Bishop Mark Lawrence’s April Address given in England - Transcript

Posted by The_Elves

Transcript of the talk given to the Guildford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship of the Church of England Evangelical Council in April 2012.
The Presiding Bishop hired an attorney in the Diocese of South Carolina, who presented himself as ‘Counsel for The Episcopal Church in South Carolina’. I said, wait a minute, according to our polity we are The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. I am the only one that has juridical or jurisdictional authority here. She has not spoken to me. She has not asked for my permission, and there is no constitutional or canonical authority that the Presiding Bishop has to hire an attorney to investigate me and the Diocese or South Carolina. We called a Special Convention; told the Presiding Bishop to remove the attorney. I have never received any notice from her – it is four years later.

That brought us into a cold war with the national church, and in a cold war the difficulty is everything you do to protect yourself in a cold war, can be interpreted by the person on the opposite side of the cold war as an act of aggression. That goes for me towards them and them towards me and so we have lived with that for three years now.

I need to conclude because our time is all but up, mine is already past. In the Fall of last year, I was informed that there were 12 allegations brought against me that I had abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church. And after 2 or 3 months, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops came back and said, there is not enough evidence - I think that is the simplest way to put it – that I have abandoned the communion and so I will not be brought up on charges. They will not go forward to become actual charges, they will just be removed.

Philip Plyming:
It’s my pleasure to hand over now to the Chair of the DEF, Stephen Hofmeyr, who is going to introduce our two speakers.

Stephen Hofmeyr, QC:
Thank you very much indeed Philip.
Some of you will know the bishops well, others of you will not, and so please forgive me – I just thought it would just be helpful if I gave you just something of their backgrounds.

Bishop Mark Lawrence was born in Bakersfield, California. He is a fifth generation Californian. He is married to Alison and they have five married children, some of whom are following in their father’s footsteps. His youngest daughter in fact right now is expecting. He is hoping that the baby will be born today, on St Mark’s Day, so let’s be praying for her at this time. He was educated at California State University, Bakersfield - BA in 1976 and Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry - he got a Masters in Divinity in 1980. He also has received honorary doctorates from Nashotah House in 2008 and Sewanee in 2009.

Bishop Lawrence has ministered in a wide variety of parish settings – suburban church plant, rural mission, inner-city church, downtown parish. These include Holy Family in Fresno, California, St Mark’s Shafter, California 1881-84, St Stephen’s, [McKeesport] Pennsylvania 84 to 97 and St Paul’s Bakersfield California 1997 to 2007. Bishop Mark is widely known for being a dedicated pastor-teacher. He served as a deputy to the General Conventions of 2003 and 2006 and he has published articles on devotional and ecclesial concerns in various different periodicals. Bishop Mark was consecrated the fourteenth bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina on the 26th January 2008, and just to bring him down to earth as well, like many of us he enjoys reading on various subjects. He likes outdoor activities – hiking, back-packing, canoeing, fishing and jogging.

Bishop John Guernsey was born in St Louis, Missouri and now lives in Woodbridge, Virginia, and his wife, the Reverend Meg Phillips Guernsey is with us this evening and we welcome you as well. They have two married children. Bishop Guernsey is a Magna Cum Laude graduate from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. He earned his Master of Divinity degree from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bishop Guernsey served as the Associate Rector for Christchurch in Alexandria, Virginia from 1978 to 1981 and was called to be Rector of All Saints Church, Dale City, Virginia, a position he then held for 29 years, and during that time from 1982 to 1993 he also served as an Adjunct Professor of Pastoral Theology in the area of Stewardship at the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary of Virginia.

In 2007 he was consecrated as the Bishop for Congregations in America under the Church of Uganda, and he became Bishop of the Diocese of the Holy Spirit in the Anglican Church of North America in 2009 shortly after that was formed, following the GAFCON Conference in 2008. He serves as a volunteer in many ways on a number of different ACNA committees. He also serves as Chairman of the board of SOMA [Sharing of Ministries Abroad] USA and he has served as the Dean of the Mid-Atlantic Convocation of the Anglican Communion Network 2004 to 2009 and on a number of other committees and agencies.

So we have two very distinguished bishops with us this evening. We are most grateful for you giving up – it is the one free night they have at the FCA Conference this week – and they have given up that night to be with us, so thank you both very much indeed. Bishop Mark will speak to us first in a moment and Bishop John after that. But before they do I am just going to hand over to Julian Henderson who has a message to bring.

Julian Henderson, Archdeacon of Dorking:
Thank you Stephen - just simply to add a welcome not just from the Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship, but from the Diocese of Guildford and Bishop Christopher knows that this gathering is happening and has asked that these words be read out as a form of his welcome to both of you here in the Diocese this evening:

‘I hope the evening at Claygate on the 25th with Bishops Mark and John goes well. I wonder if you would be kind enough to give my greetings to the assembled gathering as the host church. You may add if you wish that it is my intuition and prayerful hope that in the long term there can be some restoration of relationship between the two streams of Anglicanism in the United States such that the rifts within the whole Anglican Communion may also at least in part be healed.’

So he sends his greeting and his welcome to you and he is delighted that this meeting here tonight is happening and I think I have been asked to pray for our two bishops. Let us pray.

God our Father, we thank you for the opportunity of meeting here this evening. We thank you again for Bishops John and Mark and their willingness to be with us. We pray that you will help them as they now come to speak to us and inform us. We pray that it will be a useful meeting for us as we listen and learn and we pray that you would help us to hear your voice and what it is that you are saying to us in this country through the experience of our colleagues across the water. And so we pray, Father, for your blessing on this evening’s gathering, that it may be for your glory and the extending of your kingdom for Christ’s sake we pray. Amen.

6 mins, 45 seconds in
Bishop Lawrence
Stephen mentioned that we gave up the only free evening. I don’t think I have given up anything. It is a delight to be here with you tonight and to talk a little bit about the challenges that we face in the Diocese of South Carolina, and thank you for your interest.

When I meet with our various deaneries to talk about the various challenges and things coming up recently in our various conventions and special conventions I’ve said: you know I have to thank you first off tonight because you have given up an evening, and evenings are precious things. And most people go to church, at least the last time I checked, to be comforted, to be strengthened and to be encouraged, and to walk into these muddy waters of church conflict and struggle are anything but comforting, encouraging and strengthening. So the fact that you are willing to engage these things, especially for those of us who are Anglicans on the other side of the Atlantic, thank you, and I am sure I am speaking for Bishop John as well.

How to talk about these things in 20 minutes? Let me say first that I received a letter recently from an editor inviting me to write an article for a publication and it said in the letter: ‘As you are aware, Anglicans in our age are facing a unique set of problems, and there are an array of responses that North American Anglicans are making, and we are wondering if you would be willing to make a contribution to that. We do ask that it be positively written, emphasising what can be done rather than just what cannot be done.

A Unique Set of Problems – well let’s go quickly through them:

Anglicanism, Episcopalianism, that I received so many decades ago, the way I’ve described it has been dominated in the Episcopal Church by what I’ve called an ‘Indiscriminate Inclusivity’, that like Kudsu on an old growth forest [Kudzu is a plant from Africa that has taken root in many parts of the American South] and since there is no natural enemy or hindrance to it, it just goes rampant and it will cover entire forests. And the first time I came to South Carolina as a Californian and driving down the highway you’d see these vines covering the trees and I thought ‘well that’s lovely’ you know, because in California it is more desert, arid. So the lush green looked gorgeous. What I didn’t know is the Kudzu is killing the tree upon which it had climbed and gutting it of all life] – and so I’ve described this gospel, a false gospel of Indiscriminate Inclusivity, not that we don’t want to be inclusive of all people, but we can include certain things indiscriminately that can begin to destroy the church from within. And so I have described it as Kudzu in an old-growth forest that has decked The Episcopal Church with decorative destruction.

And one of the key dimensions of that, besides what we would call ‘Communion of the Unbaptised’ would be just one indiscriminate inclusivity. But another would be to fully embrace what Helmut Thielicke once called ‘Individual Eros.’ Individual Eros - he didn’t mean just our sexual expression, but how we understand ourselves sexually, and he began to see as he wrote in the 1970s and 80s that people were beginning to define how they, by their own choice how they went about expressing their eros, their whole sense of romance, sexuality, behaviour. But Individual Eros has gone now to the point of not just how I express my sexuality, but what my sexuality is, and we now have the capacity don’t we, because of medical developments in technology to even change our sexuality, so that we are at a place where we can choose whether we be male or female, how we engage that, how we understand that, everything about sexuality is now individualised; and it can be radically reinterpreted, reapplied, lived out and changed.

Then there is this tearing of the fabric of the Anglican Communion that recent decisions of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada has brought about, which I assume that most of you at least know something. And then the fracturing within Anglicanism in North America, and the recent law suits, parallel jurisdictions, provinces that have emerged.

And then there is the reshaping and revision of the polity of The Episcopal Church, in some cases in order to win litigation and law suits, so that the polity of the church is being revised, reinterpreted and transformed for the sake of an agenda of control over things like property.

And then there is the radical decline within The Episcopal Church in terms of numbers. I don’t have time to go into all of those things; but that is just a quick thumbnail sketch of the overarching challenges that we face within North American Anglicanism.

Now let me talk briefly about the context of the Diocese of South Carolina and the complexity of that; and then what I see as our calling or vocation; and then finally our challenges.

When I became Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina in 2008, I inherited a strongly evangelical orthodox diocese, that most people on the outside assumed was almost monolithic in its approach to the Christian Faith as Anglicans or Episcopalians. But as I began to drive around the diocese, I began to see that it was a bit more diverse than that, especially in terms of how we are understanding the current challenges which I outlined to you just ever so briefly, and along with that is how we should respond to them. So, about a year into the whole task of being a bishop, and I had visited every parish and made a visitation at all the parishes of the diocese, often doing that by visiting two or three on a Sunday, or in the middle of the week – and I developed what I would call a taxonomy or typology for the Diocese of South Carolina. You may recognise some of these characteristics in your parishes or congregations:

There were the Number Ones who were in lockstep with the decisions of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church for the last 20 years, completely on board with what I would call this ‘gospel of Indiscriminate Inclusivity’ and wherever The Episcopal Church goes in its decisions, they will gladly go, even enthusiastically go. They are not merely following it, some are even leading the charge - very few actually in South Carolina leading the charge. But that group, what I call the Number Ones, make up 10 per cent of the diocese.

Then there are the Number Twos, I call them ‘St Swithun’s by the Swamp’, and St Swithun’s by the Swamp just want to do what they have done at St Swithun’s for two or three hundred years. My job as bishop is to keep all the problems of the national church away from them, and all the problems of the diocese away from them, and if I need to show up once a year for a confirmation, a visitation, that’s fine, but ‘bishop here’s the reception, and there’s your car, have a pleasant journey back to Charleston’.

They just want to be St Swithun’s and they are convinced that these things that I am talking about aren’t going to happen, in South Carolina. God-willing on my watch, I trust they won’t, but as I said the culture is bringing it all to a neighbourhood near you, so you need to awaken and engage the challenge culturally if not ecclesiologically. But those are the Number Twos – they make up about 30 to 35 percent of the diocese of South Carolina.

Then there were the Number Threes, I call them ‘St Mary’s by the Marsh’. They keep up with what is going on, not every day, but they will visit the blogs at least once a week. They really become involved when there is some controversy. They know there’s problems out there, they know they are opposed to them. They make sure that it is not going to happen in their parish: ‘There may be a day that we cross the Rubicon and we have to leave The Episcopal Church, but it hasn’t happened yet’. Every General Convention, as it approaches, and there is one this Summer in 2012 in July - it may be a rattling of the cages but by and large – they make up 35 percent of the Diocese of South Carolina: ‘There may be a time we have to leave but it hasn’t yet happened’.

Then there are the Number Fours. They have had two questions of me from the time I landed in South Carolina. The first question is: ‘Are we leaving, or are we going?’ [laughter], and the second is like unto it: ‘When?’ And they are some of our strongest, most innovative, and evangelistic parishes.

So that was the Diocese of South Carolina. And so the Number Threes and the Number Fours were all focused on this question: ‘Are we leaving or not?’ and I told you the Number Fours were not ‘Are we leaving or not?’ but ‘When?’ and ‘Are we leaving or going?’ And then the Number Twos were concerned about that because they just want to be who they are and they are afraid of something that might disrupt. And the Number Ones, 10 per cent of the diocese, they are concerned about that because they are enthusiastically Episcopalian whatever that means and wherever that goes.

So, As I began to look at that I thought: you know, you know the problem with this is we are paralysed by a decision. And the problem with a decision is a decision is not a vision. You can make a decision about leaving or staying and still not have a vision for who you are and what you are to be about!

And it just so happened my first year as a bishop I ended up going to Lambeth 2008 and I also went to GAFCON, so I got a good exposure to the Communion. I came back thinking to myself what I had already suspected as a parish priest and that is that what is at stake in this current crisis in North America is not The Episcopal Church. Frankly the Episcopal Church could drop off the face of the earth and it would hardly be a blip on the radar screen of the kingdom of God. Well – we are less than two million people, and on any given Sunday we are lucky if we have 600 thousand people in church. There are more Muslims in the United States than there are Episcopalians - far more Pentecostals of various different denominations than there are Episcopalians - we are hardly a blip on the radar screen of the kingdom of God in North America. But the Anglican Communion, ah now, now we are talking about 80 million Christians, the third largest body in Christendom.

As I began to think about this I thought what is at stake here is the Anglican Communion, and whatever we do in the Diocese of South Carolina, it is time that we begin to think as a diocese, not about what’s best for us, but what’s best for the larger Anglican world. And so ‘Emerging Anglicanism’, that’s what had caught my imagination as to what we are to be about – helping to shape that. And so as I began to look at that I thought you know, our vocation here in the 21st Century has to go beyond ourselves. As the Stanford Economist Paul Romer once said ‘a crisis is a terrible thing to waste’ [laughter]. Sometimes I think we are wasting it as Anglicans. We are not grappling with what we need to be engaged with.

So, I wrote a vision statement for us. It went like this: We will help shape the future of Anglicanism in the 21st Century through mutually enriching missional relationships with dioceses and provinces of the Anglican Communion [biblical texts Romans 1:11 and 12, 2 Corinthians 9:1-15], and through modelling a responsible autonomy and inter-provincial accountability [Philippians 2:1-5 and Ephesians 4:1-6] for the sake of Jesus Christ, His Kingdom and His church.

Now the problem with that as a vision statement is – you are never going to get most of the people in the diocese to even read it, let alone remember it. So I thought yup, boil it down to T-shirt size. You know I’m from California, you got to have it on a T-shirt. So the T-shirt version of that vision is:

‘We are called to make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age.’

There’s no going back, even if you are St Swithun’s by the Swamp. There’s no going back to a non-global age. What happens in Rwanda is read about in Alaska. What happens in New Zealand is read about the next day in Egypt. You can’t even be a farmer without knowing what to plant because of who is going to be buying products and needing goods in various parts of the world. How in the world do we think we in the church can somehow or another begin to focus or continue to focus on our own little world, as if the rest of the globe is not important? Well I don’t need to tell you as English persons that. And so, our task was to make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age.

I need to tell you something by the way before I forget. When I say the Number Fours were asking are we leaving or are we going and when, it’s not because they are separatists. They really want to be Anglicans. You see no one goes into Episcopal or Anglican ministry because he or she wants a preaching station. They are there because they are committed to at very minimum, the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral: the importance of Holy Scriptures as the Word of God containing everything necessary for Salvation, point 1 of the Lambeth Quadrilateral. Number 2 is the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist with the words instituted by Christ. The historic Creeds as a sufficient statement of faith and the historic Episcopate locally adapted. And most of the Number Fours, if not all of the Number Fours, if they left would want to be reconnected, or connected or linked somehow or another with some Anglican body. We are not talking about separatists back in the time of Elizabeth or later. We are talking about people who want to be Anglicans. But it has become for them such a profound compromise with this, what I have called a false gospel of Indiscriminate Inclusivity, that they feel like it is hindering their mission.

So, that was the context, if you will, within the Diocese of South Carolina. That is our mission to make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age. So we have formed relationships with Egypt, North Africa, Horn of Africa, the Sudan, Uganda, Ireland [Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh], various dioceses in England, the province of Tanzania, Turkey, we have Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali as the visiting bishop of Anglican Communion relationships, connected with Burundi, Uganda. We have connections all over the Anglican world because you see, we are so isolated as a diocese that if we are going to model a legitimate, authentic, responsible autonomy we better be in relationship with other places around the world who can keep us authentic and true to our calling.

So, I said that we would quickly look at the context of South Carolina, our calling to make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age. The challenge is that while we are struggling with these, what I would call theological and moral issues of a false gospel as I understand it, we also have a church which is changing its polity, as I said in some cases, at least from my perspective [others would give you a different take], in order - You know when an institution begins to decline it seeks greater and ever greater control over what remains. It doesn’t realise that that is the wrong thing it needs to do. And so one of the things that happened at General Convention 2009 is that we changed what is called the Title IV canons - the disciplinary canons of The Episcopal Church. They expanded the charges that a priest could be brought up on. They expanded the power of the bishop over a priest to pursue charges and in one reading of it, in our reading of it within the diocese, it removed the priest’s – what’s the word I want – rights for due process.

And along with that, as it expanded the powers of the Presiding Bishop over a Diocesan Bishop, essentially granting the Presiding Bishop metropolitan powers, the same powers that a bishop has over his or her diocese, the Presiding Bishop through this disciplinary canon, now has that power over a sitting bishop. That is contrary to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church, so we as a diocese looked at that and said we are not embracing that canon, because the Constitution takes precedence over the canons of the church and it is an unconstitutional canon that has been constructed, that has been approved and we are not going down that road. That happened in 2009.

I don’t have time to go into all these things but let me briefly say another thing that happened in the Fall of 2009 - there was a Court Ruling. My predecessor had a parish that chose to leave, some 10 years before I arrived on the scene in South Carolina, that formed what is called the Anglican Mission in America. Some of you may have heard of the Anglican Mission in America. That mission that broke away from The Episcopal Church, its headquarters are located in the Diocese of South Carolina. They sued the Diocese of South Carolina. We counter-sued. The Episcopal Church nationally entered into the lawsuit and that went on for some eight to nine years, and in the Fall of 2009 the Supreme Court of the State of South Carolina ruled in favour of the departing parish. It is probably, if not the only, one of the most clearest rulings of any Supreme Court – it went contrary to what is the case every place else in the United States.

So suddenly, we have a landscape in South Carolina where parishes believe and rectors believe they can leave the diocese at any time, take their property with them. Suddenly how do I hold the Number Fours together? How do I keep them intact? Well it can no longer be by coercion, by manipulation or fear. There is only one thing that can hold us together, and that is a common commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a common vision of what we are called to do.

Most of the diocese held firmly to that. Our largest congregation came to the conclusion that to continue with The Episcopal Church was going to hinder their proclamation of the Gospel and they felt conscience-bound to leave at that time, or to begin a process to leave at that time. It is not that they wanted to leave the Diocese of South Carolina, they are quite comfortable with that, but to be labelled with The Episcopal Church was hindering their mission.

So when noises began on that front, the Presiding Bishop hired an attorney in the Diocese of South Carolina, who presented himself as ‘Counsel for The Episcopal Church in South Carolina’. I said, wait a minute, according to our polity we are The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. I am the only one that has juridical or jurisdictional authority here. She has not spoken to me. She has not asked for my permission, and there is no constitutional or canonical authority that the Presiding Bishop has to hire an attorney to investigate me and the Diocese or South Carolina. We called a Special Convention; told the Presiding Bishop to remove the attorney. I have never received any notice from her – it is four years later.

That brought us into a cold war with the national church, and in a cold war the difficulty is everything you do to protect yourself in a cold war, can be interpreted by the person on the opposite side of the cold war as an act of aggression. That goes for me towards them and them towards me and so we have lived with that for three years now.

I need to conclude because our time is all but up, mine is already past. In the Fall of last year, I was informed that there were 12 allegations brought against me that I had abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church. And after 2 or 3 months, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops came back and said, there is not enough evidence - I think that is the simplest way to put it – that I have abandoned the communion and so I will not be brought up on charges. They will not go forward to become actual charges, they will just be removed.

But one of the things I have continued to seek to do, is to not see the Anglican Church in North America as our enemy - that if we can bless a priest, a deacon, a congregation within the Anglican Church n North America, we would seek to do that - so that when St Andrew’s Mount Pleasant, our largest parish left, we brought no lawsuit against them - challenges when allegations were brought against me that I did not sue them or practice litigation. And so we look for opportunities that we can be of assistance to them and pray that they look for opportunities to be a blessing to us. So in spite of the fact that many within The Episcopal Church see the Anglican Church in North America as the enemy, we are committed to see them as our brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, many of them served right beside us in various councils of the Diocese of South Carolina, and in The Episcopal Church.

I am going to end there because I am over time. [Applause].

To 35 mins in

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

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