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Saturday, November 25, 2006

A probably pointless (but not stupid) argument about the Bishop Elect of South Carolina

First of all, the readers of this blog must know that I love Tony Clavier.

Who is Tony Clavier, you ask? Ah, let me tell you.

Tony is, first and foremost, an amazing human being. A child of God, he is the very embodiment of one who keenly understands that the treasure of the inheritance of our baptism comes from Christ and the richness of the legacy of our faith comes from the Anglican Church.

As Christians who are Anglicans, we are abundantly blessed.

Tony has paid his dues, many times over. A priest in the Church of England, he left over the ordination of women to become, for 20 years, a Bishop in the Reformed Anglican Church. After a serious illness left him hospitalized, he experienced a conversion, having been visited by a Chaplain who happened to be a woman.

As a wise person once said, there are no coincidences.

When he "confessed" his newfound faith in the ordained status of women, there ensued a scandle and controversey, which kicked him out of the church and onto the street. (See above aphorism about there being no coincidences.)

Long story short: Newly minted presiding bishop Frank Tracy Griswold recieved him and he became the Episcopal priest in charge of a flock in Arkansas.

His journey has been, for lack of a better word, interesting, if not absolutely fascinating. He is now rector of a church in West Virginia, via a short stint working for The Convocation of American Churches in Europe.

I first met Tony at a gathering of the New Commandment Task Force - back when The Episcopal Church seemed serious about reconciliation - and I instantly fell in love.

Hear me clearly: Tony and I disagree on almost every major doctrine of the Christian church. But, we love each other, pray daily for each other and absolutely cherish being priests in the same church together.

We've been having conversations, the good parson and I - about the election of the bishop coadjutor in the diocese of South Carolina. As a member of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Newark, I take these conversations quite seriously.

For those of you who may not know, the election of any bishop must be confirmed by a simple majority of bishops with juridsidiction and Standing Committees of the Episcopal Church.

The argument against the confirmation of bishop-elect Mark Lawrence has been confused by the politicized arguments which are alive in our church, the worst of which is the argument that Mark Lawrence's "manner of life" - i.e., that his evangelical, neo-Puritan, quasi-orthodox theology is contrary to the doctrine and discipline of The Episcopal Church.

Indeed, what follows is my response to Tony's most pertinent question:

"What does 'manner of life' mean?"

I reponded: "The definition is painfully clear to any LGBT person who is discerning a vocation to the episcopacy.

I agree that it does not apply to the election in South Carolina.

It's a rather limp rhetorical argument designed to reveal the obvious:

That B033 was a stupid, desperate (and ultimately failed) attempt to calm the baptismal water across the Pond and in the Global South.

However, there are other concerns which mitigate against confirming the election of a man who, while clearly called to and capable of the office of the episcopacy, does not want to be a bishop in TEC.

Among other quotes, he has said that the ministry of a bishop is that of a pontiff, a bridge builder; that one can not build a bridge to nowhere and TEC is going nowhere.

So the question remains - for all bishops with jurisdiction and all Standing Committees:

Why confirm the election of a bishop to TEC who can not uphold the doctrine and discipline, much less the constitution and canons, of TEC?

That was decidedly NOT the question in the confirmation of Bishop Robinson.

Neither has it been a question with any of the other controversial elections such as that of Mr. Iker or Mr. Schofield, or even Bishop Barbara Harris - all of which could be said to have been concerned with 'heresy'.

Heresy can lead to schism, but it is not, in and of itself, schismatic.

The Church has lived with all sort and manner of heresy for centuries, thank you very much. Indeed, the 'church militant here on earth', Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant, lives in a continual state of heresy. (What are the words to that great hymn? ". . .by heresies distressed."

What the election of Mr. Lawrence represents is not heresy.

It is schism, flat out.

Indeed, why should we confirm the election of anyone to the episcopacy in TEC when to do that would be to ratify and endorse schism?

Now, there's the question we need to carefully consider."

As a member of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Newark, I pledge to you that I will be carefully considering this question.

If any of you can show just cause why this man, who has pledged to take the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church, ought to have his election as bishop in the Episcopal Church confirmed, please do let me know.

I do not take this matter lightly or inadvisedly.

I trust you do not, as well.

For more information on the argument against the confirmation of the South Carolina election, visit "Thinking Anglicans"



Cranmer49 said...

As president of the Standing Committee in Hawai`i, I also take this quite seriously and hope you will pass on whatever reasons someone might have for consenting to Mark Lawrence's election.

The Pilgrim said...

"The Church has lived with all sort and manner of heresy for centuries, thank you very much."

Episcopalians and some other small denominations may tolerate and even embrace heresy, but world wide "The Church" has always eschewed and fought heresy. Ask Arius, ask Pelagius, ask Hans Kung. Ask Rooting out heresy is what the Romans do best, and The Orthodox do not embrace any heresies, so please: there are over 1.1 billion Catholics and a quarter of a billion Orthodox in the world today. do not equate less than 2 million Episcopalians with "The Church."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Absolutely NO confusion on my part. Indeed, the Roman Church considers the Anglican church's theology to be heretical and Orthodox Church (you know, the REAL one), considers Roman theology to be heretical

It has ever been thus in "the church" (small 'c').

muerk said...

However both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches accept that the other has valid Sacraments, including Holy Orders. This is an important distinction as compared to the protestants.

Caminante said...

I am about to go onto my diocese's Standing Committee, which I believe has not yet considered this consent, so follow all of this carefully. Inerestingly, Vermont did not vote to consent to the election of Barbara Harris! My, how things changed a few years later -- for the good. Lee

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Where did you get this information?

Last time I checked, the only sacrament of reciprocity between Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant was baptism.

The Romans consider Orthodox ordination valid, but the Orthodox do not allow Romans to function as Orthodox priests. Absolutely not.

Indeed, just down the street at the local RC church, there is a former Polish Orthodox priest who had to "reliquish" his orthodox orders to be accepted as a Roman Priest, but, as Fr. Zig says, he can no longer function as an Orthodox priest because his Roman status is no longer recognized by his orthodox brethern.

In terms of Eucharist, the Orthodox will give non-orthodox "blessded bread" (RC or Prot) but not the Sacramental bread and wine. That is reserved only for the Orthodox.

Check it out.

The church universal has always been "by heresies distresed" - and probably always will - at least in my lifetime.

That's my point. Heresy is one thing. Schism is quite another.

Mr. Lawrence is not touting heresy. He's promising schism.

BIG difference.

Deborah Sproule said...

I'm a Lay Leader of little power to influence or control the work of any Bishop, however as a lifelong Episcopalian I hereby invoke the Cloud of Witnesses that cleared my path (one very vocal female!) on the Anglican faith walk. Thank you EK for bringing the scary evil demon
called "HERESY" to a well lit table of LOGIC. Thankfully the rhetoric dynamic of any Holy vs Heretic debate seems to dilute the power of true schism in "thinking Anglican" circles. Unfortunately, not all circles of debate are truly logical. Hence my determination to bring up the "H" word when some of the cloth/collar invoke it's power to divide. More to the point our Canons are the fruits of honorable minds and blessed hearts of those who seeded growing journey in our Anglican faith belief. Please, do all in your power to uphold the Episcopal Canons. It is death of ethics in the church to let one Bishop prance about in Canon Cloth while suffocating Christ's growth in the world.

muerk said...

Sorry I wasn't clear in expressing myself. We both believe each others Sacraments to be "real". I'm not sure of the theologicaly correct term, but what I'm thinking of is that when no Roman Catholic priest is available, a Roman Catholic may, under canon law, receive the Eucharist and receive absolution from an Orthodox priest. I couldn't do that with the Anglican Church.

I'm not disputing the big differences between the two churches, but I guess the biggest thing is that each has the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Also the seven Sacraments and apostolic succession.

Tobias said...

If you choose to consent
you may have to present
when he doesn't relent
in his promised dissent.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Muerk, my brother or sister, you are sadly, irrefutably but, I am certain, with all good intention to be sure but nonetheless, misinformed.

Again, you are counting the number of gnats that might dance on the head of a pin.

The issue is schism vs. heresy.

Heresy we can - and have, for centuries - live(d) with.

Schism is what is represented by the confirmation of Mark Lawrence's election as bishop of South Carolina.

That's as clear as the Iberian nose in the middle of my face,.

Lionel said...

I'm afraid the link to Thinking Anglicans, which contains additional links to essential reading, is wrong in the original post. The proper link is this one.

muerk said...

Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University says this:

The rules for Eastern Orthodox and other Eastern Christians are different from that for Protestants, since the Catholic Church recognizes the validity of Orthodox and Eastern priesthood and the common faith in the sacraments.

For this reason the Catholic Church admits them to Communion if they are unable to assist at their own liturgy.

Of those Eastern Churches not in communion with the Holy See, the directory says in No. 123: "Whenever necessity requires or a genuine spiritual advantage suggests, and provided that the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, it is lawful for any Catholic for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister, to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist and anointing of the sick from a minister of an Eastern Church."

Here's the whole link:

The Pilgrim said...

Muerk said . . . .

". . .when no Roman Catholic priest is available, a Roman Catholic may, under canon law, receive the Eucharist and receive absolution from an Orthodox priest.

Muerk, I quote from my Sunday bulletin, St. Andrew's Antiochian Orthodox Church:

"We welcome our visitors this Sunday. Please feel free to follow the service in the red prayer book. We regret that, because of The Great Schism, only Orthodox Christians who are prepared through fasting and confession are able to receive the body and blood of our Lord. Please do come forward at the end of the service to venerate the holy cross and partake of the holy antidoron (blessed bread)."

The previous Pope may have told his flock that they can receive absolution and communion from an Orthodox priest, but he neglected to check with any of the Patriarchs before he made that unilateral decision, and I regret to say that it simply is not true.

The Orthodox believe that neither the Roman nor the Anglican sacraments are valid, but the hindrances have more to do with theology than with succession, although that does affect the whole picture.

Weiwen Ng said...

This whole business of who regards whose sacraments as valid seems to be a childish squabble, blown up to epic proportions. When we come before God, I do not think God will be judging the validity of everyone's sacraments.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I couldn't agree more, Weiwen.

The only point I was trying to make was that heresy is a very, very different matter than schism.

Deborah Sproule said...

Nice to meet you Weiwen NG. I agree with you and welcome your footprints on our sacred path.
About this ....
"Eastern Orthodox and other Eastern Christians are different from that for Protestants"...
Also known as Human Condition not to be confused with God's Divine Mystery! Differences divide and create Schism when humans practice the sin of 'I know God and you don't'. It is a very immature spirit that sees differences as either Good or Bad, Sacred or Evil, ah hem... yes, Orthodox or Heresy.
Let's pray for the mature growth of Christ as we all walk with our siblings on the sacred road to God.

Weiwen Ng said...

Elizabeth, my comment wasn't directed at you. I agree that heresy in its original sense simply means belief contrary to orthodox doctrine; sometimes, orthodox doctrine is wrong or needs refreshing, and here heresy is actually constructive.

I was simply frustrated that Christianity has been around for two thousand-ish years, and has made many positive contributions to human dignity, art, philosophical thought, etc, and yet some denominations won't share toys with some other denominations. Of course, then I think about the Crusades and the burning of suspected witches, and I realize that I was asking too much.

We went to war with Iraq based on false pretenses. Even if the pretenses were true, the legality of the decision was iffy. Our administration has expressed more regret at being caught than at lying. This is an awful, awful sin. If I regarded homosexuality as a sin, and I do not, then it surely would be a lesser sin than this. By the standards of the schismatics in our church, I should cut off all communion with them if they did not oppose, or worse supported, the war in Iraq. I am not willing to do so, because it serves us better to be in dialog over this issue and similar ones.

And on that basis, I agree that we should question seriously whether we ought to consent to Lawrence's election or not.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yes, Weiwen, I know. I think we all have made some very important points and have not succumbed to the "obfuscation by minutia" that is, in my opinion, the hallmark of any kind of conversation/dialogue with the neo-Puritan, quasi-Orthodox, evangelical Right.

Thanks for a good discussion.

Anonymous said...

As a parishoner in the Diocese of South Carolina I strongly urge members of the standing committee to not consent to Mark Lawrence's election as bishop. He does not represent the views of the entire diocese of South Carolina. Of course, I realize that one way or the other, either regular or irregularly, he will still be seems to be the way of leadership in this diocese to find what ever way possible to engage in strife and dissention.

CJackJr said...

Paul, I certainly respect your right and desire to oppose the consent to Mark Lawrence's election. Yet I question whether it's even possible for any bishop to represent the views of an entire diocese given the diversity of views held in TEC.

Bateau Master said...

South Carolina is the only diocese in the ECUSA to experience growth in Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) greater than their relative population growth for the 1992-2004 period. In my consistently reductionist view, it is the only diocese succeeding in the faithfulness to the Great Commission.

Since they are doing it right, give them the Bishop they selected; they understand their mission. Lawrence+ might not be right for New Jersey, Nevada, or Southwest Florida, but he seems to fit the Church in South Carolina.