Keep reading to see a response to this press release from the Rev. Canon James Lewis of the Diocese of South Carolina. From the Episcopal News Service, a press release from the 14 people (2 clergy, 12 lay) who brought complaints against Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina:
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.”
Episcopal Forum Members Initiate Attack on Bishop
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.
- All of the 14 are presently members of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina.
- They represent six of a total of 21 current Board Members of the Forum.
- They come from five parishes and one unaffiliated congregation, with half the lay members indicating they are parishioners of Grace Church, Charleston.
- Of the 12 laity, eight represent four married couples.
- 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.