Bishop Lawrence is the Bishop of South Carolina (pecusa):
Let me offer here some preliminary Post-GAFCON—Pre-Lambeth thoughts. Living as we do in this cyberspace world of computer-quick and trigger-happy comments, many of us are conditioned to expect an immediate assessment of things from our leaders whether they are prepared to make them or not. Nevertheless, many in the diocese have been asking me about my experience while in Jerusalem. Frankly I’m still assessing my four days at GAFCON—a stay shorter than planned because of a cancelled departure flight. Consequently, I entered the gathering in medias res and because of prior commitments departed before the conference concluded. It was long enough however to get a feel for the vibrant and diverse life of the Anglican Communion as represented by several of its theological conserving and missionally-minded Provinces and churches. It was also of sufficient length to witness the savoring mouths of those who have hungered for some real bread in the midst of the famine abroad in many corners of Anglicanism these days, (Amos 8:11-12). Many participants seemed to be profoundly grateful for the teaching, fellowship and worship they experienced at this gathering of 1200+ Anglicans. Yet I need to note that it didn’t seem to be substantially different than what I experience week by week as I travel around the Diocese of South Carolina. What seemed like the sweetest of liquors to those around me at the conference was but the same living water I drink on a regular basis at diocesan events, and in parishes from the Pee Dee to the Low Country. I mention this to acknowledge that what we experience so broadly and almost omnipresently here in South Carolina is for many of our fellow Episcopalian and Anglican brothers and sisters a most rare and precious slaking for their dry souls.
We need to take inventory of the fact that unlike others we are anything but spiritually desperate. Nevertheless we do face theological and ecclesiological challenges in The Episcopal Church and within the Anglican Communion that we need to look at squarely and honestly. And these are too great for us to face alone. I believe GAFCON solidifies many, but by no means all, of the spiritual allies with which we shall be working as we strive to help shape Anglicanism in this age of globalization. It challenges us to work more closely with the network of “anglicans” around us in this region of South Carolina. At GAFCON I had conversations with those from AMiA, Diocese of the Holy Cross (I hadn’t heard of them either but they have several parishes in the upstate), and The Reformed Episcopal Church—each of which have congregations here in South Carolina—as well as with Anglicans from Uganda, Nigeria, Malaysia, Canada, Ireland, Australia, Chile, and Brazil. We need to recognize that we share a common theological and spiritual heritage and that our Lord prayed that we might be one as he and the Father are one. Sadly, sometimes it is easier to love the Anglican brother or sister 3000 miles across the ocean whom we cannot see and do not know than the Anglican brother or sister up the road that we can see but now serves the Lord in a different jurisdiction or from a different calling. We have some real work to do here!
Now to the GAFCON Communiqué: Most of it I can wholeheartedly support though I hardly have space in this ENewsletter to discuss it at length. Briefly let me say that The Jerusalem Declaration (the fourteen points in the document) affirms much of what I understand as basic Christianity as Anglicans have received it. As for the call for a North American Province to align the various judicatories of the Episcopalian diaspora, it is a noble and necessary endeavor, though it does not address any particular need that we in South Carolina have. That is, I rejoice that these brothers and sisters who have long looked for validation as “continuing” Anglicans are now recognized by important Provinces on the world stage when Canterbury, for various reasons, has been unable to do so. This recognition I can support even while I am grateful that we here in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina remain in full communion with Canterbury, that most historic and prominent See of Anglicanism. In fact this next week at the invitation of Archbishop, Rowan Williams, I travel to England—first to Exeter for what is termed the “Hospitality Week”. It is especially fitting to be assigned there. You may remember that the Diocese of Exeter at its Synod stood in solidarity with us when the first consent process for my election was ruled null and void. Along with this the Dean of Exeter was in Charleston this past January and February, serving as cantor at the evensong service the night before my consecration and as part of the procession at the joyous event the next day. From Exeter Allison and I will go to Canterbury for the Lambeth Conference from July 16th—August 3rd.
I am participating in both GAFCON and Lambeth because I believe it will take both the outside and the inside tack to move the Anglican Communion towards its God-given purpose and mission in the 21st Century. I think it is fair to say that without the likes of both George Whitefield and Joseph Butler pushing their wares in a prior century Anglicanism would not only be pastorally the weaker, but ecclesiologically the smaller. Or to use another historical allusion, without The Confession of Augsburg there would have been no Council of Trent. Institutions do not usually correct or readily adapt their structures or missions without a great deal of leverage, and GAFCON—regardless of whatever else it is—is clearly leverage.