The following is a letter to the Diocese of South Carolina from the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence:
November 29, 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I write to you in this season of Advent when we await with eagerness the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in great glory to judge both the living and the dead, even while we prepare to celebrate his birth among us so long ago in that unlikely place and with an unimaginable wonder and unspeakable grace—the Word made flesh. In this season of hope we also rejoice in his daily visitation. To that end it is with such hope that I report to you that late yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from Bishop Dorsey Henderson, President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, regarding their ruling on my case which has been before them for several months. In a conference of the board members on November 22nd the Disciplinary Board was unable to certify that I had abandoned the Episcopal Church. While the statement leaves many questions unanswered—frankly, to my mind it appears to read like a complex statement of a complex decision in a complex time within a complex church. Nevertheless, I believe it is best to take it at face value (even while noting that this diocese has not recognized the constitutionality of the new disciplinary canon). For now given no more allegations from anonymous sources within the diocese it is my hope we can all get back to focusing our full attention on proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and to Glory of God the Father that the Church here in the Diocese of South Carolina may add daily to its number those who are being saved.
Please know our vocation has not changed. While making disciples and witnessing to the unassailable Truth of the Gospel to a hurting and troubled world, and speaking truth to power within the unfolding struggles of The Episcopal Church, as well as taking our place in the larger Anglican Communion, we are, as you have heard me say on many occasions, called by God to Make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age. Even while I write this we have a group of Irish priests from one of our companion dioceses, the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh visiting at Church of the Cross in Bluffton to share, learn and experience renewal and refreshment in the Lord. They and their bishop, The Right Reverend Ken Clarke, will be meeting with our Diocesan Anglican Communion Development Committee to further yet another mutually enriching missional relationship within the emerging Anglicanism of this 21st Century.
Before concluding let me express my heartfelt gratitude for the innumerable letters, emails and spoken words of encouragement I have received from so many within the diocese (even from those who do not always agree with my theological position or my constitutional and canonical concerns). I am also grateful for assurance of prayers from those all across The Episcopal Church, and those in continuing Anglican circles across North America, as well as from significant Provinces of the Communion. I must also give thanks for Christians in various denominations who, having read of our situation in the diocese, have offered prayers to God for our strength and steadfastness. May we get on with the grace-filled work of Jesus Christ that is before us “that when he shall come again in power and great triumph to judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing.”
Gratefully yours in Christ,
The Right Reverend Mark J. Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina