Prudent non-communication from Lawrence of South Carolina

The Diocese of South Carolina has a bishop, Mark Lawrence by name, and that bishop has made a decision in regard to the future of the Diocese and The Episcopal Church.  Here is what the bishop wrote this week (bold text my emphasis) :

"September 22, 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We announced last month on August 20th that the Standing Committee and I were in agreement on a course of action regarding the future of the Diocese of South Carolina and the challenges many of us face because of decisions by the recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church. However, for many reasons it was then and is now, imprudent to reveal that course of action. Things are progressing—we have not stopped or dropped the ball. Please know that I understand the level of anxiety and concern of many in the diocese. Nevertheless I must ask you all for your continued patience and prayers as we seek to deal wisely and carefully with a fluid situation that requires great discernment and sensitivity on a regular basis. I will communicate to you the details at the very earliest moment such a communication is prudent.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
+Mark J. Lawrence
South Carolina"

So, as they say, the fat is in the fire. What are they doing? Well, "for many reasons it was then and is now, imprudent to reveal that course of action. "  The bishop and Standing Committee have not "stopped or dropped the ball." They are dealing "wisely and carefully."

Bishop Lawrence is using the language of prudence in order to justify not telling his own diocese just what it is that the Standing Committee and he have agreed on as a "course of action."

Ten to one the prudence has to do with actions that would, if known, be considered either illegal and perhaps criminal, or subversive to the vows under which he exercises leadership in the Church, or both.  Of course it could be that the actions contemplated or undertaken are not so drastic. But if not then why the prolonged secrecy?  

It is hard not to come to the conclusion that this lack of open communication about a matter already decided upon is in order to announce a fait accompli with the decisions already acted upon. They are, apparently, dealing with the situation as we speak.

I wrote this in an earlier post:

It is time for Bishop Lawrence to speak plainly.  We are not as interested in whether or not he believes he is Bishop of South Carolina, was we need to know is if he will maintain the Diocese of South Carolina as a constituent member of The Episcopal Church in union with the General Convention.

He needs to answer that question now. And if he responds that he will maintain the Diocese as a member of the union with General Convention he can then be held accountable to that pledge.  If not, then we know. It is sad that we need to ask again, but Bishop Lawrence has apparently acquired a vision of where things are going, a vision so secret that only a chosen few will know for some time to come.  So his past answers, some of which appear cleaver rather than transparent, do not suffice.

The question now is, "Bishop Lawrence, will you maintain the Diocese of South Carolina as a member of The Episcopal Church, consisting of those churches in union with the General Convention. Yes or No."
I ask the question again: Yes or No: will you maintain the Diocese of South Carolina as a member Diocese of the Episcopal Church?
This is not a time for prudent non-communication. It is a time for candor. 
To put it bluntly, we need to know if Bishop Lawrence is lying and using "prudent" non-communication as a cover up.


  1. Outrageous! Thanks for calling +Lawrence to account once again, Mark. Is there no one with the authority demand that the bishop reveal the course of action that has already been decided? What about the people in the diocese? How long will the bishop be permitted to leave them in suspense?

  2. Look, it's time to relax and face facts.

    TEC is an 'association' in legalese.

    A diocese like SC can make an unqualified accession to this (='nothing encumbering its assent') association. Equally, it can withdraw this assent.

    The law is very clear. It has taken a while for certain TEC proponents to realize what it (TEC) is.

    These are the facts.

    Shortly, they will again be reviewed in TX and in IN.

    But leaving all this factual material to the side.

    Do you ever listen to yourself? You want to have a TEC where 95% of the Diocese of SC is FORCED to remain in TEC.

    Can you find an example in the NT where the idea of 'church, Body of Christ' meant, "forced to belong to a denomination"?

    I might have thought that liberals would be the very first to resist the idea of coercion.

    What has happened? Is this just ego frenzy?

    If 2-3 parishes in SC want to associate with TEC I am confident that could be arranged.

    But when do you finally accept that the entire idea of coercing dioceses to 'associate' is a) legally dubious and b) ethically/Christianly eccentric, at best.


  3. Even with the utmost Christian charity it's hard not to read the bishop's communication as subterfuge leading to the exit of the diocese along with all the property.

    We've seen this show before and any but the most foolish should realize that Bishop Lawrence is taking legal advice to try to prevent the defeats experienced in other exiting dioceses.

    At this point I think TEC needs to focus entirely on supporting the faithful remnant of Episcopalians that will left as so much detritus when the smoke clears and the decisions are made regarding possible litigation.

    Bishop Lawrence may be shopping for African/Southern Cone/Global South sponsors, he may be awaiting arcane legal maneuvers to be completed and tested to allow theft of the property under seemingly legal auspices, or he may be negotiating his position and future in the Anglican Purity movement.

    Whatever he is doing it is neither honorable, open, being done in the light, nor aboveboard. If it were there would be no need for this cloak and dagger show. I will continue to pray for Bishop Lawrence and all the people of South Carolina.

  4. Good Lord, what prevarication. Whatever happened to "Let your yes be 'Yes', and your no be 'No'"?

  5. SCM:

    You wrote: A diocese like SC can make an unqualified accession to this (='nothing encumbering its assent') association. Equally, it can withdraw this assent.

    Certainly it can. But in doing so it ceases to be the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina." The canons are clear--property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church. Period. No one is making South Carolinians remain in TEC. However, they cannot leave the TEC and take buildings dedicated to worship under the "doctrine, discipline, and worship" of TEC with them.

    There is a vast difference in making someone remain part of a church and holding a Bishop, Standing Committee, and entire diocese to promises and commitments that they have made. "Unqualified accession" means that there is no escape clause: once you're in, you're in.

    I continue to be amazed how backwards ACNA and company have it. They believe that the Anglican Communion is a _church_ (often referred to as the "Anglican Church" and thus supersedes all national churches while at the same time believing that TEC is a voluntary association of autonomous dioceses rather than a church that is legally and canonically woven together. The Anglican Communion is a voluntary association of autonomous provinces and TEC is a legal entity whose members are free to leave but whose institutions (including dioceses and churches) are not.

  6. Tom S

    Tragically, we shall have to let the courts rule that an, in law, unequalified association means unencumbered decision to associate, not 'you are in forever and ever AMEN' (what a dismally unchristian idea).

    And btw, the SC Supreme Court has voided any logic of an "implied trust" so the property issue there is a done deal.


  7. SCM:

    I've got to kindly disagree with you on a few points. First, I didn't read Mark's post to say that Bishop Lawrence should be **forced** to stay in TEC. He's saying...again...that Bishop Lawrence needs to let people in the Diocese of South Carolina know what his intentions are. Maybe Brian is correct in his post, that Bishop Lawrence is province-shopping, and it is taking longer than expected.

    Next, I'm not sure if your "95%" was just used figuratively, or if you have the impression that there is only a tiny, 5% group of loyal Episcopalians in the Diocese of SC. Based on the number of voting parishes, it's double that, but my feeling is that there are many, many long time Episcopalians who will not leave TEC when/if the rubber meets the road.

    I also must disagree with your conclusion that the “property issue (in SC) is a done deal”. I read the S.C. Supreme Court in the All Saints case to state that 1) the parish, whose dispute was before it, couldn't claim a trust in favor of inhabitants of the area, from a 1745 Trust Deed, and 2) because the parish rechartered in 1902 and was issued and recorded a quit claim deed from the Diocese in 1903, they established ownership of the parish property 85 or so years prior to the diocesan adoption of the Dennis Canon in 1987, (eight yrs after General Convention adopted it). That particular parish only rechartered for fear that their ownership would be questioned after a hurricane destroyed their records and the legislature had just passed an Act saying that all dormant parish property would go to the Diocese. The Court's language in the opinion was that the Dennis Canon had no "legal effect" in the case...it did not say that the Dennis Canon had no legal authority in South Carolina.

    The Bishop and some clergy (hope not a lot) saw the case as an out, literally. Bishop Lawrence signed a diocesan charter amendment in 2010 that effectively broke accession w/the Constitution and Canons of TEC, and he signed and issued quit claim deeds to parishes in 2011. Following their leader, parishes have been changing corporate documents and recording deeds that the Bishop gave them.

    Sadly, parishioners in the diocese are told that their parishes are simply making the changes to be consistent with the Diocese. They are definitely being consistent...the Canons of the diocese were also amended in 2010 to abolish accession to the Canons of TEC, and the Constitution was amended in 2011 to limit accession to the TEC Constitution.

    With a stroke of a pen, parishes are becoming members of a "sovereign" and "autonomous" diocese, as Bishop Lawrence calls it, that only accedes to its own laws and no longer those of TEC.

    Parishes can certainly leave the Church, but as Tom so correctly posted, the property cannot go. Members can withdraw from the Church, but the jurisdictional structures of TEC are "canonically and legally woven together" and they will stay and carry on.
    There are parishioners outside of loyal TEC parishes who are frustrated and hurting, not knowing what will happen. How long can this keep going on? Mark is right. We need to know.


  8. It is interesting that TEC Christians in the West want to fight a fight over insisting that Diocese X or Y 'belongs' to a National Church. We widen the lens and see anglicans in the Middle East facing life threatening witness. This is of course the common life of anglican christians throughout the world.

    But we at 'Preludium' want to find a way to force dioceses to hand over empty buildings to a 'National Church' -- what a lovely discussion to divert our attention from genuine Christian witness where it counts.


  9. Resigning and getting re-elected bishop of a secessionist diocese might salve his tender conscience? Would be fun to see the color-blind, radical reactionaries of the Low-country going for African overlordship. Wonder what the alternative will be.

  10. Lapinbizarre,

    Great comment. That's why most of Virginia stayed with TEC. I lived in the Diocese of VA for many years, and now live in South Carolina. Fortunately, there's a parish church not too far away that doesn't agree with Bishop Lawrence


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.