Friday, March 16, 2007

An Unasked Question

Much has been said in the blogosphere about the election and consent process for Father Mark Lawrence as bishop of South Carolina.

Early on, partisans at StandFirm and Virtue Online were harping about the nomination process. Many seemed to think it was not an open process. Some of the conservatives were screaming that the process seemed to be manipulative. I didn't pay much attention at the time.

Then there were unexplained delays in the Diocese of South Carolina sending "consent requests" to the standing committees of the Episcopal Church.

Then there were the discussions from left and right about what Father Lawrence might or might not think, might or might not do.

And now it has all come down to this. His election has been declared null and void because he did not gain the necessary consents. And from the report at ENS as well as one poster at T19, there are questions about whether the South Carolina standing committee handled this whole process responsibly.

Some bloggers have tried to pretend that the "left" was objecting to him on theological grounds. That was never the case. We objected because he could not manage to issue a clear statement that he would remain in the Episcopal Church and would do all in his power to keep the diocese of South Carolina in the Episcopal Church. We wished for a clear contrast to bishops like +Schofield, who seem hell-bent on leading their dioceses out of our church.

I've discussed this ad infinitum with some moderate friends. I have tried to explain it's not Lawrence's theology that made me hesitant about his consecration.

In all those conversations, I have referred them back to this questionnaire, which Father Lawrence apparently had to complete as part of the nomination process in South Carolina.

This is the questionnaire in which he "strongly agreed" that "Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation," that "Jesus Christ was born of a virgin," and "Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead in bodily form." OK. I'm with him on all that.

It's the questionnaire in which he "disagreed" that "There should be room in TEC for priests and bishops who accept homosexual conduct as a valid, non-sinful choice," strongly disagreed that "The church should not divide over this issue [of homosexuality]," and strongly disagreed that he would remain within the Episcopal Church if South Carolina separated from TEC. Those responses gave me pause.

Father Lawrence's replies to that questionnaire troubled me, and they still do. But go look at that questionnaire. Scrawled across the top of it is a handwritten note that (if my eyes aren't deceiving me) says:

Great to be with you! Could you take a moment and fill this out again so we have the right answers for our file on you?
Yes, "right" is underlined on that document. Apparently, Father Lawrence had answered the questionnaire before, but was asked to submit it "again" so that South Carolina would have "the right answers" on file. What's that about??

What were Father Lawrence's initial answers to that questionnaire? Were they not "right"? Were they not radical enough?

And if someone in the diocese was submitting the questionnaire to Father Lawrence a second time, was "the fix in"?

These questions have been niggling at the back of my mind. With the strange turn of events today, they came back to the forefront.

In a word: What the heck has South Carolina been doing?


Blogger Jeffri said...

And interesting that that document has now disappeared from the Cathedral's web site...

3/17/2007 5:59 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

It's still here: ... so far, at least.

3/17/2007 7:50 AM  

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