Bishop Mark Lawrence of S.C. Reports on the recent House of Bishops’ Meeting

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Once again within a few months the landscape of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has changed—as if Gafcon and Lambeth were not enough. What does this deposition mean? Frankly, it is still unfolding, but I offer the following reflections:

• The House of Bishops whether intentionally or not has enhanced the power of the Presiding Bishop. With consequences far beyond the deposition of The Rt. Reverend Robert Duncan, this vote by interpretation and application of Title IV.9, has established invasive reach for the PB. It is now possible for a sitting bishop of TEC to be deposed without prior inhibition or trial, rendering superfluous the role of the three Senior Bishops of the House. Beyond this is the quizzical ruling that it takes more votes from the House to receive the resignation of a retiring bishop then to depose a sitting one! Then there is the curious fact that it takes a two-thirds vote of the house to overturn a ruling of the chair, thus when combined with rendering moot the role of the senior bishops and the plain reference to a needed “majority of the whole house entitled to vote” in Title IV.9—there is enhanced power to the PB regardless of who may hold the chair, now or in the future. A development mercurial indeed, when one considers the PB and House of Bishops have repeatedly declined the authority to speak on behalf of The Episcopal Church when queried for commitments by the Communion’s Instruments of Unity; deferring instead to the authority of General Convention.

• I fear that however reasoned or temperately the members of the House of Bishops or the Presiding Bishop’s Office explains this deposition it will further trouble the waters of discord. There are several reasons for this: While Title IV.9 mentions a bishop abandoning the communion by open renunciation of the Discipline of this church, (which is ostensibly the clearest rationale for why the presentment was brought against Bishop Duncan), it is also clear from the same canon that prior to mentioning renunciation of the Discipline of the Church there is the reference to the Doctrine of the Church. Many from within TEC itself, as well as those in the various provinces of the Anglican Communion, are not unaware that there have been more then a few bishops of this Church who have in public settings and in published writings, renounced or at least denied the Doctrine of TEC. Others have allowed rites of worship, which if not having actually crossed the authorized boundaries in their approval of pastoral liturgies for same-sex blessings, have all but done so—doing pirouettes on a knife’s edge. Doesn’t the House of Bishops look as if it is being selective in holding its theological “conservative” bishops and dioceses accountable in matters of the Church’s discipline (i.e. the Constitution & Canons), while having no will to hold “liberal” bishops, retired and active, accountable on matters of doctrine and worship? And even in this matter of the Church’s discipline we may look selective: For instance what does the Presiding Bishop and the HOB’s intend to do with those bishops who contrary to the canons allow or even invite open communion of the unbaptized?

• As you may already know Bishop Duncan has been received as a bishop in the Province of the Southern Cone. Rather then helping to mend the fabric of the Communion torn by TEC in 2003 by actions contrary to Lambeth 1.10, this recent action of the House of Bishops further tears the fabric of the communion. Even as I write this account voices of support for Bishop Duncan are being raised in various provinces of the Anglican Communion.

• I fear that while repeatedly asking other Provinces of the Communion to understand the uniqueness of our Church’s polity, and requesting a gracious patience towards the complexities of our local or provincial needs, we now appear to have limited capacity in offering this to one another within The Episcopal Church.

• There will be louder, more urgent, and convincing calls (indeed they have already been heard in several quarters) for another Anglican Province in North America.

All of this leads me to believe that the challenges that lie before a predominately conservative diocese like South Carolina have now been enormously increased if only because of the perception of our parishioners and clergy—but, more pertinently from what I fear is a failure of the present House of Bishops to realize just how far from historic Christianity our church has drifted....

Read it carefully and read it alll.


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

19 Comments
Posted September 29, 2008 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Creighton+ wrote:

Bishop Lawrence does an excellent job of telling us what happened at the HOB and the serious concerns many of us have regarding this matter.

September 29, 4:14 pm | [comment link]
2. Chris wrote:

“There will be louder, more urgent, and convincing calls (indeed they have already been heard in several quarters) for another Anglican Province in North America.”

This is not the same +Lawrence I heard speak in May who seemed, from my view, peculiarly unconcerned by the notion that SC would need to leave ECUSA anytime soon.  If I understood corectly, his rationale was grounded along the lines of: SC supports WO and that will keep us in ECUSA’s good graces and vice versa. 

I hope this letter is a sign he is reconsidering - after GC 2009 it will certanly be MUCH more difficult to leave….

September 29, 4:18 pm | [comment link]
3. Chris wrote:

Here are +Iker’s “10 Reasons Why Now Is the Time to Realign” -
I’d think +Lawrence would likely not object to any of these, not one of them is particular to Fort Worth…...
http://www.fwepiscopal.org/bishop/bishop.html

September 29, 4:32 pm | [comment link]
4. PhilAshey wrote:

Thank you Bishop Lawrence for a thorough report, for standing firm in the faith, and for raising the painful questions that must be faced in this season of TEC’s life.

September 29, 5:58 pm | [comment link]
5. Nikolaus wrote:

I think at this point, it may be virtually impossible for any diocese to set in motion the process necessary to separate from TEO.  Quincy, Pittsburgh and Ft. Worth are already within a hair’s breadth.  But most dioceses require two annual conventions.  Anyone attempting this move now will be squashed flat by the Legal Office and it is my understanding that after GC09 everything will belong to She Who Must Not Be Named.

September 29, 6:01 pm | [comment link]
6. Already left wrote:

If the House of Bishops and all the rest of the “players” can violate their own canons, who says that churches and dioceses must follow theirs?

September 29, 6:07 pm | [comment link]
7. RalphM wrote:

Perhaps it would be useful for those who are delaying the inevitable exodus to begin working to get a version of VA Division Statute through their own legislatures. 

A companion approach would be to void the recognition of implied trusts.

September 29, 6:14 pm | [comment link]
8. TLDillon wrote:

Nikolaus,
I fear you are spot on! Any other diocese who wishes to leave TEc without completely starting over at this time will not have it so easy. In fact I would say that it might not be able to be done after GCO9. People, includung myself have been saying that for quite sometime. Precendance has been set here by the HoB and I do not agree that diocese should stoop to the low level that the HoB & TEc’s PB has by ignoring their own C’s & C’s as Already LEft has suggested above. I still like to think that the faithful follow a standard of morals that is higher than what the HoB & Ms. Schori follow.  I fear for those who are still in TEc after this next year’s GC. Life as they even know it right now will change and change drastically!

September 29, 6:27 pm | [comment link]
9. Larry Morse wrote:

What is t he answer to #6’s question? It strikes me as entirely a propos. It should be EASIER for a church to leave because there is a powerful example to suggest that one can makes one’s on rules with impunity. What we need is MORE ++ like Duncan, many more, to challenge the Dark Side of the Farce, for ++ Duncan now has the high ground in every respect. More such cases would make The Dark Lord need more than her light saber to cut away the mess.  Larry

September 29, 6:32 pm | [comment link]
10. TLDillon wrote:

But what if Schori’s path that she and the HoB have chosen doesn’t hold up in court? What if the secualr courts throw her out on her ....? well you know the area I speak of. What then? NoIsay a diocese should not play by the same tactics that the HoB and Schori are playing at? It is a dangerous road and not one I think that God would smile upon!

September 29, 6:40 pm | [comment link]
11. Chris wrote:

#10, i could see that court process being tied up for years and years.  I want my kids to be confirmed in a orthodox Epicopalian Church (they were baptized in ECUSA), I’m concerned such a thing won’t exist in 5 years.

where there’s a will, there’s a way (terribly trite, my apologies).  perhaps if the diocese can’t leave without 2 annual conventions, individual parishes would not be so restricted (they weren’t in VA right?)?  is a reasserter Bishop going to insist that the parishes leave themselves at the mercy of 815?  Hmmm…..

September 29, 8:27 pm | [comment link]
12. TLDillon wrote:

Chris,
I fully understand and empathize with you! I just don’t think that any diocese or any church is going to be aloud to leave with it’s buildings intact after GC09 with or without a two convention vote. The wording changes in the C’s & C’s that are coming up for vote next year are frightening! Even lay leaders will be under great scrutiny!

What Ms. Schori has been able to accomplish thus far with a stamp of approval from the HoB in these depositions of my bishop, John-David Schofield, now Bishop Duncan, and with Bishop Iker to follow then you ahve the GC language changing in the C’s & C’s to solidify their intent….well…....let me just say I feel more confident in San Joaquin at this point than I would in South Carolina!

September 29, 8:49 pm | [comment link]
13. Karen B. wrote:

Wow.  +Mark tells it like it is.  This is clear, comprehensive and masterful.  Kendall, hope you all are mass mailing this out to all dioceses and all Primates.  It needs to be read.

I was deeply struck by one thing in particular:  +Mark’s unique authority and position to speak on these matters.  This section is extremely powerful.

When the Presiding Bishop ruled my first election as Bishop of South Carolina null and void in March of 2007, some urged us to take precipitous action. We chose instead to take a longer and canonically faithful path. Now we in this house are rushing to precipitous action. I would suggest this is the wrong canon, the wrong action, and the wrong time to proceed with this deposition.

The fact that South Carolina went so far above & beyond to conform to the letter of the law with regard to +Mark’s election gives you all tremendous moral authority to speak out.  So many of us doubted your patience, but God had a great purpose in it.  May +Mark and all of you leaders in SC be heard when you proclaim these truths.

September 29, 9:34 pm | [comment link]
14. Chris wrote:

I’m sorry Karen, but 815 is not listening to +Lawrence’s authority, be it moral or otherwise.  the train has left the station….

September 29, 10:12 pm | [comment link]
15. Karen B. wrote:

Chris, I never said 815 was listening.

And whether 815 listens or not should not influence what +Mark says.
Truth is truth and +Mark’s moral authority is a fact whether or not it is “recognized” by the world or TEC.

There are things to do because they are morally right.  It is not a question of whether or not doing them will lead to the desired end.  They are necessary in and of themselves.  Speaking truth to power (as our revisionist opponents love to call it) is necessary. 

Should I stop witnessing to Christ in a muslim country because it is illegal?  Or because most people don’t listen?  No most don’t listen.  But some do and have and quite a number are being saved! 

(And by the way, for the record, I’m in CANA, so I’m not sitting around waiting & hoping for TEC to change.  But I can still applaud +Mark and those in SC who are being faithful and bold from within TEC.  I don’t know what they should do about leaving.  I can’t imagine them staying in TEC much longer.  But I trust that the vast majority of diocesan clergy and laity are seeking God’s face and eager to discern His leading.  I trust them to be faithful to His call.)

September 29, 10:43 pm | [comment link]
16. Larry Morse wrote:

#10, you general proposition is sound enough. BUt the question still remains, “What is a church to do when it wishes to leave TEC?” What IS the right course? How can one avoid simply leaving on the grounds that one refuses any longer to keep company with unsavory companions? I admit, I don’t understand the ramifications of the process of leaving TEC, but I fail to see what one can do but simply call the marriage quits, take what divorce one can, and get on with one’s spiritual life.  Larry

September 30, 9:05 am | [comment link]
17. TLDillon wrote:

“What is a church to do when it wishes to leave TEC?”
It does as we in San Joaquin have done and what Pittsburgh and Ft. Worth are doing. However, this is not what is available to those who have chosen to wait it out and see. Now they will be under the new GCC of 2009. It won’t be as easy nor convenient for them. Their choices will be much more slim & harder & more devastating in terms of property, money, and the litigation will not be in their favor as it will most assuredly will be in TEc’s due to C’s & C’s changes! Right now it looks difficult in terms of the litigations but the C’s & C’s as they arre written now are much more in our favor than TEc’s and especially with all the violations that Schori & the HoB have committed!

September 30, 9:17 am | [comment link]
18. trimom wrote:

It seems to me that there are two reasons given to leave TEC. The first, it is what God has called us to do.  The second is out of fear (primarily to do a pre-emptive strike because we fear losing property or even more parishoners).  Which means, there is really only one good reason to leave TEC.  Now, it is up to each diocese and/or church to decide if God is calling them to the Diaspora or to Martyrdom.  God used both effectively in the NT church and both brought Him glory.  Did anyone ever consider that maybe SC is called to be martyred? I hope that those who were called to the present day Diaspora would be gracious and supportive to those that are called to be martyred.  Believe me, the Diaspora is the easier way out!  Now is not the time for ANYONE to be controlled by a spirit of fear and timidity… and great courage will be exemplified for those who discerned that they are called to stay as much as those that discerned it was time to leave.

September 30, 2:28 pm | [comment link]
19. Rob Eaton+ wrote:

Thanks, mom.

September 30, 8:53 pm | [comment link]
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