South Carolina Episcopalians explain complaint against bishop

[Episcopal News Service] A South Carolina attorney involved in the complaints filed with the Episcopal Church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops that resulted in the board certifying that Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence had abandoned the Episcopal Church issued the following release Oct. 18.

With much deliberation, Melinda A. Lucka, an attorney in the Charleston, S.C. area and an active communicant in the Diocese of South Carolina, requested that the Disciplinary Board for Bishops review various actions of Bishop Lawrence that have taken place over the past two years. Ms. Lucka asked the Board if it could make a determination as to whether or not the actions were consistent with the mission and polity of The Episcopal Church.

Lucka made the request on behalf of 12 lay communicants and two priests in the diocese. The communicants are: Robert R. Black, Margaret A. Carpenter, Charles G. Carpenter, Frances L. Elmore, Eleanor Horres, John Kwist, Margaret S. Kwist, Barbara G. Mann, David W. Mann, Warren W. Mersereau, Dolores J. Miller, Robert B. Pinkerton, M. Jaquelin Simons, Mrs. Benjamin Bosworth Smith, John L. Wilder, and Virginia C. Wilder. The clergy who were named are longstanding Episcopal priests Colton M. Smith+ and Roger W. Smith+.

Generally, names of individuals who initiate ecclesiastical requests are held in confidence through privacy provisions of the Canons; however, the complainants in this request gave their approval to allow themselves to be made known to the Bishop.

Lucka said that they agreed to be named “as a courtesy to Bishop Lawrence, so as not to be cloaked in a shroud of secrecy.” They hope that this “will prevent any suppositions that may be asserted in the upcoming days or weeks that The Episcopal Church may have initiated or encouraged the filing of this request.”

“They also want to clarify that although most individuals are members of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, an organization of mainstream Episcopalians in the diocese, this was not an action taken by the Forum or its Board. In addition to the individuals who made this request, there are many, many other loyal Episcopalians in the diocese who felt strongly that Episcopal Church officials should review the Bishop’s actions.”

“There is definitely a place for orthodox and evangelical views within the diocese; that’s the beauty of being under the large tent of The Episcopal Church; however, viewpoints and practices in the diocese began to take large leaps away from the broader Church when various actions took place. Severing the legal connections to the governing laws of the Church and essentially forming a new corporate entity, outside of The Episcopal Church by changing the diocesan corporate purpose statement to no longer accede to the Constitution and Canons of our Church seemed to be going too far out of bounds.”

“The hope of these individuals is that the diocese will continue to be a home for all Episcopalians to worship and live together in God’s love through Jesus Christ. They ask the Church for prayers for the Bishop and all involved.”


  1. Carol McRee says:

    Well, I hope they enjoy the fruits of their labors as the Diocese leaves them in our dust. Good luck to you in re-establishing another diocese with little many and not alot of property.

    • Phillip Cato says:

      It is very difficult to tell from this not entirely literate comment what is meant, but I presume it is to say to those who objected to Bp. Lawrence’s cumulative actions, “Good luck, losers, you are going to be left with no real estate (read church facilities) in which to reestablish the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, while we (the former diocese), are excelling in the Faith beyond your wildest imaginings. My modest advice is that those who share these sentiments might learn important things from reading about what has recently transpired in the Diocese of Virginia. Church folks with similar attitudes, after a series of court challenges, are finding themselves looking for new quarters in which to practice their version of orthodoxy. As an entirely extraneous observation, I have observed over the past several years that the pious orthodox of the Diocese of South Carolina are prone to very mean-spirited expressions of their point of view. It would be interesting to know how they square this with there vaunted professions of being the serious-minded Christians of the Episcopal Church. One need look no farther than the cumulative comments on the website of their resident “theologian.” It is, more often than not, small-minded, ugly stuff.

      • Prioleau Alexander says:

        Dear Mr. Cato,
        These words you use– “excelling in the Faith beyond your wildest imaginings.”

        I do not think they mean what you think they mean.

  2. Gillian Forrest says:

    Well, I am not sure what this group hoped to accomplish, and one wonders if they will rue the day that they started this mess. Did they think that they would just elect a Bishop of their own choosing, and the rest of the Diocese would just lie down or go like sheep to the slaughter? These decisions that they repudiate were made by the whole Diocese, not the Bishop alone – and this group obviously didn’t have the numbers to stop them. Are there actions to come against every member who voted for them? Despite their claims of “many, many loyal Episcopalians”, they seem to be a distinct minority in the Diocese. They have sown strife, and may very well reap it. This is a sad turn of events.

  3. John Adam says:

    Well, it was about time. The remaining Episcopalians who are members of the one and only true Anglican province in the US, the Episcopal Chruch, will find their way with our prayers and support.
    May our Lord bless and guide those who are leaving us. Farewell!

  4. Janet Echols says:

    from Dio of SC…
    ” Rev. Canon James B. Lewis, Diocese of South Carolina

    “Now that the names of those responsible for bringing accusations against Bishop Lawrence before the Disciplinary Board for Bishops is known, it is instructive to consider what that list reveals.

    1. All of the 14 are presently members of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina.
    2. They represent six of a total of 21 current Board Members of the Forum.
    3. They come from five parishes and one unaffiliated congregation, with half the lay members indicating they are parishioners of Grace Church, Charleston.
    4. Of the 12 laity, eight represent four married couples.
    5. The legal representative of the group, who presented their case to the disciplinary board for Bishops, is also a member of the Forum Board and is married to Forum Board member and fellow accuser, Bob Black. That means at least 1/3 of their Board was actively engaged in this project.

    The picture painted is exactly the opposite of that portrayed in the press release by which their names were revealed.

    Despite their assertions to the contrary, this is clearly a group comprised of the primary leadership of the Forum. To attempt to claim the Forum is not responsible for these actions is disingenuous at best.

    It is also clearly not a group representative of a large portion of the diocese. It is representative of a very narrow slice of what is a small group in a handful of parishes. They have nothing like the broad, concerned constituency they proclaim.

    Most troubling is the assertion that they have released their names voluntarily, as a courtesy, to avoid the scandal of secrecy. That is precisely what these actions represent. The diocese was dragged all the way through this process once already last Fall, before the Bishop was acquitted, without the Bishop ever being able to face his accusers. The likelihood of that being a separate group than the present accusers seems vanishingly small. Yet, only now are they graciously coming forward. The real reason is that the Canons require it. Upon the request of the Diocese, that information HAD to be revealed. There is nothing gracious at all about their actions. It is posturing that never should have even been allowed if the Disciplinary Board for Bishops and its President and Attorney had followed their own canons. Providing these names should have been proforma and immediate when the charges were certified in September. Instead it has required an entire month before that happened.

    This goes to the heart of the essential sickness of The Episcopal Church in these days. It is a place of canonical chaos. Even when it has applicable canons, it does not follow them. At its own discretion it applies them capriciously or not at all. It is for good reason that the Diocese of South Carolina put in place the canonical and constitutional firewalls that now seal it off from such continued abuses.

  5. Josh Hagquist says:

    The diocese was dragged all the way through this process once already last Fall, before the Bishop was acquitted. Acquitted of the same “charges” he has now been found guilty of by the kangaroo court (aka – the Disciplinary Board for Bishops )
    Conservatives have NO voice in this imaginary “big-tent” called the Episcopal Church…and the more the leadership at 815 tries to frame themselves as inclusive, the more actions like the ones in SC will continue to show just how fraudulent those claims are.
    TEC has relied on courts giving them endowments and property, and the whole idea backing this has little to do with upholding the CANONS of the church, but seizing power away from a conservative Bishop, and a Diocese that is growing.

  6. The expiration date on victim status for SC’s Angricans ran out as soon as Lawrence presided over the wrongly deciding diocesan conventions and wrote the quit claim letters. Granted, TEC contains no Supreme Court as a protection for the minority, so I guess the inhibition should have happened much earlier. Maybe the solution then is to cast lots when decisions like TEC’s A049 AND EDSC’s “Corporation” are made. Until Lawrence is willing to protect the minorities his votes create then I guess we’ll just have to pray for mercy and consistent application of the standing TEC canons.

    • An astute comment once one realizes that only reason this controversy happened at all was because the Diocese of South Carolina is itselfa “minority” in the national church. All the Diocese has attempted to do is to remain in the Episcopal Church but protect itself against having to tolerate, never mind preach, what it sees as the Episcopal Church’s false gospel. When the tiny minority within South Carolina understands that they don’t have the right to dictate what is heard from South Carolina pulpits(for that’s exactly what this amounts to), then and only then can we talk about their “protection,” something I understand that Bishop Lawrence has, at least in the past, been entirely willing to grant.

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