South Carolinians have ‘grievous concern,’ but have not left church

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Jul 12, 2012

[Episcopal News Service –Indianapolis] When most of the Diocese of South Carolina’s deputies left General Convention July 11 along with Bishop Mark Lawrence, their departure was meant to “differentiate” themselves from resolutions convention had passed the day before.

Lawrence said in a statement posted on the diocese’s website July 12 that the departure of the deputies should not be understood as a departure from the Episcopal Church.

“Frankly, a deputation to General Convention has no authority to make such a decision,” he said.

In his statement, Lawrence described what he said during a July 11 private session of the House of Bishops. He said that he was grateful for the “intentional engagement in honesty and collegiality with fellow bishops.”

Lawrence expressed his “grievous concern” with changes to the church’s canons through A049, which allows for optional and provisional use of a rite to bless same-gender relationships, and D019 and D002, which affirm the full inclusion of transgender persons in the life of the church (including the ordination process).

“These resolutions in my opinion,” Lawrence said he told the bishops, “are disconcerting changes to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church – to which every bishop, priest and deacon is asked to conform. More importantly they mark a departure from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them, therein making it necessary for me to strongly differentiate myself from such actions.”

Lawrence said he left the House of Bishops after private conversation and would not be continuing in the remainder of the convention.

“I concur with the assessment of our canon theologian, the Rev. Kendall Harmon, when he described the actions of this General Convention as ‘unbiblical, unchristian, unAnglican and unseemly,’” said Lawrence.

He said in the diocesan statement that he knows “some did not think we should attend the 77th General Convention, but I believe our presence and witness was important and even respected by many on both sides of the theological divide. As St. Paul states regarding his ministry, ‘…we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.’”
Lawrence said he would be sending a statement to diocesan clergy, which is to be read in parishes on July 15.

The deputies that left were the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis, the Very Rev. David Thurlow, Elizabeth “Boo” Pennewill, Lydia Evans and Reid Boylston, while the Very Rev. John B. Burwell and Deputy Lonnie Hamilton stayed in Indianapolis.

Burwell spoke to ENS July 11 about the deputies’ decision. That story is here.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (31)

  1. Richard Rhoads says:

    I guess everyone has the right to give up their place at the table. Some people leave the dinner table early.

    1. John Snedeker says:

      It’s better than getting food poisoning

  2. David Yarbrough says:

    The Episcopal Church is sliding at an increasingly rapid rate down the slippery slope toward apostasy. Mark Lawrence and DSC are the voice in the wilderness crying for repentance. Unfortunately, those who listen are increasingly without influence in TEC – which is why such organizations as ACNA are growing rapidly.

    May God’s blessing continue to rest on Mark Lawrence and DSC, and may hearts be turned within TEC.

    1. Marlene Talbott-Green PhD says:

      Of all the things to have “grevious concern” over in this world. . . .

  3. Bob Van Keuren says:

    Or causing it in others.

  4. John D. Andrews says:

    The South Carolina delegation, including Bishop Lawrence, should study church history (tradition). The church in its early years not only married same-sex couples, but had liturgies in order to do so. For a group that stands so firmly on tradition, they apparently don’t know the traditions of the church, or would rather ignore those traditions that do not conform to their modern biases. As for the Bible, no where in the Bible is same-sex marriage, or homosexuality, demonized. Of course, one would have to actually apply biblical criticism to the Bible to know what the Bible does say about those issues.

    1. John Snedeker says:

      What about Romans 1: 24 -27 don’t you understand? Your assertion on the early history of the church is ABSURD.

      1. R. Davis says:

        I totally agree the importance of understanding scripture. Before labeling anything as absurd, do you not think it is wise to research and discern the facts first?

    2. Michael Hubbard says:

      I don’t recall reading anything in regard to same-sex marriagein the early Church Fathers or any ecclesiatical history. Exactly where does this information come from? What century? What area of the world? And why is it that our Roman Catholic and Orthodox brethren don’t seem to be privy to this knowledge?

  5. Denise L. Unger says:

    I hope that all of the South Carolina delegates were present for Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s closing sermon. I was born and raised in a small northern California conservative parish (Emmaunel Episcopal, Grass Valley,CA) My parents were from the depression era and very strict…I am not one “of those Californians,” in fact, I now live in Alabama.

    Ladies and Gentlemen from South Carolina it is all about love. Period! I pray for you that no child or grand child or nephew or niece of yours ever has an issue of sexuality. You don’t wake up one morning and think “I think I am going to be heterosexual.” or ” Hmmmm maybe I’ll be homosexual”. It is simply not as simple minded as many of you would like it to be. But love is. Please keep going to church. Please keep praying. Please keep seeking the answers they are hard.

  6. John D. Andrews says:

    John Snedeker, here is a link to an article that proves my assertion is not “absurd.”

    As for scripture, if you are only reading it, you aren’t doing enough to ascertain its meaning. Simply reading is great for spiritual comfort, but not nearly enough to proclaim doctrinal meaning.

    1. John Snedeker says:

      Really? THIS is your “proof”? My man, you should be more bold in your assertions. As an example I would refer you to Gen 3: 1-5 or Luke 4: 1-13. … that’s it for my visit to the fever swamps of KJS’s TEC.

  7. Todd Granger says:

    John D. Andrews, are you not aware that John Boswell’s claims, condemned in my hearing as “tendentious” by a same-sex blessing supporting priest of the Church twenty years ago, have been largely debunked and dismissed by most liturgical and cultural (Byzantine) historians who took the time to pay attention to his work?

  8. Todd Granger says:

    Denise L. Unger, the suggestion you make in your comment – that opposition to the blessing of homosexual relationships is motivated by a cold uncharitableness that would reject a child of homosexual orientation, and that this moral defect must be prayed out of the offender – is frankly offensive, and as much without substantiating evidence as an unthinking conservative claim that support for blessing homosexual relationships is motivated by nothing other than a desire to baptize concupiscence and to kowtow to the culture. Love is manifested by an acceptance of the person, not by an uncritical validation of everything about the person.

    As for “hard” answers – whose witness was hardest to bear in the midst of General Convention: South Carolina and the few deputies who stood during the reading of the conservative bishops’ statement in the HoD, or those deputies in the super-majority who voted for the same-sex blessing resolution and the large majority who voted for the transgender resolutions? Why do you for a moment think that those of us who continue to hold up traditional biblical and catholic teaching on human sexuality haven’t done any hard work in arriving at that position? Why do you think that position is so easy to maintain? It isn’t, if for no other reason than the fact that thinking hard about sexuality and sexual sin has the effect of turning a bright light on the dark corners of my own soul, to my own significant discomfort (which, Deo gratias, puts me on my knees). In the introduction to his book, _The Bible and Homosexual Practice_, Professor Robert Gagnon lists a number of risks taken by those who publicly espouse a critical position against blessing homosexual relationships: being labeled homophobic; being labeled intolerant; being labeled exclusive and resistant to diversity; being labeled uncritical (or, as you put it, “simple-minded”); being charged with promoting violence against homosexual persons. A public position of critique is not pleasant for most of us, leaving us vulnerable to the host of stereotypes listed (which you have yourself indulged) and positioning us squarely against cultural norms prevailing in most of the media and the academy – and The Episcopal Church. The public position of critique also carries with it regrets, not least that, in Gagnon’s words, “a rigorous critique of same-sex intercourse can have the unintended effect of brings personal pain to homosexuals”. Theological conservatives – myself included – deplore attempts to demean the humanity of homosexuals persons, though in a culture in which acceptance of one’s humanity means an uncritical validation of everything about the person – or at least, everything about the person considered important and admirable by the culture – simply opposing the blessing of homosexual unions is apt to be understood as precisely that.

    The reason that theological conservatives leave the table (whether by walking out of General Convention or by walking out of The Episcopal Church, as hundreds of thousands have done in the last decade) is that we are tired of being asked to stay at the table and engage in conversation – or as you more piously put it, to keep going to Church and to keep praying – when the “conversation” seems to be an entirely one-way exchange.

    1. Peter Hebert says:

      I want to thank you for giving me every reason to not believe in your version of God. Unfortunately for you, between the 1st century and today science has discovered more about human sexuality. When religion and science collide, reason has usually dictated that religion reevaluate its stance. The earth is not the center of the universe, gen. is not about a 7 day creation, slavery is wrong, it is really ok to wear clothing made from blended material, and we can eat pork safely. We know that one’e orientation is not something someone chooses. And if it is an innate part of a person, one can only assume that God has created us in that way. Christ taught us that God is a loving father, not a tyrannical monster who creates people in such a way that they should suffer.

  9. Jeremy Bates says:

    And so, Mr. Granger, your sophisticated, unbigoted reason for opposing same-sex blessings would be . . . ?

  10. Todd Granger says:

    Mr Bates, these arguments – as you undoubtedly already know – are readily available in print and electronic form, from such sophisticated and unbigoted writers on theology and ethics as Robert Gagnon, Ephraim Radner, Philip Turner, Christopher Seitz, Oliver O’Donovan, and Wolfhart Pannenberg. Weblog comments sections are rarely, if ever, a setting for profitable discussions of a complex and emotionally-charged topic.

    Of course, if you are predisposed to dismiss any arguments against same-sex blessings as unsophisticated and bigoted ipso facto, then there really isn’t any conversation to be had, is there? Thus the departure of theological conservatives from the conversation, precisely because there isn’t one.

    1. Jeremy Bates says:

      Mr. Granger — No, I’m sorry, but your fame as a theologian has escaped me.
      You assert that your position is sophisticated and unbigoted. But you won’t try to explain it?
      At the same time you complain that the conversation is a one-way exchange?
      Most persuasive.

  11. Angela Harness says:

    If one believes that the Bible is the word of the Lord, then one must also conclude that to bless a same sex union is an affront to God himself.

    While it is right to ask God to bless an individual; it is wrong to ask God to bless what he has clearly called a sin.

  12. Lewis Martin says:

    John D. Andrews—as has been stated by Todd Granger—most of Boswell’s work has been proven incorrect in regards to same sax unions.

  13. Donald Jack Newsom says:

    John D. Andrews I would suggest you pay heed to what I have written in the following paragraph to John Snedeker about taking scripture out of context if you are truly interested in ascertaining its meaning.

    John Snedeker I would suggest that you review Romans 1:18 – 32 in order to place Romans 1: 24 -27 in proper context. Additionally Gen 3: 1-5 is also pulled out of the context of Gen 2:7 to Gen 3:24. A similar problem exists with Luke 4: 1-13. In context must be added Luke 3:21- 22 and Luke 4:14 – 30. If you and Todd Granger want to point to something that speaks at least to what two men might consider doing after obtaining a same sex blessing and not be out of context or have to resort to writers in theology and ethics or weblog comments then consider Lev. 18:22.

    In his book 20 Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid To Touch evangelist and ordained Baptist minister Tony Campolo, while aware of the Levitical prohibition sited above, back in the late 1980’s wrote that we should be able to do something more for our Christian homosexual brethren than just simply bid them to be celibate. His proposed solution was a covenantal relationship in which the life partners would provide mutual support to each other in abstaining from sexual activity. He didn’t mention separate sleeping arrangements. That, if I were to agree to a covenantal relationship with a life partner, I would have to insist on. Campolo also mentioned groups of homosexual Christians living in community also with the goal of supporting abstention in sexual activity. In that case, its either Factory Bunk Beds dot com for twin/twin bunk beds or Iron Mikes’ Military Exchange for military and or institutional bunk beds.

    It is because of this “cherry picking” of the scripture and that there is so much heat in the current rhetoric over human sexuality that, as I have written before and will write yet again, it is entirely possible that none of the parties currently involved in this dispute will live to see its resolution. It is also possible that prayers for a resolution will not be answered until time ceases to have meaning and we are gathered unto God as He answers prayer on His schedule, not ours.

    Finally, in mentioning Campolo and God’s schedule, Campolo also wrote in the same text that he did not argue that God could do anything, God was after all God. However he also wrote that there is a considerable difference between what God can do and what He will do. In retrospect as I look over my own ups and downs in my Christian walk I have no reason to doubt this statement.

  14. Sarah Ridgway says:

    While I am respectful of the work done by the many, many theologians who have weighed in on one topic or another over the history of the Church, I still can’t help but note that there have been seriously divisive issues over and over again, and for every five theologians on one side, there are also five on the other. There have been schisms and all sorts of reformations (including the “capital R” one), and an ever-widening number of new denominations and traditions, but whatever the conflagration, Christianity has risen from the ashes.

    Speaking totally personally, I am uncomfortable with any one contingent within the large Christian umbrella saying that they, and they alone, know the mind of God. I just don’t believe we are able to do that, regardless of how many years of “tradition” might support one opinion or another. I also don’t believe in worshipping the Bible; I worship God and his Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I see the Bible as the story of an eternal dialogue between God and human creation, and our constant wrestling with our sin and repentance and God’s endless love and willingness to forgive, and not as a Rule Book.

    The more I study, the more I’m drawn to tolerance, despite my deep differences with certain faith traditions and practices — and I don’t find that to be inconsistent with Jesus’ teachings. And I’m OK with the evolution of belief and faith and how science and the mystery of life intertwine. To me it IS important that slavery was not just tolerated but expected in Biblical times but we now see it as a practice that does not honor God’s love for every individual person. It IS important that though Jesus spoke out against divorce, we generally now understand that forcing someone to remain in a loveless, lifeless marriage is wrong, and so is denying them the right to remarry with the blessing of the Church.

    I have concluded from my (limited) understanding (up to now) that the few references to homosexual behavior in Scripture refer more to clearly wanton, uncommitted sexual behavior, no different from heterosexual fornication, rather than an outright condemnation of homosexuality itself. And I cannot, for the life of me, believe that God would have created this whole class of people, solid and decent and hard-working and loving as anybody, but denied them the right to express their love to whom they want. (And from a scientific, evolutionary standpoint, if homosexuality was a useless aberration, surely it would have vanished by now through natural selection.)

    If the Diocese of SC feels that they must remain committed to their historical conservative viewpoint, then OK. But there is an evolution of mindset going on around them, like it or not. And eventually, they will have to decide whether their priority is sticking to their rules about human sexuality or remaining members of TEC.

    1. Marlene Talbott-Green PhD says:

      Thanks to Sarah Ridgway for a cogent “personal” statement, which nevertheless is in tune with progressive theology as well as a compassionate heart.
      To Angela H. – who is sure that the word of God condemns the “sin” of homosexuality.
      I wonder if it has escaped your attention that the church and scripture has a very long history of condemning women’s sexuality and valorizing the state of virginity. In other words, traditional Christianity has had a perverted way of reducing women to mere sexual objects to satisfy the domination needs of men, to shore up for men the power of women’s sexuality and to make sure that all women are in subjection to the male idea that only men are made in the image of God.
      In kind, the sexual objectification of homosexual persons defines them in terms of their sexual nature alone, much as traditionally the church has constructed women. Therefore, some members of the church also think that same-sex couples seek nothing more valued from the church than a “blessing for concupiscence.” The arguments from S. Carolinians who seek to separate themselves from T EC in America continue to define God as male, Jesus as sexless, Mary as a perpetual virgin and all other women as an occasion to sin. One of the most objectionable ideas, defined as a vile practice and abomination, is men who allow themselves to be used as women are used. There is no analogous or complementary assignation for women lying with women, only a condemnation of women lying with beasts. They all shall die, including the beast. At least that is what my Bible says.

      So, homophobia is multi-layered, including the fear and distrust of women along with the acceptance that such “unnatural lusts” of men toward men are an abomination to the Lord. Most often these students of scripture leave out the part that almost any sinners, say, described in Leviticus, must be put to death (which is what the government of Uganda is trying to do today).

      The most telling example of ethics and morality differentially applied to men and women is found early on in Genesis – The destruction of Sodom – which is often held up as a justification for persecuting homosexual men. Lot gave the sanctuary of his hospitality to two men, who were being besieged by the men of Sodom, commanding Lot to give up his guests to the crowd, so that they might “know” them. But Lot resisted their “wicked demands.” Lot bargained, ” I have two virgin daughters, let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please, but do nothing to these men for they have come under the shelter of my roof . . . . (Genesis 19:1-9. One thing we learn from this Biblical story, is that the daughters had no sanctuary under the roof of their father, Lot. And from there we learn that Lot went on to commit incest with his daughters so that the family line would go on. This story is often “taken out of context,” as a warning to homosexuals, whereas it ought to be a warning also to women of their religious standing in the house of God, and the need perhaps to investigate the ethical development of a living God.

  15. michele wilkins-hallmark says:

    I am from the albany diocese and not all people in the albany diocese agree with Bishop Love. He does not speak for everyone in the diocese, gay people have children,they are members of families,they have brothers ,sisters, parents. they love jesus very much and need to have a church they can go to where they can have brothers and sisters in christ who love them. We are all members of one body with different gifts. We have many gay people in our parish family. Bishop Love was upset that people didn’t listen to him at the general convention, He embarrassed and upset mother Ann and other people he didn;t agree with at the albany convention in june. priest in the diocese of all can’t even attend a gay blessing in another diocese, even as a member of the congregation. It hurts me that people are being excluded. I don’t think this is what god wants. love your sister in christ michele wilkins-hallmark

  16. Todd Granger says:

    Mr Bates, I haven’t the faintest idea what the snide comment about my “fame as a theologian” means. I didn’t write, nor did I imply, that I am a theologian. I rather suspect your bias – why else the implicit charge of bigotry? – has gotten the better of your carefulness in reading.

    As to not explaining my position – which is to say, the traditional (now considered conservative) Christian position regarding marriage as being between one man and one woman – has been frequently defended in print and electronic media much more capably that I could do in this space or at all.

    Tolle lege, Mr Bates. Tolle lege.

    Though I suspect that you’re already familiar with the arguments, and judging by the tone of your responses, have already decided that the position, and more to the point, anyone espousing it, is irredeemably bigoted and unsophisticated.

    1. Jeremy Bates says:

      Even better, Mr. Granger–you refuse to justify your position with even one sentence in English; and then you tell me in Latin that I should read more!
      Once again, most persuasive. I mean really, five stars.

  17. John Abdenour says:

    I am not immersed in this debate as others are, but isn’t it the case that Bishop Lawrence will have the authority to allow or not allow the new same-sex liturgy to be used in South Carolina? If he chooses not to allow its use in his own diocese, so be it. But I fail to see why he thinks his opinion of doctrine and discipline should have any influence whatsoever over whether the liturgy would be permitted in, say, Massachusetts or Connecticut. He obviously wouldn’t be equally comfortable with a situation in which Ian Douglas could dictate policy in South Carolina.
    This is an issue that has the potential to continue to rip the church apart for decades. The wise course is to let individual bishops determine the best course for their own diocese. The church has many other problems that it desperately needs to address.

  18. John Poynter says:

    Some still believe that the earth is flat; and there are analogues to that. There is something, however, in the American south that resists inclusion, it is still the place where minorities are the most excluded, most suspected of being “un-American” (whatever being American is), most vulnerable to hate-mongering and violent repression. There is also a saying that one hears from time to time: “South Carolina is too small to be its own country, and too large to be its own insane asylum.” Here it seems to fit.

  19. Fritz Miller says:

    Time marches on
    Slowly we are honoring God’s creation
    Amazingly– women–blacks-gays are people too
    Slowly and reluctantly the Church is starting to wake up
    Gays are god’s gift to the rest of us

  20. Donald Jack Newsom says:

    Gays are God’s gift to the rest of us? Given the current sexuality debate I don’t feel like one. And this from a refugee from an expression of the Christian faith, Southern Baptist, that at least to me perceptually when it comes to homosexuality at the time I left was all too ready to condemn both sin and sinner.

  21. PJMuldoon says:

    2 Timothy 4:1 (NIV) In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: {2} Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. {3} For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. {4} They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. {5} But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. {6} For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. {7} I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

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