Thursday, October 06, 2011
Low Country Rumblings
I am hesitant to weigh in on the news coming out of the Diocese of South Carolina. I have been enjoying an extended period of low political drama as I try to settle in to my new ministry. But I'm also hesitant to say nothing, and my insights have indeed been solicited.
Bottom line: I don't think it's time to sound any alarms, or presume the activity of any malign conspiracies. Not yet, at least. It is well-known that there is a small minority of Episcopalians in the diocese who are disappointed that the majority, including Bishop Mark Lawrence, are not on board with the general drift of the larger Episcopal Church on the controverted issues of sexuality. Some of them, evidently, have initiated a process under the section of Title IV that governs the discipline of bishops, alleging that, by action and inaction, Bishop Lawrence has "abandoned the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church."
The canons specify that the matter now rests with a Review Committee, consisting of bishops, priests, and lay persons, headed by Bishop Dorsey Henderson, retired diocesan of Upper South Carolina (and a lawyer). In broad terms, this group is like a grand jury. Its job is to determine whether there is sufficient substance in the allegations to merit a trial.
I could be wrong, but my suspicion--and, of course, my hope--is that the panel will respond in the negative, and the matter will be laid to rest for the time being. I'm not going to take the time to "fisk" the allegations and the supporting documentation--that is no doubt being done elsewhere in cyberspace--but it is clear to me that that all but one are entirely specious and deserving of summary dismissal. To cite South Carolina's endorsement of the Anglican Covenant and its disavowal of TEC's association with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice as evidence of abandonment of the Episcopal Church beggars belief.
The only "charge" that is even worthy of discussion, in my opinion, has to do with the diocese's removal from its constitution its accession to the canons (not the constitution) of the Episcopal Church. This stems from a very particular issue. The convention of the diocese (and many others) believe that a particular canon (ironically, the one one under which Bishop Lawrence is being charged) is itself unconstitutional. Like I said, this is at least worthy of discussion, but it strains credulity to see it as in any way damning.
So I am hopeful that the Review Committee will see these charges for the nonsense they are. In the meantime, inflammatory rhetoric about grand conspiracies is ill-advised, unhelpful, and, at the very least, premature. Let's calmly let the process play out and see what happens.
I know a little bit about being the victim of unfounded allegations, so my heart goes out to Bishop Lawrence and all the people of the Diocese of South Carolina. May sanity, charity, and grace prevail.