Henderson clarifies SC complaint and investigation

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Bishop Dorsey Henderson is the President of the Title IV Disciplinary Board of the Episcopal Church. He has written a short memo clarifying the complaint against and the investigation of Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina.


This morning, we used the term “presentment” but this was not accurate and we regret the error.

A complaint has been made to the Title IV Disciplinary Board and they are obliged to investigate. Whether or not formal charges are to be made against Bishop Lawrence will depend on the outcome of the investigation.

The complaint against Lawrence originated from communicants within the Diocese of South Carolina. The church attorney has been retained by the Disciplinary Board in accordance with the canons, and this person is not the chancellor to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Clarity is important in this case because certain groups and bloggers that are critical of the Episcopal Church would like to hold this up as a supreme example of persecution while portraying themselves as victims.

Ironically, one of the complaints against Lawrence is that he and the Diocesan Convention tried to distance themselves from the very disciplinary canon that may give him the fairest possible hearing because the new Title IV is designed to be a measured and careful process.

It is as easy to spin this story as laity exercising their last resort to curb the arbitrary actions of a runaway bishop, as to paint it as the liberal national church cracking down on a conservative victim of conscience. Maybe moreso, since the bishop’s response to having a complaint filed against him by lay people in his diocese is to schedule a closed door meeting with his clergy. But we have seen none of the first kind of spin, and plenty of the latter.

Update: the Cafe has confirmed that the complaint against Bishop Lawrence was not filed by the Episcopal Forum of South Caorlina, a group which has tangled with the bishop in the past.

Here is Bishop Henderson’s memo in full:

From Bishop Dorsey Henderson

President of the Title IV Disciplinary Board of the Episcopal Church

Concerning the Diocese of South Carolina:

•In the matter concerning the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, information is being reviewed by the Title IV Disciplinary Board. Bishop Dorsey Henderson is President of the Title IV Disciplinary Board.

•Information was presented from communicants within the Diocese of South Carolina.

•The information was not brought forward by the Presiding Bishop’s office, or by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church. Therefore, the matter is not being handled by the Presiding Bishop’s office or anyone in the employ of the Episcopal Church Center.

•All information has been presented to the Disciplinary Board under the Episcopal Church Title IV disciplinary canons (laws of the church).

•In situations as this, the “church attorney” is an attorney who is retained by the Disciplinary Board to investigate cases brought to the Disciplinary Board. The “church attorney” is not the chancellor to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

•As a matter of law and a matter of respect to those involved, the Disciplinary Board operates confidentially and will continue to do so. As such, it would not be appropriate to discuss the details of the case in public.

•Bishop Henderson has been in conversation with Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina.

•The Disciplinary Board is comprised of Episcopal Church bishops, clergy and laity.

Episcopal News Service story is here.

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C. Wingate
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C. Wingate

Er, I don't read Henderson's statement as providing any such confirmation, given that most forum members appear to be communicants within the diocese.

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