March 1, 2017

October 18, 2012

New Level of Repression Signaled by Charges against +Lawrence

The certification of abandonment by ECUSA’s new Disciplinary Board for Bishops, communicated to Bishop Mark Lawrence by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on October 15, 2012, raises some very troubling questions. It also evidences a new degree of repression operative in ECUSA that seems designed to curb the free speech and other First Amendment rights of its clergy.

The first thing to note is the change in tone between this Disciplinary Board and the one that considered the same charges against Bishop Lawrence last year. In the certification just linked, after reviewing the actions of South Carolina’s Diocesan Convention in 2010 and 2011, when it adopted a Constitutional amendment and other canonical changes to withdraw its accession to the Church’s canons, and to qualify its accession to the ECUSA Constitution, the Board writes:

8. Bishop Lawrence further failed to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church” by presiding over the 220th Convention of the Diocese of South
Carolina on February 19, 2011, at which Resolution R-6 was finally adopted on the second reading, without ruling it out of order or otherwise dissenting from its adoption.

9. The failure of Bishop Lawrence to rule these resolutions out of order or otherwise to dissent from their adoption, and in fact his endorsement of these resolutions in his address to the 219th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina, violated his ordination vows to “conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church” and to “guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church,” as well as his duty to “well and faithfully perform the duties of [his] office in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of this Church,” constituting abandonment of The Episcopal Church by an open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church.

But in 2011, the previous Disciplinary Board could not find those same actions by Bishop Lawrence to rise to the level of “abandonment.” As stated by the Board’s President, the Rt. Rev. Dorsey L. Henderson, at the time of announcing that the Board had decided not to bring charges against Bishop Lawrence:

The abandonment canon (Title IV, Canon16) is quite specific, designating only three courses of action by which a Bishop is to be found to have abandoned the church: first, “by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of the Church”; second, “by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with” the Church; and, third, “by exercising Episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than the Church or another church in communion with the Church ....” Applied strictly to the information under study, none of these three provisions was deemed applicable by a majority of the Board.

A basic question the Board faced was whether actions by conventions of the Diocese of South Carolina, though they seem—I repeat, seem—to be pointing toward abandonment of the Church and its discipline by the diocese, and even though supported by the Bishop, constitute abandonment by the Bishop. A majority of the members of the Board was unable to conclude that they do.

So the first time the matter of Bishop Lawrence’s role in the diocesan conventions came up, a majority, at least, of the Disciplinary Board was careful to distinguish between the actions of the Diocese, and the actions of its Bishop. But this time, a new majority of the Board did not make that distinction, or consider it as noteworthy. What changed between 2011 and 2012?

The Board’s membership changed. Here is a link where you may still see the infamous Roster of the Board from last year, when it “mistakenly” showed Josephine Hicks—the gay activist attorney assigned to investigate charges for the Board—as a sitting member.

And here is a link to the list of current members, as shown on the Board’s webpage, from which you can determine the following changes in Membership which occurred as a result of last summer’s General Convention:

Went off Board at GC 2012:

Feliberty-Ruberte, Mr. Victor (IX - Puerto Rico)

Hayes, Mr. Christopher (VIII - California)

Menaul, the Rev. Marjorie (III - Central Pennsylvania)

Came onto Board after GC 2012

Alarid, Mr. Joseph (VII - Rio Grande)

Fleener, Jr., Mr. William (V - Western Michigan)

Tuttle, The Rev. Peggy (VI - Minnesota)

All other members of the Board remained the same (some were reelected, such as Bishops Douglas, Harrison, Hollerith, Mayer, and Singh, and the Rev. Canon Shepherd). Is it possible to account for the change in view by the replacement of just three of the Board’s members? (The full Board is supposed to have 18 members—ten bishops, four clergy and four lay persons. The current roster, however, lists just nine bishops, and Bishop Fitzpatrick of Hawaii, who was serving in 2011 as the Board’s clerk with a term that would end at GC 2015, is for some reason not shown on the current roster.) 

Consider: for a majority, at least ten of the Board would have to vote in favor of finding abandonment. Last year, they did not have ten votes; now they do. Thus if the three who left the Board this year had not been convinced of the charges, and eight others still on the Board were not convinced as well, that would leave a minority last year of nine (it could also have been a minority of seven or eight). And if that was the case in 2011, then the addition of the three new members, one or all of whom now voted for the charges, would have converted the former minority into a majority.

The Disciplinary Board does not appear to be bothered by this shift (there was no explanation offered), but orthodox Episcopalians should be. Under the new disciplinary canons of Title IV, which went into effect on July 1, 2011 (just before the previous charges against Bishop Lawrence were considered) the clergy have no constitutional rights which they may assert in proceedings against them. “Double jeopardy,” in other words, is not recognized by the Board or by the Church—which leads to the tactic of bringing up the same charges over and over again until there is a majority in favor of them.

But now look at the nature of the actions which underlie the first of the charges. Bishop Lawrence is accused of (a) not ruling out of order a motion to amend the diocesan constitution, (b) not dissenting from their adoption by the convention, and (c) advocating their passage in his pastoral address to the convention. As to the second charge, Bishop Lawrence is the Chair of the convention, and as such he has no vote unless he first steps down from that position. Charging him with “failure to dissent” is thus a non-starter. And as for “not ruling the motion out of order,” any deputy to the Convention could have asked for such a ruling. Does that mean that every clergy attending the 2010 and 2011 conventions is liable to charges of “abandonment” because they did not make such an objection, or dissent from the resolutions’ passage? (The minutes on the diocesan website—Exhibits C and D to the certification of abandonment—do not record any objections as having been made to the various resolutions; they record only their passage “by majority vote.”) One has to wonder, but that appears to be the position of the complainers, and of a majority of the Board.

The third component of the first charge—delivering a pastoral address which advocated passage of the resolutions in question—shows how the Board has erased the distinction between the individual acts of a Bishop and the corporate acts of a Diocese. The real complaint is with what the Diocese did, and not with someone who spoke in favor of the resolutions. Again, if that is to be the new standard for charges constituting “abandonment,” it will have a very chilling effect on what members of the clergy feel free to say at diocesan conventions.

The second and third charges in the certification fare no better under closer scrutiny. Bishop Lawrence is charged with a statement made in an amendment to the diocesan corporate articles filed with the secretary of state after the Convention had approved the amendments to the diocesan constitution. The change merely brought the corporate articles into synch with the constitution, and was purely a ministerial and clerical act. To elevate it into grounds for charging “abandonment” is ridiculous. Had Bishop Lawrence failed to sign an amendment to the articles after the deputies acted to change their constitution, his own convention could have charged him with abandonment.

And the third charge, of course, has to do with the signing and recording of the famous quitclaim deeds, following the 2009 ruling of the South Carolina Supreme Court in the Pawley’s Island case. The Court ruled in that case that ECUSA’s Dennis Canon did not comply with state law requirements for creating a valid trust. Bishop Lawrence’s deeds served both to recognize the binding character of that ruling on the two Episcopal dioceses in the State, as well as to calm individual parish fears about possibly losing their church property. It was a consummate pastoral act, and represented an honest assessment of the Church’s obligation to comply with South Carolina state law.

Making this particular act into a charge of “abandonment” shows the fine hand of Episcopal Forum attorney Melinda Lucka, who has consistently argued that the All Saints Waccamaw decision does not mean what it says. It now comes out that she is the attorney who advised the complainers on submitting charges to the Disciplinary Board. (She is also the attorney who thinks that the Executive Council—whose existence and authority is not recognized in ECUSA’s Constitution—could somehow rule illegal the constitutional acts of a member diocese, and that such a nonsensical “ruling” would somehow be “binding” on that diocese.)

In short, the third charge is based on a flawed legal contention. There is no showing thus far that the Disciplinary Board obtained a formal legal opinion from a qualified and disinterested South Carolina law firm before deciding to act on Ms. Lucka’s “charge”. And if, as I suspect, they did not do so, then it shows just how partisan they now are.

Bishop Lawrence has 60 days in which to answer the charges, but he will not do so, as he could not enter into their rigged game without waiving his position that the new Title IV has no force or effect in South Carolina. Moreover, his diocese is no longer even a member of ECUSA, and so the Church’s organs and agents have no jurisdiction whatsoever over him. They will still have to go through the motions of “deposing” him, but that is the Church’s fault—it refuses to allow its bishops or other clergy to leave peacefully, and can get them off its books only by charging “abandonment” or “renunciation.”

Indeed, any communication Mark Lawrence makes in public about the charges or his diocese now runs the risk that the Presiding Bishop will treat it as she did in the case of Bishop Iker, and declare that it constitutes a “voluntary renunciation of orders” so that she can shorten the process of his removal, and not have to bother with a meeting of the House of Bishops. And in fact, now that I think about it, mark my words—watch for that very thing to happen.

Fortunately, therefore, the Diocese of South Carolina is now rid of these partisans, and good riddance it is. The rest of us Episcopalians, however—particularly orthodox clergy—cannot feel comfortable with the direction that matters are taking with the bringing of these charges. For as noted above, any clergyperson who does not speak up at a convention, or who does not dissent from a vote, or who simply acts in accordance with state law, is now subject to charges under the new Title IV. Welcome, O Brave New World!

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Very sad situation indeed with how the DBB voted.  If others had listened to the warnings by various canon layers (including you, Mr. Haley) we would not be in this mess with the Title IV canons.  I do love that the diocese had a “poison pill”. Perfect!

When will they learn that this is a losing situation???  I guess they are truly “married” to their agenda.

[1] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 10-18-2012 at 06:06 PM · [top]

I we hadn’t already left TEC, we would be heartbroken.

[2] Posted by elanor on 10-18-2012 at 07:05 PM · [top]

If.  I am too dependent on spellcheck ...

[3] Posted by elanor on 10-18-2012 at 07:07 PM · [top]

Mr. Haley,

Thank you for your careful analysis as always.  As a former TEC priest in the Diocese of Georgia, what is most troubling is what you pointed out in your final paragraph.  Just before the new Title IV canons went into effect, Bp. Benhase had a series of clergy gatherings in which he touted how pastoral the new canons would be surrounding clergy discipline, and that they were designed to be more compassionate toward the accused rather than the draconian, legalistic ones that they replaced.  The clergy in Georgia took him at his word, but those of us who had been paying attention knew that it was all smoke and mirrors, and that it was completely intended to inject more control and power at the highest levels of TEC.  Turns out our suspicions were spot on.  What I’m most surprised with is that it has taken this long; I expected this to have happened sooner.

God will be faithful to those who have remained faithful to Him.  My prayers go out to Bp. Lawrence and the great folk in South Carolina.  I’m honored to have done an internship in that diocese while in seminary, and I proudly stand with them.  Blessed Michael, protect us.

Fr. Will McQueen

[4] Posted by Cranmerian on 10-18-2012 at 08:01 PM · [top]

Given the timeline (one assumes the disciplinary board must have met at least a couple times to certify abandonment), it seems quite probable the decision to go forward with the charges against +Lawrence was made by KJS, Henderson and others in the last days of GC, once +Lawrence had made his position clear by leaving the convention.

Which also makes obvious what a sham the several HoB sessions at GC were, discussing the “charges” against the several bishops accused of writing the amicus briefs in Ft Worth and Quincy cases- and supposedly exonerating them.  Even here on SF, people thought it evidence that the HoB was beginning to come to its senses.  Not a chance.  The leveling of the charges was merely being postponed to a more opportune moment.  Now that the gloves are off, one can anticipate that pressure will be brought against anyone who supports +Lawrence, and those who have supported the rule of law and history of TEC in the Ft. Worth and Quincy will be made examples, to leave no doubt in the minds of the bishops what will happen to them if they vote “no” on deposing +Lawrence (although, let’s face it, KJS would never have let it go this far if she had not already polled the bishops and counted the votes in favor).

[5] Posted by tjmcmahon on 10-18-2012 at 08:45 PM · [top]

Wouldn’t a non-response from +Lawrence (because of DSC’s determination that the Title IV canon is not constitutional) be interpreted as abandonment by those members of the HoB whose dioceses accepted them to as constitutional (and I am speaking as one who witnessed the stupidity of Upper SC consenting to them last year despite the resolution being submitted unconstitutionally to the Upper SC Convention). I mean wouldn’t the HoB think, “See he doesn’t even acknowledge our disciplinary procedures. So he must be abandoning us.” ?

[6] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 10-18-2012 at 09:49 PM · [top]

Underground—That is exactly what happened with Ft. Worth, San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Quincy. The certification and inhibition were simply a procedural formality.  His deposition is, most likely, already written, signed and just waiting a date.

[7] Posted by frreed on 10-18-2012 at 10:32 PM · [top]

A good thought, UP, but I have to imagine that Bishop Lawrence has already explained his Diocese’s position on the unconstitutionality of the new Title IV to the House of Bishops—if not during their last “one-on-one” session, then earlier, when the House of Bishops had a session devoted to the ACI paper published by Alan Runyon and Mark McCall. This has got him mostly nowhere (although the Standing Commission on C&C promises to revisit them, which means nothing), and so there is no reason to play the game. If the demand for a response is made under an unconstitutional set of canons, then the constitutional thing to do is to refuse to comply, and let the DBB hoist themselves by their own pétard.

The only proper response to a legal nullity is to treat it as the nullity which it is.

[8] Posted by A. S. Haley on 10-18-2012 at 10:55 PM · [top]

Heavenly Father,
We bring to You Dorsey, Joseph, Ian, William, Dena, Herman, Scott, Josephine, Jesus, Diane, Thomas, Angela, Prince, Peggy, Robert, James, and Catherine. You know their needs far better than we. Bless them, dear Father, at their points of need. Bless also Presiding Bishop Katherine Schori and her Chancellor David Booth Beers. Amen.

[9] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 10-19-2012 at 04:08 AM · [top]

Aside from the chair, neither the old nor the new board has members from Province IV.

[10] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 10-19-2012 at 07:46 AM · [top]

Well said, Mr. Haley- as usual. The best way to not comply is to ignore it. Yes, we all have heard the old saw “silence means acceptance” - not necessarily! Sometimes, it just means it is being ignored!

UP, If you go back and read the documents linked to at the diocesan website, you will notice that one “poison pill” was put place last year in November when + Lawrence was under *investigation* for the same charges. The other one is more recent most likely a *response* to what was happening. SO the diocese had a plan just did not share it until the right time which was when TEC fell right into the plan and triggered both poison pills! Perfect!!

[11] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 10-19-2012 at 07:57 AM · [top]

Thanks for spelling out so clearly, Allan, the further erosion of power and authority that clergy and bishops now suffer.

The only place where the supporters of Title IV didn’t get what they want is that they didn’t get to apply it to pernicious laypeople.

[12] Posted by Sarah on 10-19-2012 at 08:33 AM · [top]

So, at the moment, as far as I can tell,

1. DioSC has withdrawn from TEC.
2. +Mark is still in TEC, but inhibited?
3. Therefore, the ecclesiastical authority of DioSC is its Standing Committee?
4. If +Mark aligns with another province or jurisdiction, the PB will certify that he has voluntarily renounced his orders, and the matter won’t go to the HOB?
5. Am I correct that ACNA has not been officially recognized by Canterbury as a province of the Anglican Communion?

Would DioSC be better off aligning with another province of the Anglican Communion, or with ACNA?

[13] Posted by Ralph on 10-19-2012 at 09:04 AM · [top]

Ralpha, good questions, particuarly number 5. I was wondering the same thing myself.  Okay, the DioSC is no longer in TEC.  The TEC process will play itself out against Bp. Lawrence which, of course, is now meaningless.

What does that mean for the diocese?  I want to be careful of this blog’s directive about not advocating ACNA.  But to be an Anglican diocese, doesn’t it have to come under some province or jurisdiction like the ACNA recognized as as in Communion with other provinces?

Even it did come under ACNA, there is already a Diocese of the Carolinas which includes St. Andrew’s, formerly of the DioSC. How would they reconcile that?  Or would it be better to come under another Global South province temporarily such as Uganda or Nigeria that would willingly release the DioSC back to ACNA (if so desired) when they’re ready?

[14] Posted by flaanglican on 10-19-2012 at 09:33 AM · [top]

Ralph, #13,I think that South Carolina does not recognize the inhibition because it does not recognize the new Title IV because the new Title IV is unconstitutional.

[15] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 10-19-2012 at 11:37 AM · [top]


1. DioSC has withdrawn from TEC. - Yes.
2. +Mark is still in TEC, but inhibited? - No, the bishop goes with his diocese - the diocese has held the disciplinary canons under which the PB attacked him as being unconstitutional.
3. Therefore, the ecclesiastical authority of DioSC is its Standing Committee? - No, the bishop.
4. If +Mark aligns with another province or jurisdiction, the PB will certify that he has voluntarily renounced his orders, and the matter won’t go to the HOB? - This will likely happen no matter what.
5. Am I correct that ACNA has not been officially recognized by Canterbury as a province of the Anglican Communion? - Correct, and it is extremely unlikely that it will be anytime soon, nor should it be (in my opinion - and that’s not because I don’t think a new North American Anglican jurisdiction shouldn’t be recognized, but rather because I think the ACNA has gone about it the wrong way, and any new official Anglican province here should be done the right way).

[16] Posted by jamesw on 10-19-2012 at 12:19 PM · [top]

1. No, not yet officially. It takes two diocesan conventions to change the constitution which would be needed if the Diocese were to officially severe ties with TEC. Yes the process was triggered by TEC actions.

2. Yes. Mark Lawrence is our bishop and Jamesw is correct, the standing committee and the rest of the diocese won’t recognize the inhibition of +Lawrence. Much less the rest of the Anglican communion.

3. IF the HoB were to agree to the inhibition and vote to depose +Lawrence, then in TEC’s eyes the standing committee would be the ecclestiastical authority but not until that action is taken. Of course, TEC would get rid of the current committee to be replaced with forum members- no doubt.

4. As to where the diocese would align itself, we are jumping ahead of our selves as the special convention has not be held yet. As mentioned, regardless of steps taken by the diocese,  yes it is most likely the deposition would go forward.

5. It would be an interesting matter if Dio SC were to consider joining ACNA as that would be problematic for reasons already given (Diocese of the Carolinas and their bishop). As to whether ACNA was formed correctly…... that is waaaay above my pay grade. I don’t know. But yes ACNA is not officially recognized by Canterbury but it is recognized by and in communion with most provinces of the Anglican Communion.

[17] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 10-19-2012 at 01:18 PM · [top]

So, for the moment, DioSC is still part of TEC, and +Mark is still its bishop?

[18] Posted by Ralph on 10-19-2012 at 01:52 PM · [top]

##17, 18

The Diocese of South Carolina has already legally withdrawn from TEC.  This does not require first amending the Constitution.  Read the formal Interpretation of the Constitution on this point given by Bishop Lawrence.  It is among the documents linked at the diocesan website.

[19] Posted by wildfire on 10-19-2012 at 02:45 PM · [top]

Other bishops are starting to respond. See:

Pray for Bp. Martins.

[20] Posted by Ralph on 10-19-2012 at 03:11 PM · [top]

The Diocese of South Carolina is holding a special convention Saturday, November 17. From their website: “The business to be transacted at this meeting shall be the nature of an appropriate response to the recent actions taken against Bishop Mark Lawrence by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, to include any relevant constitutional and/or canonical changes.”

[21] Posted by Branford on 10-19-2012 at 04:33 PM · [top]

#20. Wildfire.
The constitution of the diocese will need to be amended as it still states that we accede to the constitution of TEC. I bet TEC will not let the constitution of the diocese stand as it is now. We may have already withdrawn but the constitution will need to be amended to reflect that fact.  As Branford mentions above changes to the constitution and/or canons will be on the agenda for the special convention which is being held at St. Philip’s in Charleston! Also, it takes votes at two successive conventions to change the constitution of the diocese.

[22] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 10-20-2012 at 07:41 PM · [top]

#19, you correctly state the current position of the leadership of the diocese that disaffiliation occurred automatically as a result of the previously enacted resolution (as did the noticing of a special convention pursuant to the resolution adopted in November 2011).

The diocese will still need to amend its written constitution and canons, and as SC blue cat lady (#22) states, amending the former will take two successive conventions—which, however, will not require a year’s separation, but much less (between 35-45 days).

Again, however, the leadership of the Diocese, following the Bishop’s definitive interpretation of the SC constitution and canons as explained in the detailed document which #19 references, takes the view that the latter act is purely ministerial, and does not alter the decision to disaffiliate which was already triggered by ECUSA’s hostile actions.

[23] Posted by A. S. Haley on 10-20-2012 at 09:22 PM · [top]

One prays that the Holy Spirit will guide the deliberations of the Diocese of South Carolina next month at St. Philip’s. It appears we are indeed living in dark times to be faithful to the Catholic religion when the righteous are wrongfuly accused.

[24] Posted by ILAnglican on 10-23-2012 at 12:45 PM · [top]

wrongfully accused

[25] Posted by ILAnglican on 10-23-2012 at 12:46 PM · [top]

So, does this mean that the TEC action is really reactive, i.e. responding to the move by Dio SC to disaffiliate?

Is it likely to have any practical effect?

[26] Posted by MichaelA on 10-23-2012 at 10:41 PM · [top]

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