Lawrence insists he's still Bishop of SC

From Episcopal News Service:

Mark Lawrence, who led some of the members of the Diocese of South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church, has said he remains the bishop of the diocese, and called Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s Dec. 5 decision to accept his renunciation of orders as “superfluous.”

“Quite simply I have not renounced my orders as a deacon, priest or bishop any more than I have abandoned the Church of Jesus Christ — But as I am sure you are aware, the Diocese of South Carolina has canonically and legally disassociated from The Episcopal Church,” Lawrence said in a letter posted on the diocese’s website after the presiding bishop’s announcement. “We took this action long before today’s attempt at renunciation of orders, therein making it superfluous.”

Read full story here.

Comments (19)

I'm reminded of that Zen koan:

What's the sound of one hand clapping?

So he's still the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina? The diocese of which church?

Morris Post

He's a renegade religious leader of a renegade diocese of his own making. His orders came from the Episcopal Church and he has renounced his association with the mother church that gave him orders and legitimacy. So his status is in his own mind.

No, Jesse. Holy Orders has an indelible character. Of course he's a bishop - he just not a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

No, Jesse. Holy Orders has an indelible character. Of course he's a bishop - he's just not a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

Bill Dilworth

He may by God's grace have an indelible character but he's still a renegade and he can't say he accepted orders w/o knowing the direction of the church as regards these matters. If there is a flaw in his intention to receive the orders of bishop then is he really a bishop...whatever he is he, unlike the other traitor bishops knew what was going on and chose to accept that mark with that knowledge and foresight.

So Mr. Snider, let me see if I have this correct. Bps. Duncan, Iker, Schofield, Ackerman, Lawrence, etc. are to be blamed because they knew that from the beginning that TEC was apostate and heretical, and therefore are to blame because they accepted ordination in an organization that really isn't a church because of those beliefs? Really, is that what your putting forward? If so, makes total sense to me.

Jesse, I'm not challenging your assessment of *his* character - I'm more concerned with how we talk about the character of Holy Orders in the present context.

I wonder if lying or misrepresenting your intentions during the ordination/consecration process affects indelibility.
But these folks have opened the door to this question by their own usurpation of power to define who is and is not orthodox or even ordainable.

Likewise they have unilaterally decided to pursue a strategy of seizing assets that they have been stewards of rather than owners. Mark Lawrence promised to obey the doctrine and discipline of the church and that is formed by GC not by the whims of his cohort in the church.

But if ever an entire Diocese deserved disciplining it is the Diocese of South Carolina, which has pandered to every reactionary and splintering group for decades, especially the AMiA and the refugee priests from the Baltimore Declaration (remember the ESA and flying bishops?). By aiding and abetting groups who have shown open disdain for the order of the Church they surrender their whinging rights. TEC's mistake was in not taking their leadership to task earlier.

Michael, I don't think that it's helpful to hang sacramental validity on intention (which is what the misrepresentation would fall under, I think) too much, because the result would be a never-ending cycle of doubt and second-guessing -- How do I know that priest didn't lie during discernment, or have some sort of mental reservation? How do I know this other priest really intends to consecrate the bread and wine during the Eucharist? Was the bishop who confirmed me acting with the proper mental attitude? Impediments to valid ordination seem, from what I've gathered, to be rather more easily verified.

Lots of chatting about the indelibility of Holy Orders. Ordination is not magic, nor are the other sacraments. "Validity" is a juridical category. The indelibility of ordination doesn't mean someone is "still" a bishop, priest, or deacon after that person has been deposed, or after renunciation. It means that should that person be restored to orders, it is not necessary (and indeed not appropriate) to be re-ordained. We hold our orders only within the context of the communion of the Church. They are not a private possession that we maintain no matter what. (The notable exception of a deposed priest administering last rites "validly" is specifically a provision of the context of the communion of the Church.) Now if Mark Lawrence wants to make himself a bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Confederate States of America or some other community, I guess he can do that. If some other Province of the Anglican Communion wants to continue to consider Mr. Lawrence a bishop, I guess they can do that, too. But it's no longer our problem.

No, Bill Moorhead, you are mistaken. Indelibility absolutely means that someone is still an ordained person after renunciation or deposition. Even the language of the canon that the PB purported to use doesn't claim that in accepting a renunciation that the orders themselves are being somehow removed. It says the person in question "is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God's Word and Sacraments conferred in Ordinations." They are being deprived of the RIGHT to exercise the priestly ministry; their priestly ministry is not being removed. It cannot be.

And you have the exception about the "Last Rites" wrong, too. It's not that this is the only time that the exercise of a deposed priest's ministry is valid. It's that it's the only time that the exercise of a deposed priest is licit; indeed, traditionally laicized priests are *required* to give someone in danger of death the "Last Rites." In other circumstances, the sacraments performed by a deposed priest are valid, but they are not licit.

I think that we are missing the point here somewhat. Lawrence still feels that he is "bishop of the diocese of SC." This is not true, whether we consider him permanently-purpled or belatedly-bleached, he is not the lawful bishop of the diocese of SC. The Episcopal Diocese of SC currently has no lawful bishop, and this will need to be remedied in due time. Both by his prior actions before his inhibition and by the subsequent actions of the PB, he has renounced his position as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of SC. He and his cronies appear to have created a "new" independent church. I presume this makes him the Patriarch of Charleston or the Pope of the Lowlands or the Poobah of the Secession or something. Fine, give yourself all the titles you wish, but the office he formerly held in TEC he holds no longer. Whether his "ordination" is still valid is not something that seems important to me. God is not going to play games with our silly rules. He is going to continue to confer the same grace in the sacraments that has always been present with/in them be they administered by the Vicar of Bray or the ABC himself.
Given his complete contempt for the rest of us, I suppose that anathemas from him will continue to proliferate. Fine, spread as many lies as you will. I am not wasting any tears that he was "forced" to these actions. He has plotted these for years. He has gotten what he very much wanted all along. The "sighs" are just an act. Sorry, not buying it.

@Jeffrey: Thank you.

One of the great challenges in all of this is the effort by some to redefine the common meaning of words--a contrivance for which we too often fall. How often, for example, do we hear people say, "It's never been decided whether TEC is really hierarchical?" In reality, however, TEC under the law has the right as a religious body to determine its own structure, and one need only look to the canons and other church documents to determine that we are, in fact, hierarchical. That applies as well to the argument that dioceses are independent entities that may come and go as they wish. One can only be part of TEC by, in fact, being part of TEC. It’s plain as day in our governing documents.

As to the argument that some dioceses may not have ratified the Dennis Canon, which confirms that assets are held in trust for the diocese, or the national church. That’s addressed by the last section of the canon itself, which reads: The several Dioceses may, at their election, further confirm the trust declared under the foregoing Section 4 by appropriate action, but no such action shall be necessary for the existence and validity of the trust.” And again, under the law, the church is the judge of the validity of its own canons.

Nor is the Dennis Canon a recent innovation. It's been around since 1979, and most of those objecting to it were ordained after its enactment. So the Lawrences of the world would be hard-pressed to say that they did not know the rules of the game going into it.

And, of course, there is the whole appeal to moral authority. To my mind, that's like arguing that you didn't really lose a football game because the game is unethical, or you don't like rule changes made in recent years. Perhaps all that is true, but you still played football, you still played under the rules of the game, and you still lost. That doesn't give you the right to assert ownership of the stadium, even if you gave money to maintain the stadium.

We'll never know all of the pastoral discussions that occurred behind the scenes, but my sense, too, is that the PB has been remarkably diligent in her efforts to resolve the situation in SC in a positive way. If nothing else, any time you hear someone like Lawrence shuffling around, muttering about how he's got a plan -- and a secret plan at that -- you can be reasonably sure that there is a reason he is keeping the thing secret, and the reason is not a good one. Meanwhile, I just hope he is spending half as much time on serving those in need as he is with his lame/childish antics.

(Yes, call me grumpy--yesterday was a long day at work!)

Eric Bonetti

Jeffrey and Eric, bravo, bravo, bravo. Well said. In fact, Lawrence is no longer the bishop of the Episcopal church diocese of South Carolina. He can call himself whatever he wishes in the fantasy world he inhabits. I do feel for the young rectors with young families who are torn between following a demonstrably unstable leader and providing for their families. Lawrence is 60 and can retire very well any day (ironically on Episcopal church retirement).

Jeffrey: "I think that we are missing the point here somewhat. Lawrence still feels that he is 'bishop of the diocese of SC.' This is not true,"

Not the Episcopal diocese of SC, no. At least we agree on one thing. He's got something going on called the "diocese of South Carolina," but there are lots of overlapping claims to ecclesiastical jurisdiction out there, and we need not concern ourselves with them.

Eric: "One of the great challenges in all of this is the effort by some to redefine the common meaning of words--a contrivance for which we too often fall."

Alas, we too often propagate it ourselves. Witness the redefinition of "renunciation of orders." It's gone from "withdrawing from the exercise of the priestly ministry and returning (at least outwardly) to the lay state" to "withdrawing from my relationship with the Episcopal Church." I'd argue that the word "receive" has gotten some rough handling in this affair, too, having its meaning changed to "infer."

I'm with Bill. Regardless if we think it's the point or not, we do need to be very careful about how we speak about removing people from various positions of authority and the connection that has to sacramental rites. In the church, authority and sacraments are interconnected. In political exercises of authority we are also inscribing sacramental theology whether we're conscious of it or not--so it pays to pay attention!

Mr. Caldwell, would you like to elaborate about your comment that Bp. Lawrence is "demonstrably unstable?" On what grounds to you make that accusation? Do you have first hand knowledge of such instability?

Just because you happen not to agree with what Bp. Lawrence has done and is doing gives you no right whatsoever to slander him personally on matters that you most likely have no first-hand knowledge. I certainly wish the Christian virtue of charity were exhibited in this forum, because if you think it does, you have a very strange way of showing it.

Fr. McQueen: You are quite right to call me to account. I apologize for making this comment. This was simply my reaction to having seen him in person and followed his words and actions for years.

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