The bishops of the Episcopal Church’s Province IV had asked Lawrence Dec. 5 to meet with them “to have a clarifying conversation” about his decision to issue property deeds to each diocesan congregation.
At Lawrence’s direction, Diocesan Chancellor Wade Logan Nov. 16 sent a quitclaim deed to every parish in the diocese. A quitclaim deed generally transfers ownership of the property from the party issuing the deed to the recipient.
In a statement e-mailed by Diocese of Upper South Carolina Bishop W. Andrew Waldo and later posted on the South Carolina diocesan website, the bishops said that they were a “representative group who were available at the appointed time and date.”
In addition to Waldo and Lawrence, the bishops present at the meeting were Diocese of Georgia Bishop Scott Benhase, Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry, Diocese of East Carolina Bishop Clifton Daniel III, Diocese of West Tennessee Bishop Don Johnson and Diocese of Western North Carolina Bishop G. Porter Taylor.
Daniel, the provincial vice president, had requested the meeting with Lawrence, saying that the other provincial bishops want to know under what canonical authority he proceeded, whether he involved the diocesan Standing Committee, and whether the members of the Standing Committee were in accord with his action. Daniel also asked who signed the quitclaim deeds.
The Episcopal Church’s so-called “Dennis Canon” (Canon 1.7.4) states that a parish holds its property in trust for the diocese and the Episcopal Church.
Lawrence told the Living Church a week after the deeds were issued that he did so in part because “the threat of property disputes” should not be “the only thing that holds us together.”
The statement from Waldo said the seven bishops at the Dec. 14 meeting prayed together “and participated in open, honest, and forthright conversation.”
“Probing questions were asked by all, and it is fair to say that we did not agree on all matters discussed,” the statement said. “For the visiting bishops, the gathering particularly helped to clarify the context of the Diocese of South Carolina’s quitclaims decision. Where we go in the future is a matter of prayer and ongoing engagement of concerns before us, an engagement we embrace out of our love for Christ and his church.”