Gracious Engagement. A Word from our Diocesan Bishop Steve Wood.

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One of the most amazing attributes Jesus demonstrated was his ability to engage people from every strata of society.  Matthew the tax man who became a disciple; Peter the fisherman who became a fisher of men; Nicodemus the scholar and teacher of the law; the prostitute who washed His feet with her tears; the untouchable lepers who found a healing touch; the little children who climbed on His lap; Jairus whose daughter died.

His open-hearted accessibility and love of others, even for His enemies, would become the ethic by which the early church thrived.  So much so that the non-Christian world commenting on the life of the church said of them, “See how they love each other” (Justin).  Throughout church history, Christians have, with varying degrees of success, taken seriously the truth expressed by Paul in 2 Corinthians: “that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (5.19). The consequence?  No other religion has crossed as many sociological and religious barriers as Christianity.

It is this attitude of gracious engagement that springs from our recognition that we are all equally in need of salvation and share a common bond as the objects of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross that is the distinguishing characteristic of every effective disciple-making congregation.

As you consider the manner of your life, the people and the places that you devote your time, and energy (check your daily planner), and your money (check your bank statement and budget), is it clear that your life – your church – demonstrates that same love for others?  Are you creating an atmosphere in your life, your home, your church, that reflects the love of God for all people – from every nation, tribe, language and people? (Revelation 7.9)

Do you remember the first time you went to church?  Can you remember the anxiety of “standing out?”  Remember the uncertainty of not knowing what to do, where to go or where to sit?  I certainly do.  Over the years I regularly meet folks desperately searching for meaning, truly searching after God, feeling these things upon entering the doors of a church. We have the privilege of joining Christ in our community – building bridges between God and His people.  Engaging and serving them as Christ would – and did.

For His Kingdom,

+Steve

A Word from our Diocesan Bishop Steve Wood

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“Go”
“Wait”

Two simple words which cause us so much trouble!

Go
Jesus told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.  Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.  Lk 10. 2-3

Wait
Jesus gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 4-5

Why is it so hard to do what Jesus commands us to do?  Why do we think we know better?  Part of the “going” and “waiting”, for Jesus, involved teaching (presuming we’ve first learned ourselves) others to obey (Mt 28.20).  Another word we don’t like!  But there it is, 4 times from the lips of the Lord in ten short verses (Jn. 14.15-24) culminating with: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

Going and waiting are hard.  Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh.  Jonah wanted Judgment.

Peter found himself in slightly different circumstances.

Speaking to a confused church, which apparently wanted God to get on with the judging and were frustrated with waiting, the Apostle penned these words: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3.9)

God does not view time and circumstance as we do. He calls us to go to a broken world (from which we want to run) and to wait in the midst of the sadness and ugliness and pain of human brokenness.  This waiting, though, is not a passive waiting.  It’s a waiting that brings with it the power of the Spirit which empowers our proclamation and demonstration that the Kingdom of God is at hand and that the only appropriate response to the presence of God’s Kingdom is repentance and believe (Mk. 1.15).  The Lord’s seeming delay in bringing about the consummation of all things is not a result of His indifference but of His patience – a waiting for all who will come to repentance.

How utterly unlike Him I am.

It is uncomfortable to live in a sinful world.

And the truth is, I’d rather be comfortable.

I wonder how you’re doing in regard to going and waiting?  I wonder to whom the Lord has said for you to “go” but you’re waiting?  I wonder how many circumstances you find your patience being tried because you are so ready to go – and yet the Lord seems to have said, “wait”?

Do you have a heart that is content with going and waiting as the Lord leads?

Jesus never intended for the faith to be lived out in the imaginary realm of supposition and make believe.  Instead you and I are called to fully live in the present, sometimes hard pressed, sometimes perplexed, sometimes knocked down, but never crushed or abandoned – always carrying within our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed. Always accompanied by and filled with the Spirit

Go.
Wait.

Two very difficult words.

Developing Healthy Congregations

15541267_786901648114635_2912949989732689445_nA Note from Bishop Steve Wood

 

Dear Friends,

As our diocese continues to develop our common life Nancy Bryan has helpfully begun a regular e-newsletter of sorts to ensure we stay connected one to another. Included in these e-newsletters will be a brief article from me.  Being our first such newsletter I thought I’d write you about that which is closest to my heart; developing healthy missional congregations.

Over the course of my ordained life I have continually observed that when a congregation goes flat it is usually because one aspect of their life is out of balance.   As Anglicans entrusted with the great treasure of a rich liturgical life, we tend to do worship well. And, as I’ve traveled from parish to parish across our diocese we tend to love one another well. Most commonly it is the missional focus that has been lost.

So, how can you – and your parish – develop a heart that will grow an outwardly minded (mission minded) church?  Here are five suggestions:

 

  1. Adopt the “apostolic” attitude found in Romans 1.5-6: “Through Him (Jesus) and for His name’s sake, we (you) received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles (unreached people) to the obedience that comes from faith.”  Paul says that each one of us who has received grace for salvation has also received apostleship – meaning we have all been sent into the world as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5.20).
  2. Find neutral ground to reach out to the community.  The possibilities are limited only by your creativity.  In the Diocese of the Carolinas the Village Church in West Greenville, SC partners with other community volunteers to serve their neighborhood by offering free bicycle maintenance, bike learning (and bike earning) opportunities and community development.  Called the Village Wrench they set up in a neighborhood of West Greenville on the first Saturday of every month. It is a tremendous bridge into the community giving pre-Christian people an opportunity to rub shoulders with Christians in a non-threatening atmosphere.
  3. Cultivate an evangelistic mindset.  Think person-to-person, friend-to-friend, neighbor-to-neighbor, colleague-to-colleague.  This, in fact, is much more important than any program or event your parish could implement. Twenty years ago George Hunter, the author of How to Reach Secular People, suggested that in our secular climate it takes twenty contacts(!) to build a bridge between your friend and Christ. The point is, stay engaged.  Folks will want to see your faith lived out and that takes time.
  4. Spice up your evangelistic life with a little variety.  Again, the evangelistic opportunities are endless.  For example, if you hear a single mom has a sick child you could: bring her dinner, mow her lawn, bring in the mail, visit the child and pray for him/her, share how your faith helped you in a hard time, invite her to church – or a home group, be a friend, have coffee – build a bridge.
  5. Meet people where they are.  Increasingly, the bankruptcy of our secular/pluralistic culture (materialism, atheism, skepticism) is being made clear.  Our society has moved from pluralism (many truths) to relativism (no truth is more true than others) to post-post-modernism (what is truth?).  Many in the church panic and become ashamed of the Gospel, feeling that the Bible is irrelevant to our modern world.  NOTHING could be further from the truth.  In fact, this kind of thinking reflects more clearly a worldly analysis than a biblical one.  The Bible is still living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword – able to penetrate soul and spirit and judge the thoughts and attitudes of people’s hearts (Heb. 4.11).

 

In Christ,

Steve

Please Hold On…

Suffragan Bishop David Bryan

Face it, we hate to wait. We don’t like lines, waiting rooms or delays in our ‘instant’ society. There is an inherent impatience in the way our culture has shaped us in the western world.

Which is why Advent’s biblical emphasis on waiting is important for us to hear. We live in between the advents of Christ into our world. We are encouraged to allow our time waiting to do its sanctifying work in us. It has been wisely said that next to suffering, waiting may be the greatest teacher and trainer in godliness, maturity and genuine spirituality.

Advent reminds us of the centuries God’s people waited for the fulfillment of his promise to send a Savior. He came! Jesus, speaking of his return, said “stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men waiting for their master to come home…” (Luke 12:35-36) Waiting, whether we like it or not, is an integral part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

But there is good news for those who embrace this call to wait as a matter of trust in God’s promise to us. Psalm 33:20-21 bears witness to this: “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.” We wait because we trust that God, in his time, will fulfill his promise to us in his Son. We believe, with the prophets, that those “who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

We fail in our waiting when we take things into our own hands…. when we decide to operate out of our own agenda and not God’s. We fail when we give up hope and cease to trust in God’s Word to us.

When we pray for a family member or friend to be touched by God’s grace and we don’t see results, we are tempted to give up. When we pray for a job or opportunity to open up and we don’t see it come to fruition, we are tempted to give up. Advent reminds us to press in, to actively wait for God to move, to break into our story, often in unexpected ways. He has proven in the incarnation of Jesus Christ that he is trustworthy.

I’m not sure what you are waiting for right now, but when, in your circumstances, you hear “please hold on…”, hear it as an invitation to hold on… to the promises of God!

Press Release:: The Rt. Rev’d David Bryan Elected Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of the Carolinas

bpbryanMT PLEASANT, SC – Monday May 23, 2016, clergy and lay delegates from the Diocese of the Carolinas voted unanimously to elect Bishop David C. Bryan as the first Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of the Carolinas.

Bryan has served as Bishop of the Southeast (PEARUSA) Network since September 2013. This Network, one of three in PEARUSA, is part of a missionary district established by the Anglican Province of Rwanda in the United States.

This June, Archbishop Rwaje of Rwanda will formally hand over all three networks to Archbishop Foley Beach and the Anglican Church in North America. Two of the networks will become dioceses. The clergy and churches in Bishop Bryan’s network will have the opportunity to become part of an already existing Diocese of the Carolinas under Bishop Steve Wood.

“It’s the right thing for us to do here in the Carolinas,” Bryan said. “The clergy who elected me as their bishop agreed with me that we didn’t need another diocese. I am personally looking forward to working with Bishop Steve Wood and sharing episcopal ministry with him.”

The clergy and parishes in Bishop Bryan’s PEARUSA network will have until July 1 to apply for admittance into the Diocese of the Carolinas.

“I’m excited about the possibilities ahead,” Wood responded. “Bishop David and the clergy of his network are teaching all of us about humility and passion for gospel unity. The vote last night, I think, tells it all. Our clergy and lay delegates are excited about coming together.”

Archbishop Beach added, “Archbishop Rwaje and the House of Bishops of Rwanda want our Anglican witness of Jesus Christ in North America to be strong. I believe what Bishop David and the Southeast (PEARUSA) Network is doing demonstrates that witness boldly and courageously in the Carolinas.”

Related to the actions of the Southeast (PEARUSA) Network, Bishop Thad Barnum has accepted the position of Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of the Carolinas where Bishop Barnum has established an Office of Clergy Care attending to the personal and spiritual well-being of the clergy.

+Thad and his wife Erilynne have four grown children and eleven grandchildren.  They reside in Pawleys Island, SC.

+David and his wife Nancy have three grown children, with two married and one engaged. They reside in Columbia, SC.

+Steve and his wife Jacqui have four grown children and two grandchildren.  They reside in Mt. Pleasant, SC.