[Episcopal News Service – New Brunswick, New Jersey] The 12 lay people and two priests who filed complaints with the Episcopal Church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops alleging that the Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence had abandoned the Episcopal Church said Oct. 18 that they filed those complaints “with great deliberation” because certain actions he and other diocesan leaders took “seemed to be going too far out of bounds.”
Their statement came in a press release issued just after an attorney who worked with the 14 people had e-mailed a letter to Lawrence about their action. That letter, also e-mailed to Episcopal News Service, notes that they have made their names public “as a courtesy to you, so as not to have secrecy surrounding the action.”
Melinda A. Lucka, an attorney in the Charleston, South Carolina, area and an active communicant in the diocese, said in the letter that the complainants “do not want possible misunderstandings” and stressed that no one from elsewhere in the Episcopal Church encouraged or initiated the complaint.”
The 12 lay communicants include: Robert R. Black, Margaret A. Carpenter, Charles G. Carpenter, Frances L. Elmore, Eleanor Horres, John Kwist, Margaret S. Kwist, Barbara G. Mann, David W. Mann, Warren M. Mersereau, Dolores J. Miller, Robert B. Pinkerton, M. Jaquelin Simons, Mrs. Benjamin Bosworth Smith, John L. Wilder and Virginia C. Wilder. The clergy who were named are the Rev. Colton M. Smith and the Rev. Roger W. Smith.
It was announced Oct. 17 that the disciplinary board had certified to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori that Lawrence had indeed abandoned the Episcopal Church “by an open renunciation of the discipline of the church.”
The diocese said in an Oct. 17 statement on its website that the board’s action “triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions of the diocese, which simultaneously disaffiliated the diocese from the Episcopal Church and called a special convention.” That convention will be held Nov. 17 at St. Philip’s Church, Charleston.
The disaffiliation resolution, passed by the diocesan Standing Committee on Sept. 18 is here.
The church’s Executive Council discussed the South Carolina situation during a very brief executive session on the final day of its regularly scheduled meeting Oct. 15-18. Jefferts Schori said during a press conference just before the close of the meeting that she is “still hopeful that we can find a way for South Carolina to remain part of the Episcopal Church.”
In their press release, the 14 people asked for prayers “for the bishop and all involved,” and stressed that “there is definitely a place for orthodox and evangelical views within the diocese; that’s the beauty of being under the large tent of the Episcopal Church.”
“However, viewpoints and practices in the diocese began to take large leaps away from the broader church when various actions took place,” the complainants said. “Severing the legal connections to the governing laws of the church and essentially forming a new corporate entity, outside of the Episcopal Church by changing the diocesan corporate purpose statement to no longer accede to the constitution and canons of our church seemed to be going too far out of bounds.”
“The hope of these individuals is that the diocese will continue to be a home for all Episcopalians to worship and live together in God’s love through Jesus Christ.”
Lucka requested on behalf the 14 people that the disciplinary board look in various actions Lawrence had taken or encouraged over the past two years. She said in the release that she asked the board “if it could make a determination as to whether or not the actions were consistent with the mission and polity of the Episcopal Church.”
Generally, names of individuals who initiate these requests are held in confidence through privacy provisions of the Episcopal Church’s canons, the release said. “However, the complainants in this request gave their approval to allow themselves to be made known to the bishop,” the release said, “as a courtesy to Bishop Lawrence, so as not to be cloaked in a shroud of secrecy.”
The complainants hope that their disclosure “will prevent any suppositions that may be asserted in the upcoming days or weeks that the Episcopal Church may have initiated or encouraged the filing of this request,” the release said.
The complainants said they also wanted to clarify that although most of them are members of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina (an organization of what the release called “mainstream Episcopalians”), “this was not an action taken by the forum or its board.”
“In addition to the individuals who made this request, there are many, many other loyal Episcopalians in the diocese who felt strongly that Episcopal Church officials should review the bishop’s actions,” the release said.
ENS coverage of the Oct. 17 announcement is here.
— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.