Does apostasy warrant leaving the church?
A week or two back I posted on Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina leading his diocese into a period of stiff resistance to the storm winds blowing from GC 2009, TEC head office at 815, and so forth. Part of the 'so forth' has been the winds blowing from pundits who have already left TEC to become North American Anglicans of one kind or another and who, more or less, accuse Lawrence, and other 'Communion Partner' bishops within TEC of being say much, do nothing, go nowhere, whistle in the wind leaders ... all being forgiven if they would see rhyme and reason and leave TEC.
Now another wind is blowing against the Lawrencian oak. One of his parishes, St Andrew's Church, Mt Pleasant, South Carolina, also as it happens, one of the largest parishes within all of TEC, is engaging in a period of 40 Days of Discernment about whether to stay in TEC or to go. You can read a press release here and it's vicar's letter here. The gist of the discernment quest is that TEC is apostate and this raises the question whether this parish should stay or go.
In theory this would appear to mean that this could happen: the Diocese of South Carolina as a whole remains within TEC (but mostly unhappy with the direction TEC is pursuing via its GC resolutions, and hoping that it can, eventually, achieve some kind of turnaround of TEC), one of its largest parishes leaves the Diocese to (presumably) join ACNA (and followed by others?), thus the Diocese when it needs to be strong in its internal unity is weakened, ACNA is modestly strengthened, and TEC blinks momentarily.
It could get worse: TEC's HQ might attempt to force South Carolina to take legal action against a departing St Andrew's ... though that would be a whistling in the wind!
There are, of course, other scenarios: the discernment leads to St Andrew's remaining in the Diocese; the Diocese follows St Andrew's lead; etc.
The oak is going to need deep roots into the wisdom of God!
This week I have personally encountered an intriguing twist to the question of apostasy and leaving the church: in a conservative context I and other church leaders who do not subscribe to a creationist interpretation of Genesis 1 have been described as 'apostate leaders'. I do not think the person making this description is about to leave our diocese; I do not think I am about to leave (or be ejected out of) our diocese. Ergo, it is possible to remain in fellowship with apostates, and for apostates to remain in fellowship with those who think themselves pristinely orthodox!