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South Carolina schism descending into farce: The Church of England Newspaper, December 16, 2012 p 6. December 13, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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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Bishop Lawrence’s oral statement to the 17 Nov 2012 meeting of his diocesan convention that: “We have withdrawn from that Church that we along with six other dioceses help to organize centuries ago;” and “We have moved on.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.

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Comments

1. h2466trainmaster - December 13, 2012

The use of Canon III.12(7) is certainly questionable. That said, there is a credible argument to be made that dioceses cannot leave The Episcopal Church and that the changes made by Bishop Lawrence and his supporters to governing documents of the diocese were improper. You may not buy that theory, but, in the interest of fairly presenting the issues involved, you should have reported it.

geoconger - December 13, 2012

I have reported the arguments you have cited many times. They need not be repeated when they are not central to the issue.

2. William Birch - December 13, 2012

Might you have some encouraging words for someone who is recently converted to Anglicanism / Episcopalianism — who does not want to join ACNA, AMiA, or, for example, the Reformed Episcopal Church — who wants to enter TEC but is frightened because of its current, tragic state? This is an incredibly distressing time to enter TEC. If I don’t get some encouragement soon, I just may pass altogether.

3. Dave Poulton - December 13, 2012

William, why would you not want to join an ACNA church? I discovered Anglicanism 4 years ago and was completely unaware of everything that has transpired with the Episcopal Church and priests\congregations leaving. I am part of a ACNA church now. Curious what your concerns would be?

William Birch - December 13, 2012

Dave,

Thank you for asking, brother.

ACNA’s “three-stream” or “three-rivers” theology is not something to which I could subscribe; in particular, its Charismatic or Third Wave-ish tendencies.

ACNA affirms the 1662 Prayer Book. Why not the 1928 BCP? Since the 1979 BCP is the only Prayer Book I’ve known, I’ve come to love it. The arguments against it that I have read on-line have not swayed me from using it daily.

ACNA affirms the 1571 Thirty-Nine Articles. Why not the 1801, as established by the PECUSA?

I also deeply appreciate the Catechism of the Episcopal Church. That, too, is not affirmed by ACNA.

ACNA claims to be “reformed,” with a lower-case “r” and I am grateful for such. But I’ve witnessed some rather aggressive “Reformed,” with an upper-case “R” (i.e., Calvinists) within ACNA. For a Classical Arminian, such as myself, that just will not do.

While I certainly appreciate brothers and sisters in ACNA who love the gospel, who love God’s word and want the world to know Jesus, the Savior, these are some important reasons for me having no interest in joining ACNA.

Duke Div. Anglican - December 14, 2012

William,
I am a life-long Episcopalian who is rather disgruntled with the state of the Church these days.

First, I would say that if you find a local parish that is orthodox, and given your situation as you have described it, go with TEC. I abhor the national Church. I think it is heterodox and run by very un-Christian people. That being said I have had the pleasure of being in two very great TEC parishes that sustain a faithful witness to the gospel. If you can lay aside larger Church issues it is possible to exist within TEC.

Second, by converting to Anglicanism you are entering a church with a strong Calvinist heritage which traces back to the Reformation. Reformation Anglicanism is still a legitimate expression of Anglican spirituality and worship. Also, Anglicans have an uncanny ability to hold together despite Calvinist/Arminian differences. I would challenge that an attitude that says “I am an Arminian so being in a church with Calvinists will not do” is thoroughly un-Anglican. There are plenty of Arminians and more Catholic minded people in ACNA. The beauty of Anglicanism is that our unity comes from our Bishops and our Common Prayer. We do not allow matters deemed adiaphora to impair our unity, and historically speaking the Calvinist/Arminian debate has been one of those matters. Of course, Anglican unity has been impaired recently, but that is because some have begun to hold beliefs that do violence to the heart of the Apostolic, Catholic, and Biblical faith. I think the Anglican tradition is well suited though to hold together a group of Christians who agree on the essentials of the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Finally, I urge you be patient in your search for an Anglican home because it really is a wonderful tradition. No matter where I tend to wander spiritually I always find Anglicanism to be that place where all manner of (faithful) personal piety can be expressed, and that it is the only place that can hold together Catholic, Orthodox, and Reformed theological principals.

Blessings as you discern your church home.

4. Dave Poulton - December 14, 2012

I’ve found that not every ACNA church is a “three stream” church. The expressions of that seem to vary per congregation. One of the congregations I attend uses the 1928 and is not “three stream” church. The other is a “three stream” church and that typically manifests it’s self with hands lifted at times during the music and laying on of hands for healing prayer at the end of the Eucharist time. Pretty tame from a charismatic viewpoint.

Personally, I like both prayer books and don’t see a great deal of difference between Rite 1 in the 1928 and the 1979 but maybe I’m not looking at it close enough.

Can’t really speak to which version of the Thirty-Nine Article or Catechism.

I as well am more Arminian in my views and have encountered Calvinism.

I think you have to pick your battles. Attend a church in a denomination that is sanctioning gay marriages and appointing gay bishops that has clearly strayed from orthodoxy vs people lifting their hands during music and a different prayer book; I would chose the later.

5. William Birch - December 14, 2012

Duke Div. Anglican,

I thank you for that encouragement. You’ve shown me, again, the via media of the Anglican spirit — something of which I needed to be reminded, haha. God bless.

Dave Poulton,

When I was first looking into ACNA, I went to their website to view their beliefs. That is where I found all that I mentioned in my response to you, those aspects with which I disagree.

I visited an ACNA church in Raleigh, NC, when I was in college. The worship experience was little more than I had experienced on a regular basis in the Southern Baptist church in which I was reared — in which I still worship at the moment. To say that it was low-church is an understatement. I’m desiring a rich, liturgical tradition, not a modern, Baptistic-Charismatic rock concert during “worship.”

I apologize for being overly critical.

6. William Birch - December 14, 2012

Is not George Conger still a priest in central Florida in TEC? I thought that he is, and that is why I asked for a little encouragement from him. If he is no longer in TEC, I didn’t know that, and would not have asked.

God bless.

geoconger - December 14, 2012

Yes, I am a priest in the diocese of Central Florida and am priest in charge of the Church of the Redeemer in Avon Park, FL.

7. Carol McRee - December 14, 2012

Trainmaster, I can only assume you know very little about the Diocese of South Carolina. In fact, the changes you mention are indeed “legal” under SC civil and diocesan canon law. SO please stop the lies.

William, It certainly is possible to thrive spiritually within TEC. You will need to pick your parish carefully. The number of orthodox dioceses just went down by one when my diocese, SC, left TEC back in Oct. As a lifelong Episcopalian, i too can attest to the idea that Anglicanism can and should embrace both the Calvinist as well as more Anglo Catholic Anglicans.

William Birch - December 14, 2012

Thank you, Carol. I appreciate your encouragement. God bless.


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