The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, Bishop of South Carolina, is being investigated on accusations of abandoning the Episcopal Church, and his diocese has released a 63-page document [PDF] of the evidence brought against him by his unnamed accusers.
Lawrence and the Very Rev. Paul C. Fuener, president of the diocese’s standing committee wrote in a letter to members of the diocese that on Sept. 29 the bishop “received communication from the President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops that ‘serious charges’ have been made under Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church. … Since several of these allegations also include actions taken by the Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina, after sustained prayer and discernment, it has seemed appropriate to both the Bishop and the Standing Committee to make these allegations available to the members of the Diocese.”
The Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, retired Bishop of Upper South Carolina, is president of the 18-member Disciplinary Board for Bishops. The diocese also released a one-page letter [PDF] by Josephine H. Hicks, attorney for the disciplinary board, asking for all documents related to Bishop Lawrence’s ordination of his son, Chadwick E. Lawrence, to the priesthood, which the document describes as violating the canons of the Episcopal Church.
The 63-page document cites the diocesan convention’s decision in October 2009 to “begin withdrawing from all bodies of the Episcopal Church that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture, the doctrine, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them, the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference which have expressed the mind of the Communion, the Book of Common Prayer, and our Constitution and Canons, until such bodies show willingness to repent of such actions.”
The document also relies on a variety of other articles by or about the bishop, including one reference to a meeting between the Archbishop of Canterbury and seven bishops of the Episcopal Church who belong to Communion Partners.
These are the other six bishops who joined Lawrence in that meeting: the Rt. Rev. Gary R. Lillibridge, Bishop of West Texas; the Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II, Bishop of Northern Indiana; the Rt. Rev. William H. Love, Bishop of Albany; the Rt. Rev. D. Bruce MacPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana; the Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith, Bishop of North Dakota; and the Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas.
Another document presented as evidence is the diocese’s vote to endorse the proposed Anglican Covenant, including its request that “the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates, and the Anglican Consultative Council … allow dioceses lying within provinces which may choose not to abide by such a Covenant to sign their support of such a covenant, and be recognized as full members of the Communion.”
An essay Bishop Lawrence wrote for The Living Church also is presented as evidence, but the document cites a version published in the Beaufort [S.C.] Tribune as “The axe swinging isn’t working.”
Another act of disaffiliation, according to the document, was the diocese’s repudiation of the Episcopal Church’s financial support of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
From Bishop Dorsey Henderson
President of the Title IV Disciplinary Board of the Episcopal Church
Concerning the Diocese of South Carolina:
- In the matter concerning the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, information is being reviewed by the Title IV Disciplinary Board. Bishop Dorsey Henderson is President of the Title IV Disciplinary Board.
- Information was presented from communicants within the Diocese of South Carolina.
- The information was not brought forward by the Presiding Bishop’s office, or by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church. Therefore, the matter is not being handled by the Presiding Bishop’s office or anyone in the employ of the Episcopal Church Center.
- All information has been presented to the Disciplinary Board under the Episcopal Church Title IV disciplinary canons (laws of the church).
- In situations as this, the “church attorney” is an attorney who is retained by the Disciplinary Board to investigate cases brought to the Disciplinary Board. The “church attorney” is not the chancellor to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
- As a matter of law and a matter of respect to those involved, the Disciplinary Board operates confidentially and will continue to do so. As such, it would not be appropriate to discuss the details of the case in public.
- Bishop Henderson has been in conversation with Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina.
- The Disciplinary Board is comprised of Episcopal Church bishops, clergy and laity.