Sunday, July 15, 2012

Episcopal Bishop speaks out against actions of #GC77; plans to open talks on future of diocese in the Episcopal Church

Episcopal Bishop Mark Lawrence
From here:

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina circulated a letter to his Lowcountry congregations today condemning the actions of the national Episcopal church on same-sex blessing and gender issues and said he would open talks this week about the future of the diocese in the U.S. church.

The letter from the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence is the clearest indication yet that he does not believe the conservative diocese can tolerate the latest changes in church doctrine approved at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church that just concluded in Indianapolis.

In the letter addressed to “Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,” Lawrence said “the actions taken mark a significant and distressing departure from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them.” He asked that the letter be read at today’s services and copies provided to parishioners.

In probably the most public of its adopted resolutions, the General Convention that concluded July 12 endorsed a liturgy that can now be used for same-sex blessings. The U.S. Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, but the American church’s more liberal stance on same-sex issues has created the greatest rift within the 77-million strong Communion and provoked the biggest challenge to its top leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“It hardly needs to be said, but for the record let me say clearly, I will not authorize the use of such rites in the Diocese of South Carolina,” Lawrence wrote in the two-page letter. “Such rites are not only contrary to the canons of this diocese and to the judgment of your bishop, but more importantly I believe they are contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture; to two thousand years of Christian practice; as well as to our created nature.”

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina represents 29,000 Episcopalians along coastal South Carolina. Midlands and Upstate Episcopalians reside in the more moderate Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, with 28,000 members. The Upper Diocese leader, Bishop W. Andrew Waldo, said earlier he would not vote to endorse the same-sex blessing rite but would be open to establishing a task force to study the issue further. He has said his parishioners reside on all spectrums of the same-sex issue.

Lawrence, who has been among the most outspoken of U.S. bishops in his opposition to the ordination of gay clergy, said even more alarming was the adoption of new language that prevents discrimination toward transgendered persons and clears the way for the possible ordination of those who have undergone a change in sexual identity.

“They open the door to innumerable self-understandings of gender identity and gender expression within the Church; normalizing ‘transgender,’ ‘bi-sexual,’ ‘questioning,’ and still yet to be named self-understandings of individualized eros,” Lawrence said. “I fail to see how a rector or parish leader who embraces such a canonical change has any authority to discipline a youth minister, Sunday school teacher, or chalice bearer who chooses to dress as a man one Sunday and as a woman another. And this is but one among many possibilities.”

Lawrence had earlier sought alternative leadership for his diocese, contending U.S. leaders did not represent the beliefs of his congregants. The Sunday letter seemed to significantly heighten that unease with the U. S. church. He said he plans to meet Monday with his Council of Advice and on Tuesday with the Diocesan Standing Committee. Beginning July 1, Lawrence said he would open meetings with deans and clergy.

“Given these changes in the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church, the question that is before us is: “What does being faithful to Jesus Christ look like for this diocese at this time?”

The Rev. Kendall S. Harmon, the canon theologian for the Diocese of South Carolina, said when interviewed Saturday: “It’s clear we have to separate ourselves from the false teaching. It’s not clear what the godly response is at the diocese.”

Read it all here.


Lapinbizarre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tregonsee said...

It is tragic that a church seemingly goes out of its way to drive out their best. There is some hope that the new president of the Chamber of Deputies will be less radical. Unfortunately it will be another 3 years before a less polariizing PB can be selected. (It is hard to imagine one more so.) Unfortunately, there will be little but rubble standing.

Daniel Brown said...

Lawrence has been orchestrating this threatened exit for his entire episcopate. Remember the quit claim letter to every parish in the diocese? And that is just one of his innovative actions done while claiming provocation by TEC's apostasy.
So now he's going to have talks about the future of a Diocese that is not his "property," with a bunch of yes men (yes they are almost entirely men serving as priests in SC) and Kiawah lawyers. I wonder what they'll decide. Hmm.
He should do the honorable thing and just hand over all the keys and purchase his own Christianist boys' clubs, instead of assuming ownership over centuries old buildings and properties that have only recently been financially supported by his fellow "angricans."
I'm tired of these guys, especially the ones I've for years called my friends. I'm also getting tired of the expectation pronounced mostly from the "right" that I'm supposed to be tolerant of this intolerance.

Dale Matson said...

Daniel Brown,
"He should do the honorable thing and just hand over all the keys and purchase his own Christianist boys' clubs..." I'd say your comment was just a tad vitriolic.

Anonymous said...

Daniel Brown,

If your comments aren't simply misinformed and ignorant, then they are barely shy of slanderous. I urgently suggest you take a moment of serious reflection and offer an apology along with a retraction for the utter nonsense you've posted here.

Bryan Hunter

K in Colorado said...

I have noticed an increase in trolls on several conservative political and religious blogs. Must be part of the overall DNC campaign strategy for the November elections. We need to try to not feed the trolls.

Anonymous said...

"Christianist boys clubs"? Is TEC breaking out its' tinfoil hat conspiracy theories again? Rushdoony! My favorite one was that Hillary Clinton was the Manchurian Candidate of the Christianists. Because she has various mysterious ties with some of those Family/Anglican types in Northern Virginia, doncha know.

Daniel Weir said...

Wow! Complaints about vitriol. I trust you are all equally offended when someone refers to Bp Jefferts Schori in an insulting way.
The suggestion that those who want to leave TEC should hand over the keys and the check book as they go was made some years ago by a friend of mine who was serving what is now an ACNA congregation.

RalphM said...

The only mention made of Bp Schori in this thread was the hope that her successor would be less polarizing. That hardly seems comparable to Daniel Brown's description of Bp Lawrence.

Anonymous said...

Ralph - while you may not have noticed, there are quite a few commentators on this site (and a few others) who reflexively launch ad feminam attacks on the Presiding Bishop. I am not particularly enthusiastic about her as PB myself, but far worse things have been said of her than Daniel Brown's surmise that Bishop Lawrence has been scooching toward the door throughout his tenure in South Carolina, an opinion that may or may not be correct, but which is certainly supported by a number of indicators. (I hope it is not true and that Lawrence and other traditionalist Bishops stay put in the church. Their voice is needed). There are legitimate concerns about whether Bishop Schori has the depth of theological and administrative wisdom that are needed in her position in turbulent times, but much of the nastiness seems to emanate from her position on resisting walk-offs with church property, a position any PB would have taken and which is well-grounded in canon and secular law, not to mention common sense, basic decency a good stewardship of God's gifts.


RalphM said...

Daniel Brown's comments (perhaps trolling) were far more disparaging than "scooching toward the door".

The story had to do with DioSC's response to certain actions of GC77.

Immediately, Bp Lawrence is accused of plotting to take the property and leave TEC. These accusers are often the same people who laud the value of conservative voices remaining in TEC.

There seems to be room in TEC for conservatives as long as they remain silent.

jschwarz42 said...

I second Daniel Weir's point about the essential hypocrisy of the offense taken to Daniel Brown's post. Just a couple of weeks ago, many here were assuming or suggesting (wrongly and with no evidence) that the "charges" recently filed against conservative bishops (which, as everyone knows, can be filed by anyone) were some sort of conspiracy orchestrated by the Presiding Bishop. I am sure bad things have been said about Gene Robinson in the past. And I have recently seen comments here referring to Bishop Shannon as a "heretic" (and probably worse names, going back a ways). (Actually, at this point in the history of Christianity, calling someone a "heretic" seems theologically a quite un-useful and ultimately meaningless name; but that is another discussion, certainly it is always used as a term of abuse.) There clearly is a "double-standard" here. And someone simply taking a position contrary to the prevailing view of a blog does not necessarily make them a "troll"

By contrast, while Daniel Brown's comment was (I thought) unnecessarily hostile in tone, exactly the same thought about Bp. Lawrence's intentions occurred to me as I read his statement. It is very hard for me to see what his words mean - if not that he is seriously re-evaluating remaining faithful to TEC. I hope that he means something else, but that is certainly the message that his words would seem to convey to most people reading them.

Peace, John

jschwarz42 said...

On the broader question raised here, I personally am overjoyed by the results from GC, and am truly proud of my church (in the good, life-affirming sense of pride). I confess that I have yet to read any theologically coherent reason for opposing the "blessing" of a same-gender union (or marriage) - certainly when that relationship is of the kind that has been described in past Resolutions at GC.

I have read Bp. Lawrence's letter, and would respectfully suggest that his theological arguments make little sense. I actually agree with most of what he says about the blessedness of marriage and its connection to our relationship with God and the plan of salvation. But why is not everything he says equally true once we extend the theological understanding of the sacramental meaning of marriage to include same-gender as well as mixed-gender couples in our salvation? The faith experience of the church (as reflected in this latest long-overdue development) is increasingly that there is simply no spiritually or theologically significant difference between the loving, caring, faithful, covenantal relationships of same-gender couples and those mixed-gender couples whose marriages the church has rightly counted blessed in the past. It is the character of love and commitment which makes a marriage sacramental, blessed and holy - and which allows it to reflect the blessedness of God's loving and committed relationship with us, and Christ's with his church. Not the gender of the couple!

Nothing in this move by GC to allow blessing ceremonies (which are clearly sacramental, as they should be) can reasonably be seen as "put[ting] asunder this sacramental understanding of marriage as established by God in creation and blessed through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ." Rather than putting it asunder, it simply extends this sacramental understanding to include couples who have previously been excluded from it - partly due to the effect on the church of past cultural prejudice, ignorance and bigotries - but also partly due to our newly-evolving contemporary experience that there are certain same-gender relationships which are NOT forms of licentiousness or sexual experimentation (which are mostly the only kind of such relationships known to and considered by the scriptural writers), but which are rather examples of the same kind of committed loving relationships which we have already recognized in our "traditional understanding" of marriage as blessed and reflecting our relationship with God. This expanded understanding should be seen as a development and growth in our sacramental understanding of the meaning of marriage, not as destructive of it.

Likewise, he quotes the Prayer Book: "The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people." I totally embrace this affirmation. But, again, I see no coherent reason why this statement may not equally embrace the marriage of couples whose "created nature" happens to include their being gay and who, in faithfulness to that created nature, seek to affirm this sacred "bond and covenant of marriage" in their own love and lives together.

Peace, John

Anonymous said...

TeCusa is nearly extinct (on its own nos) ..... Revisionist ideas have left it with tiny nos attending - while the US sees high rates of churchgoing...... Not much for revisionists to be proud of in the terminal decline of TECusa under the control of revisionists ......