Thursday, December 14, 2006

Should the Bishop-Elect of SC Receive Consents?

We have previously discussed the election of Mark Lawrence as Bishop of South Carolina. There continues to be some concern regarding consenting to his election. From what I understand, currently South Carolina has heard from 28 dioceses. 10 of them have denied consent. Considering that those dioceses aligned with the Network (7 to 10, depending on your source) were most likely the first to respond to requests for consents, it is still questionable if Fr. Lawrence will receive the required majority of consents.

Beyond the concerns that we have already discussed, a new development has raised further questions. Fr. Lawrence wrote to the Bishops and Standing Committees. His letter did little to alleviate concerns, and introduced a few new ones. Lionel Deimel, author of an earlier essay regarding this issue entitled No Consents, has introduced a new essay that carefully scrutinizes Fr. Lawrence's letter; The Annotated Mark Lawrence. In his introduction to this essay, Lionel offers the following summary:

1. Lawrence has taken pains to be truthful, but, on questions where his views are likely to alarm mainstream Episcopalians, he is not above employing obfuscation or avoiding a question.
2. Lawrence seems put out by having to answer questions in general, and questions about his and South Carolina’s commitment to The Episcopal Church, in particular.
3. Ironically, Lawrence and I agree that dioceses do not have a categorical right to the bishop of their choice. We disagree on appropriate criteria for episcopal suitability.
4. Lawrence has a passion for theology, but this theology seems decidedly un-Anglican in its emphasis on enforcing correct doctrine and on not tolerating viewpoints distinguishable from his own (such as those of the new Presiding Bishop, for example).
5. Lawrence fails to reassure us that he will not lead the Diocese of South Carolina out of The Episcopal Church.
6. Lawrence disparages the polity of The Episcopal Church—especially its autonomy—and insists that “globalization” requires new ecclesiastical structures to assure uniformity of belief and to preserve “traditional” doctrine. He would subordinate all voices to what is deemed “traditional,” which could preclude responding effectively or innovatively to a complex, troubled, and increasingly interconnected world.
7. Lawrence views alternative primatial oversight as a way of bypassing a Presiding Bishop who, although she does not agree with his opinion on certain matters, has made it clear that she will represent them faithfully and fairly.
8. Lawrence touts his past good behavior as evidence that he deserves our trust, but he gives us many reasons to expect that his past behavior may not be a good predictor of his future actions. He hedges on his commitment to vows to uphold the “Doctrine, Discipline and Worship” of The Episcopal Church, and he suggests, like other Network bishops, that he may minimize his participation in the House of Bishops.
9. Lawrence offers a defective marriage analogy to explain his view of the disputes within The Episcopal Church. His analysis is one-sided and self-serving. It follows a pattern in which the bishop-elect’s self-reflection and self-criticism are difficult to discern alongside his severe judgment of others, particularly of the majority of Episcopalians.
For those who desire an even more boiled down version of the controversy, let me see if I can fit it all in one sentence. Can the Episcopal Church give consent to the election of a bishop who has such a low regard for the constitution and canons of the Church, does not recognize our Presiding Bishop as our spiritual leader, and appears to be an advocate for schism?


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