|The following address was given by the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, XIV Bishop of South Carolina, at the 223rd Annual Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina held at Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant on Saturday, March 15, 2014. Download a printable version. Listen to the address.
Bishop’s Address to the 223rd Annual Diocesan Convention
“The Church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.” So wrote the Swiss theologian, Emil Brunner, several generations ago. And it was clearly under the burning fire of the Holy Spirit that the apostles moved out to engage the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. For what God had done in Jesus Christ for the world must be made known to the world. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?” wrote St. Paul. “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!’ … faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10: 14-17) So these early Christians sent out and so they went out. Pressing on, as one missionary statesman has written, “… going from city to city as heralds of the King, not staying to argue with gainsayers….” We spend too much time arguing with those within the church who do not believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ needs to be proclaimed to all people while we remain in guilty silence about the Gospel in the presence of its many cultured despisers. It was not so for the early disciples. Inflamed as they were with a saving message and filled with an unspeakable joy they brushed off the dust of those who had rejected their message and moved on looking for the next opportunity. The Holy Spirit never allowed them to let the need to consolidate what they had gained to replace the need to advance. In fact advancement became the method of consolidation. I am gripped by these words from Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, writing about the church’s need to press forward “… both to the ends of the earth and the ends of the world, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God.” Of the Church’s need to press on in the strength of the Holy Spirit, living by grace, turning outward to engage the world, resisting the constant temptation to play it safe, he writes: