Saturday, 17 November 2012

South Carolina: withdrawal from Episcopal Church confirmed

Updated Sunday morning

Episcopal News Service reports: South Carolina convention affirms decision to leave Episcopal Church

The majority of South Carolina Episcopalians who attended a special convention at St. Philip’s Church here Nov. 17 affirmed actions by Bishop Mark Lawrence and the diocesan Standing Committee a month ago to disaffiliate the diocese from the Episcopal Church.

Those actions took place after Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori restricted Lawrence’s ministry on Oct. 17 after the church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops certified to her that he had abandoned the Episcopal Church “by an open renunciation of the discipline of the church.”

On that same day, the Standing Committee announced that the action of the Disciplinary Board “triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions of the diocese, which simultaneously disaffiliated the diocese from the Episcopal Church and called a special convention.”

The bishop referred to the special convention as “the Valley of Decision” during his address and asserted, “It is time to turn the page.” He referred to attempts to prevent separation of the diocese, and his oft-mentioned issues of theology, morality and disagreement with church canons…

The full text of Bishop Lawrence’s address to the convention can be found here. It is worth reading in full.

The ENS report notes that:

..While the bishop referred to numerous letters of support from church leaders, he did not announce any open offers of affiliation with the Anglican Communion, and he confirmed that for now the separatist diocese will affiliate with no one. In a conference call following the convention, he confirmed that alignment is not on the table at present.

However, during his address, he claimed that “for now and the foreseeable future, having withdrawn from our association with TEC, we remain an extra-provincial diocese within the larger Anglican Communion.”

Such a designation requires action by the Anglican Consultative Council, which concluded a 12-day meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, on Nov. 7. No action on South Carolina was taken during that meeting and the council will not meet again until May 2016…

Updates

Diocese of South Carolina Turns the Page; Looks Forward

Special Convention Approves Canonical and Constitutional Amendments Regarding Disassociation

Today, Saturday, November 17, 2012, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina met in Special Convention at the “mother church of the Diocese,” historic St. Philip’s Church in Charleston. There, an overwhelming majority passed three resolutions…

Full details of the three resolutions can be found here (PDF).

Video of Bishop Lawrence’s address here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 17 November 2012 at 11:33pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

Did they even have a quorum in the lay order?

Compare this report of the Nov. 17 proceedings:

The final vote, which was by orders, was for approval of amendments to the diocesan canons, likewise removing all such reference to TEC. It passed with an overwhelming vote of 96% (71 clergy) in the clergy order, with 3 abstaining. In the lay order, the vote passed with 90% in favor (47 yes with 5 abstentions).

with this minute from the Journal of the 221st annual meeting of the diocese, held in March 2012:

The Rev. Tyler Prescott reported that there were 89 clergy present and duly qualified for seat, voice and vote. Mrs. Gretchen Horlbeck reported that 212 lay delegates and 65 parishes and missions were present and duly qualified for seat, voice and vote.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 18 November 2012 at 12:39am GMT

Very sad.

It was indeed worth reading the full statement from Lawrence.

On other threads it has been asserted that TEC will baulk at the prospect of challenging such great a larceny, overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and audacity of the thieves and cost of reclaiming the property. It brings to mind the parable of the wicked husbandmen.

I was once burgled four times in six months, and there surely is a point at which the wrongdoing weighs so heavily that you feel like opening your door and walking away.

But let us hope that on this case TEC takes good advice and proceeds carefully and judiciously. No matter where one stands on the theological arguments here, the question of who owns the property is quite separate. I have a long association with this diocese and even amongst some of those who have left there is a realisation that they will not keep the property and should have left without it.

I consider that TEC must focus on two things as it seeks to recover that which has been entrusted to them. Reconciliation and restoration having failed they should first attempt to recover the property belonging to the diocese (offices, records, endowments etc) while publishing a schedule of properties they plan to repossess along with a time frame for these actions. So, along with the action to reclaim the diocesan assets an action to reclaim say the first four church properties should be entered. I would make these significant buildings such as the Cathedral and possibly at least one where the congregation is known to be divided.

I would hope to be able to injunct the entire new group from further allienating the property and resources they have misapproprated.

The reformed diocese should then lead on how to manage the reclaimed buildings.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 18 November 2012 at 10:25am GMT

Ever since the episcopal ordination of Mark Lawrence there were suspicions of his motivation in taking over the Diocese of South Carolina.

Despite promises that he would not seek to take the diocese out of the Episcopal Church, those movements 'behind the scenes' that were made to secure property rights for the Standing Committee - away from the National Church - have caused many to wonder when an attempt would be made by the bishop towards a schismatic breakaway from TEC.

The behaviour of the bishop and his followers at the latest General Convention, and his subsequent dissociation from the polity and governance of TEC - having led to a charge of 'abandonment' being levelled against him - Lawrence has now taken this opportunity to do as some people feared he would actually get around to doing - taking the diocese of South Carolina out of TEC. Many saw this coming

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 18 November 2012 at 10:34am GMT

Jeremy
You note that in November "65 parishes and missions were present". Yesterday, according to ENS there were 54 present, and the total is 78.

So only 11 less yesterday. And I am sure 54 out of 78 is a quorum.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 18 November 2012 at 12:08pm GMT

Martin Reynolds, there are ways to make even litigation over 40 properties efficient and economical when it arises--as it does here--out of the same, common set of facts.

In other words, if the vestries of the separatist parishes had acted separately in attempting to take the various properties, then the national church might have to resort to separate litigations.

Here, however, the actions at issue form a pattern. And although a lot of people are acting, there is a small group that is most active. Think of it as a wheel, with a hub and spokes.

As a result, one wonders whether the national church might be able to allege a federal racketeering claim. If it could, such a claim would make litigation simple for the national church. If it could, and if the claim were to be successful, there is also the possibility of treble damages, which could make the litigation quite remunerative.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 18 November 2012 at 12:30pm GMT

Simon, you are right if a quorum in the lay order is determined by parishes.

I raised the question because it looks as though a lot of lay delegates were absent or did not vote.

212 delegates present in March. 52 delegates voting in November. It's quite a tumble.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 18 November 2012 at 12:38pm GMT

Jeremy, I accept that is a dramatic fall in lay attendance. Maybe somebody has more detailed knowledge of the rules that apply here, about being quorate.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 18 November 2012 at 1:31pm GMT

Gosh, Jeremy, it had not occurred to me that RICO might be used in this case. I guess you have could be right and it may in fact apply!

That would be devastating - but as I understand it would defend the assets of the diocese from being further alienated and prevent Lawrence and his allies bankrupting it as they would not be allowed to use diocesan resources to defend their actions.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 18 November 2012 at 4:56pm GMT

For anyone who was paying attention at the time of Mark
Lawrence's second go around at having his election consented to, it should have been clear that this event was going to happen at some time in the future. He never unequivocally stated that he would not attempt to lead the Diocese of SC out of TEC but rather answered when asked if he would ever do so, remarked in such a way as to give those who wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt the opportunity to do so and then hope that he wouldn't carry out the veiled threats he made. As a good disciple of Bob Duncan it's surprising he didn't make this move sooner. If the man had one ounce of integrity in him he should have announced he could not longer remain in TEC and then renounced his orders, inviting other like-minded clergy to follow if they felt the same way.

Posted by: Richard Warren on Monday, 19 November 2012 at 12:50am GMT

Just read through the resolutions from SC, and there is one particularly troubling statement, “we declare that as God has sent Bishop Lawrence to be our bishop, only He [God] has the authority to declare otherwise.”

Although God can certainly work through the legislative process in churches, it was the Diocese of SC that chose him as their bishop, which decision was confirmed on the second go around by a majority of Standing Committees and Bishops. It seems to me that they are setting themselves up for trouble if they ever find themselves no longer comfortable under Bishop Lawrence's leadership!

Posted by: Daibhead on Tuesday, 20 November 2012 at 4:53pm GMT

Daibhead:

Yes, this sounds disturbingly like "the divine right of kings" for a diocese in the United States to be using, doesn't it?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 11:32am GMT
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