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.

-----------

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.   

25 comments:

  1. Dear Grandmere - You're not missing a thing ... just a bully pouting and taking "his" toys and running when he can no longer choose who gets to be in the game, and then getting his team to whine and claim it's all someone else's fault when called to account.

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    1. Genette, I must fall back on the dear, departed Molly Ivins, whom I still miss: "You can't make this stuff up."

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  2. Remember the definition of chutzpah as "that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan"?

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    1. Lapin, the thought of the story of the orphan was in my mind as I copied and pasted and wrote, but I hoped someone else would step up to the plate, and there you are.

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  3. As I've said before, SC has always been a hotbed of secession - and then amazed when their bluff is called. It's as true now as it was in 1861.

    By the by, some time back I happened upon a comment board on another blog where a DSC parishoner was blaming the whole situation (which of course is all about teh homos) on - get this - "outside agitators."

    Which I know Mimi that you like myself are old enough to remember is exactly what the segregationists in SC and all across Dixie blamed all the civil-rights uproar on back in the 1960's. "Our niggers are all happy, it's outsiders who don't understand and respect our way of life who are causing all the trouble." Remember?

    Plus ca change, plus c'est le same old thing.

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    1. Russ, you're right of course, but I wish you had not used the n-word. It pains me as much as the f-word for gays and the c-word for women. The words carry such loads of negative weight that I can't bear them.

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    2. I am against preciosity in language and bowdlerization - am I the only one who recognizes that a whole new Victorian Era is being born in this oh-so-modern world? - rude words when they are historically accurate and make an appropriate point are, in my view, entirely justified. To pretend that they don't exist and that we moderns are just too delicate to bear reading them - when we, collectively, don't shrink, in this brave new world of 24/7 media, from endlessly, patiently, even eagerly listening to and even using language that would have made sailors blush just a few decades back, is just too ludicrous and inane and to be believed.

      Nevertheless, I respect that while I am in your parlor, I must follow your rules and will do so in future.

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  4. Gee, the exact same rhetoric as we saw in Diocese of San Joaquin, etc. What part of, "If you've left TEC, go ahead and get out with our blessings - but without stealing the silverware, baby, and bathwater" don't these folks get?

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    1. These folks think they own The Church by any name and are therefor entitled to take Their stuff with them wherever they go ... they are the aggrieved, from their perspective, the ones keeping the Word pure, defending the Truth from the scuzzy squatters occupying their pristine pews ... by Christ came to save us all, they mean all of us straight and narrow alpha males doing unto the rest of the letters all the way to omega as we ever so righteously please ... hierarchy is only fun from the top of the heap, so make your own heap if you can't take the pain from the feet above digging into your shoulders, especially of those feet are now wearing sensible priest lady heels.

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    2. Apostle in Exile, I don't know. Their powers of reasoning seem twisted toward life in the Bizarro world where up is down, black is white, and you announce you're leaving and try to take all the stuff with you, and then say you were thrown out.

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  5. My thought exactly, Apostle. If striking "thou shalt not steal" from the Commandments is not revisionism, damned if I know what is.

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    1. Indeed, Lapin, but, as I've said, in the Bizarro world, reasoning is different.

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  6. Having seen this kind of thinking in action, I've wondered if what the egomaniacs really fear is becoming irrevelant...which is what happens to most of them when they leave an institution that they think can't function without them.

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    1. I believe Bishop Lawrence's moanings may not have been receiving the attention he thinks they deserve. His going has been long and drawn out and carefully planned, and now, for a spell, he's getting the attention he so craves.

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  7. I have been reading Thomas Frank's, 'What's Wrong with Kansas?,' and one of the characteristics of the Cons (conservatives à la Operation Rescue, which completely changed the political face of Kansas in 1991) is the claim that they are powerless, hapless victims and the elite,latte-drinking, liberal world is constantly scheming against them. Our Standing Committee struggled for hours on to consent or not to the election of Mark Lawrence and ultimately decided against it because something rang hollow in his answers about sticking with TEC. I am not at all surprised that finally this has happened. It is sort of like our member of the HOBD list who reminds us of how many people we have lost because of our commitment to full inclusion. With him and SC, I wonder why they want to stay with us if they are so miserable and, therefore, make everyone else likewise. However, the poster on the HOBD list is not hightailing with the silver, furniture and buildings.

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    1. You know, Romney talked of the 47% who won't take responsibility for their lives, but it's the extremists on the conservative side who paint themselves as victims if things don't go exactly as they wish...because, you know, they are the RIGHTEOUS ones.

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  8. I wonder what God thinks when clergy try to tell people they and only they have direct access to God's wishes. Methinks when prejudice of any sort is involved, God is not involved at all - only people who feel their power threatened. Goes for the church and politics.

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    1. Piskie, here we go again...déja vu...when will they ever learn? When will we ever learn? +Lawrence should never have been given consents, but it's too late to bemoan that now.

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    2. "You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." Anne Lamott.

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  9. Since +Lawrence's consecration I have said many times that the Bishops and Standing Committees who gave consent to his being a Bishop in the first place should be the ones to foot the legal bills when he begins his futile attemp to take the Diocese of SC out of TEC and steal the assets.

    It didn't take a rocket scientist to see this one coming a mile away. Bishop Lawrence has been spoiling for this fight ever since he was nominated for the post of Bishop.

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    1. Yes, one suspects there was a plan even before +Lawrence was elected. What sort of mental reservations did he make as he took his vows?

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  10. Martyrdom is an event, not a career choice. Mark Lawrence is alive and well and is unlikely to become a martyr, though he may become a hero to his reactionary flock. (I suspect there is something psychoactive in the state’s water. :-))

    In any case, bishops and standing committees who consented to Lawrence’s consecration got what they deserved. I have no doubt that Lawrence lied his way into acceptance. That said, Lawrence was probably the least reactionary of the three candidates that vied for election to the South Carolina episcopate. The diocese wanted an insurrectionist, and they got one.

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    1. +Lawrence seems to relish his position as chief whiner and complainer of the diocese. From day one after his consecration, he began to undermine the Episcopal Church

      The diocese wanted an insurrectionist, and they got one.

      Yes, I think that was part of the agreement in order to be a candidate for the position of bishop in SC.

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