Two questions were asked at General Synod on Monday which were answered by the Bishop of Guildford. The full list of all Questions is available here (PDF).
53. Miss Prudence Dailey (Oxford) to ask the Chairman of the Council for Christian Unity:
Q. Has consideration been given to whether the Church of England is in full and unimpaired communion with Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina?
54. Mrs Lorna Ashworth (Chichester) to ask the Chairman of the Council for Christian Unity:
Q. Following the recent issue of a Certificate of Abandonment of the Episcopal Church in relation to the Rt Revd Mark J Lawrence, Bishop of South Carolina, and recognising that Bishop Lawrence has been one of the declining number of theologically conservative bishops who has sought to remain and to keep his people within TEC, in the light of paragraph 6 in the statement offered to the Synod in GS Misc 2011 by the Archbishops, are there any plans to consider proposing to the Synod fuller recognition of the Anglican Church in North America than has been considered to be appropriate up to this point.
The Bishop of Guildford’s answer (transcribed from audio recording available here)
With your permission sir, I will answer this and Mrs Ashworth’s question together.
The withdrawal from The Episcopal Church of most of the clergy and people of several dioceses, led by their bishops, after diocesan convention decisions, is a development novel in kind as well as in scale. Our North American sisters and brothers have been often involved in a litigious and sometimes acrimonious debate. We should try to remain on good terms with all parties and avoid inflaming matters further. Our response should be deliberate, and not hasty.
As the Archbishops noted in GS Misc 1011, the creation of the Anglican Church in North America raises questions of recognition of orders – ministry – as well as a relationship of communion. The former question is in some respects simpler, because the considerations are more objective, and it is also the more pressing, by reason of requests for transfer. Nevertheless there are some matters that require clarification before any decisions can be taken.
Clergy ordained in several churches with which we are not, or not yet, in communion are seeking permission to minister in the Church of England. The Council for Christian Unity has therefore established a small group to offer advice to the Archbishops through the Faith and Order Commission on the relevant issues. The question about the Anglican Church in North America’s orders (whether it is a church and whether its orders are such, whether they such that we can recognize) will be addressed in that context. This will necessarily involve direct ‘engagement with the Anglican Church in North America’ which was envisaged in the Archbishops General Synod miscellaneous paper that I have referred to, GS Misc 1011, and that will be the context for subsequent exploration of relationships between our churches.
On Saturday, a Special Diocesan Convention endorsed the South Carolina withdrawal from The Episcopal Church. The Bishop has stated that their position would be to remain within the Anglican Communion as an extra-provincial Diocese. The Episcopal Church on the other hand maintains that General Convention consent is necessary for any withdrawal. So the legal and indeed theological and ecclesiological position is extremely complicated. And it is absolutely not certain.
It has therefore not been possible to consider the consequences for our relationships at this immediate stage. And, in my view, any statement just at this point would be premature.