South Carolina Standing Committee skating near the edge...

 The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina has published a letter disassociating themselves from the likely outcome of the 2012 General Convention regarding the blessing of same sex unions. It is a document that slips and slides nearer and nearer the edge of whatever it is we mean by "union with the General Convention."  It is also filled with a very peculiar view of polity.

Here is the letter (in purple) with highlights by Preludium and  commentary (in red.)

"Declaration of the Standing Committee The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina
June 15, 2012

1. As the Standing Committee of the sovereign Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, we view with dismay and great sadness what appears to be the inevitable outcome of the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, that is,the official approval of a rite for the blessing of same-gender unions. This is a defining
moment in the life of the Episcopal Church, being the first formal adoption of doctrine, discipline and worship which are contrary to the unequivocal mandate of Holy
Scripture, the historic Christian faith, Anglican doctrine, and the pronouncements of the four instruments of Anglican unity. Furthermore, the adoption of such a rite at General Convention contravenes the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and the Book of Common Prayer, and in so doing reveals the bankruptcy of our own polity and institutional integrity. "

The Standing Committee continues the argument that the Diocese of South Carolina and its Bishop, Mark Lawrence, put forward, that dioceses in The Episcopal Church are "sovereign", particularly those that were founding dioceses,  and that their union with The Episcopal Church is voluntary. Therefore they are not bound by anything in the Canons or acts of General Convention that do not meet the diocese's standards of orthodoxy.  The matter is carefully couched to be about the diocese and not about the bishop. The second highlighted comment, about the adoption of such a rite contravening the C and C... is just wrong. In the first place the resolution being proposed does not involve adopting a rite, but rather suggesting it to bishops and dioceses where it might be used during this further period of study.  It is not yet being proposed as an official rite of the Church.

"2. Of greatest concern is not that a blessing of same-gender unions contravenes specific
verses of Scripture, though that is unacceptable – of greatest concern is the theology which underlies this rite, set forth in the 82 page I Will Bless You document, which
patently redefines the Christian faith, subverting the doctrines of creation and baptism, the nature of sin and salvation, and the grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

That is way too simple. I think there are several problems with the "I Will Bless You" document, but the Standing Committee seems to believe it subverts basic Christian doctrine. Too simple...

"3. We have compassion for those who struggle with and act upon same-gender attraction, and we urge equal treatment for all men and women in the church. Our Lord calls us all, equally, to repent of sin that we might receive forgiveness and cleansing through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, restoration to the Body of Christ, and transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit."

 Ah... now we get to the meat of the issue. The Standing Committee has compassion on sinners who "act upon same-gender attraction," believing no doubt that such actions can be avoided by sufficient activities of repentance, forgiveness, cleansing and transformation. The contrary to believing that same gender attraction is simply part of the larger world of attraction between persons is to believe that some attraction serves God's purposes and good, and other attractions does not. Acting on those attractions that do not serve God's purpose should be avoided, and if given into should issue in repentance, etc. Acting on those attractions without remorse is evil.  

Well, I don't buy it.  But at least here the Standing Committee is getting to the nub of their concern.

"4. We hereby repudiate, denounce and reject any action of the Episcopal Church which purports to bless what our Lord clearly does not bless. Specifically, we declare any rite
which purports to bless same-gender unions to be beyond the authority and jurisdiction of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and without force or effect."

The Standing Committee has guts, no doubt about it. They stand ready to declare any such rite "beyond the authority and jurisdiction of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church."  So far just an opinion. Then they issue a judgment " and without force or effect."  Where the hell did they get the right to make such a judgment?  Well, from the above mentioned "sovereignty" that they claim for themselves.  Interestingly they don't claim that it has no force or effect in the Diocese of South Carolina. They claim it in a more universal sense.  It comes close to be an anathema statement.

"5. In view of the persistent movement of the General Convention of this church away from orthodox Christianity, including its expected embrace of such a rite of same-sex
blessings, we further affirm and assert our calling in this diocese to seek to “make Biblical Anglicans for a global age,” and we declare that we will not walk with General
Convention down the road they are choosing. We will instead continue to partner with Anglican dioceses, provinces and other Anglican entities here and abroad to further the spread of the Good News of salvation for sinners through faith in Jesus Christ."

Well, there it is. The Diocese of South Carolina has essentially produced an anathema against General Convention, accusing it of heresy and refusing to "walk with GC" but rather associate itself with "Anglican Dioceses, provinces and other Anglican entities here and abroad" meaning of course ACNA, Rwanda, Nigeria, etc. 

So what we have is the Standing Committee, on the basis of a possible action at General Convention, moving to associate itself with the so called Biblical Anglicans, rather than with General Convention. We can expect that South Carolina will have a token representation at General Convention, but not much more. The Standing Committee has issued an anathema, the Bishop finds his friends in bishops of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. Will he be present or absent at the House of Bishops? Probably he will be there, but if he has encouraged his standing committee, his heart will be elsewhere.  South Carolina will maintain the minimum presence at General Convention necessary to 'get by" and that's it.

It's hard to know what to say. The Standing Committee's decree is quite amazing.  The leadership of the Bishop has apparently pointed South Carolina away from General Convention, invoking  Diocesan sovereignty ( a really bad idea) and toward a cluster of "Anglican-like" bodies whose ecclesial sensibilities are more Puritan and Calvinistic than Anglican.  That cluster is no jewel either... as will one day be seen in its internal disease over the ordination of women, the role of bishops, etc.  

At some point Bishop Lawrence will have to stand at the bar and deal with the fact that he is bishop because this Church, the Church that gathers in General Convention, made him one. He has license from it to be bishop of South Carolina, and that license is given by an ecclesial community that does not take kindly to being called unorthodox.


  1. I'm actually really surprised that this whole resolution doesn't even mention the issue of Communion Without Baptism! You'd think that as the "orthodox" faction, they would have jumped first and foremost on the issue of Communion without Baptism first since it is a huge, huge departure from the earliest practices of the undivided Church. I guess that shows how single-issue their "orthodox" vision of the Gospel is.

    Thank the Lord that the Gospel is about renewed and unending life in Jesus Christ, not just arguments over who has authority to do what and who has to obey which human being. Thank the Lord that the Gospel is about maintaining bonds of communion even with the people who tick us off the most, people we think are completely wrong.

  2. Deacon Charlie Perrin22/6/12 10:20 AM

    I'm amazed how the thinking of some South Carolinians has remained unchanged since the firing on Fort Sumpter. The basis of the argument about sovreignty here is identical to the State's position back then.

    While I recall how badly that turned out for the South in general, some in South Carolina seem to have forgotten that; or perhaps they're just in denial.

    We made a big mistake when we generously allowed them a second chance to elect Lawrence. That generosity has come back to bite us. Bishop Lawrence's protests of fidelity notwithstanding.

  3. Has anyone thought through some of the implications of "diocesan autonomy," such as: termination of property,casualty, liability, and health insurance coverage from TEC's Church Insurance, and termination of pension eligibility for the bishop and clergy (past and present)?

    Also, do diocese and bishop--once freed from TEC--somehow float back into the Church of England (or the Roman Catholic Church if one disapproves of the antics of the English Reformation)?

    Just asking....

  4. It strikes me that a Diocesan Standing Committee which chooses to anathematize the GC is in fact in a state of rebellion and perhaps we should learn from San Joaquin, Ft Worth, et al and the Diocese should be disciplined and their Standing Committee summarily dismissed....at a minimum the whole "Diocesan ecclesiology" needs to be put to bed once and for all by GC....

  5. Joseph F,
    Most Southerners don't actually believe that they realy lost the Civil War. That Reconstruction left the powers that be mostly in charge afterwards, I can see their point.
    What do we have to do to present a Bishop?

  6. from one of a hand-full of Churches in this diocese, we are PRAYING that this bishop will leave and join ACNA, OR WHATEVER ELSE he wants to join,and take the other congregations with him (just please make sure to leave the property behind) so that we can move forward with eventually claiming the blessing for all-not just the straight folks! God help us, ya'll don't know how BAD it really is! Pray for us, please.

  7. Great read of the SC Standing Committee's Declaration! Love the responses, too!

    I am an active communicant in this "sovereign, autonomous" diocese. There are many folks like me, who are completely amazed that this kind of diocesan mantra has been uttered and accepted by so many people for so many years. I've always said each to his/her own theology, TEC is huge and broad; however, when beliefs and convictions turn into real life actions, that's a problem in my book. I'll mention a few of those actions....

    ~In late 2010, the SC Diocesan Convention amended its Canons, which abolished accession to TEC Canons (except for the old 2006 disciplinary canons which were repealed by 2009 General Convention). It also amended its Constitution to eliminate accession with TEC Constitution, if ever it is inconsistent with its own Constitution.

    ~Bishop Lawrence signed a Charter amendment that completely changes the "purpose" of the Diocese, eliminating accession to TEC C&C's; the Diocese now only accedes to its own C&Cs. The Charter amendment was filed with the S.C. Secretary of State. (Hence the creation of a "sovereign" diocese).

    ~Bishop Lawrence signed many Quit Claim deeds over a 21 month period, (2/10-11/11), to parishes throughout the Diocese, relinquishing all diocesan interest to parishes. Thankfully, the small number of parishes that consistently vote against the majority of DC have not recorded their deeds (in SC, deeds must be recorded in order to be valid).

    Sadly, most people in the Diocese think all of this is perfectly Ok. Some parishes that recorded their deeds have now changed their By-laws to also break accession to TEC C&Cs, lock-step with the diocese.

    Interesting and carefully designed scheme: abolish the Dennis Canon (and all other TEC Canons), give Diocesan Convention approval to change the Constitution any way it wishes, recharter the diocese, give away all interest in property to parishes, and allow parishes to also break away. A lot of money went to a lot of law firms to make this happen.

    Some may ask if the 2009 SC Supreme Court decision in the Pawley's Island All Saints Waccamaw case gave the diocese authority to do any or all of that....it took me several reads of the opinion to realize that the case ruling was very narrow as to the property ownership issue, and although there are other problems with the opinion, it does no such thing in my opinion.

    I am so happy that you have noticed what's sadly going on in South Carolina. I am beginning to see that people here either do not want to speak out, do not realize what's going on, or God forbid, do not care.

  8. Dioceses (and their liberal/revisionist clergy)that teach private revelations as doctrine and then have to close their cathedral (a disgrace), cannot pay their bills, and trend down in their attendance numbers do not need to teach or scold a diocese like S.C.that grows and thrives.
    That said, please continue the "I know better" commentary on all things Episcopalian.

  9. Well Allen... missed you! Wonderfully snotty remark.

  10. Once the Diocese of South Carolina became part of the Episcopal Church it surrendered sovereignty, at least in some important matters. It cannot ordain except in accordance with the Canons, it and its congregations must have their financial records audited - need I go on? The myth of sovereignty is simply that, a convenient lie to avoid responsibility to the rest of us. Reminds me of Paul's "I have no need of you."

  11. Here we go again. Average Sunday attendance has fallen every year in the diocese of SC since the installation of Mark Lawrence. In 2009-2010 the drop was 13.6%. Two dioceses, Quincy & Ft Worth, had significantly higher drops on account of secession, but South Carolina's figure is far & away the biggest drop in a diocese whose bishop claims to remain within TEC. For comparison's sake, the next highest drop is the diocese of Missouri's 8.9%, which is 4.7% lower than SC's.

    While we're on the topic of "grows & thrives", SC Episcopalians posted the following on their website around the time of last March's diocesan convention"

    "Annual income from parishes is nearly $500,000 below where it was when Bishop Lawrence was consecrated. In spite of the Bishop’s urging parishes to give 10 percent of their income to the Diocese last year, they only managed an anemic 7.4%

    "Part of the urgency in the Bishop's plea for support is that nearly ten percent of Diocesan expenditures over the past two years has gone to lawyers. That works out to nearly $500,000 since Lawrence became Bishop four years ago, even though there have been no lawsuits or threats of legal action against the Diocese.

    "On Saturday, Diocesan leaders will ask the delegates to sign off on another $110,000 to pay more lawyers in 2012."

    Over half a million dollars to lawyers in a diocese which has faced no legal action from the National Church.

    Ever pause to think that Fr Harris might know better?


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.