The Bishop of South Carolina is not leaving the Episcopal Church, but has withdrawn from the 77th General Convention meeting in Indianapolis out of pastoral concern and respect for the members of his diocesan deputation and over his personal disquiet over the church’s authorization of gay blessings.
On 11 July 2012 the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence said, “I am not leaving the Episcopal Church, but need to differentiate myself” from the actions taken this week by the General Convention, he told Anglican Ink.
At the start of the afternoon private session of the House of Bishops, the South Carolina church leader said he “spoke at some length” to his colleagues about “why his deputation left the floor” of General Convention.
On 11 July 2012, the South Carolina’s four clergy and four lay deputies released a statement saying that “due to the actions of General Convention” the deputation had concluded “that we cannot and will not remain on the floor of the House and act as if all is normal.”
At the start of the debate the previous afternoon on Resolution A049 “Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Sex Relationships,” the Very Rev. David Thurlow of South Carolina presented a minority report from the traditionally-minded members of the convention’s liturgy committee who objected to the authorization of gay blessings.
For “2000 years the one holy catholic and apostolic church, the undivided church, has had clear teachings on marriage,” he said – all of which were repudiated by the Episcopal Church..
The resolution was a slap in the face to the church’s ecumenical and Anglican partners, he said, and a repudiation of the Episcopal Church’s pledge not to take action on gay blessings “until the Anglican Communion had reached a consensus” on this issue.
It was also a “clear departure from the doctrine and discipline” of the Episcopal Church and propounded a “new theology of marriage” that was “inconsistent with Scripture, the Book of Common Prayer and the Constitution and Canons” of the church.
“Consider what is at stake,” Dean Thurlow said, asking the convention to reject same-sex blessings. However, the deputies took little heed of the South Carolina deputy’s pleas and adopted the resolution by a 3 to 1 margin.
Private meetings amongst themselves, their bishop and other conservative colleagues prompted the deputation to release a statement after the close of the 11 July morning legislative session. While they were withdrawing as a body from convention, they had deputized one priest and one layman to remain behind to observe the proceedings.
Bishop Lawrence said that he had “expressed the personal feelings” of his deputation to his colleagues in the House of Bishops and would withdraw in solidarity with the deputation from the remainder of the convention.
He told Anglican Ink that he was in the midst of writing a formal statement explaining his actions and had “much that he wanted to say about the way forward” and would release the document “shortly.”