The Rev. Steve Wood, rector of St. Andrew’s Church in Mount Pleasant, has for years overseen one of the Lowcountry’s biggest church success stories. The parish has grown to a membership of 3,150 and, in recent years, started churches in Goose Creek and downtown Charleston.
In 2006, Wood was one of three candidates for bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. (The others were the Rev. Canon Ellis Brust, chief operating officer of the American Anglican Council, and the Rev. Mark Lawrence, who earned the position.)
Six years later, much has changed in local Anglican circles, and Wood now finds himself at the forefront of a new religious enterprise. On Saturday, he will be consecrated the first bishop of the Diocese of the Carolinas within the Anglican Church in North America.
The occasion prompted The Post and Courier to ask Wood a few questions about his new role, his church and his parish life.
Q: The newly formed Diocese of the Carolinas, part of the Anglican Church in North America (itself a fairly new church body), will require careful stewardship and shepherding. Describe your role as bishop and the particular challenges and opportunities you face.
A: The responsibilities of a bishop are fairly clearly spelled out in both Scripture and in our Prayer Book. The bishop is meant to proclaim the Word of God; guard the faith, unity and discipline of the whole Church; and to act in Christ’s name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up the of Church. A fairly sobering charge. I’d welcome your prayers!
With regard to challenges and opportunities, I think that navigating growth is both the greatest challenge and opportunity before our new diocese at this time. Just this past week, six faith communities contacted me wanting to know how they might join the Diocese of the Carolinas. That’s been fairly typical of the summer; there’s quite a bit of enthusiasm and interest in what we’re doing.
The other significant challenge is simply the geographical size of the diocese. We cover both North and South Carolina and have churches spread across the length and breadth of the Carolinas. We’ve spent the past 18 months developing a strong network of relationships and I hope that those relationships continue to both deepen and develop as our diocese matures and grows.
Q: You lead one of the Lowcountry’s most dynamic churches, St. Andrew’s-Mount Pleasant. How will you balance your duties as bishop with those as parish priest? What do your expanded responsibilities mean for your congregation?
A: One of the unknowns is what exactly this will look like. I certainly have ideas about how I’ll spend my time. I’ve talked about those ideas with the Vestry of St. Andrew’s and the Steering Committee of the diocese and we’re all on the same page.
Practically, we’ve developed very good leadership communities at both St. Andrew’s and in the diocese. And I have a high value for shared leadership. I expect that there will be new opportunities for folks to step into new responsibilities and new ministries.
As for St. Andrew’s, you know, this is an amazing congregation. They’ve been so generous with the spiritual and temporal treasure that the Lord has given them. Over the years we’ve had the privilege of planting new churches and coming alongside existing churches to help them develop and redevelop their sense of mission and ministry. It’s been a real joy and source of satisfaction for many in our congregation. I expect we’ll continue those same kinds of things except on a larger scale.
Q: For those who have not been following recent developments in the Anglican-Episcopalian domain, explain the essential differences between ACNA and the Episcopal Church. Will the two denominations work together on anything?
A: I’m sure folks have various opinions on this matter. From where I sit, the fundamental issue is a matter of revelation. I mean this: Has God fully, finally and perfectly revealed himself in Christ and is Scripture a faithful and trustworthy record of God’s self-disclosure? I believe he has, and Scripture is.
Of course, the times, customs and manners of humanity have and will change, and the way in which the Church responds to and engages society and culture must change accordingly. But the message does not change. And this is the message: While we were sinners, God in Christ did not consider our self-professed autonomy an obstacle too great or an offense too grievous and reconciled us to himself.
The second question is harder. St. Andrew’s and my friends in the ACNA have sought to “play well with others.” But I’d say that the pain, disappointment and estrangement on both sides is fairly substantial right now. There are pockets of cooperation. For example, we have maintained a good relationship with the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and I am thankful for the fruit borne from our efforts. Additionally, and personally, my mother recently died, and the Episcopal bishop of Ohio kindly granted me permission to both officiate and preach at her funeral held in one of his parishes. At this point in time, though, it is clear that we are not one on serious and core issues, and I don’t know how to resolve those differences.
Q: You have been one of the area’s more visible and respected church leaders, and now you’re taking on more responsibility. But you’re also a family man with a wife, Jacqui, four sons and interests in sports, music, travel and more. Your life must be a constant balancing act. How do you manage it?
A: You forgot a daughter-in-law and a grandson! I think, fundamentally, that I’ve discovered a heavenly Father who has reliably and consistently communicated himself to me, thereby shaping and imparting my self-understanding and my self-identity.
I’ve defined, a very long time ago, what success looks like to me. I’ve found satisfaction in Christ and, possessing him, I find satisfaction in life. Also, fortunately, my family enjoys many of the same things, so spending time together, praying, enjoying the outdoors, traveling — all of these things are things we enjoy together and that help us to stay connected.
At the beginning and end of the day, though, my life, my family’s life, are in the hands of the Lord. I have great confidence in his desire and ability to see us through the sorrows and joys of this life.
Read it all here.
We'll have this on the front page on Saturday, but here is the location for Saturday's consecration brought to us live by Anglican TV: