Disciplinary Board for Bishops Investigates “Serious Charges” Against Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Diocese of S.C.

Posted: October 5, 2011 by limabean03 in Anglican Communion, Thought and Practice in the Diocese of South Carolina

Yesterday I was reminded by a parishioner that the Disciplinary Board does not make allegations, it investigates allegations.  I have amended the title and some of the language of this post to reflect that.  I apologize for any confusion that might have caused.

On Sept 29th, 2011 Bishop Mark Lawrence received communication from the President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops that “serious charges” have been made under Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church. These are allegations that he has abandoned The Episcopal Church.

The Disciplinary Board for Bishops is investigating twelve charges in all against Bishop Lawrence.  The allegations as well as their supporting evidence can be found in a 63 page document that you can access by clicking here.  In addition to that document, a letter from the attorney for the Disciplinary Board to Bishop Lawrence may be found by clicking here.   You can view Bishop Lawrence’s response here.

To be frank, many of the allegations brought against Bishop Lawrence are improbably absurd.  Here are a few examples:

  • Churches in the Diocese of South Carolina no longer have the word “Episcopal” prominently displayed on their web pages.  Yes, that is actually one of the accusations.  If you go to the Diocese of S.C. web page you’ll notice at the bottom of the page it does say “Episcopal Diocese of S.C.”  Furthermore, if you go to the “About us” section you’ll notice that the Diocese of S.C. clearly identifies itself as an Episcopal Diocese.   So what is the allegation?  That the word “Episcopal” has been “removed substantially” from the Diocesan web page, that is, it is not displayed prominently enough to satisfy the Disciplinary Board.  Does that sound like an offense serious enough to discipline a Bishop of one of the largest Dioceses in the Episcopal Church?
  • One time, at an ACNA conference that Bishop Lawrence did not even attend, his name was used in a powerpoint presentation.  I kid you not, that is actually an accusation.
  • In 2006, while Mark Lawrence was still a parish priest, he drew attention to the rapid decline of the Episcopal Church and recommended institutional reform.  Apparently that is now an offense worthy of disciplinary procedures.  I suppose I might be next, for penning this little piece in 2009.  If you wanted to go after our associate pastor as well, you could always go here.  There’s plenty of material there to hang us both if you’re playing by these rules, which seem to have been lifted straight from Orwell’s “thought police” of 1984.
  • In 2010, Bishop Lawrence said that the membership of the Episcopal Church was on a “downward spiral of radically decreasing membership and increasing irrelevance.”  Though both are statistically true, it is nevertheless an offense worthy of disciplinary procedures to say this publicly.
  • Hundreds of clergy have left the Episcopal Church to join the ACNA.  Bishop Lawrence found one ACNA clergy who, defying the odds wanted to join the Episcopal Church.  Bishop Lawrence permitted this ACNA Deacon to be ordained in the Episcopal Church as an Episcopal Priest.  Apparently this is an offense worthy of discipline.

Mixed in with those allegations that transcend all reason, there are three allegations that make more sense, even though ultimately I would reject them.  These allegations are those which argue that the Diocese of S.C. abandoned communion by changing its constitution and canons.  The easy rejoinder is that these documents were changed not to help the Dio of S.C. leave the Episcopal Church, but to help the Diocese stay in the Episcopal Church.  The fact that this was said repeatedly by many of the involved parties is apparently not worthy of consideration by the Disciplinary Board.

Bishop Lawrence has called a special clergy day on Oct 11th “to understand the possible implications and to engage in corporate prayer for the diocese.”  The clergy at Trinity Church will be there to hear from Bishop Lawrence as well as to show our complete support for him as well as the Standing Committee.

What does this mean for us at Trinity Church?  Mercifully God has provided us with men and women willing to give time and energy towards these matters so that we don’t have to.  To these people we should all be grateful because they enable the local church to focus on what the local church does best, that is, proclaiming the Gospel.  Please pray for these people, specifically the Bishop and the Standing Committee, who have faithfully and with great valor enabled S.C. churches to continue to proclaim the Gospel without inhibition or interference.  Pray that God would defend them from false and unjust accusations.  Pray also that their spirits might be kept high.  I know their deep passion and love for the Gospel and their equally deep disgust for unnecessary legal distractions.  Pray that they might be encouraged by the fact that their engagement in these issues frees churches like Trinity to continue in our Gospel mission, which is the very thing we plan to do.

This Sunday we’ll celebrate the one year anniversary of our church plant in Carolina Forest, which has grown from 22 t0 70.  We’ll continue to mentor young college students that have initiated new ministries at Coastal Carolina University.  We’ll follow up on the seven young adults who filled out contact cards indicating they wanted to hear a one on one Gospel presentation from a member of the clergy.  Later this month we’ll begin our new members class and celebrate the joining of dozens of new members to Trinity Church both in Myrtle Beach and Carolina Forest.

We will not get wrapped up in church politics.  We won’t lose hours of our lives surfing blogs to get the latest in Episcopal gossip.  And we will not worry about the national church or its lawyers.  We had hoped and prayed that this day would not come, but at Trinity we prepared for it and we have prepared for it to the best of our ability.  There is nothing more for us to do on that front.

Our Gospel ministry, which is our priority because it is the Lord’s command, will continue uninterrupted.  May God keep our passion, our energy, our thoughts, our bodies, our talents, and our tithes fully devoted towards God and His glorious Gospel.  May nothing distract us from this great commission!

-Rob Sturdy

Lead Pastor, Trinity Church

  1. Adam says:

    Just wanted to let you know that Elizabeth and I are praying for you guys.
    God bless.

  2. LilaceatheLap says:

    Non ci può essere

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