COLUMBIA — “Religious Freedom” was the theme as the South Carolina Christian Action Council (SCCAC) held its annual meeting at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church here on Jan. 22, with many public issues threatening the heritage of liberty in the state and nation being examined.
J. Brent Walker, chief council of the Baptist Joint Committee in Washington, D.C., gave the over 100 attendees an update on legislation making its way through Congress dealing with school vouchers, charitable choice, and attempts to remold the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was recently found to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Walker also presented to those gathered a brief case history of laws dealing with religious freedom in this country, describing how the Supreme Court, through use of the “compelling interest” clause, has been chipping away at cases dealing with religious freedom over the past seven years.
Following Walker’s address and a response by Rev. Dr. Philip H. Whitehead, chairman of the Episcopal Diocese Commission on Ecumenical Relations and rector of St. Michael and All Angels’ Episcopal Church in Columbia, a worship service and installation of board members and officers was conducted.
Rev. Henry Moody, past president of the South Carolina Christian Action Council and pastor of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Florence, presided over the ceremony, at which Msgr. Leigh Lehocky, pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Columbia, was reinstalled as the denominational representative for the Diocese of Charleston in the council.
At a luncheon awards program, a report on activities of the SCCAC was given by the group’s executive minister, Dr. L. Wayne Bryan.
Updates on growth of the Sabbath of Support Project, Ecumenical AIDS Ministry, Seeds of Hope Farmers Market Project, Souper Bowl and Sustainable Agriculture Network were cited, as was the completion of a manual titled “When Churches Work Together,” compiled by the council’s Inter-Church Affairs Division. The committee, chaired by Msgr. Lehocky, put together the manual to help churches plan interdenominational events, understand differences, cooperate in weddings and funerals, use correct terminology in conversations with each other, learn techniques to overcome misunderstandings, and know how to contact denominational offices and resource centers.
Awards recipients were then recognized by the council.
The Howard G. McClain Christian Action in Public Policy Award was given to Betty Bibby for her efforts to stifle the growth of video poker malls in the Little Elm area. Action concerning video poker gambling has raised the SCCAC’s work to new heights, as the group in currently studying the fluctuating “legal status” and enforcement of rules and laws guiding the video poker industry.
The Christian Action in Service Award was then presented to Congregational Nursing and Health Ministries and Sister Marilyn Trowbridge, SFP, of St. Francis Hospital in Greenville in recognition for her efforts in founding the first parish nursing program in the country.
Accepting the plaque for Sister Trowbridge was Sister Clarita Frericks, SFP, also of St. Francis Hospital in Greenville.