Opposition to Accepting the Moral Authority of the 1998 Lambeth Conference

Opposition to Accepting the Moral Authority of the Lambeth Conference

by Charles W. Smith csares@bellsouth.net

A Statement to the 209th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina in opposition to accepting the moral authority of the 1998 Lambeth Conference as the standard for the diocese with regard to women priests and homosexuality. Delivered at Hilton Head, South Carolina, March 6, 1999.

Bishop Salmon, delegates to the convention,

I am Charles Smith and I represent St. Stephen's Church, Charleston. I was born and raised in this diocese. I am a member of the vestry of St. Stephen's Church and the former Senior Warden of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Miami. I am a Christian...I am also gay. Anyone who has told you that being a Christian and being gay are mutually exclusive has lied to you. The three year assault on the gay and lesbian Christians of this diocese by a handful of homophobic clergy from the Lowcountry must end today.

This diocese must say no to those who would go beyond the authority of this convention and beyond the authority of our bishops to impose the non-binding statements of Lambeth on the good people of this diocese. South Carolinians have a reputation of fiercely defending their rights to self-determination. To adopt the statements of Lambeth and to adopt the beliefs of the African bishops who provided the majority of the votes cast in favor of these statements is a pre-meditated assault on the authority of this convention and a premeditated assault on the leadership of our elected bishops. These resolutions are nothing less than a Trojan Horse. Inside it are the leaders of the First Promise Movement. If you are ready to hand this diocese over to those who choose to elect their own bishop when they are in conflict with their diocesan bishop or to those who choose to make a place in our diocese for people who after twenty years still place no value on the ministry of women in this diocese or to those who have for years sought to take Christ away from gay and lesbian Christians in this diocese, then I urge you to vote yes on these resolutions. If they are adopted, you will have succeeded in turning the authority of this diocese over to what is in effect a foreign power. You will have succeeded in separating thousands of Christians in this diocese from the oneness of God.

To say to Jennie Olbrych that her ministry is of no value is an insult to her, to the priesthood, to the congregations she has served, to the congregations she has saved... including my own...and to God Himself. To say to thousands of gay Christians in this diocese that we can bless a battleship... we can bless a house... we can even bless a dog at our altar...but we will not bless you and we will not bless the love and commitment you have shared with your partner, is no less and insult to God Himself.

Do not believe for one minute that this struggle is not about money, power and political clout. We are in a battle for the soul of this diocese. What we as Christians must ask ourselves is "What is the price of the soul of this diocese?". Is the price of the soul of this diocese the blood of Christ which was shed for all of us...men, women, gay and straight... or is the price of the soul of this diocese the future of the ministries of people like Jennie Olbrych? Is the price of the soul of this diocese the entitlement that gay Christians have to the Grace of God...or perhaps is the real price of the soul of this diocese simply the combined monetary total of the diocesan obligations of a handful of powerful churches whose wealth is greater than their compassion for their fellow Christians. I beg of you...do not bow down to this. Vote no on all of these Lambeth resolutions.

If you wish to know how to respond to a gay Christian in the Diocese of South Carolina, why don't you ask a gay Christian in the Diocese of South Carolina? It is time to include the voice of gay Christians in ALL discussions in this diocese. It is unacceptable to have an Advisory Committee to the Bishop on Gay and Lesbian Issues which includes no gay or lesbian members . That is no better than what the White Citizens' Councils of the nineteen sixties did in dealing with the racial issues of that time. It is not up to the bishops, nor is it up to this convention to make pronouncements about how they intend to deal with the issue of gay Christians in this diocese without having included gay Christians in the discussion. This is wrong! All I want as a gay Christian in this diocese is to be able to worship God freely in ANY church in this diocese. I am not in Lambeth. I am not in Africa. I am a gay Christian in the Diocese of South Carolina and I am no less entitled to God's Grace than any other Christian in this room!

I thank you for your time.


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