but we're not like that here in ______ and we reject their actions in doing _") it seems that departure from TEC and realignment with ACNA has been ruled out by the worthy bishop.

I'm afraid this decision to reject ACNA may be motivated largely by the continued presence of AMiA as a distinct entity within ACNA. While one can certainly object in principle to the continued existence of AMiA as a sort of "missionary society" within ACNA, I think in DioSC there remains a special animus against AMiA because of the long and bitter fight between +Murphy and DioSC over Pauley's Island. There may be so much bad blood left behind from those court fights that DioSC can never come aboard ACNA as long as AMiA continues to have an identifiable separate presence inside the new province.

As a strong supporter of ACNA that saddens me a great deal. I think coming on-board ACNA would be best for the people of DioSC and for the future of the new province. May God give the leaders of DioSC wisdom as theydiscern their course.

BabyBlue said...

As a strong supporter of the ACNA, I do think Bishop Lawrence is pointing out a difference in paradigm between what we have thought of as provinces in the Anglican Communion and what is actually developing, even with the Church of England itself.

What the ACNA is constitutes a province that recognizes the authority of an archbishop but in polity - at least at this point - is a network of local churches and networks of churches. Some of those networks may merge together - if not officially then as relationships deepen. But it also means that the ACNA could be a doorway for more networks to reconnect with their Anglican roots, including the United Methodists. It's not about schism - but reunion. It would be fantastic to see such reunion begin through the ACNA if both the Diocese of South Carolina and AMiA were able to come together in such a provincial network. In fact, I'd say that would be a mighty work of the Holy Spirit.

bb

The Underground Pewster said...

This is a good time to plug the next Mere Anglicanism Conference: "Human Identity, Gender, and Sexuality: Speculation or Revelation?"
Thursday, January 21st through Saturday, January 23rd, 2010 in Charleston SC.
Let's hope they have the heater fixed this year!

1662 BCP said...

I believe that Bp Lawrence is astute enough to discern that the AC-NA have brought a lot of luggage along with them and he doesn't want to be badgered into that being his only alternative at this point. I have found very little that would convince me that that would be the way to go. Just read some of the blogs and feel the heat/hate. I find very little evidence of the work of the Gospel amongst many of these folks.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see one of the so-called "orthodox" acknowledge the screaming hypocrisy of going after GLBT people hammer and tong for all these years while treating "remarriage" as a mere faux pas.