Thursday, December 06, 2012
Another Trigger Gets Pulled
I have already delivered myself of my deepest thoughts and feelings on this matter in my previous two posts on this blog, so I won't re-plow that ground. Well, maybe just a little:
Bishop Lawrence has, indeed, made it publicly clear that he no longer considers himself an Episcopalian. And as there are clearly people within his diocese who do wish to be Episcopalian, it seems fair enough that the church at large work with them to push the reset button on the presence of the Episcopal Church in that area. But let's be honest: Mark Lawrence "left" the Episcopal Church the way someone "leaves" the top floor of a burning skyscraper: It was a voluntary act, but not one he would have chosen except under the most extremely anomalous circumstances. For any practical purpose, he was pushed.
If the rest of the church had just been able to let the Diocese of South Carolina be what it is, we wouldn't be in this pastoral and constitutional mess. What they did to their constitution left it no different materially than the constitutions of a whole bunch of other dioceses that nobody seems to be picking on. They continued to participate in the life of the larger church, even if they did grumble a bit. But since when is grumbling the unpardonable sin?
Yet, elements within the diocese simply could not abide life in the margin. So they conspired to abuse the Title IV canons on abandonment. The first time, they were unsuccessful, and Bishop Lawrence was exonerated. Then the composition of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops changed and the votes were suddenly there. In the absence of any double jeopardy protection in Title IV, they made it stick the second time. So a small group of disgruntled Episcopalians within the diocese, with an assist from a majority of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, have succeeded in fomenting chaos. The damage they have caused is untellable.
Did they have help from outside? There is no lack of speculation in that direction, but I have no direct knowledge. If they did, though, whoever helped them is equally culpable.
Among the many victims of this disaster are parishes--with their clergy and faithful--who are in theological sympathy with the majority of the diocese, but disagree with the decision to leave TEC, and, in fact, have no desire or intention of doing so. Now they are faced with the distasteful prospect of making common cause with their offenders--those who instigated the apocalypse--or finding some other less unpalatable way forward. There are no "good" solutions. Our only hope, collectively, is to find some that are less bad than others.