South Carolina Episcopalians
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      Archives 2012


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December 24, 2012
"Worship Communities" Expand Communion and Fellowship in the Diocese

Lawrence's abandonment inspires new Episcopal congregations in the Diocese of South Carolina; 
Diocese of Virginia offers encouragement
click here

Among the ripple effects of Mark Lawrence’s renunciation of his Episcopal ministry has been the emergence of new “worship communities” formed by loyal Episcopalians who no longer feel welcome in pro-Lawrence parishes. 

Just in the past few weeks, “worship communities” have emerged in Florence, Conway, Port Royal, Summerville, and on Edisto Island.  Another appears to be taking shape in Mount Pleasant.  Many of these are meeting now in private homes, but others have secured worship space through the generosity of local churches of other denominations.  One has even gone forward with electing its own vestry. 

Among the ripple effects of Mark Lawrence’s renunciation of his Episcopal ministry has been the emergence of new “worship communities” formed by loyal Episcopalians who no longer feel welcome in pro-Lawrence parishes.  Many of these are meeting now in private homes, but others have secured worship space through the generosity of local churches of other denominations.  One has even gone forward with electing its own vestry

Altogether, regular participation in these new Christian communities seems to be in the neighborhood of 250 to 300

Many participants have spent most of their lives in the
Episcopal Church, and include former Diocesan leaders, vestry people, wardens, and other local parish leaders.  A number of others are Episcopalians who quit going to church when the Diocese became radicalized under Lawrence.

"St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Port Royal"

Easily among the most inspiring stories of these communities has been the nine-year journey of St. Mark’s Chapel in Port Royal near Beaufort.  The congregation looks, acts, and functions like any parish in the Episcopal Church, but its desire to participate more fully in the life of the Church was ignored by former leaders of the Diocese because it appeared to threaten a neighboring anti-Episcopal Church congregation in Beaufort. 

Today St. Mark’s draws an average Sunday attendance of about sixty, and counts more than 100 people as communicants.   St. Mark’s will almost certainly become an official parish in the Diocese, once a new bishop is installed in late January.

Learn more about this remarkable congregation

These communities are also receiving offers of support from active and retired clergy in South Carolina, but also from other dioceses throughout the Episcopal Church.  A number of parishes, including many that that have experienced similar schism, have offered to serve as parish partners for worship communities and loyalists parishes that may be struggling.

"Worship Communities" to send delegations to upcoming Diocesan conventions. 

The continuing Diocese of South Carolina has embraced these new communities, and they will be allowed to send delegates with voice and vote as part of the upcoming Diocesan conventions.  The first is a Special Convention of the Diocese on January 25-26th to elect a new bishop and standing committee.  The regular Annual Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina will convene on March 8th.  
Read personal testimonies from members of these new communities of faith

December 18, 2012

Enthusiasm for the Continuing Diocese Builds as Election of New Bishop Approaches

Three weeks ago, loyal Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina were taken by surprise when the Presiding Bishop finally accepted Mark Lawrence’s repeated assertions that he had left the Episcopal Church and released him from his ministry. 

That surprise was short-lived as a growing number of energized volunteers pitched in to kick start the reorganization of the Diocese of South Carolina, and chart a new course under a new bishop. 

Activities were not just centered in Charleston. Loyal Episcopalians in areas throughout the Diocese with pro-Lawrence parishes quickly found each other, and they began creating new "worshipping communities" to support each other and possibly start new Episcopal congregations.  

However, the biggest boost to the continuing Diocese was the announcement that The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori would preside at a Special Convention of the Diocese in Charleston on January 25-26th to elect a new bishop and standing committee

Counts are still fuzzy, but far exceed expectations.

Members of the Steering Committee of the continuing Diocese say they significantly underestimated the numbers of loyalists who'd stay on after the very popular Lawrence announced he had left the Church. 

“Originally we anticipated not more than six or seven parishes and missions would choose to remain with us," one of the volunteers working with the Diocesan Steering Committee said,  "We were definitely and happily wrong about that.”  

Fully one-third of the 75 parishes and missions of the Diocese did not send representatives to the November 17th start-up meeting of former Bishop Lawrence’s renegade “diocese.”  Even then, delegations from three key parishes
at the meeting said they were not committed to joining Lawrence. 

The renegades apparently are faring even less well among canonically resident clergy, as only a third of them have indicated an interest in sticking with Lawrence.  However, many of these are rectors of key parishes and will be a significant loss, but others are retired or have moved their residency to the diocese because they were attracted to Lawrence’s politics.  The latter group has made a negligible contribution to the life of the Diocese

"Worship Communities" springing up throughout the Diocese

The continuing Diocese is also reporting that they are hearing from a growing number of  new  “worship communities” of comprised loyal Episcopalians who no longer welcome in their pro-Lawrence congregations.  Many of these groups are meeting in private homes or other places of worship in their communities.

Planners for the upcoming Special Convention of the continuing Diocese are saying that these groups will be included in the
upcoming convention, but planners are having a difficult time getting a hard count since many are only now forming.

Beaufort.  The most famous of these worship communities is nine-year-old St. Mark’s Chapel in Port Royal, where for years Lawrence refused to allow the congregation to seeking any official status out of fear of antagonizing pro-Lawrence clergy at neighboring St. Helena’s in Beaufort.  St. Helena’s is a political stronghold for Lawrence and provides his “diocese” with significant funding. 

Last year, Lawrence was pressured into reneging on a commitment to confirm members of St. Mark’s, even though the service was only days away.  Today the congregation at St. Mark’s holds regular services in their own church building, supported by local Episcopal priests. 

Florence.  Loyal Episcopalians in the Pee Dee reported last month that more than fifty loyal Episcopalians have signed on with their new worship community in the Florence area.  Many say they are not yet ready to give up on their home parishes, but say they enjoy the worship and
fellowship they have experienced with their fellow Episcopalians.  Many on the Pee Dee community are former vestry people, wardens, and bible teachers.

Edisto.  Alienated by an autocratic rector at historic Trinity Episcopal Church, as many as fifty loyal Episcopalians on Edisto Island announced this week that they have formed a very enthusiastic worship community to meet weekly for prayer, worship, encouragement, and study.  Clergy assisting the group are widely known for their preaching and teaching.

Summerville and Conway.  In Summerville, a worship community of approximately 45 loyal Episcopalians has formed and is hoping to create a new church plant.  Episcopalians who no longer feel welcome at St. Paul’s in Conway are apparently making similar efforts to establish a community of loyal Episcopalians in the Horry County area.

Contact information for these "worship communities" is available through the continuing Diocese.

December 8, 2012

Continuing Diocese of South Carolina to Elect New Bishop on January 25-26th
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori will preside over historic gathering of loyal Episcopalians

CHARLESTON -- The Diocese of South Carolina tonight announced that it will hold a Special Convention in Charleston on January 25-26th to elect a successor to former Bishop Mark Lawrence, who left the Episcopal Church in October. 

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori will preside at the gathering to be held at Grace Episcopal Church, according to Hillery Douglas who leads the steering committee of Diocesan clergy and laity planning the event.  Mr. Douglas is the Senior Warden at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Charleston.

Lawrence announced in October that he had decided to leave the Episcopal Church rather than face charges that he'd "abandoned communion" with the Church.  Even though he has stated in numerous public forums and in writing that he was no longer an Episcopalian, he continues to claim that he is still a bishop in the Church.

The convention will actually be electing a “provisional” bishop to serve until such time as the Diocese is reorganized and back on its feet.  The new bishop will be elected from among several nominees from among the ranks of currently active or retired bishops.  The delegates will also elect a new Standing Committee which is currently vacant.

The Special Convention will take place five years to the day that Lawrence was consecrated a bishop in the Episcopal Church. Now neither Lawrence nor the other two anti-Church clerics who ran against him, are in the Episcopal Church

Participation in the convention will be open to all the parishes of the Diocese desiring to continue on in the Episcopal Church.

Approximately half of the congregations in the Diocese have indicated that they intend to follow Lawrence out of the Episcopal Church.  Another third appear to be staying with the continuing Diocese and the remainder are still trying to figure out what they want to do. 

Even Lawrence has conceded that it is unlikely those that leave with him will be able to hold on to their property.

The regular annual Diocesan convention will be held as scheduled on March 8th.

December 5, 2012
Presiding Bishop Accepts Lawrence's Renunciation of Ministry

"I remain the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina," deposed Bishop insists ... after announcing he is no longer in the Episcopal Church

Sources tell SC Episcopalians he has no plans to clear out until ordered by a Court

NEW YORK CITY -- Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, after consulting with senior bishops of the Episcopal Church, today accepted Mark Lawrence's renunciation of his ordained ministry and released him as a priest and bishop in the Episcopal Church. 

In the former, less pastoral language of the Church, he has been deposed.

The Presiding Bishop informed him today by phone, email, and registered mail.  Following that, the House of Bishops was notified.  The renunciation is effective immediately.

The Presiding Bishop's formal statement was thorough and precise: 

Mark Lawrence “is therefore removed from the Ordained Ministry of this Church and released from the obligations of all Ministerial offices, and is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God’s Word and Sacraments conferred on him in Ordinations.  This action is taken for causes that do not affect his moral character."

While the announcement marks the end of a bizarre chapter of the life of the Diocese of South Carolina, it also marks the beginning of an equally challenging period, as the legitimate continuing Diocese attempts to reorganize itself and elect Lawrence's successor. 

However, Lawrence will not make that easy. 

He insists that he is still the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, and there is no indication that he plans to leave the Diocesan House, or vacate the episcopal residence in downtown Charleston.  SC Episcopalians has been told by a source close to the former bishop that he does not plan on going anywhere until he is ordered to do so by a court of law.

n what he likes to describe as his "nuanced" style of speaking, Lawrence seemed to say exactly that Wednesday evening in a letter to the Diocese that at times appeared to mock the Presiding Bishop: 

"I write these words in the vesper light of this first Wednesday of Advent, the bells of the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul ring in the steeple beside the diocesan office, I remain the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina."

At other points Lawrence seemed in denial and almost delusional, suggesting that he had not renounced his ministry in the Episcopal Church.  For the past month, he in fact has frequently and publicly stated verbally and in writing that he has left the Episcopal Church. 

The Presiding Bishop based her decision to depose Lawrence on his address November 17th to a "convention" of his renegade "diocese"  in which he publicly proclaimed the disassociation of the diocese from the Episcopal Church:

“We have withdrawn from that Church that we along with six other dioceses help to organize centuries ago...
We have moved on. With the Standing Committee’s resolution of disassociation the fact is accomplished: legally and canonically."

Read the Presiding Bishop's remarks

Read Lawrence's response

December 4, 2012
Lawrence Continues to Promote Fantasy Diocese

SULLIVAN'S ISLAND -- In spite of an inhibition imposed on him by the Episcopal Church in October, Mark Lawrence continues to tear apart his former Diocese by conducting unauthorized confirmations and ordinations, and refusing to renounce his episcopal orders, even though he says he has lefChurch.

This Sunday he apparently plans to break new ground, mocking even further the sacred vow of conformity to the “doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church” he made just five years ago.  Not only will he conduct a confirmation, which he is forbidden to do, but plans to lay his "Apostolic hands" on everyone else, including those who have been confirmed in the Episcopal Church. 

The following notice appeared on the website of Holy Cross, Sullivan’s Island, announcing Lawrence’s plans to visit this weekend.  It appears to be from its rector:

"Even if 11:00 Sullivan’s Island is not your normal Holy Cross service, I especially urge you’ll join us on Sullivan’s this Sunday for this truly beautiful and awe-inspiring worship. At the Bishop’s Visitation you’ll have an opportunity to affirm your commitment to Christ and have hands laid on you by a bishop in Apostolic Succession. It’s one of God’s gifts to His Church, and I hope you’ll be here to share in this blessing.

"Bishop Lawrence will be laying his hands upon all of our people (both young and older) who are to be confirmed, and if you’re already a confirmed Episcopalian, you’re also invited to come and stand before the Bishop this Sunday and renew your commitment to Jesus Christ, and have Apostolic hands laid upon you. It’s a perfect way to affirm that you’ve gotten serious about your faith and intend to have a deeper, closer relationship with your Lord. I’d love it if our entire parish reaffirmed their vows!  I’d love for you to join with us and worship!"

Lawrence continues to refuse to renounce his vows as a Bishop in the Church, so he is technically he is still the head of the Diocese of South Carolina, even though he is temporarily restricted from exercising any authority.  He also refuses to respond to a certification by the Church's Disciplinary Board for Bishops that he has "abandoned communion" with the Church that might clear the way for the inhibition to be lifted.

Last Saturday Lawrence ordained four new deacons in his religious corporation known as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc. (PECDSC Inc.) For several weeks he has been conducting confirmations.  Lawrence says he is not in the Episcopal Church anymore, but appears to be carrying on as renegade “bishop” based on Apostolic Succession … through the Episcopal Church.

December 1, 2012
“Just a Guy with a Computer” Defends Lawrence, Slams Presiding Bishop over "Uncanonical" and Possible Illegal Acts

Lawrence supporters rally around yet another dubious claim of legitimacy

Over the weekend, supporters of Mark Lawrence attempted to bolster his claim of "vast overwhelming support" for his rebellion against the Episcopal Church by publicizing a letter from an arch-conservative group called the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI).  In the letter the ACI suggests the Presiding Bishop has engaged in “un-canonical (and possibly) even unlawful actions” in her handling of his recent attempt to secede from the Church.

It is not clear that anyone in the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion actually takes the ACI seriously. 

At one point retired South Carolina Bishop Edward Salmon described the ACI as “just a guy with a computer.”
  A former member of the ACI’s Board of Directors once told the news media that the Board never met during his entire three-year term.  

ACI is popular among secessionists as it has used its website in the past to promote various crackpot legal theories that attempt to legitimize their legal claims.

The ACI is probably not the most credible of Lawrence's defenders, especially in matters of unlawful behavior.  In 2009, it became prominent in the mainstream media when a former high-profile leader was indicted on 20 counts of felony theft after allegedly embezzling almost $300,000 from church and trust funds over eight years.  He subsequently cut a deal with prosecutors and entered a no-contest plea to a single lesser count  read more

In the course of defending himself, he appeared to suggest that the ACI had "borrowed" some of the money.  However, there was no suggestion that anyone affiliated with the ACI, other than the person charged, was aware of the alleged scam.    read more about this

The letter is too cumbersome and error-filled to warrant a response here, but Lawrence's renegade "diocese" had no such qualms and posted it on its websiteHere it is, if you'd like to read it. 

November 26, 2012 
Renegade "Diocese" Struggling to Recover from Sputtering Launch

Boastful full-page ad in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina slightly at odds with reality, raises questions about motives;  Only 38% of clergy and two-thirds of parishes & missions are on board with Lawrence, as continuing Diocese of South Carolina prepares to elect his successor

COLUMBIA -- After a spate of less-than-stellar media coverage and a weak showing at his recent “special convention,” embattled Bishop Mark Lawrence took his new renegade “diocese” of South Carolina on the road Sunday with a preposterous full-page advertisement in the largest newspaper ... in the neighboring Diocese of Upper South Carolina.  Read the full content

Lawrence left the Episcopal Church in mid-October rather than being held accountable for "abandoning communion" by violating the consecration vows he took in 2008.  Now he is attempting to drag his former Diocese out of the Church with him, even though there is no legally recognized way for that to happen.  

Over the past six weeks, Lawrence and his surrogates have launched a massive public relations campaign among the parishes of the Diocese and in the news media to explain, with pretzel-like logic, that he is an Episcopal Bishop, just not in the Episcopal Church.  They, he insists, are no longer in the Episcopal Church, but he is less precise on what religious  organization they are in.  Lawrence has continued to conduct confirmations in the Diocese even though his ministry has been "restricted" by the Church.

"Overwhelmingly vast majorities" of supporters are more imagined than real

In the Sunday edition of Columbia’s The State, Lawrence boasted of an “overwhelming majority” of clergy, parishes, and even the 77-million member Anglican Communion lining up behind his effort to leave the Church with his clergy, parishes, and their properties intact.  He also implied that votes taken at his November 17 "special convention" in Charleston constituted nearly unanimous support for him among the communicants of his former diocese.

However, only 38% of the 211 resident clergy in Lawrence's former diocese appear to have publicly declared their intention to leave the Church with him, either through casting votes at the recent “special convention” or signing onto his newspaper ads.

While Lawrence correctly stated in the ad that his actions received nearly unanimous support from delegates at the “special convention,” he failed to disclose that only fifty of the 75 parishes and missions in the Diocese actually showed up.

Despite its outward enthusiasm, Team Lawrence was privately dismayed at the showing of parishes and missions at the “special convention.”  Even more, they were embarrassed when three parishes thought to be with Lawrence announced that they had abstained from voting because their parishes were still in “discernment.”

The two most critical votes -- to abandon the Church and approve a new Constitution devoid of any mention of the Episcopal Church -- were voice votes.  A third vote on revising the renegade diocese’s canons was taken by roll call.

Judging from the responses to that roll call, Lawrence’ support was highest among parishes and missions with immediate financial needs being met by the “diocese.”  Without the votes of those parishes and missions, Lawrence’s support would have dipped to around 50%.

Claims of support in the Anglican Communion seem specious

Lawrence’s advertisement in The State also rehashed his increasingly dubious claim of support among leaders of the “overwhelmingly vast majority of members of the Anglican Communion.”  

He argued, without any evidence, that this conveys legitimacy on his assertion that he is a “faithful Anglican Bishop in good standing.”  He also claimed that these leaders consider his renegade “diocese” to be part of “the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”

Actually, leaders of Anglican Provinces have no authority to do either of the things Lawrence is claiming, and the claim itself raises questions about how well Bishop Lawrence understands the Communion. 

Anglicanism is the theological tradition of the Church of England that has its roots in the reign of England's Henry VIII.  The Anglican Communion is a loosely structured alliance of 38 independent ecclesiastical bodies around the world that are descended from that tradition.  They are known as "provinces" of the Communion, and led by autonomous "Primates." 

The Episcopal Church is the province for the United States and the 17 countries that comprise its membership.  No one in those geographic areas can claim to be an Anglican "in good standing" without being an Episcopalian in good standing.  Primates have no authority in jurisdictions beyond their own.  The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori is the Anglican only Primate recognized by the Communion in the United States.

In a full-page advertisement in Charleston’s Post & Courier two weeks ago, Lawrence cited two letters he claimed are from a handful of arch-conservative Primates, as evidence of his "vast" support in the Communion.  

SC Episcopalians tried to verify the authenticity of the letters but was unable to find any of the signers who would admit to authoring them.  In fact, the letters were so similar in form and content that they appeared to have been drafted by the same person, very likely an aide working for Lawrence. 

Specific mention of the two letters in the most recent ad were dropped.

While Lawrence claims support from Anglican leaders is of great comfort, SC Episcopalians has not been able to identify a single Province in the Communion, whose canons condone the actions of a bishop who abandoned his vows in the way that Bishop Lawrence has. 

In fact, the very Provincial leaders Lawrence claims as “comfort” have taken far more aggressive actions against rebellious clergy than the Episcopal Church has even imagined taking against Lawrence.

Team Lawrence struggles with credibility among the news media  

Efforts by Lawrence's communications team to win over the news media at its "special convention" two weeks ago completely fizzled.  Reporters just did not buy the imaginative story line that the renegades constitute the legitimate Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. 

They were openly skeptical at the lack of any real debate or substantive discussion by the delegates and perplexed why they were not provided copies of a conciliatory letter to them from the Presiding Bishop, or made aware that Lawrence's strongest ally in the House of Bishops had pleaded with them only hours before not to go forward with an attempt to secede.

Some reporters said they were offended by the open hostility and occasional paranoia of among convention leaders.  They also questioned the reasons for the
highly controlled access they were given to Bishop Lawrence, as well as the extensive and unnecessary security measures, including the presence of Charleston policemen.

One reporter new to covering the Diocese told SC Episcopalians:  "I was just disgusted by the nastiness of the entire event.  It was so negative, I could hardly wait to get out of there."

Expensive PR blitz seems to be backfiring

If Lawrence is betting that the thousands of dollars he is pouring into his current public relations offensive is helping, he needs to think again. 

The gap between Lawrence's imagined successes and reality is widening as communicants across the Diocese are sensing that his self-proclaimed "all out war" against the Episcopal Church is largely imaginary.

In a devastating Letter to the Editor in today's Post & Courier, a layperson in the Diocese labeled Lawrence as "a failure," castigating him for a lack of growth and church attendance since he became bishop.  "Empty seats and an aging congregation are his legacy.  Instead of focusing on creating a peaceful,
welcoming environment that people want to be a part of, he has focused on discord."

As was the case in Charleston, the ad in Columbia seemed to raise more questions than it answered.  There was no apparent reason for running the ad in a legitimate Diocese of the Episcopal Church beyond the geographic boundaries of Lawrence's former Diocese.  However, it did suggest that Lawrence might be trying to poach new parishes to bolster the membership and finances of his struggling cause.

Continuing Diocese prepares to elect a new Bishop

As if these unpleasant reverses are not enough, the continuing Diocese of South Carolina appears to be getting on its feet much faster than its counterparts did in four other dioceses with leaders who attempted (and failed) to breakaway from the Episcopal Church a few years ago.

The continuing Diocese is fully recognized by the Episcopal Church as THE legitimate Diocese of South Carolina.  According its Steering Committee, the continuing Diocese will hold its 2013 Annual Convention in Charleston on March 8th, at which it will elect Lawrence's successor.  Hillery Douglas,
a civic leader, businessman, and senior warden at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Charleston, is chairman of the Committee. 

Parishes publicly aligned with the continuing Diocese have reported significant
numbers of church-shoppers and new members from those sticking with Lawrence. 

At Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston, one new transfer from a pro- Lawrence parish said he was astonished to actually hear a positive, upbeat sermon in an Episcopal parish.  "We've heard the opposite for so long, I have to keep reminding myself that this is normal."

November 17, 2012
Renegade "Convention" Votes to try to Secede from the Episcopal Church

Nearly two-thirds of parishes and missions appear to support Lawrence; Lawyers running the show now 

"We are out of the Episcopal Church ... We have moved on," Lawrence declares

Actions put millions in Diocesan assets and parish property in play

CHARLESTON -- To no one’s surprise, today’s historic meeting of the renegade “Diocese of South Carolina” rubber stamped last month's actions of Bishop Mark Lawrence and his Standing Committee to attempt to secede from the Episcopal Church.

Slightly less than two-thirds of the Diocese's 70 parishes and missions appear to be supportive of Lawrence, based on participation and votes cast at today's meeting.  In addition the delegates approved a new constitution and canons that appeared to have been hastily prepared by Lawrence's legal team. 

Delegates appeared to be untroubled that they were likely committing themselves and their congregations to years of divisiveness and litigation.  They also seemed to have had only a limited understanding of the new Constitution and Canons before approving them.

The relationship between a diocese and the Episcopal Church is similar to that of a state with the Federal government.  There is no exist clause, and Church leaders are obligated to protect property that has been entrusted to them for the work of the Episcopal Church.

The limited precedence for such actions suggests Lawrence's followers are in for a long, expensive, and ultimately futile effort.

Essentially, Lawrence is setting up his own independent religious denomination, hoping that some sort of a merger or cooperative arrangement with other religious organizations in the Anglican tradition might be created down the road.  Those he has mentioned share his literalist approach to the Bible and judgment that people who are not heterosexual are not part of God's plan
  Read his full address

Lawrence offered a contorted argument for why he thinks he and the renegade "diocese" are part of the Anglican Communion, even though they now do not belong to the only province of the Communion in the United States. 

Lawrence did not address the two most important issues facing his new denomination:  the surrender of millions of dollars in assets and parish properties that belong to the Episcopal Church, and the legal impossibility of a diocese or a parish leaving a “hierarchical” ecclesiastical body like the Episcopal Church.

Lawrence is hoping to win those battles in court, and appears to have spent nearly $500,000 over the past five years on legal expenses to prepare. Lawrence insured that the conflict would have to be settled in the courts by the issuance of quitclaim deeds relinquishing the Diocese's (and the Episcopal Church's) interests in parish properties, and appearing to give away the same in a deal with St. Andrew's in Mount Pleasant a year earlier.

Lawrence continues to live in a house in Charleston purchased by Episcopalians for the Episcopal Bishop of South Carolina.  He also continues to work in the Diocesan House, established by the Episcopalians for the work for the Episcopal Church in eastern South Carolina.  It appears that Lawrence is also continuing to spend diocesan
funds on salaries for himself and his staff.

Delegates were not provided copies of yesterday’s extraordinary pastoral letter from the Presiding Bishop to the Diocese urging reconciliation, nor were they advised of a passionate, last minute appeal by Lawrence’s strongest
ally in the House of Bishops to “step back from the brink."  Read her entire letter

Many parishes and missions chose not to send delegates since the meeting was not an official convention of the legitimate Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.  Since mid-October Lawrence’s authority has been temporarily stripped from him, after a Church Disciplinary Board found that he had “abandoned communion” with the Episcopal Church.  That authority includes the ability to convene an official convention

The meeting was held at St. Philips’ Episcopal Church in Charleston.  The actual business session lasted a little more than 90 minutes.  There was little debate about anything.

Delegates were seated on the main floor, while the news media and visitors were carefully segregated in the two balconies upstairs.  The visitors, many of whom are Episcopalians, were not provided copies of the resolutions the delegates were considering.
While Lawrence claims he is no longer in the Episcopal Church, he vehemently objects to the existence of a “continuing Diocese of South Carolina,” authorized by the Presiding Bishop to carry on the work of the Church in Lawrence’s absence.  As many as 18 parishes and missions appear to be committed to staying with the continuing Diocese, while another ten are in discernment over what they will do

All clergy and parishes actually have until March 8th to decide what they will do.  At that time, the continuing Diocese of South Carolina will hold its annual convention, and elect Lawrence’s successor and a new standing committee.  Those clergy and congregations that fail to attend likely will be presumed to have abandoned the Diocese and the Episcopal Church. 

Approximately 60-70 people attended the continuing Diocese's Clergy Day earlier in the week.  Its leaders have received encouragement and offers of support from throughout the Church.  Charleston businessman Hillery Douglas is the chairman of the transitional Steering Committee.  He's the senior warden of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Charleston

Learn more about the continuing Diocese of South Carolina.

November 16, 2012
Enthusiasm for Renegade "Convention" Cools as Doubts about Lawrence Persist

Attacks on faithful Episcopalians, loss of support, & letter from the Presiding Bishop chip away at enthusiasm for Lawrence's renegade diocese

Expensive full-page newspaper ad rehashes old rhetoric, fails to answer key questions; Only 33 of 75 rectors sign on in support

CHARLESTON -- In the final countdown to the launch of their new renegade “diocese," Mark Lawrence and his allies spent this week unexpectedly veering from one snafu to the next, as their planned mass exit from the Episcopal Church began to look like mass chaos

Read the full story

November 15, 2012
Presiding Bishop Issues Pastoral Letter to the Diocese of South Carolina

On abandonment of communion:  "Bishop Lawrence has an extended period (60 days) in which he can repudiate those charges, and I stand ready to respond positively to any sign that he has done so."

On "Disassociation":
  "The Diocese of South Carolina is a constituent part of The Episcopal Church, and that status cannot be altered without the action of General Convention."

On the future of the Diocese
:  "Please know that The Episcopal Church wants you to remain!"

Click here to read her entire pastoral letter

November 11, 2012
Transition to Post-Lawrence Diocese Underway

New Steering Committee is only transitional, but includes who's who of parish and Diocesan leaders

Hillery Douglas, Senior Warden of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Charleston, is the chairman

Episcopalians in South Carolina were cheered this morning by news of a newly-formed Steering Committee to shepherd the initial reorganization of the Diocese of South Carolina after last month’s apparent departure of Bishop Mark Lawrence and his Standing Committee
An open letter by members of the steering committee for the continuing Diocese of South Carolina was published in newspapers throughout the state, welcoming all Episcopalians to “carry forward the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, just as prior generations have done since 1789.”

The Office of the Presiding Bishop acts as the default "ecclesiastical authority" in the event a bishop is "restricted" or has left the Episcopal Church
Learn more at the Diocesan website

Click here for the entire story

November 10, 2012
On the Campaign Trail with Mark Lawrence, It's "All Out War" with the Church & Loyal Episcopalians

Bishop and surrogates stumble through contradictions and reversals trying to justify leaving the Church, sort of

Three weeks after saying "I am no longer an Episcopalian," Lawrence now claims he is a bishop in the Episcopal Church and one without "restriction" on his ministry

This week “restricted” Bishop Mark Lawrence and his surrogates stumbled through an embarrassing series of contradictory public statements, explanations, and media interviews as part of a Diocese-wide campaign to convince loyal Episcopalians to leave their

Their goal is to gin up participation for a meeting next Saturday in Charleston at which they hope to formally launch their renegade “diocese” called the “Protestant
Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, Incorporated (PECDSC Inc.).”  

According to Lawrence, this is "all out war" with the Episcopal Church.

However, only two weeks after confidently telling his clergy that he and they had left the Church, Lawrence and his field commanders were raising far more questions about their plans than they were answering.  Since Lawrence's announcement that he was leaving the Church, a communications team at the corporate headquarters of the PECDSC in Charleston was kept busy trying to reconcile various contradictory statements, and get a consistent message out through the electronic media and nearly daily revisions to the PECDSC website.

At the heart of the confusion this week has been whether Lawrence and his group are in or out of the Episcopal Church. 

Lawrence now claims that his PECDSC corporation is the Episcopal Church in the eastern half of South Carolina and, as the bishop of that corporation, he is the bishop of the "sovereign" Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina without ties to or the authority of the Episcopal Church.

The PECDSC is actually the old corporate structure of the Diocese of South Carolina, but Lawrence and his supporters have rewritten it without references to the Episcopal Church such that it is essentially a new corporation.  Such an action is of questionable legality, but it will take years of lawsuits to get courts in South Carolina to straighten things out.

However, that confusion was compounded as the week wore on by tail-chasing responses to questions about the status of the PECDSC corporation in the Anglican Communion, the authorship of letters from ultraconservative Primates claiming to back Lawrence, Bishop Lawrence’s own intentions about leaving the Episcopal Church, and the likelihood that pro-PECDSC congregations will not be able to retain their parish property and buildingsRead the entire article by clicking here


November 10, 2012
On the Campaign Trail with Mark Lawrence, it's "All Out War" with the Church & Loyal Episcopalians

Bishop and surrogates stumble through contradictions and reversals trying to justify leaving the Church, sort of

Three weeks after saying "I am no longer an Episcopalian", Lawrence now claims he is a bishop in the Episcopal Church without "restriction" on his ministry

This week “restricted” Bishop Mark Lawrence and his surrogates stumbled through an embarrassing series of contradictory public statements, explanations, and media interviews as part of a Diocese-wide campaign to convince loyal Episcopalians to leave their Church. 

Their goal is to gin up participation for a meeting next Saturday in Charleston at which they hope to formally launch their renegade “diocese” called the “Protestant
Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, Incorporated (PECDSC Inc.).”  

According to Lawrence, this is "all out war" with the Episcopal Church.

However, only two weeks after confidently telling his clergy that he and they had left the Church, Lawrence and his field commanders were raising far more questions about their plans than they were answering.  Since Lawrence's announcement that he was leaving the Church, a communications team at the corporate headquarters of the PECDSC in Charleston was kept busy trying to reconcile various contradictory statements, and get a consistent message out through the electronic media and nearly daily revisions to the PECDSC website.

At the heart of the confusion this week has been whether Lawrence and his group are in or out of the Episcopal Church. 

Lawrence now claims that his PECDSC corporation is the Episcopal Church in the eastern half of South Carolina and, as the bishop of that corporation, he is the bishop of the "sovereign" Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina without ties to or the authority of the Episcopal Church.

The PECDSC is actually the old corporate structure of the Diocese of South Carolina, but Lawrence and his supporters have rewritten without references to the Episcopal Church such that it is essentially a new corporation.  Such an action is illegal, but Lawrence is betting it will take years of lawsuits to get courts in South Carolina to throw him out.

However, that confusion was compounded as the week wore on by tail-chasing responses to questions about the status of the PECDSC corporation in the Anglican Communion, the authorship of letters from ultraconservative Primates claiming to back Lawrence, Bishop Lawrence’s own intentions about leaving the Episcopal Church, and the likelihood that pro-PECDSC congregations will not be able to retain their parish property and buildings.   Read the entire article by clicking here

November 9, 2012
SC Episcopalians Breaks Down Most Recent Revision of PECDSC Inc. Story Line 

Renegade "diocese" spins new version of what its is doing:  This week we are in the Episcopal Church

November 9, 2012
Evangelical, Former Oil Company Executive to lead the Anglican Communion 
read full story

New Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has been a bishop for less than a year

His father was a bootlegger in the US during Prohibition, using communion wine as a cover

ber 5, 2012
Lawrence, Seeking Allies for “All Out War,” Hits the Road Spinning a New Version of Events

Restricted” Bishop now says he was trying to stay in the Episcopal Church all along, but Church leaders kicked him out

Lawrence admits congregations following him most likely will lose their property

CHARLESTON - Mark Lawrence, who dodged charges of misconduct nearly three weeks ago by quitting the Episcopal Church, has been feverishly trying to recruit congregations and their clergy to leave with him. 

Lawrence admits he doesn’t have a plan for where he will lead them, and concedes that they likely will lose their parish properties along the way.

Lawrence is now claiming that his five years of attacks on Church leaders, relinquishing the Church’s interest in millions of dollars in parish properties, declaration of himself and the Diocese as “sovereign,” and severing the legal ties between the Diocese and the Church, were actually all about staying in the Church, not abandoning it.

In meetings with congregations the past two weeks, Lawrence casts himself as a victim, rather than an instigator of unmistakable acts of hostility against the Episcopal Church. He claims Church leaders kicked him and the Diocese out of the Church because of their strong commitment to the Bible.  

He now describes the relationship between himself and his followers with the Church as “all out war.

In fact, neither Lawrence nor the Diocese was kicked out of the Church. The Diocese of South Carolina is very much a part of the Episcopal Church

Since his inhibition Lawrence and Diocesan staff have been working overtime firing up an extensive network of right-wing bloggers and news reporters to spin this fantasy version of events that culminated with a temporary "restriction" on his ministry.  The Diocese also took out a half-page ad in a Charleston newspaper promoting the improbable story line that the "Episcopal Church Abandons the Bishop and Diocese."
    Read SC Episcopalian's comments on Post & Courier Ad  

Lawrence’s ministry was temporarily restricted because a Disciplinary Board found that he had “abandoned communion” by encouraging successive Diocesan conventions to eliminate legal ties between the Diocese and the Episcopal Church, and issuing quitclaim deeds to every parish to create legal entanglements to the Episcopal Church’s property interest in parishes in the Diocese.  

The Board made no mention of Lawrence’s interpretation of scripture.

Under temporary “restriction” Lawrence has the option of seeking ways in which the restriction could be lifted, but apparently he is not interested in pursuing them.

A provisional bishop and new Standing Committee will likely be elected at the 2013 Annual Convention of the Diocese on March 8th.

October 30, 2012
Lawrence Admits Conversation with Presiding Bishop Continues After "Disassociation"

tells West Ashley Deanery negotiations with her over "creative options" are at a standstill

"Restricted" Bishop says there is no point in loyal parishes attending rump convention on November 17th.

Lawrence stunned his supporters Monday, by admitting that he's been in conversation with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church since announcing that he, his clergy, and all its parishes had left the Episcopal Church. 

Earlier this month, Lawrence acknowledged he'd been in negotiations with her to find "creative options"
to address his ongoing hostility toward the Episcopal Church.
  However, after she placed a temporary "restriction" on his ministry nearly two weeks ago, Lawrence said the talks had been torpedoed and the relationship between him and the Episcopal Church was over. 

A number of clergy followed suit the following Sunday and formally announced to their congregations that they had left the Episcopal Church.  Some also told parishioners that they were no long Episcopalians and that their parish was no longer part of the Episcopal Church

In Florence on Sunday, he described the relationship between himself and the Episcopal Church as "all out war," but seemed to hedge when it came to whether he was still in conversation with the Presiding Bishop.  

SC Episcopalians
 reported last week that, while Lawrence was declaring publicly that he’d left the Church, he was not taking the steps necessary to do so.  According to canon law, Lawrence is still a bishop in the Church, even though his ministry is temporarily “restricted.”  To leave the Church Lawrence must submit a formal letter renouncing his Episcopal vows that then must be accepted by the House of Bishops.

At a meeting of the West Ashley Deanery last night, Lawrence admitted to at least one conversation with the Presiding Bishop after he announced the Diocese’s “disassociation” from the Church. 

However, he assured the audience of about 100 that whatever is going on between them is currently at a standstill.  The clergyman asking the question has already announced to his congregation that he has left the Episcopal Church.

Lawrence’s admission last night was a bombshell because he has been encouraging his clergy to leave the Church, while he apparently is looking for a way for himself to remain a bishop without restrictions.

Lawrence’s staff brought two cameramen to last night's meeting to capture Lawrence’s highly imaginary spin on these events.  Presumably, they are working on edits to the tape to produce what amounts to a propaganda film. 

In 2008 the Diocese filmed a purportedly private meeting between the Presiding Bishop and Diocesan clergy, but ham-handedly edited out most of her responses before putting the film on YouTube after she left town.

Meanwhile, Lawrence also announced last night that those parishes not planning to leave the Church don't need to attend a rump convention he has called for November 17th.  The meeting is more about taking a head count of Lawrence's followers, and rallying their spirits.  The votes will be significant only for clergy who most likely will risk deposition if they support anything that might be construed as "abandonment of communion."

Loyal Episcopalians will convene at the regular Annual Convention of the Diocese in March.

October 29, 2012   Lawrence Watch
Lawrence Continues to Spin Out of Control, Defying Temporary Ban Imposed by the Episcopal Church

"I am no longer an Episcopalian," Lawrence declares

At St. John's on Sunday he expressed doubts that congregations who follow him will hang on to their parish property

FLORENCE -- Mark Lawrence, declaring “all out war” on the Episcopal Church, continued to violate a temporary “restriction” on his ministry imposed Church leaders nearly two weeks ago in Florence over the weekend by confirming a class of new members at historic St. John’s Episcopal Church.  Lawrence did much the same thing last Sunday at Trinity, Pinopolis.

A Disciplinary Board for Bishops certified earlier this month that Lawrence’s recent misconduct as a bishop rose to the level of “abandonment of communion”, a charge which automatically triggered the restriction

Lawrence insists that he has now invented his own Episcopal Church in South Carolina that is unaffiliated with the actual Episcopal Church.  It is not clear which “Church” the newly confirmed thought they were joining.

In Florence, the parish’s rector most likely is a candidate for deposition when a “provisional” successor to Lawrence is elected at the Diocese’s 2013 Annual Convention.  His votes supporting Lawrence’s foundering scheme to abandon the Church as a member of the former Standing Committee of the Diocese are considered sufficient evidence of "abandonment".

Lawrence took the opportunity on Sunday to spin his own peculiar version of events that led to the temporary ban.  In an address to parishioners between Sunday services, Lawrence frequently used military metaphors, characterizing his relationship with the wider Church as a “cold war” and uneasy “détente.”  He described the restriction as a “missile” fired by the Church.  

At one point, Lawrence told the crowd of about 100:  "I am no longer an Episcopalian."  

Oddly, SC Episcopalians can find no evidence that Lawrence has actually taken the necessary the steps to leave the Church.  In fact, in his comments to parishioners, Lawrence was vague about his conversations with Church leaders and didn’t seem to rule out the possibility that he was still in negotiations with Church leaders on options that might allow him to him to stay.

During the question and answer period, Lawrence’s focus on the issues seemed to ebb and flow.  

At one point he said in a somber tone that congregations leaving the Church with him should not count on retaining their parish property, then became peevish and short with former vestry member who questioned his actions.  

When he was asked where he planned to lead his followers, he rambled to the point that it seemed to many that he didn't actually have a plan.  One member of the audience said later that he was remarkably lacking in empathy for the obvious pain and anguish in the room.  He seemed unable to explain to those in the audience why they would be better off leaving the Church with him than staying the Episcopal Church.

Lawrence seemed irritated that blogs that right about him are suggesting that he has forced clergy and parishes out of the Church.  At a clergy conference this month, Lawrence dropped a bomb by announcing that the Diocese, and its bishop, clergy and parishes were no longer in the Episcopal Church.

Lawrence went off on his usual tirade about human sexuality, claiming it was determined by God and not to be changed by humans. 

Standing in front of two banners proclaiming “God is Love”, Lawrence ridiculed two transsexuals that he had met at the July General Convention in Indianapolis. In an apparent slam at blessings of same-gender couples, he added that "the Canons of the Episcopal Church have gone where no civilization in history has ever gone."

October 26, 2012  Lawrence Watch
Lawrence Pushes Clergy to Leave the Church, while He Remains an Episcopal Bishop

Contrary to
last Friday's announcement, Lawrence has not taken steps to actually leave the Episcopal Church

His clergy supporters on the Standing Committee are no longer Episcopal priests, but Lawrence could yet work something out for himself

CHARLESTON - Mark Lawrence has spent much of this week leaning on wavering clergy to abandon the Episcopal Church and join his renegade "diocese", even though he himself has not taken the formal steps necessary to leave. 

Last Friday, Lawrence told Diocesan clergy that he, they, and their parishes were no longer in the Episcopal Church.  However, that is not legally possible under civil or canon law without affirmative steps by Lawrence and individual clergy.  There is also no mechanism by which parishes can leave the Church.

SC Episcopalians has learned today that Lawrence has apparently not notified the Episcopal Church that he is leaving nor put in writing a disavowal of his episcopal orders, as required by canon law.

Until he does that, he remains the "restricted" Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.  As such, he's still in a position to try to work something out with the Church if he wants to stay. 

Of course, it is unlikely, but as parishes and clergy look at the costs of leaving the Church, the certain litigation, loss of income and job prospects -- following Lawrence off a cliff is not as appealing as it once was.  In fact, SC Episcopalians is not aware of any clergy who have voluntarily submitted their resignations to the Episcopal Church this week.

Lawrence may yet realize that his movement might be better off staying in the Church, and remaining a part of the Anglican Communion.

The scenario is not so far fetched with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on the other side of the table.  She has regularly sought solutions to the challenges Lawrence has presented in ways that are more pastoral than legalistic.  Over the years, her approach seems to have been to give Lawrence room within the Church to rail against her, gays, and "false gospels" perhaps as a price for his keeping the Diocese intact. 

Just last week Lawrence conceded that he has been exploring "creative options" with her that might include his staying in the Church

Last week, minutes of a previously undisclosed Committee meeting on October 2nd, revealed that a unanimous Standing Committee approved such a plan.

According to precedents in other dioceses with renegade leadership, support for such measures by priests equates to "abandonment" of the Church.
  SC Episcopalians has confirmed this understanding with Church officials
familiar with these situations.  The six are Paul Feuner, John Barr, Ken Weldon, Greg Snyder, Andrew O'Dell, and Tripp Jeffords. 

A final decision on their deposition would be made by the new Provisional Bishop to be elected on March 8-9th.

Under Church canons, the entire Standing Committee is deemed to have left the Episcopal Church, and has no authority.  A new Standing Committee is scheduled to be elected at the same Convention in March


October 24, 2012  Lawrence Watch
Out of the Episcopal Church & Anglican Communion, Free-Wheeling ex-Bishop Doing as He Pleases
He'll confirm a class in Florence on Sunday, though no one knows exactly what Church they will be joining

CHARLESTON - Mark Lawrence apparently plans to function as a free-lance bishop in his former Diocese, even though he has abandoned the Episcopal Church and its historical grounding in the Anglican Communion -- the source of his authority. 

This Sunday Lawrence is scheduled to confirm people at St. John’s in Florence, even though it is not clear what Church they are being confirmed in. 

Lawrence says he is still in the line of apostolic succession and can do whatever he pleases, despite a temporary restriction on his acting as a bishop imposed after the Church’s Disciplinary Board of Bishops concluded that his rebellious conduct over the past three years constituted “abandonment of communion.”

Last week Lawrence announced that he was quitting the Episcopal Church rather than having to answer charges of misconduct.  The renegade ex-bishop does not contest any of the charges against him.  Instead he claims that the Church leaders have kicked him
and the Diocese of South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church.

In fact, over the past three years, Lawrence and his cronies have been quietly creating their own independent religious corporation known as the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.”  

This fantasy diocese has the same name as the real Diocese of South Carolina, because is laying claim to millions of dollars in assets that were given to the real “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina,” by loyal Episcopalians. 

Based on what has been disclosed publicly, Lawrence and his cohorts are laying claim to an estimated $10 million dollars in assets taken from the real Episcopal Church.  That figure does not include Camp St. Christopher, which is worth many times that amount. 

Lawrence apparently plans to continue to live in a house in downtown Charleston that was bought with Episcopal Church funds for Episcopal bishops of South Carolina.  He appears to be taking his salary as well from funds provided by Episcopalians to support the real Diocese.

Meanwhile traditional Episcopalians began to feel the heat from their congregations, as many were apparently snubbed and given the cold shoulder.  Many were stunned to find that Lawrence unceremoniously told them that they could no longer worship as Episcopalians in the parishes in which they had been lifelong members. 

In one parish, a Bible study group, comprised mostly of long-time Episcopalians was told it would have to submit lesson plans to the rector for his approval each week and could not count on use of the classroom in which they had been meeting.  In another parish, a longtime lay reader was warned that she might not be able to read anymore because she was licensed by the Episcopal Church.

In betraying his consecration vows, Lawrence turns his back on the moderate clergy in the Diocese moderate parishes – all of whom supported him when he was nominated for bishop in 2007.  All said that they believed him when said wouldn’t leave the Episcopal Church.

Equally as bizarre, Lawrence revealed that he has been secretly working with the Standing Committee to develop plans for abandoning communion for a long time.  Ironically, that was the charge the Disciplinary Board certified against Lawrence that he claims was an “attack.”

Encouraged by Lawrence lieutenants over the weekend, supporters of the fantasy Diocese stepped up public harassment of the 14 Episcopalians who asked the Church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops to review Lawrence’s rebellious behavior.  Many of them were ridiculed on online blogs. 

Canon to the Ordinary Jim Lewis issued a bizarre statement on the diocesan website attacking eight of them for not making it clear that they are really four married couples.  He also seemed to attack them for belonging to a traditional Episcopal Church and a group that supports unity in the Episcopal Church.

Lawrence said it was unfair that he didn’t get to face his accusers, but even though he knows their names he hasn’t made any effort to talk with them face-to-face.  Oddly, Lawrence doesn’t dispute any of the factual material they provided to the Board, so it is not clear why he needed to have their names.

October 20, 2012  Lawrence Watch
Fantasy "Diocese" Takes Aim at Episcopalians who Complained about Lawrence

Lawrence's #2 slams complainants for being Episcopalians, and belonging to pro-Episcopal Church organization

Lawrence wants to face his accusers, while accusers say they are willing to meet with him

CHARLESTON -- The Canon to the Ordinary in Mark Lawrence's new fantasy Diocese of South Carolina opened fire Saturday afternoon on the twelve lay people and two clergy, who complained to the Episcopal Church about the ex-bishop's misconduct.  Their complaint led to a disciplinary board's finding that he has "abandoned communion".

Even though Lawrence does not dispute the facts contained in their complaint, Canon Jim Lewis claims that even the truth was an "attack" on the ex-bishop.  In a missive sent throughout the Diocese, Lewis thinks it is "instructive" that the eight of the complainants are actually four married couples, and half of the twelve lay people attend Charleston's Grace Church, one of the largest and fastest growing congregations in the Diocese. 

Read Lewis' expose in its entirety

Lewis seemed particularly bent out of shape that most of the complainants are affiliated with the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, an organization aimed at promoting the Gospel through the Episcopal Church. 

Lewis ridiculed the complainants for not revealing their names sooner in the disciplinary process.  He said they were not being "gracious" in voluntarily releasing their names because he claims the Church's disciplinary canon requires it. 

That would be the same disciplinary canon Lawrence and Lewis have argued does not apply to his actions.   

In fact, like many in the Diocese who oppose Lawrence, these communicants realized that they would be attacked when their names were known.  Of this group, several have been told in the past they were not welcome in their pro-Lawrence congregations.  Others have been harassed and socially isolated because they said they were proud to be Episcopalians, while one was actually the object of an unwelcome exorcism when she told a parish meeting that she admired the Presiding Bishop.

Like his boss, Lewis does not dispute that the factual representations made by the group, and certified by the DBB, are true.  Lewis argues that Lawrence still deserves the right to meet with his accusers.  They have indicated they are willing to face the accused.

Lawrence announced Friday that he has left the Episcopal Church and now presides over a corporation called the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina", which is unaffiliated with any religious organization including the Anglican Communion.

Lawrence jumped ship when it became clear he'd be held accountable for his conduct as Bishop of the real Diocese of South Carolina, which he has led since 2008.  Last week a disciplinary board of the Episcopal Church found that his actions amounted to "abandonment of communion", and he was temporarily prohibited from exercising his ministry

October 19, 2012
Lawrence Quits the Episcopal Church; Tells Clergy He's Taken Them Out Too

"Bishop" Rejects Temporary Restriction on his Ministry and Torpedoes Presiding Bishop's Effort to Find a Compromise

Lawrence: "The Diocese of SC, its bishop, parishes and clergy are no longer associated with the Episcopal Church."

CHARLESTON -- Rebellious "Bishop" Mark Lawrence today continued veering into a fantasy world as he declared that he, the clergy, and all the parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina were no longer in the Episcopal Church. 

For that reason, he says the recent temporary "restriction" on his ministry imposed by the Presiding Bishop is irrelevant.  He made the announcement at a hastily called meeting of Diocesan clergy, many of whom were bewildered by his actions, while others cheered

Lawrence was scheduled to meet with the Presiding Bishop and the Bishop of Upper South Carolina in New York on Monday to discuss steps that can be taken to remove the restriction.  Now, he says he will not attend.

On Monday, Lawrence learned that a Disciplinary Board of the Episcopal Church had determined that a number of his recent actions as bishop amounted to abandonment of his consecration oath of allegiance, and that the Presiding Bishop, as required by Church law, had imposed a temporary restriction on his ministry. 

Lawrence was less clear about exactly what it is that the he and all the parishes of the Diocese belong to, since dioceses exist only by the authority of the Episcopal Church much in the same way states belong to the United States. 

It also is not clear where he believes his authority for continuing to be a bishop comes from if not the Episcopal Church.

Lawrence did say that he would allow parishes wishing to leave his imaginary new denomination to return to the Episcopal Church, if they desired.

Speculation abounds today that that the temporary "restriction" on his ministry has sent Lawrence into a kind of alternate reality.  Lawrence has very few close advisors or associates. Those he does consult with are deeply embittered critics of the Episcopal Church with little investment in the Diocese.

Over the past few years Lawrence and his advisors concocted a legal scheme that has allowed him to believe that he can be the bishop of some new corporation called the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina" outside the Episcopal Church.  Yes, that is the name of the Diocese, but under Lawrence, the corporate purpose of the PECDSC has been amended to eliminate references to the Episcopal Church.

For months Lawrence and his associates have told parishes they needed to amend their bylaws to align exclusively with the PECDSC ... but assured them that in doing so they would still be in the Episcopal Church.  SC Episcopalians has been warning those same parishes that they were being duped.

The leaders of the make-believe diocese are a "Board of Directors" that looks a lot like the Standing Committee of the Diocese.  While Lawrence's "restriction" almost certainly will lead to his being deposed, the Church can not depose the Standing Committee, only the clergy that serve on it.

October 17, 2012 (rev. 10 a.m. 10.18.12)

Lawrence "Restricted" as a Bishop and Priest; Disciplinary Board Finds He Has "Abandoned" the Episcopal Church; 
Oddly Lawrence Retaliates by Revealing Secret Conspiracy to Abandon the Episcopal Church

His efforts to eliminate "accession" to Church Constitution, alienate Church property, and change the Diocese's corporate charter violated his oath as a Bishop

Lawrence torpedoes efforts by the Presiding Bishop to find solutions that might let him stay on

CHARLESTON - Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has temporarily banned South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence from acting as a priest or a bishop in the Episcopal Church.  Lawrence was privately informed of the official "restriction" on his ministry Monday.

Jefferts Schori was required to issue the ban after the Church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops determined last week that Lawrence's various schemes to repudiate the authority of the Church’s Constitution, change the corporate purpose of the Diocese to exclude the work of the Episcopal Church, and issue quitclaim deeds relinquishing the Church’s interest in millions of dollars in parish properties violated his consecration oath as a bish
op.  ReBoaad the full report of the Board

Chaired by retired Bishop Dorsey Henderson, the Board found that Lawrence’s actions amount to “abandonment of communion,” a charge which automatically requires the Presiding Bishop to restrict him.  The House of Bishops could make the restriction permanent and depose Lawrence when it meets in March.  Read the full statement of restriction

Lawrence does not dispute any of the factual findings by the Board, nor does he appear to believe that they do not constitute "abandonment".  In fact, on Thursday he revealed that the Standing Committee had secretly approved a plan to try to leave the Episcopal Church if the national Church found that he had abandoned communion.

According to sources, the Presiding Bishop has made efforts to resolve the issues with Lawrence, and even set up a meeting with Lawrence and Andrew Waldo, the current bishop of the Upper Diocese of South Carolina, for this coming Monday to explore options that might allow her to lift the restriction and allow him to continue to serve.

However, Lawrence seems to have torpedoed any pastoral initiatives by the Presiding Bishop today claiming that some kind of secret resolution passed by the Standing Committee automatically dissolved the ties between the Diocese and the Church when the Disciplinary Board found that he had abandoned the Church.  It is not clear who or what body approved the purported resolution.  Dioceses are the creation of the Church and lack the ability to function independently.   Read the resolution
Lawrence has repeatedly insisted the Diocese of South Carolina is "sovereign" and the Church has no authority over him as it does other bishops.  In essence, Lawrence maintains that he is not accountable to anyone.

The actions of the Disciplinary Board came about after a massive complaint was filed against Lawrence by communicants in the Diocese this summer.  This was the second complaint against Lawrence in less than two years. 

The first complaint was filed in 2011 and contained similar allegations.  However, the Board said that the complaint did not contain sufficient evidence for a finding of abandonment.  The Board did not say that Lawrence had not done anything wrong.

According to information provided to SC Episcopalians, the evidence in the second complaint was overwhelming.

Lawrence and his handlers have been working feverishly all week to generate some semi-plausible narrative that would cast Lawrence as an innocent  victim. 

It's a bit of a challenge since Lawrence does not deny any of the findings of the Disciplinary Board.  In fact, a second secret resolution supposedly approved by the Standing Committee a year ago seems to confirm that Lawrence has been conspiring to the abandon the Church for some time, and take the diocese with him.

Equally challenging for Lawrence is his claim that he does not recognize the authority of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, since it was that authority that made him the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina  in the first place.

Traditional Episcopalians in the Diocese have been frustrated that the Church did not acted sooner against Lawrence.  According to sources, a number of Church leaders consider Lawrence to be a "pawn" of former SC Bishop Fitz Allison, two former Bishops of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and other embittered critics of the Church

October 8, 2012
Commentary:  Deadlock and Silence over New Archbishop Masking Bitter Struggle over the Future of the English Church  full story

October 1, 2012
Conservative, Evangelical Bishop of Durham on Track to Succeed Rowan Williams

Justin Welby reportedly received the required two-thirds majority at the secret meeting of the Crown Nominations Commission last week

A former oil company executive and derivatives trader, the 57-year-old Welby has been a bishop less than a year

Commission members still at loggerheads over second name to recommend to Prime Minister and Queen

LONDON, England - Sources close to members of the highly secretive Crown Nominations Commission tonight are reporting that the conservative Bishop of Durham has obtained the necessary two-thirds majority to become its top candidate to succeed Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Justin Welby, a 57-year-old former oil company executive and derivatives trader, succeeded the Rt. Rev. N.T. "Tom" Wright at Durham less than a year ago.  Prior to becoming the fourth-ranking bishop in the Church of England, he was the dean at Liverpool Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in the world.

Last week the sixteen Commission members were reportedly deadlocked when they second choice to submit to Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and Queen Elizabeth II.   At the end of the meeting, they released a strangely worded statement stating that they still intended to finish their work "in the autumn" but gave no clue about anything they may have decided.

Word leaked out today that the Commission members did decide on Welby as their first choice, but locked horns over whether Anglo-Catholic Bishop Graham James of Norwich or the charismatic  Bishop John Sentamu of York should get the second slot. 

The second name is important because runners-up have been chosen in the past.  However, Prime Minister Cameron is apparently satisfied that Welby is the right choice, and has reportedly expressed his impatience that the Commission has not wrapped up its work.

The popular Sentamu, a native of Uganda, had been the favorite since Williams announced his retirement last year, but questions about his age (63) and health became considerations in the Commission's deliberations.  Bishop James was a strong contender, but his stock dropped just before the Commission meeting when he told reporters that the job should go to a younger man and that he was praying he'd not be nominated.  James is 61, and appears to be getting his wishes.

If the decision for Welby withstands the horse-trading over the runner-up, it will be a victory for conservatives and "centrist" evangelicals in the Church of England, eager for a new leader who will be more decisive on matters of morality and theology, and less accommodating of liberals. 

Welby's history suggests they may get the decisive part, but he has not shown himself to be particularly aggressive in forcing his views on those with whom he has theological disagreements.

As the Commission began its meeting last week, bookies in London were giving Welby 6:4 odds of becoming the new ABC, as frontrunners Sentamu and Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, appeared to be stumbling. 

[Chartres told friends in London yesterday that he is completely out of the running.  Readers of this blog may remember that Chartres visited the Diocese of South Carolina earlier this year at the invitation of Bishop Lawrence and spoke at the University of the South.


Before his ordination in 1992,
Welby was an oil company executive, where he acquired business skills that have helped him in his ministry, including turning around the troubled finances of Liverpool Cathedral.  He is often consulted by political leaders on questions of regulatory policy and business ethics, subjects on which he has written extensively.

Welby chose to leave business and seek the priesthood when his seven-month-old daughter was killed in an automobile accident in France.  At that time, he had also become disillusioned with the oil industry and the work he was doing for it in Nigeria.  He is the father of five children.

Cynical British commentators suggest that Welby's greatest asset is that he has only been a bishop less than a year, not long enough to make many enemies or leave fingerprints on controversial issues. 

In the last few weeks, Welby became the consensus choice of conservatives and evangelicals in the Church of England, who have been critical of Williams.
  Like Sentamu, he opposes the blessing of same-gender relationships and believes that gender should not be a barrier to the appointment of women as bishops

Welby attended Eton, an elite boarding school with an extraordinary network of lustrous alumni that includes Prime Minister Cameron and 14 of his predecessors. 

In describing his concerns about the modern church Welby said recently, "Each of us and all of us together need to care more about personal and general morality.  Our culture has for years been saying 'You do what's right for you, and we'll all get on fine' - but we don't."

Welby has two odd connections to Americans.  As a young man, his father was a bootlegger in New York, whose company survived Prohibition by making Communion wine.  Welby recently learned that his father introduced John F. Kennedy to his first mistress just weeks before he married Jackie.

[This story was developed from numerous credible news sources, commentaries, and blogs in the United Kingdom.]

September 29, 2012
Commission Deadlocks on Nominations for New Archbishop of Canterbury

Leading contenders appear to be out as the new Archbishop of  Durham may be emerging as a compromise

CANTERBURY, ENGLAND -- The process by which the new Archbishop of Canterbury is to be selected appears to have collapsed.  A special 16-member commission tasked with naming a successor to Archbishop Rowan Williams has reportedly deadlocked after three days of closed-door meetings at a secret location last week.

The source of the breakdown appears to be the front-running candidacy of the Bishop of York, a native of Uganda
whose strongly held conservative views on issues like homosexuality and divorce would be deeply polarizing in the Church of England and possibly accelerate the disintegration of the worldwide Anglican Communion.  While he opposes the blessing of same gender unions, he does support civil unions and the consecration of female bishops.   Issues of age and health also appear to be affecting his chances.  click here for full story

September 22, 2012
"Imprudent" to Disclose Secret Plan Now, says Bishop Lawrence

The following statement was issued in Bishop Lawrence's name by the Diocesan House at 8:52 a.m. this morning:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we announced last month on August 20th that the Standing Committee and I were in agreement on a course of action regarding the future of the Diocese of South Carolina and the challenges many of us face because of decisions by the recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church. However, for many reasons it was then and is now, imprudent to reveal that course of action. Things are progressing—we have not stopped or dropped the ball. Please know that I understand the level of anxiety and concern of many in the diocese. Nevertheless I must ask you all for your continued patience and prayers as we seek to deal wisely and carefully with a fluid situation that requires great discernment and sensitivity on a regular basis. I will communicate to you the details at the very earliest moment such a communication is prudent.  Yours in Christ,  +Mark J. Lawrence, South Carolina"

September 12, 2012
Cathedral Dean Explains Recent Actions

By The Very Rev. Peet Dickinson, Dean
Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, Charleston SC

The Cathedral remains in full communion with The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina (This is the incorporated name of The Diocese of South Carolina per the 1987 Diocesan Convention), which is in full communion with The Episcopal Church, and all other members of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

As to the report about the publicizing of the meeting, every member of the Congregation was informed within the timeline required by Cathedral By-laws; in addition, the proposed changes were read to the congregation in the January 2012 Annual Meeting, offering parishioners over seven months to provide feedback.

It should be noted that the date and time of the meeting was set to ensure the most participation: It was after summer vacation ended, at a time that would not require families with young children to hire a babysitter, and would not require older parishioners to drive at night.

There has recently been a false report on the Internet that The Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul has voted to sever ties with The Episcopal Church.

This is not correct.

Amendments to the language of the Cathedral By-laws, which had been proposed at the annual meeting of the parish in January, were approved after the second reading of the amendments by a 2/3 majority of those gathered at a meeting on September 9th.

Those amendments in no way changed the fact that The Cathedral, along with the entire Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, remains in communion with The Episcopal Church and all other members of the Worldwide Anglican Communion.

September 9, 2012
Cathedral Votes 55-10 to Sever Ties with the Episcopal Church

Congregation amends corporate documents, replacing references to the Episcopal Church with those of the Diocese alone; 
Loyal Episcopalians in the congregation may ask for recent financial gifts to be returned

CHARLESTON - Communicants at the Cathedral of St. Luke & St. Paul voted 55-10 today to sever ties with the Episcopal Church, and realign themselves solely with Bishop Mark Lawrence and something called “the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina” (PECDSC). 

Loyal Episcopalians in the congregation were privately crying foul as there was little effort made by parish leaders to publicize the special parish meeting, which was sandwiched in among regular Sunday morning activities. The Cathedral claims to have 279 communicants, but less than one-quarter of them participated in the vote

Over the past few weeks, the Cathedral's leadership has been intentionally vague about what it has been up to, even with its own members. 
The Cathedral's website barely made mention of the special parish meeting, or even the important matter to be considered. (This same website includes almost no references to the Episcopal Church, including a laughable attempt to rewrite the Cathedral's centuries' old history without using the word "Episcopal".)

The youthful Dean of the Cathedral has been particularly missing in action.  Two weeks ago he provided SC Episcopalians with a cryptic response to an inquiry about his intentions and those of the Cathedral about leaving the Church:

“Right now, I, along with our congregation, am in prayer for our beloved Bishop as he listens to the Lord and discerns His will for the Diocese of South Carolina.  Bishop Lawrence has not revealed the plan he feels the Lord has given, so we wait patiently.  I would ask you to join me in praying for our Bishop.”

Loyal Episcopalians in the congregation told SC Episcopalians this afternoon they feel they have been purposely misled about the intentions of parish leaders to leave the Church in recent years.  They are considering demanding that their recent financial gifts to capital campaigns, including those to the construction of a bell tower, be returned.

Bishop Lawrence has been quietly re-inventing the Diocese as its own religious organization separate from the Episcopal Church.

In 2010, the Bishop and his supporters convinced the Diocesan Convention to amend its Constitution in ways that are inconsistent with membership in the The Episcopal Church.  Since that time, they have been quietly encouraging parishes to amend their corporate documents to replace references to the Episcopal Church with similar references to the PECDSC, like the Cathedral is doing.

Attorneys advising
SC Episcopalians believe over the past two years the Diocese of South Carolina under Bishop Lawrence has in effect re-chartered  itself as a "religious organization" separate from the Episcopal Church.

The PECDSC’s revised corporate documents state clearly that the Diocesan Constitution takes precedence over that of the Episcopal Church, exactly the opposite of what is required of all dioceses.
  Even Bishop Lawrence argues the Diocese is "sovereign" and that he alone has the final word on any conflicts between the governing structures of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese.

In 2011, a spokesman for the Church's Executive Council said that the changes Lawrence and company have made to the Diocese's corporate documents are "null and void."  SC Episcopalians has communicated with nearly a dozen diocesan chancellors and a number of attorneys specializing in Church law who agree with the Executive Council's interpretation.  Most seem to agree that the word "fantasy" best describes Bishop Lawrence's innovative legal theories.

However, Bishop Lawrence claims they are all wrong.  
He has repeatedly assured confused parishes through his representatives that changing their corporate documents is no big deal and eliminating references to the Episcopal Church doesn't mean that they are not in the Episcopal Church.   

The move by the Cathedral Sunday is also important to the Bishop's long-term plans because the Diocesan House is located on its grounds.  Should Lawrence get kicked out of the Episcopal Church or leave on his own, he would still claim he had a right to continue to use the Diocesan Headquarters as his base of operations, and  the elegant home provided to him by the Diocese.

August 30, 2012
Post-Vacation, Bishop Dampens Speculation on "Godly” Vision, Leaving the Episcopal Church
(revised from earlier story)

Standing Committee, Deans sign off on Bishop's still secret plan for going forward, but he tells Diocesan Council "I did not bring back any tablets"

Mixed messages leave even his supporters scratching their heads

Bishop Mark Lawrence returned from his August vacation with a "Godly course of action" for the future of the Diocese, according to senior clergy close the Bishop.  After the General Convention in July, the Bishop said he would be looking for exactly this kind of guidance as he took some time off. 

Apparently, he was not disappointed.  

Shortly after his return, he shared his new vision with the Standing Committee, whose members unanimously and enthusiastically signed on.  The next day it was similarly embraced by the clergy leaders of the deaneries.  

Unfortunately, official records of Standing Committee meetings are secret and the deans were admonished about sharing specific details of the plan with their parishioners

On again, off again. 

After four years, the Diocese has gotten accustomed to the Bishop's cat-and-mouse leadership style.  This time, though, the excessive secrecy, melodramatics, and Moses metaphors generated heightened speculation that he actually might be ready to pull the trigger on his long-standing threats to lead the Diocese out of the Episcopal Church. 

However, in a meeting with the Diocesan Council on Tuesday of this week, the Bishop sought to dial down speculation on what he might be planning.  One participant said he thought the Bishop was even suggesting there was no grand plan. 

“I did not bring back any tablets.  I did not bring back any jewels,” he reportedly said of his return from vacation

The Bishop further stated to Council members that he has no plans to call a special convention or out-of-the-ordinary clergy gathering, as is his habit when planning a big move.  In response to a question, he did suggest that the timing for whatever it is he has in mind could be around the date of the Diocesan Convention in March 2013.

The Bishop stated emphatically that he has no plans to resign

Lack of transparency breeds speculation.

Speculation about the Bishop’s intentions began Tuesday of last week when the following cryptic message appeared on the Diocesan website: 

"The Bishop met today with the Standing Committee, which unanimously approved the course of action he outlined for the Diocese of South Carolina." 
There was no elaboration.

Following that, the Very Reverend Craige Borrett, Rector of Christ-St.Paul’s on Yonges Island and former Chairman of the Standing Committee, reported the following to his congregation:

“As you know the bishop returned from an intense time of prayer, reflection and seeking God's will for himself and this Diocese this week... A fellow Dean and member of the Standing Committee, Fr. John Barr, stated, 'Bishop Mark has faithfully sought God's leading and has been given a vision for the future of this Diocese - a plan to prosper it in the gospel and not for harm.’"
“The Standing Committee has prayed that it would be drawn to a place of alignment with God alongside Mark; and, graciously so, we are in unanimous agreement.  Because of the need for both prudence and charity, I cannot share more specifics at this point, but you will all know more within the next few weeks.”

No question the Diocese has taken steps to separate from the Episcopal Church.  The question is not if, but when and how.

Since 2010 the Diocese has been gradually taking legal steps to separate itself from the Episcopal Church. 

It has amended its Constitution and corporate documents in ways that make them inconsistent with membership in the Episcopal Church.  Essentially the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina" appears to have become its own "religious corporation" without any apparent ties to the Episcopal Church.

Lawrence himself has repeatedly asserted his belief that the Diocese is “sovereign” and no longer under the authority of the Episcopal Church except when it wants to be.  In particular, he rejects the authority that the Church’s Disciplinary Board has to hold him accountable for failure to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.

The key challenge for him has been in the arena of property and Diocesan assets.

Last year Bishop Lawrence issued quitclaim deeds to every parish in the Diocese relinquishing any legal interest the Diocese might hold in their properties and, through his staff, urged parishes to amend their parish charters to eliminate accession to the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons and align with the PECDSC.  In the past three years, the Diocese has spent nearly $500,000 for legal services, mostly dealing with property matters.  

Sources among clergy report that the Diocese is making extensive efforts to convince wavering parishes to transfer their property insurance away from that offered by the Episcopal Church, and assure clergy that an independent diocese would be able to provide retirement benefits as comprehensive as those offered by the Church Pension Fund.  They also believe that the Diocese is attempting to provide smaller, less financially stable congregations subsidies from current Diocesan assets to help them transition to whatever the rebels become after trying to leave the Church.

SC Episcopalians has also been told that the Diocese has been attempting to transfer its liquid assets to financial institutions that have provided written assurances that they will not deny Diocesan leaders access to these assets when they leave the Church.  In one breakaway diocese, banks froze the assets of the Diocese when it tried to secede.
“At this point, it’s just about winning to them,” reported a source close to the Bishop’s inner circle.

Leaving the Episcopal Church would also mean leaving the Anglican Communion, since an American parish can only be a part of the Communion if it belongs to the Episcopal Church.  Lawrence and his supporters have romanticized the Communion in their rhetoric as a kind of theological panacea free of troublesome female bishops, gays and false teachings. 

The rebels very likely would try to affiliate with an Anglican Province in Africa or Latin America, even though that model has proven disastrous for breakaway groups in the past, and the Archbishop of Canterbury is opposed to such efforts across provincial lines.

August 21, 2012
Website says Bishop Proposes, Standing Committee Rubberstamps New Plan of Action; No Details 

This cryptic message is on the Diocesan website: "The Bishop met today with the Standing Committee, which unanimously approved the course of action he outlined for the Diocese of South Carolina."

August 21, 2012
Diocese Adrift as Bishop's Options Narrow

With the conclusion of the 2012 General Convention in July, the Diocese of South Carolina has begun a muddled assessment of its future in a Church committed to the inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgendered Christians as full participants in its corporate life.

Insisting the embrace of such people is contrary to what God wants, Bishop Mark Lawrence has established himself as a highly visible field commander in what he characterizes as “war” with the Episcopal Church.  Lawrence believes that sexual relations with persons of the opposite sex bring people closer to God, while sexual relations with persons of the same gender leads them astray.

Speculation has been rampant about what, if anything, the Diocese might do in response to the actions of the Convention, which voted to allow individual bishops to authorize same-gender "blessings" in their dioceses.  

Many options are being explored, but none are without risk.  However, there is one very safe option for the Diocese that has not yet been put forward:  Accept reality, declare the war over, and bone up on the Great Commission Jesus gave to His Church.
Read the full story...

July 28, 2012
House of Bishops Unanimously Affirms Authority of the National Church

Protest by Buchanan and Ohl leads to collapse of legal attack to the hierarchical nature of the Episcopal Church, and sends a not-so-subtle message of intolerance for bishops who act contrary to their episcopal vows

INDIANAPOLIS -- In case you missed it, the blessing of same-gender unions was not the big story of the General Convention for the Diocese of South Carolina. 

Yes, the Diocese and its dwindling corps of allies generated predictable
theater around their opposition to the issue.  There was generous coverage online and in the local media that managed to charge up the faithful.  There was the usual rhetoric to confuse the “blessing” of same-gender unions with the “sacrament” of marriage, and the same melodrama around an announcement by our Bishop that he would not authorize such blessings in our diocese. 

This is not to dismiss the belief of many that these blessings are beyond that which is allowable within the Christian family.   The Bishop is well within his authority to affect such a policy, which most surely is reflective of a majority of communicants in the Diocese.  

However, this is all a fig leaf disguising a much larger debate. 

That issue is one of authority, discipline, and order within the governing structure of the Episcopal Church and whether a diocesan bishop has the sole authority to give away resources, financial assets, and property of the Episcopal Church within his or her diocese. 

It's part of an effort by increasingly isolated dissident groups in the Episcopal Church (as well as of other churches similarly structured) to undermine the authority of its democratically-elected leaders, whom they view as un-Christian and too liberal. 

However, a
fter a string of stinging losses in the nation's courts, they now face a Church far less patient and far more united around its leadership structure than ever before. 
Read the full story ...

July 24, 2012
Sierra Club Boycotts Camp St. Christopher over Diocese's Hostility toward Gays and Lesbians

The leaders of the national and state chapters of the Sierra Club have informed Bishop Lawrence that the iconic environmental group would no longer patronize the Diocese camp and conference center because its views on human sexuality “do not reflect the values of our organization.”

Apparently, a number of their members have been offended by the Diocese’s hostility toward homosexuals and refused to participate in any future events at the camp and conference center. 

In a letter dated July 3rd, National President Alison Chin and SC State Chapter Chair Susan Corbett said the organization would be “thrilled” to return to the Diocese's Seabrook Island campus when it adopted “a more tolerant and compassionate position’ toward gays and lesbians.  The group was particularly offended by the hostile tone of the Standing Committee’s denunciation of the blessing of same-gender unions in mid-June.

In recent years Camp St. Christopher has struggled to find its footing financially.  However, its leadership has been following the course of similar institutions in other dioceses by trying to recruit more secular organizations both inside and outside of South Carolina to utilize its beachfront facilities. 

The facility still attracts many young people from around the diocese to its summer camp and other youth programs, but complaints about the narrow and aggressive nature of the religious teaching they receive has turned off parents and their children from more traditional Episcopal traditions.

June 30, 2012
National Church Formally Investigating Complaints against Edward Salmon, Eight Other Bishops

SC Bishop Lawrence is not among those who could get the boot

The Episcopal Church has initiated disciplinary proceedings against four current and five retired bishops for their open support of legal actions of breakaway groups in Illinois and Texas.  The groups are laying claim to parish and diocesan assets in the Diocese of Texas and the Diocese of Quincy, and are currently appealing unfavorable lower court decisions. 

Among the retired bishops against whom complaints have been filed is Edward L. Salmon, former Bishop of South Carolina, who now serves as the Dean at Nashotah House seminary.
Others under investigation are Bruce MacPherson, retiring bishop of Western Louisiana; Maurice Benitez, former Bishop of Texas; John Howe, former Bishop of Central Florida; Paul E. Lambert, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Dallas;  Peter Beckwith, retired bishop of Springfield; William Love, Bishop of Albany;  Dan Martins, Bishop of Springfield; and James Stanton, Bishop of Dallas.

Each bishop received an email from the Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews, in his capacity as the Episcopal Church's intake officer for allegations regarding bishops of the church, stating that complaints had been leveled against them and that he had determined that the nature of the complaints were serious enough to warrant further investigation.  It is not known who filed the complaints.

The breakaway groups involved essentially deny the hierarchical nature of the Episcopal Church, and insist that diocesan bishops are the highest authority in a diocese.  Consequently, they argue, National Church has no legal claim on diocesan resources or property interests.

The nine bishops have signed onto legal briefs supporting the position of the breakaway groups against the Episcopal Church.

When a person is consecrated a bishop he or she takes an oath of loyalty to conform to the “doctrine, discipline, doctrine, and worship of the Episcopal Church,” which includes allegiance to governing structures of the Church and a commitment to protect Church property.

The complaints oddly make no mention of South Carolina’s current bishop, Mark J. Lawrence, who has proclaimed the diocese “sovereign” and essentially signed away any property interest the Church may have in its parish properties.  Lawrence also successfully lobbied the 2010 and 2011 Diocesan Conventions to amend the Diocesan Constitution to eliminate “accession” to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, a key requirement for membership in the Episcopal Church.

June 15, 2012
Standing Committee Rejects in Advance General Convention's Approval of Trial Liturgy for Same Gender Couples

In a move that is hardly surprising, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina voted this week to reject in advance anything the upcoming General Convention might do to allow the use of a trial liturgy for the blessings of same-gender unions when it meets in Indianapolis in early July.

A resolution, approved by the Committee on June 15th, reflects the Diocese’s view that homosexuality is something to be “struggled with" and contrary to God’s Will. 
The Diocese continues to proclaim a heterosexuals-only vision of the Kingdom of God, and is accepting of only those gays and lesbians who are trying to convert themselves into heterosexuals. Read the entire resolutionn 

Even if the Convention approves the trial liturgy, it will have no effect on the Diocese of South Carolina.  After years of angry rhetoric and open hostility, very few gay people remain active in the Diocese of South Carolina.  A significant number of their families and children have left as well.  Details of the Standing Committee's discussion are not available to SC Episcopalians as minutes of its meetings are secret

June 9, 2012
Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) Names Controversial SC Rector as Bishop of the Carolinas

Is the election of Steve Wood a challenge to Bishop Lawrence's authority and an "incursion" into South Carolina's "sovereignty"?

RIDGECREST, NC -- The renegade Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) today elected The Rev. Steve Wood of Mount Pleasant as its new Bishop of the Carolinas.  The controversial Mr. Wood is currently “Vicar General” of ACNA’s diocese-in-formation in North and South Carolina, and rector of St. Andrew’s, Mount Pleasant, a congregation that broke away from the Diocese of South Carolina two years ago.

ACNA considers itself the true Anglican presence in North America and seeks to replace the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada in the Anglican Communion. 

The selection of the Rev. Mr. Wood by ACNA's College of Bishops potentially puts the dissenters at odds with the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence who claims to be the "sovereign" ecclesiastical authority in the Anglican Communion in lower South Carolina.

Contrary to its name, ACNA is not officially recognized as a member of the Anglican Communion.

May 9, 2012
Case of Savannah's Christ Episcopal Church is Settled; Rebellious Breakaway Group, Ugandans are Out... Finally

California Court also gives the boot to Los Angeles breakaway groups

Bad news mounts for SC parishes who have changed their corporate charters

SAVANNAH - A six year battle by Church dissidents to wrestle ownership of the "Mother Church" of the Diocese of Georgia from the Episcopal Church has ended.  The breakaway groups have given up their claim to the parishes property after a prolonged and expensive legal battle in which rulings of state courts and the state's Supreme Court had nearly unanimously told the rebels:   "Thou shalt not steal."  

The case had been headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where an almost certain rejection of the arguments of the breakaway group would have sealed the fates of other secessionists parishes across the country.

Read more ...

[On Wednesday, a California state court rejected the claims of two breakaway congregations that tried to make off with their church buildings.  That legal battle lasted eight years.]

May 4, 2012
One More State Rules Dissident Congregations Can't Steal Property from The Episcopal Church
Read about the Tennessee ruling.

April 23, 2012
Bishop Lawrence in London to Consult with Enemies of the Episcopal Church & the Anglican Church of Canada

Disgruntled Anglicans, opponents of gays and female priests gather at GAFCON conference

LONDON -- The Diocese of South Carolina confirmed today that Bishop Mark Lawrence is off to London to an invitation-only gathering of disaffected Anglicans, renegade bishops, and ultra-conservative clergy, known as GAFCON.  Lawrence is a hero to many in this crowd who seek to undermine the work of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province in Canada, limit membership in the Anglican Communion to heterosexuals, and restrict the ranks of clergy to men.

GAFCON founders see themselves as a Biblically correct incarnation of the Anglican Communion, and in common cause against the more theologically diverse direction of western Anglicans.  Bishop Lawrence has been enamored with GAFCON since it first came together a few years ago, and its leaders, mostly Asian and African, have warmly embraced him. 

Lawrence has been outspoken in his opposition to gay people in the Church for years, but only recently have his doubts on women's ordination become more apparent. 

At the 2012 Diocesan Convention, he said he considered women's ordination and the blessing of same-gender relationships to be issues of "justice" rather than sound Biblical teaching.  Almost all influential staff and policy positions in the Diocese of South Carolina are held by men, and no women other than Mrs. Lawrence appear to be part of the Bishop's inner circle.

March 25, 2012
Backed by Uganda, Breakaway Group at Savannah's Christ Episcopal Church wants US Supreme Court to Reverse String of Legal Defeats & Give them Parish's Property

Connecticut breakaway group joins to challenge the right of the Episcopal Church to own its own properties

Case could affect renegade actions of Bishop Lawrence to giveaway Church property through amendment of parish corporate documents and issuance of quitclaim deeds

SAVANNAH -- A breakaway group that claims to be the rightful owner of Christ Episcopal Church in Savannah are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a succession of lower court rulings, including a 6-1 decision by the Georgia Supreme Court, to force the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia to hand over the keys to the so-called "Mother Church of Georgia".

 After attempting to separate from the Episcopal Church nearly five years ago, the malcontents have lost a succession of court battles to legitimize its ownership claims. 

The group has been assisted in a number of ways by the anti-gay leaders of the Anglican Province of Uganda, to which it claims to belong.  The government of Uganda is promoting legislation to allow the execution of gays, but Church leaders have suggested that life-
imprisonment would be a more effective deterent.  Ugandan strongman, President Yoweri Museveni, has reportedly provided funds to the Anglican province to fight homosexuality in the US. 

Georgia's Supreme Court has ruled the $3 million church property in downtown Savannah belongs to the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Georgia.  The dissidents argue that cases like All Saints, Waccamaw entitle them to lay claim to church property.

A spokesman for the Georgia Diocese said "In many ways the members of the church have gone on. Week by week, day by day, as they continue to worship, this isn't what's on their minds."

The dissidents attempted to leave the Church and make off with the parish's  property in 2007 after the Episcopal Church ordained its first gay bishop. 

Read about the related Connecticut case

February 22, 2012
Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court Decision Stuns Those Trying to Leave the Episcopal Church

Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School in Redmon, Michigan may not be on the radar screen of most Episcopalians, but a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of one of its former teachers is destined to be make the little church as famous as, well, All Saints’ on Pawley’s Island.

In a unanimous decision last month, the Court signed off on a wide-ranging decision broadly affirming the authority of “hierarchical” religious denominations, like the Episcopal Church, to manage their own affairs including its clergy, lay employees, and parish property.

The decision was yet one more warning to breakaway groups in these churches, like the Diocese of South Carolina, that they are wasting millions of dollars trying to leave their denominations with their property.

According to Associate Justice Samuel Alito

“A religious body’s control over such “employees” is an essential component of its freedom to speak in its own voice, both to its own members and to the outside world. The connection between church governance and the free dissemination of religious doctrine has deep roots in our legal tradition:

“The right to organize voluntary religious associations to assist in the expression and dissemination of any religious doctrine, and to create tribunals for the decision of controverted questions of faith within the association, and for the ecclesiastical government of all the individual members, congregations, and officers within the general association, is unquestioned. All who unite themselves to such a body do so with an implied consent to this government, and are bound to submit to it. But it would be a vain consent and would lead to the total subversion of such religious bodies, if anyone aggrieved by one of their decisions could appeal to the secular courts and have them reversed.” Watson v. Jones, 13 Wall. 679, 728–729 (1872).

The “ministerial” exception gives concrete protection to the free “expression and dissemination of any religious doctrine.” The Constitution leaves it to the collective conscience of each religious group to determine for itself who is qualified to serve as a teacher or messenger of its faith.

January 11, 2012
Va. Court says the Episcopal Church has a Legal Interest in all Parish Properties

In a warning to breakaway parishes, the Virginia Supreme Court says that the Diocese of Virginia has a "property interest" in parish properties.   The Diocesan Bishop says “Our goal [is] to return faithful Episcopalians to their church homes and Episcopal properties to the mission of the Church"
   Read full story and Court's opinion

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