[Episcopal News Service –Indianapolis] When most of the Diocese of South Carolina’s deputies left General Convention July 11 along with Bishop Mark Lawrence, their departure was meant to “differentiate” themselves from resolutions convention had passed the day before.
Lawrence said in a statement posted on the diocese’s website July 12 that the departure of the deputies should not be understood as a departure from the Episcopal Church.
“Frankly, a deputation to General Convention has no authority to make such a decision,” he said.
In his statement, Lawrence described what he said during a July 11 private session of the House of Bishops. He said that he was grateful for the “intentional engagement in honesty and collegiality with fellow bishops.”
Lawrence expressed his “grievous concern” with changes to the church’s canons through A049, which allows for optional and provisional use of a rite to bless same-gender relationships, and D019 and D002, which affirm the full inclusion of transgender persons in the life of the church (including the ordination process).
“These resolutions in my opinion,” Lawrence said he told the bishops, “are disconcerting changes to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church – to which every bishop, priest and deacon is asked to conform. More importantly they mark a departure from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this church has received them, therein making it necessary for me to strongly differentiate myself from such actions.”
Lawrence said he left the House of Bishops after private conversation and would not be continuing in the remainder of the convention.
“I concur with the assessment of our canon theologian, the Rev. Kendall Harmon, when he described the actions of this General Convention as ‘unbiblical, unchristian, unAnglican and unseemly,’” said Lawrence.
He said in the diocesan statement that he knows “some did not think we should attend the 77th General Convention, but I believe our presence and witness was important and even respected by many on both sides of the theological divide. As St. Paul states regarding his ministry, ‘…we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.’”
Lawrence said he would be sending a statement to diocesan clergy, which is to be read in parishes on July 15.
The deputies that left were the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis, the Very Rev. David Thurlow, Elizabeth “Boo” Pennewill, Lydia Evans and Reid Boylston, while the Very Rev. John B. Burwell and Deputy Lonnie Hamilton stayed in Indianapolis.
Burwell spoke to ENS July 11 about the deputies’ decision. That story is here.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.