No Charges Made Regarding Bishop Lawrence Abandonment-at this time
October 13, 2011

Bishop Henderson clarifies position of Disciplinary Board

In This Issue:
The Role of the Disciplinary Board Regarding the Bishop of South Carolina.
Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina Meet
Post & Courier - 11/13 AP Article
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The Role of the Disciplinary Board Regarding the Bishop of South Carolina.
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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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Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina Meet
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Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina 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.

Lawyer Alan Runyan then made a presentation based on his best understanding of what canonical process seemed to be being used by those in national leadership. It would appear they are proceeding under the abandonment canon with its fast track. Based on what has happened in other dioceses, a deposition of the bishop would be followed by attacks on diocese and the parishes. The picture painted was an ugly one of expensive litigation, confrontation and acrimony in which all involved significantly lost.

It was stressed that individual clergy, vestry, and parishes needed to be informed about the allegations, the purported process, and the implications at every conceivable level: financial, personal, legal and spiritual. All the clergy were encouraged to share their concerns with the bishop or the ordained members of the diocesan Standing Committee.

Two themes underlay the whole discussion. First, the Episcopal Church is in a constitutional crisis in which its own polity is being radically altered in violation of its history and founding documents, yet with no structural provision for a means of resolution when just such foundational disagreements occur. That such a deep dispute has arisen with one of the Episcopal Church’s founding dioceses only adds to the unfortunate environment into which all have been plunged. The Reverend Jeffrey Miller, past President of the Standing Committee stated during the gathering, “The question is not whether we can stay; it is whether they will let us stay and follow what we believe.”

Second, the deeper fracture is about a departure of the Episcopal Church’s leadership from Christian doctrine. Bishop C. Fitzsimmons Allison (XII Bishop of South Carolina) rose to express his concern with these theological innovations and to voice support for Lawrence. While these include a changed understanding of sexual ethics and Christian marriage, it goes much further to the matter of Scriptural interpretation and authority and the uniqueness and universality of Jesus Christ.

These recent actions mark yet another hindrance to the Diocese of South Carolina’s duty to be faithful to the truth of exactly that gospel and its proclamation to the world.

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Link to Diocese Website

Post & Courier - 11/13 AP Article
S.C. Diocese: Bishop’s accusers mystery
BY BRUCE SMITH
Associated Press
Thursday, October 13, 2011

The conservative Diocese of South Carolina said Wednesday its bishop, Mark Lawrence, is being accused of abandoning the Episcopal Church in a process that doesn’t allow him to know his accusers.

But the president of a national church board looking into the matter says those names will be made known to him if the panel decides there is abandonment.

Lawrence was recently contacted by the church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops. He was told that, based on information from churchgoers in the diocese, it is investigating whether he has abandoned the doctrine, discipline and worship of the church.

The Diocese of South Carolina has distanced itself from the national Episcopal Church in part because of the national body’s stance on ordaining gay bishops and sanctioning same-sex unions.

Bishop Dorsey Henderson, president of the disciplinary board, said Wednesday that if the panel decides there is abandonment, Lawrence will be given the names of those who raised the issue. “It is at that procedural point that the bishop responds to the certification of abandonment, and it is at that point the bishop certainly deserves to know the identities of those providing the initial information,” Henderson said.

He added there are no charges now against Lawrence and the investigation is simply that. He said that while Lawrence has not asked for the names, there is no provision in church law for releasing them at this point. About 100 clergy from the diocese in the lower and eastern parts of the state met Tuesday behind closed doors to discuss the allegations and procedures to investigate.

“Based on what has happened in other dioceses, a deposition of the bishop would be followed by attacks on the diocese and the parishes. The picture painted was an ugly one of expensive litigation, confrontation and acrimony in which all involved significantly lost,” the diocese said Wednesday in a statement.

The diocesan statement said the Episcopal Church “is in a constitutional crisis” and has no structure for resolving fundamental differences.

“The question is not whether we can stay; it is whether they will let us stay and follow what we believe,” the Rev. Jeffery Miller, a past president of the diocesan standing committee, said during the meeting. Standing Committees advise bishops and consent to the election of bishops, approve candidates for ordination and handle the fiscal affairs of a diocese.

Lawrence has said repeatedly it is not his intention for the diocese to leave the Episcopal Church. The letter from the disciplinary board mentioned, among other things, that it was given information that the South Carolina diocese had eliminated mention of the national church in the diocesan charter purpose statement and passed a resolution that the local diocese is a “sovereign diocese.” The letter also said that Lawrence had done nothing to stop local parishes seeking to leave the Episcopal church.

The proceedings against Lawrence would be the first under revised disciplinary rules the local diocese earlier opposed, said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian of the diocese.
Link to P & C

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