A Letter from Bishop Mark Lawrence to the S.C. Diocese Regarding St. Andrew’s Departure

Posted by Kendall Harmon

March 30, 2010
Tuesday in Holy Week
Diocesan House

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I received a phone call from the Reverend Steve Wood, rector of St. Andrew’s, Mt. Pleasant, the day before yesterday, Sunday, March 28, 2010, that the Vestry and members of the parish voted to leave The Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Anglican Church in North America.

Although I am not surprised by this decision, I am saddened by it. In fact there is a poignant irony in the departure of St. Andrew’s from the Diocese and from The Episcopal Church. As bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, I receive almost daily letters and emails from people across this Church suggesting that our stance gives them encouragement to remain and persevere within TEC. Yet here at home we could not hold one of our strongest congregations. The departure of The Episcopal Church from the way of Christ and the Biblically rooted teachings of the Church has become too discordant for them to tolerate any longer.

While the ramification from their departure has yet to unfold in its entirety, I hope many among us will look for ways to continue our mutual ministry and relationships. The arrangements to be made for those within the congregation who wish to remain within the Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Church will be among the subjects that I will be discussing with Steve and the parish leadership, as well as among our diocesan leaders.

By God’s grace we will keep St. Andrew’s in our prayers and work with them to find ways to cooperate in gospel mission and ministry that honors Jesus Christ and his Kingdom.

Yours in Christ,

--(The Rt. Rev.) Mark Lawrence is Bishop of South Carolina

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsSexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessings* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church GrowthPastoral Care* South Carolina

Posted March 30, 2010 at 5:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. MotherViolet wrote:

Mark you are vary gracious. It would have been a good thing if St Andrew’s has stayed the course with your diocese’s noble stand, but even now you are loving and pastoral in your response.



March 30, 5:20 pm | [comment link]
2. teatime wrote:

This must be difficult for the good bishop after all of the effort and prayer he’s expended to chart a thoughtful and authentic course for those in his care.

March 30, 5:41 pm | [comment link]
3. Brian from T19 wrote:

Good for +Mark.  He is very consistent and pastoral.  Best of luck to the Diocese and St. Andrews.

March 30, 5:54 pm | [comment link]
4. frdarin wrote:

What a different letter than we are used to reading from a bishop who has a parish depart TEC.  He is indeed a man who has his eyes on Christ and not the institution.

Fr. Darin Lovelace+
St. John’s Anglican Church
Park City UT

March 30, 5:54 pm | [comment link]
5. Ralph wrote:

Indeed, frdarin, indeed.

In altogether too many dioceses, actions taken by the diocesan bishop have placed clergy at odds with their ordination vows (excerpted below), forcing them to make a moral choice between the teachings of Jesus and the sayings of their bishop. And when they have chosen to leave, most have been treated without mercy.

May DioSC remain a positive example to the rest of TEC, and to the Anglican Communion.

Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them? And will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work?

Will you respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of your bishop?

March 30, 6:06 pm | [comment link]
6. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Yes, Darin+ (#4).

He’s not just being very gracious and kind, as #1 rightly noted, but he’s doing the most important thing a leader can do, remaining calm in a stressful, difficult situation and striving to “keep the main thing the main thing.”  That steady focus on fulfilling the Great Commission or gospel ministry as he calls it here, as well as his godly response to this major setback for the diocese, is what should help SC to weather the storm.

Darin, you’ve reminded me of a poignant statement that former PB John Allin made after he completed his time in office.  He ruefully admitted that he now realized that he’d fallen into the trap of loving the Church of Jesus Christ more than Christ himself.  And I’ve heard such conservative stalwarts as the late +Stephen Jecko of FL and SC’s own former bishop Fitz Allison make similar confessions.  Alas, it’s all too easy to let serving the institution usurp the pre-eminent place of the Savior.  I know I’ve done it sometimes.

What a marvelous letter!  May the Lord shower his grace and strength on +Lawrence, Steve Wood+, and everyone else involved in this difficult transition time.

David Handy+

March 30, 6:19 pm | [comment link]
7. Philip Snyder wrote:

First, this is a great way to handle the situation.  “They are our brothers and sisters in Christ and we still love them and are sad they feel compelled to leave.”

Next, I recommend some form of plant sharing where the ACNA Parish and the TEC parish both get to use the plant = with each parish paying the proportion of the total ASA.  For example, assume a combined ASA of 1500.  Let’s say taht 1200 went ACNA and 300 want to remain with TEC.  Then that 300 would be responsible for 1/5 of the utilities, upkeep, sexton, etc.  The 1200 would get first dibs on service time etc.  Between Christians of good conscience, these things can be worked out.  Between political advesaries, it is almost impossible to work these things out.

Phil Snyder

March 30, 7:37 pm | [comment link]
8. Grandmother wrote:

Please keep our bishop in your prayers as he leads us thru this thicket.
Steve+ has never altered his stand, and St. Andrews stayed as long as they felt possible.

I’ve heard very few nasty comments, and most of us wish them well.  Hopefully we all will be one again if God wills it.

+Lawrence is obviously in grave danger, and we are very aware of that.
Your prayers will be much appreciated, and we are grateful.

Grandmother in SC

March 30, 7:37 pm | [comment link]
9. WestJ wrote:

I suspect that those who wish to remain within the Diocese of SC will find another church. There are quite a few in Charleston and Mt Pleasant, though it will be difficult to find a rector as charismatic as Steve Wood.

March 30, 8:53 pm | [comment link]
10. Townsend Waddill+ wrote:

The departure of The Episcopal Church from the way of Christ and the Biblically rooted teachings of the Church has become too discordant for them to tolerate any longer.

This is what I love about Bishop Lawrence, a truly orthodox bishop.  He places the blame squarely where it should be, on the Episcopal Church, for its decision to bless ungodly behavior - rather than blaming the departing congregation.  This is truly a pastoral man and I am thankful for his ministry.

March 31, 11:35 am | [comment link]
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