Has Bishop Lawrence misrepresented himself or only misspoken?

Bishop Mark Lawrence has been through the fire twice. The first time he was elected bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina he failed to receive the necessary consents from bishops and Standing Committees. The diocese clearly wanted him and on a second try his election, this time without other candidates, was met with sufficient support, and he was ordained.

One of the major areas of contention concerning his election was whether or not he was willing to commit to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. He spoke in rather oblique terms at first, but seemed willing to assure bishops and others that he took his vows seriously. Obviously, he succeeded.

Now, however it appears that Bishop Lawrence is less convinced of the need to hold to those vows.

When ordained bishop he is asked by the chief consecrator, "Will you share with your fellow bishops in the government of the whole Church; will you sustain your fellow presbyters and take counsel with them; will you guide and strengthen the deacons and all others who minister in the Church?"

On the matter of sharing "with your fellow bishops in the government of the whole Church," Bishop Lawrence apparently has second thoughts.

A special convention has been called in October with the sole purpose being the presentation and votes on five proposed resolutions dealing with the relation between the Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Church, the Standing Committee and Deans, echoing Bishop Lawrence's earlier letter to the Diocese. Among these resolutions is the following:

Page 2 9/15/2009 Final

Resolution #2

Subject: Second Guiding Principle for Engagement

“Godly Boundaries”

Offered by: The Standing Committee and Deans

Whereas the governing bodies of The Episcopal Church have failed to operate within the
boundaries of its canons and continued participation in such behavior would make the Diocese of South Carolina complicit in this dysfunction, be it

Resolved that this Diocese authorize the Bishop and Standing Committee to begin withdrawing
from all bodies of the Episcopal Church that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture, the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them, the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference which have expressed the mind of the Communion, the Book of Common Prayer and our Constitution and Canons, until such bodies show a willingness to repent of such actions; and be it

Further resolved that the Diocese of South Carolina declares that the most recent example
of this behavior, in the passage of Resolutions DO25 and CO56, to be null and void, having no effect in this Diocese, and in violation of our diocesan canon (XXXVI sec.1).

Assuming this passes Bishop Lawrence will "begin withdrawing from all bodies of the Episcopal Church..." We may assume that means meetings of the House of Bishops, any committees, commissions, boards or agencies on which he might serve. General Convention is out, as are all its committees for any member of the Diocese. It makes a sham of union with the General Convention. It is unclear if he would need to withdraw from the governance of the University of the South. (I doubt it.) But at any event, doing so will make it difficult indeed for him to "share with (his) fellow bishops in the government of the whole Church."

Bishop Lawrence is a very intriguing person, gifted in many ways, and it is flat out wrong for him to absent himself from the governance of the whole Church, that is anything having to do with The Episcopal Church. When he signed on I suspect he knew this would be an unlikely fit and be less than pleasant, but it is an occupational hazard. Bishops are expected to attend Housed of Bishop's meetings, take part in General Convention, etc. He made the vow, so he has some obligation to keep it.

We have had bishops in the past who absented themselves from most or all of various meetings and that did no one any good, except perhaps that the meetings were a bit less rancorous.

Bishop Lawrence either misrepresented himself in the election, or misspoke in the ordination service, or is mistaken in his obvious desire to distance himself from what he considers to be wrongheaded and hearted actions by General Convention.

The whole point of the governance process however is that those in opposition remain.


  1. John 2007 writes

    Lawrence (rightly to my mind) said that he would work as hard to stay in the Episcopal Church as he would to stay in the Anglican Communion, thereby promising diligent efforts at both AND in that framing showing up the kind of position taken here which gains (some) traction only by ignoring the breach/tear/communion we have created within the wider church OF WHICH WE ARE A PART. I would say nobody can be truly in ECUSA/TEC without working toward restoring a fullness of communion with the Anglican Communion. So, honestly, when I think of how the phrase 'renounce the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this church as we have received them' I think many on the left-wing, in as much as they have taken a different position than the larger communion and acted sacramentally on those views, have broken their vows. Communion, church, ekklesia is a dynamic thing (something the revisionists--using this nonpejoratively--always remind us). This means that all of us are acting in response to change. TEC is moving and acting in certain ways and it would be a bit rich to say that one cannot act in response to the dynamics and movements of ECUSA. Lawrence's most brilliant contribution, hardly heeded, was in some writing where he spoke of the need to rethink and readapt our structures in light of the current troubles. Unfortunately, those governing our church were not possessed of enough elasticity of mind to say 'Yes' to things like alternative episcopal and primatial oversight, or to work toward creative solutions, or any kind of creative canonical revision. How sad.

    The bluntness of the disjunction here is both misleading and too coarse. Misleading because he neither misspoke not misrepresented. He said what he would do and has done it. That there has been no real, appreciable slowing down, listening to Lambeth, to the Primates, etc., on the left is where the real story lies.

  2. I think you are wrong, Mark. Read the resolution again. It says that the Diocese will begin to withdraw "from all bodies of the Episcopal Church that have assented to actions contrary to ..... our Constitution and Canons..." That is not a violation of the Constitution and Canons, but rather an endorsement of them. The fact is that the PB and the HoB have made things up as they have gone along. Depositions without hearings. Calling special conventions without the approval of the Standing Committees or the ordinary. Insane construction of the canons that require decisions by a majority of bishops elgible to vote to mean a majority of a quorum. When y'all follow the canons, perhaps South Carolina won't need to withdraw from participation.

  3. It is worth noting that at least some of the Bishops who left TEC were often absent from meetings of the Bishops prior to their departures. I hope Bp Lwarence will decide that he has a responsbility to participate in the governance of TEC and that TEC will be poorer if he neglects that duty.

  4. I call South Carolina's maneuver a "non-schism schism," close kin to the "non-denial denials" of Watergate fame. I hope the purpose of Bp. Lawrence's just-concluded visit to Albany's Clergy Retreat wasn't to give our clergy a tutorial on "how to." I guess time will tell.

    Robert T. Dodd

  5. I wonder if this summary is apt: "We aren't going to 'officially' secede yet until we can be absolutely sure we get to keep the property."

  6. Father Weir noted...

    "TEC will be poorer if he neglects that duty".

    Come on, please. People keep talking about having the very few remaining conservatives around to leaven the deliberations?!

    This may assuage the consciences of those who currently lead in the majority, but it truly has no practical effect other than for conservatives to sense that they are wall hangings or a display. There certainly is NOT any intention to take them seriously in the councils of this Church as it is currently constituted. Note the Integrity jubilation at having made a "clean sweep" at this past GC. Was there any real notion of heeding any advice or learned thought from the current minority.
    Nope. Just the jubilation....hollered in a room of increasingly-echoing emptiness.

    Excuse them, then, for refusing to be used for no noble purpose or respectful end.

  7. Having known +Mark Lawrence in the Diocese of Pittsburgh back in the 80's, I am not surprised by his tactics regarding TEC. The first round of his confirmation as bishop of SC was on the mark and reflected the unease in the Church about his commitment to TEC. I remember talking with one of his parishioners one day in McKeesport and her understanding of Mark's teaching about avoiding people who were not "pure" people. Jesus did after all keep "bad company".

    Maxwell Smart+

  8. I would say nobody can be truly in ECUSA/TEC without working toward restoring a fullness of communion with the Anglican Communion.

    Well, you're wrong then.

    Glad we could sort that out for you!

    Have a great day!

  9. Allen,


    There are plenty of conservatives left! You are talking about the reactionaries - nothing more than tea-baggers with a thin veneer of prayer!

    Give us a break. Go form a militia somewhere.

  10. +Lawrence left himself plenty of weasel room in the way he framed his statements. His present actions should surprise no one. Bishops and standing committees heard what they wanted to hear, and chose to avoid a fight. They were also mindful of the fact that any individual elected in Lawrence's stead would have similar positions. This is, after all, South Carolina.

  11. Or there have been significant changes since GC09? Perhaps +Lawrence is reacting to a new situation - that would be a reasonable thing for him to do.

  12. Christopher (P.)24/9/09 8:41 AM


    The group called Integrity is not the same as the Episcopal Church--and if you see the two as synonymous, then I invite you to expand your horizons!

  13. The fruit does not fall far from the tree. We here in the central valley specialize in fruits and nuts. +Mark Lawrence had a great teacher in Mr. John David Schofield. The weasel words he uses are tone and tenor JDS. I realize that his is a novel approach but it would be nice for bishops, all our bishops, to say what they mean and mean what they say. Just asking.

  14. MarkBrunson responds to this statement of mine "I would say nobody can be truly in ECUSA/TEC without working toward restoring a fullness of communion with the Anglican Communion."

    By responding: "Well, you're wrong then."

    This is just exactly, precisely,perfectly and sadly the cavalier attitude of many in TEC. TEC, that is, whose constitution affirms our place in the Anglican Communion, whose canons admit that we have a received faith, whose weekly prayers--never mind the Scriptures, or the Lord of them,--demand that we preserve the unity of the church, and on and on. We tore the fabric in 2003 and have not in any substantive way done much to repair it.

  15.      I've always thought that it becomes a dangerous precedent not to consent to the duly elected bishops of other dioceses. It's been my concern that we might get into a sniping strategy where standing committees do not vote for one person or another because other dioceses did not vote for their candidate last time. In addition, a kind of single-issue litmus test might get imposed de facto and candidates that do not pass it would be rejected.

         I am beginning to rethink my previous position.

         Given the amount of heartache, staff time, turmoil in congregations, meetings, and often legal fees the election of a bishop who does not support the Episcopal Church causes, it is time to be realistic. It seems pretty clear certain reactionary candidates have no problem ascending to the bishopric through guile - I suspect they see it as their duty to God. If Bishop Lawrence has not violated his vows in letter, he has certainly violated them in spirit. I regret that it is probably time to recognize that whatever soothing words are spoken before an election's consent, we have to look at the words and manner of life before the election, and base our consents on that information. It is no longer just a matter of the right of a diocese to choose a leader, but the impact on the national church.

  16. MarkB,

    Having read your blog, and seeing your frustration with many parts of life, I sincerely hope you are able - despite the challenges- to find some pastoral help, some counseling, some love and support, and some peace. I pray that your church's new rector, and your church community, can provide some hope.

  17. Allen-

    You don't know me, so I would ask that you not treat my conviction that TEC will be poorer if Bp Lawrence neglects his duty so dismissively. I have been in the minority many times at diocesan convention, but I believe that I should not silence my voice and I hope that Bp Lawrence will not silence his in the House of Bishops.

  18. Mark Brunson,

    Apparently you think that anybody who is revulsed by TEC's government and priorities these days is reactionary and closely linked to the fringe. That doesn't match reality, but it sure makes your thought processes more comfortable. Check out the "reactionary" former canon to the ordinary and his family that I spoke of. Your broadside doesn't touch him or his family in any way.
    Easily dismissive, aren't you?


    Perhaps you should tell Integrity that.

    They seem to have a loud and obvious voice in most avenues of government in TEC. They certainly believe that they represent the prevailing thought these days.

  19. Rick writes:

    "Given the amount of heartache, staff time, turmoil in congregations, meetings, and often legal fees the election of a bishop who does not support the Episcopal Church causes, it is time to be realistic," which I would amend to say

    Given the amount of heartache, staff time, turmoil in congregations, meetings, and often legal fees the election of a bishop who does not preserve the unity of the church by his manner life, nor follow the norms set by the wider church . . .well you get the point.

    JOHN 2007

  20. I love the idea of Integrity being some kind of eminence grise, a cabal that secretly rules the Episcopal Church from behind the scenes at 815. That would certainly make my life a lot easier.

    The New York City Chapter of Integrity is only now being revived after many years of dormancy. I doubt Integrity could play much of a role at 815 or anywhere else in the Church on the national level since it hasn't been around here for awhile.
    New York has had anti-discrimination laws for LGBTs in housing and employment since 1986. The Episcopal Diocese of New York has largely been welcoming and supportive to LGBT members and clergy. The urgency behind Integrity waned here.

    Integrity is most active in places other than New York where the front line of the struggle for LGBT rights and dignity can be found. The New York chapter is being reconstituted to help out those on the front lines of the struggle in places ranging from Abuja to Salt Lake City.

  21. Given all the angst in many of the above comments, I thought I would share this from the New Proclamation Commentary series for this Sunday's Gospel, Mark 9.38-50:

    This Markan version of Jesus' response—"whoever is not against us is for us"—offers a broad license for divine authority and is more radical than the more-often-quoted version, "whoever is not with us is against us." The issue of who bears authority in the churches is no clearer now than it was during the first century. Mark suggests that we need not worry as much as we do about who is acting in the name of God. God's grace is bigger, wider, deeper, than our categories.

    For what it is worth, we do a lot of hand wringing.

    Maxwell Smart+

  22. Allen,

    He is a reactionary. Sorry.

    So are you.

    It's amazing how you people love to say, "I'm sure they're nice people, but they still preach horribly bad things!" then turn around and expect us to be moved because someone who shares your hate is someone we might like to have a beer with.

    I dismiss those easily dismissed.


    Spare me your platitudes.

    You've convinced me Christianity - at least as it's traditionally understood - offers no salvation. Isn't that enough for you? I get the veiled threat - run and tell my priest or whoever you like. It means nothing. It's your little community playhouse, now. Enjoy the hell you've created.


    Heartache? What do you know about it?

    I feel so sorry for you because your hatred and ignorance, your ability to do real-world harm to people isn't condoned by just everybody anymore.

    How sad for you.

    Whichever Anonymous - so brave of you,

    There is no good to be gained from "going along" with a group doing clear and measurable destruction to real people. That's the AC. Worse, at it's best it accomplishes and is absolutely nothing that a secular global organization doesn't do so much better. The AC - under the would-be pope Williams - is corrupt and useless.

    You petty fundamentalists want to whine about "listening to God, not Men," well sauce for your gander. Enjoy.

  23. "...you people", Mr. Brunson?

    Check your liberal enlightenment meter. I think that your assumptions and dismissive comments about anybody conservative/orthodox has just revealed a new glitch that sums up why this Church is shedding whole parishes and now whole dioceses.

    Fr. Weir: now do you see why conservatives aren't wasting much time entertaining the brain cells of liberals in the Councils of this Church?

  24. Wow, MarkB. You totally get me wrong on this one.

    I was looking at your 9/23 post, where you said: "I'm just so damned angry all the time."

    And your 9/22 post: "I've spent a great deal of my life lying to myself about my worth and my ability."

    And 9/9: I've got more damned stress than most could handle just being me - our company cutting employees, hours, pay, clinical depression, health and housing problems - and, on top of that, to realize that Christianity is divided into those who believe and fight for wickedness and destruction, and those who believe in nothing costly at all and invest themselves in nothing at all."

    And 9/8: "What the hell am I doing?

    I'm not that bright. I don't find myself able to converse on anything but my loves of anime and video games - at 41, yet! Nobody listens to anything I've got to say, and, if they did, what good is it? There's nothing there. I've meditated, prayed, read, all for years, and I'm no nearer any kind of enlightenment. I don't see a purpose or place in anything, and I don't embrace a nihilist view that there's nothing to accomplish and nothing to stand for. I've nothing new or useful or even thought-provoking to say. Why am I keeping at this?"

    These posts scare me. And so it was with sincerity that I said I hope you find peace somewhere with a support system.

  25. And maybe- by drawing attention to these posts on your blog- somebody that you respect and trust might reach out.

  26. Y'all are reading something I'm not. DSC is not doing anything. +Mark wrote, explicitly, that we will stay "within TEC" in his clergy day document. This is mostly symbolic and all within the canons. I, for one, believe him that DSC will stay within TEC.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.