TEC moves against Diocese of S.C. & Bishop Mark Lawrence

UPDATE: News release from The Episcopal Church

Disciplinary Board for Bishops certifies that South Carolina Bishop has abandoned the church

[October 17, 2012] The Disciplinary Board for Bishops has advised Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori that the majority of the 18-member panel has determined that Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina has abandoned the Episcopal Church “by an open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church.”

Following complaints of 12 adult members and two priests of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, the determination was made under Canon IV.16(A).

The 18 member board – composed of 10 bishops, four clergy, four laity – issued a letter dated September 18. Following the assembly of numerous documents, the Presiding Bishop received the letter in her Church Center office on October 10; the letter was received via U.S. Mail.

On Monday October 15, the Presiding Bishop called Lawrence and, speaking directly with him, informed him of the action of the Disciplinary Board. She also informed him that, effective noon of that day, the exercise of his ministry was restricted. Therefore, under the canon, he is not permitted to perform any acts as an ordained person.

From here, Lawrence has 60 days to respond to the allegations in the certification

See more below fold.

The Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina has been notified that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has certified his "abandonment of the Episcopal Church." From the diocesan Web site:

On Monday, October 15, 2012, Bishop Mark J. Lawrence, the 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina was notified by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, that on September 18, 2012 the Disciplinary Board for Bishops had certified his abandonment of The Episcopal Church. This action by The Episcopal Church 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 at St. Philip’s Church, Charleston, on Saturday, November 17, 2012.

Bishop Lawrence was notified of these actions taken by the Episcopal Church between two meetings, one held on October 3 and one to be held on October 22, which Bishop Andrew Waldo of the Upper Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Lawrence had set up with the Presiding Bishop to find a peaceful alternative to the growing issues between The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina. The meetings were to explore “creative solutions” for resolving these issues to avoid further turmoil in the Diocese and in The Episcopal Church. A timeline of these events and their associated documents may be found below.

Two of the three charges had previously been determined by a majority vote of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops in November 2011 not to constitute abandonment. The Diocese has not received a signed copy of the certification and also remains uninformed of the identity of those making these charges.

We feel a deep sense of sadness but a renewed sense of God’s providence that The Episcopal Church has chosen to act against this Diocese and its Bishop during a good faith attempt peacefully to resolve our differences. These actions make it clear The Episcopal Church no longer desires to be affiliated with the Diocese of South Carolina.

The Certificate of Abandonment is posted here. Other documents, including a timeline of documents related to the case, are posted at the Diocesan Web site.

Acts of abandonment
The Disciplinary Board for Bishops cited three particular acts of abandonment

“Bishop Lawrence failed to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church” by presiding over the 219th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina on October 10, 2010, at which the following acts were adopted, without ruling them out of order or otherwise dissenting from their adoption, but instead speaking in support of them in his formal address to the Convention.”

“Bishop Lawrence further failed to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church” by presiding over the 220th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina on February 19, 2011, at which Resolution R-6 was finally adopted on the second reading, without ruling it out of order or otherwise dissenting from its adoption.”

“On October 19, 2011, in his capacity as President of the nonprofit corporation known as The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, Bishop Lawrence signed, executed, and filed with the Secretary of State of the State of South Carolina certain Articles of Amendment, amending the corporate charter 4 as stated in Resolution R-11, described in paragraph 7.c above. That amendment deleted the original stated purpose of the corporation “to continue the operation of an Episcopal Diocese under the Constitution and Canons of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America” and replaced it with the stated purpose “to continue operation under the Constitution and Canons of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.”

“On about November 16, 2011, in an apparent effort to impair the trust interest of The Episcopal Church and of the Diocese of South Carolina in church property located in that Diocese, Bishop Lawrence directed his Chancellor, Wade H. Logan, III, to issue 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.”

Certificate of Abandonment

Restriction of Ministry

Comments (20)

The Diocese does not leave TEC - it stays. People can leave and +Mark can be charged but courts have universally held that the Diocese and its properties stay with TEC.

I'm surprised that they didn't schedule their special convention for December 20, the anniversary of secession.

I agree that a diocese cannot leave TEC, but there has not been a definitive court ruling anywhere to that effect. It wasn’t needed in Pittsburgh, and the matter is still in the courts in San Joaquin, Fort Worth, and Quincy.

Seems rather straightforward. I think the Church was gracious to take him at his word, before his consecration, that he didn't plan to take the diocese out of ECUSA; now that he's openly tried to loosen the ties between the Church and his diocese, this action seems pretty meet and right.

Well, +Mark Lawrence threw down the gauntlet and left the disciplinary board no choice. The charge was inevitable.

+Lawrence can do what he chooses, as can the members of the diocese, but they cannot take the diocese out of the church.

June Butler

Just for the record: I didn't vote to consent to his election when I was President of the Standing Committee. Twice.

Ugh. "God's providence," really? I'm sure this is important and necessary and everything, but there is a very real cost to actions like this: nothing turns off potential churchgoers more than fighting over who gets what money and which buildings. And, I regret to say, to someone new to the Episcopal Church like myself, neither Bishop Lawrence nor the national church come away with much glory.

I'm excited for the possibilities for the Gospel and ministry-in-Christ in SC when they receive (God willing, SOON) an actual Episcopal bishop! :-)

JC Fisher

I am of two minds about this. On one had, anyone can see that Mr. Lawrence and his supporters have been acting in a way that has made Dio SC's secession to be over and done already in all but name. Although some might hope that the "property" issue in the departing diocese might go "some other way," simple legal precedent suggests that TEC has no choice but to proceed as with other rebel dioceses and bishops. I could issue a "quit claim" deed for the White House if I wish, but it does not have any standing, as I have no authority to grant it. Perhaps, the disciplinary board has simply made it possible for Mr. Lawrence et al to do what they so clearly want, which is to depart and to have an "excuse" that suggests that they have been "forced" into this rather than it having been engineered this way. Mr. Lawrence can keep his "lily white" claim to have honored his promise not to take Dio SC out of TEC. A quick trip to Titus One Nine shows that the majority of commenters are spinning this as a carefully engineered plot by the PB whom they affectionately call "Mrs." Schori and that they are the "righteous victims" of a pseudochurch that clearly has departed from the faith and is hopelessly heretical. If it were not so ridiculous, it would even be funny. Perhaps, in some way, this might be the "kinder" approach that will allow them to continue their "delusions" separately and in peace. I am sure that ACNA has everything in place to receive Dio SC departers ASAP.

On the other hand, I wonder if mere "inertia" might have just let things "lie" in Dio SC. Just chalk it up to bureaucratic "ineptitude" and continue to "negotiate" with them and dialogue with them ad infinitum. In the meantime, TEC could set up alternative oversight for churches and persons who could not stomach the Lawrence dominion. Without an "enemy" to galvanize their support, the "cause" may have just died of his own weight.

(BTW if you are having problems with sign in as I did via TypePad, then check the "remember me" box. This seems to fix the "error" message)

I agree with Paul's comments. And folks should remember that the Diocese of South Carolina was the last Episcopal diocese in the country to end racially segregated conventions in 1954--just two weeks before the Supreme Court decision in Brown Vs. Board of Education.

As they say in the South about SC: "Too small to be its own country, and too large to be an insane asylum."

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY


I think that recent bishops of South Carolina, from Gray Temple to Ed Salmon (and, I suspect, Mark Lawrence), have been acutely conscious of the less appealing aspects of the past and sought to remedy them.

To dress this up under the guise of "they're just a bunch of closet racists" is rather demeaning, especially when one considers that one can find plenty of lily white liberal Episcopal congregations.

Arguably the two most racially integrated parishes in Pittsburgh were Ambridge's Church of the Savior and Shepherd's Heart in Downtown and both are now part of ACNA.

@Kurt and @Jeremy - I have to side with Jeremy.

I, too, come from a diocese with a long history of racism. And we should not let the institution off the hook for those past sins.

But from where I sit you can see clear evidence that the Diocese of South Carolina strongly regrets its association with slavery and Jim Crow and makes anti-racism a priority. You don't have to read Kendall Harmon's blog very long to grasp that you can be opposed to the direction of the church, and yet be at least as good if not better than the church when it comes to facing down racism in the present day.

Please, you are welcome to your opinion, but mine is that racism takes this comment thread off topic.


I was simply reminding people that right-wing reaction is nothing new for the Diocese of South Carolina. We shouldn't be surprized if those who began the Civil War, and were the last to desegregate their convention, etc. are doing what they are doing today. It does not mean they are "closet racists;" but rather that they are "out" reactionaries.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Yes, I have not been a frequent visitor to the diocese of South Carolina since the late 70's. Bishop Gray Temple and Mariah were the most wonderful hosts back then. I had grown to love them when they spent a large part of his sabbatical year at my Theological College.

It was a vibrant diocese and Gray, as Jeremy says, struggled hard to live down the grim parts of its history. But segregated congregations remained the norm then and I can only remember one service where there were black and white faces and as I recall it was not an Episcopal service.

I can't imagine Gray would welcome these present manoeuvrings.

But TEC was fully aware of this man's intentions when they consented to his consecration. You deserve him.

Martin Reynolds

This sad situation reminds me of the story of a woman who pre-prepped divorce papers, signed them, and then set them aside in a drawer as an escape clause. All she had to do on a bad day was produce them for her husband to sign. The marriage, to no one's surprise, did not last.

My concern is not whether or not the ruling of the Disciplinary Board was legally correct but whether it was the judicious ruling to make at this point. Why not defer the ruling or work to stay in relationship rather than lay down the hammer of the law?

I have posted some more thoughts here at my blog:

Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski

But TEC was fully aware of this man's intentions when they consented to his consecration. You deserve him.

So going the "second mile" w/ a (difficult) brother means nothing to you?

I don't know why you seem to think the faithful of the Episcopal Church "pee'd in your cornflakes" Martin, but I emphatically do not appreciate your vindictive attitude.

JC Fisher

I think there is an important difference between this and other recent charges against bishops. This came about not because bishops raised the issues, but because they came from persons in the Diocese of South Carolina. While Bishop Lawrence and some of his partisans may want to blame the Episcopal Church, in this case charges were first raised by individual Episcopalians, and folks directly affected.

I also think it makes more sense to identify violations of ordination vows than to wait until there is an explicit step toward some other ecclesiastical community. There are specific acts here that can be raised, and perhaps (if Lawrence really cares to) challenged. I do think he has acted improperly; but he's been provided an opportunity to defend them. Now, as to whether he wants to defend them.... That I don't know.

Marshall Scott

Ms Fisher is willing to go the extra mile with Bp Lawrence, while not willing to give me an inch.

Martin Reynolds

There is an awful lot of ugly gloating going on here. "Motes and beams" children.

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