State’s bishops pray for unity and action

COLUMBIA—While the ongoing quest for Christian unity is important, it must work in tandem with, and not distract from, Christ’s call to care for the poor and vulnerable.

That was the message at the Fel­lowship of South Carolina Bishops’ annual prayer service, held recently at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

Bishop Herman Yoos of the South Carolina Synod of the Evangeli­cal Lutheran Church in America delivered the homily at the service, which drew about 100 people from all corners of the state.

Bishop Yoos told the crowd that while the fellowship continues to be a group devoted to promoting unity, it also is stepping up efforts to bring about change in the state’s public education system.

Since 2014, the bishops have made it a priority to improve public education in South Carolina. They held workshops about poverty and inequality, and encouraged members of all churches to connect with pub­lic schools in their community and find ways volunteers can help.

“We need to let our leaders know we care deeply about the educational needs of all children,” Bishop Yoos said. “While we pray for unity, we also need to get more ac­tive. We need to get busy because this is a God moment in South Carolina. God is inviting us to show up and ask ourselves how will we live lives that will be a blessing in the lives of chil­dren?”

He announced that the fellowship will sponsor a public ad­vocacy day in April, where people can learn about issues related to education and express their con­cerns to legislators at the Statehouse.

Also on Jan. 23, the fellowship sent an open letter to the state General Assembly. In it, they called for law­makers to work alongside people of faith to make sure all children have access to a good education. They called for better salaries and more support for teachers, improving ac­cess to technology for all students, and improving collaboration among school districts.

Also in attendance were Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston, Bishop Andrew Waldo of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, and Bishop L. Jona­than Holston of the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.

After the prayer service, people in the crowd expressed support for Yoos’ call to action.

“I’m delighted that we’re being called to be proactive and to take action,” said the Rev. Connie Barnes, pastor of Rehoboth United Methodist Church in northeast Columbia. “Too often we hear that the church is separate and apart from the political arena, but lawmakers’ decisions in­fluence everything in our lives. We aren’t following Jesus’ call to care for others if we ignore issues.”

The fellowship is an ecumenical group of leaders from the Afri­can Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal-Zion, Christian Methodist Episcopal, Episcopal, Lu­theran, Roman Catholic and United Methodist churches.

Photo, Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss: Bishops sing during the annual Fellowship of South Carolina Bishops’ prayer service on Jan. 23 in Columbia. From left to right: Bishop L. Jonathan Holston of the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Andrew Waldo of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, and Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston.