November 11, 2012
Transition to Post-Lawrence Diocese Underway
Steering Committee will organize 2013 Diocesan Convention to elect provisional Bishop and new Standing Committee on March 8th
Lawrence still claims to be a "sovereign" bishop in the Episcopal Church without "restriction" on his ministry
CHARLESTON -- Episcopalians in South Carolina were cheered this morning by news of a newly-formed Steering Committee to shepherd the initial reorganization of the Diocese of South Carolina after last month’s apparent departure of Bishop Mark Lawrence and his Standing Committee.
An open letter by members of the steering committee for the continuing Diocese of South Carolina was published in newspapers throughout the state, welcoming all Episcopalians to “carry forward the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, just as prior generations have done since 1789.”
The committee has the full support of the Presiding Bishop, whose office acts as the default "ecclesiastical authority" in the event a bishop is "restricted" or has left the Episcopal Church. Learn more at the Diocesan website
The list of steering committee members reads like a who’s who of former Diocesan leaders, wardens, and Vestry members. It is chaired by Hillery Douglas, a Charleston businessman, civic leader, and former Chairman of the Charleston County School Board. Mr. Douglas is the Senior Warden at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Charleston and a retired chemist and administrator with the Charleston Naval Weapons Station. Learn who's on the Steering Committee
The steering committee is only a transitional body to begin the work of reorganizing the Diocese until a successor to Lawrence is elected, most likely at the 2013 Annual Diocesan Convention on March 8th. It will also elect new Diocesan officers, including a new Standing Committee. The steering committee has no authority to act in the palce of a bishop or standing committee.
This is similar to the transitional model used in other dioceses with leaders who sought to leave the Church and grab Diocesan property as they headed out the door. None have been successful.
The Committee is advised by a former Chancellor to the Diocese and two retired bishops, Charles von Rosenberg of East Tennessee, and John C. Buchanan of Southern Missouri. Buchanan, a former priest in the Diocese of South Carolina, currently serves as the provisional bishop for the Diocese of Quincy, where Diocesan leaders tried to break away from the Episcopal Church four years ago.
Both are available to counsel clergy and lay people committed to staying in the Church.
On October 18th Bishop Lawrence told a gathering of clergy that he, they, and their parishes were no longer in the Episcopal Church, and he has repeatedly told communicants of the Diocese since then that “I am no longer an Episcopalian.”
However, now, nearly four weeks later, Lawrence has not renounced his Episcopal orders, nor does he seem to be planning to do that. This week Lawrence started saying that he remains a bishop in the Episcopal Church, but he has no plans to abide by the temporary restriction on his ministry imposed on him by the Church after he was found to have “abandoned communion.”
When asked by whose authority he continues to confirm people and do other Episcopal acts from which he is banned, he answered, “The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”
Lawrence also is claiming to be the spiritual leader of a corporation he is calling “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina (PECDSC)”. Lawrence says that, despite its name, the PECDSC is not affiliated with the Episcopal Church. The corporate charter of the PECDSC Inc. is Lawrence's amended version of the corporate documents of the Diocese of South Carolina, minus the Episcopal Church and plus the Bishop as its "sovereign" and unchallengeable leader.
The former Standing Committee voted itself out of the Episcopal Church on October 2nd when it secretly and unanimously voted to leave the Church and tried to take the Diocese with it