As you may be aware, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to discuss the petition involving our diocese at its conference on June 7. As the time draws near for us to hear their decision, I write to make you aware of how matters stand in this ongoing process.
Uncertainty always brings a measure of anxiety. One thing we can do to help manage that is to be clear about what will, and will not, be decided when the Supreme Court rules. It is important to know that whatever the ruling, it will likely take several months for the rest of the legal process to conclude.
Here is the best information we have now:
If the case is discussed on June 7 as scheduled, the Justices may or may not make a decision at that conference. If they do, then at least four of the nine Justices would have to vote to grant a writ of certiorari for the case to proceed. If not, certiorari is denied, and that part of the process ends.
Monday, June 11 would be the first day we might expect to hear a decision, but it could come on a later Monday. The Supreme Court’s term ends June 30.
When the decision arrives, I will call together our diocesan leadership for a time of prayer, information sharing, and discussion. I ask you all to hold the Justices and every person involved in this case in your prayers.
Again, no immediate changes will take place as a result of the Supreme Court ruling. If the Supreme Court grants certiorari, then more legal steps lie ahead. If the court rules in our favor and denies the petition, it will still remain for the state court to implement that decision before any change in the status of property occurs.
The legal steps toward implementation are already in progress, in both state and federal court, but are likely to take several months to reach their conclusion.
Meanwhile, another process also has begun, which is the important work of reaching out, establishing relationships, encouraging conversations, and inviting people who want to be part of The Episcopal Church to join together in healing and reuniting our diocese. This is an equally important process, and one that I hope you will pray for, and participate in.
I am grateful to all of you who have continued to work tirelessly in your faith communities and have been steadfast through sometimes trying circumstances.
When the property matters reach their final resolution in the courts, our prayer is that we will be joining with the people in the affected parishes to worship our Lord Jesus Christ together, as people have done in this diocese every Sunday for more than two centuries.
Gratefully and in Christ,
Sermon at St. Stephen's, Charleston
The Day of Pentecost: May 20, 2018
They were gathered, much as we are gathered. After Jesus’ resurrection the faithful had come together to celebrate the Feast of Weeks, or in the Greek, Pentecost, for it was celebrated fifty days after Passover, as an agricultural festival, to give God thanks for the first fruits of the winter grain. They also were commemorating the giving of the Torah, the Jewish law, to the nation.
“And suddenly, from heaven there came a sound like a mighty wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting.” A rush of wind. Can you feel it? The breath, the wind, the Spirit, all the same word in Hebrew. The effect for them 2000 years ago was apparently overwhelming and they would never again be the same.
There is often a lot in the news about wind, particularly tornadoes moving across the heartland and as we soon embark on a new hurricane season. There is a professor of atmospheric science named Richard Peterson who visits and teaches about his specialty – wind. Most of us I would guess are not wind sophisticates. I mean really, how many intelligent things can one say about wind? We can watch the Weather Channel and follow local meteorologists. We step outside and feel warm breezes or cold fronts approaching. And yes, we know wind can be powerful and we better be aware when going out on the local rivers. We trust too that airplane pilots are paying attention. But what else is there? The wind scientist knows something of the intricacies of wind and indeed it is wonderfully complex, but perhaps all we need for now is the definition offered by a sixth grader: “Wind is like air, only pushier!”
Consider that the pushiness of wind is one of the central points of the Feast of Pentecost. We do not need to know the subtleties of wind to appreciate this stirring moment in the life of God’s people. We need only recognize the power of such a force. The strength of the wind explains something of the way the Holy Spirit works. If God is going to deal in any substantive way with the wreckage of the world that human beings have created, that is, rescuing God’s people from all the ways in which we continue to destroy one another and the planet with which we have been gifted, all the ways in which we live contrary to God’s vision of love and justice, God is going to have to offer the extraordinary power of the Spirit. God breathes new life into us now just as Jesus promised to give us another Advocate or Helper, the Holy Spirit, to be with us forever. The description in Acts is like a violent or mighty wind because nothing less will work!
The great miracle of Pentecost is found when the small tight-knit and secluded group of the followers of Jesus move out beyond the walls of the upper room into the public square. The surge of the Spirit pushes the fledgling Church then out into Jerusalem, and we of the Church now out from this building of St. Stephen’s, into the board room, the courtroom, the surgical waiting room, the grocery store line, the high school cafeteria, wherever it is our day may take us. As one of our post-communion prayers says – “Send us out to do the work you have given us to do.” Every Eucharist is a sending rite. This same Holy Spirit is a gift of our baptism, indeed Sarah Hannah’s baptism, and stirred up for re-kindling in Confirmation. It is the Holy Spirit, the relationship of love between God the Father and Jesus – who is given to us! It is the same Spirit we are asking today to strengthen, empower and sustain those coming forward for the laying on of hands.
When the wind blows, things happen. Branches sway, sometimes trees are uprooted, windows rattle. We don’t always like that part especially if it is things uprooted in our life and the windows of our complacency that get rattled. Yet even in that first Pentecost, as the wind blew, a new world was coming into being. The people of God began to discover that the old ways of relating to one another and thinking about God had been blown out the window! Why do you think Jesus was always being accused of eating with the wrong crowd? It was a breath of hope and life the likes of which had not been known – that things really could be different.
Our call today is to join a conspiracy, a conspiracy of the Holy Spirit. Think about it. The word “conspiracy” literally means, “breathing together.” Pentecost was and is a conspiracy of breathing together for the good. The rush of the wind broke down barriers to reconfigure lives and embrace whole new relationships across all dividing walls. The Spirit was poured out, the account in Acts tells us, on “all flesh,” referring to God’s dream from the book of Joel for the unity of all people.
Perhaps there is no better definition of the Church than the people of God, called out to breathe together, to break down the walls that divide us, offer radical forgiveness and acceptance to anyone and everyone and have our own lives forever changed in the process. Pentecost says we live in the promise that Cretans, Arabians, Parthians and Galileans, examples of people in any time who are radically different in origin, history, language and even ideology, can come together as unified in the Spirit of God. It was true then and it can be true in our day.
We are, one more time, being invited to become God’s hope for all flesh, the entire Creation. It is the only reason St. Stephen’s exists, so that this may be a place where the hope of God is lived and can take root in us. Holy Spirit, push us out, reveling in the wonder of God among us, to be God’s new presence for the sake of the world.
Dear Friends of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,
As you are aware, racial justice and healing is a primary focus for us as Episcopalians. It is Gospel work for the healing of the nations. Such ministry commands our constant attention along with the necessary action to rid our country and world of the sin of racism.
I ask that you continue to find ways to address racism in all its forms as it occurs in the Church and in our culture. The present-day manifestation of racism is no less insidious than at other times in our national life. I encourage you to seriously consider ways in which you can take advantage of the upcoming Racial Justice Sunday on June 17, and also on June 24, in our own Diocese, Bishop Guerry Sunday.
These are great opportunities to bring to awareness and teach one another about how the ministry of Christ leads us to be at the forefront of addressing modern expressions of injustice and inequality. Links to resources for these days are provided below.
“Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine” Ephesians 3:20.
Blessings and peace in Jesus, the Risen One,
Resources for Racial Justice Sunday on June 17: CLICK HERE
Racial Justice Sunday 2018 Resource Booklet
Resources for Bishop Guerry Sunday on June 24: CLICK HERE
Sermon at Grace Church Cathedral
The Sixth Sunday of Easter: May 6, 2018
“I have called you friends.” – Jesus
If you would, ponder a few things with me.
Some of you know I like to fly fish. In fact I am passionate about it. What that means is that it takes me to streams, rivers and shallow estuaries in some of the most beautiful settings one can imagine. It also makes me very attentive to how ecosystems operate. To oversimplify for a moment, if anything in the system gets out of wack – if the water flow significantly changes or its quality degrades; if the invertebrates that live in the water, the bugs, are harmed in any way; if the aquatic vegetation that is supposed to be there is damaged or invaded by exotics; everything else in that system is compromised, including the fish. Likewise, if each and all those things are healthy the entire system is healthy. What’s up with that?
Or ponder two protons. If two of them are in close proximity, as within the magnetic field of the other, and both are spinning in the same direction, say clockwise, but then one is sent off several million light years away from the other in a neat device called a cyclotron and then receives an electrical charge to start spinning in the other direction, counterclockwise, guess what happens? The other one, millions of light years away ALSO starts spinning in the opposite direction. What’s up with that?
Or think of a group of people you care about, even your own family. If one person in the group is really happy it tends to infect everyone else in a positive way and everyone is happy. Likewise, if someone is really sad or hurting, so is the rest of the group. You’ve heard the saying, “If mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy!” What’s up with that?
Or maybe you have heard of something called the butterfly effect. There are a lot of variations, but essentially it says something like if a butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo, you will feel the breeze on your cheek here in Charleston. What’s up with that? It’s a poetic way of saying what the other three examples are saying – that everything is connected. The way that God has created the universe is that everything is connected and one thing cannot happen in one place without it in some way affecting something else. We are inextricably linked in this creation, sometimes in ways in which we are not immediately aware. Such an understanding informs, at least in part, what we mean by one, holy catholic and apostolic church.
Then, what God also does, is right in the midst of this splendid, beautiful, diverse, sometimes puzzling universe, he sends Jesus, perfect love. And according to St. John, Jesus says the most amazing thing: “I have called you friends.” This is what we are celebrating in the lives of those being baptized, one being received as a priest of The Episcopal Church, and those confirmed today. Yes you, and every one of you, sealed sacramentally in the gift of your baptism. This is radical stuff! Jesus is saying that the relationship with God is being totally redefined by him. We are bound in the truth that connects and holds the entire universe together – God’s love. It is the way we, indeed the entire cosmos, has been created.
We have been made for relationship with God and one another, for connection. Jesus teaches us that the connecting agent is love, shown forth in the way that we live on this earth. The Gospel today makes it clear that the reason we are given the command to go and bear fruit in God’s name is so that we can do just that, love one another. Yet mind you, this is not about mere sentimentality, for Jesus commanded that we, “Love one another as I have loved you,” laying down his life for his friends. Love comes from the Cross. It was costly for Jesus and it will be for us.
Eternal life is now, not just after we die. And if God has told us once, God in Scripture has told us over and over – the answer is love. It goes way beyond mere tolerance, for if we are listening to the Spirit, the love freely given will lead us into action. It is passionate, dancing-with-your-arms-wide-open love for everyone and everything God has made. It is the love of Jesus shown forth in us and through us calling us to be an offering to God and one another in thanksgiving for the gift of life we have in this amazingly connected world. When we do so, lives are changed and relationships are renewed. We are able to see each other and our life on this planet through the lens of resurrection hope. It respects the dignity of every human being and seeks justice for all, for no one is outside the realm Jesus has established. This is what we are baptized into and celebrate in all of today’s promises and vows, indeed, in every Eucharist.
Let me leave you with these words from a theologian named Reinhold Niehbuhr:
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true, or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context in history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.”
That is precisely what Jesus does for us. Connected forever. Wildly loved. And amazingly, he calls you – FRIENDS.
Bishop Skip Adams
The Right Reverend Gladstone B. Adams III was elected and invested as our Bishop on September 10, 2016. Read more about him here.