Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
With all of the recent news about the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church in the newspaper, there has been a growing misunderstanding about the nature of the crisis. As our bishop has put it so eloquently on several occasions, our profound disagreement with the Episcopal Church is over theology, morality, and polity (how the church is organized and governed). Yet what continues to be printed in the newspaper is that this whole separation is over homosexuality and the narrow view of the Diocese in contrast to the welcoming and inclusive view of the national church. This is a gross mischaracterization of the truth and represents a lie that Satan would like to sow in the minds of faithful members of our church to cause them to abandon their biblical faith and their current affiliation.
This same idea – who is welcome? – came to me in a letter this week and in a conversation with faithful persons associated with Good Shepherd. Bishop Lawrence, in his recent convention address to the diocese, answered this concern in the following way:
But I must say this again and again. This has never been about who is welcome or not welcome in our church. It’s about what we shall tell them about Jesus Christ, his mercy, his grace and his truth – it is about what we shall tell them when they come and what we shall share when we go out.
Good Shepherd has always and will continue to exist for those who are not yet here. What does this mean practically for persons who struggle sexually or self-identify as homosexual? It means that we will continue to exhibit the radical love that Jesus teaches in the Gospels. We will welcome all – understanding that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We will offer all the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ – a free gift obtained not by works but by faith so that none of us can boast. And we will continue to uphold the clear moral teachings of the Scriptures for all. There is no category of sin that allows the sinner to hold himself above another. All of the broken are invited into our fellowship; yet we will be careful not to elevate into leadership anyone unqualified due to unrepentant sin or lifestyle choices. We will aid all sinners in their growth in Christlikeness struggling with them to be conformed to the image of Christ.
Our national church has become captive to our culture and her definitions of inclusiveness and tolerance. Good Shepherd will forever be captive to the mind and will of God as revealed in the Holy Bible. The great freedom and transformation offered by a living relationship with Jesus Christ will be our only hope. If you or someone you know is struggling with these things, please do contact me so that we can discuss them further. I pray that as the details of our separation from the Episcopal Church are worked out, we may with clarity continue to proclaim that all are welcome at Good Shepherd.
In Christ’s all-encompassing love,
Fr. Shay +