Saturday, October 20, 2012

THE BISHOP, THE DIOCESE, AND THE CHURCH

Sorry, but I don't know how else to give the background to the story of Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina vis-a-vis the Episcopal Church, except to quote the first two sources whole and entire.
[October 17, 2012] The Disciplinary Board for Bishops has advised Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori that the majority of the 18-member panel has determined that Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina has abandoned the Episcopal Church “by an open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church.”
Following complaints of 12 adult members and two priests of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, the determination was made under Canon IV.16(A).
The 18 member board – composed of 10 bishops, four clergy, four laity – issued a letter dated September 18. Following the assembly of numerous documents, the Presiding Bishop received the letter in her Church Center office on October 10; the letter was received via U.S. Mail.
On Monday October 15, the Presiding Bishop called Lawrence and, speaking directly with him, informed him of the action of the Disciplinary Board.  She also informed him that, effective noon of that day, the exercise of his ministry was restricted. Therefore, under the canon, he is not permitted to perform any acts as an ordained person. 
From here, Lawrence has 60 days to respond to the allegations in the certification.
Acts of abandonment
The Disciplinary Board for Bishops cited three particular acts of abandonment
“Bishop Lawrence failed to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church” by presiding over the 219th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina on October 10, 2010, at which the following acts were adopted, without ruling them out of order or otherwise dissenting from their adoption, but instead speaking in support of them in his formal address to the Convention.”
“Bishop Lawrence further failed to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church” by presiding over the 220th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina on February 19, 2011, at which Resolution R-6 was finally adopted on the second reading, without ruling it out of order or otherwise dissenting from its adoption.”
“On October 19, 2011, in his capacity as President of the nonprofit corporation known as The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, Bishop Lawrence signed, executed, and filed with the Secretary of State of the State of South Carolina certain Articles of Amendment, amending the corporate charter 4 as stated in Resolution R-11, described in paragraph 7.c above. That amendment deleted the original stated purpose of the corporation “to continue the operation of an Episcopal Diocese under the Constitution and Canons of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America” and replaced it with the stated purpose “to continue operation under the Constitution and Canons of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.”
“On about November 16, 2011, in an apparent effort to impair the trust interest of The Episcopal Church and of the Diocese of South Carolina in church property located in that Diocese, Bishop Lawrence directed his Chancellor, Wade H. Logan, III, to issue quitclaim deeds to every parish of the Diocese of South Carolina disclaiming any interest in the real estate held by or for the benefit of each parish.”
  South Carolina Episcopalians explain complaint against bishop:
With much deliberation, Melinda A. Lucka, an attorney in the Charleston, S.C. area and an active communicant in the Diocese of South Carolina, requested that the Disciplinary Board for Bishops review various actions of Bishop Lawrence that have taken place over the past two years. Ms. Lucka asked the Board if it could make a determination as to whether or not the actions were consistent with the mission and polity of The Episcopal Church.

Lucka made the request on behalf of 12 lay communicants and two priests in the diocese. The communicants are: Robert R. Black, Margaret A. Carpenter, Charles G. Carpenter, Frances L. Elmore, Eleanor Horres, John Kwist, Margaret S. Kwist, Barbara G. Mann, David W. Mann, Warren W. Mersereau, Dolores J. Miller, Robert B. Pinkerton, M. Jaquelin Simons, Mrs. Benjamin Bosworth Smith, John L. Wilder, and Virginia C. Wilder. The clergy who were named are longstanding Episcopal priests Colton M. Smith+ and Roger W. Smith+.

Generally, names of individuals who initiate ecclesiastical requests are held in confidence through privacy provisions of the Canons; however, the complainants in this request gave their approval to allow themselves to be made known to the Bishop.
Lucka said that they agreed to be named “as a courtesy to Bishop Lawrence, so as not to be cloaked in a shroud of secrecy.” They hope that this “will prevent any suppositions that may be asserted in the upcoming days or weeks that The Episcopal Church may have initiated or encouraged the filing of this request.”

“They also want to clarify that although most individuals are members of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, an organization of mainstream Episcopalians in the diocese, this was not an action taken by the Forum or its Board. In addition to the individuals who made this request, there are many, many other loyal Episcopalians in the diocese who felt strongly that Episcopal Church officials should review the Bishop’s actions.”

“There is definitely a place for orthodox and evangelical views within the diocese; that’s the beauty of being under the large tent of The Episcopal Church; however, viewpoints and practices in the diocese began to take large leaps away from the broader Church when various actions took place. Severing the legal connections to the governing laws of the Church and essentially forming a new corporate entity, outside of The Episcopal Church by changing the diocesan corporate purpose statement to no longer accede to the Constitution and Canons of our Church seemed to be going too far out of bounds.”

“The hope of these individuals is that the diocese will continue to be a home for all Episcopalians to worship and live together in God’s love through Jesus Christ. They ask the Church for prayers for the Bishop and all involved.”
The names of the complainants are now known.

Partial responses by +Lawrence and the diocesan officers are quoted below.  For the complete responses follow the links.
The Episcopal Church (TEC) has made an attack against our Bishop and Diocese, in the midst of efforts for a negotiated settlement, which has fundamentally changed our common life. You may have heard or read about this over the last week but it is vital today that we all understand what has occurred and what it means as clearly as possible.

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This action is a deplorable assault upon the Bishop of this Diocese. The attack came in the midst of negotiations whose stated intent was to find a peaceful solution to our differences with the Episcopal Church.  It involved a process in which there was no prior notice of the proceedings, no notice of the charges against him nor any opportunity to face the local accusers (who remained anonymous until today).
The rhetoric of the response is typical of +Lawrence.   The bishop seems to have survived the attack and assault and is not yet a martyr to the cause, but he stands ready.  From his words in the past, I've suspected that long-suffering Bishop Lawrence was desirous of martyrdom, and perhaps he believes he already wears the martyr's crown, but - alas - not everyone would agree.

What was the Disciplinary Board to do once the diocese voted that the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of South Carolina trumped the Constitutions and Canons of the Episcopal Church, the church in which the bishop vowed to "guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church", and +Lawrence did not object?  In which church did Bishop Lawrence think he was consecrated bishop, and on what basis does he now see himself as released from his vows?

Still +Lawrence will stand in the breach and protect the diocese, which he now claims has been abandoned by the Episcopal Church, along with its bishop, which is himself.  How much more clearly could the diocese and the bishop have declared their independence from the Episcopal Church at their convention?  I'm not grasping the logic here.  Kendall Harmon, Canon Theologian, says:
As a result of TEC's attack against our Bishop, the Diocese of South Carolina is disassociated from TEC; that is, its accession to the TEC Constitution and its membership in TEC have been withdrawn.
The diocese withdrew at its last convention, and the bishop did not object, and now they say they have withdrawn because of the attack on their bishop?  What am I missing?

H/T to Thinking Anglicans.