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Thursday, March 08, 2007

South Carolina and the Sword in the Stone

So, the question-as-sword-in-the-stone was: As bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, do you intend to stay in The Episcopal Church?

Mark Lawrence's answer was: ". . .my intention is to remain in The Episcopal Church."

One person wrote: "Bishop-elect Lawrence should not be judged by the most parsimonious parsing of his statement, nor judged by what in the future, according to critics, he might or might not do." (It is noted that this is a retired priest in the Diocese of SC. Fair enough. I'd want MY vote to win, too.)

Another person made the point that: "To require an ironclad guarantee in this environment of unpredictable and changing circumstances is preposterous."

Preposterous? Actually, the "unpredictable changing circumstances" is precisely the reason for the anxiety around the fluidity and fog of Mr. Lawrence's answers.

Let's take a look at the sacraments and sacramental rites and the promises we make therein and see what kind of "ironclad agreements" or "parsimonious parsings" are or aren't there.

In Baptism, when an adult is asked, "Do you desire to be baptized?
The answer is: "I do."

Again, in Baptism, during the Examination we are asked:
Do you renounce Satan . . .etc?"
And we answer: "I renounce them."

Do you renounce the evil powers of this world . . .?
And we answer: "I renounce them."

Do you turn to Jesus Christ . . .?
And we answer: "I do."

Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
And we answer: "I do."

Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?
And we answer: "I do."

The same clarity and certainty can be found in the five baptismal vows made after the declaration of faith as found in the ancient Creed.

So far, nothing to parse, whether parsimoniously or not. And, as I recall, we do begin the service by noting there is "One Lord, one Faith, one BAPTISM."

Sounds pretty ironclad to me. There's much more but let's go on.

During Confirmation, we are asked:

Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil?
And we answer: "I do."

Do you renew your commitment to Jesus Christ?
And we answer: "I do."

Nothing preposterous to parse there.

During Holy Matrimony, The Presider asks the bride and then the groom:
"Will you have this man/woman to be your husband/wife . . .."

And the answer is: "I will."

And again, the people are asked:
"Will all of you witnessing these promises . . ."
And the people answer: "We will."

Sounds ironclad to me, but then again, there IS the nasty possibility of divorce . . . Perhaps this is genesis of the stuff about "not judging what might happen in the future," eh?

During the Reconciliation of a Penitent, the person is asked:
"Will you turn again to Christ as your Lord?"
And, the answer is (stop me if you've heard this before): "I will. "

During the Ordination of a deacon, priest and bishop, when asked . . . well, I've long ago made my point.

Awwh c'mon! A simple question was asked. A 'duck and dodge' answer was given.

That's conduct we expect from a politician (Recall: "That depends on what 'is' is.")

"Do I intend? Why, of course, I intend . . ." (Wink, wink. Grin. Grin.)

Confession is good for the soul and this IS Lent.

I was a candidate for Holy Orders, having made it through an horrifically painful ordination process about "the issues" (gender and sexuality). My bishop said I had to have a "cure" to be ordained. I feared no parish would take me and my partner and our six children (and no husband in sight), so I looked everywhere else - even chaplaincy in the Armed Forces.

I filled out the application form and was called in for a day-long physical exam, at the end of which was an interview with an Army Doctor.

"Let's see," he said, peering over the form, "everything looks good. Just a few more questions."

"You don't have any trouble with alcohol, do you?"

"No, sir, I don't," I answered truthfully.

"No trouble with drugs, do you?"

"No sir, I don't," I answered, again, in all honesty.

"And, well . . . no, you don't have any trouble with . . .with . . .homosexuality, do you?"

"No sir, I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT have ANY trouble with homosexuality."

Question asked and answered. Truthfully. Honestly.

It was still duplicitous, and I knew it. Which is precisely why I couldn't, with any integrity, accept their invitation to enlist.

God apparently had other things in store for me. Thanks be to God!

We do not expect this behavior from a bishop in the church who really ought to know not to 'duck and dodge' or wink and nod when questions about long-term, faithful, commitment are asked.

The one who ducks and dodges on small things will, no doubt, duck and dodge on other, bigger things.

Preposterous parsimonious parsing of promises?



Saint Pat said...

You can add "Prevaricating."

Like saying, "Yes, I intend to remain in the Episcopal Church," while thinking you're going to split off and be true, orthodox church, separate from the heretics who have "chosen to walk alone."

Add "Paugh!"

David Ould said...

there is an element of, well, irony in this. TEC as a whole has ducked and dodged the questions put to them by the Anglican Communion for a number of years now. Why is it ok for General Convention to fudge an answer *koff* B033 *koff* but not for a bishop?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...


You know, if you have to ask the question, it probably reveals more about your integrity (or deficiency thereof) than it says about General Convention or anyone else.

BTW, I'm on the record - along with many, many people on both sides of the aisle - in saying that B033 reveals a stunning lack of integrity.

The irony? It was an attempt to follow the recommendation of TWR.

The deeper irony? Personal integrity is preciscely what has gotten +VGR in touble. The church has ALWAYS ordained LGBT people. +Gene's "great sin" is that he was able to tell the truth about himself.

So, excuse me if I and others take great umbrage at someone who is showing less than stirling integrity.

sharecropper said...

Mark Lawrence was elected by his diocese just as Gene Robinson was elected by his. His ambiguous statement though does indicate his willingness to remain during the "process" and the "time of fasting". What he does when the issues are decided is another question.

If the pendulum swings one way and +Gene is deposed, then Mark will probably stay. If the pendulum swings the other way, he may leave, but the decision is not now. And, withholding consent is political blackmail to a diocese which has followed due process in electing a bishop.

June Butler said...

Elizabeth, you had a difficult time of it getting to the priesthood. But considering the times and the circumstances, how could it not be so? Only the honest were punished.

I pray the the young candidates coming in may have an easier time of it.

W said...

I gotta ask, though: Mark Lawrence did say (at the end) that he does intend to remain in the church. do we need more? he's excessively verbose, but so are a lot of priests and bishops. if he tries to take the Diocese of SC out of the church, then we depose him, declare his see vacant, etc.

if SC is determined to walk, they will do so, whether or not the rest of the church consents. if we do, we will at least demonstrate some grace.

as for me, I asked my standing committee to prayerfully consider not consenting. whatever they decide, I'll go along with it. who knows, Mark Lawrence may have a change of heart and ordain openly gay priests :)