Sunday, August 09, 2009

Something's Cooking in South Carolina

You may recall that Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina had a difficult time getting the necessary consents to his election a few years ago. He failed to get them after his first election, due to the concerns of many that he might eventually jump ship and try to take the Diocese with him. Then he was re-elected, sent a letter to all the Standing Committees assuring them that he had no intention of leaving the Episcopal Church, and so received the necessary consents. We discussed those developments here, here and here.

Now, two years later, Bishop Lawrence wrote this letter to the members of South Carolina regarding last month's General Convention. Here's his closing thoughts:

...There is an increasingly aggressive displacement within this Church of the gospel of Jesus Christ’s transforming power by the “new” gospel of indiscriminate inclusivity which seeks to subsume all in its wake. It is marked by an increased evangelistic zeal and mission that hints at imperialistic plans to spread throughout the Communion. This calls for a bold response. It is of the utmost importance that we find more than just a place to stand. Indeed, it is imperative that we find a place to thrive; a place that is faithful, relational and structural—and so we shall!
The leadership of the Diocese of South Carolina is currently holding closed meetings. Hints are given that something big is brewing.

David Trimble offers the most thorough summary of what this "something" might be. However, I do need to correct David on one point; a point that I believe is quite crucial.

Here is the quote that I find to be a bit misleading:

It is widely reported that +Lawrence pledged, during the process of his election and approval as Bishop, that he would not lead DioSC out of TEO. I wondered at the time what such a pledge really meant, because a Bishop cannot truly "lead" such a move by his or her own fiat, but it must be voted by the Standing Committee and Diocesan Convention.

Commenter Suepie at Stand Firm says, however, that this is a misquote of what +Lawrence said, but rather his "pledge" was: “I said I was willing to abide by the consecration vows of a bishop. They asked me what would I do to keep the Diocese of South Carolina in the Episcopal Church. I said I will work at least as hard to keep the Diocese of South Carolina in the Episcopal Church as my brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church work to keep the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion. There is a mutual accountability we all have.”
David got it partially right. Bishop Lawrence did indeed make the statement quoted above, as can be seen here, on November 6, 2006. That letter did little to calm the fears of most of the Standing Committees. In March of 2007, his election was declared null and void.

Bishop Lawrence was re-elected by the people of South Carolina. According to the Episcopal News Service, on March 8, 2007, Bishop-elect Lawrence sent a second letter to all the Standing Committees, which included this statement:

...As I stated at the walkabout in Charleston on September 9, 2006, and again in a statement written on 6 November 2006, I will make the vows of conformity as written in the Book of Common Prayer and the Constitution & Canons, (III.11.8). I will heartily make the vows conforming ' the doctrine, discipline, and worship' of the Episcopal Church, as well as the trustworthiness of the Holy Scriptures. So to put it as clearly as I can, my intention is to remain in The Episcopal Church.
I could not find the March 8, 2007 letter on the South Carolina website, where I am sure it resided at one time. However, it can be seen reprinted here and here, and is referenced here.

" intention is to remain in The Episcopal Church." That is the statement made by Bishop Lawrence. That is the statement that made it possible for him to receive the neccessary consents. I want to believe that the Bishop will honor that intention.

The actions of General Convention may be seen by some as indicating some future direction for The Episcopal Church, but the truth of the matter is that nothing has changed. That's not an opinion, by the way. That is what a careful reading of the two resolutions causing concern (D025 and C056) reveals, if one removes all the spin attached to them and simply considers the actual wording of the resolutions themselves. I do not see how those two resolutions by themselves would be cause for Bishop Lawrence to abandon his stated intention to remain in TEC.

So, what might South Carolina decide to do?

Steve Wood suggests that it is time for South Carolina to join the imaginary province of ACNA.

Mark Harris suspects they will take some other path, such as signing up to the Anglican Covenant as a Diocese, while pulling their financial support from TEC.

I would guess that indeed some middle way will be found, most likely along the lines of the recent Anaheim Statement or this statement signed by 15 Bishops and the three members of the Anglican Communion Institute (for background on the latter, don't miss this post by Mark Harris).

So, that's what we know about what is happening in South Carolina, for now. If anyone has more information about this situation, please find a way to make it public.

Now, a request: Let's hold back the snark and the angry comments, please (yes, I am indeed preaching to myself here!). From my understanding, no final decisions have been made yet in SC. Let's not add any unneccesary additional fuel to this fire, ok? Thanks.

Pray for the Diocese of South Carolina.

Pray for the Church.


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