Province IV Bishops Release Statement Concerning Meeting with Bishop Lawrence

Posted by Kendall Harmon

15 December 2011

On Wednesday, December 14, Province IV bishops diocesan were invited to attend a meeting in Charleston, South Carolina with Bishop Mark Lawrence to discuss the recent issuing of quitclaim deeds by Bishop Lawrence and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina to parishes of the diocese. A representative group who were available at the appointed time and date attended the meeting.

Gracious hospitality and collegiality characterized the gathering during which we prayed and participated in open, honest, and forthright conversation. Probing questions were asked by all, and it is fair to say that we did not agree on all matters discussed. For the visiting bishops, the gathering particularly helped to clarify the context of the Diocese of South Carolina’s quitclaims decision. Where we go in the future is a matter of prayer and ongoing engagement of concerns before us, an engagement we embrace out of our love for Christ and his Church.

The Right Reverend Scott Anson Benhase
The Episcopal Diocese of Georgia

The Right Reverend Michael B. Curry
The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina

The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III
The Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina

The Rt. Rev. Don E. Johnson
The Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee

The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence
The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina

The Rt. Rev. G. Porter Taylor
The Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina

The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo
The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina

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

43 Comments
Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Milton Finch wrote:

What was their “open, honest and forthright” conversation?

December 15, 1:24 pm | [comment link]
2. Milton Finch wrote:

What were the “probing” questions?  What were the answers to the questions?  What did they come away with from the meeting?

December 15, 1:26 pm | [comment link]
3. Cranmerian wrote:

subscribe

December 15, 1:28 pm | [comment link]
4. off2 wrote:

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall….

December 15, 2:02 pm | [comment link]
5. wvparson wrote:

Do modern bishops take a course in episcospeak, a sort of sanctimonious jargon which says nothing much but appears devout?

December 15, 2:40 pm | [comment link]
6. jamesw wrote:

A nice letter which says absolutely nothing, but in a very polite and collegial manner.  Interesting to note that Bishop Mark Lawrence signed it.  That is a good sign, I think, as I have little doubt that Lawrence’s intellect and wisdom were quite superior to that of the other bishops gathered and I doubt that Lawrence would have signed it had the other bishops managed to entrap him.

I would expect that the next step in the process is that the TEC hacks will need to call their Master in Mordor, er, the PB at 815, to report back and receive further instructions as to how to proceed now.

December 15, 2:43 pm | [comment link]
7. jamesw wrote:

wvparson:  More than bishops I think…

I am surprised that there wasn’t anything about “holy conversations” or “living in the tension” etc., but again, I doubt Lawrence would have signed such a letter.

Here is my translation of the letter into regular English, at least from the perspective of the visiting bishops…

Gracious hospitality

Bishop Lawrence was a gracious enough host, offereing us a pleasing variety of cocktails

and collegiality characterized the gathering during which we prayed and participated in open, honest, and forthright conversation.

and everyone spoke politely and we even prayed some.

Probing questions were asked by all, and it is fair to say that we did not agree on all matters discussed.

We asked the questions that Katharine and David told us to ask, but Mark didn’t agree with the presuppositions inherent in them and we couldn’t actually get him to admit to the things we were supposed to get him to admit to.

For the visiting bishops, the gathering particularly helped to clarify the context of the Diocese of South Carolina’s quitclaims decision.

Mark told us to stop interfering in his diocese since his plan was to try to actually keep the diocese together instead of losing 90% of it to departures to ACNA.

Where we go in the future is a matter of prayer and ongoing engagement of concerns before us, an engagement we embrace out of our love for Christ and his Church.

Where we go in the future will depend on what Katharine and David tell us after we report to them.

December 15, 2:55 pm | [comment link]
8. Ralph wrote:

...A representative group who were available at the appointed time and date attended the meeting.

There are 20 dioceses in Province IV. Only 7 bishops (including +Mark) are listed as being at the meeting.

...prayed and participated in open, honest, and forthright conversation.

No doubt about how they might go about issuing quitclaim deeds also, and how each diocese of TEC is sovereign.

...it is fair to say that we did not agree on all matters discussed.

I think some had wanted to have the meeting up in Dollywood.

...prayer and ongoing engagement of concerns before us,

Concerns? What concerns? More information please. They should know perfectly well that this is none of their canonical business.

...embrace out of our love for Christ and his Church.

Ah, makes sense now. An error in redaction. The original might have read, “...embrace out of our love for xmas and our church property.

Continued prayers for the diocese.

December 15, 3:20 pm | [comment link]
9. Karen B. wrote:

So, no Communion Partner or fairly orthodox bishops in attendance? (Other than +Lawrence, of course).

Had hoped that +Tennessee or +Central FL might show up.  Oh well.

December 15, 3:20 pm | [comment link]
10. cseitz wrote:

Perhaps the other 13 assumed it was a waste of time and money. A reasonable conclusion.
Proximity looks like one factor. Presumably, those who went were the most concerned. Does one really know how widely was the concern in the first place?

December 15, 3:29 pm | [comment link]
11. Milton Finch wrote:

Also, if conservative Bishops don’t go, they know their names can’t be and won’t be placed in with the number that choose to attack Bishop Lawrence when the attack comes agin.

December 15, 3:32 pm | [comment link]
12. CharlietheCook wrote:

Being in the Diocese of West Tennessee I’d dearly love to know what Don Johnson had to add to the proceedings.  Not much, most likely. 

Clarify the context?  How much more clear could it be - Bishop Lawrence does not want to see individual parishes lose their property and places of worship.

December 15, 3:36 pm | [comment link]
13. CharlietheCook wrote:

Pardon me, I see now that this was a meeting of all the bishops of Province IV.

December 15, 3:51 pm | [comment link]
14. Jim the Puritan wrote:

Wonder what they’re reporting back to the Ministry of Magic.

December 15, 3:55 pm | [comment link]
15. jamesw wrote:

Actually, I thought that the correct number of outsider bishops coming after Lawrence would have been Nine united in their service to the Presiding Bishop.  There was only six bishops there to investigate him.  Perhaps the other three got washed down one of the many rivers surrounding Charleston.

December 15, 3:59 pm | [comment link]
16. wmresearchtrianglenc wrote:

A comment re the visiting diocesans learning about the “context” of the diocese of South Carolina’s “quitclaims decision”: The reference to “context” is odd, given the irrefutable and very obvious fact that the diocese of South Carolina (and a number of other dioceses) have been under the microscope of TEC’s leadership (and TEC’s attorneys, nationally and locally) for a considerable period of time.

December 15, 4:11 pm | [comment link]
17. David Hein wrote:

My reading of the tone and content of the letter suggests that the bishops appreciated having the chance to confer, did what they perceived to be their duty, prayed, and then went their separate ways, civilly agreeing to differ—but not allowing disagreement to break the bonds of episcopal collegiality. I hope this will be the last we hear of this sort of thing for a long time—I mean putting an orthodox bishop on the spot, not episcopal collegiality.

December 15, 4:30 pm | [comment link]
18. Ryan Danker wrote:

I may get pushback for this, but the letter appears to me to be a clear statement that bishops within Province IV had a frank and honest discussion about matters pertaining to the Church. It seems unhelpful to attempt to guess what may or may not have been said in the meeting. My own bishop was among them and I have full confidence that he is an honest and straightforward Christian man. I think the high-road should be taken in terms of any response to this letter, as I am certain that is what Bishop Lawrence himself would do. Perhaps in time we’ll learn what was said in the meeting, and perhaps not. Only with clarity, can any reasonable response be made. Otherwise, I hope that the bishops enjoyed their time in the beautiful city of Charleston.

December 15, 4:54 pm | [comment link]
19. Ad Orientem wrote:

RE #1
Milton,

What was their “open, honest and forthright” conversation?

That’s a form of “Diplospeak.”  I used to work for the government.  Allow me to translate.  They tried to tell South Carolina’s bishop to stop being a bur under 815’s saddle and get with the official TEO program.  Bp. Lawrence told them to go pack sand.  Then they prayed.

December 15, 5:00 pm | [comment link]
20. Milton Finch wrote:

Thanks, Ad.  Ryan D # 18,  What diocese are you in?  Thanks.

December 15, 5:17 pm | [comment link]
21. Ryan Danker wrote:

Milton, I’m in the Diocese of North Carolina. My bishop is Michael Curry. I’ve had the pleasure of spending some one-on-one time with him. He is an impressive man, and a strong Christian. He and I don’t agree on everything, but I have great respect for him. I was glad to see that if Province IV bishops were traveling to see Bishop Lawrence that Bishop Curry would be among them. My hope, of course, is that this entire episode can be put behind us and we can all get on with the work of being the Church in the midst of a world that desperately needs Christ.

December 15, 7:17 pm | [comment link]
22. Milton Finch wrote:

Ryan,  my father met Bishop Curry at our Cursillo when he attended down here.  He is a wonderful man and a good Christian from what my father said, also.  You hang in there and I hope you are enjoying some good weather up there.  I’m from the Boone, Blowing Rock area originally.  Still a Tarheel in basketball…and heart.

December 15, 7:23 pm | [comment link]
23. APB wrote:

A college classmate of mine, who was an ambassador, once told me that “an open, frank exchange of ideas” means that at least nobody pulled a knife our.  That sounds similar to “open, honest, and forthright conversation.”

December 15, 7:24 pm | [comment link]
24. Publius wrote:

I think that Jamesw (#7 and 8) is mainly right in his interpretations. I offer an alternative, and darker, interpretation of one of the points:

Probing questions were asked by all, and it is fair to say that we did not agree on all matters discussed.

This is a reference to those matters that will become the charges next levied by the Presiding Bishop against Bishop Lawrence. The statement tastefully does not itemize them, but I’ll bet the delegation from 815 took notes of Bp. Lawrence’s answers and has already reported back to the Presiding Bishop and her Chancellor. TEC’s next attack is coming, as sure as the coming of our Lord in power and great glory.

I sure hope that Bp. Lawrence also took notes and gave a copy to his the Diocesan Standing Committee and their Chancellor. The last attack was stimulated from TEC’s followers on the scene, and was a mere essay or sortie. The main event will be prepared by 815 itself and will leave nothing to chance.

December 15, 7:56 pm | [comment link]
25. francis wrote:

I am just impressed with our Communion Partner Bishops.  They cannot be counted on in a pinch.  Where were they?  Not one.  They would not support other Bishops like Bob Duncan either.  What a sham.

December 15, 8:14 pm | [comment link]
26. Mark Baddeley wrote:

It sounds like +Lawrence handled himself well. That’s an answer to prayer - congratulations to +Lawrence, and God be praised.

December 15, 8:26 pm | [comment link]
27. Cennydd13 wrote:

Ad Orientem, he told ‘em to stuff it in a drainpipe.

December 15, 9:43 pm | [comment link]
28. episcoanglican wrote:

Ryan D, I absolutely agree with you. And yet at the same time it is helpful to also remember psalm 55:21, “His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” I have personal experience of a liberal bishop speaking kindly to my face, giving me a warm handshake and promises of prayers on my departure, then quick as lightening stabbing me in the back at the parish I was interviewing with. Some liberal bishops are good Christians infected by the cultural coolaid. Others are far closer to Saruman and Grima Wormtongue. I suppose there is a continuous spectrum from one end to the other. It is not by their words that we are able to judge, but by their actions. I suspect the actions to follow will contradict their words but I will not waste the time guessing what those will be. So far their actions are to write a somewhat hostile sounding letter that they made public, prooftexting scripture, then taking the time to have seven of them travel to interview their fellow bishop who likely told them exactly what he has publicly provided on their Diocesan website already. To think that they are now reassured and peace minded as a result, is hard for me to believe, especially since for the last 30years+ there has been a concerted war to eradicate orthodoxy from the church. It has not suddenly ended with majority control and the exit of a sizable contingent of orthodox. By all means let us leave off the speculative blogging, it isn’t helpful or healthy. But past actions are also the best indicator of future ones. (I think someone famous said that.) With liberal bishops it is best to take them at their word, smile and nod as you back away.

December 15, 10:04 pm | [comment link]
29. Milton Finch wrote:

Wow, EpiscoAnglican, I feel that you have nailed how I have seen them (TEc bishops) acting every step of their way when it comes to litigation.  Surely they won’t act that way when dealing with one that takes his ordination vows seriously!  I know…fairytale land.

December 15, 10:32 pm | [comment link]
30. A Senior Priest wrote:

If I didn’t feel that this is an essentially dishonest communication it might be interesting.

December 15, 11:23 pm | [comment link]
31. Milton Finch wrote:

From where and from who, Senior?

December 15, 11:26 pm | [comment link]
32. SC blu cat lady wrote:

One of the joys of blogging is participating in the interpretations of various official documents offered up by dioceses or other groups. While lots of fun, I will refrain from making any comments this time until the Diocese of SC has officially posted a response.

Hope everyone is having a blessed Advent. As this is still the third week in Advent…... Rejoice in the Lord Alway!!!

December 16, 8:17 am | [comment link]
33. SC blu cat lady wrote:

OOPS! This was posted by the Diocese of SC. I wonder if Bishop Lawrence will write directly to the people of the Diocese and will it be posted on the diocesan website?? I hope so.  Until then….

December 16, 8:20 am | [comment link]
34. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

jamesw,

As always, I relish your incisive comments, and I particularly enjoyed your marvelously witty #7 and #15.  Right on, brother!  I hope you resume (or continue) commenting here more frequently.

David Handy+

December 16, 11:29 am | [comment link]
35. Ralph wrote:

Although posted at the DioSC website, the report was apparently written by Bishop Waldo of DioUSC.

See:
http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2011/12/15/province-iv-bishops-call-meeting-with-colleague-honest-forthright/

December 16, 11:31 am | [comment link]
36. Pb wrote:

The context is that under SC law, the diocese has no claim on parish properties. Why is this hard to understand?

December 16, 12:20 pm | [comment link]
37. wmresearchtrianglenc wrote:

#28 episcoanglican. I find it helpful, in thinking of issues relating to the role of bishops, to think of the duties/responsibilities of bishops and the RESULTS of a course of action as opposed to thinking of a given action itself or the individual attributes or appjarent motivation(s) of a particular bishop or bishops. A bishop obviously has a critical role in the steering of the vessel known as the Church. If the Church is being steered on a wrong course, there will be unnecessary trouble encountered even if the vessel has not already encountered unnecessary trouble (which is a distinct probability if it has been on a wrong course). The bottom line is that the Church deserves to be steered on the best possible course, and it is the right of the Church to expect that from those responsible for the course it takes and will be taking. “By their fruits…” is another summation of the importance of results.

December 16, 4:23 pm | [comment link]
38. fh57 wrote:

#21. +Curry was my bishop for eight years. He voted against recommending Lawrence first time around. When I asked him at a clergy conference (at which +Daniels was guest speaker, oh my) why he would not vote to approve +Lawrence, he was slightly agitated I asked, and said he didn’t think +Lawrence would keep SC in TEC. I quoted +Lawrence saying he would, but Curry didn’t agree. I asked “so you think he’s lying?”. +Daniels chimed in as well, not happy with my question (I don’t recall what he said), but it was clear they did not want him to be a bishop in TEC! Don’t be fooled by these men; they are fully revisionist and want TEC to be so as well.

December 16, 6:59 pm | [comment link]
39. Cennydd13 wrote:

I find the bishops’ comments akin to frantically shovelling sand into sandbags while trying to stop the floodwaters.

December 16, 9:03 pm | [comment link]
40. episcoanglican wrote:

#37 wmresearchtrianglenc—I am not sure what you are saying, but it sounds awfully like the ethics of a given action are not important only the goal of a more important objective being achieved, or “the ends justify the means.” Is that the ethics you think bishops should be judged by? Because that sounds very Stalinesque. Or have I misunderstood you badly?

December 17, 12:12 am | [comment link]
41. Rob Eaton+ wrote:

The lack of trust, fh57, obviously continues by the evidence of this meeting, and the “invitation” to this meeting, having been held in the first place.  I’m glad to see the initial responses in this thread, and want to add my comment: ridiculous.  Really.  The object of ridicule.  At the same time, happy to see this play out.  Why?
The beginning of trust begins from scratch.  That’s not what the bible says, surely, but then we’re back to the ridiculous comment.
Lest I be too subtle, however, I’ll start from the scratch.
Quite simple, really, nobody trusts anybody.
I for one have known Mark to be trust-worthy.  I have no reason not to.  Others in the Church are apparently unwilling to trust him, for whatever reason they may choose to justify that reason.  I say “choose to justify” because there is nothing that Mark Lawrence has done to break trust.  So lack of trust must come from fear.
To have a meeting, then, that puts the fear on the table—even if no one asking for the meeting is willing to use that term, and finds some other way to maskingly describe it—actually puts the deep need for trust on the agenda.  If these bishops walked away with any positive inkling of a sense of trust that previously wasn’t there at all, a pitying measure of trust in Mark Lawrence and the people of the diocese of South Carolina, then I am glad for it.
But it is ridiculous all the same.  Our Church is ridiculed that bishops of the Church would put all of this energy and resources into play because they aren’t sure they can trust this bishop, when some of these same bishops apparently can’t put the same energy and resources and coordination into calling the Church to trust in the Word of God for what it teaches regarding the issues that have torn this Church apart —and consequently called into question whether the Church should and can trust any bishop who in fact does trust the Word of God in its fullness.
But because these two things (an inkling of new trust, and trust in a Word of God bishop) go hand in hand with Mark Lawrence, I have even further hope for this Church.  I give it 40 years for the turnaround.
One caveat:  let us not be naive.  The Enemy will attempt to make use of this meeting for different purposes.
So pray strategically for continued opportunities for the development of trust with the right people, and give thanks to the Lord as requested and exhorted.

December 17, 4:23 am | [comment link]
42. wmresearchtrianglenc wrote:

#40 Episcoanglican.  All I intended to convey was that the critical issue isn’t whether a particular bishop (viz., a “majority” bishop) is in error at a particular time, nor is the critical issue whether a particular “majority” bishop is motivated in a certain way. The critical issue is whether TEC is being steered on the wrong course and is thus subject to the risks attendant to that course.  I hoped it was obvious that I don’t think Bishop Lawrence has any responsibility for any wrong course(s) taken by TEC.

December 19, 11:17 pm | [comment link]
43. Luke wrote:

As a former (cradle) Episcopalian who left, with friends, and have begun a new Anglican Church, I just pray that +Mark is able to proceed in the direction he deems necessary successfully.
I do not think for a moment that he is deluded by anything being offered or done in ECUSA, or by ECUSA’s bishops.
I was once privileged to shake +Mark’s hand, at a Trinity Seminary Baccalaureate when our Rector graduated. It will always be a very significant moment in my life.

January 1, 4:03 pm | [comment link]
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