Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Presiding Bishop restricts ministry of Bishop of South Carolina

Updated again twice on Thursday evening

The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church has issued this notice:

Office of the Presiding Bishop

On October 10, 2012, I received from the Disciplinary Board for Bishops a certification pursuant to Canon IV.16(A)(1) that The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, had abandoned the Episcopal Church within the meaning of that canon.
Accordingly, I have this 15th day of October, 2012, at noon EDT, placed a restriction on the exercise of ministry of Bishop Lawrence “until such time as the House of Bishops shall investigate the matter and act thereon.” During the period of such restriction, “the Bishop shall not perform any Episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts.”

Dated: October 15, 2012
(The Most Rev.) Katharine Jefferts Schori XXVI Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

The certification mentioned above can be found here. Three “events” are referred to:

  • Resolutions passed by the Diocesan Convention of October 2010, which the bishop approved
  • Documents filed with the State of South Carolina in November 2011 which the bishop had signed
  • Quitclaim deeds issued by the diocesan chancellor to numerous parishes around November 2011, which the bishop had instructed him to do.

The Diocese of South Carolina has issued the following statement:

On Monday, October 15, 2012, Bishop Mark J. Lawrence, the 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina was notified by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, that on September 18, 2012 the Disciplinary Board for Bishops had certified his abandonment of The Episcopal Church. This action by The Episcopal Church triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions of the Diocese, which simultaneously disaffiliated the Diocese from The Episcopal Church and called a Special Convention. That Convention will be held at St. Philip’s Church, Charleston, on Saturday, November 17, 2012.

Bishop Lawrence was notified of these actions taken by the Episcopal Church between two meetings, one held on October 3 and one to be held on October 22, which Bishop Andrew Waldo of the Upper Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Lawrence had set up with the Presiding Bishop to find a peaceful alternative to the growing issues between The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina. The meetings were to explore “creative solutions” for resolving these issues to avoid further turmoil in the Diocese and in The Episcopal Church. A timeline of these events and their associated documents may be found below.

Two of the three charges had previously been determined by a majority vote of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops in November 2011 not to constitute abandonment. The Diocese has not received a signed copy of the certification and also remains uninformed of the identity of those making these charges.

We feel a deep sense of sadness but a renewed sense of God’s providence that The Episcopal Church has chosen to act against this Diocese and its Bishop during a good faith attempt peacefully to resolve our differences. These actions make it clear The Episcopal Church no longer desires to be affiliated with the Diocese of South Carolina.

Updates

Episcopal News Service has published Disciplinary Board for Bishops certifies that South Carolina bishop has abandoned the church.

The Disciplinary Board for Bishops has advised Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori that the majority of the 18-member panel has determined that Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina has abandoned the Episcopal Church “by an open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church.”

Following complaints of 12 adult members and two priests of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, the determination was made under Canon IV.16(A).
The 18 member board – composed of 10 bishops, four clergy, four laity – issued a letter dated September 18. Following the assembly of numerous documents, the Presiding Bishop received the letter in her Church Center office on October 10; the letter was received via U.S. Mail.

On Monday October 15, the Presiding Bishop called Lawrence and, speaking directly with him, informed him of the action of the Disciplinary Board. She also informed him that, effective noon of that day, the exercise of his ministry was restricted. Therefore, under the canon, he is not permitted to perform any acts as an ordained person.

From here, Lawrence has 60 days to respond to the allegations in the certification…

And ENS has a lot of historical background to this in a further report: Disciplinary Board says South Carolina bishop has abandoned church.

Episcopal News Service has a further report: South Carolina Episcopalians explain complaint against bishop.

A South Carolina attorney involved in the complaints filed with the Episcopal Church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops that resulted in the board certifying that Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence had abandoned the Episcopal Church issued the following release Oct. 18.

With much deliberation, Melinda A. Lucka, an attorney in the Charleston, S.C. area and an active communicant in the Diocese of South Carolina, requested that the Disciplinary Board for Bishops review various actions of Bishop Lawrence that have taken place over the past two years. Ms. Lucka asked the Board if it could make a determination as to whether or not the actions were consistent with the mission and polity of The Episcopal Church…

And there is yet another ENS report: South Carolinians say diocesan actions were ‘too far out of bounds’.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 11:06pm BST | TrackBack
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Comments

A lot of southern churches supporting slavery separated from the northern churches, too. It's deja vu all over again!

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 2:18am BST

"These actions make it clear The Episcopal Church no longer desires to be affiliated with the Diocese of South Carolina."

Hello in there; how's the weather in Cloud-Cuckoo Land?

***

Affectionate greetings-in-Christ, faithful SC Episcopalians! You will be receiving an *actual EPISCOPAL bishop*, soon. Deliverance!

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 3:02am BST

This is a ludicrous statement by the South Carolina folk! The Episcopal Church is not "affiliated with the Diocese of South Carolina" - we OWN the Diocese of South Carolina. Our trust interest makes it clear that every Episcopalian - through our legally elected bodies, culminating in our General Convention, is a legal owner, and the folk in South Carolina simply hold that property in trust for all of us (them included). They missed their chance to object to this trust interest when General Convention adopted it in 1979 (Canon I.17.4: "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 of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons."). Sadly this now means more wasted money reclaiming what rightfully belongs to every Episcopalian - money that could have been used for mission. Oh the arrogance!

Posted by: Nigel Taber-Hamilton on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 4:47am BST

So now the PB has a new set of rules so she tries again what was rejected in the past. This reflects very badly upon her, her leadership and her vision for TEC. It seems that anyone who dares to challenge the new religion of TEC will become a target - well maybe not we insignificant people who are retired and weep at what she has done to our denomination. I hope she will be suitably execrated when she shows up in New Zealand next week.

Posted by: Ian Montgomery on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 5:40am BST

It is an unfortunate, but not entirely surprising,turn of events. I have posted an initial take on my blog here: http://drdjs.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/renunciation-of-discipline-in-south-carolina/

The biggest question at the moment is whether both sides can pull back and find a way to reconcile.

Posted by: Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 6:50am BST

"We feel a deep sense of sadness but a renewed sense of God’s providence that The Episcopal Church has chosen to act against this Diocese and its Bishop during a good faith attempt peacefully to resolve our differences."

A renewed sense of God's providence? Er? No offence to American readers of this blog, but only an American could have written that sentence...

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 9:40am BST

It is not the New Zealand way to 'execrate' people. I am sure ++Jefferts Schori will be as welcome as any other member of ACC to Auckland. After all that body mostly shares the same values and approaches to being Anglican. Why would one member of that body be singled out for execration?

Posted by: Peter Carrell on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 10:31am BST

" I hope she will be suitably execrated when she shows up in New Zealand next week."
- Ian Montgomery -

Like my confrere, Peter Carrell, I reiterate that Bishop Katherine will be welcomed in Aotearoa/New Zealand - together with all the other members of the ACC. We have a tradition of welcoming 'Whanau' (Family Members - as well as 'Manuhiri' (Honoured Guests) to our Province. We have learned to live together in unity and diversity for some time now.

It's sad that Bishop Katherine had to speak the Hard Word to Bishop Lawrence in South Carolina - but what can you do when a family member wants to leave the nest? "You can take a horse to the water but you can't make him drink".

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 10:56am BST

It's all a horrible mess. Taking action when when efforts are underway to negotiate a way forward does not seem to be very pastoral.

I don't understand how the Presiding Bishop can discipline someone who has left the church. To restrict his ministry is to admit that he is part of the church.

(by the way Peter Carrell, it's not ++Jefferts Schori, just + - she is a Presiding Bishop, not an Archbishop: which is part of what's behind the dispute, as I understand it).

Posted by: Bernard Randall on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 11:43am BST

The Diocese of South Carolina is older than The Episcopal Church. It helped to create the national church. The parishes each have legal claim deeds to each church. Even the diocese does not own the churches...each church does. South Carolina is different than every other diocese. They also have enough money to fight in court, the national church does not. This is going to get very ugly, very quickly. They are one of a few left in TEC who are growing in membership and attendance. I think the church should leave them alone.

Posted by: Josh L. on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 12:30pm BST

Nothing TEC/PB/David Booth Beers et al does surprizes us any more. But one simple question.

Is the plan to fight every single parish in the Diocese for its property -- churches like St Michael's and St Philip's included?

Or is the idea that a 'provisional' Bishop and SC will be set up, and those parishes wishing to come under it will do so, and the others walk away?

The obvious reason for the question is a) the vast sums required to acquire these properties, and then what to do with them, and b) the very protracted nature of any effort to gain control of the properties involved.

Perhaps TEC/PB/DBB now has a different plan? Simply to drive the Diocese of SC out, or to declare it independent. And then get on with it, in a "new TEC Diocese."

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 4:19pm BST

Our friends in the UK and elsewhere should know that even other Southerners have long considered South Carolina peculiar. “Too small to be its own country, and too large to be an insane asylum” is a common saying in the South. And, of course, it was South Carolina that fired the first shots in the bloody American Civil War 150 years ago.

With the admission of three African American congregations into union with the diocesan convention in 1954, the Diocese of South Carolina became the last Episcopal diocese to end racially segregated conventions. Two weeks later, the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education stated, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

A flood of arguments commenced among clergy over the issue of racial segregation, specifically: Is racial segregation in and of itself un-Christian? In 1956, in a vote of 94-43, the diocesan convention adopted a resolution stating the “right” to be racist:

“The Episcopal Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina states that there is nothing morally wrong in the voluntary recognition of racial differences and that voluntary alignments can be both natural and Christian. It is the sense of this convention that the integration problem caused by the Supreme Court decision of 1954 as it applies to the Episcopal Church should not be characterized as Christian or unchristian by reason of the fact [that] it is either interracial or not interracial. In such choices Christians may wisely exercise personal preferences.”

So, consider where this right-wing in South Carolina has come from historically.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by: Kurt on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 6:02pm BST

This S.C. history is so pertinent Kurt. Thank you so much. Everything is clear now. This has nothing to do with what scripture actually says, but that the people from SC are all racists and homophobes.

And since Bp. Lawrence is a fifth generation Californian, I am sure he identifies with and is subconsciously motivated by the history of his new home state. Much as Canterbury continues to be driven by England's history in the slave trade with its colonies and opium trade strategy with China. Rowan's actions ARE so much more understandable now that I remember that bit of British history.

Thank you again. Your thoughts are so darn helpful and relevant to the issues of theology, ecclesiology and authority in the Diocese of SC. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Rob on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 7:30pm BST

"I don't understand how the Presiding Bishop can discipline someone who has left the church. To restrict his ministry is to admit that he is part of the church."

Father Randall,

Bishop Lawrence is being disciplined by a committee of the House of Bishops in accordance with our Canons. Bishop Jefferts Schori in her role as Presiding Bishop is informing Bishop Lawrence of the decision. The HOB committee was responding to charges brought by a number of clerics and lay persons from the Diocese of SC.

Bishop Lawrence has, by Canon, 60 days to respond. And this does not preclude any attempts to reconcile.

Please remember that the polity of our Church (TEC) differs significantly from the polity of the Church of England.

Posted by: Deacon Charlie Perrin on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 8:43pm BST

“Thank you again. Your thoughts are so darn helpful and relevant to the issues of theology, ecclesiology and authority in the Diocese of SC. Keep up the good work.”—Rob

You’re quite welcome, Rob. Rest assured I will endeavor to do so. Your response demonstrates that I hit the target.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY


Posted by: Kurt on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 10:06pm BST

Rob--nice interjection of logic and sanity. Thank you.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 19 October 2012 at 2:31am BST

Kurt, Rob, and cseitz
Please be careful in any further comments not to engage in an uncivil war.
Thank you.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 19 October 2012 at 9:28am BST

I should have been more specific. New Zealand is indeed a hospitable country BUT my expectation is that the PB will be execrated by a number of other primates. I may have just to speak for myself. Her behaviour is odious in this modern version of the star chamber.

Posted by: Ian Montgomery on Friday, 19 October 2012 at 4:56pm BST

My question remains the same.

Is this a different strategy by DBB/PB/TEC? Will they cease the millions in expenditures to seek to get property? Establish a new diocese and just throw +ML and the ertswhile diocese out?

Or, try to get the property and diocese both?

I ask in part because it may tell us what they are planning to do with the disciplinary efforts against the seven 'amicus Bishops.'

Where will all this money for litigation come from?

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 19 October 2012 at 9:47pm BST

Just reinforcing the concept that the polity of TEC is very different from CoE. All of the statements disparaging our Presiding Bishop for "her actions," is revealing a significant misunderstanding of the differences. We have much broader representation and input than CoE. A large committee, a Disciplinary Board, came to these findings, and complaints came from within South Carolina.

What seems to be happening with South Carolina is a replay of SC's secession from the union in 1861. The language is that that the national church has no jurisdiction, etc. The national church can't force them to accept women clergy (!!!), let alone inclusion of LGBT, etc. However, not all SC Episcopalians, or parishes, are in alignment with Lawrence in the bigotry, or in wanting to leave TEC. If a priest or parishioners want to leave, fine, but it's a real problem if the bishop wants to lead out an entire diocese, when there are still "normal" parishes and Episcopalians. These folks are calling the situation "Lawrence's Fantasy Diocese."

It is a bizarre problem. SC's history is truly relevant. Shocking as that may be.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 22 October 2012 at 1:14am BST

Kurt does us a favour in reminding us that not so very long ago, Episcopalians in the south considered racial bigotry a "legitimate" difference of opinion, which should not be subject to synodical legislation which would bind the consciences of churchmen. After all, many respectable (good Lord, deliver us!) Episcopalians held segregationist sympathies, and "obviously" _they_ were not bigots! The language used by those who would attempt to theologize or otherwise indulge heterosexism and cissexism in the church sounds an eerie echo.

Posted by: Geoff on Monday, 22 October 2012 at 8:32pm BST
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