The man elected to be bishop in South Carolina answered a variety of questions posed to him by some Bishops and Standing Committees, ending with a question he seemed to put there himself. These were posted on Thinking Anglicans today (December 4), although the date for the letter November 6th.
I have to begin by saying I thought some of Mark Lawrence’s response were spirited. I can understand why folks think highly of him.
I didn’t like is the answers themselves. Too often they sidestep the questions raised, and in the end he works at heaping scorn on his accusers.
Some who I respect greatly believe Mark Lawrence should get the consents of Bishops and Standing Committees. I am unmoved. I think Fr. Lawrence is finding every pot hole and hitting it as hard as possible. This will result in broken axels and broken hearts. Prayers for him, the diocese, and all those who must decide on consent are in order.
Read the whole of his responses HERE.
His letter, to which his responses are appended, is as follows:
6 November 2006
Dear Bishops and Standing Committee Members:
Thank you for affording me this opportunity to respond to your concerns, particularly regarding my suitability as a colleague in the House of Bishops. I know you are aware of the profound theological differences within The Episcopal Church in this year of 2006. There is little hope that it will cease to be a continuously expanding perimeter in the near future. The question for each of us is at what point we reach the place where our Episcopalian or Anglican commitment to comprehen-siveness for the sake of the truth exhausts its elasticity. For me that was with the consent to Canon Robinson’ election at the General Convention in 2003. I was a deputy at that convention, serving on the Consecration of Bishops committee. When our committee voted to send his election to the House of Deputies for approval I felt constrained to write the minority report opposing the committee’s recommendation. As today is the observation of Archbishop William Temple in our calendar, I cannot resist mentioning a statement of this wonderful theologian that now seems prescient for our times and influenced my position in Minneapolis. “The Church must be very clear in her public pronouncements so she may be very pastoral in her application.” I thought we were being anything but clear in our decision in 2003 and it has carried over into GC 2006. From this involvement in the committee on Consecration of Bishops you can see I am no stranger to this matter of consent and for what it may raise in issues of conscience, as well as process. I certainly hope you chose to support the consent process of South Carolina’s election. But I understand that these are less than pacific times in the life of our dear and distinguished Church.
I have loved and served this Church of ours over the last thirty plus years, even when I have found her incorrigibly frustrating. When I have spoken or written critically of her it has not been from a posture of having rejected TEC, but from one of commitment, even investment of my life and my family’s life in the Church’s common call to serve our Lord. We have sacrificed much for this Church, as I’m sure each of you has over many years. I believe it is symptomatic of these times, that I who have adhered for 26 years to my ordination vows am now peppered with requests for me to affirm in advance my commitment “…to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of the Episcopal Church…” partially from a misleading article and letter written by a group which presents itself, wrongly enough, under the noble and historic phrase, Via Media. None of us can predict where the angle of repose for this period of profound re-formation will settle. You will find here my answers to questions presented by other concerned bishops. Hopefully they will provide you what you need to make an informed decision. We are each called to be players in it — you and I — regardless of how this consent process for me unfolds. I wish you God’s blessings whichever way you are led to decide, whether for or against me. May we remain united in Christ and servants in his Kingdom and his Church.
The Very Reverend Mark J. Lawrence
I also strongly suggest you read the full responses he makes to the questions raised. You will do greater justice to his remarks by reading them than by reading my few notes below.
Here, however, are some odd bits of his thinking that give me pause (my comments in italics.)
1. In what ways will you work to keep the Diocese of South Carolina in The Episcopal Church?
…I just happen to be someone who does not believe that our discipline, as articulated in our Constitution and Canons, came to us by oracular revelation…
I shall commit myself to work at least as hard at keeping the Diocese of South Carolina in The Episcopal Church, as my sister and brother bishops work at keeping The Episcopal Church in covenanted relationship with the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Meaning, I suppose, given his sense that we have disregarded the relationship with the other churches of the Anglican Communion, not at all… By the way, bishop elect Lawrence, I don’t believe our discipline came by oracular revelation either. Nobody does.
2. What would be your response if the convention of the Diocese of South Carolina voted to leave The Episcopal Church?
I don’t think that speculative questions of this nature as to what a person will do in some imagined future are either reasonable or helpful.
This is known in impolite company as a cop out.
3. Will the Presiding Bishop be welcome to preside at your consecration?
This would be a most unwelcome situation for the vast majority of priests and laypersons of the Diocese of South Carolina...
What he means is NO.
4. Do you intend to participate fully in attending meetings of the House of Bishops, including Eucharist?
Yes, unless the in participating in Eucharist on some given occasion, (because of the state of my inner life or conscience), should put my spiritual health in jeopardy.
This is an amazingly confused understanding of the Eucharist. Participating fully in the Eucharist does not require reception of communion, say for example, when you believe yourself not to be prepared. But taking part in the prayers, offering thanks and hearing the Word are seldom occasions that put one's spiritual health in jeopardy. More, he didn’t answer the other part of the question, which is occasioned by the scandal of bishops who only attend part of the meetings as a witness to their objection to the work of the house.
5. What is your response to the request of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina seeking “alternative primatial oversight”?
… I’m in favor of some new and prescient thinking about the way the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion lives out our unity in Christ. There is no going back to pre-2003. Time to chart a path for the future. … The way the world works has changed and so should we. I hope we in The Episcopal Church can catch up.
So, he is for APO, on the way to a new future… what might that be, in the light of the Global South Steering Committee’s press for unity and submission to their leadership?
6. Do you recognize Katherine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and as your Primate?
I recognize Katherine Jefferts Schori as the legitimately elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Sadly, I also recognize that her actions …compromise her ability to function in primatial authority and relationship. …
This is a NO.
7. Will you uphold the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of the Episcopal Church as now constituted?
Yes, as I have for the last twenty-six plus years of ordained ministry! …… all Episcopalians may at some point in the not too distant future be asked to declare allegiance to one portion of the Constitution and Canons at the expense of another. Frankly, this is because in more than a few highly publicized actions, bishops and priests of this Church have acted contrary to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of the Episcopal Church.
Sure, every bit as much as anyone else has done so. This is a bit flat, isn't it?
8. Some further thoughts regarding our present predicament in The Episcopal Church.
… The questions that bishops and Standing Committees keep posing to me, in one form or another—and I might add, contrary to rumors, most of which have answered—go back to the question of whether South Carolina and I are leaving The Episcopal Church. That is neither the most relevant nor, ultimately, the most important question that needs to be asked.
… My friends, we in TEC are in a grievous state. This demand for promises to Constitution and Canons when many of the great teachings of the faith are up for grabs strikes me at times like a theatre of the absurd. … When some like me make provocative statements to draw attention to the culture of denial that dims with regularity our too frequently myopic provincial eyesight, I am seen by some as unworthy for the episcopate and as a threat to our common unity. On what grounds should consent be denied—for daring to say, “Not only does the emperor have no clothes, but he isn't getting any new subjects either, and some of those he had once have long left. Maybe its time the emperor reassess his reassessments”?
This question seems not to be part of the rest, but put there by the bishop elect. So asking about conformity to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church is absurd. I suppose so. The end of all this is a ridicule of those who would as any questions at all. Not such a good idea.