T HE E PISCOPAL D IOCESE OF U PPER S OUTH C AROLINA

T h e Rt. Rev . W. Andrew Wal do
PASTORAL LETTER FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2012
2 December 2012 Dear People of God, Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, “Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light,” we have prayed this day, this First Sunday in Advent and the beginning of a new church year. Every year we pray this prayer and every time it reminds us of the tensions within our own hearts between choices that tempt us, and yet may do us or others harm, and choices that seem too hard, and yet may do us or others good. It reminds us of the One to whom we must in the end give an account for all our choices. Our scriptures call us to righteousness, fullness of faith, to love for one another and just behavior toward the poor, the needy and the oppressed. They call us to watch for signs of the kingdom of God, keeping our hearts free from the weight of “dissipation, and drunkenness and the worries of this life” so that we will be alert and ready to stand before the Son of Man. So we yearn for our lives to reflect the image of God implanted within us. And we strive to put on this “armor of light.” This Advent finds South Carolina Episcopalians with an open wound, our armor pierced by our inability across diocesan boundaries to navigate the challenge of living and staying together in disagreement. The disassociation of the Diocese of South Carolina from The Episcopal Church has formalized a long-developing schism over matters of both theology and governance. The questions about whether they can legally do what they have done are not ours to answer. The questions of who is the more to blame are not ours to answer. As I said earlier, temptations to choose those things which may do us or others harm are ever with us and these temptations have been freely engaged across the church from both sides in this tragic fracture. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that, in fact, not a single one of us is ever free from these temptations and of guilt for succumbing to them. The questions we are called to answer address whether we will choose a better way, a way that is neither dismissive of our own theological diversity nor of the challenge Jesus has laid literally at the feet of his disciples as he washed them: to love and serve him in one another. — Together.

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We live in a time that freely indulges itself in thinking that being “right” is better than being in relationship—in families, in politics, and in church. But we delude ourselves when we embrace the notion that true principles exist only at the extremes. We further delude ourselves when we imagine that faithful disciples will, by definition, agree with each other. When, as a teenager, I left faith and Christian community for some ten years, I did so out of my perception of the church’s hypocrisy in proclaiming one thing and doing another, and doing it boldly. For me, this was during the disruptions and disagreements on race and civil rights, tensions so profoundly visible to a young person who lived in Montgomery, Alabama, throughout the 1960’s. I left because I thought I was right and others were wrong. The tensions were real and “works of darkness” were committed countless times in the name of Christianity. But I was wrong to leave the church over them. My return to the church as a young adult in my twenties came about only when, in my own brokenness, I realized how broken we all are. I realized how little control I actually have and ultimately how utterly dependent I am on the grace, love and mercy of God. I have heard it said many times that the only way to grow is to stop doing things that aren’t working. Pretending I was in control wasn’t working. St. Paul tells us how dimly we see. He tells us how we will neither see nor know fully until we stand face to face with the One who already sees and knows everything about us. And yet, our blindness offers us humility. Our relationship with God in Christ Jesus gives us the grace to love one another even in the face of the most radical disagreements. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” Jesus said. (Luke 6:27) To love one another as Christ loved us, to be willing even to die for one another, is the deepest principle of Christian discipleship. It is above all other principles. It is patient and kind. “It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it … rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” There is no need for patience unless one disagrees. Why resist insisting on one’s own way, as this passage in 1 Corinthians 13 continues, unless someone has said there is another way, a way different from our own way? Why bear all things unless there are things that are heavy to carry? Why endure all things unless there are many hardships? And yet, as disciples of Jesus Christ, love expects these things of us. To do this is to put on the armor of light. Over the past several weeks, I’ve spoken to people in both dioceses. More than a few of them on both sides of the issues have spoken of a paradoxical sense of relief that the tension has finally been broken and of a sense that something new is emerging. That sense of relief is both undeniable and understandable in many ways, but we do not yet know what its hidden and presently unknowable effects will be. In the end, disciples who truly and regularly wash one another’s feet, whether in spirit or in fact, will find more enduring and persistent joy in love when it is gained at cost to oneself through servant ministry to one another.

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So this must be the principle by which we in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina will choose to live. We will not always agree. We will do things to hurt one another. And yet we will also have cause to celebrate, to rejoice in the life that has been given to us. We will seek to “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us,” not merely to “get along,” but in deep appreciation and even gratitude for the cost to each of us, personally, of the obedient sacrifice expected of us. Looking to the future, we do not know how things will unfold across the state. We do not know what individuals and congregations within the Diocese of South Carolina will do. We do not know how the leadership of The Episcopal Church will proceed. We do know that friendships and relationships across the state will persist. I do know that I will stay in contact with my brother, Mark Lawrence, and those within this diocese who have appreciated and agreed with his theological perspective. I will also stay in contact and dialogue with those who have felt that The Episcopal Church has moved courageously in its theological developments. And, I offer my support to those within the Diocese of South Carolina who wish remain within The Episcopal Church. Both Bishop Mark Lawrence and Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori are aware of my offer. My deepest hope is that in the long-term we, in our brokenness, will steadfastly hold on to the possibility of reconciliation and restoration, even if it takes us a generation. This is precisely the kind of dialogue to which our diocesan strategic visioning process calls us. I will continue to foster such dialogue and to be the bishop of all in this diocese, regardless of where members are on the theological or political continuum. Therefore we must continue to pray for those whom we love and for those whom we struggle to love, whether they live within or beyond this diocese. Advent announces the reign of Jesus and his sovereignty in our lives, a reign that will bring resolution to all our earthly questions in God’s own time. This Advent, may we, as brother and sisters in his holy Name, bear witness with the clarity, purpose and, above all, the love to which his kingdom bears witness, in this world and in the next. In the name of Jesus, I remain your brother, friend and fellow-laborer in the vineyard,

The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo VIIIth Bishop The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina

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