Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori announced October 29 that the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence had received the consents needed for him to become the next bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.After Mark Lawrence was elected the first time, we had a discussion in which I stated my reservations about our Standing Committees and Bishops giving consent to the election:
The consecration will be held January 26, 2008 at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul in Charleston, South Carolina.
Jefferts Schori has been invited to visit the diocese February 25-26, 2008. "This will give us an opportunity to state with clarity and charity the theological position of this diocese in a manner similar to when we met with [the] Most. Rev. Frank T. Griswold shortly after his installation as presiding bishop," the diocese says in a statement on its website...
...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?The election was declared "null and void" due to "canonical deficiencies" by our Presiding Bishop.
South Carolina held another convention, and elected Mark Lawrence as bishop a second time. In our discussion of this second election, I suggested that it might be appropriate to grant consent this time, due to various statements I had read since the first election regarding Mark Lawrence's loyalty to the Episcopal Church:
...During his attempt to get consents last time, Lawrence danced around the question of his loyalty to TEC. That cost him the consents. However, note the quote above. He made a very clear statement. He declared his loyalty to TEC, and stated that he wouldn't take SC out of TEC.Some of you disagreed with my opinion; possibly for good reasons.
Now that he has said that, the only way to refuse consents is to believe that he is a liar. Personally, I'm not ready to make such a claim.
Having read some of his writing, and followed some of the stories about him, I do not see any comparison between Mark Lawrence and Don Armstrong as being valid. Lawrence seems to be a good priest. Very conservative, yes. Network even. And there is a good possibility that eventually SC will leave TEC, and Lawrence will go with them. But that is not an absolute. I see no reason to give that diocese an extra push, do you?
But, leaving or not leaving is speculation. Looking at the facts as presented, I cannot see any solid reasons why Mark Lawrence won't get the consents this time. I'll be very surprised if he does not.
Here are a couple of my concerns. Mark Lawrence is canonically resident in the Diocese of San Joaquin. That Diocese voted last year to change their canons so that they would no longer be yoked to the Episcopal Church, and so be free to join another Province, most likely the Southern Cone. The canonical changes required a vote at two conventions. After the first vote, you may recall that Bp. Schofield of San Joaquin threatened our Presiding Bishop by saying that if there was any legal action taken against him or the diocese, he would move up the date of the second convention, originally scheduled for October 2007.
A couple of months ago, it was quietly announced that San Joaquin had rescheduled their Convention for December instead of October. If they are so anxious to leave, why was the date of their exit moved back? We'll never know for sure, but I suspect that the fact that the bishop-elect of South Carolina was canonically resident in San Joaquin was a factor in that decision. If Lawrence would have participated in that convention, and voted to support the break with the Episcopal Church, all his rhetoric regarding his loyalty to the Church would be dismissed as empty words. Even if he abstained from voting, the publicity about the actions of his current diocese could have had a negative impact on his ability to receive the necessary consents.
San Joaquin and South Carolina have both been very quiet as this consent process has played out. South Carolina did not send a delegation to the last Network gathering. Now that the consents have been received, will we see these two dioceses remove their self-imposed gag order and resume their attacks on the Episcopal Church?