Thursday, April 17, 2008

AAC Interviews Bishop Mark Lawrence

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Bishop Mark Lawrence:

April 12, 2008

AAC: Was any progress toward reconciliation made at this House of Bishops’ meeting?

+Lawrence: We spent a day and a half on what was called a reconciliation retreat. What makes it difficult to answer that question is that, based at our table discussion, the table I was at, I thought we began to talk about the difficulties that are connected with that whole area of reconciliation. So in that sense, on a table level, I would say, yes, we made some progress. But once we got to the legislative portion of the meeting…reconciliation is always costly and the question is, who it’s going to cost and who wants to sacrifice in order to reconcile. Once we got to the legislative portion of the meeting and the deposition for Bishop Schofield and Bishop Cox, I wouldn’t describe the mood of the house as conciliatory to those who, for issues of faith, don’t feel like they can conform to order of the church.

What we have in The Episcopal Church (TEC) today is that many people feel like the faith of the church has been compromised or violated and in order to deal with what they feel is a profound compromise or denial of the faith of the church historically and biblically, they feel like they have to do things contrary to the order of the church. At that point, many in the House of Bishops and in various other formats of the church desire to impose the order of the church upon them. That is, if Bishop Schofield believes the faith of the church has been denied, he has to go beyond the order of the church as in the canons and constitution of TEC, and those who are in the forefront who are quite comfortable with the new faith of the church, so to speak, feel like they have to impose the order upon him or upon Bishop Cox.

The difficulty we have, then, is the very way we went about imposing the order of the church. That is, after the House of Bishops’ meeting, after the voting on the canonical depositions of Bishop Cox and Bishop Schofield, it seemed to be revealed that those depositions were done in a way that was contrary to the order of the church...

AAC: What is your next step?

+Lawrence: I know that Bishop Howe has recently called for a re-examination of this. The Standing committee and Bishop of South Carolina, myself, have issued a letter of protest that the canons were not followed. I don’t know where we will end up with all of that.

AAC: How much room is there in TEC for the Diocese of South Carolina to be the Diocese of South Carolina?

+Lawrence: It’s not a matter of new rules. The challenge that we face is that the vast majority of people and clergy in South Carolina, at least as far as I have come across in my three months here in South Carolina, hold to the orthodox faith of historic Christianity. When that seems to be up for grabs, then it creates an atmosphere in which people become restless about what we are and who and what we are joined to. Now that is not a matter of canonical struggle, it is a matter of fellowship. The question seems to mingle this whole fuzzy area of faith and order. Some issues that we struggle with are issues of faith; others that we struggle with are the way the church is ordered. According to the constitutions and canons there’s all kind of space for us to exist as of now.

However, if the General Convention of TEC becomes the means by which every constitutional article and every canon is interpreted and can be changed, and if those canons are not just matters of governance but also matters that seem to be integral to the faith, then it creates a very precarious environment for someone who at one stage feels quite comfortable within the Episcopal Church. A subsequent General Convention could change that. An example would be the way those bishops who do not feel by conscience that they can ordain women have been increasingly marginalized by successive statements, resolutions, or canons of General Convention.

The question is, ‘yes we can function now, but will we be able to function in 2009, 2012, 2015?’ That remains to be seen.

Read the full interview HERE.

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