(What follows–which I decided may be of interest to blog readers–is the email I sent late last week in answers to a reporter’s questions; none of the wording has been changed–KSH).
1. Could you provide me with some background on the process of accusation and acquittal?
Some parishioners in the Diocese of South Carolina believed a threshold had been crossed whereby Bishop Lawrence had abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church. They submitted evidence to support this, alleging multiple violations. Under relatively recently instituted new procedures the allegations went to the Disciplinary Board of Bishops. They met over conference call and decided the charges were sufficiently serious to merit further consideration. Bishop Lawrence was informed of this fact by the chair of the committee and the Diocese made public the allegations against the Bishop on its website. There were numerous complications in the process along the way, but eventually the committee met and “the Board” as a whole “was unable to make the conclusions essential” to certifying merit in the charges.
2. What is your opinion of the Church’s decision?
We are relieved at the decision and thankful for the hard work of the people involved. We are, however, deeply troubled by the process, a process which the diocese itself has believed is unholy and unhelpful (and most especially that it was passed unconstitutionally).A careful reading of the statement of the committee on their decision reveals a troubling underlying tone of institutional pressure to conform which is sadly lacking in grace. Even more upsetting, it reflects a larger pattern of those in The Episcopal Church’s leadership of the use the external push of canons to achieve desired ends which only the Holy Spirit and genuinely Christian relationships can produce.
3. What is Bishop Lawrence’s opinion of homosexuality? Has the Episcopal Church taken the wrong position?
The position of the diocese is the position of the ecumenical consensus of Christians East and West through the church’s history: there are only two states of human beings, singleness and marriage, and the only proper context for the expression of sexual intimacy is between a man and a woman who are married to each other. This remains the current standard of the Anglican Communion, the third largest Christian body in the world.This standard must be maintained with pastoral sensitivity by the church in local practice where we seek to balance truth and love.
As the Thirty-Nine Articles make clear, church councils can do and make errors and we believe there have been multiple erroneous decisions made by TEC senior leaders on this matter in the last decade or more. We are also more and more troubled that such wrongful decisions are increasingly allowed to be promoted in local practice, while senior leadership claims that other standards are being upheld. This has led to increasing chaos in our own province as well as sowed disunity through the Anglican Communion.
4. Many Episcopalians left the Church over its progressive theology and started their own denominations, yet lest I am mistaken Bishop Lawrence has remained with the Episcopal Church. What keeps him from leaving?
No one can decide to leave the church, the church is the body of Christ. Such a notion is a bizarre American anomaly which needs to be challenged at every opportunity.
Bishop Lawrence is seeking to be a faithful upholder of both evangelical truth and catholic unity. He is disturbed by the disorder involved in numerous decisions of those who through conscience have sought to worship God as Anglicans outside TEC because they felt they had no choice. At the same time he is deeply troubled by the continued movement of the Episcopal Church away from the gospel of Jesus Christ died and risen. The further TEC moves from Holy Scripture as the church has received it, the further the diocese will need to distance itself from the falsehoods being embraced. But the diocese is the main unit of the Anglican Church and the unity of the diocese needs to be protected as much as possible as this process is being lived out.