Presiding Bishop accepts Mark Lawrence’s renunciation

Posted Dec 5, 2012

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] Citing Title III, Canon 12, Section 7 of the Constitutions and Canons of The Episcopal Church, and following thorough discussion with the Council of Advice, with their advice and consent, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has accepted the renunciation of the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church of Mark Lawrence as made in his public address on November 17 and she has released him from his orders in this Church.

The Presiding Bishop made the announcement December 5. The Presiding Bishop informed Lawrence by phone, email and mail on December 5.  Following that, the House of Bishops was notified.

According to the documents, Lawrence “is therefore removed from the Ordained Ministry of this Church and released from the obligations of all Ministerial offices, and is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God’s Word and Sacraments conferred on him in Ordinations.  This action is taken for causes that do not affect his moral character.”

The renunciation is effective immediately on December 5.

The renunciation was consented to by the members of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice, who are the presidents or vice presidents of the nine Provinces of the Episcopal Church:  Bishops Stephen Lane of Maine (Province I), Lawrence Provenzano of Long Island (Province II), Neff Powell of Southwestern Virginia (Province III), Dabney Smith of Southwest Florida (Province IV); Wayne Smith of Missouri (Province V), Rob O’Neill of Colorado (Province VI), Larry Benfield of Arkansas (Province VII), James Mathes of San Diego (Province VIII) and Francisco Duque of Colombia (Province IX).  Also members of the Council of Advice are Bishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas, vice president of the House of Bishops and Bishop Clay Matthews of the Office of Pastoral Development. Note: Bishop Dabney Smith was not present at the meeting because of illness.

November 17 address

On November 17, Lawrence presented an address in which he publicly proclaimed the disassociation of the diocese from the Episcopal Church: “We have withdrawn from that Church that we along with six other dioceses help to organize centuries ago.”  He also said: “We have moved on. With the Standing Committee’s resolution of disassociation the fact is accomplished: legally and canonically.”

Facts leading up to the renunciation
Pastoral outreach to Lawrence had been ongoing for a period of several years, including up to the time he announced his intentions.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori along with members of her staff took steps to work with Lawrence.  In addition, repeated attempts by the Bishops of Province IV and notably Bishop Andrew Waldo of Upper South Carolina were made to discuss the situation with Lawrence and to offer help in achieving a resolution.

On September 18, 2012, the House of Bishops Disciplinary Board signed a “Certificate of Abandonment of the Episcopal Church and Statement of the Acts or Declarations Which Show Such Abandonment” in the case of the Bishop of South Carolina.

The House of Bishops Disciplinary Board was created by General Convention (Canon IV.5(1) and 17(2)), is separate from the Office of the Presiding Bishop, and is composed of 10 bishops, four lay persons, and four clergy elected by General Convention  from throughout the Church.

In its “certificate,” the Disciplinary Board announced that it had “reviewed complaints from twelve adult communicants in good standing resident in the Diocese of South Carolina and two priests canonically resident in that Diocese…”  Thus, the Title IV actions were initiated by members of the Diocese of South Carolina, not the Presiding Bishop.

The Disciplinary Board recited three “Acts” by the bishop to show such abandonment:

  • First, resolutions came before the diocesan convention in 2010 proposing, among other things, to amend the diocesan Constitution to qualify the diocese’s accession to the Constitution of the Church and to remove any provision acceding to the canons of the Church, as well as proposals to amend the diocesan Canons to remove all references to the canons of the Church.  The Disciplinary Board found:

“The failure of Bishop Lawrence to rule these resolutions out of order or otherwise to dissent from their adoption, and in fact his endorsement of these resolutions in his address to the 219th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina violated his ordination vows to ‘conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church’ and to ‘guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church,’ as well as his duty to ‘well and faithfully perform the duties of [his] office in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of this Church,’ constituting abandonment of The Episcopal Church by an open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church.”

·         Second, in October 2011, Bishop Lawrence, as President of the diocese’s nonprofit corporation, filed amendments to the corporate charter deleting all references to the Church and obedience to its Constitution and canons.  The Disciplinary Board found:

            “Bishop Lawrence’s action in signing, executing, and filing of the Articles of Amendment altering the stated purpose of the nonprofit corporation known as The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina violated his ordination vows to ‘conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church’ and to ‘guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church,’ as well as his duty to ‘well and faithfully perform the duties of [his] office in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of this Church,’ constituting abandonment of The Episcopal Church by an open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church.”

·         Third, in November 2011, Bishop Lawrence either signed or directed others to sign, “quitclaim deeds to every parish of the Diocese of South Carolina disclaiming any interest in the real estate held by or for the benefit of each parish.”  The Disciplinary Board found:

            “Bishop Lawrence’s action in directing the issuance of these quitclaim deeds in an effort to impair the trust interest of The Episcopal Church and of the Diocese of South Carolina in the affected real estate, and in personally executing such quitclaim deeds, violated his ordination vows to ‘conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church’ and to ‘guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church,’ as well as his duties to ‘safeguard the property and funds of the Church’ and to ‘well and faithfully perform the duties of [his] office in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of this Church,’ constituting abandonment of The Episcopal Church by an open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church.”

The Disciplinary Board therefore “request[ed] that the Presiding Bishop record this Certificate and Statement and take such further action concerning Bishop Mark J. Lawrence as may be required by the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.”  The Canons, however, required the Presiding Bishop to restrict the ministry of Lawrence immediately.

On Monday, October 15, the Presiding Bishop notified Lawrence by telephone that the Disciplinary Board had certified to her that he had engaged in conduct “constituting abandonment of The Episcopal Church by an open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church.”

The Presiding Bishop in the same conversation notified him that shortly before she placed that telephone call she had in writing “placed a restriction on the exercise of ministry of Bishop Lawrence ‘until such time as the House of Bishops shall investigate the matter and act thereon.’”  She explained that the document also stated that “[d]uring the period of such restriction, ‘the Bishop shall not perform any Episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts.’”

The Presiding Bishop received a telephone call from Lawrence on Wednesday, October 17, in which she understood him to say he could not keep an agreement that the two had made on October 15 to hold the Board’s “Certificate” and the restriction on ministry in confidence until after an upcoming meeting.  She understood him to explain that the Chancellor of the Diocese had concluded that under the Diocese’s rules, the disciplinary action against Lawrence had triggered a change in the status of the Diocese to the effect of its having “disassociated” from the Episcopal Church.

On the same day, an announcement on the diocesan website stated that the “leadership” of the Diocese “had in place resolutions which would become effective upon any action by TEC [i.e., Church].”  The statement continued:  “As a result of TEC’s attack against our Bishop, the Diocese of South Carolina is disassociated from TEC, that is, its accession to the TEC Constitution and its membership in TEC have been withdrawn.”

More information is available on the Perspectives page here:

Pastoral Letter

In her November 15 Pastoral Letter to the Diocese of South Carolina, the Presiding Bishop clarified “a number of issues which I understand are being discussed.” Among them:

“1)  While some leaders have expressed a desire to leave The Episcopal Church, the Diocese has not left.  It cannot, by its own action….The decisions “announced” by leaders in South Carolina appear to be unilateral responses to anxiety about decisions made by General Convention and/or the actions of the Disciplinary Board concerning Bishop Lawrence.

“The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina continues to be a constituent part of The Episcopal Church, even if a number of its leaders have departed.  If it becomes fully evident that those former leaders have, indeed, fully severed their ties with The Episcopal Church, new leaders will be elected and installed by action of a Diocesan Convention recognized by the wider Episcopal Church, in accordance with our Constitution and Canons.

“3)  Bishop Lawrence was charged by several members of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina with having “abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church” by making or condoning actions which repudiate the polity (violate the canons or rules) of The Episcopal Church.  These actions have to do with formally attempting to separate the Diocese of South Carolina, its congregations, and their property from the wider Episcopal Church without its consent.  The Diocese of South Carolina is a constituent part of The Episcopal Church, and that status cannot be altered without the action of General Convention.

“The disciplinary processes of this Church carefully considered the matters with which Bishop Lawrence was charged, and the Disciplinary Board found that he had indeed repudiated the polity of this Church.”

The Presiding Bishop’s complete letter is here:


Comments (83)

  1. Some time ago our parish applied for a state grant from the California Dept of Parks. We had to submit proof of our 501c3 status. I remember that comprehensive document. It went from our parish in Santa Ana CA being under the Diocese of Los Angeles being under the ECUSA. The concrete fact I have in my hands is that the IRS 501c3 declaration is for ECUSA, the national entity. The non profit status of any Diocese or parish is under ECUSA. I am sure that this issue will be going to the courts as the Diocese of San Joaquin.

  2. Ronald J. Caldwell says:

    Let’s everyone take a deep breath and remember that we are Christians. As such we should not cast aspersions on each other. We are here at this web site by the generosity of our host the Episcopal Church and ought to be civil if not charitable. Commentators who wish not to do that do not belong here. Let’s stick to the issue at hand.

    The issue is that the Presiding Bishop announced that Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina had renounced his orders in the Episcopal Church, that she had accepted his renunciation, and that she had removed him from all canonical connection to the Episcopal Church as of Dec. 5. I happen to think she is entirely right on the strength of his own words and actions from Oct. 15 to Dec. 5. Other good Christians may disagree.

    What I do not understand is why followers of Lawrence are upset about this. Lawrence and they have already left the Episcopal Church so in their view nothing from the Episcopal Church has any bearing on their institution “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.” Those who departed from the Episcopal Church have chosen their path. Personally I wish them well on their spiritual journey.

    The Episcopal Church goes on in South Carolina, wounded but not defeated. 136 (63%) of the 216 clergy of the DSC have failed to endorse Lawrence. 37 (51%) of the 73 parishes and missions have also not endorsed Lawrence. Certainly the majority of the communicants of the old diocese are following Lawrence but his support is far from being as overwhelming as he claims. Time will tell how this all sorts out. Bottom line: there is an Episcopal Church diocese in South Carolina today that does not include Mark Lawrence and there will be an Episcopal Church Diocese of South Carolina tomorrow under a new bishop. Lawrence and his followers are free to make any other religious institution they please.

    1. Bryan Hunter says:

      Mr Caldwell, I don’t know where on earth you’re getting your statistics about the Diocese of South Carolina, but they are flat out wrong. You keep spreading misinformation across this board. I don’t know how you expect anyone to take your arguments seriously.

      Also, your grasp of how TEC canons and constitution work in terms of establishing dioceses is murky at best, as is your comprehension on what it means to be ordained in holy orders and the process for renouncing one’s orders. Perhaps it’s best to recall Wittgenstein’s adage: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

  3. James Graham says:

    As an Episcopalian who recently returned to active membership in the church, I am only slowly catching up on the controversy which has alienated many former Episcopalians from their Mother Church. I was a convert at age 16, in the Diocese of S.W. Virginia, received under the guidance of the Rt. Rev. Frank H. Vest, Jr., of beloved memory. This dear man saved at least one tortured teenager from an early and complete ruin! I was always proud of my Church for its espousal of a progressive social program. Being bisexual, I know the pain LGBT folks have endured, and continue to suffer in our society. In fact, I could recite a personal history that would bring many of you to tears. So could most of my LGBT brothers and sisters. I believe our Church has played an important role in alleviating this suffering and improving public perceptions of the LGBT community. So, I have no issues with policies allowing ordination of LGBT men and women who have a religious vocation. They constitute justice, and the compassion of the Gospels. Neither do I have any difficulty in accepting the ordination of women as priests and bishops. The ones I’ve met and come to know are doing a great job! Heck, I shouldn’t even have to say that. Gender shouldn’t even be an issue or a point of discussion here! God bless them. However, this constant talk of “heresies” by those who support secession concerns me. If they are concerned that LGBT people are being granted full participation in the life of the Church, then I know, from my own life experience, that they are mistaken, and even that they are misinterpreting Scripture and relying on mistranslations, taken out of historical and cultural context. If “heresy” as they use the term, refers to the ordination of women, then they are turning their backs on the Lord’s clear, unequivocal inclusion of women in the full life of the nascent Church. What then, remains as “heresy” to be complained about? I noticed that at the recent General Convention, resolution C29, I believe, to discontinue the ancient practice of requiring baptism before the taking of Holy Communion, was not passed. Had it passed, I myself would have been concerned. Can someone please tell me what other developments or changes in our Episcopal Church, regarding theology or religious practice, have alienated our dissenting brothers and sisters to the point of secession from the Episcopal Church. They frequently use the word “heresy” to justify their position. Just what are these “heresies”? And please–don’t even bring up misogyny or homophobic simplistic reference to un-scholarly mistranslations of ancient texts. Thanks for bringing a latecomer up to date on these matters! (James Graham, communicant, Church of the Messiah, Santa Ana, CA)

  4. Deborah Jozwiak says:

    I would like to remind my brothers and sisters in faith, that the love we receive from our heavenly Father is unconditional. We need to attempt to love one another as purely as we are able. Exclusionary positions are not based in love. So much time and treasure have been wasted on a question with a very simple answer. Our duty is to love one another, and minister to one another. The technicalities of Cannon Law are necessitated to hold those in positions of trust to the authority of the body of the church. But, I believe, the issue is that a commandment was broken, and continues to be broken with concentrated and deliberate intent. Love one another.

  5. Do the canons apply to the Presiding Bishop or do they not? The canons clearly state that Bishop Lawrence is to communicate all this IN WRITING to Bishop Schori which he has not done. If Mark Lawrence has something to answer for, then so does Katharine Jefferts Schori. Unless TEC believes in the divine right of presiding bishops.

    And are we all Christians here? Really? It seems to me that a truly Christian church would not force the Diocese of Virginia to back out of a civilized and quite Christian separation agreement it had with its departing parishes in order to take them to court and sue them out of their meeting houses.

    It seems to me that a Christian church would recognize that the differences between it and some of its parishes and dioceses were irreconcilable and bid these Godspeed rather than spending millions and millions of dollars in legal fees in order to satisfy its insatiable, idolatrous lust for other people’s property, parishes that it cannot possibly keep viable. You shall know them by their fruits.

    By the way, Episcopalians should NEVER use terms like “schismatic.” My Roman Catholic friends think that’s really funny.

  6. The Rev'd Donald Andrew Lowery says:

    I would make an historical observation about the Civil War era. PECUSA did not recognize the secession of the Southern Dioceses. When General Convention met during the war, the names of the Southern Diocese were read as though they were still members and marked absent. A couple of Confederate bishops chose to attend the General Convention in 1865, were welcomed and the division healed. The departure of the Southern Dioceses never became a court issue because it happened during a Civil War and everybody was more concerned about fighting on battlefields than fighting over property in court. The second factor was that all the Southern Dioceses came home after the war. Let me use a citation from Addison’s THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH in the UNITED STATES 1789 – 1931:

    Of far more signficance for the future of the Church than any action taken was the action that was not taken. No move was made to acknowledge the schism in the Church or to accept is as a completed fact. On the contrary, just as the Federal Government had taken the position that the seceded states were still members of the Union in spite of all their decrees and declarations, so General Convention acted as though the bishops and deputies from the South were only temporarily absent. On every day of its sessions the roll of the missing dioceses was called. Their seats, so to speak, were kept waiting for them. Addison pg. 198, 1951.

    I would suggest that just as the Civil War changed how the US Constitution was read vis a vis the possibility of leaving the Union, the fact the PECUSA in 1861-1865 refused to recognize the Southern Dioceses as seceded changed how our own Constitution and Canons are read. Only by action of General Convention can a diocese leave. Any other action is null and void. The so called Denis Canon has been around for awhile now, and it rules and reigns as regards property.

    Sadly, this will end up in the courts. While the Supreme Court of the United States has so far shown a reluctance to deal with church property matters, lower Federal Courts have been willing, and in each case KJS and TEC have won. It may take a decade, but I stand by prediction that in the end TEC will end up with all the propterty and assets and most members will stay with the buildings.

    All this makes me sad. I hope my earlier post did not sound hateful, and if it did, I apologize. I have good friends in South Carolina. I grieve their desire to depart. I would prefer they stay in and continue to bear witness to their position. I am deeply deeply saddened at the resources and energy that will be spent over the next few years to a decade to fight this in the courts. Nonetheless, I think if the past is the best predictor of the future, it will end up in Federal Courts and they will rule for TEC.

    Blessings to all and prayers for a miracle of reconciliation…
    Donald Lowery
    The Church of the Holy Innocents,
    Henderson, NC
    in the Diocese of NC.

  7. Walter Reid says:

    I’ve read most of these comments with a breaking heart. I was baptised in the church by the late Bishop Creighton of Washington at the then National Naval Medical Center. I belonged to a parish in Olney that was quite liberal except for the two years that I went to All Saints Episcopal Church of Chevy Chase, MD. It had a conservative rector whom I really liked, Dr. Paul Zahl. I remember emailing him and he always emailed me back. Then he retired for a second time. A retired liberal Bishop Dr. Salmon I think his name was? He had to read us a letter from the church council was it? Something to do with gay marriage or whatever. He said he would discuss such issues with us if we didn’t “shout”. Didn’t shout? Well I emailed him. He never responded. I think if I remember correctly, All Saints was trying or thinking of leaving the diocease. Then Bishop Chane tried and successfully got them to change their mind. Also at that time the church(ECUSA) was mired in something like 59 cases involving church property. I decided to go back to St. Johns despite its liberalism since I had friends there, but since August I’ve gone back to All Saints. Why are we spending so much money on this issue? Aren’t starving people more important? When our esteemed PB said in the previous letter that she “wished there were no Republicans”, I gasped. Even if said in jest it was evil and uncalled for. This is whom we have as a PB? What others must think of us. I too am considering walking the walk. Maybe I’ll join the Quakers, but maybe they won’t accept me since I grew up in a military family. I don’t know what to do, what to do. Didn’t our esteemed POTUS say something about civil discourse? God help us.

  8. Walter Reid says:

    Oop! diocese, not diocease. My poor eyesight. I so hope that all of these issues are resolved and we can all sleep well tonight. Let’s all try and remember that Christmas is soon upon us

  9. Elena Thompson says:

    We who are continuing Episcopalians in the low country of South Carolina, as a result of the Presiding Bishop’s action, may now move forward as The Rt. Rev. Mr Lawrence and those with him have also made their move forward. Under the very competent leadership of our steering committee we must now organize an electing convention to secure new Episcopal leadership, since the man we previously elected has chosen to go another way. It is Advent; we all are called to turn our eyes to the heavens and meditate on the coming of our Saviour, in whom we have a common hope and by whose grace we live. At Westminster Abbey Elizabeth and Mary lie buried in one grave; the sign on a nearby wall reads “sisters in the hope of the resurrection.” There is one hope in God’s call to us; one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all.

    The Rev. Dr. Elena Thompson
    Department of History
    University of South Carolina-Beaufort

  10. Ronald J. Caldwell says:

    Here are the statistics. The ad placed by “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina” in THE STATE newspaper on Nov. 25, 2012, listed 80 clergy endorsing Lawrence. Count ’em. This came after six weeks of campaigning to get everyone on board and included many retirees and deacons. The DSC web site lists 216 clergy of the diocese. 80 of 216 is 37%. After all of Lawrence’s efforts, he got fewer than half of the clergy to back him up. As for the local churches, the episcopaldioceseofsc web site lists 73 parishes and missions with 37 not endorsing Lawrence. Count ’em. 37 of 73 is 51%. Even the newspaper ad listed only 37 local churches endorsing Lawrence. Count ’em. Thus, even with some undecided and wavering clergy and churches, the support for Lawrence is not as strong as he claimed.

    1. Margaret Mattox says:

      Wrong again. After the ad came out, a number of people questioned openly why their theologically conservative rectors were not included; it turns out the bishop’s office had many diocesan leaders that contacted him after seeing the ad run, to add their name in support. Of course, it was already too late to have their names printed up in the paper. Bishop Lawrence does not have any need to “take a census.” His trust and confidence is not in princes.

      1. Ronald J. Caldwell says:

        Please do give us the names of the “many diocesan leaders” that wanted to add themselves to the 80. We all want to know. Of the many pretensions Lawrence and followers maintained was one that the diocese was overwhelmingly, solidly supporting Lawrence. The actual facts show quite a different picture which will become clearer sooner rather than later now that Lawrence has been removed from the picture in the Episcopal church diocese of SC. The upcoming provisional bishop will contact each clergyperson of the diocese to determine his or her adherence to the Episcopal church diocese. In time, those who do not adhere will be deposed from orders in the Episcopal church. At this point it appears that a very substantial part of the clergy body, perhaps even more than half, will remain with the Episcopal bishop. Time will tell, but it is going to be sooner than we thought only a few days ago.

  11. Jimmy Hamilton-Brown says:

    What on earth has all this ecclesiastical & legal arguing, let alone threatening to take matters to court, got to do with the Gospel of Jesus?

  12. Debi Gupton says:

    I don’t remember anyone asking me if I know longer wanted to be a member of TEC or be an Episcopalian. As such, I do not believe that Former Bishop Lawrence had the authority to remove our Diocese from TEC, and that his actions were personal because of feeling hurt by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the The Disciplinary Board — with good reason. That is just like me saying, when I worked at DSS, that if I were disciplined by our County Director and my supervisors, that I could meet with my unit of employees and say: “I have disassociated our unit from the DSS and we will be acting separately and no longer function under the DSS.” I would not have had any authority to do that and to continue functioning as though nothing had happened. I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church, and I am an Episcopalian. I believe that Former Bishop Lawrence has come to the realization that what he did was not practical, nor was it is legal, and has made a grand decision, realizing that God’s work and the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ, is higher than hurting our churches and diocese. As such, he has submitted his renunciation (letter of resignation) to TEC and the Presiding Bishop; as such TEC and the Presiding Bishop have accepted his renunciation (resignation). I can only imagine how difficult a decision this must have been for Former Bishop Lawrence. I believe his actions were honorable and in an effort to allow our diocese to move forward and continue to do the work that God has instructed us to do.

    “Gracious Father, we pray for the holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it, where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy son our Savior. Amen.” (BCP)

    “O God, by your grace you have called us in this Diocese to a goodly fellowship of faith. Bless our Diocese, clergy and all our people. Grant that your Word may be truly preached and truly heard, your Sacraments faithfully administered and faithfully received. By your Spirit, fashion our lives according to the example of your son, and grant that we may show the power of your love to all among whom we live; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP — some wording revised by me)

    “O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP)

  13. Bishop Andrew Gerales Gentry says:

    The war with the “Diocese of South Carolina of the Protestant Episcopal Church” has now commenced in full operations mode. Bishop Schori has fired the latest salvo against Bishop Mark Lawrence. She has stripped him of his credentials and his legitimacy and has essentially to use a Roman Catholic term denied him any faculties of ministry. He on the other hand has said and said repeatedly that he was and still is an Anglican bishop accepted and recognized by most of his fellow Anglican bishops as such and has never renounced his orders as a deacon, presbyter or bishop. In Catholic theology the “gift” given in the Laying on of Hands in the Act of Ordination can never be revoked it can only be restricted, curtailed , or its exercise forbidden. If I am correct Anglican theology is or was essentially the same.

    What we are seeing I think in this yet another “ecclesiastical divorce” in the Episcopal Church is the unraveling of the rapprochement withing Anglicanism especially in America between the Deist or Unitarian wing of the Episcopal Church, very forceably represented by Kathrine Schori and the more middle of the road, dare I say Traditional Anglican wing, that professes a core doctrine that gives or did give unity to the Episcopal Church in particular and the Communion in general. The Deist wing sees no need for such a core doctrine and regards liturgy including the Creeds as essentially liturgical theater even good theater but theater none the less.

    Divorces are very most of the time very ugly and these are no different. Dissidents are regarded especially by the Deist or Unitarian wing as the worst kind of people who have committed the one and perhaps only one sin and that is getting angry enough to separate. The dissidents for their part consider the leadership of the Episcopal Church as apostate. Both consider each other as mean and hateful partisans. Add to this sadly and angry stew the bitter and vitriolic legal battles over property and the money that it represents in a denomination that is strapped for money and any hope of some kind of reconciliation goes out the stained glass window. For many people on the outside looking in it appears and again I say appears that the battle is not between conflicting ideologies or theologies but only about money. The great ship of credibility of the institutional church already blown to pieces by the Roman Catholic cover up and protection of pedophiles is now being further torpedoed by this kind of very public battle.

    It is a legitimate question to pose as to what is the future of Anglicanism. We will see an increasing form of congregationalism that only gives a nod to the national church or even to the local ordinary or will we see a real split between the cultural relativists and what is left of a barely recognizable orthodoxy into national bodies that adhere to a particular world view and philosophy that supports that view. Asian, African and Latino Anglicans by in large apparently hold to a core doctrine that is very comfortable with the Nicene Creed but are divided on the social justice issues yet have somehow maintained communion with one another. Are these the future model of what has been in the past the ethos of Anglicanism and in America the Episcopal Church?

    Time will only tell but once the ship is taking on water it is very hard to keep her afloat.

    Bishop Andrew Gerales Gentry

Comments are closed.