The abandonment canon was originally enacted to cover the clear case where a bishop converts to another faith without bothering to resign his see first (an act which also requires consent from the House of Bishops). Its expedited procedures assumed that (a) there could be no argument over what acts constituted the “abandonment” — hence the lack of provision for any hearing, or trial; and (b) the abandoning bishop would in all likelihood not contest the fact of his having left the Church. Neither of those circumstances applies in Bishop Lawrence’s case.
But now Bishop Henderson has made it official: despite all the fanfare about the supposedly “more humane” character of the new disciplinary canons, when it comes to “abandonment”, it is business as usual in the Episcopal Church (USA). If the Disciplinary Board certifies the flimsy acts spelled out in the document published on South Carolina’s website as constituting “abandonment”, it will have acted even worse (if that is possible) than did the old Title IV Review Committee in the case of Bishop Duncan. And for the second time in its history, the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops will have decided to remove one of its own members, a sitting and functioning bishop, from his diocese without any overt act on his part of renunciation or departure — indeed, in spite of all his protestations to the contrary.
And so now, the question arises: why did it take so long for the Disciplinary Board to get involved? Why was not the September 2010 letter from the Episcopal Forum, with its nearly identical charges, not referred to the old Title IV Review Committee at the time?