Friday, 24 September 2010

South Carolina disputes clergy discipline canons

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.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 September 2010 at 10:29pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ECUSA

Bishop Lawrence's defence of his high-handed opposition to TEC polity is not unlike that of the Arch-priest of CANA - Robbie Duncan.

Obviously, Lawrence's eventual consecration as Bishop of South Carolina was a tactical mistake, semeingly aided and abetted by no less an organisation than that which is oxymoronically-named the Anglican Communion Institute.

This faux-official organisation within TEC is not truly representative of the Episcopal Church in North America, and might more properly be seen and recognised as an underground advocate of the more conservative elements of the Anglican Communion - notably GAFCON, CANA and the Diocese of Sydney; not to mention the faux-Anglican Church of north America (ACNA).

One can only hope that Bishop Lawrence moves over to his natural constituency of ACNA - but without appropriating the TEC people and the resources of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. TEC will need to find ways of disciplining this worm within the fabric of its episcopal covering. My prayers are for the loyal people of the South Carolina Episcopal Diocese (sans Lawrence) .

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 25 September 2010 at 1:59am BST

The tea-baggers have invaded off of Fort Sumter again and S.O.B's are taking St. Michael's.

The Holy City is definitely in the hands of the Christan Taliban, trust me.

Posted by: evensongjunkie on Saturday, 25 September 2010 at 4:29am BST

Lawrence's defence of diocesan sovereignty rests in part on a textbook published a dozen years before significant 1967 amendments to the Constitution and Canons -- including the Preamble and the assignment of visitatorial and pastoral authority to the Presiding Bishop -- amendments made long before his ordination as deacon, priest, or bishop.

Citing a legal opinion on a law since repealed makes a poor case in addressing current and long-standing law.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 25 September 2010 at 3:59pm BST

"The tea-baggers have invaded off of Fort Sumter again" evensongjunkie

Could you explain the term "tea-baggers" in this context - where I live, it means "those who engage in the sexual practice of tea-bagging" and I'm guessing that's not what you mean here.

Posted by: Laurence C. on Saturday, 25 September 2010 at 5:56pm BST

For those not from below the Mason-Dixon line (or USA):

Tea-Baggers: Raging white-middle class undereducated who feel that Obama has caused all the ills of today. ("Tea-Party")

S.O.B: South of Broad, a very proper neighborhood in Charleston. S.O.B's: People from the same.

Holy City: Another name for Charleston, due to all the churches on it's low skyline (of which St. Michael's is an official steering mark on NOAA Navigation Charts)

Fort Sumter: Where all the fun began way back in 1861.

Posted by: evensongjunkie on Saturday, 25 September 2010 at 8:27pm BST

St Michael's is SOB geographically, junkie.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Saturday, 25 September 2010 at 9:29pm BST

Shouldn't the canons of the Episcopal Church have a written clause that any future bishop must accept that all property within the diocese he serves belongs to the national Church.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Sunday, 26 September 2010 at 8:55am BST

Additional SC Lore:

Charleston is where the Ashley and the Cooper Rivers join to form the Atlantic Ocean.

Charlestonians are like the ancient Chinese: They eat rice and worship their ancestors.

North Carolina is a Valley of Humility located between two Mountains of Conceit [Virginia to the north, South Carolina to the south}.

And, all that aside, my heart goes out to the loyal Episcopalians who, by accident of birth or employment, are stuck in the cespool that is that diocese.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 26 September 2010 at 1:42pm BST

RIW, the canons of the Episcopal Church already state that all property is held in trust for the diocese and the church. Bishops are supposed to conform to the discipline of the church as spelled out in the canons, or so they affirm when they sign the oath of conformity as part of the ordination rite.

Law does not guarantee obedience, even in your own church, and no more so in mine.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 27 September 2010 at 12:06am BST

Thanks, Cynthia.

Those of us living in the South(USA) also love to note that South Carolina is " too small to be a country, too large to be an insane asylum." Rude, but true.

Posted by: John D on Monday, 27 September 2010 at 1:09am BST

"What will emerge from this struggle we cannot say-but I am convinced of our vocation to Make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age. It is far more than a slogan for a T-shirt. Not unlike a battalion in a military campaign which is ordered to hold a pass even against overwhelming odds, we are called to resist what appears is a self-destructive trajectory by many within The Episcopal Church."

- Bishop Lawrence - Statement to the Diocese of South Carolina, TEC., 15 September 2010 -

Is this not a provocative statement from a diocesan bishop of The Episcopal Church in the United States, who has been accused by loyal Episcopalians in his own diocese of behaviour unbefitting a Bishop in TEC? Bishop Lawrence's resistance to oversight by the Presiding Bishop is surely a sign of his unwillingness to remain as part of the episcopal team within the provenance of TEC - when, in fact, at his recent enthronement he pledged loyalty to that Church - not just the Diocese of South Carolina, but The Episcopal Church of the US.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 27 September 2010 at 11:45am BST

"Shouldn't the canons of the Episcopal Church have a written clause that any future bishop must accept that all property within the diocese he serves belongs to the national Church."

I say Yes. The "held in trust for the diocese and the church" language is being twisted by conservatives. In Dallas, "the church" means "the diocese". The National Church is really considered to be nothing more than a trade association.

Get the attorneys to write a new canon which explicitly refers to all property in dioceses belongs to TEC in its correct legal name where no court can misconstrue its meaning.

Posted by: Dallas Bob on Monday, 27 September 2010 at 7:15pm BST
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