Thinking Anglicans

South Carolina bishop: more on the disciplinary process

Updated yet again Thursday afternoon

See earlier report South Carolina bishop accused of “abandonment”.

In the comments to that article, I provided links to some criticisms of what was, at the time, assumed to be the process being followed. It now appears that those assumptions were wrong. The Living Church reports:

In response to questions from The Living Church and others, the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, provided this explanation regarding accusations brought to the board against the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, Bishop of South Carolina.

See Bp. Henderson Explains Disciplinary Board’s Duty.

A question has arisen about the process for administration of the so-called “abandonment” canon (Title IV.16) especially as it applies to bishops. Although it has come in a couple of forms, the question might be expressed in this way: “Who initiates action when information arises which indicates that abandonment of The Episcopal Church may have occurred?”

In accordance with the canon, such proceedings are begun at the initiative of the Disciplinary Board itself (although this has not happened within memory, if ever), or when information is received by the Disciplinary Board from any credible source with standing to raise the issue. Perhaps the following is helpful.

Title IV.16 is entitled “Of Abandonment of The Episcopal Church,” and sub-section (A) is the portion thereof which relates to bishops. It designates that conduct which constitutes abandonment and specifies the process for administration of the canon when such conduct happens, or is alleged to have happened.

Title IV.17 is entitled “Of Proceedings for Bishops.” It addresses terminology applicable to Title IV.16, but the canons make clear that the process to be followed for abandonment is markedly different from that to be followed with other kinds of infractions…

This has provoked further critical comments:

ACI Title IV: Abandonment Without Offense? and Anglican Curmudgeon Bishop Henderson: It’s “Business as Usual” in the Church.

The full text of the Title IV canons can be found here (PDF).

Some more background can be found in this ENS news report from June: Disciplinary Board for Bishops formed for new Title IV canons.

Wednesday evening update

The Diocese of South Carolina has published this account of a meeting held yesterday, Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese Meet to Discuss “Serious Charges” Made Against Bishop Lawrence.

In an atmosphere of prayerful solemnity, the Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina gathered at Saint James Church, James Island, S.C. for more than two hours on Tuesday, October 12. In focus were the “serious charges” that have been made against Bishop Mark Lawrence and the diocese under the new Title IV canons.

Bishop Lawrence began by restating the diocesan vision of “Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age” and then traced the history of the current controversy in The Episcopal Church and the many obstacles they presented to pursuing our diocesan vision. He ended with the two recent diocesan conventions in which the diocese refused to be coerced into the Episcopal Church’s embrace of the new title IV canons which violate both due process and the Episcopal Church’s own constitution. Of further concern with the current allegations is that evidently this process doesn’t allow the accused to know who his accusers are…

Thursday lunchtime update

The State a newspaper in South Carolina reports Bishop urges calm over Lawrence inquiry

Retired Episcopal Bishop Dorsey F. Henderson Jr. sought Wednesday to quell tensions among S.C. Lowcountry clergy, saying the national church is not attacking its bishop, the Right Rev. Mark Lawrence.

Henderson, who heads the national Episcopal Church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops, told Lawrence Sept. 29 that the board is investigating allegations, made by churchgoers within Lawrence’s diocese, that he abandoned the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.

But Wednesday Henderson made clear that the inquiry is in its earliest stages and in no way implies that Lawrence may have committed any wrong. Henderson said he notified Lawrence and shared all the information the board had received.

“I thought he needed to know,” said Henderson, who led the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina until his retirement in 2009. “I thought it was only fair for him to know that we had this information and that we were studying it.”

…But Henderson said, “The idea that the Episcopal Church is after Bishop Lawrence and after the diocese is incorrect. I’m going to keep the board focused and, as much as humanly possible, to stay narrowly focused on the canon and to see if that information fits the definition of abandonment.”

Thursday afternoon update

Bishop Henderson has issued a further statement which is copied in full below the fold.

Statement from Bishop Henderson:

The Role of the Disciplinary Board Regarding the Bishop of South Carolina.

Public media has recently reported that the “The Episcopal Church is alleging that Bishop Mark Lawrence has abandoned the church….” That is incorrect.

This action originated with communicants of the Bishop Lawrence’s own diocese, who submitted information to the Disciplinary Board for the House of Bishops. Those communicants requested that the information be studied in order to determine if abandonment had occurred.

The Disciplinary Board, made up of bishops, other clergy, and lay people from many dioceses across the country (none of whom are in the employ of, or under the direction of, the Episcopal Church Center), does not have the discretion to decline to study the matter.

The role of the Disciplinary Board in circumstances which may constitute abandonment is to:

1. Determine whether the actions and/or conduct included in the information submitted to it is factual; and, then,

2. Determine whether the information submitted, even if true, constitutes abandonment as defined by the Church’s canons (laws).

The Disciplinary Board is only in the earliest stages of its work and has not reached any decision regarding the credibility of the information received or whether the actions and conduct reported actually constitute abandonment. It has made no “charges” of any kind; neither has any other part or structure of The Episcopal Church.

The Disciplinary Board will, by the grace of God and with diligence, proceed methodically, carefully, prayerfully—and confidentially—to meet its canonical responsibility, including a request for, and consideration of, any and all input that Bishop Lawrence wishes to be considered. The President of the Disciplinary Board has provided Bishop Lawrence with all of the information it has received and is under consideration, and will continue to do so.

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Father Ron Smith
Father Ron Smith
12 years ago

If Bishop Lawrence were not – deep down – trying to move his diocese of South Carolina out from TEC, why has he encouraged his Standing Committee to remove any reference to TEC’s Constitution as incumbent on the diocese? If he’s just playing silly beggars, then he can hardly complain that his petard is being hoisted

The agenda of this Bishop and his diocese seems so remarkably akin to that of ACNA and GAFCON, that one is left wondering why he ever decided to join the ranks of the episcopate in TEC – except to cause mayhem, and further dissolution?

12 years ago

Mark Lawrence’s very public assurance, given when he failed to receive the consents needed to confirm his first election, that he would not lead the diocese out of TEC, is surely a factor, Fr Ron.

Priscilla Cardinale
Priscilla Cardinale
12 years ago

There is no better role for SC right now than portraying itself as a meek and mild David facing a mean spirited Goliath embodied in TEC and the PB. The hysterical hullabaloo raised already has simply confirmed their longstanding fears. My question is how does any of this square with their purported “biblical “ Anglicanism? Would not the true martyr stand still and accept his fate without rancor or fight? Is not standing in a crucified place the holiest mission of all? It would seem that they would acquiesce to their holy martyrdom for the sake of their particular literalist… Read more »

Chris Smith
Chris Smith
12 years ago

Yes, I believe there was hypocrisy and deception at play here. Mark Lawrence did not keep his word and quite possibly never intended to do so. In the end, The Episcopal Church will prevail in this South Carolina case, as they have in every other State where similar thefts of Church property were attempted.

Steve Lusk
Steve Lusk
12 years ago

Re: Bishop Lawrence’s “very public assurance.”
“The tongue hath sworn: yet unsworn is the heart.”

12 years ago

The commenters above should pay attention to actual actions by SC rather than simply affirming their own insight into the hearts of those they disagree with. The state supreme court of SC has been quite clear about property law. If the Episcopal Diocese of SC wanted to leave TEC they could simply do so according to their own rules of governance. They do not need to be pretending they are staying while actually leaving. There is no reason to pretend. The state laws would fully support their departure if they took that action. Instead, as they have stated and documented… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Father Ron Smith
12 years ago

Rob, I ask you this question – which, incidentally, is as valid to be asked of the dissenters from Women Bishops in the Church of England:

“If you are so sure that the governance of your particular denominational Church is heretical (or heterodox) how can you stay within its borders?”

For the Diocese of S.C. and its bishop to assert their own integrity against that of TEC, is surely to disassociate themselves from TEC’s fellowship?
To stay within TEC, in this situation, would be tantamount to aubscribing to its ‘heterodoxy’.

12 years ago

There is nothing principled or admirable about infiltration and sabotage. It’s the way of cowards and liars and thieves.

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