...You will not be asked to make a decision or vote on any resolution at this meeting. This is not a legislative gathering, nor even primarily a meeting to vet resolutions...No doubt that this is an attempt by the Bishop to alleviate some of the anxiety about what is being planned in South Carolina. One would hope that what we are witnessing is not the beginning of the process we saw unfold in San Joaquin and elsewhere.
...It is my hope, even expectation, that this will be a meeting that will initiate a more robust and expansive conversation within this diocese and, even more importantly, set out the principles that will enable us to begin a broader and more active engagement with the challenges we face...
There are good reasons to be quite concerned. It is worth remembering that Bishop Lawrence was previously from San Joaquin, and supported the process that led to the unsuccessful attempt by the Province of the Southern Cone to claim ownership of that entire Diocese.
The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina wrote two letters to the Bishops and Standing Committees which express further concerns about Bishop Lawrence. Here is part of their second letter, dated September 14, 2007:
...Our concern is heightened by recent statements made by Father Lawrence. Following the ruling that his first election was null and void, Father Lawrence stated, "It's time to call for those in the middle to wake up and decide which side you are on." (3/17/07, Charleston, SC, Post and Courier). Further, in a letter by Father Lawrence to his parish, posted August 22, 2007 on his parish's website, he wrote; "I also hold strong convictions on remaining in covenanted fellowship with the worldwide Anglican Communion, rather than following, as some have suggested, the pathway of an overly autonomous provincial or national church."More recent troubling news is that the vestry of a parish in South Carolina has recently adopted this resolution:
His perspective deeply concerns us, as we believe that it would further isolate a substantial number of Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina. A climate of intolerance exists in this diocese, virtually isolating Episcopalians who do not agree with the expressed position of the majority of clergy and lay leaders who are members of the Anglican Communion Network. We fear that climate would be exacerbated by the administration of a bishop with Mark Lawrence's perspective...
Whereas The Episcopal Church in its most recent General Convention has once again exhibited a disregard for Holy Scripture and failed to submit to the Anglican Communion, we the Vestry of Christ St. Paul's Parish, Yonges Island, SC, hereby request that the Diocese of South Carolina be placed under a spiritual authority which holds to the clear teaching of the Holy Scripture and the Bonds of Affection within the Anglican Communion which will give our Diocese a place to thrive.It would seem that it may be time to be developing some contingency plans, if one is a faithful Episcopalian in the Diocese of South Carolina.
It appears that some of the work of preparing for a crisis in South Carolina has already been going on for a few years. I commend to you The Episcopal Forum, which is a group of 400 Episcopalians in South Carolina committed to this mission:
The mission of The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina is to preserve unity with diversity in the Diocese of South Carolina and within The Episcopal Church, through the inclusion of a broad range of Scriptural understandings, and by upholding the democratic actions of its Constitution and Canons, conventions and elected leadership...This group needs our support right now. You can find their contact information here.
Continue your prayers for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.
Pray for the Church.