Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday March 16th 7 a.m. backup

Lionel Diemel on the Failure of the Consents to South Carolina’s Episcopal Election

March 16th, 2007 posted by kendall at 6:34 am

From here:

In a consent process in which The Episcopal Church was lenient to a fault, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has declared that the bid of the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence to become the next bishop for the Diocese of South Carolina has failed. Although the required number of bishops consented to Lawrence’s consecration, and a majority of diocesan standing committees appeared to give their consent, insufficient consents from the standing committees were in the proper form. Additional details are expected to be forthcoming from The Episcopal Church. South Carolina will now have to hold a new episcopal election.

Because Lawrence had aligned himself with the self-styled “orthodox,” “traditionalists,” or “reasserters” in The Episcopal Church who object to what they see as the church’s increasingly liberal trajectory, his election, won easily over two even more conservative candidates, was controversial. Lawrence is now a priest in the Diocese of San Joaquin, which has sought to distance itself from the church’s first female Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and has taken preliminary steps to remove itself from The Episcopal Church. Despite last-minute assurances that he “intended” to remain in The Episcopal Church, Lawrence’s written statements suggested that he would follow the path being blazed by San Joaquin when he became leader of the equally conservative South Carolina diocese.

“I’m sure that most Episcopalians that have been following the quest for consent to consecrate Fr. Lawrence are relieved to know that he will not now become a bishop,” suggested Lionel Deimel. Deimel, a parishioner in the conservative Diocese of Pittsburgh, wrote the essay “No Consents: A Crucial Test for The Episcopal Church” that first laid out the case against consenting to Lawrence’s consecration. Via Media USA sent Deimel’s essay, along with a cover letter, to all bishops with jurisdiction and to all diocesan standing committees. Episcopal Forum of South Carolina subsequently raised concerns about Lawrence in its own separate mailing.

During the four-month consent process, Deimel posted additional commentaries on his Web site and blog, responding to Lawrence’s “clarifications” of his positions and on the details of the process. Other Episcopalians, both supporters and detractors of Lawrence, joined in the Internet debate. “All along, the strongest case against Fr. Lawrence involved his attitude toward The Episcopal Church; he has not been excluded from the House of Bishops for his personal theology,” Deimel explained. “He wrote that the church was ‘a comatose patient on life support,’ and he recommended that the church’s autonomy be surrendered to the primates of the Anglican Communion, a group containing of a large fraction of appointed, archconservative archbishops.”

Not since 1875, when the Rev. James De Koven was rejected as Bishop of Illinois, have diocesan standing committees prevented the consecration of a bishop in The Episcopal Church. The last bishop-elect to be rejected by the church’s ruling body, the General Convention, was John Torok, in 1934. Episcopal elections taking place just prior to the triennial General Convention are voted on at the General Convention. Elections taking place at other times are validated by the voting process to which Lawrence’s election was subject.

In the face of strong lobbying by forces supporting Lawrence, several standing committees that had voted against consent actually changed their votes. More controversial, however, was the last-minute announcement that the church would allow 123 days for voting, not the 120 days called for in church canons. Because the Web site “Stand Firm” (representing “Traditional Anglicanism in America,” according to its banner) was waging a lobbying campaign just before and after the canonical deadline of March 9, the extra days could easily have changed the outcome of the election. Apparently, they would have changed the outcome had all the “testimonials” (i.e., consents) from standing committees been properly executed. Testimonials could have been defective in any number of respects, including not having been signed by a majority of a standing committee’s members.

“There will be more criticism of our church by Anglicans who view the rejection of Fr. Lawrence as unfair,” predicted Deimel. “Moreover, the rejection of testimonials for technical reasons will be criticized by many in our own church, even though improper ballots are regularly discarded in American civil elections. It is unfortunate that the misplaced generosity of allowing an extra three days for achieving consents likely meant that Lawrence’s bid to become a bishop could not be rejected simply for having drawn insufficient consents.

“The greatest burden will be borne by Fr. Lawrence and his family, and I am sorry that this has to be. He is, by all accounts, a person of integrity and a fine parish priest.”

Local Bakersfield Pastor’s bishop bid rejected

March 16th, 2007 posted by kendall at 6:26 am

The blocking of Lawrence’s bid essentially ends his monthslong quest to be bishop after he was elected bishop of the South Carolina diocese in September.

After election, Lawrence needed to overcome one more hurdle: to get a majority of the 111 Episcopal Church dioceses to consent to that election.

Despite receiving 57 consents this week — a majority — three of the dioceses’ notifications of consent were not done according to canon law, said the Rev. Haden McCormick, president of the standing committee of the Diocese of South Carolina, in a statement on the South Carolina diocese’s Web site.

So Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori declared that the 54 official consents Lawrence received were not a majority, thus ending his bid.

The three dioceses were in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, Lawrence said. The three consents were not signed by a majority of the standing committees and were submitted electronically, McCormick said.

It is a “tragic outcome,” McCormick said.

Reached after Schori’s decision, Lawrence said that “canons are canons, forms are forms.”

But Lawrence said that the process he was subjected to over the last few months “opened a curtain on the state of the Episcopal Church.”

Behind the curtain, he added, is a “theater of the absurd” that revealed the polarization of the church between the progressives and the conservatives; Lawrence and the Diocese of San Joaquin Valley are considered conservatives.

Read it all.

South Carolina election voided due to canonical deficiencies in responses

March 16th, 2007 posted by kendall at 6:23 am


Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has declared “null and void” the election of the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence to be the 14th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

The announcement was first made in a letter written by the Rev. J. Haden McCormick, president of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina, and posted to the diocesan website late in the afternoon of March 15.

“Although more than a majority of dioceses had voted to consent to Fr. Mark’s election, there were canonical deficiencies in the written responses sent to us,” McCormick wrote. “Several dioceses, both on and off American soil, thought that electronic permission was sufficient as had been their past accepted practice. The canons which apply are III.11.4(b), pp. 101-102 in the newly published 2006 Constitutions and Canons that require the prescribed testimonial to the consent be signed by a majority of each standing committee.”

“I spoke to Father McCormick today, informing him that consent to the election of the Rev. Mark Lawrence has not been achieved,” wrote Jefferts Schori in an email from Camp Allen in Texas.

A formal letter to the diocese, she said, will go out March 16.

Canonically adequate ballots were received by South Carolina from 50 diocesan standing committees. Several other standing committees were reported to have consented, but no signatures were attached to their ballots, or the ballot itself was missing from South Carolina’s records, Jefferts Schori reported. Any committee that did not respond is considered to have voted no.

“In the past, when consents to episcopal elections have been so closely contested, the diocese has been diligent in seeking to have canonically adequate ballots submitted, asking Standing Committees to resubmit their ballots when necessary,” she added. “It is certainly my hope that in future any diocese seeking consent to an election will use all possible effort to ensure that ballots are received in an appropriate form and in a timely manner.”

The diocese must now hold another election. The 13th Bishop of South Carolina, Edward Salmon, turned 72 on January 30, 2006 and was required by the Episcopal Church’s constitution Article II, Section 9 to resign.

McCormick’s letter offered “deepest condolences” to Lawrence on what was termed a “tragic outcome,” and invited the California priest to “continue to be a part of the Diocese of South Carolina’s pursuit of securing our next Diocesan.”

“Fr. Lawrence has modeled exemplary patience and calmness by enduring a level of scrutiny and persecution that is without precedent in The Episcopal Church (TEC),” McCormick added.

McCormick stated that within ten days the chancellor and acting chancellor of the diocese and the standing committee will meet to “plot a course of action for the near future.” He said that Salmon, who has been acting bishop of the diocese, will attend the House of Bishops meeting in Camp Allen, Texas.

The canons of the Episcopal Church (III.11.4(a)) require that a majority of the bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan standing committees respond within 120 days of receiving notice of an election, saying whether or not they consent to a Bishop-elect’s ordination. In this case, the requests were mailed November 9, making the 120 day period end on March 9. A three-day “grace period” was added to allow for postal delays, pushing the deadline forward to March 12.

Lawrence, 56, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Parish, in Bakersfield, California, in the Diocese of San Joaquin, was elected September 16.

In the weeks following Lawrence’s election, questions arose about Lawrence’s intentions concerning the diocese’s continuing membership in the Episcopal Church. Two affiliated groups issued statements of advice to the bishops and standing committees, and other individuals expressed concern either privately to Lawrence and the diocese or through postings on web sites.

Some diocesan standing committees announced their intention not to consent, and some publicized their decisions, including Bethlehem, Eastern Michigan, and Kansas.

Lawrence’s consecration date, previously scheduled for February 24, was postponed in January because of a delay in sending out the consent requests.

In early February a letter, signed by McCormick, addressed questions about Lawrence’s and the diocese’s intentions to remain part of the Episcopal Church, the participation of Jefferts Schori in the South Carolina consecration and concerns about the diocese’s request for “alternative primatial oversight.”

In December, Lawrence sent a letter to standing committees and bishops in responses to several inquiries about his stance on certain issues.

On March 8, Lawrence again clarified his position.

“I have been told that some diocesan Standing Committees have graciously offered to reconsider their denial of consent to my election as the XIV Bishop of South Carolina, if they only have assurance of my intention to remain in The Episcopal Church,” he wrote. “Although I previously provided assurance of my intention, this has not been sufficient for some Standing Committees, which are earnestly seeking to make a godly discernment.”

“As I stated at the walkabout in Charleston on September 9, 2006, and again in a statement written on 6 November 2006, I will make the vows of conformity as written in the Book of Common Prayer and the Constitution & Canons, (III.11.8). I will heartily make the vows conforming ‘…to the doctrine, discipline, and worship’ of the Episcopal Church, as well as the trustworthiness of the Holy Scriptures. So to put it as clearly as I can, my intention is to remain in The Episcopal Church.”

Conservative Episcopal Bishop Rejected

March 16th, 2007 posted by kendall at 6:20 am

In the South Carolina case, Jefferts Schori concluded that several Episcopal dioceses had failed to submit proper written consent for the election as required by church law, according to the Rev. J. Haden McCormick, head of the committee that administers the South Carolina Diocese.

A majority of Episcopal dioceses must approve an election before a bishop can be consecrated and installed. The diocese said it had received 57 diocesan consents _ one more than required. But McCormick said in a statement that some dioceses wrongly “thought that electronic permission was sufficient as had been their past accepted practice.”

McCormick called it a “tragic outcome” that he hoped would be “a wake up call” about conditions in the church. Theological conservatives are a minority within the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church. A national spokesman for the denomination was traveling to the Texas assembly Thursday night and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Lawrence, a priest in the conservative Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno, Calif., was elected on the first ballot last September as South Carolina bishop.

The San Joaquin Diocese has also rejected Jefferts Schori’s authority, partly because it opposes the ordination of women. In December, the diocese took the first step toward a formal break with the denomination. Some Episcopalians believed Lawrence planned to follow suit in South Carolina. He vehemently denied it.

“That was mud that got thrown at me and in some people’s mind that stuck,” Lawrence said.

Read it all.


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