I wish I knew Mark Lawrence, bishop elect for the Diocese of South Carolina. I am very taken with his chutzpah, his nerve, his gall, whatever you call it. But after several bouts of hearing him out and giving him every benefit, cutting him every slack, he comes back with words that leave me perplexed. These are not words of comfort or words of assurance.
He is quoted in the Living Church (online) saying:
“I should also continue to be cognizant that upholding the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church includes the essential fact of it remaining a constituent member of the Anglican Communion. No one knows where we will end up. Anglicanism is in a profound state of transformation right now.
“The people of South Carolina followed the process, and I was overwhelmingly elected on the first ballot. Does anyone really think by rejecting me as bishop that they can force Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina to choose someone more to their liking? Is that going to help convince the people of South Carolina that they are still respected and their voice listened to by the majority?”
As I understand the first of these statements, Fr. Lawrence is committed to upholding the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church so long as it remains a constituent member of the Anglican Communion. Other remarks of his lead me to understand that he does not believe the Episcopal Church is such a member or he believes that will not be the case for very long.
More, Fr. Lawrence holds that the preamble to the Constitution is definitive rather than descriptive, that is IF we are a constituent member we are “really” the Episcopal Church, and IF NOT we are not really The Episcopal Church. In this second case, he does not consider himself bound by the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church since TEC is not then a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Fr. Lawrence is wrong in so holding.
As I understand the second of these statements, Fr. Lawrence seems to think that not consenting to his election is so that “they can force Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina to choose someone more to their liking?” The issue is not “someone to their liking,” the issue is someone who can without guile take the oath.
Fr. Lawrence asks, “Is that (not giving consent) going to help convince the people of South Carolina that they are still respected and their voice listened to by the majority?” No, not giving consent is not going to convince the people of South Carolina of anything. But why should they need convincing? This is not about making up to someone, or respecting someone who has not been respected in the past. No one has suggested that I know of that the Diocese of South Carolina ought not be respected or is somehow held in lesser esteem than other Dioceses. There is no need to convince the Diocese of anything, as far as I am aware.
This process is about having an election accompanied by the resolution of the several Dioceses, represented by the Bishops of Jurisdiction and the Standing Committees, so that it is clear that the Bishop so elected will have seat in the House of Bishops and so that the Presiding Bishop takes in hand the process for the ordination of the bishop as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.
It seems to me that Fr. Lawrence (i) fails to show that without reservations he is willing to take the oath, and (ii) wildly misunderstands or misstates the reason for consent.
With regret I have come to believe Fr. Lawrence is not without guile in the concerns raised.
It is time to say NO.