An independent news blog for S.C. Episcopalians has reported that S.C. Bishop Mark Lawrence has been temporarily banned from acting as a bishop and priest since a disciplinary board found he has "abandoned" the Episcopal Church Monday.
Subsequently, the bishop revealed that he had plans to break with the national church.
The crux of the issue is over the national church's more lenient stance on same-sex blessings, and the ordination of gay and female clergy. In reaction to this week's news, a special convention of members of Lawrence's Diocese of South Carolina has been called Nov. 17 at St. Phillip’s Church in Charleston. The convention will focus on whether or not the Palmetto diocese will remain with the bishop or within the fold of the national church.
Lawrence is the state's 14th bishop and presides over the three diocese in the state and the state's 30,000 parishioners.
While Lawrence has refused to follow the national church's same-sex blessings, and ordinations of female and gay clergy, the church's disciplinary board cited three reasons that show Lawrence has abandoned the church:
- His support of amendments to the S.C. church's constitution that undermines the authority of the national church at 219th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina on Oct. 10, 2010.
- He oversaw the change in language for the Episcopalian nonprofit, which made the nonprofit no longer under the direction of the national church in 2011.
- In November 2011, Lawrence directed his Chancellor Wade H. Logan III to issue quitclaim deeds to every parish of the Diocese of South Carolina disclaiming any interest in the real estate held by or for the benefit of each parish.
The S.C. Episcopalians blog reported:
Lawrence has repeatedly insisted the Diocese of South Carolina is "sovereign" and the Church has no authority over him as it does other bishops. In essence, Lawrence maintains that he is not accountable to anyone.
The blog reported in August of the bishop's reaction to the national church's more lenient stance on homosexuality:
Insisting the embrace of such people is contrary to what God wants, Bishop Mark Lawrence has established himself as a highly visible field commander in what he has characterized as “war” with the Episcopal Church. Lawrence believes that sexual relations with persons of the opposite sex bring people closer to God, while sexual relations with persons of the same gender leads them astray.
On the ground in the Lower Diocese, many Episcopalian leaders and parishioners are still reacting to the news.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church of Summerville's Assistant Rector Tyler Prescott, who has previously blogged on Patch in support of the bishop, said the discussion of the bishop's ban should not be limited to same-sex blessings.
"It's a symptom of some broader theological issues that we are at odds with the greater Episcopal church," Prescott said. He added: "I'm saddened that it happened and that the efforts to work things out differently have not come to fruition ... Division and infighting does not help. At the same time I'm confident that God has a hand in this and I'm expectant to see what He has in store."
Prescott said he doesn't expect all of the Lower Diocese of South Carolina parishioners to agree with Lawrence.
"I'm certain that there are folks who maybe disagree or might not be sure. Nobody is of equal mind and we welcome that in our church," he said. "Everybody will have to make their own decision at some point."
Prescott said November's meeting will be a decision on whether area churches will remain with Lawrence or within the fold of the greater, national church.
"To the folks who pray, keep us in your prayers so we can make a faithful gospel witness in a very challenging and difficult times," Prescott said.
The official site for the Diocese of South Carolina wrote this statement:
We feel a deep sense of sadness but a renewed sense of God’s providence that The Episcopal Church has chosen to act against this Diocese and its Bishop during a good faith attempt resolve our differences peacefully. These actions make it clear The Episcopal Church no longer desires to be affiliated with the Diocese of South Carolina.