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On Friday, December 9, 2011 the Standing Committee responded to the December 5th letter from Bishop Clifton Daniel, acting as Vice-President of Province IV. The letter, whose text is below, summarizes the unanimous belief of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina regarding the issues raised by Bishop Daniel's letter. It is asked that the people of the Diocese keep the scheduled Wednesday afternoon, (December 14th) meeting of Bishop Lawrence with the representative bishops in your prayers.

The Rev. Canon Jim Lewis
Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina
Canon to the Ordinary

View a signed copy of the letter.

December 9, 2011

The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina
Vice President of Province IV of The Episcopal Church
PO Box 1336
Kinston, NC 28503

Rt. Rev.d Sir,

“May the God of peace sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit be kept safe and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  I Thess. 5:23

Your letter to Bp. Lawrence on Monday of this second week of Advent raises several concerns to which the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina feels it must respond.

First, the stated purpose of your inquiry concerns the release of quitclaim deeds to the parishes of this Diocese.  Given the very public nature of their release, the accompanying explanation (all still widely available on the internet), and their availability from any county deed registrar, the necessity of such questions is puzzling. Of more concern, however, is the character of your requests.

We are sure you are aware that the Constitution of The Episcopal Church does not allow a bishop to act within any other Diocese on any basis except for episcopal acts and then only by request of the Bishop of that Diocese. (Art. II, Sec. 3).  It also provides that a diocese only participates in provincial matters if it consents to such participation. (Art. VII). Further, only the provincial Synod can determine the provincial synodical  “rights and privileges of the several dioceses within the Province.” (Canon 1.9.3) and the Synod  expressly lacks any “power to regulate or control the internal policy or affairs of any constituent diocese.” (Canon 1.9.8) 

Therefore, the bishops of Province IV have no constitutional or canonical grounds for these requests, which relate exclusively and entirely to matters involving the internal policies and affairs of this Diocese. Our decisions to date have been made out of a fully informed concern for the people of South Carolina, which we shall continue to exercise, as we prayerfully believe God directs.

Second, the theological underpinning of your request, Matthew 18:15-20 and your oath, is very troubling. We fail to see how the issuance of quitclaim deeds to the parishes of this diocese could be construed to be a “sin against you”, and of course you have ignored the meeting between “you and him alone” and proceeded to the last scriptural step by “tell[ing] it to the church” through your publication of the matter. As to your oaths, if that perceived basis is to uphold the “doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal church”, then you must realize that your inquiries into the affairs of this diocese, without constitutional or canonical support, are contrary to that oath.

Third, this diocese grows weary of the constant interference in its internal affairs that continues to disrupt our mission. First, there was the non-canonical intrusion by the Presiding Bishop’s office hiring counsel for the episcopal church in this diocese to investigate our parishes, then there was the assertion by a subcommittee of the executive council that our constitutional and canonical amendments duly considered and passed were somehow not effective, then there were charges brought against our bishop now correctly recognized by the Disciplinary Board of Bishops for what they were at the outset - without merit. Yet, within less than two weeks of that decision, we have yet another attempt without canonical or constitutional support to inject others into the internal affairs of this autonomous diocese.

So, let us be clear.   We will not use the coercive force of threatened litigation over property to impose a false and destructive unity upon this Diocese.  We cannot sanction the compromise of a full gospel proclamation that is undermined by actions such as the communion of the un-baptized.  We cannot sanction the undermining of Christian marriage by the practice of same sex marriage or blessings.  In such matters of the internal governance of this Diocese, out of the great depths of our love and concern for our people, we will continue to assert the autonomy that is historically and constitutionally ours and we will do so consistent with our belief that God alone dictates our future.

Bp. Lawrence has communicated to us his intent to meet with you and other attending Province IV bishops next week in the spirit of collegiality invoked in your letter.   Given all we have said above, we are concerned about your motives and have expressed these concerns to Bp. Lawrence.  Nevertheless, we fully support Bp. Lawrence and pray that your time together will bring the desired clarity sought by all parties regarding our actions.  The Church is never served well by such conflicts, especially when so unnecessary.

Now, may He -- who came to visit us first in great humility, and when He returns shall come in glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead -- watch between us and direct all our paths through the remainder of this Advent season.

In Christ’s service,

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina

View signed copy of letter here.

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