COLUMBIA — More than 350 clergy and lay people gathered Saturday, Dec. 12, in Columbia’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral to elect their new bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina. After three ballots, Minnesota pastor W. Andrew Waldo was chosen the eighth bishop of the 25,000-member diocese.
Waldo, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, Minn., is a native of Douglas, Ga., and received his master of divinity from Tennessee’s Sewanee: The University of the South. He was ordained a priest in April 1989 and worked at parishes in New Hampshire and Georgia before moving to Trinity in 1994.
“I’m so happy to be returning to the South, and coming to South Carolina,” Waldo told the diocese convention by phone, according to The State.
Waldo is considered a moderate on the high profile and tense debates of sexual orientation and gay clergy by leaders and members of the worldwide Anglican Communion. In questions posed by the diocese prior to his election, Waldo said he’d continue to take a reconciliatory approach when dealing with disagreements in the church.
“Same-gender couples attend my parish and are fully integrated into community life and ministry. We have not however performed any same-gender blessings at Trinity Church because neither the vestry nor the larger parish community has come to one mind,” he wrote. “The guiding principle for such dialogue at Trinity has long been that ‘It is more important for us to stand or kneel together as brothers and sisters around a common table receiving the Body and Blood of Christ than it is to be ‘right on a matter of doctrine.'”
He continued, “This practice has enabled us to deal graciously and hospitably with one another even when we disagree, and to stay both in relationship and conversation on this and other issues without judgment or condemnation. We have succeeded in not fracturing over the issue of same-gender blessings by maintaining a balance between not acting hastily and not sweeping difficult subjects under the carpet. Before us at all times is St. Paul’s call to us as brothers and sisters in Christ to be ambassadors of reconciliation. It is our first value in these larger matters.”
The new bishop-elect said he’d not sanction blessings for same-gender relationships until the diocese came to a decision on the matter through general convention, cautioning that “a rector nonetheless has a pastoral obligation to lead all persons in their pastoral care — whatever their sexual orientation — to lead lives worthy of Christ, respectful of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, and grounded in the promises of Holy Baptism.”
The Diocese of Upper South Carolina is considered more moderate on LGBT inclusion than its sister diocese in the low country of the state. In October, the Diocese of South Carolina chose to distance themselves from the national Episcopal Church and passed an anti-gay resolution calling members of the diocese to condemn anti-LGBT prejudice, while “speak[ing] the truth in love.”
“This Diocese will not condone prejudice or deny the dignity of any person, including but not limited to, those who believe themselves to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered,” the resolution read. “Nevertheless, we will speak the truth in love as Holy Scripture commends for the amendment of life required of disciples of Christ. It is love of neighbor and the abiding concern for their spiritual well being that compels such honesty and will never allow us to remain silent.”
The Diocese of Upper South Carolina is based in Columbia and includes more than 25,000 members and 61 congregations. The diocese covers 22 counties in the Upstate.
Diocse distances itself from Episcopal Church, Oct. 31