Bishop Lawrence clarifies position of Episcopal diocese
While I appreciate Adam Parker's attempt to understand the larger issues surrounding the upcoming Special Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, his recent article titled "Diocese to vote on split" in the Oct. 4 Post and Courier was unfortunately marred by errors of fact.
These errors are all the more troubling because they relate to the effect of the proposed resolutions, should the convention vote in favor of them.
The errors are doubly troubling because a simple phone call to the bishop or the diocesan staff could have quickly corrected any misunderstanding.
The issues are so complicated that I can understand why such errors might be made. Nevertheless, I believe that it is important to correct misimpressions that the article may have produced.
First, should the Special Convention on Oct. 24 approve these five resolutions, their passage does not mean that the diocese will leave the Episcopal Church or, as stated in the article, withdraw from "the mother church."
For the sake of historical accuracy, the Diocese of South Carolina actually preceded the existence of what is today known as the Episcopal Church; our diocese was one of the dioceses that founded and ratified the Episcopal Church after the American Revolution.
The proposed resolutions are not intended as a withdrawal from the church. Rather they are a means for the Diocese of South Carolina to more fully engage the challenges that surround us, in both the contemporary culture and the Episcopal Church, without withdrawing from the national church.
Only one of the proposed resolutions makes any reference to "withdrawing."
It does not state that the diocese is withdrawing from the Episcopal Church.
Rather, it is specifically focused on beginning to withdraw from those entities within the national church which have gone contrary to Holy Scripture; the teachings of the worldwide Anglican Communion (of which the Episcopal Church understands itself to be a member); the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them; the Book of Common Prayer; and the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.
The very fact that the recent General Convention in July went contrary to these authorities and rules of governance has made such a protest as embodied in these resolutions both a matter of conscience and necessity, if we are to remain as Episcopalians. The failure to vigorously voice our concerns would be contrary to both our vows and our governing documents.
Likewise, a vote supporting these resolutions would not put this diocese in the same position as those four dioceses that have "severed ties to the Episcopal Church," as the article suggests.
Further adding to the misunderstanding, Mr. Parker suggests that these resolutions will "likely trigger confrontations between members of the diocese and church officials." Frankly, even as the bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, I find it difficult to decipher his speculation and that is all that this portion of his article represents.
Among other things, I am concerned that parishioners in our local Episcopal congregations will be confused as to the meaning of these resolutions or of the convention, or be led into unfounded speculation about them.
To suggest that there is no risk in any of this for the Diocese of South Carolina would be to mislead; to inadvertently misrepresent the consequences, as this article does, is helpful to no one.
THE RT.REV. MARK J. LAWRENCE
Bishop of South Carolina