Close on the heels of my last post about dysfunction permeating the leadership of the Episcopal Church (USA) comes this devastating indictment of the Presiding Bishop and her cohorts from the three clergy members of the Anglican Communion Institute. The facts recited deal only with the Diocese of South Carolina, and as such represent but a tiny portion of the lawlessness which the Presiding Bishop allows to guide her actions in the whole Church, as you may read about in the links just on this page.
This call should move any Bishop who truly cares about the "good order" of the Church, and who takes seriously a bishop's responsibilities to shepherd and maintain that good order. Copies of it should be sent to every diocesan office in the Church, to the reporters who are covering the story in South Carolina, and to any other newspaper outlets which will print a story about it. These three brave clergy are putting their own careers in the Church on the line in order to call their own Presiding Bishop to account! When has that ever been done before, since the unhappy end of Pope Urban VI?
We disagree with those among you who think the Presiding Bishop and her agents have done no wrong. As our Appendix demonstrates, the evidence is overwhelming that they have violated canons and engaged in discussions deceitfully. We disagree with those who accept the evidence, but think the matter inconsequential. If our leaders will not follow the canons and formal procedures of the church, not only in letter but in spirit, they forfeit any trust they may hold and undermine the mutual trust of the church as a whole. We disagree with those who think that such disregard of letter and spirit is merited by the misbehavior of Bishop Lawrence. Canonical violation and deceit will never produce peace in the church or render a just outcome. Further, the diocese of South Carolina has, for a long time, struggled to maintain its unity as a conservative Christian body and to remain within The Episcopal Church. Bp. Lawrence was given a tightrope to walk from the moment of his election and did so successfully and honestly. He did not jump from this difficult position but was intentionally pushed by the Presiding Bishop and the Disciplinary Board in ways that were neither necessary nor responsible. We disagree with those who believe that, in any case, all this is of little importance for the future of The Episcopal Church. The departure from The Episcopal Church, under moral duress, by one of our strongest and few growing dioceses, taking with it a range of energies and vital witness, threatens to subvert the hopes and good will of thousands of faithful members of our church and discourage the willingness of younger leaders to come forward in our midst. Indeed, all this constitutes a crisis for The Episcopal Church of the gravest kind.
For those among you who, by contrast, have taken stock of the actions of the Presiding Bishop and her agents, we believe that you are obligated by solemn vow to respond forthrightly that they have violated canons and engaged in discussions deceitfully. We believe that you are called upon to pursue all canonical and spiritual means to bring these matters into the light before your college and the church at large. Your vows require you to rectify misdeeds that have been committed. You are called upon to rein in the misuse of authority and canons by those, like the Presiding Bishop and her legal staff, who have supervised the squandering of our human and material resources. We urge you as agents of reconciliation to do all in your power to rebuild the bridges of genuine Christian understanding and communion with both those who have left The Episcopal Church and those drifting in that direction. We urge you, in short, to be faithful to your calling and to be true and not false pastors of the people and the Gospel God has entrusted to your stewardship. The Lord does not ask that you succeed in your efforts, only that you stand as a sentinel before the people themselves.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Prof. Christopher SeitzThe only thing missing from this indictment is an instruction manual on how to bring charges against the Presiding Bishop under the new Title IV. For a step-by-step guide to the new procedures (and charges may be filed by anyone, inside or outside the Church, clergy or lay), see this earlier post.
The Rev. Dr. Philip Turner
The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner