A Response to Bishop Lawrence's Remarks to the Clergy of South Carolina
I freely admit that this is a powerful statement from a faithful shepherd. He is a good and godly man, trying his best to serve God and his people. I certainly mean no disrespect to the worthy bishop by what follows here, but I just don’t see any proposal in these remarks to take much more than a few symbolic protest actions. As a “strongly worded letter of protest” at what TEC has been up to, the bishop's remarks are superb. But we have seen many such fine protest letters defending the true Faith over the last six years, haven’t we? What concrete actions does the bishop of South Carolina envision? What is DioSC actually going to do differently now that GenCon 09 has made the course of TEC clear? I see five things in these remarks:
1. Action will soon be taken to clarify that ordinands in South Carolina won’t be taking oaths to support recent, illegitimate actions by TEC when they are ordained. This is a good thing as a symbol, but of little practical importance as far as I can see.
2. DioSC will apparently be taking steps to formally endorse the Ridley draft of the Covenant individually, and we all know national TEC will not ever do so. This diocesan endorsement of the Covenant may one day have some significance if ABC Williams’ prediction of “two tracks” in the world-wide Communion ever comes to pass. But in practical terms such an endorsement by DioSC will matter little for years to come, if ever. This looks to me like just another symbolic action, at least until TEC definitively rejects the Covenant. (Will that final rejection come six years from now at GenCon 2015? You know TEC will stall as long as possible in making a final decision that might result in consequences from Lambeth Palace.).
3. There are calls here for DioSC to offer support to orthodox parishes elsewhere within TEC. The bishop mentions increased engagement by parishes and the laity in this effort. I am not clear exactly what this increased engagement in non-DioSC orthodox parishes still inside TEC would entail. DEPO has been around a long time, so surely +Lawrence means more than that. Time will tell how this can be lived out. I hope it is of great help to the orthodox in TEC around the nation.
4. There are signs the bishop hopes for increased engagement with GAFCON and ACNA. That’s a good thing. What precisely that would mean, I don’t know. If it means dropping certain lawsuits, that would really miff PB Schori, and that would surely be a good thing!
5. Finally, there is the most important proposed action in the text: “The Standing Committee and bishop will be proposing a resolution to come before the special convention that this diocese begin withdrawing from all bodies of governance of TEC that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture; the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them; the resolutions of Lambeth which have expressed the mind of the Communion; the Book of Common Prayer (p.422-423) and the Constitution & Canons of TEC (Canon 18:1.2.b) until such bodies show a willingness to repent of such actions. Let no one think this is a denial of the vows a priest or bishop makes to participate in the councils of governance.”
Yet as Anglican Curmudgeon points out, this is not a call to formally terminate membership in any ecclesial body, even General Convention. Rather, it appears to mean only not sending representatives to meetings in order to “participate in the councils of governance.” Unfortunately, it seems that DioSC doesn’t presently have any reps on any national committees of TEC, so they may have no one to “pull” from TEC governance meetings to effectuate this “withdrawal” other than Bishop Lawrence himself. In practical terms in the next few years this would mean little more than +Lawrence boycotting House of Bishops meetings and DioSC not sending any representatives to take part at GenCon 2012 (though Dr. Seitz of the ACI seems to be saying they should send ‘observers’ to GenCon 2012).
So, for all practical purposes we will notice little more different with regard to DioSC during the next few years than the following: a few symbolic steps to “differentiate” themselves more from national TEC (ordinands will formally be told that they are not swearing to uphold illegitimate actions of GenCon and DioSC will sign the Covenant individually), there may be increased, as-yet undefined links between DioSC and orthodox TEC parishes elsewhere and with GAFCON/ACNA, and Bishop Lawrence may boycott House of Bishops meetings. (I should note here that Bishop Iker didn’t attend HoB meetings for years before we left TEC last fall. No one seemed to think that was a particularly bold move at the time.)
Have I left anything important off this list?
Perhaps these moves aren’t exactly "timid" but they surely are not the bold action I was hoping for from the worthy Bishop Lawrence. This very cautious approach may be exactly what the good people of DioSC want to happen. But does the “third way” some are looking for between a.) endorsing TEC's present trajectory into folly and heresy, and b.) departing TEC for ACNA, amount to anything more than I have just summarized? As far as I can tell this “third way” constitutes little more than tending faithfully to church local affairs while taking a few symbolic actions to "differentiate" from national TEC a bit more and ignoring 815 as much as possible.
Sadly absolutely nothing proposed in this new "middle way" will save DioSC in the long run. One day the worthy Bishop Lawrence will leave the scene and they will have to elect a new bishop. And as long as they remain under the Constitutions and Canons of TEC their new-bishop elect, whoever he is, will have to receive consents from a majority of the heretical leadership of TEC in order to be consecrated. Any plan DioSC adopts now that does not rapidly move toward departure from TEC will eventually spell their doom. I hope they have the wisdom to see that.