News & Commentary on Bishop Lawrence Investigation
October 6, 2011
Bishop Lawrence reserves comment untill clergy mtg. next week
ENS - SC bishop investigated on charges he has abandoned the Episcopal Church
By Mary Frances Schjonberg, October 05, 2011
[Episcopal News Service]
Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence told his diocese Oct. 5 that "serious charges" have been made that he has abandoned the Episcopal Church.
The allegations are being investigated by the church's Disciplinary Board for Bishops. Communicants in the Diocese of South Carolina filed the information with the board, according to the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, board president. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the House of Bishops were not involved in making the claims, Henderson said in a fact sheet.
"Therefore, the matter is not being handled by the Presiding Bishop's office or anyone in the employ of the Episcopal Church Center," Henderson said in the fact sheet.
Henderson said he has been in contact with Lawrence, whose ministry has not been restricted during this phase of the process.
Under Title IV, Canon 16, a bishop is deemed to have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church by an open renunciation of the doctrine, discipline or worship of the church; by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the church; or by exercising episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than the church or another church in communion with the church.
The package of documents Lawrence said he received Sept. 29 from Henderson, is posted here on the diocese's website. The documents contain 12 allegations of when Lawrence's "actions and inactions" sought to have abandoned the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.
Those allegations cite five specific diocesan convention resolutions that Lawrence supported. In addition, the allegations also claim that Lawrence has removed all references to the Episcopal Church from the diocesan website and notes that half of the congregations with working website have done the same or offer links to breakaway Anglican organizations.
"The bishop appears to have done nothing to stop other parishes which are outwardly moving in the direction of withdrawal" from the Episcopal Church, including parishes that have sought or obtained legal advice on those moves, allegation seven says.
Three allegations reference comments made by Lawrence about what he calls the Episcopal Church's "false gospel of indiscriminate inclusivity" and his description of the church as a "comatose patient" that has slowed down Anglicanism in the 21st century.
It is also alleged that missions are being planted in the diocese but Lawrence has not recognized "a congregation of loyal Episcopalians" as a parish or mission.
The 12th allegation surrounds the circumstances of ordination of Lawrence's son.
The diocese also released a letter from Josephine Hicks, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based lawyer, who was retained by the disciplinary board to act as "church attorney" to investigate cases brought to it. Hicks, a former member of the church's Executive Council, asked the Rev. Paul Feuner, diocesan standing committee chair, for documents related to the committee's votes on resolutions submitted to four meetings of diocesan convention between October 2009 and February 2011.
Those resolutions are related to a series of moves the diocese has taken to distance itself from the Episcopal Church, ultimately stemming from disagreements over human sexuality issues and theological interpretation. In October 2009 the diocese authorized Lawrence and the Standing Committee to begin withdrawing from churchwide bodies that assent to "actions deemed contrary to Holy Scripture, the doctrine, discipline 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 a willingness to repent of such actions."
That authorization came in response to two General Convention resolutions passed two months earlier that focused on human sexuality and reaffirmed the Episcopal Church's commitment to the Anglican Communion. Resolution D025 affirms "that God has called and may call" gay and lesbian people "to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church." Resolution C056 calls for the collection and development of theological resources for the blessing of same-gender blessings and allows bishops to provide "a generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church."
In October 2010, the South Carolina convention passed six resolutions in response to General Convention's 2009 passage of revised Title IV canons on clergy discipline, according to an explanation posted on the diocese's homepage before the convention. The convention met again in February 2011and passed two of those resolutions again as required, amending the diocesan constitution to remove the accession clause to the canons of the Episcopal Church, and to enable the convention to meet more frequently than annually.
"These resolutions seek to protect the diocese from any attempt at un-constitutional intrusions in our corporate life in South Carolina and were in response to the revisions to the Title IV Canons of the Episcopal Church," according to a diocesan news report at the time.
In late May, a group of South Carolina Episcopalians asked Jefferts Schori, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson and the Executive Council to investigate the diocese's actions. At council's meeting in June, it decided to remind the diocese of a resolution it passed in 2007 declaring "null and void" resolutions passed in the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy and San Joaquin repealing or limiting the extent to which they were subject to the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons.
Lawrence and Feuner responded, saying the diocese does not recognize the council resolution or "its attempted application to the Diocese of South Carolina." Their response came a day before Lawrence said he received word of the investigation.
In an apparent reference to the 12th allegation, Hicks in her letter also asked for documents pertaining to ordination to the diaconate and priesthood of Lawrence's son, the Rev. Chadwick E. Lawrence. According to packet of information released by the diocese, one area of investigation concerns allegations that Lawrence's son was not a deacon in the Episcopal Church when he ordained him as a priest
Lawrence has called a meeting of all active and canonically resident clergy Oct. 11 "in order to understand the possible implications and to engage in corporate prayer for the diocese."
When Lawrence was first elected bishop in September 2006, he faced numerous questions about whether he would attempt to convince Episcopalians there to leave the church. In a November 6, 2006 letter to the wider church he wrote that he would "work at least as hard at keeping the Diocese of South Carolina in the Episcopal Church as my sister and brother bishops work at keeping the Episcopal Church in covenanted relationship with the worldwide Anglican Communion."
Lawrence did not receive the required consents to his consecration in 2007 because some standing committee consent forms were canonically improper. He was subsequently re-elected, received the consents required for all bishops-elect and was consecrated January 26, 2008.
Near the end of the 2008 Lambeth Conference, Lawrence told reporters that during a meeting of conservative Anglicans and Episcopalians in Jerusalem a few weeks earlier he had witnessed a "new prince" being born.
Lawrence said he knew that his role is to "hold together as much as I can for as long as I can that when he comes to his rightful place on St. Augustine's throne in Canterbury Cathedral he will have a faithful and richly textured kingdom."
The disciplinary board's investigation of Lawrence appears to be among the first it has conducted. The board was created under the revised Title IV canons on ecclesiastical discipline which went into effect on July 1. According to Title IV Canon 17.3, the board is made up of ten bishops elected at any regularly scheduled meeting of the House of Bishops, and four priests or deacons and four lay persons initially appointed by the president of the House of Deputies with the Executive Council and thereafter elected by the House of Deputies. Henderson noted in his fact sheet that the board "operates confidentially."
-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
Link to ENS Article
Mark Harris - Drama or Not with Lawrence of South Carolina
from: Mark Harrris - Preludium Website:
There has been a bubbling up of matters pertaining to the legislative actions of the Diocese of South Carolina and the case made by its bishop, Mark Lawrence, with the tidal wave of paper today........
It didn't take any time for Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner at the Anglican Communion Institute to fashion this response: A Response to the reported Title IVdisciplinary process begun against Bishop Mark Lawrence, which closes with this strange paragraph:
"I personally stand beside Bishop Lawrence and the people of South Carolina. 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."
Radner apparently had not read, or did not believe, Bishop Henderson's message.
The charges are dangling out there: This is a put up job to avert attention to the chaos in The Episcopal Church; it is the Presiding Bishop's forces at work to hound Bishop Lawrence from the Church; it is further example (Warner of Olympia being the first, and now Lawrence the second) of the terror that is Title IV; it is the culmination of a well panned out long range attach against orthodox Christians in The Episcopal Church.
This is at the very least sad.
I take Bishop Henderson's memo at face value. Persons from the Diocese of South Carolina, for whatever reasons, have presented charges. Those must be investigated. Everyone who needs to know that such an investigation is under way know. The question as to whether or not there is sufficient evidence to warrant further work by the Disciplinary Board remains to be seen.
Looking at the presented evidence, there seem to be three sorts of charges: (i) The Diocese, with Bishop Lawrence's support and encouragement, passed resolutions that attempt to modify the "unqualified accession" to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, (ii) the Bishop has encouraged the Diocese to remove itself from all engagements with The Episcopal Church on a church wide level and has set the stage for an attempt to leave TEC, and (iii) he illegally ordained his son a priest in this church.. I don't see much hope for any of these leading to the conclusion that he has abandoned The Episcopal Church. But, we shall see.
I hope that the last of these charges - that he did not properly ordain his son according to canon law will not make it very far. The son was a deacon somewhere, could indeed have been admitted into The Episcopal Church on the grounds that his orders, although irregular, are real, and ordained here. Then again it may have been less clearly done, but there it is. Let it alone.
About the real desires of the Bishop of South Carolina, the extent to which he is itching for a fight, etc, who knows?
I think the clearest of the charges is that he has mislead the Diocese, with bad legal advice, to believe that it is not bound by the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church unless it wishes to be so bound. His letter arguing that the changes made in the diocesan constitution and canons are valid in spite of the reading otherwise by a committee of Executive Council's reading of General Convention actions is, to my mind, just plain wrong. You can read his letter HERE.
The notion that the original states (they were not called dioceses then) which became known as dioceses at a later point, are exempt from the rule that binds dioceses in "unqualified accession" to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, is very odd indeed. The matter of being in union with the General Convention and bound by its Constitution and Canons is established with the acceptance of those canons by the assembled General Convention itself. That the General Convention would later require "unqualified accession' by new dioceses presumes that those diocese already in union with General Convention have understood their similar accession to the Constitution and Canons. To think otherwise would be to suggest the General Convention was aware of, or approved of a two tiered General Convention with dioceses who were and are independent and others who were admitted into union and are not independent. That is a stretch.
Should it be clear that the Bishop has mislead the Diocese, and the Diocese has passed resolutions that are null and void, would that be grounds for the charge of abandonment? I think not. If the Bishop or Diocesan Council or Convention were to act in ways that ran counter to the Constitution and Canons then they could be brought to trial for disobedience of the Canons, itself a reason for deposition. But at least that would be on the basis of actions.
Abandonment, if it is to have much meaning, needs to be reserved for, well, abandonment. Before there is the jumping of ship, there is, however, often actions of defiance. Defiance of the canons is unbecoming a clergy person (although most of us have been unbecoming in this regard at one time or another), but more importantly it is, if grave and or serious, a basis for trial.
Perhaps an interesting place to test all that out is in what I understand to have been changes made in the ordination declaration which the Bishop personally hears in the service. Another place would be in his refusal, if he does so, to take his part in the councils of the church - the primary one being his part as bishop in the House of Bishops. Deliberately abstaining from attendance can be viewed, if it goes on long enough, as refusing to honor his vows taken at ordination.
So, I believe we need to let this all stew. We need to pray for Bishop Lawrence, Bishop Henderson, the Presiding Bishop, and for Dr. Radner whose rant seems a bit over the top, and while we are at it for the Diocese of South Carolina and for The Episcopal Church. There are plenty of prayers needed all around. And there is the need to be less ready to leap to the conclusion that it is all a plot by somebody to do something awful to somebody else.
Posted by Mark Harris at 10/06/2011 12:04:00 AM
Link to Preludium Website
Adam Parker - Post & Courier Article
By: Adam Parker
The Episcopal Church has launched an investigation of Bishop Mark J. Lawrence a year after the Diocese of South Carolina voted to distance itself from the national church because of disagreements stemming from the 2003 consecration of an openly gay bishop.
Two years ago, the diocese, under the leadership of Lawrence, voted to strengthen its autonomy and "begin withdrawing" from the church. In February, it changed its constitution, asserting the authority of the local diocese over the national church. The national church's accusation of abandonment sets the stage for disciplinary action.
On Wednesday, the diocese published a letter from Lawrence and the Very Rev. Paul C. Fuener, president of the Standing Committee, informing local Episcopalians of the "serious charges" made by the national church and publicizing 63 pages of materials the church is using to support its claim.
A Sept. 30 letter from a church attorney requested of the diocese that it submit documents concerning Lawrence's ordination, meeting minutes and other correspondence. Various letters, reports, articles and other material are under review by the General Convention's Disciplinary Board for Bishops, whose president is the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, retired bishop of Upper South Carolina. In a statement, Henderson said that information was obtained from "communicants within the Diocese of South Carolina" and "not brought forward by the Presiding Bishop's office, or by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church."
Note: The P&C website provides links to its earlier coverage of these issues.)
Link to P & C
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