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The decision by the Diocese of South Carolina to leave the The Episcopal Church (TEC) and St. Paul's Summerville's leadership's decision to remain with the Diocese has and will impact all of us but some more than others. Many of the St. Paul's family are at peace with the decision to leave TEC, but others are hurt, disappointed or angry. For the latter, questions have arisen about their relationship to their St. Paul's family. Will I be welcomed at St. Paul's as an Episcopalian who does not want to remain with the Diocese of South Carolina? Can I still worship at St. Paul's? Can I serve on teams and committees of St. Paul's? Can I remain part of my St. Paul's family and be a member of TEC, not the Diocese of South Carolina?
The answer to these four questions is yes, yes, yes and yes ... absolutely! St. Paul's Summerville is a member church of the Diocese. Thus, we no longer belong to TEC, but an individual may transfer their membership to an Episcopal Church while worshipping and exercising a ministry from St. Paul's as long as the rector of an Episcopal Church agrees to accept the Letter of Transfer. Or, one may leave one's membership here at St. Paul's, the letter of the law; but acknowledge to others, in the spirit of the law, you are an Episcopalian.
Since 1707, first on the banks of the Stono River, then at Ravenel and finally settling permanently here in Summerville in 1823, St. Paul's has been home for generations of families while welcoming guests and strangers and inviting them to also make this their spiritual home. Institutionally, we were first, Church of England; then, The Episcopal Church; and now we are an extra-provincial Diocese* of the world-wide Anglican Communion. Through the 300 years of our existence these have been our institutional markers; secondary, though, to our foremost identity. And what is our foremost identity? We are first and foremost simply members of the One Body of Christ, and our spiritual home is this local community called St. Paul's Summerville.
Therefore, if St. Paul's is your home, then may it continue to be your home! I am blessed and delighted that you will worship with us and minister alongside of us, all in the name of Jesus, regardless of one's institutional identification. And, if the Lord has called you out of St. Paul's to a new spiritual home at this juncture, then may the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
In Christ's love,
--(The Rev.) Mike Lumpkin is rector, St. Paul's Summerville, S.C.
There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope
when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
* Extra-provincial means an autonomous diocese without an affiliation to an Anglican province. This will be a temporary status for the Diocese of South Carolina.
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