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Who wants to help make sense of the South Carolina situation

Who wants to help make sense of the South Carolina situation

Who is up for an assignment?

In the past, I believed that the way in which the tensions within the Episcopal Church were perceived by the people in our pews, by the general public, by the Church of England and within the larger Anglican Communion would play a significant role in the survival of our church.

As a result I followed every twist and turn in the efforts of the Anglican right to put our church on the defensive. I examined where their money came from. I wrote about their maneuverings here on the Cafe. In fact, the Cafe’s predecessor, Daily Episcopalian, came into existence, in some measure, to counter what I perceived as a significant schismatic advantage online. I also spoke about our internal politics to religion reporters from the mainstream media often enough that I came to be on a first name basis with many of them.

In the past few years, I have turned my attention elsewhere. I believe our church has weathered what you might call the inclusion crisis, and that our great challenge now lies in evangelism. We understand the Gospel in a way that many of our neighbors would find compelling if we were more successful in reaching out to them. So the story unfolding in South Carolina seems much less significant to me today than it might have in 2009. I’m glad for that. Still, I can’t help noticing that when the church decides that it has had about all it can take from someone like Mark Lawrence, the breakaway bishops tend to get the upper hand in the media. They are quick off the mark, and we are slow–hindered, perhaps, by a need to respect the confidential nature or the process. The bishops who have broken from the Episcopal Church sow confusion, paint themselves as victims, cast Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the mastermind of their persecution, and are supported by a sympathetic network of bloggers and publications like the Church of England Newspaper.

Once upon a time, I felt it was important to fight our corner when this sort of thing happened. Nowadays, while the job still needs doing, I don’t feel called to do it.

So who is up for taking a long, patient look at what is happening in South Carolina, steeping themselves in the facts of the case, getting comfortable with all of the canonical niceties and then explaining it to a reader who might be favorably disposed toward the Episcopal Church, but who still doesn’t know what to make of the case against Bishop Lawrence?

You can apply for this job by sharing your initial thoughts in the comments. The required reading is reporter Adam Parker’s attempt to make the whole situation comprehensible in the Charleston Post and Courier. One doesn’t have to agree with it all. (I don’t.) But it is a good, impartial attempt to make this complex issue sensible to a wide audience.


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Jim Naughton

Chris, I would like an apologetic in the classic sense of the word. So, to your question, I guess the answer is all of the above.

Chris Arnold


Do you want reporting and analysis, or do you want apologetic?


Richard E. Helmer

Thanks for the correcting me and the clarification. My main point was that the Presiding Bishop cannot and does not act unilaterally.

Ronald Caldwell

Mr. Helmer: Not to put too fine a point on it but actually the canons say that the presiding bishop does depose a bishop, but does so after the House of Bishops has passed a majority vote (Canon IV.16(A).2 “If the House by a majority of the whole number of Bishops entitled to vote, shall give its consent, the Presiding Bishop shall depose the Bishop…”

Here are some significant events approaching: 1-“The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina” (a self-declared independent entity) will hold a convention on Nov. 17 to formalize its removal from TEC. This is certain to pass. All parishes will have to choose between TEC and the independent diocese. 2-Dec. 15, deadline for Lawrence to present to the Presiding Bishop a written response to the order of restriction. On failure to do so “the Bishop will be liable to Deposition.” 3-March, 2013, House of Bishops will meet and presumably vote on the deposition of Lawrence. Upon majority vote, he will be immediately deposed.

Unfortunately, Lawrence has already at least verbally declared that he no longer adheres to the Episcopal Church. He is ignoring the order of restriction (next Sunday he is scheduled to administer Confirmation in St. John’s of Florence SC). Still, as I see it, the PB has to follow the timeline above.

Richard E. Helmer

Just one fact-check to Mr. Caldwell’s analysis:

The Presiding Bishop cannot depose any bishop. Only the House of Bishops can do that by majority vote of a quorum gathered in a duly convened meeting of the House. They will have the final say in this matter.

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