Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reason Prevails In TEC's Display of Sanity

Readers here may recall a few weeks back that a series of posts spoke about charges being considered against Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina. My personal opinion was that if these charges proceeded then TEC would be heading down a pathway that made it very difficult to maintain a good relationship with this church, because essentially they would be pursuing an Anglican bishop for being, well, Anglican.

Well, some good news all round, for Bishop Lawrence, for TEC, and for those who believe that TEC really does want to be an Anglican church in an Anglican Communion: the charges have been dropped!

Excellent news. Reason has prevailed as TEC has shown its sanity.


Fr. Bryan Owen said...

This is very good news. In addition to the potentially negative implications for the Episcopal Church's relations with other Anglicans, I can't imagine how any of my fellow Episcopalians - regardless of where they stand on the theological spectrum - could possibly think that proceeding with these charges against Bishop Lawrence would be good for the Episcopal Church.

Mark Harris said...

Peter, it is good news - that the normal, if new, processes of Title IV work, well, normally. It would have been true (but you would not have thought it) had the board decided that there were grounds for moving forward. Had that happened, there would have been several steps more in a process of investigation and then perhaps trial. But the good news is not the verdict of this committee only, but the whole thing - the form of the committee, its task, the process of slow movement to next steps, etc.

The decision proves nothing one way or the other about whether or not TEC wants to continue as part of the Anglican Communion (it does). It says that the charges were insufficiently grounded. That is much more important that interpretive "signals" it may send.

The concerns about Bishop Lawrence remain. They are not about his being Anglican or not. (There have been some terrible Anglicans by the way.) They are about his leading his diocese into a place of serious disregard of the canons. At some point he will be held accountable for that.

I think the committee acted wisely. At some later point they may be asked again to consider charges and find the complaints worth followup. If they are wise now, might they not be wise later?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark,
+Mark Lawrence from a wider Communion perspective (shared by many around the Communion, but not by all) is trying to be an Anglican leader faithful to orthodox Anglican theology and ethics.

In that leadership he is leading a diocese that largely agrees with him and together they are sitting uncomfortably in a changing Episcopal Church. Perhaps so uncomfortable that some parts of the diocese are threatening to leave.

In order to hold his diocese together, as an Anglican bishop should seek to do, he has been party to decision-making which has *allegedly/arguably) run foul of canons of TEC. For this he has been picked on by local grizzlers, aided and abetted by a chorus in the wider church. But he has remained faithful to the Anglican faith in ways many Anglicans think others in TEC have not.

Indeed it is observable to others in the Anglican Communion that in TEC one can break canons which actually support classic, orthodox Anglican theology and practice (baptism before communion) and not be picked on as a canon-breaker; but when +Mark is alleged to break canons (even, it is alleged, some vows) in pursuit of remaining Anglican, he gets picked on. This kind of inconsistent behaviour does means that observers from afar, such as myself, wonder if being Anglican is all that important to TEC!

So, for whatever reasons the charges have not been pressed (ok, good that the process worked well), it helps stop further development of views that TEC is not particularly interested in being Anglican, it conveys an important impression that TEC can accommodate true Anglicans in its midst, and, all in all, I suggest that is good for global Anglicanism all round.

Father Ron Smith said...


Self-proclaimed 'orthodoxy ' in not necessarily true orthodoxy. To my mind, TEC is being very circumspect in not proceeding with the charge of dereliction against Bishop Lawrence.

As is consistent with the Gospel precept of toleration and justice - they have chosen not, at this stage, to persist in challenging Bishop Lawrence's right to dispense his parishes of any need to stay with TEC - in contradiction to his implied promise not the lead them out of TEC.

The initiative belongs to them to do this, legally, but they have chosen not to do so - on grounds which must surely cause Bp.Lawrence to seriously consider his position as a Bishop in TEC., with the connotation of a need for loyalty to the Church in which he serves.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
True orthodoxy is never self-proclaimed. I think you will find +Mark is truly orthodox.

As for the gospel of toleration and justice: just where in the gospel do you find 'toleration'?

Mark Baddeley said...

I agree with you, Peter, this a great decision by the discipline board - they actually made the decision based on the written requirements for abandonment of communion. I think they deserve kudos for it.

I think Mark Harris' words indicate that this is going to be revisited in the future as the people in power are not prepared to allow the Diocese of Lower South Carolina to differentiate itself from TEC's gospel of inclusion long-term. They just have to work out how to get their ducks in a row to do that first without it leading them into further lawlessness.

But for now, sanity has indeed prevailed, and congratulations to TEC for that.

And, I think, a second congratulations to ACI and its allies for the work they did on publicizing the problems with the Title IV canons. One can sense in Mark Harris' words the need to have a decision that can show that the application of those canons doesn't have to be unjust and arbitrary. We don't know how much that concern fed into this decision, but it's not inconceivable it was a factor. So good work ACI as well.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, in my note, above, a better word than 'toleration' might prove to be 'moderation', as in: "Let your moderation be known unto all (men)".

I still think that Bp.Mark has not acted in the best interests of TEC, his canonically parent Church. However, his future conduct in areas of compatibility with his avowed 'obedience' to TEC will be important - not only for the Bishop's tenure in TEC, but for the future of the whole Church.

Have fruitful ADVENT, with your participation in the reconciling ministry of Christ.

Anonymous said...

I think TEC has made the right decision. But issues remain for faithful US Anglican Christians concerning whether or not they can continue under an apostate leadership.

There has been an interesting development in the American Lutheran Church. Until now Lutherans in the US were faced with a difficult choice. The main Lutheran body, ELCA, has been drifting into liberalism and pro-homosexual apostasy for several decades. This was made possible by insisting on affirmative action quotas on local church boards, meaning every church had to effectively include people from outside their local church, people who were theologically liberal. This gave immense voting power to the liberal wing, despite being a minority in the larger church.

But the only other choices for faithfull Lutherans were two ultra-conservative denominations that did not allow for charismatic worship or women in ordained ministry.

That has now changed. A new centrist body has been created, the North American Lutheran Church, and is growing fast, with significant numbers of ELCA churches switching sides.

This could be a model and an inspiration for evangelical Anglicans in America who want to stay in the wider communion, but live inder godly leadership.

TEC is a lost cause.

Father Ron Smith said...

Shawn, your talk of 'pro-homosexual apostacy' has all the marks of 'ad hominem'. On many other (Anglican) web-sites you would be banned.

If you eventually enter the Anglican Church as a priest (should a bishop ever accept you), I suspect you may have to watch your language.

Anonymous said...


"Shawn, your talk of 'pro-homosexual apostacy' has all the marks of 'ad hominem'."

No, just stating my opinion based on Scripture.

Most of your posts contain Ad Hominem about faithful Anglicans.

Again, you need to look at your own self-righteousness on the homosexual issue and your tendency to engage in personal attacks rather than theological debate before critiquing others.

"On many other (Anglican) web-sites you would be banned."

Of course. Liberals love to censor and silence opinions they think are politically incorrect. Which says more about them than about me.

"If you eventually enter the Anglican Church as a priest (should a bishop ever accept you), I suspect you may have to watch your language."

I'm not training for ordination. But that said Jesus says we should not lie. I will never change nor bend my language or my views to suit the demands of Stalinist liberals who despise genuine freedom of thought and speech.

Peter Carrell said...

Hmm, Shawn: "Stalinist liberals"? Have some conservatives been taken out lately and shot in the back of the head with a pistol? Or just shipped to a Siberian work camp?

Anonymous said...

Not yet Peter. Not yet....

Give them time and enough power....

Christians in Europe have been harrased, fined, prosecuted, and threatened with prison for standing firm on Biblical marriage. A Lutheran minister in Sweden was given a three month prison sentence for expressing, in a sermon, that homosexuality was wrong.

So I do not use the term lightly or as Ad Hominen. I believe, on the evidence and my own experiance, that progressive-liberalism, and in particular the "gay rights" movement, both secular and within the Church, are totalitarian in practice and deeply intolerant of dissent.

Peter Carrell said...

I'll steer clear of men with thick moustaches who are unwilling to say the creeds with me :)

Father Ron Smith said...

Shawn. I will not be jousting with you any further on this blog. I do believe that you will have to study a lot more theology before I can accept your off the cuff statements about gender and sexuality in both the Bible and the Church. We appear to be engaged in circular arguments - a pastime I cannot afford.

No hard feelings. Blessings, Fr Ron

Anonymous said...


"I'll steer clear of men with thick moustaches who are unwilling to say the creeds with me :)"

A wise move! :)


I generally enjoy jousting with you, not for malicious reasons, but because it forces me to think through issues and sharpen my arguments.

My remarks are not off the cuff. I have been studying theology unofficially since 1984 and as an Otago student for two years.

The problem with internet debates is that they are not face to face, and so the normal care and respect we may have in a face to face debate sometimes gets lost in the heat of battle.

My apologies if I have said anything to offend you, and I have no hard feelings.

Blessing to you over the Christmas season.