Anglican Communion Institute on the Continuing S.C. Story—Title IV: Abandonment Without Offense?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Bishop Dorsey Henderson, President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, has responded to questions concerning the canonical process underway involving Bishop Mark Lawrence. We appreciate his clarification on a matter of great interest to the church.

Many in the church had assumed that the Lawrence matter was being processed by the normal intake procedures specified under the new Title IV. Included among these were bishops sympathetic to the national church who assumed that this was the beginning of an extended procedure involving the Reference Panel, subsequent Conference and Hearing Panels, and the normal process of notice and opportunity to be heard inherent in the trial process. We were dubious of that assumption ourselves, but that was one of the questions we raised in our earlier piece on this matter. We are grateful for an answer.

It is now clear that there will be no such process. The matter will be considered by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, meeting as a whole, which will vote whether to certify Bishop Lawrence for abandonment. If it were to certify that Bishop Lawrence has abandoned the church, his ministry would be restricted immediately (what formerly was called inhibition) and the matter would be sent straight to the House of Bishops at its next meeting (following a period of at least sixty days). If the Disciplinary Board votes by the end of this year, that meeting would be the March meeting of the House of Bishops at which Bishop Lawrence would be deposed if the House so votes by a majority vote.

Read it all.

Update: Since I have a lot of email questions on where to find the "new" Title IV canons, one place is here.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: AnalysisEpiscopal Church (TEC)Presiding Bishop TEC BishopsTEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: South CarolinaTEC Polity & Canons* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* South Carolina

Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:34 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Thanks again to the bright guys at ACI.  However, once again, I think they have understated things considerably.  They suggest that PERHAPS, just maybe, Bp. Lawrence might be facing trial in a bizarrely surreal “Kafkaesque” world.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t be half so polite or restrained.  It’s high time to call spades spades.  The historical record of the shameful and inexcusable abuse of the existing canons by the HoB to depose not only ++Bob Duncan but also a number of old, retired bishops like +Cox and +MacBurney (who posed no credible threat whatsoever of leading a mass exodus out of TEC) shows that there is really no doubt about it. 

Rather than an allusion to Kafka’s novels, I think a more apt literary analogy would be to Lewis Carroll.  As Pageantmaster (among others) has noted already on related threads, +Lawrence can fully expect to be treated in the same absurd manner as defendants in the courts of Wonderland, where the Queen of Hearts decrees that there should be a verdict first, and then the trial can come afterward.  Or if you prefer adult fiction, I suggest that a better analogy would be to the scary world of George Orwell.  We are dealing here with a world more like “1984 or Animal Farm.

Clearly, under the new Title IV, all bishops may be equal, but some are more equal than others.

Hmmm, +Henderson, back before his retirement, was supposed to be a “moderate.”  Well, with moderates like that, who needs extremists to destroy the church?

David Handy+

October 12, 10:38 am | [comment link]
2. Brian from T19 wrote:

Perhaps I am missing something, but how is this different than what happened with +Duncan?

October 12, 10:49 am | [comment link]
3. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Brian (#2),

I know some people find it hard to see any real difference, but +Lawrence has stated over and over again that he’s not threatening to leave, but instead he’s threatening to stay.  +Bob Duncan the Lionhearted made it quite clear that he was helping to lead Pittsburgh out of TEC, whereas +Lawrence has made it equally clear that he was determined to stay and fight from within.

You are entitled to your opinion, of course, Brian, but I think that’s a very significant difference.

David Handy+

October 12, 11:19 am | [comment link]
4. Karen B. wrote:

In light of all the latest articles (i.e. the new posts from the Living Church, Anglican Communion Institute, and the Anglican Curmudgeon), it is clear how central the Title IV disciplinary board is in the process.

New prayers posted at Lent & Beyond:

The names of the Disciplinary Board are here:

October 12, 11:46 am | [comment link]
5. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Thanks, Karen B.

But, as I did on SFiF, I’ll just call attention to the very signficant fact that your list of names of those on the new Disciplinary Board is incomplete.  As A. S. Haley correctly notes, the board includes a certain NC lawyer named…

Josephine Hicks.

Yeah, that same woman.

Unbelievable.  Have they all lost their minds??

As far as I’m concerned, such flagrant flouting of the need to maintain even the appearance of fairness (much less real fairness) shows that the powers that be are convinced that they don’t need to keep up appearances anymore.  The victory is in the bag.

I think that to their warped minds, “the end justifies the means.”  And so, they can resort to all sorts of unjust means to achieve their all-holy cause of “social justice” for an oppressed minority group.

David Handy+

October 12, 12:11 pm | [comment link]
6. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

So, the process is basically a House of Bishops version of an old fashioned Bill of Attainder.

October 12, 12:56 pm | [comment link]
7. Karen B. wrote:

I’ve replied to David+ over at SF, and others, including “Chancellor” are also chiming in on the question of the composition of the Title IV Disciplinary Board. 
See here:

The confusion seems to be that the Mandate and all previous ENS articles on the topic of the Title IV disciplinary board specifiy 18 members.  10 bishops, 4 clergy, 4 lay

HOWEVER, the roster AS Haley has linked, names 20 individuals:

17 “members” (8 bishops, 4 clergy, and 5 laypersons, including Ms. Hicks)
1 President (Bp. Dorsey Henderson)
1 Clerk (Bp. Fitzpatrick)
1 Other (Bp. Clayton Matthews, Intake Officer)

Wow.  It’s bad when even the composition of the Title IV Board is shrouded in mystery and controversy.  It’s supposed to be 18 people, but may in fact be 20?  Who has voting rights?  We don’t yet know.

MUCH PRAYER FOR GOD’S LIGHT TO REVEAL TRUTH in the midst of such darkness s needed!

October 12, 12:56 pm | [comment link]
8. c.r.seitz wrote:

I believe that the standard protocol for deposing a Bishop failed. This requires Sr Bishops’ approval. So it was concocted that ‘abandonment’ would serve the purpose of getting the job done. So, e.g., we had an English Bishop (+Scriven) in good standing removed for ‘abandonment.’ The PB did this unilaterally. A kind of ‘good housekeeping’ procedure deployed instead to get rid of people one could not otherwise dislodge.

Now +Henderson is asserting that his Committee is in charge of this and that as such, no Title IV procedure need be followed (Intake Officer, consultation with PB, Reference Panel, written report, etc).

Perhaps the real question is: WHY was the change made (leaving aside its obvious questionablity and fairness)? +Henderson’s (now deciphered) memo is at pains to distance the PB. I suspect you’d need to ask: why is this now crucial? Does it anticipate future civil litigation?

I really don’t have an answer. Clearly a lot of work has gone into getting a result—the public aspects of Title IV review now are forfeited so a Church Attorney and Disc Committee can get on with it. Then a vote will happen in the HOB. All very efficient.

October 12, 1:25 pm | [comment link]
9. c.r.seitz wrote:

Sorry, #8 in response to #2.

October 12, 1:26 pm | [comment link]
10. Ephraim Radner wrote:

Let’s also be clear about how this could potentially play out in a way that pressures the House of Bishops:  if the Disciplinary Board certifies the charges, then the PB automatically “inhibits” Bp. Lawrence before the HoB vote.  This will take several months.  Thus, in theory, Bp. Lawrence would be expected to step aside during these months, waiting for the HoB.  What happens in the interim?  We know also that the Standing Committee of the Diocese is in someone’s sights.  We can certainly predict that, if Bp. Lawrence in such a scenario, chose not to accept the inhibition, the HoB would likely vote for his deposition regardless of what they thought about the original charges.  In other words, for all the claim that it’s really the HoB that has the “power” here, in fact the Disciplinary Board’s decision is politically crucial.  Thus far we have heard from at least two bishops (George and Mississippi) that they personally don’t think the charges make sense;  but they have also insisted that the “process” take its course, because everything will be fine in such a case.  It is time for such bishops and other bishops to raise quite relevant questions about the process itself, and how it has reached this increasingly unaccountable stage with the Disciplinary Board.

Please note also ACI’s concluding argument:  since it was a canonical duty for bishops and other clergy to inform the BP or Intake Officer of Bishop Lawrence’s misconduct, and since the charges made public against him are longstanding ones in the public domain and were in fact presented to the Executive Council, we can only assume that bishops and clergy have long felt them to be without merit, because—we are told—they were NOT reported to the PB and Intake Officer (otherwise, we would not be going through this particular process that sidesteps them).  Hence, even the episcopal and clerical members of the Discplinary Board presumably did not believe these charges had any merit—or they would have been bound to report them earlier.  Why then are they being considered now?  And under whose authority?  Who chose not to report them earlier, but now considers their status to be worthy of investigation, so as to put into motion this streamlined process?

October 12, 1:40 pm | [comment link]
11. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Karen B. (#7),

Thanks for the follow up and the helpful links.  Yes, the one thing that is indisputable is that there is a desperate need for much prayer in this intolerable situation.

Drs. Seitz and Radner,
Well done, guys.  Once again, we are all deeply in your debt.  You are doing a fine job of documenting all the stupidity and harm being perpetrated on the Church by our theological foes.  Someday, church historians will treasure how you recorded all the follies and sins of those who are now blindly and unwittingly destroying TEC (and the larger Communion).  You’ve analyzed their mistakes with great lucidity, an amazing degree of objectivity, and with painstaking detail.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that it will actually slow the process of the demolition of TEC much at all.  It certainly won’t prevent the imminent trainwreck, or the sinking of the Titanic, since the ship’s captain seems determined to steam full speed ahead.  Who cares about reports of icebergs in the area?  This ship is unsinkable…

Now it may be true (sometimes) that the pen is mightier than the sword.  But right now, I see no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the PB and her cronies in control of TEC have the slightest regard for the learned critiques of the ACI team.  More to the point, worse yet, I see no evidence whatsoever to suggest that ++RW or his cronies in the ACO really have any more concern about them (to judge by their actions, or inactions).  However, I hasten to add that I have far less disdain for the cautious and generally orthodox ++RW than I do for the despicable,  reckless, and openly heretical PB.

I look forward to reading whatever the Communion Partner bishops and rectors eventually have to say about this horrendous mess.  But the fact is that words are cheap.  Right now, all that matters are actions.

And right now, I imagine that the PB and her ilk are smugly and complacently dismissing all criticisms of their takeover of TEC with a serene attitude like that of Stalin when he heard about how Pope Pius XII had criticized his massive crimes against humanity (such as starving millions of Ukrainians to death).  His cynical response to the papal rebuke was reportedly this:

How many divisions does he have?

Nonetheless, there is value in documenting the follies and horrendous wrong choices made by the self-deceived leaders of TEC, who vainly think good is evil and evil is good (ala Isa. 5:20).  It is a valuable service to expose error and corruption in the true style of prophets, unlike those false prophets who claim that God is doing a new thing through them.  Like Hananiah in Jeremiah 29, they face a fearsome prospect of divine judgment for speaking lies in the name of God.  I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes on Judgment Day (I have enough sins of my own without going there).

David Handy+

October 12, 3:19 pm | [comment link]
12. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Oops, I meant Jer. 28, of course, where Jeremiah and Hananiah both prophesy in the name of the LORD, albeit with opposite messages.  And as you may recall, the false prophet (who was doubtless sincere, just sincerely wrong) paid for it with his life.

If Kendall or the Elves object to my rather intemperate language in the post above, I’m sorry if I got carried away and transgressed the bounds of what is allowable on this blog.  All I can say in defense is that St. Paul doesn’t seem to have been worried about excessively violent language when he spoke of his theological and ecclesial opponents as “evil workers,” “dogs,” “false apostles,” and the like.  My attitude toward the “reappraisers” is really no different than his attitude toward the Judaizers.  Or compare the irenic Irenaeus’ only slightly less caustic language about the Gnostics (he clearly wasn’t worried about staying on good terms with the followers of Valentinus or Basilides).  Need I mention how bitterly Athanasius attacked the Arians, or Augustine abused Pelagius and his followers?

In the end, it all comes down to the inescapable choice that Dr. Phil often poses to guests on his talk show, “Would you rather be right, or in relationship?

Well, I think that all depends on whether or not core doctrine is at stake.  When it is, as with the Judaizers, or the Gnostics, or the Arians or the Pelagians, then (and only then), the proper answer is:  I’d rather be right, even if it leads to a total and perhaps permanent breakdown in relationships.

That’s why the real issue is one that still hasn’t been adequately addressed theologically and practically by Communion leaders.  That all-important issue, or really that dual issue (for it’s two-sided) is this:

1.  WHAT is “core doctrine” in Anglicanism anyway?

2.  Perhaps, more importantly (since it is decisive in practice), WHO gets to determine that, and can make their decision stick?

That crucial issue, on which everything depends, was rightly highlighted by the illustrious Windsor Commission on Communion in their justly famous Windsor Report that came out almost exactly seven years ago (mid October, 2004).  Alas, however, that renowned group failed to provide any real help in determining the answers to the two questions I posed above.  And that was probably inevitable, since the international commission was itself so mixed theologically (not so say, confused and incoherent) that it would have deadlocked in a stalemate if they had tried to resolve that all-important theological issue (which was plainly beyond the warrant given them by ++RW).

May I make a respectful suggestion to the noble ACI scholars?  Along with your valuable work dissecting the Covenant, or all the manifold flaws of Title IV, etc., could you please help the Communion to focus on that decisive issue of how we clarify just what is “core doctrine” and what is legitmately “adiaphora?”  The Lambeth Commission tragically punted the ball on that one (see, e.g., paragraphs 90-92 of the Windsor Report).

As any informed Anglican observer knows all too well, both TEC and the ACoC seem to think that there is nothing in whatever minimal core doctrine exists in Anglicanism that has any relevance to this great crisis we’re in.  The infamous Richter trial back in the mid 1990s in TEC, and the later equally infamous St. Michael’s report given to the ACoC reveal that glaring and fatal defect beyond dispute.  That colossal error simply MUST be corrected, and the sooner the better.

For surely, if anything is a core doctrine in Anglicanism, it is the authority of Holy Scripture.  All Anglican clergy, of all provinces and at all times in our history, have solemnly sworn an oath that we believe the Bible to be God’s Word, and hence authoritative.  And the plain FACT of the matter is that there is simply NO biblical basis whatsoever for the revisionist stance on homosexuality.

Rather, as I have often argued here at T19, the whole dispute can be boiled down to one 32-word sentence, that I frame this way:

The clear and consistent teaching of Scripture and Tradition must not be set aside and overturned, as it has been, on the basis of dubious and conflicting evidence from reason and experience.

I submit that my claim above is irrefutable.  And if so, then CORE doctrine is indeed at stake in this wretched Anglican civil war, because a practice clearly and consistently “repugnant” to Holy Scripture is being promoted without the slightest justification.

I would love to see the ACI team address the crucial and all-important issue that has been too long neglected up until now.  Namely: HOW do we Anglicans determine what is adiaphora and what is not?  And perhaps more important, WHO gets to decide that, and can make their decision stick?

Even seven years after the Windsor Report came out, there has been no real progress toward solving the problem of that Gordian Knot.

David Handy+

October 12, 4:10 pm | [comment link]
13. c.r.seitz wrote:

Pursuant to the comment at #11. I would hope that readers of T19 who live in dioceses with so-called moderate Bishops would be about the business of persistant communication, informing the Bishops of the irregularity of this process of ‘fast-track abandonment.’ The erstwhile President of the EC of U-SC has risen to +ML’s defense. What about Bishops in S-VA (who’s on the Disc Committee); Mississippi and Georgia (who seemed at least sympathetic); TN, WVA, Louisiana, SWFL, W-MA, et al. Find out which dioceses do not have ‘accession clauses’ and ask if they too want to be in the crosshairs.  According to this way of pursuing +SC, it will come down to a vote in the HOB, and Radner has pointed out the political nature of the timing. Sarah Hey has long been an expert in the ‘mobilizing the laity’ department and will likely have good suggestions on this front (if I may so assume).

October 13, 10:36 am | [comment link]
14. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Oops, another correction, and amplification.  When it comes to the deplorable confusion in North American Anglicanism (and clearly in the Global North in general) about what is “core dcotrine” and what is not, I was referring to the heresy trial of +Walter Righter in 1996, and the 2004 St. Michael Report of the Primate’s Theological Commission of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC). 

In both of these infamous cases, groups that were stacked with “progressives” or “reappraisers” chose to ignore the clear and consistent teaching of Holy Scripture against homosexual practice and fallaciously decided that no “core doctrine” was at stake.

This reminds me of an old joke that goes like this:

Q:  How many legs does a dog have if you call its tail a leg?

A.  Four.  Calling a dog’s tail a leg doesn’t make it one.

Similarly, when a group of liberal bishops or theologians chooses to call homosexual behavior not a violation of any core doctrine, it is equally nonsensical.  For there is simply no way such behavior can possibly be justified biblirally, and the supreme authority of God’s Word is very much a core doctrine in Anglicanism.  At least in classical Anglicanism.

If the ACI were to engage in a serious, detailed exploration of the all-important subject of just what constitutes “core doctrine” in Anglicanism, who gets to decide that vital matter, and perhaps more pertinently how tbe core doctrine of the authority of Holy Scripture bears on this prolonged debate, they would be doing a most valuable service to the whole Anglican world.  That would be a constructive labor of great worth to Anglicanism.

That is part of the unfinished agenda left by the blue-chip Lambeth Commission that produced the Windsor Report seven years ago.

David Handy+

October 13, 10:50 am | [comment link]
15. c.r.seitz wrote:

I do hope we can stay on topic re: the actual, concrete, real plight of the Diocese of SC at this present time.

October 13, 10:56 am | [comment link]
16. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Dr. Seitz,

As someone who lives within the bounds of the Diocese of Southern VA (and for years was licensed to minister within it), let me chime in quickly that Bp. “Holly” Hollerith is by no means a moderate, whatever some might think.  He loves to cultivate that appealing image, but it’s as much a sham as it is with Bp. Henderson and many other putative “moderates.”  It is well known among the clergy in So. VA that before his election, while he was Rector of historic Bruton Parish in Williamsburg, Hollerith personally led the campaign to dump the relatively orthodox +David Bane and force him out of office.  Believe me, it was a vicious campaign, and it was successful.  +Bane, while retired, is now part of the ACNA.

I don’t mean to imply that the campaign to drive +Bane out was purely ideological; it wasn’t.  Unfortunately, +Bane was a poor administrator and communicator (among other things).  But it’s an open secret that many liberal clergy hated him for his theological conservatism too.

No one should put any hopes in +Hollerith resisting the cabal led by the PB.  After all, there’s a reason why Bonnie Anderson appointed him to the Disciplinary Board.

David Handy+

October 13, 11:04 am | [comment link]
17. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

All right, Dr. Seitz (#15),

I’ll back off.  I’ve made the point and my appeal to you guys.  I just don’t want key strategic issues to get lost in the flurry of the tactical fight now underway.  I agree that +Lawrence needs all the allies and all the timely assistance he can get.

David Handy+

October 13, 11:13 am | [comment link]
18. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

P.S.  Just so it’s clear, my #14 was not a (rude) response to Dr. Seitz’ #13.  I was busy composing my comment when he posted that urgent appeal for T19 readers to get involved in finding a way to try to stop this Title IV juggernaut.  So I hadn’t seen his #13 when I posted my #14 that might perhaps seem like an intentional snub or evasion of his earnest appeal, which was certainly not my intention at all.  I’m sorry if I seemed to create that impression.

David Handy+
Signing off this thread

October 13, 11:28 am | [comment link]
19. wmresearchtrianglenc wrote:

ACI’s posting seems a clearly stated summary of what particular procedures under Title IV apply to this matter. A follow-on question: Is anything known re any objection(s) having been presented to ECUSA regarding ECUSA’s apparent failure to follow its own procedures as established under Title IV?

October 13, 11:55 pm | [comment link]
20. wmresearchtrianglenc wrote:


By its actions in initiating and following apparently erroneous procedures involving itself, the DSC, and Bishop Mark Lawrence, ECUSA has denied and is denying the due process to which DSC and Bishop Lawrence are clearly entitled, and such denial has constituted, and continues to constitute, a clearly unwarranted threat of possible irreparable harm to ECUSA, its dioceses and bishops, and, in particular, to the DSC and Bishop Mark Lawrence. 

*The current proceeding appears to be analogous to an express train that is continuing on reckless travel on a wrong track.*

October 14, 11:05 am | [comment link]
21. wmresearchtrianglenc wrote:

An omimision: In line 3 of the first paragraph, “(b)” should appear before “..AS WELL AS…”.

October 14, 11:08 am | [comment link]
22. c.r.seitz wrote:

I take your comment as consistent with my own at #13. Title IV is an ax that cuts both ways. Let a major petition go forth to the Intake Officer re: this handling of the case. ACI has repeated this very specific concern. Radner made the comment just recently to the same effect.

October 14, 11:18 am | [comment link]
23. wmresearchtrianglenc wrote:

Thank you Dr Seitz.  Certainly the bottom line here is there’s obviously nothing logically, morally and legally right about continuing to take action(s) that proceed in the wrong direction. Because—of necessity, of course—DSC and Bishop Lawrence are represented by counsel, it’s very possible that counsel is considering, or has is now preparing a presentment or presentments to ECUSA that seek an immediate cessation of a matter that you, Dr. Radner, and I see as ultimately likely to result in harm to all involved parties. I doubt very much that a good “dispute resolution” procedure would find much in common with elements of a procedure that may have more in common with an adversarial status and I honestly question whether an impartial study undertaken concerning the current treatment of what some would term the “more-liberal” clergy and laity within DSC would conclude that was any substantial evidence of unfair treatment of such individuals.  On the other hand, I’m not at all certain that an impartial study of the current treatment of conservative clergy and laity within ECUSA would reach a similar conclusion, and if an impartial study were to reach that conclusion, it would be very regrettable, regardless of whether one is theologically liberal or conservative.  I believe that’s what the rule of LAW is, and should be, concerned with.

October 14, 1:50 pm | [comment link]
24. wmresearchtrianglenc wrote:

As an addendum to my last post (#23), I believe it’s clearly the case that even civil courts will not hesitate to hold a religious group’s ‘feet to the fire’ if there is proof that the religious group has refused to follow its own procedural requirements. Of course, it isn’t desirable that any such matter ever get to a civil court, and that’s exactly what should engage those in ECUSA that are involved in this matter: a recognition that reaching a viable solution to ECUSA’s recent and now apparently ill-advised action(s) involving itself, DSC and Bishop Mark Lawrence, will not occur absent an immediate cessation to the ongoing action(s)

October 14, 2:15 pm | [comment link]
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