Because the Diocese of South Carolina has already left the Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop's declaration is of no effect other than for the purposes of their own record keeping. The November 17th Convention affirmed this legal and canonical reality. This action by the Presiding Bishop will come as no surprise to most, though it should be a disappointment to all. It has been done before. Just as the Episcopal Church has been increasingly characterized by ignoring the plain meaning of biblical texts, that same behavior has now come to characterize the application of their own governing canons as well. Those canons are quite explicit about the renunciation of ministry. It is to be a request, made in writing, to the Presiding Bishop, that the bishop in question wishes to be released from the ministry of the Episcopal Church. None of those qualifications have been complied with. Bishop Lawrence has never renounced his orders or expressed the desire to do so.
It is also clear in the canons that a release from ministry is not possible when another disciplinary process is in force. With the previous certification of abandonment by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, it should not have been possible, without violating the canons, for there to be a declaration of the renunciation of ministry. As surely as these same interpretive habits have created theological chaos within the Episcopal Church, these latest actions are further evidence of increasing canonical chaos and a leadership that has slipped all restraints in pursuit of its agenda and goals. For those remaining within the Episcopal Church, these developments should be cause for serious concern. For the Diocese of South Carolina, which has already departed, they are viewed with a certain amazement, but also with gratitude that we have disassociated ourselves from the increasing dysfunction.
Dear Friends in Christ,
“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Corinthians 4:5
The Presiding Bishop called me this afternoon to inform me that she and her council of advice have “accepted my renunciation of ordained ministry.” I listened quietly, asked a question or two and then told her it was good to hear her voice. I did not feel any need to argue or rebut. It is the Presiding Bishop’s crossing of the T’s and dotting of the I’s—for their paper work, not my life. I could point out the canonical problems with what they have done contrary to the canons of The Episcopal Church but to what avail? TEC will do what they will do regardless of canonical limitations. Those canonical problems are already well documented by others and hardly need further documentation by me. She and her advisers will say I have said what I have not said in ways that I have not said them even while they cite words from my Bishop’s Address of November 17, 2012.
Quite simply I have not renounced my orders as a deacon, priest or bishop any more than I have abandoned the Church of Jesus Christ. As I am sure you are aware, the Diocese of South Carolina has canonically and legally disassociated from The Episcopal Church. We took this action long before today’s attempt to claim a renunciation of my orders, thereby making it superfluous.
So we move on—onward and upward. As I write these words in the vesper light of this first Wednesday of Advent, the bells of the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul ring in the steeple beside the diocesan office, and I remain the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. We shall continue to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ in Word and Deed to a needy world, as well as ourselves. We need to experience afresh its power to set us free from sin, death, guilt, shame and judgment and to transform our lives to be like Christ’s from one degree of glory to another. As the Apostle has written: “The Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
I am heartened by the support of the vast majority of those within this Diocese as well as that of the majority of Anglicans around the world and that of many in North America who have expressed in so many ways that they consider me to be an Anglican Bishop in good standing and that this Diocese of South Carolina is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
My prayers for a wakeful and watchful Advent,
The Right Reverend Mark Joseph Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina