News for Week Ending 10/22/2012
Archbishop of Canterbury launches campaign for women bishopsArchbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has, according to his Web site, begun a campaign to pass the legislation authorizing women bishops when the measure comes before the Church of England’s General Synod next month. (See Pittsburgh Update story here.) In an essay titled “Women Bishops: Enough Waiting” first published in Church Times October 19, 2012, Williams calls the prohibition of women bishops in the Church of England a “theological inconsistency.” He warns that neither those who want stronger nor those who want weaker legislation can be certain of what will happen if the currently proposed legislation is rejected.
ACNA to study women’s ordinationThe Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is about to undertake a study of women’s ordination. When ACNA was formed, some of its components ordained women and some did not. None had women bishops. The church agreed to tolerate the existence of “two integrities” respecting women’s ordination while prohibiting women from being consecrated bishops throughout the church. Archbishop Robert Duncan has appointed the Rt. Rev. David Hicks, Bishop of the REC Diocese of the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic to head a Theological Task Force on Holy Orders. No schedule has been announced for completion of the task force’s work. An undated announcement about the task force can be found on the ACNA Web site here.
South Carolina threatens to become fifth Episcopal diocese to attempt successionBishop of South Carolina Mark Lawrence was notified October 15, 2012, that the Disciplinary Board for Bishops has determined that he has abandoned The Episcopal Church “by an open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church.” This story was reported by Episcopal News Service on October 17, but more information has been made available from the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina than from ENS. In particular, the Certification of Abandonment, dated September 18, has only been made available by the diocese. Read it for an explanation of the charges. (This page on the diocesan Web site contains documents from The Episcopal Church, as well as documents from the Diocese of South Carolina.) The Presiding Bishop has inhibited Bishop Lawrence pending final action by the House of Bishops. On October 18, ENS ran a story on the people who made the original complaint against Lawrence. The diocese has complained that his accusers are all members of Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, like Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, a founding member of Via Media USA.
The Standing Committee and Board of Directors of the diocese passed a secret “poison pill” resolution, apparently on September 18, that dissociates the diocese from The Episcopal Church should the church act against the diocese or its bishop, which, of course, it now has. In a post on its Web site, the diocese asserts that The Episcopal Church has abandoned the Diocese of South Carolina and its bishop. According to that post, a special convention of the diocese will be held November 17 to decide on further action by the diocese.
The Canon Theologian of the diocese, the Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall S. Harmon, has posted a defense of his bishop and diocese on the diocesan Web site. Bishop Daniel Martins of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield has also posted an essay in defense of Lawrence, asserting that the South Carolina bishop has not abandoned The Episcopal Church.
Those outside the Diocese of South Carolina are trying to make sense of the situation. The Post and Courier of Charleston tried to answer many of the obvious questions in an October 21 article. The Washington Post has published a helpful story from Religion News Service. A Google search will uncover many other newspaper stories. Comment on Episcopal blogs has been slow to appear, but one from Mark Harris is notable.
This is a developing story about which we will hear more in the coming weeks. It is likely, however, that South Carolina will join San Joaquin, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, and Quincy as dioceses that have split over theological disputes with the wider church. Like those dioceses, issues of control and property in South Carolina are likely ultimately to be determined in court.
Texas Supreme Court hears two property casesOn October 16, 2012, the Texas Supreme Court heard two appeals regarding Episcopal Church property. Case No. 11-0265, The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, et al. v. The Episcopal Church was appealed directly to the Supreme Court and is the case that will decide the proper custodian of the property of the Forth Worth Diocese. (The “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth” of the title is actually the breakaway diocese led by Bishop Jack Leo Iker. See Pittsburgh Update story here.) Video of the October 16 presentation to the court can be seen here.
Case No. 11-0332, Robert Masterson, et al., v. Diocese of Northwest Texas, et al., was argued immediately after the Fort Worth case and involves a single congregation in a different Texas diocese. This case has been through the appellate court, and, like the Fort Worth case, is an appeal from a decision in favor of The Episcopal Church. Video of the proceedings can be found here.