The Bishop of South Carolina has received the news of his removal from the ordained ministry with sorrow, and a little pity. On 5 Dec 2012 the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church announced that she had accepted the voluntary renunciation of the ministerial orders of the Bishop of South Carolina. However, Bishop Mark J. Lawrence reports the presiding bishop’s actions have no canonical significance.
On the fourth anniversary of her deposing Bishop Jack Iker by the same canonical maneuver, Bishop Jefferts Schori announced she had deposed Bishop Lawrence. The Episcopal News Service reported that pursuant to Title III, Canon 12, Section 7 the Presiding Bishop “has accepted the renunciation of the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church of Mark Lawrence as made in his public address on November 17 and she has released him from his orders in this Church.”
However, the presiding bishop’s claim to have received the renunciation of Bishop Lawrence is at odds with the language of the canon. The canons states:
If any Bishop of this Church shall declare, in writing, to the Presiding Bishop a renunciation of the ordained Ministry of this Church, and a desire to be removed therefrom, it shall be the duty of the Presiding Bishop to record the declaration and request so made.
Canon lawyer Allan Haley notes “Bishop Lawrence (a) did not address any writing to the Presiding Bishop; (b) did not renounce his ordained Ministry; and (c) did not request to be removed from that Ministry. The elaborately crafted press release from the Public Affairs Office is simply a poor attempt to cover over a huge, public lie.”
That “huge, public lie has been told simply for the sake of the Presiding Bishop's and ECUSA's own convenience,” he said.
“Pastoral outreach to Lawrence had been ongoing for a period of several years, including up to the time he announced his intentions,” the Episcopal News Service statement said, adding that “Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori along with members of her staff took steps to work with Lawrence. In addition, repeated attempts by the Bishops of Province IV and notably Bishop Andrew Waldo of Upper South Carolina were made to discuss the situation with Lawrence and to offer help in achieving a resolution.”
Bishop Lawrence’s oral statement to his diocesan convention that: “We have withdrawn from that Church that we along with six other dioceses help to organize centuries ago;” and “We have moved on. With the Standing Committee’s resolution of disassociation the fact is accomplished: legally and canonically;” was evidence of his having conformed to the canons requirement of a written unambigous statement of renunciation of ministry given to the presiding bishop.
Members of the presiding bishop’s council of advice who were said to have endorsed her action did not respond to Anglican Ink’s queries as of our going to press.
The presiding bishop’s actions came as no surprise to Bishop Lawrence. He reported Bishop Jefferts Schori had “called me this afternoon to inform me that she and her council of advice have accepted my renunciation of ordained ministry. I listened quietly, asked a question or two and then told her it was good to hear her voice. I did not feel any need to argue or rebut.”
It was not worth engaging with Bishop Jefferts Schori as her arguments were fantastical and not subject to law or common sense. “It is the Presiding Bishop’s crossing of the T and doting of the I—for their paper work, not my life. I could bring up the canonical problems with what they have done contrary to the canons of The Episcopal Church but to what avail? They will do what they will do regardless of canonical limitations.”
The presiding bishop would go to any lengths to exterminate dissent and would twist words to achieve her purposes. “She and her advisers will say I have said what I have not said in ways that I have not said them even while they cite words from my Bishop’s Address” to the South Carolina special convention, he observed.
“Quite simply I have not renounced my orders as a deacon, priest or bishop any more than I have abandoned the Church of Jesus Christ—But as I am sure you are aware, the Diocese of South Carolina has canonically and legally disassociated from The Episcopal Church. We took this action long before today's attempt at renunciation of orders, therein making it superfluous,” the bishop said.
Bishop Lawrence reported that he was “heartened” by the support he had received by the “vast majority” within the diocese as well as the “majority of Anglicans around the world” who have “expressed in so many ways that they consider me an Anglican Bishop in good standing and consider this Diocese of South Carolina to be part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. “
“So we move on—onward and upward,” Bishop Lawrence said.