Church of England Newspaper reports via e-mail:
Episcopalians should pay no heed to the views of conservative scholars and bishops, but should place their trust in her, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said this week.
Her remarks came as a new front opened in the Episcopal Church’s civil war over homosexuality, with the national Church sending out skirmishers for an impending legal assault against the traditionalist Bishop of South Carolina, the Rt. Rev Mark Lawrence.
On Feb 9 Bishop Lawrence announced he was postponing the diocese’s annual synod from March 4 to March 26 to permit him time to respond to the “unjust intrusion into the spiritual and jurisdictional affairs of this sovereign diocese of the Episcopal Church” by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
With his announcement he provided copies of letters showing that the former chancellor of the diocese, Thomas Tisdale, Jr., had written to the current chancellor Wade Logan III seeking copies of the minutes of all standing committee meetings held since he took office. He also wanted a copy of oaths of conformity given to the new clergy, and the parish by-laws and other documents from four parishes that have indicated they may quit the Episcopal Church. In the lawyers’ exchange, Tisdale, who styled himself “South Carolina counsel for the Episcopal Church” told Logan, that it was his understanding that Bishop Lawrence would not take any legal action in response to “recent and ongoing actions by some congregations in our diocese that threaten to ‘withdraw their parishes from the diocese and the Episcopal Church.”
Logan responded that no parishes had quit the diocese during Bishop Lawrence’s tenure, and that “the bishop, was the sovereign authority in this diocese. Logan added that “it seems transparent that the Episcopal Church is trying very hard to find a reason to involve either the bishop or the diocese, or perhaps both, in an adversarial situation.”
Following the July General Convention’s vote to end the moratorium on gay bishops and blessings, on Oct 24 the Diocese of South Carolina held a special meeting of synod that declared the moratorium votes “null and void” in South Carolina. The synod also authorized Bishop Lawrence to begin withdrawing the diocese from national Church bodies that approve “actions deemed contrary to Holy Scripture, the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them, until such bodies show a willingness to repent of such actions.”
A spokesman for the Presiding Bishop declined to comment on the South Carolina letters when questioned by The Church of Eng- land Newspaper, but at the meeting of the national Church’s Executive Council in Omaha, Nebraska on Feb 19, the Presiding Bishop addressed the issue.
According to reports, the Pre- siding Bishop told the Executive Council that Bishop Lawrence had delayed the South Carolina annual synod in response “supposedly to my incursions in South Carolina.”
“He’s telling the world that he is offended that I think it’s impor- tant that people who want to stay Episcopalians there have some representation on behalf of the larger church,” she said, and asked for prayers for the diocese.
Asked at a press conference held on Feb 22, what prayers should be offered for South Carolina, Bishop Jefferts Schori said she “would hope that Episcopalians in South Carolina have a clear understanding” of the church’s polity and “not rely upon erroneous information.”
The focus on South Carolina arose from pleas to her office from distressed members of the diocese. “My understanding is that Episcopalians in South Carolina are concerned about those who have departed and are attempting to keep the Episcopal Church’s property,” she said.
Asked by CEN whether she was referring to the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) as the source of this “erroneous information” the presiding bishop said that “Episcopalians, like many others, often seek information from the internet. They are looking at sources that are not peer reviewed, or rely on opinions. The representations on the theology of the church as a whole are inaccurate.”
The President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church, Mrs. Bonnie Anderson added that there was an “influx of information coming from sources outside the official bodies” of the Episcopal Church.
“The national Church should be the source of information on the polity and structures of the Episcopal Church,” Mrs. Anderson said.