Message sent to every diocesan bishop and standing committee
TO: Diocesan Bishops and Members of Diocesan Standing Committees
FROM: The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina
We are writing as an assembly of Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina who are working together to retain and strengthen ties with The Episcopal Church. We ask you to take seriously our concerns regarding the future of our diocese and the strength of our Church. We sense that there exists a broad perception of overriding support within our diocese for the direction it is taking, which is reflected in the election of Mark Lawrence. We believe that you, leaders of our national Church, should be informed about issues of critical concern, and we believe that this certainly is one of those moments.
It is important that you know, as you consider our concern, that the Diocese of South Carolina is not unified in its support of the Anglican Communion Network and its positions, nor is it unified in a desire to disassociate from The Episcopal Church. There are congregations in this diocese that remain committed to The Episcopal Church, and segments of “dissenting” congregations that remain equally committed. The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina is supported by parishioners from a majority of parishes in the diocese, and provides a voice for those loyal to The Episcopal Church.
In our diocesan election process only candidates who had declared themselves ready to sever their ties to The Episcopal Church were on the ballot. Although several more moderate candidates were proposed by both nomination and petition, they were excluded from the election. Mark Lawrence was broadly supported as an individual, and as the best choice available. However, his election is being touted in the diocese as a mandate for separation from The Episcopal Church. We want to emphasize the fact that that is not unanimous, nor do we accept it.
Our concern is heightened by his expressed intention to separate from The Episcopal Church. In a recent article printed in The Living Church, Mark Lawrence wrote, “When the standing committee of our diocese (San Joaquin) and our bishop ask for alternative primatial oversight, it is because all due parliamentary procedure to convince The Episcopal Church that it has erred has proved fruitless…..” This is from an article entitled “Remaining Anglican: In Defense of Dissociation (sic).”
His perspective deeply concerns us, as it would further isolate a substantial number of Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina. There is a climate of intolerance in this diocese toward Episcopalians who do not agree with the expressed position of the majority of clergy and lay leaders who are members of the Anglican Communion Network. We fear that climate would be exacerbated by the administration of a bishop with the perspective of Mark Lawrence who declares that separation from The Episcopal Church is necessary. (Reference his responses to the questionnaire for candidates, available on the Diocese of South Carolina Website)
We want the new bishop of South Carolina be committed without reservation to the ordination oath signed by every new bishop to conform to the “doctrine, discipline and worship” of The Episcopal Church. We understand that commitment to include respecting the democratic actions of the General Convention and the elected leadership of The Episcopal Church as it is now constituted.
We believe that The Episcopal Church must continue to embrace a wide range of Anglican expression, without having one expression harm or reject the others. Many of us feel spiritually harassed by the ongoing public rebuke of The Episcopal Church by our diocesan leaders. We are told that we are not adequate Christians because of our continuing support for The Episcopal Church. We believe that in God’s eyes the way we care for one another is far more important than theological uniformity. The Episcopal Church welcomes all with love, leaving judgment and rebuke to our Lord’s great mercy and forgiveness.
We question whether a person who repudiates our national Church and is working to replace The Episcopal Church with another organized church structure should be considered qualified to be a bishop in this or any other diocese. Please give our concerns your prayerful attention as you consider your consent to this election.
You can view the names of officers, directors, and members of The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina responsible for this message at our website www.episcopalforumofsc.org .
GO TO EPISCOPAL FORUM OF SC WEBSITE