Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina, in his address to the diocese said this (thanks to T19 for posting part of the address and linking to a PDF of the rest) :
"Beyond differentiation there is important witness still left to do, and from which I believe God has not yet released us. I believe the House of Bishops, and the Executive Council, following the lead of General Convention 2006 has resisted the change that the Holy Spirit seems to be urging us toward as Anglicans—such as, the call toward a more responsible autonomy and inter-provincial accountability. Yet these bodies have fearfully protected the prior century’s polity and structure when 21st Century structures are needed. It continues to astonish me that so many leaders in our Church favor revision of our doctrinal and moral teaching and yet uphold relatively recent canons and polity with a fervor that would be admirable if held toward the fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles. This heel-dragging protectiveness was shown clearly in New Orleans in 2007 when the HOB refused to adopt the Primates’ Communiqué from Dar es Salaam, arguing that it was contrary to the polity of our Church. The bishops were soon followed by the Executive Council, therein making it difficult if not impossible for the Presiding Bishop to follow through with the Primates’ directives. If we had received the Primates’ recommendation the four dioceses which have since left would be intact and in TEC today! Even more recently, this fear was shown afresh when individual bishops who seemingly have little respect for the Windsor Process and the Anglican Covenant accepted the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend Lambeth and then spoke against any progress towards a Covenant. They will not be able to hold back the future of global Anglicanism permanently. Either Episcopalianism will repent of its unscriptural autonomy or it will spread its splintering tendencies of the last forty years throughout the Anglican Communion."
It is important to note that Bishop Lawrence is clear that he sees the Diocese of South Carolina's having a role from which they have not yet been released. He stresses this by saying,
"I believe our steadfastness will be of service within TEC—if only by challenging the structural conservatism of the theological innovators to face the changes of the future. Even more importantly it will be of service for the Anglican Communion as it moves towards the emerging structures God is providentially shaping."
Three points here: (i) "God has not yet released us..." is good news for the Church, up to a point. We need the Diocese of SC as part of our life. But the implication is that God might someday release the Diocese of South Carolina from TEC. (For example if ACNA becomes recognized as an alternative, better, or more pure, presence of Anglicanism in North America and they were to join it. ) This is not such good news. (ii) We may all hope that the bishop is right, that "steadfastness will be of service within TEC." The future of the Anglican Communion and the way in which member churches will express their fellowship in the Communion is indeed a matter of great concern.
Bishop Lawrence believes that "Episcopalianism will repent of its unscriptural autonomy or it will spread its splintering tendencies of the last forty years throughout the Anglican Communion." He believes also that The Episcopal Church leadership and structures are stuck in an organizational protectiveness that will not serve the future.
He makes a fairly snarky remark in his speech: "It continues to astonish me that so many leaders in our Church favor revision of our doctrinal and moral teaching and yet uphold relatively recent canons and polity with a fervor that would be admirable if held toward the fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles." The implications of this declaration of astonishment is that TEC is long on law and short on faith. It is the standard line thrown as a treat to the listeners. But underneath it is the charge that the "splintering tendencies of the last forty years" will continue and are all the fault of TEC (Forty years ago... takes us to 1969 ... the ordination of women, allowing them as deputies at General Convention, and the Special Convention of 1969, prayer book reform, etc.) The notion that these relatively recent actions are due to something other than a faithfulness to the "fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles" is a bit over the top.
Turning The Episcopal Church or at least some of its leadership into advocates for some "ism" called "Episcopalianism" is a clever introduction to an idea that is making the rounds these days - that TEC leadership has produced a partisan belief system, an "ism," and substituted that for the church and the faith.
Bishop Lawrence hopes those in The Episcopal Church who practice this awful "ism" of Episcopalianism" will repent of its unscriptural autonomy. This is not only a throw-away line, it is nonsense. Our Lord's prayer that we all might be one is at the same time more universal than the question of who does or does not buy into the Anglican Covenant or for that matter who does or does not belong to the Anglican Communion, and it is more personal.
This leaves us with the Bishop's sense that the Diocese of South Carolina, and I presume he, still has a role to play in The Episcopal Church. For this we should be thankful. When he or the diocese believe they no longer have a role to play in TEC it will be important to remind them that the diocese and its bishop do not simply have roles, they hold license on the basis of oath and accession. If they are called by God to leave TEC, it is not simply a role that they give up, they lose license to call themselves the Diocese of South Carolina or the bishop of South Carolina.
I too believe Bishop Lawrence has a role to play. He is a bishop of the church and diocesan of a fine diocese. His opinions about matters before us are important. His role is to convince as many as possible that the path he believes to be true to the best of Anglican thought and practice is that which we must follow. Some of us are called to other understandings of the path. We can look forward to spirited debate with bishop and deputies of South Carolina on the Covenant and on all other matters, and we can practice union in spite of differences.