(Liv. Ch.) Disciplinary Board of Bishops is Unable to Certify Abandonment Against Mark Lawrence

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

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

37 Comments
Posted November 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

I’m a little surprised, to be honest.

I wonder what the majority-minority split was. smile

Still, it would seem to leave South Carolina free to do its own thing.

November 28, 7:34 pm | [comment link]
2. Ad Orientem wrote:

I too am surprised, having braced myself for proceedings that could best be described as a kangaroo court.  It will be interesting to see what the next route of attack will be for the heretics.  I do not expect them to give up.

November 28, 7:43 pm | [comment link]
3. Milton Finch wrote:

Quit claim.

November 28, 7:44 pm | [comment link]
4. Teatime2 wrote:

Not that I expect rationality from bishops, lol, but this was really the only rational conclusion. There were no violations, and if they had to stretch the assertions so much to try to conclude that there were, then a lot more bishops could also face charges for a variety of things. That’s a can of worms they can’t afford to open, for many reasons.

November 28, 7:45 pm | [comment link]
5. AnglicanFirst wrote:

Synodic ‘rule by diocesans’  has made its voice heard within ECUSA.

November 28, 7:45 pm | [comment link]
6. cseitz wrote:

#5—Let us hope you are correct. Perhaps the creeping awareness that this new TEC polity push would eviscerate any health remaining in sovereign dioceses.

November 28, 7:47 pm | [comment link]
7. freihofercook wrote:

I don’t understand the reference in #3.  Note the date on the letter, it was well after the Quit Claim deeds news was announced. If subsequent charges have not been brought on that basis, then letting them be brought and using them a little later by the same board against the same bishop will look inappropriate.

November 28, 7:49 pm | [comment link]
8. Milton Finch wrote:

#7, 

It becomes way too expensive to carry out dastardly deeds when one has to sue every church in the diocese individually.  It’s a whole lot easier when one can sue the whole lot at a time and get one descision in your favor.  It’s a lot more costly when you have to take everyone of them on…one at a time.

November 28, 8:13 pm | [comment link]
9. David Hein wrote:

Good news; the right decision.

November 28, 8:40 pm | [comment link]
10. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

Now that they have dispensed with the frivolous perhaps they should turn their minds to the Bede Parry matter.  What—no one willing to file a charge?

November 28, 8:42 pm | [comment link]
11. jamesw wrote:

I am thinking that the publicity that the initial news sparked caused significant unease amongst too many bishops.  They realized that if Lawrence was deposed, than any bishop could be deposed at any time for any reason that the PB thought up.  I suspect that there was something of a “there but for the grace of God go I” test applied - it’s one thing to dispense with due process for bishops who did actively depart from TEC, but quite another to do so for bishops are did not.

I also suspect that the court decisions re: Dennis Canon in SC played a role.  It would appear that the best that TEC could hope for was a hollow victory (deposition) which would result in a serious black eye internationally but would make TEC appear impotent to enforce.

Massive kudo’s to the Diocese of South Carolina.  Their bold witness has done much to stand in the way of KJS’ steam roller over TEC.  They are truly a strong witness for how a diocese can differentiate itself without leaving.

November 28, 8:52 pm | [comment link]
12. Blue Cat Man wrote:

Thanks be to God!  I do agree with Nos 2, 10, and especially 9.

November 28, 8:55 pm | [comment link]
13. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

I think a least part of this was the fact that came out that the proceedings had been started while the old disciplinary canons were still in effect, which means that if they were seriously going to proceed, then the old canons would have to apply because the new disciplinary canons are retroactive. I think they realized that proving any of this under the old disciplinary canons was virtually impossible.

November 28, 9:02 pm | [comment link]
14. Jon wrote:

#7… I’m a fellow reasserter but the timing issue (the news about the quit claims and the meeting of the disciplinary board) is less clear to me than it may be to you. 

The statement of the disciplinary board says that it met on Nov 22.  The news stories about the quit claims appear to have gone public only a few days beforehand—for example the Post And Courier piece is dated Nov 21.  Do you know of a number of media stories that appeared many days before?  I do not, but would be delighted to be mistaken.

Furthermore, Bishop Henderson (in the board’s statement) uses language very carefully to say that their negative ruling (we are unable to find him guilty of abandonment) was based ONLY on evidence submitted many weeks prior:

“Based on information previously submitted to the board… based on the information before it…”

It seems as though the board is trying to leave open the possibility of further action, based on evidence of events that occurred in Oct or Nov.

November 28, 9:15 pm | [comment link]
15. Connecticutian wrote:

Is it me, or does the announcement seem to go beyond what is necessary by wagging a finger at the diocese and warning Bp Lawrence? It seems to have the tone of “well, we’ll let you off with a warning… THIS time.” Oh well, at least it is the sensible conclusion.

November 28, 9:17 pm | [comment link]
16. Eastern Anglican wrote:

Thanks be to God.  I’m not going to chalk this up to a political victory, but rather the power of prayer!

November 28, 9:27 pm | [comment link]
17. Ephraim Radner wrote:

Good news.  And we should be thankful for the good sense of those on the Board, and for God in granting such good sense to them!

November 28, 9:36 pm | [comment link]
18. Jon wrote:

#15, yes, Bishop Henderson is clearly wagging his finger.  First, the general tone of the “not guilty” is less a verdict of Innocent and more one of “we were unable to nail him”.

Second, the suggestion at the end is that Big Brother will be watching him to see whether theological liberals will be given a “safe place.”

I’d be curious to hear what Kendall and others more knowledgeable about the diocesan leadership say about this.  If the suggestion is that Bp Lawrence will expel those who favor SSUs from the diocese—I feel certain that is BS and that the senior leaders are loving and gracious with those persons with whom they disagree.  But, on the other hand, if Henderson means that Lawrence must allow SSUs to occur, or permit denials of the creeds in the pulpit (I live in Atlanta and we often invite Spong to speak, along with praising Pelagius) the he is really saying that there is no place for a traditionalist bishop.

November 28, 9:39 pm | [comment link]
19. jamesw wrote:

Posted over at SF:

Don’t be fooled with the ridiculous talk of “safe place”.  It’s not about “safety” for the conservatives.  Rather, is is about:

1) maintaining the proper polity within TEC; and
2) permitting both the Diocese of South Carolina and its diocesan bishop to uphold the Christian faith undiluted within its diocesan boundaries.

Henderson tries to insert a Trojan Horse with his talk of “safe place” because what he really means is this “if we let Bishop Lawrence alone for the time being, then Bishop Lawrence should set aside the standards for orthodoxy within his diocese for the liberal minority.”  And that’s NOT what this is about.

November 28, 9:54 pm | [comment link]
20. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
Psalm 91

To Him be the Glory.

November 28, 10:41 pm | [comment link]
21. Blue Cat Man wrote:

Jamesw, The “heretics” within the diocese already have a safe place. No one is going after with them with excommunication or anything else.  You-know-what-will have-to happen before Bishop Lawrence will set aside orthodoxy within the diocese of South Carolina.

November 28, 11:32 pm | [comment link]
22. Blue Cat Man wrote:

Jon,
The diocesan clergy conference met Nov 15 and 16. The quit claim deeds were mailed out Wed. Nov. 16. Does that help with the time line?  Really now…. how many times must the members of the Forum try to bring charges against Bishop Lawrence before they realize it is futile? Give it up!

November 28, 11:39 pm | [comment link]
23. Cennydd13 wrote:

I think the quitclaim deeds had a lot to do with this decision, because as was previously stated, it’s much more expensive to sue individual parishes than an entire diocese.  As for the investigation, I don’t trust Henderson, and the Episcopal Forum will be back as soon as they think they have something to hang on +Lawrence.  That’s the kind of people they are.

November 29, 1:44 am | [comment link]
24. Mark Baddeley wrote:

It is to TEC’s credit (and particularly the disciplinary board) that they made a decision in line with the written provisions, and didn’t discipline the bishop for what seems to them to be moves by the diocese.

Well done. I too am surprised by this, but it’s nice to have pleasant surprises. God be praised.

November 29, 4:52 am | [comment link]
25. NoVA Scout wrote:

Perhaps we haven’t heard the end of the consequences of the quite claim deeds.  The issue before the board was abandonment.  They looked at the elements of that offense and, because of Bishop Lawrence’s continuing loyalty to TEC, found that the elements were not present.  End of story.  In other abandonment scenarios of recent vintage, the individuals involved had very clearly made decisions to leave the church.

Nonetheless, it is a very big problem for a national church, one that thinks of itself as hierarchical and is widely regarded by others to be so (I leave to one side whether it is or is not), to have a Diocesan Bishop or elements of the Diocesan government, essentially divesting themselves of their rights or the rights of continuing Episcopalians in parishes where there may be sentiment for secession, in parish properties.  Bishop Lawrence’s continuing and welcome loyalty to the Episcopal Church de-fuses the abandonment charge, but is there any way under the constitution and canons of the church, that a bishop who is not aggressive in his stewardship of diocesan property rights and the rights of continuing members of the church against claims by departing groups, can be disciplined on grounds other than abandonment?  The answer may well be no, but the implications of a negative response are ones that encourage more turmoil, and more displacement of those who choose to continue in the Episcopal Church, including Bishop Lawrence.  Perhaps the calculus by the national church is that the fact situation in South Carolina is so unique among the various places where disputes have arisen, that one might as well let this one run its course.  We’ll see.

November 29, 7:08 am | [comment link]
26. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

#25 NoVA Scout

Don’t listen to all the nasty bile being circulated on ENS and some liberal blogs which are apoplectic.  ENS just changed the conclusion on the article they had written for a certification of abandonment it seems.    More measured voices like Jim Naughton’s have some merit: “Glad this appears to be over.  No more sideshows please, we have work to do”

Instead rejoice that Bishop Lawrence and South Carolina will be able to continue serving God in the Episcopal Church as he has always asserted and pray there will be no further persecution from the “church’s leadership”.

I also wouldn’t be led astray by the quitclaim issue, they do as far as I have read only restate the existing position and have been given before.  They probably make it more likely that parishes will stay, confident in Bishop Lawrence’s leadership and their standing committee.

Clearly though, the result was not in the plan and perhaps it is an indication of a thaw in Narnia, if not in the Queen’s palace.  Aslan is on the move.

10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations;
  he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
  the purposes of his heart through all generations.

12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
  the people he chose for his inheritance.
13 From heaven the LORD looks down
  and sees all mankind;
14 from his dwelling place he watches
  all who live on earth—
15 he who forms the hearts of all,
  who considers everything they do.

16 No king is saved by the size of his army;
  no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
  despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
  on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death
  and keep them alive in famine.

20 We wait in hope for the LORD;
  he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
  for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love be with us, LORD,
  even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33

November 29, 9:50 am | [comment link]
27. c.r.seitz wrote:

NoVa intimates that SC is a special example (‘unique’). I suspect very similar on-the-ground dynamics exist in CFL, Dallas, W-TX, W-LA, probably TN. The instinct of the Diocesan in these regions was to negotiate with churches wanting to leave. (Even NJ has done that). Several have indicated clearly that the Constitution is to be followed and where it is in conflict with Title IV, the former prevails (so Dallas most recently). +Henderson appears to arrogate to himself a role of ‘special commentator’ on the SC situation with his ‘safe place’ footnoting. But in reality this may be about Diocesans on the committee realizing they would lose a lot themselves if they let a case like this proceed. I also gather the timing of the decision was critical if an inhibition and then vote by HOB was to happen before GC. Well, thanks be to God the Diocesans looked at the law and said the charges were not sufficient.

November 29, 11:34 am | [comment link]
28. Jon wrote:

Jeremy (#1) wonders what the majority-minority split was.  I agree.  Bp. Henderson is careful to say only that the board was “unable” to find a “majority” who voted for abandonment.  The vote could have been quite close, with nearly half willing to certify abandonment even though (as many have indicated on this thread) that such a vote would be utterly groundless in the actual canons.

Is there any way to find out how the board members actually voted?  If not, why is the process secret?

November 29, 12:55 pm | [comment link]
29. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Agreed, Cr. Seitz (and others).

I rejoice in this somewhat surprising, yet very welcome, decision by the Board.  However, there is still something rather ominous about +Henderson’s letter that is disquieting.

By highlighting as he did the three quite specific and limited grounds for finding a bishop to have “abandoned the communion” of TEC, I suspect that some hardcore “reappraiser” activists are now going to press for the expansion of those grounds when the Title IV canons are revisited, as they should be, next year at General Conventioa mn.  When even Mark Harris+ (among other liberals) freely concedes that the new disciplinary canons are severely flawed, I think it’s likely that those canons will be subject to significant revision as soon as next year.

Bottom line: where there’s a will, there’s a way.  And it’s undeniable that the relentless and reckless PB wants to be rid of that troublesome bishop in SC.  It’s only a matter of time, until she tries again.

However, even if my fears do come to pass, we can be sincerely thankful to God for the respite provided by this decision.

David Handy+

November 29, 1:07 pm | [comment link]
30. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

“And it’s undeniable that the relentless and reckless PB wants to be rid of that troublesome bishop in SC.  It’s only a matter of time, until she tries again”.

Note to Dr. Handy—I do understand your sarcasm here. Also as you know, Bishop Lawrence is not the only “troublesome” bishop in TEC; others just happen to, at the moment, be quieter about it.  She’d probably have to pick off about 5 of them, at least. 

Perhaps(though I’m not betting the farm) it will dawn on a certain someone that looking like a witch-hunter is ungodly and not a true way of remaking God’s Church, if God’s Church even needs to be remade at this moment.  “Reasserterectomy”, instead, resembles Adversarial tactics, pun intended. 

And God bless SC—something about mighty oaks and tiny nuts that hold their ground; or, to be a little deeper, Romans 12:2.  BRAVO grin

November 29, 1:35 pm | [comment link]
31. Blue Cat Man wrote:

Anyone else read Forward Day by Day? I am amazed how relevant the current Scripture selections have been for our current diocesan situation. Even today’s reading from 2 Peter 2:12-21 seems particularly apt. Especially since the next chapter is all about false teachers and destructive doctrines.

November 29, 1:43 pm | [comment link]
32. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

Yes, #31, a lot of people don’t like the fact that the Bible is timeless and got so many things right. Hence the charge to ignore it or claim “that’s really not what it says”—um, yeah, it does.

November 29, 2:13 pm | [comment link]
33. sandlapper wrote:

Whatever bad things are still possible, I am ecstatic over the good thing that has happened. Hallelujah! As to safe places for “theological liberals” in SC, They seem able to express their concerns now. However, more could be done to cultivate healthy diversity. I think diversity is beneficial when it grows from a common ground on which we all stand. What better common ground than the authority of Scripture? Message to any Forum folks reading this blog: let’s discuss the interpretation and application of Scripture to our problems, while agreeing on its authority.

November 29, 6:36 pm | [comment link]
34. cseitz wrote:

Has anyone given thought to how far into the land of entitlement TEC Bishops like Henderson are, that it does not seem unseemly in the least to them that one give a kind of private ‘parting shot’ from the bench?

And what is it supposed to mean? Who is feeling unsafe inside of the Diocese of SC? Unsafe about just what exactly?

My assumption is that +Henderson is here indicating that space will have to be made for SSBs and such. What else is there that is being denied?

This is where we have always insisted the liberalism yoked to ‘justice’ would perforce go. One kind of liberal says ‘laissez faire, make room for diversity.’ But this kind of liberal is in very short supply and my hunch is that ‘safe space’ is code word from +Henderson re: SSBs. I’d welcome someone else’s alternative take.

And I also believe it is inexcusable for him to use this formal occasion—a ruling re: serious charges against +SC—to opine in this way. If I were on the Committee I’d be very irate about this kind of manuever.

November 29, 7:13 pm | [comment link]
35. RalphM wrote:

Bookworm said:
“Perhaps(though I’m not betting the farm) it will dawn on a certain someone that looking like a witch-hunter is ungodly and not a true way of remaking God’s Church, if God’s Church even needs to be remade at this moment.  “Reasserterectomy”, instead, resembles Adversarial tactics, pun intended. “

This is probably wishful thinking.  Ego and maniacal desire to dominate at any cost are very difficult to control.  815 is isolated from reality and group-think rules the day.  God’s Church is not in the equation.

November 29, 9:58 pm | [comment link]
36. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

Ralph, note that I said I’m not betting the farm.

November 30, 2:06 am | [comment link]
37. trimom wrote:

Would love to know what the buzz about “Freeing +Lawrence” is on the House of Deputies list serve. Anyone have a sense what the liberal take is or are they mum?

November 30, 4:14 pm | [comment link]
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