Wednesday, December 5, 2012

No Surprise - Presiding Bishop Flouts the Canons Again

I am limited these days by my involvement with family matters following the sudden death of my sister, so I do not have time to put up a detailed post reacting to the news so carefully crafted by ECUSA's Public Affairs Office, announcing that the Presiding Bishop has "accepted" the "voluntary renunciation" by Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina of his orders in the Episcopal Church (USA).

Note that on October 18, I wrote this paragraph in a post on the coming fiasco in South Carolina:
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.
And Bishop Lawrence indeed did give a spoken address to his diocesan Special Convention held last November 17. The Presiding Bishop, exactly as predicted, took this address as satisfying the requirements of Canon III.12.7, which (through the end of this year -- it was changed at GC2012, effective January 1) provides (with my emphasis added):
If any Bishop of this Church shall declare, in writing, to the Presiding Bishop a renunciation of the ordained Ministry of this Church, and a desire to be removed therefrom, it shall be the duty of the Presiding Bishop to record the declaration and request so made.
Bishop Lawrence (a) did not address any writing to the Presiding Bishop; (b) did not renounce his ordained Ministry; and (c) did not request to be removed from that Ministry. The elaborately crafted press release from the Public Affairs Office is simply a poor attempt to cover over a huge, public lie.

That huge, public lie has been told simply for the sake of the Presiding Bishop's and ECUSA's own convenience. It is convenient for them to be rid of Bishop Lawrence now, rather than wait until next March's meeting of the House of Bishops -- that way, they avoid the necessity of taking another illegal vote of "deposition" by less than the full majority of bishops that the Abandonment Canon requires; and they are now free to reorganize those in South Carolina wishing to remain with ECUSA into a pseudo-diocese with a puppet bishop whose immediate and most important mission will not be the welfare of his parishioners, but instead the filing of a lawsuit against Bishop Lawrence and the real Diocese's corporate trustees, in an attempt to force them to turn over all of the Diocese's property and assets.

But for reasons I have already discussed in this post (and on Anglican TV), I predict again that the effort in South Carolina will not meet with success. ECUSA is destined to lose this battle on the diocesan front, and lose big -- with ramifications for the continued tenure of Bishop Jefferts Schori and her egregious wasting of corporate assets on a personal vendetta.

See also this earlier post for an account of how she proceeded in just the same way with Bishop Iker. In the end, her disregard of the Canon will of course make no difference, because everyone no doubt wants it this way. Still -- if ECUSA wants to have a rapid and easy means of getting rid of its Bishops, why not just write a Canon giving the Presiding Bishop the power to remove any other bishop at her pleasure, and in her discretion? They might as well do so -- because they are already there.

[UPDATE 12/05/2012: For not the first time in our blogging careers, Bishop Dan Martins and I are in complete agreement with one another:
Yet, elements within the diocese simply could not abide life in the margin. So they conspired to abuse the Title IV canons on abandonment. The first time, they were unsuccessful, and Bishop Lawrence was exonerated. Then the composition of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops changed and the votes were suddenly there. In the absence of any double jeopardy protection in Title IV, they made it stick the second time. So a small group of disgruntled Episcopalians within the diocese, with an assist from a majority of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, have succeeded in fomenting chaos. The damage they have caused is untellable. 
Did they have help from outside? There is no lack of speculation in that direction, but I have no direct knowledge. If they did, though, whoever helped them is equally culpable. 
Among the many victims of this disaster are parishes--with their clergy and faithful--who are in theological sympathy with the majority of the diocese, but disagree with the decision to leave TEC, and, in fact, have no desire or intention of doing so. Now they are faced with the distasteful prospect of making common cause with their offenders--those who instigated the apocalypse--or finding some other less unpalatable way forward. There are no "good" solutions. Our only hope, collectively, is to find some that are less bad than others.
"Those who instigated the apocalypse" are indeed the problem here. That tiny minority (and a willing bureaucracy at 815) are content to place their own tentative futures into a balance that will be determined solely by the South Carolina courts, after five or more years of litigation. They are willing to sacrifice the welfare of the whole Diocese to their narrow interpretations of "inclusivity" -- which do not, please take notice, "include" Bishop Lawrence or anyone who resists what they think. Far from placing themselves in a relation that is subservient to Scripture, they openly and deliberately choose to violate Scripture, by belittling and utterly rejecting St. Paul's injunction:
6:4 So if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? 6:5 I say this to your shame! Is there no one among you wise enough to settle disputes between fellow Christians? 6:6 Instead, does a Christian sue a Christian, and do this before unbelievers? 6:7 The fact that you have lawsuits among yourselves demonstrates that you have already been defeated. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 6:8 But you yourselves wrong and cheat, and you do this to your brothers and sisters! 
Please note that it will be the pseudo-diocese and its so-called "provisional bishop" who will instigate any lawsuits that are to be brought. Neither Bishop Lawrence nor any part of his diocese will resort first  to court to protect the diocese's real and personal property: they have no need to sue, as existing law gives them the upper hand, and besides, as we have just seen, Scripture teaches that it is wrong for Christians to go to secular court against fellow Christians.

But sue ECUSA will, and so also its pseudo-diocese, in a case of the latter being the blind led by the halt and the lame. For during that entire time period that they are in court, they will be consumed by their object of recovering so-called "ECUSA" property, by arguing and seeking to apply the precedents from other States, while they ignore the binding precedent which in no way is favorable to them under existing South Carolina law.

So we are in for much more folly and wheel-spinning before the pseudo-diocese of South Carolina can ever get to first base, let alone score a run. Parishioners who are misled by ECUSA propaganda will fall into two ready categories: those who take anything ECUSA says at complete face value, and those who care not about whatever happens, so long as they are free of the "confinement" they believe they suffer under Bishop Lawrence. Both will deserve entirely the future they have coming to them, and which they will have brought upon themselves.]


  1. Just as they might do with Biblical interpretation, the true revisionist can take words such as "written voluntary renunciation" and spin anything to fit that description.

  2. Mr. Haley,

    My deepest condolences. May the peace of God which passes all understanding be with you, and your family, in these days.

  3. I'm so sorry for your loss, nevermind the church nonsense. Family issues trump everything.

    Take care.

  4. TEC should just do away with the hundreds of pages of its Constitution and canons ans replace it with a single page which says, "We'll do as we please."

    David Katzakian

  5. Allan, So sorry to hear of your loss. My deepest sympathies to you and your family. Take care, my friend.

  6. My sympathies to you, yours, and your sister's families.

  7. Thanks to all of you for your prayers and condolences over my sister. She was a sort of local saint -- never married, due to a brain injury suffered in the crib as an infant -- but always cheerful, interested in everyone's welfare, and willing to help in any way she could. We will all miss her, but are happy that she is now with her loving God, whom she in turn loved and served faithfully all her life.

  8. Mr. Haley,

    My sincere condolences on the loss of your sister. I understand how difficult the loss of a sibling or other close family member can be. You and yours will be in my prayers in the days to come.


  9. My prayers and condolences for your sister and her family. May she rest in peace, and rise in glory.

  10. May Light Perpetual shine upon her. May God send His Spirit to comfort you and all her family

  11. Well, there's "ANY" communication and then there is an outright announcement that states unequivocally that one is leaving.

    It may very well be that form must prevail over substance but it ultimately beggars belief that one can send such a clear message of leaving and not expect those to whom the message was aimed to take him seriously.

    I mean, really. What was the PB supposed to do, laugh the whole thing off as a joke?

  12. Charles Stanford, all we ask is that the Presiding Bishop follow her own canons -- while she is busy charging a whole passel of bishops with violating them (e.g., the Fort Worth Seven and the Quincy Three), she herself violates them at every turn, with impunity.

    The proper canon to use in response to Bishop Lawrence's statement was the one that was already being used against him: Canon IV.16. It would have led to his "deposition" next March. But the PB saw fit to claim that Bishop Lawrence's verbal address was a written and voluntary renunciation of his orders, addressed to her and asking to be relieved of his ministry.

    Every aspect of her attempt to use Canon III.12.7 was a lie. You so want to hold Bishop Lawrence accountable -- what about holding Bishop Jefferts Schori accountable?

    It is the double standards of Episcopalians such as yourself which are tearing the Church apart. There is one law for you and all her other followers, and an entirely different one for those with whom you (and she) disagree.