Update on the Episcopal Church in South Carolina

I had some trouble figuring out what to title this post, since everything, including what to call the various parties involved in the dispute, is being contested.


At least I’m not being as tendentious as the the Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs, which entitled its press release today “Presiding Bishop accepts Lawrence’s renunciation.” It’s not at all clear to me that what Bishop Lawrence did or said in his convention address of November 17 constitutes renunciation of his ordination vows. The Episcopal Cafe story is here.

The article goes on to say that the PB’s actions were fully supported by members of her Council of Advice.

I grant that this is a difficult situation but I fail to see what is being accomplished in these actions or in earlier ones, such as the PB’s “pastoral letter” that read more like a legal document than attempt to listen, mend fences, or pray for reconciliation.

Tobias Haller wonders whether the PB is jumping the gun. He points out that the canons require a written declaration of renunciation:

While I believe that Mark Lawrence has abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church, I do not think he has renounced his ministry, at least in the manner laid out by Canon III.12.7, which requires a written declaration to the Presiding Bishop expressing a “desire to be removed.”

If there is a way forward, or a Christ-like presence in this controversy, it seems to me the statements of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina are bearing witness to Christ’s reconciling love. Here’s a resolution passed by that Diocese’s Standing Committee on the situation: SC Ltr Res

Bishop Waldo wrote a pastoral letter. In it he writes:

Looking to the future, we do not know how things will unfold across the state. We do not know what individuals and congregations within the Diocese of South Carolina will do. We do not know how the leadership of The Episcopal Church will proceed.

We do know that friendships and relationships across the state will persist. I do know that I will stay in contact with my brother, Mark Lawrence, and those within this diocese who have appreciated and agreed with his theological perspective. I will also stay in contact and dialogue with those who have felt that The Episcopal Church has moved courageously in its theological developments. And, I offer my support to those within the Diocese of South Carolina who wish remain within The Episcopal Church. Both Bishop Mark Lawrence and Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori are aware of my offer.

My deepest hope is that in the long-term we, in our brokenness, will steadfastly hold on to the possibility of reconciliation and restoration, even if it takes us a generation. This is precisely the kind of dialogue to which our diocesan strategic visioning process calls us. I will continue to foster such dialogue and to be the bishop of all in this diocese, regardless of where members are on the theological or political continuum.

Therefore we must continue to pray for those whom we love and for those whom we struggle to love, whether they live within or beyond this diocese.

The complete text is here: Advent 2012 – for posting


4 thoughts on “Update on the Episcopal Church in South Carolina

  1. While Bishop Waldo’s intentions are certainly laudable, it is also important to recognize that his several initiatives have evoked no positive response from Bishop Lawrence or anyone on the standing committee of the former Diocese of South Carolina. Moreover, the Presiding Bishop’s letter makes clear what the next steps will be; therefore, the current situation is not as obscure as Bishop Waldo’s letter seems to assert. The situation in the lower diocese is indeed a mess, but Mark Lawrence brought it on himself and that seems to have been his intent from the very beginning of his tenure. Bringing about a schism appears to have been the reason that the dissident leadership of the diocese elected a protege of schismatic bishop Schofield in the first place. This is a case of San Joaquin redux!

    • Bruce: You’re much closer to the situation than I am. But as I’m just not sure what another legal battle would accomplish, other than lawyers’ fees. At some point, one ought to be willing to let those who want to leave, go; and focus on building up a new diocese among those who want to stay. It’s a matter of allocation of resources and energy, and from my perspective the Episcopal Church is investing too much in protecting turf and not enough on mission.

  2. What are honest, believing Christians supposed to do when the Episcopal Church just abandons the Bible and morality in such an obvious and indefensible way as over homosexual behavior? May God bless his courage. But I would agree that the continued splintering of protestantism is not really the way to go. The long term survival of the Anglican tradition depends on the Anglican Ordinariates in the Catholic Church which stabilize that tradition within the bounds of orthodox Christianity and with the life of Grace supplied by the Sacraments.

    • I must say that I am deeply hurt when you say “the Episcopal Church has abandoned the Bible and morality.” I read the Bible daily, I preach from scripture each Sunday, I taught Bible for over ten years in college. That we might disagree about the interpretation of scripture is one thing, but I take scripture with utter seriousness and seek to be faithful to it in the context of the twenty-first century. I assume you do so as well. In fact, for many years, I have taken as my guiding principle in its interpretation the advice of St. Augustine of Hippo, who repeatedly said (most clearly in de doctrina christiana) that all of our interpretation of scripture should be guided by two principles: the love of God and the love of one’s neighbor.

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