The Conflicted Mind of Bishop Andrew Waldo
By David W. Virtue
December 5, 2012
The Bishop of Upper South Carolina, the Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo says he will support those parishes who wish to remain with the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina. He wrote a pastoral letter to his diocese on the crisis in that diocese. VOL believes he is trying to square the circle on theological and ecclesiastical issues that is impossible to square despite all the flowery language of inclusion and hope.
WALDO: Our scriptures call us to righteousness, fullness of faith, to love for one another and just behavior toward the poor, the needy and the oppressed. They call us to watch for signs of the kingdom of God, keeping our hearts free from the weight of "dissipation, and drunkenness and the worries of this life" so that we will be alert and ready to stand before the Son of Man." So we yearn for our lives to reflect the image of God implanted within us. And we strive to put on this "armor of light."
VOL: When Paul wrote (in Roman 13:12) he preceded his words "armor of light" with these words, "...So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." Another translation reads, "So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living." It is precisely the "dark deeds" going on in the Episcopal Church that Bishop Mark Lawrence has problems with and why he and his delegation marched out of the last General Convention over gay rites which Scripture nowhere affirms and which history and tradition reject. Can anybody imagine a gay and lesbian bishop and plethora of transgendered priests rousing the angels of heaven to sing forth their praises to the Lord of hosts?
WALDO: This Advent finds South Carolina Episcopalians with an open wound, our armor pierced by our inability across diocesan boundaries to navigate the challenge of living and staying together in disagreement. The disassociation of the Diocese of South Carolina from The Episcopal Church has formalized a long-developing schism over matters of both theology and governance.
VOL: Yes, the Diocese of South Carolina does have an "open wound", but who caused it? It certainly wasn't Bishop Lawrence; rather it is the actions of one General Convention after another that has relentlessly whittled away at the traditional foundations of sexual morality, marriage and much more over 30 years. How much more was Lawrence supposed to take? He never started this sexual revolution. Waldo and his colleagues in the HOB did. Now, he and they are paying a heavy price for it. The formation of the ACNA is part of that price.
WALDO: The questions we are called to answer address whether we will choose a better way, a way that is neither dismissive of our own theological diversity nor of the challenge Jesus has laid literally at the feet of his disciples: to love and serve him in one another. -Together.
VOL: If TECs bishops and clergy have indeed violated Holy Scripture on fundamental issues of theology, morality and Christology, what "better way" is he talking about? "Theological diversity" does not give Waldo or the HOB the right to change the meaning or content of the "faith once for all delivered to the saints" in order to appease a Gene Robinson or Mary Glasspool. Once you do that, anything goes. In the case of TEC anything has gone, including the essentials of the faith...right out the window. Waldo is saying that unity is more important than truth. That is simply a fiction. That's a bit like saying that an abused wife should stay with her husband (even if he might kill her) because the vows she made are more important than her own life.
WALDO: We live in a time that freely indulges itself in thinking that being "right" is better than being in relationship-in families, in politics, and in church. But we delude ourselves when we embrace the notion that true principles exist only at the extremes. We further delude ourselves when we imagine that faithful disciples will, by definition, agree with each other,
VOL: Holy Scripture cannot be violated because Waldo thinks being "right" is less important that being in relationship. My brother-in-law died of AIDS at age 42 having spent a fair amount of his time in gay bath houses in New York. Because it was politically incorrect to talk about his life style in the name of inclusion and charges of homophobia if one dared criticize his behavior, I was silenced. For the sake of family relationships, I said nothing, while we all felt his pain. In hindsight, the right thing to do was to tell him NOT to behave as he did even at the cost of being screamed at for being homophobic. He "freely indulged" and paid the ultimate price. TEC is paying the same price. It is in decline.
Furthermore, if relationships matter more than being right, why do we have so many "interventions" today to tell those whom we love that if they don't stop doing bad stuff with their lives and don't get help, the family will have nothing more to do with them. It's called tough love and it works. Truth will always triumph over a false or misplaced unity. The Apostle Paul was a Jew who loved his people and the tradition he was raised in, but he refused to compromise the gospel for the law he was steeped in. He counted all things but loss...including his Jewish family and his roots.
WALDO: St. Paul tells us how dimly we see. He tells us how we will neither see nor know fully until we stand face to face with the One who already sees and knows everything about us. And yet, we cannot lean too heavily on the dimness of our sight. We cannot let that become a way of trying to see more clearly, love more dearly, and follow Christ more nearly. Our blindness offers us humility. Our relationship with God in Christ Jesus gives us the grace to love one another even in the face of the most radical disagreements. "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you," Jesus said. (Luke 6:27)
VOL: This is a misuse of these texts. The fact that we see dimly (and God knows how many dim light bulbs there are in the HOB) is in no way a refutation of the absoluteness of Scripture on moral behavior. One commentator says of these verses, "The contrast is between the inadequate knowledge of an object gained by seeing it reflected in a dim mirror (such as ancient mirrors were), compared with the perfect idea we have of it by seeing itself directly." The implication is clear; we see truth dimly, even imperfectly, but not wrongly. TEC's bishops have tried to change the received teaching of the church. They are wrong in doing so and using this text to justify sexual immorality in the name of seeing dimly is disingenuous, invalid, and unbiblical.
WALDO: To love one another as Christ loved us, to be willing even to die for one another, is the deepest principle of Christian discipleship. It is above all other principles. It is patient and kind. "It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." There is no need for patience unless one disagrees. Why resist insisting on one's own way, as this passage in 1 Corinthians 13 continues, unless someone has said there is another way? Why bear all things unless there are things that are heavy to carry? Why endure all things unless there are many hardships? And yet, as disciples of Jesus Christ, love expects these things of us. To do this is to put on the armor of light.
VOL: Would Waldo really lay down his life for Bishop Lawrence? By contrast, would orthodox Episcopalians really die for the theology of Bishop Spong? Most of the apostles laid down their lives for the truth of the gospel. To use I Cor. 13 as a peon to excuse certain behaviors and theology in the name of "love" is not to "bear all things" but to excuse some things till we allegedly see more clearly. Scripture is abundantly clear about a lot of things that even children are able to grasp and understand. We also have consciences that bear witness to the truth of things. We endure hardship for the sake of truth and there is very little truth floating around TEC these days.
WALDO: In the end, I believe that disciples, who truly and regularly wash one another's feet, whether in spirit or in fact, will find more enduring and persistent joy in love when is gained at cost to oneself through servant ministry to one another. So this must be the principle by which we in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina will choose to live. We will not always agree. We will do things to hurt one another. And yet we will also have cause to celebrate, to rejoice in the life that has been given to us. We will seek to "walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us," not merely to "get along," but in deep appreciation and even gratitude for the cost to each of us, personally, of the obedient sacrifice expected of us.
VOL: Waldo's diocese is in a period of discernment over gay rights for same sex blessings. If the end result is that the bishop and diocese go for it, (which is inevitable) will those remaining orthodox priests who disagree be marginalized? The history of TEC shows that they will be. Consider what has happened over women's ordination.
WALDO: Looking to the future, we do not know how things will unfold across the state. We do not know what individuals and congregations within the Diocese of South Carolina will do. We do not know how the leadership of The Episcopal Church will proceed. We do know that friendships and relationships across the state will persist. I do know that I will stay in contact with my brother, Mark Lawrence, and those within this diocese who have appreciated and agreed with his theological perspective.
VOL: I think we do Bishop Waldo. Lawrence will face a meaningless trial after which he will be deposed and a faux bishop for a rump diocese will be put in place. There will be legal moves for properties and millions will be spent on lawyers and court battles. Think Ft. Worth, San Joaquin and Pittsburgh.
WALDO: I will also stay in contact and dialogue with those who have felt that The Episcopal Church has moved courageously in its theological developments. And, I offer my support to those within the Diocese of South Carolina who wish to remain within The Episcopal Church. Both Bishop Mark Lawrence and Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori are aware of my offer.
VOL: There you have it. Waldo has given away his hand, "...moved courageously in its theological developments." That's the problem right there. There is nothing "courageous" about endorsing pansexuality, gay rites for same sex blessings and accepting Katharine Jefferts Schori's less than ringing endorsement of the divinity of Jesus Christ (in fact she has stated she cannot). It is precisely those "theological developments" that Bishop Lawrence cannot accept that has brought about the divisions in his diocese and the wider Episcopal Church. It is why there is an alternative missionary province - The Anglican Church in North America - now in play.
WALDO: My deepest hope is that in the long term, we, in our brokenness, will steadfastly hold on to the possibility of reconciliation and restoration, even if it takes us a generation. This is precisely the kind of dialogue to which our strategic visioning process calls us. So I will continue to foster such dialogue and to be the bishop of all in this diocese, regardless of where members are on the theological or political continuum.
VOL: Not going to happen. One cannot nor ever reconcile darkness and light, truth and falsity. Dr. Rowan Williams tried to find an Hegelian synthesis to hold the Anglican Communion together and failed. Restoration can only be based on truth. There is little truth left in The Episcopal Church that Bishop Lawrence and a whole host of other bishops who have left TEC will ever be reconciled too. Perhaps a good start might be an apology to Archbishop Robert Duncan for the shabby way he was tossed out of TEC and then given a trial that declared him guilty; or at a more local level, an apology from Bishop Charles Bennison for the wretched way he treated his orthodox priests for over a decade in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. That would be a good start. Finally, all of the HOB must agree that, in the name of inclusion, they will allow graduates and ordinands from Trinity School for Ministry to be allowed in their dioceses. That would be a good start. I won't hold my breath.
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