11/30/2011

Bishop Lawrence has a problem, actually several problems

The Disciplinary Board has judged that there is insufficient cause to bring charges of abandonment of communion against Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina.  Great. I'm glad and thought from the outset that the charges could not be sustained.  Still, there are two problems with this judgment:

(i) It is bad news for the Bishop because for him to celebrate the judgement in his favor is to acknowledge the reality that its findings carry canonical weight. So here is what Bishop Lawrence had to say about it all (from his November 29th Letter to the Diocese).

"While the statement leaves many questions unanswered — frankly, to my mind it appears to read like a complex statement of a complex decision in a complex time within a complex church. Nevertheless, I believe it is best to take it at face value (even while noting that this diocese has not recognized the constitutionality of the new disciplinary canon). For now given no more allegations from anonymous sources within the diocese it is my hope we can all get back to focusing our full attention on proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and to Glory of God the Father that the Church here in the Diocese of South Carolina may add daily to its number those who are being saved." (emphasis mine).

The "face value" of the judgment is that "we can all get back to focusing our full attention on proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ..."  Right. But the note that "this diocese has not recognized the constitutionality of the new disciplinary canon" is something that can only be tested in the field - that is the Diocese and its Bishop must object in practice and somehow bring the issue to some next level of reconsideration by the whole church.  Because the judgment came down in his favor it turns out this case is not as likely to provoke the reexamination of the canon.  Still, one can hope for a variety of reasons that the next General Convention will apply itself to some refinement of the canons.

(ii) Bishop Lawrence has a sense of vocation for the diocese and for himself. He writes,

"Please know our vocation has not changed. While making disciples and witnessing to the unassailable Truth of the Gospel to a hurting and troubled world, and speaking truth to power within the unfolding struggles of The Episcopal Church, as well as taking our place in the larger Anglican Communion, we are, as you have heard me say on many occasions, called by God to Make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age."

Again I think it a good thing that Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina have a sense of vocation.  I assume that such a calling takes place within the context of the vocational call Bishop Lawrence took on at ordination to the episcopate. Here are the elements of that call:

(1)   "We are called by God to Make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age."
(2)  (We are) "making disciples and witnessing to the unassailable Truth of the Gospel to a hurting and troubled world"
(3) (We are) "speaking truth to power within the unfolding struggles of The Episcopal Church,
(4) (We are) "taking our place in the larger Anglican Communion."

Items two and four are exemplary statements of the vocation that ought to pertain to all bishops.

Item three assumes a conflict with "power(s)" present in The Episcopal Church, and makes a vocation of "speaking truth to power" in that context. There seems to be no parallel vocation to common life within The Episcopal Church.  There is no vocation to common life, apparently, within The Episcopal Church.

Item one: to "make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age" is clearly a slogan. As a vision it lacks any clarity at all.  What is a "biblical Anglican"? and what makes this a "Global Age"?  We sort of know what Bishop Lawrence means, but it can slip easily from being about biblically grounded Anglicans in an age of world wide communications and interchange, to a more restrictive and draconian slogan for world wide imposition in a world-wide church of a particular Anglican group's understanding of biblical morality, acceptable behavior, etc.

And of course the real problem here is that Bishop Lawrence claims this vocation as that of his diocese and his own ministry.  He claims "we are called by God."  How sure is he of that? Or better, how are we to know that he and or his diocese is called by God to this task?  And does he assume that this is not at task taken up by The Episcopal Church's leadership or by a majority of other bishops?

Well, the problem is that the judgment of the Disciplinary Board removes a perfect venue for Bishop Lawrence to live out the trial of his vocation. By saying there are insufficient grounds to certify that he has abandoned the communion of this Church (thank God and the Board for that!) he has lost a pulpit to proclaim that God has called him and the people of the Diocese to this holy task, one apparently dismissed by the powers that be in The Episcopal Church.


I can't help thinking that the Bishop will push some more, as he has by granting quitclaim deeds to the parishes, to the end that he can take the fight to the enemy and "speak truth to power within the unfolding struggles of The Episcopal Church."

35 comments:

  1. "Speaking truth to power within the unfolding struggles of The Episcopal Church" was the clause that caught my attention when I first read the statement a couple of days ago. That and the pregnant reference to "taking our place in the larger Anglican Communion".

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  2. I struggled to understand what the point of this entry from Fr Harris is. It looks like the Committee exonerated +Lawrence. See the essay now out at ACI.

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  3. Bishop Lawrence is not guilty of trumped up charges invented by persons who are the merest utensils of an unrestrained liberal agenda that is wreaking havoc on most of the Episcopal Church.
    Period.
    That's the story.
    Anything more or less than "not guilty" is only assumed and may only be the stain of envy, jealousy, or something worse directed to a bishop who leads a diocese that is actually growing.

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  4. "....a bishop who leads a diocese that is actually growing." One more "reasserter" porkie, Allen. In fact, the Diocese of South Carolina has lost members every year since 2007.

    Currently it is actually tops the table among dioceses in declining membership, having lost seven percent of its membership in the 2009/2010 time frame.

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  5. Allen, since when is it a mark of Christian love to refer to lay people of the Episcopal Church as utensils?

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  6. Golly, I really hate to bring this up (check my user name), but there has been no judgment because there has been no trial. The Disciplinary Board declined to bring charges because it found insufficient cause for charging Bp Lawrence with an offense, based on the evidence presented.

    Without a charge, there is no vindication or exoneration, indeed, there is no judgment.

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  7. Allen...Bishop Lawrence was not tried, therefore could not be declared not guilty. The wording is interesting, "the Board was unable to make the conclusions essential to a certification that Bishop Lawrence had abandoned the communion of the Church."

    "Unable to make the conclusions essential" is not the same as "found him not guilty."

    As to your comment re "charges invented by persons who are the merest utensils of an unrestrained liberal agenda..." I presume you know who made the charges? If you believe this person or these persons are tools of "an unrestrained liberal agenda" do you suggest that the person making the charges was directed by the spokespersons for this agenda to do so, and if so who do you think they were?

    Assuming there is some great press of liberal agenda types in the church, what makes you think that they would use what turns out to be fairly lame charges as basis for attack?

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  8. I disagree Fr Harris and prefer the judgment found at

    anglicancommunioninstitute.com

    It is a careful analysis.

    JCF

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  9. I get the feeling that the above comment was posted by a different JCF from the one who usually posts here.

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  10. I share Paul Powers' doubts.

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  11. Could there not be more than one 'JDF'?

    JDF

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  12. I'm beginning to smell something, and it's not incense.

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  13. Multiple Personality, Counterlight?

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  14. Well, I'm not the one changing my name every week. I publicly stand by my comments. I wonder why some people feel the need to hide or mislead?

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  15. Did you say something Msgr?

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  16. Yes.

    What a boring life you must have.

    Yawn.

    JDF

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  17. Not sure who JDF is, but I've enjoyed watching this little game of hide the pickle.

    This I will add.

    It was pleasing to see +Iker agree to a Christian path forward for dealing with a departing congregation in FW.

    It was also the way +Griswold permitted when PB.

    That was before litigation proved to be the new TEC way...even to the sad degree of re-labeling it--may God forgive--'mission.'

    Msgr

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  18. How about settling all doubt and revealing yourself?

    Who am I?

    Doug Blanchard
    Brooklyn, New York
    -originally from Texas
    -an artist and a community college art professor teaching students in the Bronx
    -A pewsitter in St. Luke-in-the-Fields parish
    -email: counterlight@earthlink.net

    And who exactly are you?

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  19. CL -- no need to expose yourself. This is a blog.

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  20. I stand by my views publicly. I have no respect for people who refuse to do the same.

    Unless you're writing from North Korea or Iran, I see no good reason to hide (and plenty of bad ones).

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  21. Doubt the revelation of your less-than-deeply-concealed identity was necessary, Doug. Those who are near-pathologically obsessive about the concealment of their own identities take, in my experience, a similarly obsessive approach to the rooting out of the identities of those they are smearing.

    Doubt also that your life is near as boring as that of some others.

    "Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do."

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  22. ...said the man who cynically tries to play us with multiple identities while concealing his own.

    He does the dissenters on this blog who comment in good faith, publicly identifying themselves and standing by their opinions no good service.

    There's a word for that sort of person, and it's identical to the last name of a man named Noel.

    WV= "outgas" Indeed!

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  23. Yes, you are to be commended for your bold disclosures -- a bunny rabbit and a 'counterlight' moniker.

    Don't fool yourselves. Moral high-ground indeed!

    In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king.

    Msgr

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  24. Your moral capital is mud in my book.

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  25. I take that to be a compliment!

    Grace and peace

    Msgr

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  26. I wear your contempt as a badge of honor.

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  27. How severe -- where did that come from? Projection?

    I don't hold you in contempt. I have not uttered any condemnations of you at all.

    I do find the fascination with matters other than the topic a bit weird, but it's my choice to read and comment.

    Let's cut out the personal sleuthing. It is boring.

    all good wishes,

    Msgr

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  28. Your comment about finding "the fascination with matters other than the topic a bit weird" is weird in itself, coming from one whose stock in trade is derailing every Preludium thread whose subject peeves him. From the evil-natured response to yesterdays post about St Mark's, Beaufort, and from the infantile sniping below at Doug, I don't see how you even pretend to be Christian. So, beyond gratifying some personal psychological need, what the Hell are you doing here?

    Several threads back, Fr Harris suggested, as strongly as his kind nature permited, that you sling your hook and quit fouling his nest. But the message doesn't sink in, does it? Aspergers, maybe? So, for the unpteenth time, "If you have a blog point us there. If you don't think of starting one."

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  29. News of more developments in SC.

    Rabbit, take it easy. All will be well.

    Msgr

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  30. My view is that +SC could meet with Province 4 reps in Charleston, with the Standing Committee and Chancellors/Counsel present. Maybe we could find it possible for a common statement to be issued, clearing matters of doubt up.

    How preferable all this is to anonymous charges; fast-track abandonment adjudication without review by Intake Officer, etc; and lots of legalese.

    A Bishop in the State of SC has special constraints given the ruling of the Supreme Court -- and much of this is unchartered territory.

    +Lawrence can also clarify how variegated are the accession clauses and language diocese-by-diocese. Many have nothing of this, some have only constitution and not canons, etc. Many Bishops are just prefering to keep that all quiet.

    We shall have to see what transpires.

    The Living Church has the report.

    Msgr

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  31. I agree that the court rulings on property in SC may appear to put constraints on Bp Lawrence, but those rulings do not relief him of his responsibility to uphold the discipline of TEC, including the canons regarding real property. I see it to be the responsibility of Bishops and Standing Committees to defend the property rights of dioceses established in the canons. To simply absolve oneself of that responsibility because there are indications that one might not be successful in court is a violation of one's promise to uphold the canons. It also makes negotiation less of an option if a diocese has already surrendered. This is what Bp Lawrence seems to have done, leaving it possible for every parish to leave wirhout negotiating about property.

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  32. I am glad the Province 4 Bishops have not concluded as you have that all is so clear-cut but instead have agreed to meet to discuss the matter.

    Was the Bishop of the Diocese of NJ also negligent when he negotiated with a parish? Were the Bishops of CFL and Dallas?

    At any event, let us pray that a meeting brings Bishops into better communication. Anything would be an improvement over charges filed in an 87 page document from anonymous sources.

    Msgr

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  33. If someone's been faking me, I'm the HEIGHT of flattered!

    ...or I would be, if they weren't full of it. ;-)

    [Posting on my Google, for disambiguation. I usually prefer the simplicity of Name/URL---but we live in Strange Times... :-X]

    Show of hands: who think the letter by the Provincial Bishops to ?Lawrence was posted to the Intertoobs by none other than ?Lawrence (or a henchman) himself?

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