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UPPER SOUTH CAROLINA: Bishop Sends Angry Letter to His Clergy

UPPER SOUTH CAROLINA BISHOP SENDS ANGRY LETTER TO HIS CLERGY New AMIA priest invades his diocese

By David W. Virtue
www.virtueonline.org
January 30, 2004

The Bishop of Upper South Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, Jr. has sent an angry letter to all his clergy condemning the invasion into his diocese of a former ECUSA priest, now with the Anglican Mission of America.

In a message To the Clergy, Sisters and Brothers he writes:

"This morning the Right Rev'd Victor Scantlebury, Assistant Bishop of Chicago, telephoned to share some startling--although not surprising--information. The Rev'd Charles (Chip) Edgar, Rector of St. Mark's, Glyn Allen, announced his resignation to his Vestry on Monday and indicated that he would be serving henceforth under the Bishop of Rwanda in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina--for the purpose of starting new churches."

"I have shared this information with Bishop Salmon and intend today to communicate with both the Bishop of Rwanda and the Archbishop of Canterbury, protesting the action of both the Bishop of Rwanda and the Rev'd Mr. Edgar."

I shall keep you informed of further developments. In the interim, should the question arise, the Rev'd Mr. Edgar is not licensed for any purpose or function in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina--not, of course, that this will deter him. I suggest that you share this information with the members of your congregations, especially your lay leaders.

That's not quite how The Rev. Charles "chip" Edgar, 39, sees it. The decision to leave the Episcopal Church after 12 years as a priest with a wife and four small children was not one that was taken lightly and without some pain. In fact it was rending decision bearing in mind that he had the fastest growing Episcopal parish in the Diocese of Chicago - St. Mark's in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, about 25 miles west of Chicago.

"When my wife and I decided to leave there was a lot of grief in the parish and in our lives. We had taken the parish from 260 to 470 and we had students and faculty coming from nearby Wheaton College, an independent Evangelical university, one of the best in the nation."

What prompted his departure was the growing awareness that the Robinson consecration was a growing divisive issue. "Our parish had been moving in a strong evangelical direction with more than half the congregation solidly behind Scriptural authority. But on August 5, 2003 we found the consecration of V. Gene Robinson divided the church. It generated a lot of support when I came down hard against the consecration, but not all the congregation was on board. But the vestry voted to pursue alternative Episcopal oversight."

Two things happened, he said. A sizeable portion of folk objected to AEO and Bishop Bill Persell told me that AEO would not be realized or allowed in his diocese. "I don't see that AEO is on the horizon," he told me. "I knew then that I needed to find a safe place where I could live more truly into my theological convictions."

Following his decision to resign in the first week of January he met with Bishop Persell's Canon to the Ordinary, where he had what he describes as a "generous conversation".

"They are not going to immediately depose me. They are having a wait and see policy. He suggested we keep the doors open, or voluntarily renounce my orders. He wanted to make a way for me to come back. The Diocese has been kind to me."

Chip Edgar had been aware of the Anglican Mission in America for some time but did not take it seriously to begin with, but over time he became convinced that it was the way to go for him. He was a coup for the AMIA.

"Their bishops immediately linked me with a number of people in Columbia, SC. There was a core group of 75 very committed folk who have already committed themselves in the first year to a budget of $300,000."

Are they ex-ECUSAN's? "No. Only about 40 percent are from The Episcopal Church. We are drawing from a wide area, with many coming from Columbia International University (formerly Columbia Bible College). These students would never go to a regular Episcopal Church that doesn't know what Biblical morality or Scriptural authority is."

And his reaction to Bishop Henderson's letter? "My goal is not to steal sheep from ECUSA but to reach people who don't know Jesus, so I don't see myself as a threat to the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. "The Episcopal folks here are looking for an alternative, but they are not my target audience.

"It was an enormous emotional and intellectual challenge to join the AMIA. When the AMIA started, I was not convinced it was the thing to do, but over time I became convinced. It has been difficult in ECUSA for years and years and I can only see it getting worse for those orthodox rectors who remain. Basically my experience in the Diocese of Chicago was positive. I have no real complaints."

I made my decision based on my theoligcal convictions, though it has been emotionally challenging. It was a wonderful parish, godly people, and it has been so very hard to leave.

The Rev. Chip Edgar will move to Columbia March 1, to begin his new ministry. They will meet in a clubhouse in a Columbia subdivision with evening services.

"I am excited that a church which is really excited about sharing the gospel with people are not weighed down with a lot of baggage and canonical structures which hinders the mission of the church rather than advancing it. My hope in Columbia is to reach out the unchurched."

END

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