Saturday, October 21, 2006

Via Media Urges Closer Scrutiny of Bishop-elect Lawrence

In letters to all the Bishops and Standing Committees of the Episcopal Church, Christopher Wilkins, Facilitator of Via Media USA, urges careful consideration before giving consent to the election of Mark Lawrence as Bishop of South Carolina:

...Fr. Lawrence’s episcopacy would represent a threat to the unity of our church and to the cohesion of the Diocese of South Carolina. The case against consenting to Fr. Lawrence’s election is not based on his theology or personal beliefs, but on the way these are likely to affect the polity, and hence the unity and integrity, of this church. Fr. Lawrence has endorsed separating the Diocese of South Carolina from the Episcopal Church and has advocated that the authority of the General Convention be surrendered to the primates of the Anglican Communion. Under the circumstances, it is difficult to see how Fr. Lawrence could be asked or expected to take the required vow to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church,” (BCP page 517)...
We have previously discussed some concerns regarding the election of Mark Lawrence. Lionel Deimel offers a much more thorough examination of his past statements in an article titled No Consents:

...The Rev. Mark Lawrence, rector of an Episcopal parish in the Diocese of San Joaquin, has been elected by the Diocese of South Carolina to become its next bishop. He is on record as saying that the polity of The Episcopal Church is informed more by notions of democracy and nationalism than Anglicanism, disqualifying it as being appropriate for the current age. He wants to replace it immediately and, without sanction of the General Convention, allow the Anglican primates to govern The Episcopal Church. The election of Mark Lawrence offers a clear indication of just how radical the Diocese of South Carolina has become; he was generally viewed as the most centrist of the three candidates in the episcopal election that took place in South Carolina on September 16, 2006!

Is a person holding such views someone we want to see become a member of the House of Bishops and, thereby, part of the governing structure of The Episcopal Church? This question needs to be asked now because Lawrence cannot be consecrated Bishop of South Carolina unless a majority of bishops with jurisdiction, and a majority of diocesan standing committees, give their consent. In the history of The Episcopal Church, fewer than a dozen priests elected bishop have failed to receive the necessary consents, and it has been more than half a century since anyone has been denied consecration this way. Lawrence’s election poses an unprecedented challenge, however. When confronted by such a clear and present danger to its very existence—the South Carolina election is part of the wider assault on The Episcopal Church—can our church rally the resolve to protect its faith and order? I believe that it must, and that the outcome of the South Carolina election should not be allowed to stand...
Take a careful look at the documents Lionel cites. If some of the answers to the clergy survey (note especially 17-21) are not enough evidence of a serious impediment, consider this quote from Lawrence:

...As I see it at present, of the four instruments of unity, the only one capable of such inclusive yet negotiable action is the most recently established of the four, the primates. They alone have a sufficiently representative authority to set theological boundaries and perimeters for the individual provinces until the Communion can do the necessary constitutional work to realize the intercultural, inter-provincial unity we have claimed for ourselves over the past two centuries.

Such primatial authority in things doctrinal and moral will cause much distress, as will the separate matter of developing a unifying constitution. It will mean that Episcopal Church polity, as well as the polity of the other autonomously governed provinces, will be supplanted by a new, emerging form of Anglican governance sufficient for the age of globalism...
We have a bishop-elect who believes there should be no room in the Episcopal Church for priests and bishops who accept homosexual conduct as a valid, non-sinful choice, the church should divide over this issue, and if the Diocese of South Carolina separates in some formal way from TEC, he will leave with the diocese. He advocates for the polity of TEC to be replaced by governance by the Primates. He champions schism.

I think we have good reasons to be concerned about Mark Lawrence becoming a Bishop in TEC. I believe it is time to openly discuss these concerns.

It is my understanding that Via Media USA seeks to bring more light than heat to this discussion. That is my hope as well. Take a deep beath, rein in your emotions............and now let the conversation begin.

J.

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