Thursday, March 08, 2007

Clarity Revisited

In a last-minute letter to the Standing Committees of the Episcopal Church, The Very Rev. Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of San Joaquin, and bishop-elect of the Diocese of South Carolina, clearly and succinctly states his intention to remain part of the Episcopal Church.

As I have also commented on this previously here and here, it seems only right that I post the full text of Fr. Lawrence's letter below. For a fuller perspective, I also recommend reading Dan Martin's recent post on the matter. A close friend of Mark Lawrence, he offers compelling arguments for why the Episcopal Church should seriously consider consenting to this election. I am most moved by his assertion that "perception is reality." In a time when we are trying to seek reconciliation across deep rifts, this argument carries weight, it seems to me. Political actions that might be viewed as punitive from either "side" cannot be helpful to this effort. Clarity, on the other hand, about our positions, is helpful, if not indeed charitable, as opposed to silence or obfuscation.

At this stage, a majority of our bishops have consented to the election, but ten more Standing Committees apparently must consent before next Monday if the election is to stand and Fr. Lawrence is consecrated.

If nothing else, please pray for the guidance of the Spirit in this matter. This has been a difficult process conducted at a difficult time in our Church's life, and Mark Lawrence+ has borne unusual scrutiny as well as a painful share of venom.

So did +Gene Robinson in 2003, as we will all remember.

Dear Standing Committees of The Episcopal Church,

I have been told that some diocesan Standing Committees have graciously offered to reconsider their denial of consent to my election as the XIV Bishop of South Carolina, if they only have assurance of my intention to remain in The Episcopal Church. Although I previously provided assurance of my intention, this has not been sufficient for some Standing Committees, which are earnestly seeking to make a godly discernment. Therefore, taking to heart the apostolic admonition in 1 Timothy 3:2, “Now a bishop must be above reproach, …temperate [free from rashness], sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher….” I am reminded to make every attempt to reason with those who have denied consent or who have not yet voted. As I stated at the walkabout in Charleston on September 9, 2006 and again in a statement written on 6 November 2006, I will make the vows of conformity as written in the BCP and the Constitution & Canons, (III.11.8). I will heartily make the vows conforming “…to the doctrine, discipline, and worship” of the Episcopal Church, as well as the trustworthiness of the Holy Scriptures. So to put it as clearly as I can, my intention is to remain in The Episcopal Church.

Yours in Christ,

The Very Reverend Mark J. Lawrence


Jim Strader said...

Richard - Reconciliation rests at the heart of the converation with regards to the consecration of The Very Rev. Mark Goodman as bishop. Would it not make sense for the Diocese of South Carolina and he to invite the Presiding Bishop to attend and participate in his consecration. Would it not be reasonable for him to suggest that he will begin a listening conversation regarding human sexuality in the Diocese of South Carolina.

I recall some years ago, before I was an Episcopalian that there was a political and spiritual struggle in the Diocese of Fort Worth regarding the election of ++ Jack Leo Iker as their diocesan bishop. He of course ultimately received the necessary number of consents he needed. His use of his episcopal authority has undoubtedly hampered the ordinations of women and gay and lesbian persons in that diocese. Bishop Iker states that the Diocese of Fort Worth Stands with the Primates

I'm all for organizations honestly looking at the past as a means for determining how to move forward into tomorrow. ++ Jack Leo and ++ V. Gene's consecrations as bishops should inform what Standing Committees should or should not do relative to this election in South Carolina. However, everyone involved should furthermore examine what we might do collectively as a church to be reconciled to one another. I would look for The Very Rev. Mark Lawrence to be a bit more inviting on his end with regards to his determination to remain within the Episcopal Church and to manifest his acceptance of ++Katharine as the Presiding Bishop by inviting her to to his consecration.

R said...


I certainly don't disagree with you here. It's for all the reasons you mention here that I still have personal misgivings over what Mark Lawrence+ has written previously.

Granted, if the consents are received, (Bishop) Lawrence will have to be in relationship with the Presiding Bishop, the "Primatial Vicar" arrangement notwithstanding. There will still be a great deal of work to do to reconcile not only with the new bishop, but the Diocese of South Carolina.

It just strikes me that not consenting will not do much from the Episcopal Church's side to move the conversation forward, especially with South Carolina.

sharecropper said...

Living not in South Carolina but nearby with a conservative bishop, I am concerned about this consecration. But I believe that duly elected bishops should be consecrated in spite of what we feel their stance may be towards our personal situations. Only in the gravest of circumstances could consent be withheld. He has said he will stay the course. At the end of the course, he may decide to leave the Episcopal Church, but he is willing to participate in the process. Inviting ++Katharine and starting a listening process would go a long way toward easing my fears, though.