As you know, the coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading globally and with the President recently expanding travel restrictions, further indicating that the landscape is changing daily, I have taken the step of postponing our diocesan convention and workshops until further notice. There are several concerns, which have prompted this decision. Many of our delegates are over 60 and therefore fall into the category of most-at-risk from this pandemic. Our concern for our members needs to be our highest priority.
Beyond this, should our clergy en masse inadvertently make contact with an infected person during such an assembly it would necessitate cancelling worship services throughout the diocese for an extended period until any possible incubation concluded. This would not be helpful especially during a time when the comfort brought by the regular worship life in our congregations is so vitally important.
It has been the long-held position of the Bishop and the diocesan staff that we are here to serve our congregations rather than you here to serve us. Therefore, this is but a further illustration of this priority.
Please note, we are postponing the convention rather than cancelling it. The decision needs to be made as to whether we will reschedule a one-day business meeting, have a virtual diocesan convention (and if so how and when) or whether we will arrange for voting via an online process. Each of these options needs to be further explored and communicated to each of our lay delegates and canonically resident clergy. As soon as we have researched these various options, we shall communicate the needed procedures as well as make any appropriate refunds. In addition, if you have a reservation in a local hotel you will need to cancel your reservation. Unfortunately, we are not able to do that for you.
I will be issuing, also, a directive to the clergy regarding the distribution of the wine and cup during public worship. It needs to be said, and I want to communicate clearly, this decision is not made in fear; it is made in love for the larger body. For as the St. Paul wrote in his last extant epistle to his disciple and child in the faith, Timothy, “…for God has not given us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence
Bishop of The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina