Pastoral Letter from South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence

I write on the eve of the upcoming trial between the Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Grace and Peace to you from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 1:3

I write on the eve of the upcoming trial between the Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Church scheduled, God-willing, to take place in St. George, SC from July 8—18, 2014 and under the jurisdiction of the Honorable Diane S. Goodstein. Much work by our legal team under the leadership of Mr. Alan Runyan has already been done. The staff and members from many of our parishes, as well as the diocesan staff, have logged countless hours in the detail work of discovery. Much prayer has been invested by our clergy, vestries, intercessors, and the rank and file members of our congregations. For all of this I am profoundly grateful. 

The path that has brought us as a diocese to this hour has been long and winding. Yet through it all we have been guided by a desire to be faithful to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as we have received it ever striving to be mindful that we have been entrusted with this Truth, this Good News and rich heritage, in order to share it with those who have yet to come into the reach of Christ’s saving embrace. 

Certainly we seek to protect our members and the legacy of former generations who under God’s sovereignty and grace have established this diocese and built our churches, more than a few even preceding the founding of The Episcopal Church; but it is of fundamental importance to keep in mind that ours is more than a clinging to heritage for the sake of the past. It is also for the sake of our future mission. It is so that our congregations, their buildings and properties, as well as such places as Camp St. Christopher, may continue to be beachheads and missionary centers for making known the redemptive power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

So once again I write to ask for your help—for your prayer—for our attorneys and for those who will testify on our behalf, as well as for me your bishop. I also ask your prayers for Judge Goodstein who will preside over this trial. I offer for your use a prayer crafted earlier by the Very Rev. John Barr, soon to be retired rector of Holy Comforter, Sumter, which I have slightly adapted for this present trial:

Gracious and Sovereign Lord, we pray that your will be done during July 7—18th. May we want what you desire. Guide and be mightily present with Alan Runyan and the other attorneys who represent us and with those who testify on our behalf. May the courtroom be filled with the pleasant aroma of Christ, and at the end of the day, protect this diocese and its parishes that we might bring the redemptive power of the biblical gospel to the South Carolina Low Country, the Pee Dee and beyond. Let not our fear of outcomes tarnish our joy or deter us from the mission you have given us. Enable us to bless and not to curse those on the other side of this conflict. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And in the power of the Holy Spirit make us victorious over-comers wherever this road leads us. For we ask all in the name above all names, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

It remains a great privilege to travel around this diocese, among her various congregations and clergy, and to witness the remarkable sacrifice and ministry being done by and among all sorts and conditions of folk—and to see the rhythms of grace that God has woven into the tapestry which is the congregations and Diocese of South Carolina.

Faithfully yours,

The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina

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