Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Bishop vonRosenberg suing Mark Lawrence?
Bishop vonRosenberg is claiming that Mark Lawrence is intentionally misleading people about this status as an Episcopal Bishop and leader of the diocese of South Carolina. VonRosenberg is saying that Lawrence has no business claiming to be an Episcopal bishop when he has in fact left the Church.
Does Mark Lawrence's restraining order mean that we are not a Diocese in the Episcopal Church anymore?
Not at all. We continue to be the only officially-recognized diocese of the Episcopal Church in the eastern half of South Carolina. We have been a diocese in the Church since 1789 and will continue to be so well into the future. www.epsicopalchurchsc.org
The restraining order only means that a judge has decided temporarily that Mark Lawrence and his followers have exclusive use of the names "Diocese of South Carolina," "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina," "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc." or the official seal of the seal of the Diocese.
While this move was apparently intended to embarass the Presiding BIshop at the election and installation of Bishop vonRosenberg, it also appears to be intended to advance Lawrence's claim to millions of dollars in Diocesan assets belonging to the Episcopal Church.
The restraining order is temporary, and a date has not been set for a full hearing at which both sides of the case can be heard. The judge, who has close ties to Lawrence's legal team, will also preside at the full hearing where she will hear both sides of the debate.
So is Lawrence an Episcopalian?
No. Ex-Bishop Lawrence has had some difficulty accepting that he is no longer a priest or bishop in the Episcopal Church or in the Anglican Communion. He renounced his ministry inthe Episcopal Church last October with great fanfare, but then reversed himself and criticized the Presiding Bishop when she accepted it in December. Apparently he felt she had misinterpreted his comments when he said, "I am no longer in the Episcopal Church."
Today, Lawrence says he is an Episcopal Bishop in an Episcopal Diocese, that is not part of the Episcopal Church. Since he is not part of any denomination that recognizes his authority, it is hard to know what he means when he says this.
Is it true that Mark Lawrence is recognized as bishop by the "vast majority" of the Anglican Communion?
He claims that he is. However, this is news to the Anglican Communion.
The Anglican Communion is comprised of 39 churches or "provinces" whose theology and worship is descended from the Church of England, going back to King Henry VIII. To be a part of the communion, an individual, priest, or bishop must belong to one of those provinces. In the United States and
as many as twnety other countries in the world the only Anglican province that is recognized by the head of the Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is the Episcopal Church.
So what happens to the clergy and congregations that have decided to leave the Episcopal Church?
There is no punishment for leaving the Episcopal Church. Clergy and members of their parishes can leave the Church freely, as their consciences dictate.
In the case of clergy, they only need to inform the Episcopal Church or Bishop vonRosenberg of their intentions. For some reason, there have not been that many who have actually done this, even though they have said they are joining up with Lawrence's group.
At this point, about two-thirds of the clergy of the Diocese are staying with the Episcopal Church. At some point, Bishop vonRosenberg will try to contact the others and ask them about their plans. Those who say they want to leave will be considered to have renounced their ordination vows.
Can congregations continue to own their property if they follow Lawrence out of the Episcopal Church?
No. Everything owned by the Diocese of South Carolina and its parishes belongs to the Episcopal Church.
In 2011 then-Bishop Lawrence issued quitclaim deeds to every parish in the Diocese claiming that he was relinquishing any interest the Episcopal Church or the Diocese had in their property. On many levels, this was a meaningless gesture. He was trying to give away something that was not his to giveaway in the first place. Even Lawrence appears to understand this, as he has told congregations that want to follow him they should not count on keeping their parish property.
There is the case of All Saints on Pawleys Island that gave parish property to a congregation that wanted to leave the Episcopal Church. However, that was clearly a unique circumstance. It does not have universal application to all parishes in South Carolina, as Lawrence's army of lawyers have tried to suggest.
His followers are a different story. Obviously an