ENS carried a report on 16 September, SOUTH CAROLINA: Diocese proposes resolutions to ‘protect’ itself. The diocesan convention meets again on 15 October.
As Kendall Harmon explained it on 15 September:
At the Clergy Conference held at St. Paul’s, Summerville, on September 2, Mr. Alan Runyan, legal counsel for the Diocese, presented a report detailing revisions to the Title IV Canons of the Episcopal Church, which were approved at the 2009 General Convention. These Canons deal directly with issues of clergy discipline, both for priests and bishops. The impact of these changes is profound. It is our assessment that these changes contradict the Constitution of The Episcopal Church and make unacceptable changes in our polity, elevating the role of bishops, particularly the Presiding Bishop, and removing the duly elected Standing Committee of a Diocese from its current role in most of the disciplinary process. The changes also result in the removal of much of the due process and legal safeguards for accused clergy that are provided under the current Canons. For a detailed explanation of these concerns, members of the diocese are encouraged to review the paper co-authored by Mr. Runyan and found on the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) website.
In response, the Standing Committee is offering five resolutions to address the concerns we have with these changes. View the resolutions. Each represents an essential element of how we protect the diocese from any attempt at un-Constitutional intrusions into our corporate life in South Carolina. In the coming weeks these resolutions, along with an explanation of the Title IV changes, will be discussed in the Deanery Convocations for delegates, as we prepare for Convention to reconvene on October 15th. By these resolutions, we will continue to stand for the Gospel in South Carolina and pursue our vision of “Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age.”
The proposed resolutions can be found here (PDF).
The detailed analysis of the canons to which objection is being taken is on the Anglican Communion Institute website, Title IV Revisions: Unmasked.
A group named Episcopal Forum of South Carolina issued a letter on 22 September, addressed to the House of Bishops and the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, titled The Alienation and Disassociation of the Diocese of South Carolina from The Episcopal Church. The text of that letter is here (PDF). It concludes:
“We wish to call to your attention the recent actions and inactions on the part of the diocesan leadership and leaders in parishes and missions within the Diocese of South Carolina, which we believe are accelerating the process of alienation and disassociation of the Diocese of South Carolina from The Episcopal Church.
In accordance with our Mission statement, we feel compelled to emphasize the importance of the issues that we include in our attached documents. Specifically, we enumerate issues that present grave concern to us, as Episcopalians in our Diocese, and we request that The Episcopal Church leadership investigate the situation in our Diocese.”
The Bishop of South Carolina, Mark Lawrence, has responded to this, see Bishop Lawrence Responds to Request for Investigation.
Yesterday a group within the Diocese known as the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina wrote to the House of Bishops and the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church urging them to investigate my actions as Bishop and the actions of our Standing Committee. They have cited seven concerns as the foundation for their request. While these are trying times for Episcopalians and there is much need for listening carefully to one another, I do not want to let these accusations stand or go without response. Perhaps in their anxiety they have done us all a favor—indeed, presenting me with a teachable moment for this diocese and, dare I hope to believe, for others as well who may have read their letter. I will strive to refrain from using ecclesiastical language (Episcopalianese) or unduly difficult theology. Unfortunately, due to the accusations, a certain amount of each is necessary. Nevertheless, I will tune my writing as well as I can for the person in the pew. I will proceed by first putting forth in italics the accusation. In most cases I will just use their language, then, give my response. This could be much longer, but there is little need to try your patience…
The first of two articles criticising the proposed resolutions, by Dr Joan Gunderson of Pittsburgh What the Diocese of South Carolina May Get Wrong is available here (PDF).
…I am truly surprised by the Anglican Communion Institute’s and the Diocese of South Carolina’s sudden negative reaction to the revised Title IV (ecclesiastical discipline) of the Episcopal Church canons. While I do not find the revision perfect and hesitated briefly before voting for them as a deputy at the 2009 General Convention, the time for protest is long past. In fact, these canons were developed over at least seven years in an open process that included posting of multiple drafts. The 2006 draft received numerous criticisms, but questions of constitutionality were not raised. In fact, conservative blogger Brad Drell republished (June 9, 2006), a set of comments made by Province I Chancellors after a careful study of the 2006 draft.
Constitutionality issues were raised neither by Drell nor the Province I Chancellors. General Convention listened to the many critics and, rather than pass the 2006 version sent the draft back to committee for further revision. The intent of the revision was to move away from an adversarial mode based on a courtroom trial model focused on uncovering truth and fostering reconciliation. Its closest model was the professional standards board. Driving the revision were concerns about dealing with sexual misconduct, not theological controversy…
And she concludes:
So why is there such a fuss now? Is it really the changes that worry South Carolina, or is it that some are looking for a wedge issue to drive South Carolina further from the rest of the Church and isolate it more? Were some of South Carolina’s leaders following a strategy based on evading one set of disciplinary canons only to find that the loopholes they had counted on were about to be closed? Were South Carolina leaders so asleep at the switch that for five years they didn’t notice a major revision of the canons until the deadline for implementation of the canons drew near? Whatever explanation you pick, it would seem the problem lies more within the Diocese of South Carolina than in Title IV.
Expect more on this story soon.
Update ENS now has a further report, SOUTH CAROLINA: Bishop says diocese engaged in ‘battle’ for Anglicanism’s soul.