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
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".