Lawrence says he’s still bishop, calls renunciation ‘superfluous’

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Dec 6, 2012

[Episcopal News Service] Mark Lawrence, who led some of the members of the Diocese of South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church, has said he remains the bishop of the diocese, and called Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s Dec. 5 decision to accept his renunciation of orders as “superfluous.”

“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,” Lawrence said in a letter posted on the diocese’s website after the presiding bishop’s announcement. “We took this action long before today’s attempt at renunciation of orders, therein making it superfluous.”

Lawrence said that Jefferts Schori called him that day to tell him that she and her Council of Advice had accepted his renunciation made, they said, “in his public address on November 17.”  Lawrence said he “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 is the presiding bishop’s crossing of the T and doting of the I — or their paper work, not my life,” Lawrence said.

He said he thought it would not change anything to bring up to Jefferts Schori what he views as “the canonical problems with what they have done contrary to the canons of The Episcopal Church.”

“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 of November 17, 2012,” he said.

In that Nov. 17 speech to a special diocesan convention, Lawrence said the diocese had left the Episcopal Church a month earlier when Jefferts Schori restricted his ministry on Oct. 17 after the church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops had certified to her that he had abandoned the Episcopal Church “by an open renunciation of the discipline of the church.” On that same day, the diocesan Standing Committee announced that the action of the Disciplinary Board “triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions of the diocese, which simultaneously disaffiliated the diocese from the Episcopal Church and called a special convention.”

Lawrence asked for and received affirmation from those at the convention of that departure.

According to a fact sheet posted on the Episcopal Church’s website: “Dioceses cannot leave the Episcopal Church. While some clergy and individuals may choose to leave, congregations and property remain in the diocese to be used for the mission of the Episcopal Church.”

Lawrence ended his letter by asserting that “the majority of Anglicans around the world as well as many in North America … 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. “

The decision to accept Lawrence’s renunciation cited Title III, Canon 12, Section 7 which begins by saying “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.”

The process is not without precedent. On the same day four years ago, Jefferts Schori and the council accepted Bishop Jack Iker’s renunciation of orders in much the same way after he led many of the lay and clergy members of that diocese out of the Episcopal Church, making public statements to that effect.

In October 2009, Jefferts Schori accepted written statements from Keith Ackerman about his orders.

Ackerman had abruptly announced his retirement as bishop of the Diocese of Quincy, effective Nov. 1, 2008, the day he was to return from a three-month sabbatical. It was also the day the governing synod voted to sever ties with the Episcopal Church and to realign the 1,800-member diocese with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Ackerman told the presiding bishop he intended to function as a bishop in the Diocese of Bolivia in the Southern Cone.

“As you know, there is no provision for transferring a bishop to another province. I am therefore releasing you from the obligations of ordained ministry in this church,” Jefferts Schori wrote at the time.

Jefferts Schori and the church’s bishops dealt differently with the bishops of two other dioceses who led the majority of their members out of the Episcopal Church.

In 2008, the House of Bishops authorized Jefferts Schori to depose then-Diocese of San Joaquin bishop John David Schofield and then-Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan from ordained ministry and remove them as bishops after it was determined that they had “abandoned the Communion of this Church.”

Duncan also initially affiliated with the Southern Cone, but later became the leader of the Anglican Church in North America.

All four dioceses are rebuilding and the remaining Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina have been organizing to do the same.

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


Comments (15)

  1. Scott Elliott says:

    As much as I disdain Lawrence, the lies and half-truths he told in order to be consecrated, the misappropriated theology underlying his beef with the church, and the theft he is attempting to promulgate, I must say that he did NOT renounce his orders (but rather his loyalty to the current administration of TEC). As the article reminds us, KJS has, yet again, moved much too quickly and on much too shaky grounds, to be “rid of this turbulent priest.”

  2. Ronald J. Caldwell says:

    Between Oct. 15 (the suspension) and Dec. 5 Lawrence provided abundant evidence in word and deed that he had renounced all ties to the Episcopal Church. He said repeatedly he had left the Episcopal Church and “moved on.” The events of the meeting on Nov. 17 documented it all. In the view of the PB and her advisory council of the leaders of all the provinces of TEC, his act of “disassociation” was in fact renunciation. Common sense says she is right. One cannot be out of the Episcopal Church and in it too. At the moment he and his followers should be rejoicing in their independence, there is no joy. His letter acknowledging his deposition of 12-5 is a sad ramble.

    1. Jason VanBorssum says:

      I agree with Ronald. Another secessionist, Jefferson Davis, maintained until his death that he was the President of the Confederate States of America. One is either in or out. “Disassociation” is de facto renunciation.

  3. Andy Hook says:

    I find it funny that a presiding bishop who cannot use the name of Jesus can see fit to tell someone that they have abandoned the Church.

  4. John D. Andrews says:

    Andy, I have personally heard the PB speak several times, and each time she spoke of Jesus. Please stop telling lies.

    1. Robert Scruggs says:

      It is hard for me to fathom what Bishop Lawrence is saying or meaning. or what he feels he is accomplishing. I suspect he is in the same fix. Many years ago, a guest on the Jack Paar Show said of someone that “He has put one rump on several horses and is riding off in several different directions.” One clear direction of the Bishop, and others who are discontent with The Episcopal Church, is their path of militancy away from the path of ministry.

    2. Thad Day says:

      Yes she speaks of Jesus. It is tragic what these people have been told by radicals who apparently desire schism. Sad day for Anglicanism. Bishop Lawrence could have been a great witness for the evangelical tradition within the Anglican Communion. Now, sadly, he will be basically ignored, at best.

  5. Ora Calhoun says:

    Bishop Lawrence Seems to want to play in his own sandbox. Apparently he has better toys. At the moment our Congress is trying to figure out how to compromise. Sooner or later they’ll figure it out. But apparently Bishop Lawrence doesn’t know what compromise means. What a sad day in our beloved Episcopal Church. Our church seems to be acting like a spoiled brat. (sigh)

  6. Frank Bergen says:

    When the Diocese of South Carolina elected Mark Lawrence the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Arizona declined to consent to his election. South Carolina requested reconsideration of that refusal and once again Arizona declined, helping to deny Lawrence the election. South Carolina held another election designed to reaffirm their initial choice of Lawrence and once again Arizona refused consent. Each refusal was based on the sense that Lawrence, active as he was in the polity of the Diocese of San Joaquin, was quite likely sooner or later to find himself unwilling to accept the Episcopal Church’s teaching and discipline. The repeated decisions of Arizona’s Standing Committee were based on Mark Lawrence’s words and deeds as priest in San Joaquin and episcopal candidate in South Carolina. And no, it doesn’t give me joy to be proven right.

    1. David Yarbrough says:

      Clearly the Diocese of South Carolina expressed the will of its membership, both at the time of the election of Dr. Lawrence and through the actions of the Standing Committee to disassociate with TEC. It isn’t only Dr. Lawrence who has rejected unscriptural teachings on the part of TEC, and Dr. Schori in particular.

      The first of the ordination vows each bishop has taken is an affirmation that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God. The examination includes the promise to boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel of Christ – including John 14:6, expressly rejected by the teachings of Dr. Schori.

      The most likely way to select bishops with unqualified loyalty to a church hierarchy, even in the context of unscriptural teachings, is to have them appointed by and wholly subordinate to a single individual in the manner of the Roman Catholic church – not elected by the local diocese and ratified by standing committees and bishops, with all bishops serving as equals.

      1. Joan Gundersen says:

        Immediately following the affirmation about belief in scripture and part of the same oath is the statement ” I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the [Protestant] Episcopal Church [in the United States of America.” This is ALL part of a single declaration signed at the beginning of the service. One part is not privileged above another. Lawrence has violated the “discipline” of the church in multiple ways. The people of South Carolina who voted to disassociate did so contrary to the constitution of TEC. There has never been a right of secession. No rights were reserved by dioceses when they acceded to the constitution and canons. The first constitution of TEC (1789) “bound” all states (they did not use the term diocese anywhere in the document) to all acts of General Convention whether they were present at the convention or not.

        If you are going to use the name of the presiding bishop, at least get it right. Her last surname is Jefferts Schori.

        1. Ronald J. Caldwell says:

          Thanks Joan for the comment. I see the PB acting on the de facto renunciation in the acts of Lawrence, especially the meeting of Nov. 17. Is that your understanding? How does this compare with the case of Duncan in Pittsburgh?

  7. Rebecca Alford says:

    Well, we never got a choice in the matter did we? Not parishioners. No one ever asked us what we thought or what we wanted. We were active members of our parish where we served on vestry and gave of our time and money to support The Episcopal Church, our church’s future was decided without our input. We left in protest of someone who we saw as elitist, bigoted and exclusionary. Someone who is NOT practicing Christian love, but promoting hate while at the same time attempting to personally elevate himself to the status of God, in every definition a cult leader who requires unconditional devotion and authority. This person is obviously delusional, mentally unstable and histrionic with God like delusions.

  8. Larry Norton says:

    I can’t tell from the comments in this thread whether it is 1860 US, 1917 Russia, the last Presidential Campaign, or the current Congressional Debate. The Politburo was more civil and straightforward.

    1. Susy Crandall says:

      I was just thinking exactly the same thing, Larry Norton. Hopefully, ‘the South shall not rise again!’

Comments are closed.