Bishop scarlet’s Remarks at 2021 DHT Synod

Clip source: Bishop scarlet’s Remarks at 2021 DHT Synod

2021 DHT Synod

Bishop scarlet’s Remarks

I . Remarks at the Clericus.

The time between Ascension and Pentecost is time to pray and wait for the Holy Spirit to come. Acts 1 gives a three-fold framework for this praying and waiting that is repeated in the life of prayer:

First, in Acts the Risen Christ tells the apostles to wait [and pray] for the Holy Spirit to come.

Second, the Risen Christ tells them that when the when the Spirit come they will be witnesses.

Third, the ultimate horizon of their witness is the Second Coming of Jesus. "This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will so come in like manner as your have seen him go."
Though we already have the Spirit, we need to wait and pray for the wisdom and strength we need for each challenge of life. God gives us new wisdom and new strength to meet new circumstances and challenges. This is the ongoing application of Luke 11:9-13.

Thus, we need to learn to wait and pray, and learn to not speak or act, while we are waiting; to be patient until we have the wisdom and strength from God to do what God calls us to do. Sometimes this means being content with a season of prayer and inactivity. When the Spirit comes, we will be led into renewed witness. The power of God will be revealed through what God does in our lives and in the lives of our communities. Our witness has the goal of being found faithful at the coming of Jesus.

This pattern of praying waiting is especially important given the great anxiety of our time and the temptation to speak and act in reactive and unfaithful ways. If we speak or act before the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom and strength, our words and labor will amount to the fruitless words and actions of our old, fallen selves rather than the new people we are in Christ.

Praying and waiting can be contrasted with the pattern, so evident in our world, of reactivity impulsively and compulsively to the various temptations and provocations in the world around us. This amounts to letting the world determine what we do rather than the Holy Spirit. We need to develop habits of praying and waiting so that what we do is in response to the leading of the Spirit and not in reaction to the anxiety of the world. When we speak and act "in the Spirit," we are mindful of the call to be faithful witnesses, who are concerned with being found blameless at the coming of our Lord—and not with results in this world.

Contemplative prayer can help us to pray and wait. Contemplative payer focuses on the pattern of breathing and praying. For an introduction to this form of prayer, read, Into the Silent Land, by Martin Laird. One ancient form of this prayer is the "Jesus Prayer," but another Bible verse or another biblical theme can be used. Through the practice of contemplative prayer, we can develop a new, three-fold pattern.
First, when we are feeling temptation or anxiety, rather than speaking or acting impulsively or compulsively, begin to breathe and pray instead.

Second, as you breathe and pray, practice "watchfulness." Rather than reacting to the emotion or thought, observe it and examine it. Ask, why does this make me so anxious? Resolve to do or say nothing of importance until the anxious thought or emotion passes. This may be seen as a time of temptation.

Third, when the anxious emotionality passes and you are able to think clearly (a movement from the survival brain to the thinking brain) consider what you learned about yourself by observing your thoughts. Having prayed and waited, consider what courses of action, if any, are necessary based on your deep convictions and beliefs—rather than based on your anxiety and fear.
When this form of prayer is practiced over time, we can become more aware of the kinds of things that trigger us in to unfortunate speech and behavior, learn to process the anxiety and emotion rather than letting them control us; and learn to respond to the world in faithfulness rather than in unfaithful anxiety.

II. Opening Remarks at Synod.

A. Welcome

I want to welcome to all delegates and observers. It is good to be moving back towards the ability to meet and minister in person. I also want to commend our parishes for their good work in sustaining ministry during a time of disruption and challenge.

B. A focus on mission in the post Covid world

My intention this year is to refocus our diocesan discussions around a focus on mission. Rather than giving reports on existing activities at our Standing Committee meetings, I will be asking: What are you doing to reach out beyond your existing congregation?

We are a missionary church. We must move away from "holding on" to the traditional faith, and from the traditional ways we relied on advertising to attract traditionalist consumers. This means changing the way we are doing things—and change is hard work for traditionalists.

We have an approach to mission. Our approach seeks to renew and cultivate the interior lives of the most committed people in our churches, called the parish Remnant; then it seeks to find new ways to share our life in Christ with those outside of our churches.

C. Our approach to mission focuses on a few essential things:

1. We must focus on evangelism through relationships. This means getting to know people and their stories. We must have a genuine love for people in the world outside of our churches.

2. We must become pursuers of people. We must want to know people and their stories, and we must want to share our experience of faith with them—not just advertising and hoping people join us.

3. Hospitality. We must cultivate social spaces into which we welcome the stranger—the person who is not us.

4. We must focus on spiritual formation and spiritual direction. Guiding people in their lives of prayer toward goal of growth into the image of Christ.

5. We must commit to fasting and praying for mission. This is our inheritance and gift from Bp. Wilson, Bishop of Aweil in South Sudan.

D. The mission foundation of the Pastoral Ministry Classes.

We have developed this approach to mission through our Pastoral Ministry Classes which have been developed over the last six years. It is based on the thesis that the spiritual formation of the Remnant—the most committed members of our churches—is the proper focus for mission in our tradition. Based on the teaching of Martin Thornton, this approach focuses on ascetical formation rather than on liturgical forms.

We will offer formation in this approach to mission to our parishes—but we will not force anyone to adopt. It will require a commitment to a reorientation of ministry. It is not merely a "program."

E. Next year’s PM class: Summary and invitation.

The Pastoral Ministry approach focuses on these things:

1. A focus on cultivating a life of prayer. Our interior spiritual formation is the foundation for our witness. Unless we are experiencing the power and presence of Christ in our lives through our prayer in our communities, we do not have anything to bear witness to. Our witness is not our liturgy. Our witness is how our liturgy is forming us.

2. A focus on sharing our stories; getting to know each other. Too frequently we live in church communities together for a long time and hardly know each other. Bringing our real stories into our communities and into our prayer – no division between faith and life.

3. A focus on emotional health. Much of what passes for virtue in church work is really fueled emotionally unhealthy responses to the anxiety that exists in our church family systems. We us Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST) as a framework for developing emotional health

3. A focus on what is going on within you. We live in an activist world. Everything thinks the problem is "out there" somewhere. We focus on becoming aware of own emotional functioning and our role in both sustain the problem and becoming part of the solution.

4. An assumption that all good things in the spiritual life take time. It is a year long class, that goes into a second year, and a third year, and then into our diocesan Order of the Holy Trinity. There is not easy way to renew our mission.

5. My focus on leadership development. Every clergy or lay leader will be invited to participate.

6. An invitation:
a. To the committed. You must be an attending, tithing member.

b. Attendance is required. This class must take priority over everything other than a real medical emergency.
III. Synod Sermon.

A. The time between Ascension and Pentecost as a model for how we can both start a mission and renew a parish. Acts 1 and 2 describes a process of waiting and praying, to which we can add the elements of discussing and discerning. Like the first disciples, we must fast and pray and wait; as we do this we must discuss and discern what New Things the Holy is leading us to do. Not knowing what to do is the necessary beginning. We must ask for God to send us the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us into the work he has for us.

B. Prayer and Fasting is the beginning of Mission.

1. We often talk about the power of God, but we act like Pelagians—remember, Pelagius was a British monk. We rely on methods or systems and our own efforts. What we really need is spiritual renewal. We must be committed to our own lives of prayer and our own spiritual progress. We cannot give what we do not have.

2. There must be a commitment on the part of each parish and mission to fast and pray for mission; to ask God to do in us and through us what we cannot do through our clever mission plans; to fast and pray and wait and discern and discus. We must be committed to this kind of prayer and mission discussion, not just weeks and months, but as part of the very fabric of who we are:
--A Florida church example. They wanted to talk about mission. I said that, as a foundation, they should gather 2-5 people weekly to begin to fast and pray for mission. The senior warden said he didn’t think he could get people to do that. I said that they ought to stop pretending that they want to do mission.
C. Discussion about Mission.

As we fast and pray, we must discuss the ideas for mission that God brings before us.


1. Where will we encounter people who are not us? How will we seek out the lost sheep?

2. How will we develop relationships with them? How will take a genuine interest in them?

3. How will we practice hospitality? Welcoming the stranger.

4. How will we form them as Christians
a. The modernist error; that faith is primarily taught.

b. We need to teach them how to pray; to know God not just to know about God.
D. A Charge to our parishes and missions

Establish a corporate discipline of prayer and fasting for mission.

Create space in your church for an ongoing discussion about how you will reach out to those who are not you.

Consider how you will welcome them, how you will create space for them, and how you will form them as disciples.

I do not believe we have time to waste anymore. Many parts of our church are dying. We are a called to be the source of new life.

Ezekiel 37 as an image for us. Can these bones live? If we will take our mission vocation seriously, and turn to God with prayer and fasting, he will breathe new life into so that we will become a great missionary army.

It doesn’t matter that we are small. As our Lord said, "All things are possible to those who believe."