A test for the Episcopal Church: Do not consent to South Carolina bishop-elect
If Standing Committees are not convinced of his good faith then consents must not be given
Lionel Deimel of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, from where the secessionist Network is run, has written a provocative and useful essay on the state of affairs in the Church. In it he argues for denying consent to the elevation of Mark Lawrence as Bishop of South Carolina.
"Imagine a candidate running for the U.S. Senate who was on record as being opposed to maintaining the Constitution as the basis of our government. Imagine further that this person wants to replace our current government by a ruling committee consisting of the heads of various English-speaking nations. I suspect that such a candidate would be soundly rejected by voters, irrespective of his or her sincerity or positions on other issues of the day. That rejection would be utterly justified."
This scenario seems absurd, of course. How could such a candidate entertain even the remotest hope of being elected? Bizarre as this situation sounds, however, it is not much different from one that has arisen in The Episcopal Church."
"When confronted by such a clear and present danger to its very existence—the South Carolina election is part of the wider assault on The Episcopal Church—can our church rally the resolve to protect its faith and order? I believe that it must, and that the outcome of the South Carolina election should not be allowed to stand."
These are very sound points. The Episcopal Church has given its dissenters wide latitude to dissent on matters of theology and polity. This is an historic and valid principle at the root of our Church. But it is one that has always presumed that such dissent is part of the seeking and building up of the Church, not its destruction. In the use of this core Anglican principle of dissent and difference, many of the loyal dissent have ceased being loyal members who work to build up the Body. Too many of them have turned to outright hatred and undermining of the Church.
"Although Mark Lawrence's Anglo-Catholic theology is hardly mainstream Episcopal thinking, it is not his theology, but his unwillingness to abide by the canons of The Episcopal Church that disqualify him from becoming a bishop. Even if he sincerely believes that he is correct and the church is wrong, he has no right to expect that others in the church who as sincerely believe otherwise should grant him license to disobey the canons. He has an obligation to deal faithfully with his brothers and sisters in the church as long as he is part of it."
The question is not whether we forgive the secessionists, or forgive them 70x7 times. The question is whether The Episcopal Church's stewards, will permit further spiritual violence and damage to the integrity, health and well-being of the Church. The Episcopal Church should not elevate as a bishop, a man who has already indicated he is willing to work to divide the Church from itself, and that he is not opposed to the further and continued division of the Church.
This is illogical and dangerous, particularly for a bishop, yet this is precisely what Lawrence indicated repeatedly in many of his questions during the bishop selection process. (His responses are available here as a pdf and also on the Dicoese of South Carolina website. Thinking Anglicans is a good repository of other information.)
How does such a willingess to ensure more division, to participate in it, and to tolerate it, build up members, and the Body itself? At a minimum Lawrence must be asked these questions and more. If Standing Committees are not convinced of his good faith then consents must not be given.
The rest of Dr. Deimel's essay can be read at his website or at Via Media.