Diocese of South Carolina Protests Presiding Bishop’s Failure to Follow the Canons

Posted by Kendall Harmon

March 27, 2008

The Most Reverend Katherine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church Center
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Dear Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori:

We, as the Standing Committee and Bishop of South Carolina, write this letter to strongly protest what we recognize as a failure to follow the Canons of our Episcopal Church in the recent depositions of Bishops Schofield and Cox. We respectfully request that you and the House of Bishops revisit those decisions, refrain from the planned selection of a new bishop for the Diocese of San Joaquin, and make every effort to follow our Church Canons in all future House of Bishops decisions.

We believe that deposition is the most severe sanction that can be applied against a bishop.. Consequently, it is most important that both the letter and the spirit of the Canons be followed. In this instance, it is clear that the canonical safeguards in place were not followed.

Under Canon IV.9.2, the House of Bishops must give its consent to depose a bishop under the "abandonment of communion" canon. ". . . by a majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote." The Constitution of the Episcopal Church, Article I.2, states in pertinent part that "Each Bishop of this Church having jurisdiction, every Bishop Coadjutor, every Suffragan Bishop, every Assistant Bishop, and every Bishop who by reason of advanced age or bodily infirmity . . . has resigned a jurisdiction, shall have a seat and vote in the House of Bishops."

Due to amendment, Canon IV.9.2, at various times, required consent under these circumstances consisting of " . . . a majority of the House of Bishops," ". .. . a majority of the whole number of bishops entitled . . . to seats in the House of Bishops . . . " and " . . . by a majority of the whole number of bishops entitled to vote." The language of the Canon has consistently required that a majority of all bishops entitled to vote, and not just a majority of those present at a meeting, must give their consent to the deposition of a bishop. Although the language itself is clear, the definition contained in Title IV is even more specific. Canon IV.15 specifically provides that "All the Members shall mean the total number of members of the Body provided for by Constitution or Canon without regard to absences, excused members, abstentions or vacancies."

As we understand the decision by Chancellor Beers, he interprets the language " … the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote" to mean the consent of a majority of those bishops who are present and voting. Yet if the drafters of Canon 9 had wanted to allow for the deposition of a bishop on a vote by a majority of the Bishops at a meeting, as distinguished from a vote by a majority of the whole, they clearly knew how to say that.

The Constitution, Canons and Rules of Order are replete with other instances in which the drafters knew how to articulate something other than " … the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote.". The Constitution Article I 3, dealing with the election of a Presiding Bishop, requires that such a vote be "by a vote . . . of a majority of all Bishops, excluding retired Bishops not present, except that whenever two-thirds of the House of Bishops are present, a majority vote shall suffice . . . " Unlike Canon IV.9, other Canons refer to a vote " . . . by a three-fourths of the members present" or some other "super-majority. In the Rules of Order of the House of Bishops, Rule V speaks of a vote ". . . by a two-thirds vote of those present and voting." That same language appears in Rules XV, XVIII (a) and XXIX. In short, where the drafters meant "those present and voting," they knew how to say so, and did so on a number of occasions.

It is only logical that a greater majority of Bishops should be required for involuntary separation by way of deposition than for voluntary separation by resignation. Canon III.12.8 (d), dealing with resignation by a Bishops, provides that the House of Bishops may accept or refuse a resignation of a Bishop " … by a majority of those present." Under Chancellor Beers' interpretation, it is possible for a smaller number of Bishops to consent to the deposition of a Bishop than the number required to consent to resignation of a Bishop.

Not only is this distinction of critical importance under the present circumstances, but also the question may arise again. Accordingly, and with all due respect to you and Chancellor Beers, we must respectfully request that you and the House of Bishops re-visit your decision and allow for a canonically correct vote on the depositions of Bishops Cox and Schofield and on any future possible depositions. Additionally, for the good of our Church, we ask you not to proceed with the planned election of a replacement for Bishop Schofield until the matter of his deposition can be legally and canonically resolved.

The Diocese of South Carolina demonstrated our commitment to the proper observance of The Episcopal Church Canons with two election conventions and eighteen months of Standing Committee and Bishop confirmations. Because we feel so strongly that the Canons were not followed in the depositions of Bishops Schofield and Cox, we must respectfully refuse to recognize the depositions, and we will not recognize any new bishop who may be elected to replace Bishop Schofield, unless and until the canons are followed.

Yours in Christ,

The Very Reverend John B. Burwell
President, Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina

The Right Reverend Mark J. Lawrence
Bishop, Diocese of South Carolina


cc: David Booth Beers, Esquire

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)Presiding Bishop TEC BishopsTEC ConflictsTEC Polity & Canons* South Carolina

Posted March 28, 2008 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. wildfire wrote:

we must respectfully refuse to recognize the depositions, and we will not recognize any new bishop who may be elected to replace Bishop Schofield, unless and until the canons are followed.

Very well done South Carolina.  Thank you.

March 28, 3:29 pm | [comment link]
2. Phil wrote:

I second Mark: well done.

March 28, 3:32 pm | [comment link]
3. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Amen.  Bravo, SC!  Way to go.

Now will any other dioceses step up and do the same?

David Handy+

March 28, 3:35 pm | [comment link]
4. Cennydd wrote:

“We must request…........” 

This will not go down well with Schori and Company, and you can bet that they’ll keep a close watch the Diocese of South Carolina.

March 28, 3:47 pm | [comment link]
5. Chris Hathaway wrote:

To quote that wascally wabbit, “You realize, of course, this means war”. I wonder if they are ready for the counteroffensive.

March 28, 3:53 pm | [comment link]
6. Tar Heel wrote:

This annoying piece of correspondence will likely be placed in the same file folder containing those silly requests from nosy bishops inquiring about the costs of litigation.

March 28, 3:59 pm | [comment link]
7. phil swain wrote:

It has also come to light that Bishop Waynick of Indianapolis voted for the depostion of Bishop Cox on the basis of his uninvited episcopal acts in Kansas.  However, it’s my understanding from the HOB’s notification of the deposition that these charges were not before the HOB.  So, Waynick and perhaps others deposed Bishop Cox on the basis of charges that were not before them.

March 28, 4:03 pm | [comment link]
8. jamesw wrote:

This is significant indeed.

March 28, 4:05 pm | [comment link]
9. Nikolaus wrote:

You can expect our Presiding Litigator to respond with depositions of Bishop Lawrence and his Standing Committee.

March 28, 4:14 pm | [comment link]
10. Mike Watson wrote:

Since the subject matter is the failure to follow the canons in connection with the depositions of Bishops Cox and Schofield, it seems noteworthy that no mention is made of the absence of a prior inhibition of Bp. Cox.  Is there some line of reasoning that satisfies the writers of the letter from South Carolina on that score?

March 28, 4:15 pm | [comment link]
11. chips wrote:

Any lawyer or layman for that matter can clearly see that they ran roughshod over the written cannon.  Liberals do not care about legal niceties when it gets in the way of their agenda.  For the next round of depositions at least those Bishops present and opposed can call them on it.  I think the institutional liberals will likely pull back from further depositions under that Cannon.  Looks like +Duncun may be safe after all - it is very hard to get an absolute majority present when less than half ever show up.

March 28, 4:16 pm | [comment link]
12. Festivus wrote:

I am so glad there are heroes still in TEC. Thanks for proving me wrong, and let me continue to challenge others in authority to do the same.

March 28, 4:20 pm | [comment link]
13. Phil wrote:

Sure, Nikolaus #9 - after all, under the Schori/Beers interpretation of the canons, they can get a meeting of three bishops over lunch and depose their enemies with two of them.  And, if the PB happens to get a troublemaker in her claque, she can just send him to pay the bill and hold her vote while he’s gone.

March 28, 4:31 pm | [comment link]
14. Intercessor wrote:

I recognise Jerry Lamb…for the invalidly installed leader he is about to become.


Edited slightly-ed.

March 28, 4:33 pm | [comment link]
15. Cennydd wrote:

I wonder how many more bishops are on Schori’s hit list?

March 28, 4:34 pm | [comment link]
16. Chris Hathaway wrote:

it seems noteworthy that no mention is made of the absence of a prior inhibition of Bp. Cox.  Is there some line of reasoning that satisfies the writers of the letter from South Carolina on that score?

Three words: Double Secret Inhibition.

March 28, 4:49 pm | [comment link]
17. Tami wrote:

I have been in extreme despair over what I’ve perceived as my diocese deciding to take an orthodox back seat and leave all the hard work to DioSJ, DioPittsburgh, and DioFW.  This gives me hope!

March 28, 5:30 pm | [comment link]
18. hanks wrote:

This is the perfect way to end the week.  They may not get what they ask for, but shining the bright lights on the PB and Beers forces the Anglican Communion to watch closely to see what happens.  Holding people accountable is always the right thing. 

We cannot allow this punitive approach of the national leadership to solving deep disputes to prevail!

Edited slightly-ed.

March 28, 5:36 pm | [comment link]
19. MotherViolet wrote:

If I remember correctly a Bishop’s election is approved by a majority of both the diocesan bishops and the standing committees. Not just a majority of those who care to vote on time, as South Carolina found out. So if Schorai and Co interpret the rules strictly for an election of a bishop it ought to be more strictly enforced for the deposition of a Bishop.

March 28, 5:58 pm | [comment link]
20. c.philbin wrote:

Is it not fitting that the PB should be called on a technicality when it was just over a year ago she invalidated the election and hence the elevation of the then Rev. Mark Lawrence to Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina because some dioceses wrongly “thought that electronic permission was sufficient as had been their past accepted practice.”

March 28, 6:06 pm | [comment link]
21. Henry wrote:

Thank you South Carolina.  I’m afraid it is too little, too late, but at least somebody is finally standing up (officially) to the powers that be in TEC.

March 28, 6:22 pm | [comment link]
22. Bob Lee wrote:

Throwing pearls to the swine…..


March 28, 6:45 pm | [comment link]
23. Chris Hathaway wrote:

Hey, elves, totally off topic, but the icon that normally appears on your web address has changed to a green football, the same as LGF. Either someone has hacked you (early payback from 815?) or my cat has managed to do something to my computor. Seriously, he was sitting on it.

March 28, 7:21 pm | [comment link]
24. Chris Hathaway wrote:

Never mind. It was my cat…somehow. It’s affecting other websites.

Evil incarnate.

March 28, 7:28 pm | [comment link]
25. wildfire wrote:

From The Living Church:

“Bishop Lawrence and the South Carolina Standing Committee have really gone out on a limb in respectfully calling for a second vote on the depositions and for postponement of the special convention,” the Rev. John Burwell, president of the standing committee told a reporter from The Living Church. “I am hoping that other diocesan bishops and standing committees will join me in respectfully calling for the consistent application of our canons.”

March 28, 7:46 pm | [comment link]
26. TACit wrote:

Bravo, bravo to Dio. of SC!  As #20 highlights - there is hardly a diocese that is better-placed to call attention to the debacle of the last HoB’s proceedings than SC, which had suffered patiently through two confirmation hearings, and barely a month ago graciously hosted a ‘dialogue’ with the perpetrator of these miscarriages of parliamentary procedures.

It is very good to see attention being brought to the current situation, by those with the experience to fully apprehend the implications from March 12.

March 28, 8:02 pm | [comment link]
27. Milton wrote:

Now, Chris, most REAL cats are affectionate (if sometimes eccentric) creatures who only accidentally mess up software and hardware.  (Google a utility called “Paw Sense” for a cure!)  Of course, if the current Jezebel WERE trying to possess your computer, wouldn’t she manifest a satanic squid instead of a cat?  big surprise

March 28, 8:16 pm | [comment link]
28. robroy wrote:

Been in clinic all day and come home to find this wonderful news. My heart is all a flutter!

This is flag planting on the order of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry. “O’ say can you see…”

March 28, 8:21 pm | [comment link]
29. dovefromabove wrote:

Thank you #16!

March 28, 9:59 pm | [comment link]
30. w.w. wrote:

At least the theologically liberal bishops are consistent. In their seminaries, they learned that the Bible doesn’t really mean what it says. Rather, it means what they want it to mean in any given circumstance. In the pews and councils of their denomination, when critical questions arise about faith and practice, that’s their guiding light. And when it comes to law and order in the church, the same principle applies when it suits those in power: the constitution and canons don’t really mean what they say. They mean what the power holders want them to mean in light of circumstances and to achieve certain ends.

These kinds of attitudes AND behavior may come back to bite them—-when the secular courts are called in to settle disputes and judge how seriously church law and order is to be taken. (Goodbye, hierarchicalism; hello neutral principles….)


March 28, 11:00 pm | [comment link]
31. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Here is a bishop and province prepared to speak truth with courage.

Well TEC bishops - are you prepared to have the protection of your canons neutered for expediency by Goodwin Procter?  If you do - next time it could be you!

And what of us?  Is this what you mean when you talk to us of your unique polity

March 28, 11:11 pm | [comment link]
32. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Perhaps that should be diocese; although +Lawrence would make a good presiding bishop.

March 28, 11:16 pm | [comment link]
33. Todd Granger wrote:

Excellently well done, South Carolina!

March 28, 11:46 pm | [comment link]
34. Now Orthodox wrote:

Matt 23:27-28

27 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. 

28 In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Need one say any more than our Savior Jesus Christ?

March 29, 1:11 am | [comment link]
35. Jeffersonian wrote:

A courageous and principled stand in the face of the Stalinist purge now under way within TEO, which lacks not for its Molotovs, Dzerzhinskys and Berias.  Alas, it is bows and arrows against the lightning.  I suspect that it’s just a matter of time before +Lawrence is subject to trumped-up charges and his coterie subjected to show trials.

Anyone who thinks the rule of law reigns within TEO is sadly mistaken.  At least we can take comfort in knowing KJS and her lackeys have a table reserved in the Sixth Circle for their actions.

March 29, 1:14 am | [comment link]
36. Larry Morse wrote:

If ASchori and co. dismiss this appeal, by what ever means, - and I expect she will - we must again ask what she has to gain by it, for any sort of deflection will reflect badly on herself and she will gain nothing equal to the loss. Larry

March 29, 7:47 am | [comment link]
37. Brian from T19 wrote:

That was quick.

Now we see the whole reason that +Lawrence’s consent was contentious.  The silliness of “I recognize you, but not you.” needs to stop.  Unfortunately +Lawwrence has been unable to stop this and actually joined in.  Sad.

March 29, 10:06 am | [comment link]
38. Jeffersonian wrote:

It is indeed sad, Brian, when one’s faithfulness is calibrated against the willingness to rubber-stamp the lawless actions of an out-of-control Presiding Plaintiff and her consigliere.  It would seem that one either has to be a heretic or compliant stooge to have the crosshairs removed from one’s back in TEO these days.

March 29, 11:00 am | [comment link]
39. Cennydd wrote:

I’m very much afraid that +Lawrence is in Schori’s crosshairs, and all she needs is an excuse for pulling the trigger.  Everything she does is with deadly purpose, but her saying that she believes in God and really meaning it isn’t one of them!

March 29, 12:56 pm | [comment link]
40. Cennydd wrote:

I meant to say that Schori doesn’t practice what she preaches when she says she believes in God.  So far, she’s done absolutely NOTHING to prove to me, at least, that she does.

March 29, 12:59 pm | [comment link]
41. Jeffersonian wrote:

Cennydd, anyone not in lockstep with the Presiding Plaintiff is a marked (wo)man.  The purge is on, and any diocese even remotely considering a theology different from TEO’s rapidly-mutating revision had better consider getting out, and quick.

Kendall, are you sticking around for this?

March 29, 1:47 pm | [comment link]
42. Phil wrote:

Notice how the bar for being a decent Episcopalian has been raised?  Brian from T19 #37 gives the latest example: anything other than fawning over the latest canonical abuse means one is a troublemaker who would be better off not existing.  Another item from this genre is the trope that the San Joaquin Standing Committee should be removed because its members wrote KJS “an insulting and scathing rebuke” (that’s real revisionist language, BTW).  How dare they disagree!  (Stock answer when asked where the canons permit the PB to remove a SC because it doesn’t grovel before her enough: “What’s done is done.  Move on.  We’ll ‘clean up’ the canons at GC09.”)

Of course, when the Resurrection is denied, or one wants to “marry” a man and a man, or the Eucharist is offered to unbelievers (and the excess probably thrown in the trash later), hey: back off, bigots.

The priorities of ECUSA are out of whack, to put it mildly.

March 29, 3:22 pm | [comment link]
43. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “Brian from T19 #37 gives the latest example: anything other than fawning over the latest canonical abuse means one is a troublemaker who would be better off not existing.”

Right—and as Brian rightly pointed out, that was the real reason why the consents to Lawrence were so resisted.

As we all know it was Lawrence who spoke on behalf of the minority report against consent to Robinson, as he served on the consents committee.

Payback time for this report, which he helped author:

Minority Report
Believing that the work of Legislative Committee 07: Consecration of Bishops is, according to the Title III, Canon 22, more than merely a verification of correct procedure, but is equally concerned with the appropriateness of the candidate’s wholesomeness of life (and consequently includes sexual behavior);
And that this wholesomeness is not merely a model for an individual diocese, but also for the entire One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church to which he would be ordained and consecrated;
And whereas the approval of a bishop elect who is in a same-sex relationship, even if monogamous and loving, is in opposition to the clear teaching of Holy Scripture, the historic teaching of the church, and the promulgated teaching of this Body of Christ known as the Episcopal Church by previous General Conventions;
And whereas the approval of a bishop in said lifestyle would become a pretext upon which the church would de facto resolve the question of the appropriateness of homosexual behavior without due reordering of the church’s teaching;
And whereas the approval of this consecration will bring profound consternation to many of our sisters and brothers at home and abroad, straining relationships within the Anglican Communion, and adversely affecting the mission and ministry of the church at home and abroad, the undersigned file this minority report and recommend rejection of C045.
Respectfully submitted,
The Very Rev. Mark J. Lawrence
Anthony J. Clark
John E. Masters

Ain’t no way they wanted him a bishop.

And now he is.  ; > )

March 29, 5:01 pm | [comment link]
44. Jeffersonian wrote:

Don’t worry, Sarah, they’ll find a way to get rid of +Lawrence.  Dave “Show me the man and I’ll find the crime” Beers will be sure of it.

March 29, 5:28 pm | [comment link]
45. Craig Goodrich wrote:

It’s near-axiomatic, judging from articles on various legal blogs, that telling the client what he wants to hear is very bad lawyering and will get the client into trouble sooner or later.  It’s hard to believe that Beers is unaware of this, or that his knowledge of the Canons is as shallow as it seems.  Hard to believe, but apparently true.

815’s entire strategy has been based for some time on the assumption that its bluffs would not be called.  I can only hope that DioSC is the first of many; the SCs of Dallas and Central Florida should follow suit.  Anyone know of any plans?

March 29, 7:09 pm | [comment link]
46. SC blu cat lady wrote:

All I can say is to TEC is that if they truly want to grow and reconcile (which I highly doubt) with the orthodox among us there would no better diocese to serve as model of a growing and orthodox diocese than this one. Oh my, I did not realize how lucky I am to be in this diocese. God Bless you, Mark+ for taking this brave stand. 

SC Blu Cat Lady

March 30, 6:20 pm | [comment link]
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