Saturday, December 16, 2006

Bethlehem Denies Consent to Fr. Lawrence

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Bethlehem voted unanimously not to consent to the election of Mark Lawrence as bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. The explanation for their decision is given on the diocesan website (pdf) and on Andrew Gerns' site. This statement is a good resource for other standing committees and bishops who have not yet made their decision regarding this matter. Here is a segment that is especially worth noting:

...Asked if the Presiding Bishop would be welcome to preside at his consecration, Father Lawrence said that “would be a most unwelcome situation for the vast majority of priests and laypersons of the Diocese of South Carolina.”

Asked further if he would recognize Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and as his Primate, Father Lawrence evaded the question, saying simply that he recognized her “as the legitimately elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church,” and that he recognized also that “her actions as bishop of Nevada in condoning same sex blessings … put her in violation of the Windsor Report and, consequently, compromise her ability to function in primatial authority and relationship.”

Considering the current nature of the Windsor Report, one cannot be “in violation” of it, though one can act in violation of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. We heard Father Lawrence’s answer as non-responsive.

To a question about what his response would be if the convention of the Diocese of South Carolina voted to leave the Episcopal Church, Father Lawrence said, “I don’t think that speculative questions of this nature … are either reasonable or helpful.”

We heard that as a refusal to respond to a question we thought had to be asked, and answered.

To the question whether he would “uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church as now constituted,” Father Lawrence said “neither the Standing Committee of South Carolina nor I have made plans to leave the Episcopal Church.”

We would have been encouraged if Father Lawrence had a plan not to leave the Episcopal Church.

Some may ask why we would not consent to the election by South Carolina of Father Lawrence as their bishop when the Episcopal Church consented to New Hampshire’s election of Canon Gene Robinson.

We consider the consent question to be an ecclesiological, not a theological, question. Neither Father Lawrence’s nor Canon Robinson’s theology is relevant to the consent process.

Had Canon Robinson been as unclear or cavalier about his willingness to remain at table with those who disagreed with him, even defaming his character, it is likely he would not have received the required consents for him to be a bishop.

The crucial difference between the ecclesiology of these two men is that one clearly indicated that he would not work for reconciliation within a church with whom his own theology and understanding of scripture disagrees. Father Lawrence’s own words suggest rather that he would work with those who would expel the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion.

We do not see how Father Lawrence can claim to promise to uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church. He would see himself as a bishop of the Anglican Communion and not of the Episcopal Church. However, we are only in the Anglican Communion by virtue of our being a part of the Episcopal Church...

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