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.


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