The Bishop Candidates–A Response from the Very Reverend John B. Burwell (and the Deacon’s reponse to the reponse)


date Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 8:40 PM

subject From John Burwell

Deacon Tim,

I do not blame you for being suspect and skeptical about me. If another opinion would help, I would invite you to contact the Reverend David Williams of St. Stephens, Charleston. Here’s a recent Quote from Fr. Williams on his website (http://www.ststephenscharleston.org/aboutus.htm):

One may ask, “Well, where does St. Stephen’s stand in all of this?” Being who we are – “indiscriminately inclusive” – I think says it all. We are not fundamentalists in the way we approach Scripture, and we are a diverse and inclusive congregation and plan to remain that way. Were it possible, we would bless same sex unions. … As for the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the priesthood and episcopacy, there can be no question in my mind that we support it, not as a matter of justice, but as a matter of what is right since baptism is the key to ones entrance into the “Christian faith and life,” not ones sexual orientation.

Although David and I do differ on sexuality issues we are very good friends, nevertheless. His email address is rector@ststephenscharleston.org. You call him at 843-723-8818.

Better yet, you might ask me! I’ll be happy to answer any question you ask me as non-politically as I can. To answer what appears to be your most pressing question, I do not desire to leave the Episcopal Church. I do not plan to leave, and furthermore, I would not work to take the Upper Diocese of South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church were I blessed to be your bishop.

I am praying for you and for the EDUSC. Would you pray for me?

In Christ,

Jbb+

I sent this response to Fr. Burwell this morning.

Dear Fr. Burwell:

Thanks for the email explaining your intention to stay within The Episcopal Church should you be elected Bishop of Upper South Carolina.

As a Deacon, my job is interpret the needs, concerns and hopes of the world to the Church. I can only hope the Church responds in faithfulness. From the perspective of job security for the Holy Order of Deacons, I guess that’s good. Until the Lord returns in glory, we are assured of being able to shout into the wind, speak in unknown tongues and continue to make ourselves annoyingly and largely irrelevant to a Church which wants comfortable words instead of anything having to do with the needs, concerns and hopes of the world.

One thing the world does not need is a Church which reflects the divisive, secessionist, self-validating zeitgeist of what passes for civic engagement these days. The world is not concerned to discover a talk radio Church, an obstructionist Church, a Church which protects the rich, the well-fed, the healthy, at the expense of the poor, the hungry and the sick. What the world hopes for is a Church that looks a little more like Jesus and little less like the power structures that it has to endure each day.

I know that you can fill up Church buildings by appealing to Christians who believe that the values of Jesus are enshrined in the American nation (or one of its political parties). I know that you can rally the faithful when you struggle against the godless, liberal, homosexual, abortionist agenda. I know that people who are uncomfortable with uncertainty are always going to be attracted to a form of faith which not only claims to have all the answers, but rewards the powerful for knowing them already. I know that kind of religion really appeals to people, particularly in a place that so reveres political secessionism, it honors a flag which was carried by an insurrectionist army intent on destroying its own spirit. I know those things. I just do not believe that they are the needs, concerns and hopes of the world.

Frankly, I couldn’t care less what side of the ritual sexual purity debate you’re on, whether or not you believe in ordaining women, homosexuals or frogs. I don’t care if you want an Anglican Covenant or lay presidency at the Eucharist. If you become my Bishop, I will have to submit to your authority. But that does not mean that I will hesitate to speak the truth to you, regardless of whether that offends you.

In that spirit, here’s one last bit of Diaconal rant: your comments on the Convention blog from July 15 were probably meant to be humorous, but they weren’t. They were offensive, insensitive and, smacked of racial bigotry. They are not sentiments that any Episcopal minister should hold, and they are certainly not sentiments that a Bishop should hold. The fastest growing congregation in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina is not in a comfortable, wealthy suburb. It is a congregation of Spanish-speaking immigrants, many of whom are economic refugees here without legal documentation. You ask why they are in the Anglican church? Because they heard somebody at Iglesia Episcopal de Santa Maria explaining how knowing Jesus would fulfill their needs, concerns and hopes. If you are to be the Bishop of this Diocese, my prayer for you would be that you come to know those people and their great faithfulness.

And speaking of prayer: yes, I will continue to pray for you, and hope that you would remember me as well in your prayers.

Pax Christi,

Tim

2 thoughts on “The Bishop Candidates–A Response from the Very Reverend John B. Burwell (and the Deacon’s reponse to the reponse)

  1. Until the results of the Bishop search were presented, I had never heard of the Very Reverend John Burwell, but after this controversy began, I read his General Convention blog. In my opinion, his blog comment about the Ubuntu presentation and poster was trite, crude, and served as a very poor example to his parish. It was a comment that one might only expect to hear in a men's locker room. His blatant disrespect for the Presiding Bishop, in his inference that he left the Opening Eucharist because she was celebrating, implied that he held making a political statement above the sacrament. His sarcastic comment about the feminine divine nature of Holy Spirit, in response to the President of the House of Deputies prayer, was patronizing and offensive to women. The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Caroina is called to be, among other things, a “wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ.” In his blog, The Very Reverend Burwell failed his own flock by not holding himself up as an example of Christ's love for the world, and I believe that he would certainly fail the Upper Diocese as well.

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