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Anglicans Online last updated 13 January 2019

Excerpt from the address given by
the Rt Revd Edward L Salmon, Jr, Bishop of South Carolina

to the 210th Diocesan Convention
11 February 2000

I want to end this address by touching the crisis in our American Church and in the Anglican Communion. The crisis is troublesome. It is particularly troublesome to me because all the bishops have just received a letter from the Presiding Bishop concerning the two recent consecrations in Singapore stating that there is no crisis in the Episcopal Church. Some other faithful bishops agree, the Bishop of Iowa for instance. I believe to the contrary, there is a crisis of authority in the Church; the recent consecrations being only the most recent example. We could go back to the ordination of the Philadelphia eleven- the first ordination of women in the American Church- a canonical violation without consequences. I support the ordination of women, but not non-canonical action. The General Convention approved them two years later. To that, any number of additions can be made.

Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg. At the Official level, we have made no change in our teaching about the person of Jesus, the historic creeds, our reliance of the Holy Scripture. Behaviorally much is going on to the contrary. Bishop Spong's Theses are nothing new- essentially Unitarianism with a miter. His understanding that the crucifixion is child abuse, and his denial of any need for atonement, removes him, by his own hand, from anything recognizably Christian. The Church has officially said nothing about it, leaving many inside and outside the Church confused about who we are. You have received a pastoral letter from me on the subject. I mention this particularly because I believe it is a part of the Singapore matter.

I saw at the last Lambeth Conference how Anglican Bishops from around the communion were offended by this teaching in the American Church. Many Anglicans, Bishops, priests, deacons and laity have been martyred in Africa for their belief and commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is difficult for us, sometimes, even to touch the level of their pain on this subject. Many Americans have dealt with their reaction by calling them fundamentalists, thereby finding grounds to dismiss their concerns. Isn't there irony here? The converts from the colonies calling into question the very ones who sent the missionaries? Diocese after diocese in the United States has rejected the position of Lambeth in their conventions. They have not rejected another Lambeth position which holds that Diocesan boundaries should not be crossed without permission. Our long history of unilateral action on the part of the bishops in the American church has produced the authority crisis. One of the definitions of dysfunction is the absence of any boundaries. Another name for it is anarchy. The consecrations in Singapore continue this story, but it is the first such action on the orthodox side. I can readily see why years of frustration, growing from dialogue, often used as a cover for change, would result in consecrations to get people beyond canonical oppression. My friend Dick Martin, who is our new interim at St Mark's, Charleston, is an example of one oppressed to leave his parish of St Paul's, K Street, Washington, D.C., for his views on the ordination of women. Unfortunately, passing resolutions for or against Lambeth or anything else usually only increases the frustration. Control of the mechanism of power "by right-thinking people" only makes for losers, and encourages withdrawal when things don't go our way. We do have a crisis.

I believe that God's response to that statement of mine to the Diocese would be - so what? We have lived with each other in the Church in a state of warfare that had given us this prize. I believe strongly that this is God's judgment on the Church. He has let us become what we have done, while at the same time from the cross begging us to know him and his ways and to follow them.

Athanasius was exiled from his Diocese five times. The heritage of the Church is built on the blood of the martyrs. I believe that we face more adversity, not less.

In situations like this nothing has changed. I am still expected to be faithful to my calling. I am still expected to trust in God's sovereignty and his purposes. I believe in the indefectability of the Church, not its infallibility. By that I mean the scripture is plain that the Church is God's creation, not ours. It rests on his promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. He did not promise that we would not suffer. I have the utmost confidence that in his time, not mine, in his ways, not mine; he will take us where we need to be. We simply need to repent of our own sins and pray for God's will to be done. Many of our responses to crisis spread the disease because we believe everything depends on us.

Our Epistle from Colossians taught us this when it said: "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."

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