Thinking Anglicans

South Carolina bishop accused of "abandonment"

A complaint has been made, by some members of his diocese, that the Bishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence has “abandoned” The Episcopal Church.

See these news reports:

Episcopal News Service Mary Frances Schjonberg South Carolina bishop investigated on charges he has abandoned the Episcopal Church

…The allegations are being investigated by the church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops. Communicants in the Diocese of South Carolina filed the information with the board, according to the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, board president. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the House of Bishops were not involved in making the claims, Henderson said in a fact sheet released by the church’s Office of Public Affairs.

“Therefore, the matter is not being handled by the Presiding Bishop’s office or anyone in the employ of the Episcopal Church Center,” Henderson said in the fact sheet.

Henderson said he has been in contact with Lawrence, whose ministry has not been restricted during this phase of the process.

Under Title IV, Canon 16, a bishop is deemed to have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church by an open renunciation of the doctrine, discipline or worship of the church; by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the church; or by exercising episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than the church or another church in communion with the church…

Living Church Doug LeBlanc Board Hears Case against Bp. Lawrence

The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, Bishop of South Carolina, is being investigated on accusations of abandoning the Episcopal Church, and his diocese has released a 63-page document of the evidence brought against him.

Lawrence and the Very Rev. Paul C. Fuener, president of the diocese’s standing committee wrote in a letter to members of the diocese that on Sept. 29 the bishop “received communication from the President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops that ‘serious charges’ have been made under Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church. … Since several of these allegations also include actions taken by the Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina, after sustained prayer and discernment, it has seemed appropriate to both the Bishop and the Standing Committee to make these allegations available to the members of the Diocese.”

See these documents:

  • Text of memo released by Dorsey Henderson, retired Bishop of Upper South Carolina, president of the 18-member Title IV Disciplinary Board copied below the fold.

From Bishop Dorsey Henderson President of the Title IV Disciplinary Board of the Episcopal Church
Concerning the Diocese of South Carolina:

• In the matter concerning the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, information is being reviewed by the Title IV Disciplinary Board. Bishop Dorsey Henderson is President of the Title IV Disciplinary Board.

• Information was presented from communicants within the Diocese of South Carolina.

• The information was not brought forward by the Presiding Bishop’s office, or by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church. Therefore, the matter is not being handled by the Presiding Bishop’s office or anyone in the employ of the Episcopal Church Center.

• All information has been presented to the Disciplinary Board under the Episcopal Church Title IV disciplinary canons (laws of the church).

• In situations as this, the “church attorney” is an attorney who is retained by the Disciplinary Board to investigate cases brought to the Disciplinary Board. The “church attorney” is not the chancellor to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

• As a matter of law and a matter of respect to those involved, the Disciplinary Board operates confidentially and will continue to do so. As such, it would not be appropriate to discuss the details of the case in public.

• Bishop Henderson has been in conversation with Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina.

• The Disciplinary Board is comprised of Episcopal Church bishops, clergy and laity.

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c.r.seitzMalcolm French+Pat O'NeillFather Ron SmithJeremy Recent comment authors
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JCF
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JCF

Seems like a straight-forward, transparent process: God bless all involved in it. May God’s will be done.

Robert IAN WILLIAMS
Guest
Robert IAN WILLIAMS

I CAN’T HELP BUT FEEL THE PRESIDING BISHOP OPENED HERSELF TO THIS, AS SHE ALLOWED Lawrence to be consecrated not by herself.The officials of TEC knew then there was a schism in the making.

Nice to see the real name of TEC emerging in all this… Protestant Episcopal.

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

“The Diocese of South Carolina reasserted today [28th September ’11] that its Constitution is not subject to that of the Episcopal Church because of its status as a founding diocese of the Church” – http://www.scepiscopalians.com/. The same argument (“founding state”) that guaranteed South Carolina’s independence in 1860. Neither learning nor forgetting figures much in the Charlestonian mind-set.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

If you move your diocese out of the constitutional relationship with Head Office, what else can you expect? Bishop Mark’s brinkmanship has earned him this particular discipline.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

As extraordinary rabbit implies in his post, the reasons given by the diocese of South Carolina harken back to bitter days and may intentionally intend to raise old hatreds and rivalries. The problem for me is that apart from that there seems little substance in their claim to absolute sovereignty – and to be able to disregard TEC. I have felt since the beginning that the advice they were receiving was no better than those who had told others in absconding diocese that they will “definitely be able to retain the property” etc. It is sad that these lawyers walk… Read more »

badman
Guest
badman

The real problem is not with the bishop, who has been chosen by his diocese and who undoubtedly reflects a consensus in his diocese. The problem is that the diocese no longer feels that the decision making of TEC is legitimate or that it is willing to consent to it. Whilst one outcome is undoubtedly that the bishop and people of the diocese have their links with TEC broken, whether by themselves or by TEC, this would be very sad for everyone. Dissent is legitimate and properly handled healthy. This is not about who is right and who is wrong.… Read more »

William Tighe
Guest
William Tighe

“The same argument (“founding state”) that guaranteed South Carolina’s independence in 1860. Neither learning nor forgetting figures much in the Charlestonian mind-set.” That is certainly a bizarre, and historically ignorant, comment. The constitution of the Episcopal Church was modelled upon, and follows closely, not the current (1787) US Constitution, but the Articles of Confederation of 1781, under which the right of any of the states adhering to it to secede was fully guaranteed. Even in acceding to the 1787 Constitution, several of the states so doing expressly reserved their “right” to secede if they so chose. The Civil War of… Read more »

Kurt
Guest
Kurt

The Dennis Canon is binding on all dioceses, including South Carolina, whether they like it or not: “All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission, or Congregation is held in trust for this Church [i.e., the Episcopal Church in the United States] and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located. The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part… Read more »

Peg in South Carolina
Guest

To me it seems most simple: the diocese, represented by bishop, et al, is trying to secede without actually seceding. I find this totally incomprehensible.

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

So your point is, Dr Tighe, that the constitution of the Episcopal Church, in following closely the 1781 Articles of Confederation, fully guarantees the right of any diocese adhering to it to secede?

Ian Montgomery
Guest

In this there will be no “winners.” This further mires TEC in disrepute. Needless to say I am biased. It seems that Christian and Anglican orthodoxy take a back seat to loyalty to a “rotten borough.” All the PB will do is incur huge legal costs and drive out most of 26,000 people whose choice for Bishop is Mark Lawrence. Indeed they have done so twice. Meanwhile she incurs the utter dismay if not disbelief of most who I meet in the larger Anglican world. I am so glad now to be in another Province but pity those that remain.

Counterlight
Guest

I’m curious what the reaction would be if a similar situation occurred in England, if a diocese decided that all of the decisions of General Synod and the Archbishops were subject to its review, and that it had the right to decide which to obey and which to reject. I can’t imagine even this Archbishop of Canterbury reacting with a passive shrug of the shoulders. This former Southerner can’t help but notice how enthusiasm for what we call “states’ rights” depends on the issue and upon whose ox is getting gored. As I recall, the same North Carolina that demanded… Read more »

Geoff
Guest

“It is about diversity.” – badman

Yes, about living with diversity, with those who do not want to live with diversity. In other words, the classic liberal dilemma (and usually the antecedent of the “illiberal liberal” canard).

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Meanwhile she incurs the utter dismay if not disbelief of most who I meet in the larger Anglican world.”

I’m sure you’re known by the company you keep, Ian M (as are we all).

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

There has been a flurry of articles in reaction to this development, all of which are sympathetic to the diocese of South Carolina and critical of the way Title IV is being operated:

ACI A Response to the reported Title IV disciplinary process begun against Bishop Mark Lawrence
http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2011/10/a-response-to-the-reported-title-ivdisciplinary-process-begun-against-bishop-mark-lawrence/

ACI Title IV In Action http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2011/10/title-iv-in-action/

Anglican Curmudgeon Clearing up Misconceptions about South Carolina
http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2011/10/clearing-up-misconceptions-about-south.html

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Well, Simon, everyone on this blog is surely aware of the sentiments of both ‘Anglican Curmudgeon’ and the mis-appropriately named ‘Anglican Communion Institute’ – and its 4 theologians and a website.
They are certainly counter to the survival of TEC.

Chris H.
Guest
Chris H.

South Carolina is the only place where the courts have ruled in favor of a breakaway majority. The S.C. Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision that ruled in favor of TEC and instead gave the property of All Saints’, Pawlenty Island to the breakaway majority citing, I believe, the state’s neutral principles law. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the decision. The Dennis Cannon was not enforced in S.C. and if Lawrence and the majority vote to leave, there’s no guaranty TEC would win in all cases. Some perhaps if there are loans outstanding,etc., but South Carolina is… Read more »

Robert ian Williams
Guest
Robert ian Williams

Remember it was TEC that accepted a disgraceful Catholic priest caught on the beach with his mistress. Howver there is no welcome for a decent living minister of another church whose orders are fully recognised as being Anglican!
I think they have overstated their case here…ACNA orders are valid Anglican ones, even if they are not part of the Anglican communion.

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

The SC Supreme Court decision in the Pawleys (not “Pawlenty”, Chris H) Island case was based on state law on trusts and property, not on “neutral principles”.

The diocese had formally passed legal ownership of the property to the congregation about a century ago, hence this ruling.

The decision was case-specific and, conservative crowings to the contrary notwithstanding, did not overturn the Dennis Canon in SC.

The US Supreme Court did not not “refuse to review the decision”, since it was never asked to do so.

OK?

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

It was not asked to review it because TEC declined to take the risk. It let the deadline pass. This was widely observed and reported at the time.

Could Mr Lapin please clarify:

1. Title IV requires the PB’s office (Intake Officer and PB) to review cases being sent to the Disciplinary Committee.

2. Why does Henderson say the PB was uninvolved — if so, that would be a breach of proper procedure.

The idea of the new Title IV was to get out of diocesan processes and run them through the PB’s office.

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

I direct this to the person who calls himself “Father Ron Smith.” Father Smith, I do not presume to know you or your background, and I certainly would not consider myself qualified to address matters in your province/diocese/church. Title IV has new and carefully detailed processes. These were put in place to remove disciplinary procedures in dioceses, and to replace them with a ‘national church’ structure. Several dioceses are probably not going to acknowledge them, because they judge them unconstitutional. Be that as it may. Have you familiarized yourself with them and with what they require, by canon? Are you… Read more »

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

Plus TEC or the diocese never attempted to appeal it to the Supreme Court. Apparently the church in question was deeded by the diocese to the congregation one hundred years ago.

Chris H.
Guest
Chris H.

Lappin, my apologies on the spelling. I admit I didn’t read the decision myself and got the news from ENS. I went back and checked my memory there. The ENS article refers to neutral principle laws as part of the State decision and says,”According to the(State)opinion, neither the “Dennis Canon” (Canon 1.7.4) (passed by the General Convention in 1979 to state that a parish holds its property in trust for the diocese and the Episcopal Church) nor the 2000 notice filed by the diocese “has any legal effect on title to the All Saints congregation’s property.” The same article states… Read more »

Geoff
Guest

“ACNA orders are valid Anglican ones, even if they are not part of the Anglican communion.”

It’s for this reason I’m a little baffled by the decision of our House of Bishops twenty-some-odd years back to subject any clergy received from the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (“ACNA Classic”) to conditional (re-)ordination. (Whether any Anglican Catholic priest has ever availed himself of that provision I don’t know).

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“You rehearse a now standard dismissal of anything to do with ACI, which is your right I suppose. I am not sure what to make of it, though one instinct is to consider it lazy.” – c.r.seitz – Mr Seitz, the provenance of A.C.I., and its polity, are well-advertised on your web-site. Your known opposition to TEC, the A.C.of C., and any other ‘liberal’ Church in the Anglican Communion is clear in every article that you tap into the site. One can only judge the site by its fruits. As for your mention of the S.C. diocese having the right… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

On Christopher Seitz & the group terming itself the “Anglican Communion Institute”:

http://www.sarahlaughed.net/anglicana/2007/04/when_is_an_inst.html

http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/004894.html

c.r.seitz
Guest

Dear Mr Smith

I take that as an acknowledgment that you do not wish to engage the topic of Title IV and its proper deployment.

Your paragraph 2 is a non sequitor and inaccurate. The Diocese of SC judges Title IV against the Constitution of TEC.

Your paragraph 3 is lazy irrelevance and not on the topic.

This simply confirms the judgement that you are either unformed or just don’t care to deal with the issue.

Grandmère Mimi
Guest
Grandmère Mimi

I’m with Counterlight. What would the authorities of the Church of England do in a similar situation?

Also, keep in mind that nothing is decided. Allegations have been made against Bp. Lawrence, which the Disciplinary Board will investigate. Whether further action will be taken remains to be seen. Certain people and groups seem ready to declare Bp. Lawrence a martyr right now.

June Butler

c.r.seitz
Guest

Dear Grandmere

You sound like such a sweet woman and a kind Christian.

I predict that Mark Lawrence will be deposed within six months.

If I am wrong, I will be happy to look back on all this and say how right you are.

I do not believe you have any idea how crucial it is to make sure Mark Lawrence is defeated.

grace and peace in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Josh L.
Guest
Josh L.

What is going to happen here is the same thing that has come to place over and over. 25,000 people will choose to move to the ACNA and 1000 (who will be called the ‘faithful remnant’) will choose to stay with TEC. The Episcopal Church is now down to around 650,000 active members. They are closing cathedrals, and more than 4 churches every month. The headquarters needs to back off from this diocese. Nothing but empty buildings will come of it. TEC is currently talking about selling its own headquarters in New York for cash.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Earlier I published some links to articles expressing support for Bishop Lawrence. Now I publish some links to articles from those who are critical of Bishop Lawrence.

Please can we avoid comments about the sources of all these links, and limit ourselves here to discussing the situation in South Carolina.

Mark Harris wrote
Drama or Not with Lawrence of South Carolina
http://anglicanfuture.blogspot.com/2011/10/drama-or-not-witih-lawrence-of-south.html

Lionel Deimel wrote
I Told You So
http://blog.deimel.org/2011/10/i-told-you-so.html

Grandmère Mimi
Guest

“You sound like such a sweet woman and a kind Christian.”

Mr Seitz, if I were not such a sweet woman and a kind Christian, I’d be tempted to think your words are patronizing.

Be that as it may, I’ll remember your prediction about Bp. Lawrence’s deposition within 6 months, and we shall see. As much as I disagree with Bp. Lawrence on many issues, I’m not certain that I’d want to see him deposed at this point.

June Butler

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Bonjour Grandmere

I was being fully sincere. You always sound moderate and concerned with fairness. I thought your persistence with the Nevada sexual abuse concern was salutary.

The polity of the C of E and of TEC is vastly different, by the way. See the excellent writing of Colin Podmore. +Lawrence is arguing that Title IV is actually unconstitutional. He is defending TEC polity.

He may be wrong. But that is what he is arguing: defense of TEC’s historical polity. That polity is very different in the C of E.

MarkBrunson
Guest

So . . . if the process is legal he will *not* be deposed, whereas, if it’s corrupt he *will* be deposed?

Mimi is certainly balanced and moderate, but . . . well, moving on.

Perhaps certain conservative commentators here have vast, supernatural insights others lack. Spiritual X-Men, able to see the lies and damned lies being told about this holy – oh-*so*-holy – bishop, despite the complaints coming from within his diocese?

How wonderful it must be to be the Chosen One(s)!

Malcolm French+
Guest

Professor Seitz demonstrates the sort of hyper-partisanship so prevalent on the political right (and, admittedly, not unknown on the left). He posits a false dichotomy: either the process is legitimate and Bishop Lawrence will be vindicated OR the process is corrupt and Bishop Lawrence will be deposed. Now, as a generally bright guy and a professor at the second best theological college on Hoskin Street in Toronto, Professor Seitz must understand that there are at least two other possibilities: that the process is legitimate and Bishop Lawrence will be deposed and that the process is corrupt and Bishop Lawrence will… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Re the future of Bishop Mark Lawrence; given his provenance, is it not possible that, if he is deposed, he may yet be called to lead the new ‘Nigerian Anglican Diocese in North America’? Perhaps an ACNA-friendly person (Mr.Seitz?) may be able to enlighten us.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

It transpires there was no Title IV process at all. No Intake Officer, Reference Panal, nada.

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

ACI was roundly criticised for failing to support ACNA, Mr French. I have no idea what you are talking about.

I did appreciate Mr Sarmiento’s encouragement to stay on topic.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Confused ‘French’ and ‘Smith.’ Sorry. You resemble each other.

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

As reference has been made now several times to Wycliffe College, let me use the opportunity to clarify to TA readers. I was unaware Trinity College had a Divinity (graduate) component before coming here, but it is a fine institution as well, though very small and at present struggling (maybe 3 full-time faculty; see their web-site). I have enjoyed preaching in their chapel and living in their midst when I am in Toronto. Principal Neelands is a fine Christian gentleman. Wycliffe is now be the largest Anglican seminary in North America (vying with Virginia Seminary). It has the largest PhD… Read more »

Malcolm French+
Guest

Christopher, I would suggest that you take tongue in cheek teasing about schools in the spirit of friendly rivalry with which it is intended. And, like many Trinity graduates, I appreciate your prayers that our institution might find sure footing yet again. Yet I think my substantive point remains. If the current process finds that Bishop Lawrence has failed (or perhaps, more charitably, misstepped) in his responsibilities as diocesan bishop of the Episcopal Church, that is not (of itself) proof that the process is corrupt or even in error. Bishop Lawrence offers up an interpretation of TEC’s constitution, canons and… Read more »

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Fr French if you want to know what I think you can read ACI’s most recent response.

I have just heard that the Bishop of Upper South Carolina is defending Bishop Lawrence. The PB may be engaging in brinksmanship if this is meant to be a HOB vote for abandonment. Some like Waldo may not find this Disciplinary Committee ‘fast track’ altogether ‘due diligence.’

Professor Radner describes the situation in terms I agree with at T19. The reason we have rules is so they can be followed. Maybe even moderate Bishops will say Foul.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Just from reading this thread, it sounds as though there is some misunderstanding as to the U.S. Supreme Court’s certiorari procedure. A few points to clarify. 1. The United States Supreme Court, being a federal court, is a court of limited jurisdiction. For details as to the jurisdiction of the federal courts, see the Article III, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution, and (for statutory applications of the constitutional principles) Title 28 of the U.S. Code. If, as I gather from comments above, the Pawleys Island case was decided on grounds of state law, then there may have… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Thank you, Christopher, for thinking that Fr.Malcolm French and I are are the same wavelength. I believe in deed that we are – at least in thinking that Holy Church needs to confront the endemic homophobia of the Institutions of the Church that we are part of. You and ACI have been considered, elsewhere on another blog to be part of the so-called ‘moderate’ faction in the Church. However, I think I would consider you to be a little right of President Reagan – politically and theologically.I do not know you personally, but I do read your frequent postings on… Read more »

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Dear Mr Smith Let me say this as clearly as I can. It may make no difference as your needle appears stuck in a grove, and I beg indulgence of readers here who may find this discussion tedious. I know I do. 1. ACI was publically opposed to ACNA (Even last week the wife of AB Duncan accused us of not standing by her husband) 2. ACI has worked to keep dioceses whose Bishops are under pressure from constituents who want to leave from doing so, by providing forms of identification such as ‘Communion Partners’ — all with knowledge and… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

You’ll be glad to know, Mr. Seitz, that I have just lost all interest in ACI and its isolationism. I realise the importance – to you – of your close identification with the Diocese of South Carolina and its Bishop, and am only sad that you have such a diminished view of TEC, and its Presiding Bishop.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Mr. Seitz: That TEC has lost 19% of its membership in the last decade is neither surprising nor distinctive. The United Methodist Church in the US has lost 21% of its membership in the same period. The Southern Baptist Convention–once renowned for its constant growth–has been basically flat in the same period (although there is some doubt as to SBC’s numbers, since the Convention is slow to drop congregations that have moved to other Baptist denominations). I could not find specific numbers for the Evangelical Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations, but all indications are that their declines are similar. Why? Well,… Read more »

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Mr. Smith — I do not have a diminished view of TEC. I have an honest view of a sadly diminished TEC. Concerns about viability are now widely disseminated even from Executive Council members.

The Diocese of SC is one of the very few examples of growth and viability.

Malcolm French+
Guest

Christopher (this is probably pointless since the thread has fallen off the front page), I absolutely agree that the process may be muddled, may be unfair, may even be corrupt. However your original post appeared to argue that if the process finds against Bishop Lawrence, such a finding in and of itself would prove that the process is corrupt. As a trained academic, you know that such logic is no logic at all. I don’t have a problem with you arguing the process is corrupt or with arguing that the evidence does not support the accusation against Bishop Lawrence. You… Read more »

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

Josephine Hicks has now stepped down.

Title IV needs to be shut down for a season. It’s a mess.