March 24, 2017

July 15, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Bishop Lawrence Writes His Diocese About GC 77

The following letter written by the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, was provided to clergy throughout the Diocese to be read aloud in parishes on Sunday, July 15, 2012. Clergy were asked to provide printed copies of it as well. An abbreviated version was also made available. 

July 15, 2012
7th Sunday After Pentecost

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Some of you have actively followed the decisions of the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Others have been blissfully unaware that our denomination even had a General Convention. We have. And the actions taken mark a significant and distressing departure from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them.

In conversations with clergy, and from the emails I have received, I know there is much uneasiness about the future. Some of us are experiencing the well-known stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. And, of course, I must acknowledge there are those for whom the recent decisions are a cause for celebration. For me there are certainly things about which I was thankful at the convention in Indianapolis. I might even have taken encouragement from the resolutions that were passed regarding needed structural reform, and for the intentional work in the House of Bishops on matters of collegiality and honesty. Unfortunately, these strike me now as akin to a long overdue rearranging of the furniture when the house is on fire. Why do I say this?

There are four resolutions which were adopted that bring distressing changes to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church that every ordained person in this church has vowed “to engage to conform,” and which stand in direct conflict with the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them.

First, let me mention resolution C029. While this was amended during the debates in a more temperate direction, it still moves the Church further down the road toward encouraging the communion of the unbaptized which departs from two thousand years of Christian practice. It also puts the undiscerning person in spiritual jeopardy. (I Corinthians 11:27—32)

Plainly, the resolution that has received the most publicity is A049 which authorizes rites for Same-Sex Blessings.

This resolution goes into effect in Advent 2012, but only upon the authority of the bishop of each diocese. It hardly needs to be said, but for the record let me say clearly, I will not authorize the use of such rites in the Diocese of South Carolina. Such rites are not only contrary to the canons of this diocese and to the judgment of your bishop, but more importantly I believe they are contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture; to two thousand years of Christian practice; as well as to our created nature. Many theologians down through the centuries speak of what we are as human beings by Creation; what we are by the Fall; what we are through Redemption (that is in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ); and what we shall be in our Glorification. Our marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer is rooted in this understanding. Because of this, it is biblical, it is Christian, and it is Anglican. I would also add, it is beautiful and it is true. Therefore the Episcopal Church has no authority to put asunder this sacramental understanding of marriage as established by God in creation and blessed through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. It has no authority to do this either by revising the marriage rite to include same sex partners or by devising some parallel quasi-marital sacramental service. I remind you of the elegant words of our Prayer Book which echo the teaching of our Scriptures: “The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.” This speaks of a “given-ness” in this age that is good, and is emblematic of our Christian Hope. It prepares us for the age to come; when God the Father summons his Church to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

There is however an even more incoherent departure from the teaching of Holy Scripture and from our Episcopalian and Anglican Heritage to be found in the General Convention’s passage of resolutions D002 and D019. These changes to our Church’s canons mark an even further step into incoherency. They open the door to innumerable self-understandings of gender identity and gender expression within the Church; normalizing “transgender,” “bi-sexual,” “questioning,” and still yet to be named – self-understandings of individualized eros. I fail to see how a rector or parish leader who embraces such a canonical change has any authority to discipline a youth minister, Sunday school teacher, or chalice bearer who chooses to dress as a man one Sunday and as a woman another. And this is but one among many possibilities. Let me state my concern clearly. To embrace an understanding of our human condition in which gender may be entirely self-defined, self-chosen is to abandon all such norms, condemning ourselves, our children and grandchildren, as well as future generations to sheer sexual anarchy. So long as I am bishop of this diocese I will not abandon its people to such darkness.

Some have said to me, “But bishop the culture is accepting this. To continue to resist these innovations is to put ourselves on the wrong side of history.” I say to such thinking, you cannot be on the wrong side of History if you are on the right side of Reality. Archbishop William Temple was correct when he wrote over 70 years ago: the Church needs to be very clear in its public teaching so it can be very pastoral in its application.

This Monday afternoon I will be meeting with my Council of Advice. On Tuesday I will be meeting with our Diocesan Standing Committee. Then during the remainder of July I will be meeting with the deans and with clergy in various deaneries. Given these changes in the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church the question that is before us is: “What does being faithful to Jesus Christ look like for this diocese at this time? How are we called to live and be and act? In this present context, how do we make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age?”

On the penultimate day of General Convention, in a Private Session in the House of Bishops, I asked for a point of personal privilege and expressed my heartfelt concerns about these changes. I listened to the words of others and then departed with prayer and charity. I left at that time because at least for me to pretend that nothing had changed was no longer an option. Now that I have returned to South Carolina it is still not an option. I ask that you keep me and the councils of our diocese in your prayers as you shall be in mine. We have many God-size challenges and, I trust, many God-given opportunities ahead.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Right Reverend Mark Joseph Lawrence

Please keep the Diocese of South Carolina, Bishop Lawrence, the clergy and laity in your prayers this week.  If you know a prayer warrior, could you forward this link?


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Thank God for Mark Lawrence!  What a solid blessing these words are.

[1] Posted by The Plantagenets on 7-15-2012 at 03:48 AM · [top]

Magnificent.  A clear-headed man in a sea of chaos.

[2] Posted by Father Wash-Ashore on 7-15-2012 at 05:09 AM · [top]

God is with you Mark - and we are with you Mark. 

My eyes are very watery this morning after reading this because I am so grateful to God and to the people of South Carolina for fighting so hard to put Mark Lawrence in this leadership role at this time in our lives.

[3] Posted by midwestnorwegian on 7-15-2012 at 05:44 AM · [top]

This is a predictably strong letter that challenges all other TEC bishops to choose sides - orthodoxy versus apostasy. There is no middle ground. There are no moderates. I hope that DioUSC and DioGA are watching closely. Their bishops voted no, but have made no statement.

The other bishops cannot leave +Mark hung out to dry. He’s theoretically invulnerable from Title IV proceedings because of the conscience clause in the SSB resolution. However, the Ladyboy Resolution did not have a conscience clause. I’m sure TEC is sending Ladyboys (poor Stu) to DioSC by the busload.

Furthermore, Presiding Fuerhrerin Schori flushed Bp. Duncan because she thought that he might do something. Despot is as despot does.

The tragedy now enters Act V. When the Presiding Fuerhrerin descends on DioSC, I hope someone has a bucket of water.

[4] Posted by Ralph on 7-15-2012 at 05:45 AM · [top]

Ralph, We will need more than a bucket of water!  smile I think we need to take time to consider our options. I don’t think a diocesan convention is in order until we have more information.

Jackie, I will gladly forward the link.

[5] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-15-2012 at 06:36 AM · [top]

The money quote for me was this: “I say to such thinking, you cannot be on the wrong side of History if you are on the right side of Reality.” I hope the communion partner bishops offer up similar letters to their dioceses. +Lawrence said he won’t leave but… is only a matter of time before he is kicked out.

[6] Posted by Fr. Dale on 7-15-2012 at 07:22 AM · [top]

[7] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 7-15-2012 at 07:35 AM · [top]

Bishop Lawrence’s explanation mof his disagreement and departure are thoughtful andd firm, yet charitable and faithful. May God bless him and the diocese in the aftermath and likely continuation of this revision of the Episcopal Church. May God have mercy on us all as we determine to speak the truth in love and gentleness.

[8] Posted by sejanus on 7-15-2012 at 07:41 AM · [top]

The following letter written by the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, was provided to clergy throughout the Diocese to be read aloud in parishes on Sunday, July 15, 2012. Clergy were asked to provide printed copies of it as well.

Truthfully, I don’t want this letter read to me during the service or before or after. In my parish, I bet that copies will be made available to parishioners in the narthex. I hope a copy is either emailed/mailed to every household. Some people will still not get what is going on with the national church as they refuse to become involved with affairs of the national church hoping that they will just leave us alone. I think that the time in which the national leadership will do that has just ended with General Convention. Members of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina are probably doing the happy dance today!

[9] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-15-2012 at 07:44 AM · [top]

A well-written letter, showing a firm grasp of theology.  So rare to see that in a bishop these days!

They will need lots of prayer - whatever course the bishop, his council and clergy take, is not going to be easy.

[10] Posted by MichaelA on 7-15-2012 at 07:51 AM · [top]


Greetings from North Central Texas.  Here we have the drama of (the true) Diocese of Fort Worth versus the faux Diocese of Fort Worth and ECUSA/TEC/(whatever they are).

Even though the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina may be doing the happy dance, I would believe that it is only pyrrhic in nature.  The Supreme Court of South Carolina has put the Denis Canon out of reach of the TEC crowd as a tool to use in taking over the DioSC.  Should DioSC be forced by events to sever it ties with TEC and its General Convention there is not much they can do from what has been discussed here especially by A. S. Haley.

So take heart that Bishop Lawrence and DioSC are fighting the good fight for Christ and his Church.

[11] Posted by BillB on 7-15-2012 at 09:06 AM · [top]

Ralph in #4 is absolutely right about TEo sending its cutouts down to DioSC.  I’d be surprised if the year ended without charges being brought against a whole slew of the diocese’s officers for failure to employ the sexually confused. 

I was unaware of the Supreme Court of SC rejecting the Denis Canon’s authority, and I hope BillB’s accurate in that claim.

[12] Posted by Jeffersonian on 7-15-2012 at 09:59 AM · [top]

Thank God for Bp. Lawrence, his faithful stance for the orthodox Gospel of Jesus Christ, and most of all his true leadership to those in the Diocese of South Carolina.  As a priest in the Docese of Georgia, I am grateful to have served an internship in that dioces under his predecessor, and continued comradeship with many priests there through the Mere Anglicanism conference.  God will not desert those who hear his calling, and respond to that call.

Fr. Will McQueen

[13] Posted by Cranmerian on 7-15-2012 at 11:29 AM · [top]

God be with Bishop Lawrence and South Carolina, and anyone else with the courage of his convictions.

[14] Posted by Nellie on 7-15-2012 at 01:09 PM · [top]

God bless and protect Bishop Lawrence, his diocese, and all of the good Christian folk under persecution, wherever they may be in the world. It is clear that the “whole armor of God” is needed to safeguard the flock from Satan and his ilk.

In the name of His only Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save us sinners, Amen!

[15] Posted by sophy0075 on 7-15-2012 at 01:52 PM · [top]

Yes, BillB is correct that the Supreme Court of SC has ruled that the Dennis Canon has no legal effect because there was no legally binding trust created under SC law. TEC may think that but our justices have said no- no trust was actually created simply by making a new cannon. That the Dennis Canon was actually passed by GC in 1979 is also in doubt. Mr. Haley has posts about these matters at his blog . If you don’t know the Curmudgeon’s blog, you should take a look. Now Mr. Haley is one of the bloggers here at Stand Firm. He still posts to his blog and here as well.

However, I do know of an attorney who is part of the Episcopal Forum of SC who will say that the decision was unique to All Saint’s Pawley’s Island and not a generalized to all parishes in the state (that is in both dioceses- Upper SC and SC). They seem to neglect that both cases were combined and hence there were two rulings-one unique to All Saint’s Pawleys and the other is more general. Why they ignore one and not the other?? 

Also, the diocese’s chancellor issued quit claim deeds to all the parishes last year. You probably can find that on the diocesan website.

The situation will unfold over the coming months so please keep up the prayers.

[16] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-15-2012 at 02:31 PM · [top]

Thank you, #16, I must have been away during that decision.  Good for the SC of SC for getting it right.  I’m a fan of AS Haley, but I have to say that his legal prognistications have been regrettably inaccurate, not that I disagree with his analysis.

Second, I’m not sure how many here read Chris Johnson’s blog, but he’s linked to a couple of pieces at the Episcopal Cafe that ought to hearten all of us orthodox Anglicans.  Like the Bourbons, the Episcopal Left (but I repeat myself) has learned nothing and forgotten nothing.  Their plummeting ASA is just evidence of the necessary pruning of the vine that will yield such a bountiful harvest tomorrow, not unlike the magnificent omelet that the citizens of communist nations would feast upon after breaking those tens of millions of eggs.

[17] Posted by Jeffersonian on 7-15-2012 at 03:08 PM · [top]

A godly man, may God preserve him.

[18] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 7-15-2012 at 03:31 PM · [top]

Jeffersonian, That SC SC decision happened back in 2009. Mr. Haley is not a prophet nor a mind reader. He can’t predict what the courts will do just what he thinks they should do. I am always wary of reading Episcopal Cafe. If it is not too vile, I may go over there to read what all the happiness is all about.

[19] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-15-2012 at 03:32 PM · [top]

“These changes to our Church’s canons mark an even further step into incoherency. They open the door to innumerable self-understandings of gender identity and gender expression within the Church; normalizing “transgender,” “bi-sexual,” “questioning,” and still yet to be named – self-understandings of individualized eros.”

Is he saying what I think he is saying (and I think he’s correct) that such things as polyamory, swinging,  pedophilia and incest have now been made lawful in TEC.  Breadth of resolutions would seem to indicate all manner of sexual immorality is now approved.

[20] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 7-15-2012 at 04:37 PM · [top]

[17] Jeffersonian,

You write:

I’m a fan of AS Haley, but I have to say that his legal prognistications have been regrettably inaccurate, not that I disagree with his analysis.

As a fellow fan of Mr. Haley (the Anglican Curmudgeon), I would humbly suggest that the inaccuracies in his prognostications are, in and of themselves, a chilling commentary on the degree to which U.S. law has become detached from the Rule of Law, and thereby become increasingly subject both to the advances of positive law (legislation), and to a now very noticeable decline in the quality of legal analysis by professors of law, jurists and many attorneys. What you are seeing in the inaccuracies is the victory of ideology over logic, a pattern which presages the potential loss of liberty within this nation, and quite probably among many other western nations.

Neither you nor I disagree with his analyses, and consequently with the rightness of his prognostications, because our thinking has not been corrupted with the increasingly heterodox theories of law that we have seen in this nation over something a bit more than a century (at minimum). I rather tend to doubt that most of our fellow citizens are even aware of the degree to which our future freedom has come to be in jeopardy. For much of which we have the public educational systems of the U.S. to thank (sarcasm intended).

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[21] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 7-15-2012 at 05:34 PM · [top]

[20] Jim the Puritan,

I don’t believe that those perversions have been explicitly approved by GC (although I might be wrong) because I have seen no mention of any resolutions purportedly addressing a change in their liceity. But the decisions which were taken with respect to the employment of people of all orientations in TEC and of the so-called “provisional” liturgy, by virtue of the arguments used to justify those very changes, are just as valid for all of the perversions you list. There is, therefore, no logical impediment to their being approved by whatever process that might be found in (or stretched from) TEC’s Constitution that would permit such changes in the near future. What I am saying is analogous to the idea that once I find grounds that allow someone to justify and then approve murder, I am then free to use the same grounds to justify and approve the murder of someone else, provided only that I am able to satisfy the same logical argument that I used in the initial instance.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[22] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 7-15-2012 at 05:42 PM · [top]

21 H. Potter, very well said.

[23] Posted by James Manley on 7-15-2012 at 05:48 PM · [top]

Folks, it won’t do any good for the LG activists to send a brigade of transgendered folk into the DSC demanding that they be given positions, and then trumping up charges when they don’t get the positions. With his letter above, Bishop Lawrence has signaled that one of the probable outcomes of the meetings he is holding today and the rest of this week will be a declaration from the Bishop and the Standing Committee that they do not recognize the validity of the amendments made to the Canons by Resolutions D002 and D019, to be followed by a resolution to that effect adopted at the next Diocesan Convention.

Those amendments will then be in the same limbo in DSC as are the new Title IV Canons. There is nothing ECUSA could do to impose its collective will on the DSC, so long as it remains a voluntary unincorporated association of dioceses without any supreme legislature or judiciary, unless—well, I was going to say “unless it wants to refight the Civil War.” But I have learned not to try to impose any artificial limits on the extremes to which the PB and her Chancellor will go to try to bend all to their will. We shall just have to wait for them to make the next move.

And thanks for the excellent defenses. As most of you recognize, I am not blogging to try to predict what our increasingly ill-equipped courts will do with these complex church cases. I am rather trying to enable them, via helping the attorneys fighting ECUSA’s outlandish claims, to see better what they should do, if they want to keep ECUSA from getting away with pulling the wool over their eyes.

[24] Posted by A. S. Haley on 7-15-2012 at 10:13 PM · [top]

I don’t have a song, but Dio South Carolina preparing for what may come reminds me of a poem about another small entity that awaited an assault:


The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

- George, 6th Baron Byron

[25] Posted by MichaelA on 7-16-2012 at 12:11 AM · [top]

Not to give any one suggestions, but what could be done is what the revisionist have done: file charges. Any group of people, any group of clergy, any group of bishops can files charges against the PB, deputies, bishops, clergy and others for violating the doctrine of the Episcopal church as expressed in its constitution, canon, and Book of Common Prayer. File hundreds of charges - even thousands. Make them review each and everyone. Tie them up for years. If they suddenly bring Bp. Lawrence to the front over what he might do, remind them there are charges over things that violate church polity that are very serious.

If this would have been done years ago, you might not be in the situation you are now. It was a very sad affair having friends and associations in the church not wanting to do anything except file lawsuits. God did not call us to wusses; he told us to wise as serpents (the enemy) yet respond as gently as doves. Pray yes; use spiritual warfare. But use the resources at your disposal to tell your story. If it doesn’t work, act like doves - fly away. Not even doves sit still and let wolves attack.

[26] Posted by Festivus on 7-16-2012 at 07:03 PM · [top]

Ah, how I could change the world with 1,000 such men.


[27] Posted by Mike Bertaut on 7-16-2012 at 11:15 PM · [top]

I don’t believe I’ve posted in a few years; perhaps since I left the sinking ship that is TEC in March of 2009 and took the ACNA lifeboat.  As the son of a conservative Episcopal priest (now deceased, thankfully), I continue to be amazed at the piracy of the church.  Everything from the piracy of property to the piracy of souls.  So sad, so sad.  RIP Dad, I am so glad you did not live to see this.

[28] Posted by MassPK on 7-17-2012 at 02:37 PM · [top]

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