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SC Bishop Mark Lawrence leads his delegation out of General Convention

SC Bishop Mark Lawrence leads his delegation out of General Convention
No business as usual. Enough is enough. The Episcopal Church has pushed the envelope too far

By Mary Ann Mueller
Special Correspondent
July 11, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS - The cumulative actions of the Episcopal General Convention became just too much for South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence and his House of Deputies delegation. They left Indianapolis in disgust Wednesday afternoon sending shockwaves throughout the Convention from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori down to the newest member the House of Deputies.

The first indication that there was anything the matter occurred just moments after the South Carolina delegation joined with dioceses of Georgia, Southwest Florida in asking for a roll call vote on Resolution C029, dealing with the Baptism without Communion issue and just moments after the House of Bishops took quick three minutes to pass the $111.5 million budget without one amendment.

When House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson called for the Roll Call vote, the South Carolina delegation was "missing in action".

Reports from the House of Bishops say that the Presiding Bishop was stunned when she was informed of Bishop Lawrence's intention to immediately leave the Convention with his delegation.

The pressure has been building all week as resolution after resolution was passed by both legislative houses, fully embracing the ways of the world and distancing The Episcopal Church even further from solid Anglican teaching, Christian theology, and wholesome practice.

The South Carolina diocese released a statement explaining its decisive action: "Due to the actions of General Convention, the South Carolina Deputation has concluded that we cannot continue with business as usual. (The V. Rev.) John Burnwell and Lonnie Hamilton have agreed to remain at Convention to monitor further development and by their presence demonstrate that our action is not to be construed as a departure from The Episcopal Church."

Other members of the South Carolina delegation include: The Rev. Canon James Lewis, the V. Rev. David Thurlow, and the Rev. Haden McCormack. The lay members of the deputation include: Boylston Reid, Elizabeth Pennewill, and Lydia Evans. South Carolina alternates are: Dorothy Carter, David Wright, John Dugue and the Rev. Andrew Pearson.

Even though Bishop Lawrence and his delegation are returning early to South Carolina he is quick to point out that their actions do not anyway broadcast an intension to leave The Episcopal Church. He is committed to his vows of priestly ordination and the vows taken at his episcopal consecration as the XIV Bishop of South Carolina.

The Diocese of South Carolina was establish in 1785 and is one of the original nine dioceses which formed General Convention in 1789. The diocese roots to back to the Colonial Anglican Church.

Following the Tuesday's passage of A049 the South Carolina delegation reported back to their diocese on the diocesan website, the inappropriate action of Convention authorizing same-gender liturgical blessings.

"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 Resolution to Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships," the missive said. "Our deputation, in voting against its passage, remains united and unanimous in our support of the historic understanding of "the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them."

"The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina, in its statement of June 15 has articulated the clear position of our diocese on marriage," posted continuing their statement. "The South Carolina deputation wholeheartedly endorses that position."

"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," they noted. "We believe this decision will seriously wound the Church and ask to you join is in prayers for God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."

Less than a month before the 77th General Convention convenes in the Hoosier State, the Standing Committee of the Diocese South Carolina issued a five-point position statement on Christian marriage.

In it the Standing Committee declared that the church was facing a "defining moment in the life of The Episcopal Church" and that the passage of same-gender liturgy blessing seemed to be a foregone conclusion, even before the opening gavel fell.

"Furthermore, the adoption of such a rite at General Convention contravenes the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and the Book of Common Prayer, and in so doing reveals the bankruptcy of our own polity and institutional integrity," the statement said.

The Standing Committee forcefully stated beforehand: "We hereby repudiate, denounce and reject any action of The Episcopal Church which purports to bless what our Lord clearly does not bless. 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."

Taking their Standing Committee's statement to heart the South Carolina delegation, lead by their bishop, put action to the printed words.

Even though Bishop Lawrence left General Convention he is emphatic that he is not leaving The Episcopal Church.

"I am not leaving The Episcopal Church," Bishop Lawrence told a journalist covering the Convention. " ... but I need to differentiate myself ..."

Following the passage of A014 11l conservative bishops signed the "Indianapolis Statement" also distancing themselves for the Tuesday's actions of General Convention. However, Bishop Lawrence was not one of the signators.

Once the delegation returns to South Carolina soil it is expected to release another statement further explaining its actions.

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

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