Reactions to News of Bishop Lawrence Abandonment Investigation
October 5, 2011 (PM)

Bishop Dorsey Henderson is President of the Title IV Disciplinary Board

In This Issue:
Bishop Dorsey Henderson - President of the Title IV Disciplinary Board
Living Church - Board Hears Case against Bp. Lawrence
Anglican Communion Institute Response to allegatikons against Bishop Mark Lawrence
AP Wire - SC Bishop said to have abandoned Episcopal church
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Bishop Dorsey Henderson - President of the Title IV Disciplinary Board
Henderson clarifies SC complaint and investigation


Bishop Dorsey Henderson is the President of the Title IV Disciplinary Board of the Episcopal Church. He has written a short memo clarifying the complaint against and the investigation of Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina.
This morning, we used the term "presentment" but this was not accurate and we regret the error.

A complaint has been made to the Title IV Disciplinary Board and they are obliged to investigate. Whether or not formal charges are to be made against Bishop Lawrence will depend on the outcome of the investigation.

The complaint against Lawrence originated from communicants within the Diocese of South Carolina. The church attorney has been retained by the Disciplinary Board in accordance with the canons, and this person is not the chancellor to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Clarity is important in this case because certain groups and bloggers that are critical of the Episcopal Church would like to hold this up as a supreme example of persecution while portraying themselves as victims.

Ironically, one of the complaints against Lawrence is that he and the Diocesan Convention tried to distance themselves from the very disciplinary canon that may give him the fairest possible hearing because the new Title IV is designed to be a measured and careful process.

It is as easy to spin this story as laity exercising their last resort to curb the arbitrary actions of a runaway bishop, as to paint it as the liberal national church cracking down on a conservative victim of conscience. Maybe moreso, since the bishop's response to having a complaint field against him by lay people in his diocese is to schedule a closed door meeting with his clergy. But we have seen none of the first kind of spin, and plenty of the latter.

Here is Bishop Henderson's memo in full:

From Bishop Dorsey Henderson President of the Title IV Disciplinary Board of the Episcopal Church
Concerning the Diocese of South Carolina:

•In the matter concerning the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, information is being reviewed by the Title IV Disciplinary Board. Bishop Dorsey Henderson is President of the Title IV Disciplinary Board.

•Information was presented from communicants within the Diocese of South Carolina.

•The information was not brought forward by the Presiding Bishop’s office, or by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church. Therefore, the matter is not being handled by the Presiding Bishop’s office or anyone in the employ of the Episcopal Church Center.

•All information has been presented to the Disciplinary Board under the Episcopal Church Title IV disciplinary canons (laws of the church).

•In situations as this, the “church attorney” is an attorney who is retained by the Disciplinary Board to investigate cases brought to the Disciplinary Board. The “church attorney” is not the chancellor to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

•As a matter of law and a matter of respect to those involved, the Disciplinary Board operates confidentially and will continue to do so. As such, it would not be appropriate to discuss the details of the case in public.

•Bishop Henderson has been in conversation with Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina.

•The Disciplinary Board is comprised of Episcopal Church bishops, clergy and laity.
Link to Episcopal Cafe Post

Living Church - Board Hears Case against Bp. Lawrence
POSTED ON: October 5, 2011

The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, Bishop of South Carolina, is being investigated on accusations of abandoning the Episcopal Church, and his diocese has released a 63-page document [PDF] of the evidence brought against him.
Lawrence and the Very Rev. Paul C. Fuener, president of the diocese’s standing committee wrote in a letter to members of the diocese that on Sept. 29 the bishop “received communication from the President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops that ‘serious charges’ have been made under Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church.

… Since several of these allegations also include actions taken by the Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina, after sustained prayer and discernment, it has seemed appropriate to both the Bishop and the Standing Committee to make these allegations available to the members of the Diocese.”

The Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, retired Bishop of Upper South Carolina, is president of the 19-member Title IV Disciplinary Board. The diocese also released a one-page letter [PDF] by Josephine H. Hicks, a member of and church attorney for the disciplinary board, asking for all documents related to Bishop Lawrence’s ordination of his son, Chadwick E. Lawrence, to the priesthood, which the board contends violated the canons of the Episcopal Church.

The 63-page document cites the diocese convention’s decision in October 2009 to “begin withdrawing from all bodies of the Episcopal Church that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture, the doctrine, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them, the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference which have expressed the mind of the Communion, the Book of Common Prayer, and our Constitution and Canons, until such bodies show willingness to repent of such actions.”

The document also relies on a variety of other articles by or about the bishop, including one reference to a meeting between the Archbishop of Canterbury and seven bishops of the Episcopal Church who belong to Communion Partners.

These are the other six bishops who joined Lawrence in that meeting:
•The Rt. Rev. Gary R. Lillibridge, Bishop of West Texas.
•The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II, Bishop of Northern Indiana.
•The Rt. Rev. William H. Love, Bishop of Albany.
•The Rt. Rev. D. Bruce MacPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana.
•The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith, Bishop of North Dakota.
•The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas.

Another document presented as evidence is the diocese’s vote to endorse the proposed Anglican Covenant, including its request that “the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates, and the Anglican Consultative Council … allow dioceses lying within provinces which may choose not to abide by such a Covenant to sign their support of such a covenant, and be recognized as full members of the Communion.”

An essay Bishop Lawrence wrote for THE LIVING CHURCH also is presented as evidence, but the document cites a version published in the Beaufort [S.C.] Tribune as “The axe swinging isn’t working.”
Link to Living Church

Anglican Communion Institute Response to allegatikons against Bishop Mark Lawrence
Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

The recently announced disciplinary process against Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina is deeply disturbing on at least two fronts. First, it sullies the Gospel and the Lord of the Gospel; second, it promises to do serious damage to The Episcopal Church (TEC).

In the first place, the allegations against Bishop Lawrence, and the claim that they may amount to “abandonment” of TEC are so absurd as to cross the line into deceit and malice. The fact that these allegations are being made and taken seriously by the leadership of TEC in itself constitutes an affront to the commitments for which a Christian church stands – honesty, charity, care for the witness of the Church’s unity..........

.........If he has abandoned TEC, then it must mean that I have as well. Will you drive all of us out, Bishop Jefferts Schori? I say as clearly as I can: Presiding Bishop, you have bankrupted your apostolic office, broken your vows, and sullied this church, of which I and others are still members despite your folly, and of which I am still proud to be a member precisely because of bishops like Mark Lawrence whose witness proves that God, in his mercy, has at least not abandoned us.

AP Wire - SC Bishop said to have abandoned Episcopal church
SC Bishop said to have abandoned Episcopal church
BRUCE SMITH - Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Episcopal Church is alleging that Bishop Mark Lawrence has abandoned the church through his leadership of the Diocese of South Carolina that has distanced itself from the national church because of its policies of ordaining gay bishops and sanctioning same-sex unions.

Lawrence was contacted last week by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops of the national church. The letter said the board had evidence establishing the "abandonment of the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church."

The letter mentioned, among other things, eliminating mention of national church in the diocesan charter purpose statement, a resolution that the local diocese is a "sovereign diocese" and that Lawrence has done nothing to stop local parishes seeking to leave the national church.

The national church has also asked for the records of the Standing Committee of the diocese comprised of 28,000 parishioners in 47 parishes in eastern and lower South Carolina.
Lawrence on Wednesday called a meeting for next week in which clergy of the diocese will discuss the developments.

Two years ago the conservative diocese voted to distance itself from the national church but not break away entirely.
The discord stems from the national church's consecration in 2003 of its first openly gay bishop and its 2008 decision allowing bishops to bless same-sex unions. In 2006, the local diocese voted to reject the authority of the bishop of the national church.

Lawrence said the meeting next Tuesday will allow the clergy to pray and discuss the situation.
Asked if he thought the developments will lead to a final split with the national church, he replied, "Any speculation about that on my part at this time would be unhelpful and premature."

The bishop said he wanted first to discuss the situation with the clergy in the closed-door meeting. "It will primarily be a gathering of the family leaders - the ordained clergy who have charge of the flock - who will meet with their bishop and be apprised of the implications of these allegations if they go forward as charges and we don't know that yet," he said.

The 2 million-member Episcopal church is the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion, which has 77 million members worldwide.

Neva Rae Fox, a spokeswoman for the national church at its New York headquarters, said she would have a comment later on the implications of the letter from the disciplinary board.
Some parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina have formally left the national Episcopal Church to join the more conservative Anglican Church in North America, including St. Andrews Church in Mount Pleasant last year.

More than seven years ago, All Saints Church on Pawleys Island left, prompting a legal fight between the denomination and the church over parish property. The state Supreme Court later ruled the local parish owned its property and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the denomination's appeal.
Link to article appearing in the State

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