South Carolina schism descending into farce: The Church of England Newspaper, December 16, 2012 p 6. December 13, 2012Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
Tags: Katharine Jefferts Schori, Mark Lawrence
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has defrocked the Bishop of South Carolina, writing on 5 Dec 2012 that she had accepted the “voluntary renunciation of ministry” of Bishop Mark J. Lawrence.
However, Bishop Lawrence has responded that he felt no “need to argue or rebut” the accusations and actions as they were ridiculous.
In her press release announcing the move, Bishop Jefferts Schori said that acting under the terms of Title III, Canon 12, Section 7 the Presiding Bishop “has accepted the renunciation of the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church of Mark Lawrence as made in his public address on November 17 and she has released him from his orders in this Church.”
Bisho Lawrence responded: “Quite simply I have not renounced my orders as a deacon, priest or bishop any more than I have abandoned the Church of Jesus Christ—But as I am sure you are aware, the Diocese of South Carolina has canonically and legally disassociated from The Episcopal Church. We took this action long before today’s attempt at renunciation of orders, therein making it superfluous,” the bishop said.
The announcement released by the church’s press office, the Episcopal News Service, said “pastoral outreach to Lawrence had been ongoing for a period of several years, including up to the time he announced his intentions” to withdraw from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
“Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori along with members of her staff took steps to work with Lawrence. In addition, repeated attempts by the Bishops of Province IV and notably Bishop Andrew Waldo of Upper South Carolina were made to discuss the situation with Lawrence and to offer help in achieving a resolution.”
Bishop Lawrence’s oral statement to the 17 Nov 2012 meeting of his diocesan convention that: “We have withdrawn from that Church that we along with six other dioceses help to organize centuries ago;” and “We have moved on. With the Standing Committee’s resolution of disassociation the fact is accomplished: legally and canonically;” was evidence of his having abandoned the ministry of the Episcopal Church.
However, the presiding bishop’s claim to have received the renunciation of Bishop Lawrence is at odds with the language of the canon. The canon used to depose the bishop without trial states: “If any Bishop of this Church shall declare, in writing, to the Presiding Bishop a renunciation of the ordained Ministry of this Church, and a desire to be removed therefrom, it shall be the duty of the Presiding Bishop to record the declaration and request so made.”
Canon lawyer Allan Haley observed that “Bishop Lawrence (a) did not address any writing to the Presiding Bishop; (b) did not renounce his ordained Ministry; and (c) did not request to be removed from that Ministry. The elaborately crafted press release from the Public Affairs Office is simply a poor attempt to cover over a huge, public lie.”
That “huge, public lie has been told simply for the sake of the Presiding Bishop’s and ECUSA’s own convenience,” he said.
Members of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice supported the use of the abandonment canon against Bishop Lawrence even though he met none of the criteria for its use.
The ends of removing Bishop Lawrence from the ministry of the Episcopal Church justified the means taken by the presiding bishop, Bishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas told The Church of England Newspaper. “I believe, and Canonical experts confirm, this (along with a variety of other statements made by Bishop Lawrence) constitutes renunciation,” he said.
On 8 Dec 2012 a group of national church loyalists in the Diocese of South Carolina known as the “steering committee” reported that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori would “convene” a special meeting of the diocesan convention to elect a “provisional bishop” to replace Bishop Lawrence.
In their press statement, the steering committee explained that “Episcopalians in the diocese are without a bishop after the Presiding Bishop accepted the renunciation of Mark Lawrence on December 5 and released him from ordained ministry. The announcements by local church leaders that they have left The Episcopal Church has left the Diocese with no Standing Committee, which normally would lead a diocese in the absence of a bishop.”
This assertion, however, has been rejected by the diocese. South Carolina civil law and the canons of the Episcopal Church do not permit the presiding bishop to “declare” a standing committee to be vacant.
Under South Carolina civil and canon law, a quorum of clergy and lay delegates to the convention must be present for its actions to have legal force. If only those 5 to 12 congregations who have expressed reservations about the withdrawal of the diocese form the national church attend the convention, any action taken will be void under civil and canon law.
However, appeals to the rule of law and church order have so far not halted the presiding bishop’s campaign against conservatives in the Episcopal Church. Objections to similar “rump” conventions held in Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Quincy and extra-canonical defrocking of bishops have gone unheeded by the wider Episcopal Church. However, the Texas Supreme Court is expected to rule shortly on the legality of the loyalist group in Fort Worth claiming it is the true Episcopal Diocese.
Canonical legerdemain and unlawful usurpation of authority by the presiding bishop in the aim of a political agenda were a sad commentary on the moral state of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence observed.
The presiding bishop would go to any lengths to exterminate dissent and would twist words to achieve her purposes. “She and her advisers will say I have said what I have not said in ways that I have not said them even while they cite words from my Bishop’s Address” to the South Carolina special convention, he said.
But Bishop Lawrence reported that he was “heartened” by the support he had received by the “vast majority” within the diocese and from the “majority of Anglicans around the world” who have “expressed in so many ways that they consider me an Anglican Bishop in good standing and consider this Diocese of South Carolina to be part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. “
“So we move on—onward and upward,” Bishop Lawrence said.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.