Enthusiastically Episcopalian in South Carolina Conference
May 3, 2014
More than 300 people came up the flag-lined road to Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church on Saturday to worship, pray, give thanks and plan for the future of their diocese with each other and with help from leaders from across The Episcopal Church at the “Enthusiastically Episcopalian in South Carolina” Conference.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings, and a team from the Diocese of Pittsburgh led by Bishop Kenneth Price joined the gathering as keynote speakers and workshop leaders.
The all-day educational conference was sponsored by The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, a not-for-profit organization that supports The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, The Episcopal Church, and the worldwide Anglican Communion primarily through educational offerings.
Organizers and conference-goers were blessed with a cool, clear spring day in which to share breakfast and lunch at picnic tables under the oaks on the historic church grounds. At 9:00 a.m., the Choir for Young Voices of Holy Cross Faith Memorial opened the worship service by singing “Praise the Lord for Spring.”
The Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church, was the Celebrant. As the procession began to gather, she visited with the lay ministers, choirs and clergy, seeking out the young acolyte team inside the church to share a few words before the service began. She also paused many times for people who wanted their photograph taken beside her.
In his sermon, the Reverend Wil Keith, Rector of Holy Cross Faith Memorial, spoke of the many volunteers who came together to organize the day. “You are legion – the good kind of legion!” he said. He spoke of the difference between volunteer recruiting today, where potential helpers are told “everything will be set up for you, all you have to do is show up,” and how Jesus appointed the seventy in Luke 10 to be sent like lambs in the midst of wolves with no purse, bag or sandals.
For The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, “no sandals” might be the equivalent of starting a church with no prayerbooks or buildings, he said.
“Jesus wasn’t asking for volunteers … Jesus is and will always be sending us out, not as volunteer. He appoints us,” Fr. Wil said. “But we are not unprepared. We have what we need.”
Listen to the Rev. Wil Keith's sermon by clicking on the audio player below.
Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg
“The State of the Diocese”
Bishop vonRosenberg was greeted and thanked with a long standing ovation from the people who were packed into the church.
Later, as he delivered his keynote address, he noted that our identity is one that embraces a wide variety of conditions, traditions, and theological beliefs. We are both progressive and conservative, we are both sad and feeling liberated. “We are ‘both-and’ people rather than’ either-or’ people. We are Anglican Episcopalians, and we are enthusiastically so,” he said.
“We have a wonderful opportunity to build a future. The foundation has been laid. Now, what do we want to build on it?” Rather than build on old models, he said, we must “build whatever the spirit of God leads us to build in our day.”
The Bishop spoke of ways in which we reclaim our identity. One way is by recalling our history he said. At that point he concluded his address by introducing a surprise for the gathering: Two actors presented a brief scene from an upcoming play based on the martyrdom of Bishop William Alexander Guerry, Bishop of South Carolina.
In the last year, the diocese has brought renewed attention to the story of Bishop Guerry, who was gunned down in his office in Charleston in 1928 after taking a stand for racial justice. Actors Robin Burke and Bradley Keith played the parts of Bishop Guerry and the Reverend Albert Thomas in "Truth in Cold Blood," a play by Tom Tisdale (Chancellor of the diocese) that is being performed at the historic Dock Street Theatre June 16-20.
Read Bishop vonRosenberg's full address
Bishop vonRosenberg and many other speakers had words of thanks for The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, which organized and sponsored the event. Shown here are Warren Mersereau, Chairman of the Planning Committee for the conference, left, and Doug Billings, President of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
“Connecting to the Wider Church”
Bishop Jeffert Schori spoke of how all our connections are grounded in creation.
“The care and stewardship of those connections and relationships are the basis of all justice. … Righteousness is about the proper care of those relationships,” she said. The ministry of Jesus “is toward that garden where all live in peace because justice prevails…. That green and growing garden is an image of Jesus’ work in restoring the whole creation.”
She reviewed the Millennium Development Goals that The Episcopal Church adopted to help alleviate worldwide poverty. While the goals were far from perfect, “they have been an enormous prod to the world and the church to do a better job of loving our neighbors in concrete ways,” she said.
The Presiding Bishop said that the Anglican Communion has developed a broader framework for thinking about mission: the Five Marks of Mission. They are
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
“God’s mission needs the gifts of the whole body working in constructive collaboration, because none of us can do it all, and none of us can do it in isolation. Mission focuses on connecting and supporting the diverse parts of the Body of Christ.” We can do this, she said, through networking, partnering and collaborating in the Anglican community.
Bishop Jefferts Schori noted that The Episcopal Church has been formally called the “Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society” since the 1830s, and every Episcopalian is a member of it. She urged local churches to discover opportunities for mission by listening to the hungers and yearnings in their congregations: who has a passion for healing, for justice? What gifts are present in the people and relationships?
“Where does injustice offend you? That is the Spirit speaking. Draw in companions and resources from beyond your congregation to respond. Even the basic work of building those relationships for missions is a reconciling move,” she said.
“You have abundant gifts here, just look at this room. I know there is passion burning within you. Connect those gifts and that passion, and you will discover in your presence the reign of God. Mission is the fire of the church: Burn, my friends! Burn, and let your light shine!”
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
“Leadership in Challenging Times”
The President of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church said she reflected as she prepared her talk that “here in South Carolina, you all already know more than a few things about leadership in challenging times. You are persevering through legal, financial, logistical, spiritual and practical challenges, and your enthusiasm, grace and dignity in the face of it all inspires me and many other deputies and leaders around the church.
“ I am grateful for your service and your commitment to our common life. You are the epitome of what it means to be enthusiastically Episcopalian,” she said.
She quoted theologian Paul Tillich, in a work titled “On the Boundary,” to talk about the times the church is facing.
“ In so many ways, all of us who are leading today’s church, whether we are 18 or 80, are standing on a boundary line that marks the end of the old, institutional church and the beginning of what the church of the 21st century is becoming. It is our job to stand on that boundary and help others across. Some of us, like Moses, won’t get there ourselves. Others of us are becoming the leaders who will turn the hope into reality. But all of us are on the boundary together.”
President Jennings spoke of Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem, being on the border between Samaria and Galilee. “ Jesus was often on the border between the old and the new, between death and new life, between the old covenant and the new covenant, between the cultural norms of the time and an expansive understanding of who is worthy and has value,” she said.
“Jesus teaches us that leadership is a choice you make rather than a position you occupy.”
As a fan of David Letterman, President Jennings offered a “Top Ten” list of traits of leaders in challenging times. Number One on her list: “You know, deep in your heart, that the unity we all want so very much is found in our common life grounded and centered in Jesus Christ.”
(Read President Jennings’ entire address here.)
Bishop Kenneth Price
“Lessons Learned, Lessons Shared”
The Right Rev. Kenneth L. Price, Jr., was Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio when he was elected in 2009 as Provisional Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. He led Pittsburgh through the aftermath of a time of schism when a majority of members left The Episcopal Church. He served there until his retirement in 2012.
Bishop Price said that in previous times, decisions had been made in isolation, and the reorganized diocese made a commitment to total transparency and collaborative decision making. They focused on telling their own stories positively, and refrained from disparaging those who had left the church. As time passed, he said, people began to return.
“They had a weariness… they no longer wanted to hear the litany of how bad things were every Sunday. They wanted to hear the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Over time, 10 churches that initially had left the church have come back; 55 percent of the congregations there are now part of The Episcopal Church, Bishop Price said. The diocese includes a wide spectrum of beliefs, traditions and practices, but shares an abhorrence of a narrow view, he said.
“Always remember that you are in the Body of Christ, and in that you find your true identity,” Bishop Price said.
Click on the audio player below to hear the introduction of Bishop Price by the Rev. Nancy Chalfant-Walker, Rector of St. Stephen's, Pittsburgh, and to listen to Bishop Price's address.
Workshop: Rejoicing While Rebuilding
The workshop for smaller congregations focused on "telling the story": How Pittsburgh told its story, and how South Carolina can tell its own. Rich Creehan, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, gave a PowerPoint presentation that can be viewed here (PDF file).
Presenters from Pittsburgh were the Rev. Kris McInnes, Priest-in-Charge of St. David’s; and Rich Creehan, Communications Director for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. South Carolina presenters were Andrea McKellar, Senior Warden of St. Francis, Charleston and a lay deputy to the 78th General Convention; and the Rev. Jeff Richardson, who serves as Vicar of St. Alban's, Kingstree, St. Stephen's, St. Stephen, and St. Catherine's, Florence.
Mrs. McKellar reported some key points from the workshop:
- Find the Kingdom of God where you are.
- Reconciliation gives us a way forward, but it’s not an easy road.
- We are coming out of a place of mourning to do God’s work.
- It’s easy to offer hospitality, but Jesus wants us to receive hospitality.
- There are 42,000 denominations in the United States, and at least half of those have split over the color of the carpets.
Workshop: Showing the Way While Staying the Course
The workshop for larger, established parishes, where representatives from both dioceses engaged in a rich discussion, shared stories, and fielded a Q-and-A session.
Workshop presenters from Pittsburgh were the Rev. Nancy Chalfant-Walker, Rector of St. Stephen’s; Russ Ayres, member of the Board of Trustees of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. From South Carolina, presenters were the Rev. Dr. Wilmot T. Merchant II of St. Stephen's, North Myrtle Beach, and Barbara Mann, a member of Grace Church in Charleston, Diocesan Council member and member of the Board of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina.
Mrs. Mann reported on topics and ideas from that session:
- A successful parish is a mission-oriented parish. Keep your eye on the prize.
- Keep on “being the church.”
- Forgiveness and reconciliation is a process. It takes patience and it happens in God’s time, not our time.
- Transparency is very important. The aim is to develop trust.
- Communication is important. Continue to develop the sense of who the diocese is and what the diocese does.
- Address anger. How can we respond to it spiritually and help people heal?
- An idea from Pittsburgh: Lay members from all over the diocese went on a “prayer pilgrimage” by church in the diocese in turn, and praying there.
Bringing It On Home:
Enthusiastically Episcopalian in South Carolina
The day concluded with five short personal reflections delivered as "mini-sermons" from members of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina on five topics: Tradition, Renewal, Inclusion, Stewardship, and Youth.
Tradition: The Rev. Colton Smith, member of the Standing Committee and of Grace Church, Charleston
Renewal: Rebecca Lovelace, Senior Warden of St. Anne's, Conway and member of the Standing Committee
Inclusion: Barry Dennis, member of St. Anne's, Conway
Stewardship: Betsy Walker, a Trustee of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and member of the Diocesan Development Committee and of St. Stephen's, Charleston
Youth: The Rev. Matt Schneider, Associate Priest at All Saints, Hilton Head Island
These links connect you with publicly-accessible photo albums from the weekend:
Eucharist with the Presiding Bishop
Keynote speakers and workshops
The Friday night gathering
Got more photos to share? Email them to Holly at