Diocese ‘disaffiliates’ from US Episcopal Church after Bishop Lawrence is censured

19 October 2012

ENS/LYNETTE WILSON

Up in the air: the Very Rev. John B. Burwell, deputy of South Carolina, speaks to the House of Deputies at the 2012 General Convention, in July  

Up in the air: the Very Rev. John B. Burwell, deputy of South Carolina, speaks to the House of Deputies at the 2012 General Convention, in Jul...

THE US Episcopal Church's disciplinary board for bishops has ruled that the Bishop of South Carolina, the Rt Revd Mark Lawrence, has "abandoned the Episcopal Church".

The ruling means that Bishop Lawrence - who has been engaged in a long-running battle with the Episcopal Church in the US, particularly over the issue of openly gay clergy - is "not permitted to perform any acts as an ordained person", an official statement said.

The diocese of South Carolina said in response that the ruling had "triggered" a resolution which "disaffiliated" it from the Episcopal Church. It has called a "special convention" for next month to devise "an appropriate response" to the ruling.

The disciplinary board, which is composed of ten bishops, four clergy, and four laity, ruled on 18 September that Bishop Lawrence had abandoned the Church "by an open renunciation of the discipline of the Church".

Among the "acts of abandonment" it cited was the adoption of six resolutions at the 2010 diocesan convention, in response to the Episcopal Church's General Convention passage of revised Title IV canons on clergy discipline in 2009 ( News, 29 October 2010). Bishop Lawrence told the convention that the resolutions were "not . . . intended to remove this diocese from the Episcopal Church".

The diocese of South Carolina described the new ruling as "a deplorable assault upon the bishop of this diocese", and "an assault on the dioceses and its congregations". It said that the ruling had come "in the midst of negotiations whose stated intent was to find a peaceful solution to our differences with the Episcopal Church".

The diocese described it as "deeply concerning . . . that all of the stated reasons for 'abandonment' were known nearly a year ago, when an earlier attempt to remove him failed" ( News, 2 December 2011).

The diocese said that it believed that "these actions of the Episcopal Church are both invalid under the constitution of the Episcopal Church of this diocese and violations of rights and freedoms which all Americans hold dear".

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