Saturday, March 27, 2010

A South Carolina Rector Offers some Thoughts About Yesterday's Convention

I'm "pondering on the fly" this afternoon. By that I mean that thoughts are flying around in my head like beads yet to be strung. You see, I've just returned (it's 5:10pm as I'm starting to write this) from the 219th Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina hosted by St. Paul's, Episcopal Church in Summerville, SC; and while my body is weary after a total of four hours traveling and seven hours of convention activity, colliding beads of thought promise that truly restful sleep is still many hours away.

The day had many blessings, not the least of which were the joyful embraces and conversations shared with friends that I see far too infrequently; but my thoughts are not really about those pleasantries - instead they're flowing from two sources: Bishop Lawrence's address to the convention (click here to read it) and the sermon given by the Very Rev. Dr. Robert Munday, Dean of Nashotah House Seminary in Nashotah, Wisconsin, during the opening Eucharist (to be posted on the within the next 24 hours).

With respect to Bishop Lawrence's address, for now let it suffice for me to say that it is becoming clearer by the day that the Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Church are on opposite sides of a battle that will soon be engaged on multiple fronts, theology and polity being the most obvious at the moment (go to to read the resolutions and canonical changes adopted during today's convention). Bishop Lawrence and the Standing Committee are carrying the banner for us at present; but the time will come when we here at The Church of the Cross will be challenged to step boldly into the fray in the name of Christ. We are ready, of that I'm sure; but it's not yet our time.

That brings me to the other source of the thought - beads I'm pondering: two statements made by Dean Munday. First, the average age of folks sitting in Episcopal pews is 57; and, according to actuarial tables, that means that in the next 18 years half of the denomination's members will have died. That's a sobering thought! I take some comfort from the fact that the average age of our congregation is 41; but I'm still thinking that during the next 18 years many of us will be passing on to glory and that we need to be concerned, not just about our mortality, but about raising up the next generation of those who will bear the truth of the Gospel. We're a great and growing congregation (adding an average of two families per week to our number thus far in 2010); but our growth reflects the accuracy of another statistic given by Dean Munday: 59% of our growth is coming from transfers from other dominations and congregations. My friends, we live in an area where almost two-thirds of the people do not have a church home and the majority of them do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. We are fishing for men and women and catching quite a few but it occurs to me that many of them look a lot like us. We need to put more lines in the water and many of those lines need to be dropped into new fishing holes, using new tackle and techniques. What will that look like? I'm not sure yet but I'm pondering it . . . I'm stringing the beads!

--The Rev. Chuck Owens is rector, Church of the Cross, Bluffton, S.C.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

ENS: Bishops' theology committee publishes draft report on same-gender relationships

The Episcopal Church's House of Bishops, concluding its six-day retreat meeting at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas, has posted a draft of the long-awaited 95-page report titled "Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church" on the College of Bishops' website here.

"For a generation and more the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion have been engaged in a challenging conversation about sexual ethics, especially regarding same-sex relationships in the life of the church," Theology Committee Chair and Alabama Bishop Henry Parsley wrote in the report's preface. "The hope of this work is that serious engagement in theological reflection across differences will build new bridges of understanding."

A notation on the report's table of contents page cautions that the report "has been edited in several places" following a discussion among the bishops on March 20. "The responses of several pan-Anglican and ecumenical theologians will be added to this study in the summer, along with some further editing, before a final edition is published," the note concludes.

Read it all and follow the link to the report.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

C of E Dying Matters Awareness Week – encourages people to talk openly about dying and death

To mark the Dying Matters Coalition’s first Awareness Week (15th-21st March 2010), the Church of England is encouraging churchgoers to talk openly about dying and death, in a new podcast suitable for sermon and housegroup use.

Within the four-minute podcast, available here, Dying Matters’ director Hilary Fisher says: “I think it’s absolutely fantastic that the Church of England has joined the Coalition because they have such an important role in the community.”

She adds on the subject of breaking down the wall of silence that exists around death, dying and bereavement issues: “The only way we’re going to get people talking about dying is for you to talk to your neighbours, to talk to your friends, to talk to your loved ones, to talk to the people that you see in church.

Read it all.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rod Dreher--Journalists should deal with religion respectfully but ask hard questions

Did you hear about the Protestant minister who said that Haiti "has been in bondage to the devil for four generations"? No, it wasn't Pat Robertson but Chavannes Jeune, a popular Evangelical pastor in Haiti who has long crusaded to cleanse his nation of what he believes is an ancestral voodoo curse. It turns out that more than a few Haitians agree with Jeune and Robertson that their nation's crushing problems are caused by, yes, voodoo.

I know this not because I read it in a newspaper or saw it on TV, but because of a blog. University of Tennessee-Knoxville cultural anthropologist Bertin M. Louis Jr., an expert on Haitian Protestantism, posted an essay exploring this viewpoint on The Immanent Frame, a social scientist group blog devoted to religion, secularism and the public sphere.

Elsewhere on The Immanent Frame, there's a fascinating piece by Wesleyan University religion professor Elizabeth McAlister touching on how the voodoo worldview affects Haiti's cultural and political economy. She writes that the widespread belief that events happen because of secret pacts with gods and spirits perpetuates "the idea that real, causal power operates in a hidden realm, and that invisible powers explain material conditions and events." Though McAlister is largely sympathetic to voodoo practitioners, she acknowledges that any effective attempt to relieve and rebuild Haiti will contend with that social reality.

Read it all.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

West Charleston Deanery Issues "A Call to Prayer" for South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence

In support of Bishop Lawrence, members of the West Charleston Deanery have issued “A Call to Prayer,” inviting members of their Deanery to join in a time of fasting and prayer for Bishop Lawrence March 16-18 prior to the House of Bishop’s Meeting (March 19-24). The Deanery has scheduled a gathering of prayer and worship for Thursday, March 18 at 7:00 p.m. at Saint James, James Island. Following that gathering, churches from the deanery have signed up to pray for the Bishop every day of the House of Bishops’ meeting through and including our Diocesan Convention, March 26. As Craige Borrett, Dean of the West Charleston Deanery noted, “We need to remember that, ‘Prayer isn’t preparation for the battle. It is the battle.’” View the related Bulletin Insert.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Results of Special Convention of the Diocese of Dallas - Saturday, March 6, 2010

Meeting in Special Convention on Saturday, March 6, 2010, the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas voted to endorse, adopt and enter into the Anglican Covenant. Resolution 2010SCR01 Endorsing the Anglican Covenant passed by a decidedly positive voice vote.
The second resolution, RESOLUTION 2009 R01, was referred to the Special Convention by Diocesan Convention in October of 2009. This resolution proposed a disassociation from certain resolutions of the 76th General Convention. The delegates adopted this resolution by a count 185-101.
Download the full, final text of both resolutions as adopted by Special Convention delegates.