Admiral of Morality: Wrong answers

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Wrong answers

Standing Committees should be mindful of Mark Lawrence's statements regarding our Church as they consider whether to put him into a position where he may exercise authority in it. They will have to live with the consequences of his episcopacy.

Members of the Standing Committees should read Lawrence's words for themselves. They should consider whether at this juncture in the life of our Church, a man who approaches the Church from a position of hostility and estrangement, should be given a wider platform. Lawrence's answers to questions asked of him by bishops and Standing Committees are posted at Thinking Anglicans. Thinking Anglicans also has a page where Lawrence's answers to questions put to him by South Carolina during the selection process, may be read. Go here.

At his web site, Lionel Deimel of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, has "The Annotated Mark Lawrence," and many other resources highlighting Lawrence's positions. Among Lawrence's views is transferring authority in The Episcopal Church to "the primates."

Throughout his responses to questions, Lawrence seems appalled that The Episcopal Church is asking him about anything of significance at all, as if he does not have to answer to anyone for anything.

The Diocese of South Carolina's hostility to much of the wider church and its selections for bishop undermine our church order and discipline. The Standing Committees must be prepared to refuse consent and with the consultation of the House of Bishops, make preparations for the continued pastoral care and spiritual direction of that diocese. One way forward is to put the diocese into a sort of receivership, under the guidance and direction of a primatial vicar, the presiding bishop, and the primatial council.

Lawrence's answers to legitimate questions by the Church bodies responsible for consenting to him are evasive and dismissive Network-speak. He insists that he is being asked questions because he "dares" to ask questions like, "Does the emperor have no clothes?"

Wrong. He is being asked simple questions, like, "What would you do if the diocese were to try to secede?"
I don't think that speculative questions of this nature as to what a person will do in some imagined future are either reasonable or helpful. I mean no disrespect by this, but I will say in all fairness, I can think up many such questions of an imagined future crisis that could send any of us into a conundrum of canonical contradictions.

Wrong answer. The answer is, "I will do everything in my power to stop it."

Anther simple question he is asked is, "Do you recognize Katherine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and as your Primate?"
I recognize Katherine Jefferts Schori as the legitimately elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Sadly, I also recognize that her actions as bishop of Nevada in condoning same sex blessings, for which she has expressed no regret, put her in violation of the Windsor Report and, consequently, compromise her ability to function in primatial authority and relationship. This is not merely a consequence of her stated views, (which is one thing), but her considered actions after the Primate’s Covenant in 2003, as well as subsequent Primatial Communiqués, i.e. Dromantine, regarding the bonds of affection. How one parses the difference between elected Presiding Bishop and Primatial representation is one of the ecclesial challenges that, to a greater or lesser degree, those who have asked for APO must presently grapple.

Wrong answer. The answer is, "She is the Primate of the Episcopal Church. She is the Primate of South Carolina." Why is this the right answer? Because this is what ++Katharine is.

Lawrence is being questioned because during the search for a new bishop he indicated quite clearly that as bishop he will simply reinforce divisions and hostilities. This is a pattern consistent with the activities and approaches to ministry, of the Diocese of South Carolina. This is also a pattern evident in Lawrence's current diocese, San Joaquin, whose bishop urged his diocese to "leave" The Episcopal Church and who asserted that he himself has the power to declare his own diocese out of communion with any other in The Episcopal Church.

Before the selection process, Lawrence wrote a piece called "In Defense of Dissociation." (It may be read in full here.)

There, besides likening the Church to an addict, he said that the Church had abandoned the Gospel in a misguided passion to be culturally sensitive and intellectually flexible.
In its desire to be more relevant than thou, TEC has cast aside scriptural faithfulness, particularly the broad and demonstrable teachings of the New Testament that would convict our lifestyle of sin, and call into question our overly permissive approach to morality. Even more disturbing is our grave disregard of fundamental Christian doctrines such as the nature of God, the uniqueness of Christ, the integrity and unity of the Spirit's work, and the need of humankind for the redemptive work of the cross—for instance, assuming our sexual proclivities, given by nurture or nature, are, by that fact, necessarily God-given.

Lawrence is free to disagree. But when he disagrees, he doesn't just disagree. He clearly implies those who disagree with him are unChristian, apostate, and "like an addict." No doubt this clerical trash talk would continue if he were made bishop. Why does the Church want as a bishop, a man who considers the majority of its members, unChristian, and in the thrall of some "agenda" leading them away from God? Approving such a man would be illogical and destructive. What our church needs is bishops who build up the Church, not ones who attack it as it goes about its work and mission.

A better question may be, if Lawrence believes his Church is not Christian, then what is his point in being a bishop in it? Answer: to be in a position to remove from it, "a faithful remnant."

Would he face much opposition in his diocese? Probably not. Many clergy in the Diocese of South Carolina have long since passed from loyal dissent to outright hostility and hatred for The Episcopal Church. In fact, they voted for Lawrence, knowing full well what he has written and said. This is all the more reason to put that diocese into receivership.

When he lost to Lawrence, Ellis Brust, one of the other candidates the secessionists nominated as their bishop, immediately left The Episcopal Church and assumed the role of President for the Anglican Mission in America, which is not in Communion with Canterbury, and tries to absorb Episcopal parishes. Before that, he was CEO of the American Anglican Council, a group of "Episcopalians" who regularly undermine and attack the Church.

That South Carolina would nominate a person of so little fealty to their own Church, to be their bishop, does not inspire confidence in their ability to discern a positive way forward. They complain they are being "targeted." But their activities and selections undermine church order. The nomination of Brust alone is enough to warrant heightened scrutiny by the wider church.

Lawrence complains in his answers that he has not demonstrated any "action" to warrant denial of consents. This is his only defense, that he hasn't yet actually divided the Church.

He's right on that score. And the Church should not give him the opportunity to do it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was the consecration of Robinson that undermined church order.

There is nothing in the confirmation of Lawrence that even approaches the rending of the polity by those in TEC who have demanded that the rest of us go along with their relentless assertion that "sex is not about morality."

3/15/2007 12:22:00 AM  
Blogger The AoM said...

Bishop Robinson has worked to spread the Gospel to all. In the process he has reaffirmed his commitment to the Church and the Gospel.

To do this he hasn't had to condemn others as addicts or heretics; nor has he called for subverting the institutions which have functioned in our Church for more than 200 years.

Unlike Mark Lawrence. The kind of dissent Lawrence envisions is the kind of dissent that attacks other living people and that works to undermine our institutions.

And it's not just some small "leadership" Lawrence's brand of dissent is arrayed against. It is all the other people of the Episcopal Church who he doesn't agree with, who through several General Conventions, and through their parishes, have discerned the work of the Lord.

Under the leadership of Salmon the diocese of South Carolina has estranged itself from the wider church for many years. The diocesan profile South Carolina compiled prior to their bishop search illustrated quite well where the clergy of that diocese stand. The search committee then picked three candidates who in their opinions would best reflect the diocese's growing willingness to separate.

This profile and other information compiled by South Carolina, was then sent to every bishop and standing committee in our church.

So our Church has known for some time about what is going on in South Carolina in general and in regards to this bishop search. There is a breakdown in order there that this bishop search illustrates quite well. The problem runs deeper than just one bishop search. If the primatial vicar mechanism is established it is likely the SC diocese, and others, will be under more watchful eyes.

Given his last minute statement about his intent, maybe Lawrence won over a few standing committees straddling the fence. But, maybe not. If Lawrence and the diocese had gone the extra mile in reaching out to the rest of the Church throughout the process, perhaps they, and all the rest of us, could have made a better witness.

3/15/2007 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger Craig Goodrich said...

... nor has [VGR] called for subverting the institutions which have functioned in our Church for more than 200 years.

No, just the teachings and hermeneutics which have functioned in the Church catholic for around 2000 years...

3/15/2007 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger The AoM said...

So far the argument for supporting Lawrence is flowing from a rejection of another bishop--not from the support of Lawrence himself. Perhaps this tendency to cast Lawrence's election in this way leads standing committees to pause even more when considering their consents.

3/15/2007 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The AOM - If you really believe that Mark Lawrence's support is only a rejection of +Robinson then you obviously have not spoken with folks in South Carolina. Mark has been sensitive and pastoral to a degree that even one of our most reappraising parishes heartily endorses him.

3/15/2007 02:30:00 PM  

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