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GC2012: South Carolina's Actions: A Shot Heard around the Anglican Communion

GC2012: South Carolina's Actions: A Shot Heard around the Anglican Communion
Orthodox Episcopal diocese takes decisive and dramatic action to distance itself from Convention's unholy decisions

By Mary Ann Mueller
Special Correspondent
July 12, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS - One of the most important stories coming out of the 2012 Episcopal General Convention was the sight of a convention deputation, committed to the truth of Scripture and Gospel values, walking out of the House of Deputies and shaking the dust off their boots as they left the Indiana Convention Center to wing their way back to the South Carolina low country. At the same time, their bishop, Mark Lawrence, also walked out of the House of Bishops in solidarity with his deputation.

The dramatic stance for traditional orthodoxy came as a surprise to most Conventioneers who less than 24 hours before had put its official stamp of approval on same-gender blessing liturgies. That action was met with cheers and high-fives as the House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops to approve such heterodox liturgical celebrations.

True, the Convention's action was met with screaming headlines around the world about The Episcopal Church sanctioning gay marriage, yet the lone bishop and his entourage visibly protesting Convention's deed will go down in the annuals of history as a true act of courage. A "yea" vote on the floor of the House of Bishop or the House of Deputies was not an act of courage. It was a cowardly step by those who have become enamored by the clamor of the noisy LBGT crowd and who did not have the backbone to stand up against vice.

What South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence and his General Convention deputies - Canon James Lewis, Dean David Thurlow, Boylston Reid, Elizabeth Pennewill, and Lydia Evans - did took real courage - to get up in the face of evil and stand up for Christ come what may.

Two other members of the South Carolina deputation, Dean John Burwell and Lonnie Hamilton, remained behind as a remnant witness to truth and to the fact that the Palmetto State diocese is still committed to following Christ through The Episcopal Church. The Diocese will remain in The Episcopal Church as a lone voice crying in the wilderness, just as one clerical and one lay deputy remain at General Convention as the voice crying in the wilderness.

All week, Bishop Lawrence has been crying in the wilderness. He and his colleague, Bishop William Love of Albany, were the only two Episcopal bishops who put up a scrap in the House of Bishops when their brother and sister bishops debated Resolution D002 which called for the inclusion all of persons to all ministry regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, thereby embracing transgenderedness.

The good bishop from South Carolina also voiced his disapproval over similar Resolution D019 calling for the total inclusion of all persons regardless of the sexual orientation, gender identity or expression in the life, worship and governance of the church. This time, fellow South Carolinian Bishop Andrew Waldo from the Diocese of Upper South Carolina joined him in that cry in the wilderness.

Bishop Lawrence's pleas fell on deaf ears and hardened hearts and "T" -- transgender -- was added to the list of The Episcopal Church's protected sexual deviations: LGBT.

Altogether the passage of Resolutions D002, D016 along with the concurrence of A049, the Convention's spiritual decay became just too much for the sensibilities of the South Carolina delegation. Tuesday night the entire membership of the deputation, including Bishop Lawrence, in keeping with a June position paper by their Standing Committee articulating their clear position on marriage, drafted and released a statement repudiating the passage of A049, which allows for the authorization of Liturgical Resources for Same-Gender Relationships within The Episcopal Church becoming the straw that broke the camel's back.

"We here by repudiate, denounce and reject any action of The Episcopal Church which purports to bless what or Lord clearly does no bless," The June position paper states. "Specifically, we declare any rite which purports to bless same-gender unions to be beyond the authority and jurisdiction of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church and without force or effect." "It is with heavy hearts that Bishop Mark Lawrence and the South Carolina deputation to General Convention must report the final passage and adoption of Resolution A049," the group posted on the diocesan website. "The Bishop and our deputation, in both speaking and voting against its passage, remain united and unanimous in our support of the historic understanding of 'the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them'.

"We grieve that General Convention has further departed from these values and adopted a resolution to permit pastoral license to violate the existing canons on marriage. We believe this decision will seriously wound the Church and ask you to join us in prayer for God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church," the statement concluded.

Following the passage of A049, Canon Kendall Harmon, the Diocese of South Carolina's resident canon theologian, posted a statement on Titus 1:9, "This General Convention action is unbiblical, unChristian, unAnglican and unseemly. It will further wreak havoc among Anglicans, and indeed Christians, in North America and around the world. By making this decision, The Episcopal Church moves further away from Jesus Christ and His teaching. It thereby makes it necessary for the Diocese of South Carolina to take further decisive and dramatic action to distance itself from this false step."

He continued, "We in South Carolina must differentiate to stay loyal to Christ, but also to keep our own parish members and not hinder the mission of Jesus Christ who loves all and transforms all by the power of the Holy Spirit to holiness of life, a holiness which has a clear shape agreed by Christians East and West throughout 20 centuries."

Wednesday dawned and before the day was over, the South Carolina deputation would make a bold declaration. "Due to the actions of General Convention, the South Carolina Deputation has concluded that we cannot continue with business as usual. We all agree that we cannot and will not remain on the floor of the House and act as if all is normal. John Burwell and Lonnie Hamilton have agreed to remain at Convention to monitor further developments and by their presence demonstrate that our action is not to be construed as a departure from the Episcopal Church. Please pray for those of us who will be traveling early and for those who remain."

The news immediately hit Twitter. Convention media was sent scrambling to flesh out the breaking story.

On his blog, Dean Burwell further explained about Wednesday afternoon's happenings. "We released a statement at 3:30 today in complete agreement that we could not, in good conscience remain on the floor of the house and act as if all is normal. We differentiated South Carolina from this Convention. Lonnie and I were the only two deputies on the House of Deputies floor today, and we will be the only two tomorrow. Life goes on as normal here in Conventionland, and we simply do not choose to be a part of it."

The two remaining South Carolina deputies are committed to sticking it out until the final gavel sounds. "We cannot accept in good conscience either A049 (Provisional Blessing Rite) or the twin transgenders, D002 and D019. These actions by General Convention are not normal, not good, not Anglican, not scriptural ... and it is not something that a single deputy of SC can accept. We cannot act like its business as usual. It's not. Lonnie and I agreed to stay, and we will stick it out to the bitter end."

Burwell continued in his blog, "The climate in the house today since we reduced our numbers to one lay and one clergy is typical. Those who do not care for us, do not care for this. Nothing has changed. That, brothers and sisters, is symptomatic of the problem. So last night, after we prayed and interceded, we felt called to do what we did today."

The Episcopal News Service was quick to track down the story. In an article entitled: Majority of South Carolina deputies walk out to protest Convention actions, ENS reporter Mary Frances Schjonberg wrote that Bishop Lawrence had not left the Convention and was still around early that evening.

Dean Burwell defended the South Carolina deputation walking out saying that the accumulative actions of General Convention had demoralized many of the members.

Wednesday afternoon, Resolution C029, dealing with Communion without Baptism (CWOB), came to the floor of the House of Deputies for spirited debate. The concern was that the Convention would get sandbagged by the word "however" in CWOB in much the same way that Convention was duped by the word "however" in 2000 when the Convention was describing same-gender partnered relationships. The conjunction "however" became the slippery slope that eventually led to the election of Vicky Gene Robinson as bishop.

"It was the "however" part that that made some of us try to get it defeated. At Denver in 2000, the same kind of language was used to describe partnered people of the same sex," the South Carolina dean explained. "We acknowledged that it was happening. By 2002, the official Church line was that we approved of the practice because we said so in Denver. And at 2003, we solemnized it with Gene Robinson. Not willing to fall for that one again."

South Carolina joined the push for a C029 Vote-by-Orders. The Vote-by-Orders was granted but most of the South Carolina delegation left before the vote was taken.

After the vote was taken, South Carolina's ballot was challenged because it was erroneously reported that the bishop and the entire delegation had withdrawn from the 77th General Convention and the remaining deputies were therefore ineligible to vote on C029 in the House of Deputies.

Dean Burwell quickly set the record straight. Approaching Microphone 8 the South Carolina priest assured the House of Deputies that South Carolina was still an active part of Indianapolis General Convention and would remain so until the final gavel.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline


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