Tuesday, October 03, 2006

From the Mailbag: On Consents to Bishop-Elect Mark Lawrence

Our blog and Website allow readers to send questions to The Episcopal Majority. Most folks have used that button to request they be added to our mailing list. However, this substantive question caught our attention.

Here was the question:


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sep 30, 2006 4:01 PM
Subject: Episcopal Majority Blog
To: episcopalmajority@gmail.com

Father Mark Lawrence was elected on September 16 to succeed the Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr. as the next bishop of the Network Diocese of South Carolina. He was elected on the first ballot by a majority vote from among three candidates. He will be the first Trinity School for Ministry (TESM) graduate to become a U.S. bishop.

I think TESM is more of a propaganda machine than a school of ministry.

He wrote an article that is posted on St. Paul's web site where he was rector for nine years in the diocese of San Joaquin (www.stpaulsbakersfield.org) called "Remaining Anglican: In Defense of Disassociation."

Here are some excerpts:
>>>


"...when the Standing Committee of our diocese (San Joaquin) and our Bishop ask for alternative primatial oversight it is because all due parliamentary procedure to convince The Episcopal Church that it has erred has proved fruitless. Like an addictive or dysfunctional family, this exclusive pursuit of 'cultural sensitivity' has led to destructive behavior....

"The Episcopal Church, in its obsession to be what it has termed inclusive, has excluded the absolute priority of Holy Scripture and the historic continuity of the catholic faith..."
San Joaquin and South Carolina are both Network dioceses. If it is acceptable for standing committees to withhold consent because a prospective bishop is gay, why would it not be acceptable to withhold consent when a candidate is out to destroy the church? Why would people who are sworn to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church give consent?

Episcopal Majority Steering Committee member Mark Harris penned this response:

While I disagree with many things done by TESM (like requiring that people sign a statement of faith prior to joining the community) it's only propaganda when viewed from our vantage point. TESM folk are just like the rest of us, twits and rascals. And I ought to know; I went to ETS and EDS, and we were viewed as propaganda for Lenin and Lennon, etc.

I saw Bishop-elect Lawrence's article. It's pretty dreadful.

The Rev. Lawrence wrote:
>> "...when the Standing Committee of our diocese (San Joaquin) and
>> our Bishop ask for alternative primatial oversight it is because
>> all due parliamentary procedure to convince The Episcopal Church
>> that it has erred has proved fruitless. Like an addictive or
>> dysfunctional family, this exclusive pursuit of 'cultural
>> sensitivity' has led to destructive behavior....
>>
>> The Episcopal Church, in its obsession to be what it has termed
>> inclusive, has excluded the absolute priority of Holy Scripture
>> and the historic continuity of the catholic faith..."

I think he believes that, and -- to his credit -- he says it openly.

And therein is the problem. Can he with some integrity (yep! integrity) swear to uphold the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of the Episcopal Church?

Standing Committees have a responsibility to ask him straightforwardly: "Given what you think of the Episcopal Church and its governance, can you, with the same honesty that marks your opinions, sign the oath required, that you "solemnly engaged to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church," understanding that the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church constitute part of that Discipline?

Standing committees might further ask, what does he think of the statement by several of the Network bishops who seek Alternative Primatial Oversight because theycannot accept +Katharine Jefferts Schori as Primate? How does he feel about her presiding at his consecration?

You asked, "If it is acceptable for standing committees to withhold consent because a prospective bishop is gay, why would it not be acceptable to withhold consent when a candidate is out to destroy the church?"

First, let me say I do not believe it is acceptable to withhold consent because a prospective bishop is gay. At least a lot of us don't think so.

On the other hand, consent has been withheld for all sorts of reasons over the history of our church. Some bishops appear to have been axed because of their churchmanship (and it was men at the time), some for being too liberal, and a multitude of other reasons. Unfortunately, what is "acceptable" is not something agreed on by a wide body of Episcopalians. Still, I think it would widely be considered acceptable to withhold consent of someone who has so clearly indicated he or she has no intention of conforming, or even engaging to conform, to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church and of operating within the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church which constitute part of that Discipline.

Update 10/25/06: Mark Harris offers further thoughts on the consent to the consecration of the Rev. Lawrence at his blog, Preludium.

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