|The Rt. Rev'd Mark Lawrence|
November 29, 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I write to you in this season of Advent when we await with eagerness the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in great glory to judge both the living and the dead, even while we prepare to celebrate his birth among us so long ago in that unlikely place and with an unimaginable wonder and unspeakable grace—the Word made flesh. In this season of hope we also rejoice in his daily visitation.
To that end it is with such hope that I report to you that late yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from Bishop Dorsey Henderson, President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, regarding their ruling on my case which has been before them for several months. In a conference of the board members on November 22nd the Disciplinary Board was unable to certify that I had abandoned the Episcopal Church. While the statement leaves many questions unanswered—frankly, to my mind it appears to read like a complex statement of a complex decision in a complex time within a complex church. Nevertheless, I believe it is best to take it at face value (even while noting that this diocese has not recognized the constitutionality of the new disciplinary canon). For now given no more allegations from anonymous sources within the diocese it is my hope we can all get back to focusing our full attention on proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and to Glory of God the Father that the Church here in the Diocese of South Carolina may add daily to its number those who are being saved.
Please know our vocation has not changed. While making disciples and witnessing to the unassailable Truth of the Gospel to a hurting and troubled world, and speaking truth to power within the unfolding struggles of The Episcopal Church, as well as taking our place in the larger Anglican Communion, we are, as you have heard me say on many occasions, called by God to Make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age. Even while I write this we have a group of Irish priests from one of our companion dioceses, the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh visiting at Church of the Cross in Bluffton to share, learn and experience renewal and refreshment in the Lord. They and their bishop, The Right Reverend Ken Clarke, will be meeting with our Diocesan Anglican Communion Development Committee to further yet another mutually enriching missional relationship within the emerging Anglicanism of this 21st Century.
Before concluding let me express my heartfelt gratitude for the innumerable letters, emails and spoken words of encouragement I have received from so many within the diocese (even from those who do not always agree with my theological position or my constitutional and canonical concerns). I am also grateful for assurance of prayers from those all across The Episcopal Church, and those in continuing Anglican circles across North America, as well as from significant Provinces of the Communion. I must also give thanks for Christians in various denominations who, having read of our situation in the diocese, have offered prayers to God for our strength and steadfastness. May we get on with the grace-filled work of Jesus Christ that is before us “that when he shall come again in power and great triumph to judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing.”
Gratefully yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina
All charges and case dismissed against Bishop Mark Lawrence. The Rt. Rev. Dorsey F. Henderson Jr., president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops has issued a statement:
A Statement by the President of the Disciplinary Board for BishopsRegarding the Bishop of the Diocese of South CarolinaOn November 22, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops met via conference call to consider whether, based on information previously submitted to the Board by lay communicants and a priest of the Diocese of South Carolina, the Bishop of that Diocese, the Right Rev’d Mark Lawrence, has abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church.Based on the information before it, the Board was unable to make the conclusions essential to a certification that Bishop Lawrence had abandoned the communion of the Church. I have today communicated the Board’s action to Bishop Lawrence by telephone, to be followed by an e-mail copy of this statement.The abandonment canon (Title IV, Canon16) is quite specific, designating only three courses of action by which a Bishop is to be found to have abandoned the church: first, “by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of the Church”; second, “by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with” the Church; and, third, “by exercising Episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than the Church or another church in communion with the Church, so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as the Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such religious body Confirmation without the express consent and commission of the proper authority in the Church….” Applied strictly to the information under study, none of these three provisions was deemed applicable by a majority of the Board.A basic question the Board faced was whether actions by conventions of the Diocese of South Carolina, though they seem—I repeat, seem--to be pointing toward abandonment of the Church and its discipline by the diocese, and even though supported by the Bishop, constitute abandonment by the Bishop. A majority of the members of the Board was unable to conclude that they do.It is also significant that Bishop Lawrence has repeatedly stated that he does not intend to lead the diocese out of The Episcopal Church—that he only seeks a safe place within the Church to live the Christian faith as that diocese perceives it. I speak for myself only at this point, that I presently take the Bishop at his word, and hope that the safety he seeks for the apparent majority in his diocese within the larger Church will become the model for safety—a “safe place”—for those under his episcopal care who do not agree with the actions of South Carolina’s convention and/or his position on some of the issues of the Church.The Right Rev’d Dorsey F. Henderson, Jr.President, Disciplinary Board for Bishops
Tip of the Tinfoil to TLC. So with this in mind, we need to find a good Dylan tune. Okay, this is the one that comes to mind, so here it is: