Bishop Lawrence, South Carolina and the two tier Episcopal Church

Bishop Lawrence has written his Diocese about life after General Convention 201. He  begins by saying, "the actions taken (by General Convention) mark a significant and distressing departure from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them."

The majority of the deputation from the Diocese of South Carolina left the house on Wednesday afternoon. Later, after a time of personal privilege, Bishop Lawrence left the House of Bishops. Both assured the houses that the Diocese was not leaving The Episcopal Church.

Whatever else may happen, the way forward for the diocese and / or him, it seems to include the following

(a)The Diocese of South Carolina claims it is not leaving the Episcopal Church. Increasingly the idea will be that it is The Episcopal Church that has "departed from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them." (an echo of the preface to the first Book of Common Prayer (USA) )  And, if The Episcopal Church has departed? Well, then, given the argument that dioceses are sovereign (an argument used in the Diocese with some regularity) we can look for the Diocese to increasingly maintain the absolute minimal thread on which to hang their claim to be part of TEC until the walls crash down around what they believe is a failing church.

(b) absolute minimum participation in the structures of the Episcopal Church beyond the diocesan level.  The deputies and bishop took care to say, as they left, that they were not leaving TEC.  So look for the Diocese of South Carolina to stay, but only in a minimal way, for now.

(c) continued and increasing involvement with para-Anglican Communion groups - ANCA, FCA, GAFCON, Global South Anglican meetings.

(d) participation in mission outreach through agencies other those of The Episcopal Church, but continuing involvement in UTO and Episcopal Relief and Development.

(e) engagement in mission using agencies approved of by their GAFCON / Global South partners, and little involvement in the mission sending programs of The Episcopal Church.

(f) Training of seminary clergy at "trusted" seminaries - many not part of The Episcopal Church.

The effect of all this will be that the Diocese of South Carolina will be in a "second tier" of Episcopal Church Dioceses, ones that minimally relate to the life of The Episcopal Church and find their "national" and "international" sensibilities determined by the righteous ones of ACNA, CANA, GAFCON and FCA.  Unlike the two tiered idea for the Anglican Communion churches - tier one being those who buy on to the Anglican Covenant and tier two those who don't - this two tiered system will be initiated by those who cut themselves off, rather than are cut off.  The Diocese of South Carolina is concerned for purity of thought, belief and purpose, sometimes forgetting that the woman who was forgive much because she loved much was perhaps not pure, but surely saved.

Oh well.  

If the Diocese of South Carolina wants to skate near the edge it is in part because the Bishop wants to, or because the Bishop believes he has to in order to respect the desires of his diocese. Either way there will continue to be questions as to the depth of Bishop Lawrence's living within the limits of the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church.


  1. It is especially sad for the "faithful remnant" -- those South Carolina Episcopalians who take a broader view than their bishop. Many are represented in the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina http://www.episcopalforumofsc.org/
    Some are my friends. They will need the support of our prayers, our connections, and whatever the province or national church or related organizations can provide them, so they know they are not forgotten.
    Eleanor Braun

  2. Like a church in the Dio of Albany, those who disagree need to apply for oversight by a bishop who follows Jesus.

  3. You're probably right, Mark, but it's a non-issue: there's nothing wrong with doing (a)-(f). Oh, sure, you could object that it would be much more fruitful if we could all get along and "live into the tension" of it all, but the truth is, South Carolina has been marginalized by the Episcopal Church, which plainly wants nothing to do with that diocese's way of thinking. So this is best for everyone, as a practical matter. As a matter of reality, though, most of TEC's power structure wants Mark Lawrence's view of Christianity removed from their organization. That, and not anything Lawrence is doing, is the reason "questions will continue to be raised."

  4. I love your comment about Episcopal Seminaries. a) Many are about to go under or have; b) something on the order of over 50% of all being ordained into the Episcopal Ministry are trained at non-episcopal seminaries. SC is meaningless vis-a-vis that statistic.

    As for diocesan sovereignty, have a look at Sisk. He is doing what he wants to do, and believes he can do this regardless of what the Constitution and Canons say. 'Behold, your provisional rites at work!'

  5. Reminds me of what Ronald Reagan said when he became a Republican. "I have not left the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party left me." I think he'd be saying that now about the Republican Party.

    Actually, I think it's giving the DioSC too much power to say they have become a "second tier". They have marginalized themselves - shooting themselves in the foot and blaming everyone else because they're limping.

    What is it about evangelicalism that thrives on feeling "persecuted" for their beliefs?

  6. Who knows what's in Mark Lawrence's head? Doubt that even he does.

  7. Eleanor, there are those holding minority views within each diocese. In many instances each appears to feel persecuted by the majority. No doubt there are parishioners in Elizabeth Kaeton's Newark who feel betrayed and marginalized by the dominant culture within their diocese, and who seek the prayers and remembrance of those who believe they support them. Unfortunately the culture of the Episcopal Church, from my distant perch, suggests that the losers sulk, and the political winners semm to say "This matter is settled; we need to move on or you need to move out." This attitude permeated the HOBD listserv when I used to follow it; dissent was not tolerated, and critiques were vicious and personal. I had to quit following it; it was an extraordinarily depressing experience.

    The challenge is to make sure the minority, of whatever stripe, is truly welcomed, and not merely tolerated. I think that seems to be happening in many places, but not in all.

    Lazinpierre, you may find this hard to believe, but people who don't hold your beliefs are human.

  8. JOHN 2007 writes

    Too bad the "puritannical card" so to speak is played. Lawrence is not some persnickity purerson striving for a "pure church" as if that means puritannical--instead he is striving, as we all must, to be faithful.

    Further, whether there are people of broader mind than Lawrence in SC I do't know, nor do I know if that is a good thing. A better question might be whether the faith has been consistently shrunken by TEC. I think it has been, even if in the name of breadth and inclusivity.

    And . . .
    "Who knows what's in Mark Lawrence's head? Doubt that even he does."

    Well IMHO Mark Lawrence is as thoughtful, articulate, and humble as any Bishop in our church that I have met, and is refreshinbly coherent. Read what he has written and compare it, say, with our PB who never ceases to amaze with her weak grasp on the tradition and her attempts to be too clever by half, and you will come away--if you read it without bias--seeing a fine mind at work, carefully and patiently thinking. (He is BTW something of a specialist on Episcopal leaders in the 19th and 20th century in America) I don't, FWIW, agree with him on some things. Still, I think he was spot on when he said he would work as dilgiently to stay in the Anglican Communion and in ECUSA when first nominated. It was exactly what any Bishop-elect should have said at that time ,and still say IMHO, and yet so ill was he treated that we saw real ideology, not theology, preventing his first election. (Not to mention a certain questionableness about how email ballots were to be counted or not . . ..)

    Lawrence's statement was so far better than say, Peter Lee's "I will go with unity over doctrine." Lee essentially capitulated one half of his responsibility by posing it that way. Not Lawrence, both matter.

    (And I would be happy, if it weren't so depressing, to start a blog on either of the PB's latest books to show how very slight they are measured against almost anything a thoughtful, truly theologically grounded.)

  9. Mark,

    Bishop Lawrence is a word smith. He learned this from his mentor, John David Schofield. Why did anyone approve him for his diocesan role? He said he would not leave, he contends he will not leave, then he will leave. Gee, sound like some other "bishop" we heard in 2008. Why did those who are responsbile for ratification not call the diocese of San Joaquin? I must say, I blame tthose who should have stood up and said no, we are not giving you a diocese to take to ACNA. This whole thing disturbs me to no end. Did we not know that he was a scorpion and scorpions sting?
    when will we learn? When we will stop studying things and recognize things that are readily apparent to the most casual of observer?

    Just Fred

  10. South Carolina Episcopalians website reports that the national and state chapters of the Sierra Club have informed Bishop Lawrence that the group would no longer patronize the Diocese camp and conference center (Camp St. Christopher) because its views on human sexuality “do not reflect the values of our organization”.

  11. Mark,
    I left a comment. What happened?
    Fred Schwartz

  12. been thinking about having "changed" the doctrine, discipline and worship of the church...

    Well --I thought doctrine had to do with the sacraments --and we have only two, baptism and Eucharist and we have not changed those... nor have we changed the Creeds.... hmmmm.... maybe I'm wrong....

    Discipline? --the church is responsible for its own discipline, and can change it when it chooses --that is the REASON part of Hooker...

    Worship? To give glory to God for the love known between us as a sign of the Love given us... to bless that... for goodness sake, we have not instituted the worship of two people or sex or any idol like that... we give glory to God!!!! How has that changed?!

    Sounds to me like doctrine, discipline and worship have become the idols...

  13. Fred... you wrote as anonymous and I didn't see your name at the end. Sorry. Try using any ol name, or Fred, or whatever. As I say in my comment on comments please don't sign as anonymous. Tnx.

  14. It can fairly be said that one man's "word smith" is another man's drama queen, Fred.

  15. For the record, four progressive parishes in the "conservative" Diocese of Albany have requested and been granted DEPO. I doubt that they will be the last to do so.

    Robert T. Dodd
    Albany Via Media

  16. An interesting July 25th post at the South Carolina Episcopalians site. (Individual posts at this site cannot be separately linked)

  17. To what extent is this a socio-economic or class issue?
    Or a "birthright" Episcopalian vs. adult convert dynamic?
    Fred Garvin


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.