Bishop Mark Lawrence attends and addresses ACNA HOB

NASHOTAH HOUSE, WI: Diocesan Delegation Observers at ACNA’s Provincial Council

June 21, 2013

Dear Friends in Christ,

As many of you know I am at Nashotah House in Wisconsin at the Anglican Church in North America’s Provincial Council (which just concluded yesterday with a Festival Eucharist-an inspiring and joyful worship). This morning they will begin their House of Bishops Meeting. I am present as an observer. Joining me at the Provincial Council was The Very Rev. Peet Dickinson, Dean of the Cathedral, and Mrs. Suzanne Schwank, a member of our diocesan Standing Committee. They returned this morning to South Carolina and I will stay on for the House of Bishops Meeting and return on a late flight Friday in order to be at St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center for its 75th anniversary this weekend.

As I told the Diocesan Council last month and said at various deanery gatherings, not to mention many parish forums, it has been my intention to attend various gatherings within what I’ve referred to as the Anglican Diaspora in North America to learn the various players and seek greater unity as may be appropriate. So when I met with Archbishop Robert Duncan at the recent New Wineskins Conference, he invited me to attend this Council as an observer and bring a delegation. This struck me as a good way to follow-up on my expressed intentions.

It has been an enlightening and, frankly, encouraging few days. Near the conclusion of the ACNA Council yesterday, Archbishop Duncan, invited our delegation to address the assembly of bishops and delegates. What follows are my brief comments on this occasion (reconstructed from my notes):

Your Grace, fellow bishops, and brothers and sisters in Christ, I appreciate this opportunity to address you, however briefly, in the midst of your work and business for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I make just three comments under the categories of: Gratitude, Observations and Where we are in the Diocese of South Carolina.

Gratitude: Let me express our gratitude for the gracious hospitality extended to us during these last two days. We have felt welcomed and honored among you-and are profoundly thankful for the prayers that so many have assured us have been offered on behalf of the Diocese of South Carolina: Indeed, for your words of encouragement let me say “Thank you”-for the assurance of your prayers-you have our inexpressible gratitude.

Observations: We have much to learn about what I have previously referred to as the Anglican Diaspora in North America and therefore are grateful for this invitation to be among you at your Provincial Council. We have been positively struck by an atmosphere of transparency, humility, and prayerful and godly worship. This combined with your vision for a Biblical, Missionary and United Anglicanism has been heartening. Making these observations has led me to reflect upon the words of St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:1-3. Here the apostle speaks of his ministry by the mercy of God as a tested, transparent, and truthful ministry. He writes: “Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.” Here is the inferred reality of a tested ministry. I know from those of you I have known over the years, and from those with whom I’ve shared conversation in the last two days, that many of you, lay and ordained alike, have experienced and demonstrated a “tested ministry.” That has been quite evident in our observation in these last two days. St. Paul goes on to write: “We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word;” Here is his commitment to pursue transparency in his ministry. We believe we’ve seen a similar spirit among you. He goes on to assert: “but by an open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.” While seeking transparency he also strives for a truthful ministry committed to the truth of God’s Word. So we have witnessed this among you as well. Thus we are encouraged by and encourage you in such a ministry.

Finally, under the rubric “Where we are in the Diocese of South Carolina:” Let me say a few words as well. I have been guided since my first year as bishop by what I trust is the God-given vision of “Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age: Helping to shape emerging Anglicanism in the 21st Century.” Whether we were within The Episcopal Church or now disassociated from TEC we have sought to have our vision guide our decisions. Put another way our vocation guides our decisions rather than decisions guiding our vocation.

We are presently an “extra-provincial” diocese, not in any formal or officially ecclesial way, but as a fact rooted in our relationship with provinces and dioceses within the Anglican Communion. So we are a diocese without provincial affiliation-we are so provisionally but not, I believe, precariously.

I have made it repeatedly clear that any provincial affiliation will not be made by the bishop or Standing Committee, unilaterally. As we chose in the late 1700’s to affiliate with the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America as a diocese voting at our convention, so in this present era it shall be the diocese in convention that makes any such decision regarding provincial affiliation.

So we are grateful for this gracious invitation, first to be present among you, and secondly for this opportunity to address you with these few words. May God continue to guide you in your work.

I will be attending the ACNA House of Bishops Meeting these next two days in the capacity of an observer and will look forward to sharing my perceptions with you whenever and wherever appropriate. As always I remain grateful to serve you as your bishop.

Faithfully Yours in Christ,

Mark J. Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina

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