Comments: South Carolina: the diocese responds again to TEC

Fortunately, Bishop Lawrence survived the "attack" by TEC, and he is not yet a martyr for the cause, but it was a close call. +Lawrence still stands in the breach protecting the diocese.

"As a result of TEC's attack against our Bishop, the Diocese of South Carolina is disassociated from TEC; that is, its accession to the TEC Constitution and its membership in TEC have been withdrawn."

+Lawrence and the Standing Committee had already declared that the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of South Carolina trumped the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church in which the bishop took his vows. What was the disciplinary board to do?

June Butler

Posted by G at Sunday, 21 October 2012 at 12:06am BST

" the 2012 General Convention placed an unbiblical doctrine of humanity into the Canons of the Church. The doctrine, discipline and worship of TEC were all fundamentally changed in a fashion most of our clergy cannot and will not comply with. Bishop Lawrence and a majority of our deputation left the Convention before it concluded as a result."

- Canon Kendall Harmon re Diocese of S.C. -

From just these two sentences, one can understand why TEc had to accuse Bishop Lawrence of wilful 'Abandonment of TEC'. At his consecration to ne Bishop of South Carolina, Bp. Lawrence promised to obey the polity and governance of TEC. By electing to ignore the official polity - at and before the General Convention - and leading his diocese out of collegiality with General Convention, it would seem that TEC had no choice but to impeach both the Bishop and his Standing Committee.

In fact, the efforts made by the bishop and others in the diocese to legally alienate properties of the Episcopal diocese from the custody of TEC, seem already to have signalled the bishop's clear intention to 'abandon' The Episcopal Church.

It is sad that accusations of 'infidelity' by the Bishop and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina - against TEC; should now be claimed as the reason for the bishop's infidelity against his sworn canonical duty to TEC.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 21 October 2012 at 3:32am BST

Canon James B. Lewis's argument essentially seems to be that the complainants are a minority and that they disagree with the (seeming) diocesan majority and therefore this is a sign of capriciousness and abuse by someone who isn't one of the 14 people he's attacking. Rather a long bow, I should say.

Even more startling is the oppobrium he loads upon them for daring to dissent from the diocesan majority. Indeed, he treats the complainants in precisely the same manner that he and his fellow travellers claim to have been treated themselves.

Of course, when one is as mired in an echo chamber of self-reinforcing conspiracy theorists as Canon Lewis, Bishop Lawrence and the rest of the "persecuted conservatives" (both descriptors being true only in their own imaginings), it is likely difficult to understand that some people may simply not be similarly mired.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Sunday, 21 October 2012 at 5:32am BST

How is it possible for Mark Lawrence to assume that because his ministry has been temporarily restricted, that the whole Diocese will want to follow him to some new organisation of his own invention? The complaints - which have now been upheld - are against him, aren't they? As a restricted bishop surely he does not have a choice in whether individual parishes and Christians are no longer affiliated to TEC? He does rather seem to be making up his own episcopal world as he goes along. It's that same rather ridiculous line that some Anglo Catholics and some Conservative Evangelicals came up with around the time of the Windsor report: we have not left them, they have left us.

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Sunday, 21 October 2012 at 8:53am BST

Bishop Mark Lawrence needn't have taken his diocese down this road.

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Sunday, 21 October 2012 at 2:23pm BST

Can anyone explain what is meant by an 'unbiblical doctrine of humanity'?

Posted by Savi Hensman at Sunday, 21 October 2012 at 4:04pm BST

Savi I think the answers to your question can be found here

Note that it is not only the issue of same-sex blessings, but also the canonical changes relating to the ordination of transgender persons. About the latter, Bishop Lawrence wrote:

There is however an even more incoherent departure from the teaching of Holy Scripture and from our Episcopalian and Anglican Heritage to be found in the General Convention’s passage of resolutions D002 and D019. These changes to our Church’s canons mark an even further step into incoherency. They open the door to innumerable self-understandings of gender identity and gender expression within the Church; normalizing “transgender,” “bi-sexual,” “questioning,” and still yet to be named – self-understandings of individualized eros. I fail to see how a rector or parish leader who embraces such a canonical change has any authority to discipline a youth minister, Sunday school teacher, or chalice bearer who chooses to dress as a man one Sunday and as a woman another. And this is but one among many possibilities. Let me state my concern clearly. To embrace an understanding of our human condition in which gender may be entirely self-defined, self-chosen is to abandon all such norms, condemning ourselves, our children and grandchildren, as well as future generations to sheer sexual anarchy. So long as I am bishop of this diocese I will not abandon its people to such darkness.

There is a PDF of this letter at

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 21 October 2012 at 5:48pm BST

Lawrence makes a deeply disturbing error, though not a surprising one, in linking gender identity with "eros." Gender identity is almost universal, as almost everyone, including the Bishop, has a sense of his or her own gender -- which may, in fact, include other things than the simple binary "male" and "female." That the bishop finds this "unbiblical" is not surprising, as the Bible says little to nothing about such matters. But as Mark Twain once said about cats, the fact that the Bible fails to mention them is of little interest to the cats.

The more serious issue is the attempt -- or it appears the requirement -- to "eroticize" gender. That is precisely the problem with a world which confuses how one identifies oneself with how one acts. Sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual activity are three completely different things. Had the bishop taken the time to study the issue he might not have formed such a mistaken opinion.

I hope our host will bear with my comment, which is not directly related to the legal tangle into which the Bishop, his diocese, and TEC have become embroiled; but I could not let pass the misunderstanding evinced in his statement on what he regards as the folly of the church in recognizing this reality of human psychology.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Sunday, 21 October 2012 at 9:07pm BST

Thank you, Tobias, for clarifying the psychological dimension and language surrounding it.

Unfortunately, you would likely find that Lawrence and many of his followers in SC aren't too interested in science and wouldn't let it influence their theology.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 22 October 2012 at 1:29am BST

Thank you, Simon, for posting the language from Lawrence. In his rebuttal, Haller makes a few disturbing, though not surprising, errors of his own. It is true that sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual activity are distinct things. But they are not "completely different things." These concepts are more intertwined, for example, then the concepts of race and gender identity, and yet it is a commonplace among scholars that the performance of race and of gender identity is related in profound ways.

Moreover, the scriptures speak, in a pre-modern way, to each of these things. When the scriptures say that God made human beings "male and female," that could refer only to one of these concepts, or to none of them. But later revelation draws out of the Genesis narratives implications for the sorts of actions now thought to be rooted in sexual orientation (Romans 1); the performance of gender identity, though not exactly gender identity per se (1 Timothy 2); and the human institution that has sexual activity as one of its typical or normative features (Matthew 19).

And Haller is mistaken in his concluding (and seemingly condescending) reference to Lawrence's "misunderstanding" about the "reality of human psychology." For Christians the Fall is a serious thing, and no "reality of human psychology" is untouched. Haller is mistakenly taking Bishop Lawrence's normative claim--to how Christians should think about gender identity and gender expression--as a straightforward description about what "is" or is experienced in the world. By comparison, if someone objected to war as something the church should not condone, since it is outside of God's plan for humanity, it would hardly do to point out that there are in fact wars. Um, yes, and the point would be?

Posted by Quiet American at Monday, 22 October 2012 at 6:30am BST

'So God created man in his own image (Imago Dei), in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.' Gen. 1:27. Created binary sexual differentiation.

'Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man."' Gen. 2:22. Sexually differentiated imago dei is brought to the man by God for companionship and binary gender union.

'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.' Gen 2:24 Creation of new kinship by affinity and binary gender union is predicated upon God's gift of sexual differentiation.

It appears then that Genesis itself is not eroticizing gender, but establishing its proper context as the primary impetus to leave the descent group (overriding 'honour your father and mother') in order to form a new binary unit of kinship in marriage. This text is the one that Christ harks back to as the prototype of sexual relationships. Gender really sounds binary, rather than plural to me.

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 22 October 2012 at 8:57am BST

What is unbiblical about "there is no longer male and female" (Gal. 3:28)?

Posted by Charles W. Allen at Monday, 22 October 2012 at 12:40pm BST

Not wishing to send us off on a tangent, but I don't grasp what either Quiet American or David are getting at here. David is clearly confusing sex and gender -- two different things. (They are "related" in that they are aspects of each person, but not causally.) "Male and female" is about sex, "masculine and feminine" about gender. The former is physical and biological, the latter is psychological and to a large degree cultural. Every person has these characteristics along many variable lines, and there is no necessary correlation, though Lawrence appears to think there should be.

But the mistake for which I cite Lawrence is in seeing gender identity as being about eros -- to be perhaps a bit clearer, a person whose gender identity is discordant with the "norm" in relation to their biological sex may be completely celibate and chaste, just like a person whose gender identity coincides with expectations for their biological sex. I was not objecting to his preference for a norm, but to his misunderstanding concerning the nature of the variation.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Monday, 22 October 2012 at 3:34pm BST

What is so strange to me about this whole conversation is people's willingness to project an ancient mental construct onto the world and onto the mind of God.

Posted by jnwall at Monday, 22 October 2012 at 8:23pm BST

"Haller is mistakenly taking Bishop Lawrence's normative claim--to how Christians should think about gender identity and gender expression--as a straightforward description about what "is" or is experienced in the world."

Except that Lawrence's "claim" doesn't pass muster either as either a normative _or_ a descriptive one. And I do not think anyone who has read Br Tobias's work could accuse him of denying that the three concepts listed are _related_ (while nevertheless very much distinct).

Posted by Geoff at Monday, 22 October 2012 at 8:50pm BST


Male and female can also describe gender. Transgender persons do not change their passports to masculine. Masculinity and femininity are applied to a broader definition of sexually differentiated traits and behaviour.

The Genesis account extends to describe sexually differentiated behaviour in man's innocence before the fall> It's not just an account of biological differentiation between the sexes.

Yes, it is tangential, but please clarify why there is a need to effect physical changes to a person who psychologically considers themselves an opposite gender to their biological origin.

Even if for some, their biological characteriatics do not correlate with their self-perceived gender, it's clear that medical science views the correlation between the physical and psychological characteristics as normative and healthy and important, even being willing to effect that correlation surgically.

According to you, there's no necessary correlation. The issue is why the lack of correlation needs to be altered, if its a healthy variation and absence is not considered less than ideal. Why is there a uniform prescription of reassigning physical and biological characteristics to accord with a person's gender dysphoria?

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 22 October 2012 at 10:39pm BST

Is it just me, or does it seem like the straw that broke the camel's back, and lit a fire under TEC officials, was when he starting giving away the family silver?

Posted by Randal Oulton at Tuesday, 23 October 2012 at 1:29am BST

I continue to fail to see why the observation that it was (plainly) God's will that the majority of people are in a very simple way male and female, and many of them (the Church has never believed all of them) will wish to marry and have children, of necessity implies that such is his will for every person. Nobody I know doubts that a heck of a lot of people are heterosexual and want kids, which is the argument of Genesis.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Tuesday, 23 October 2012 at 9:30am BST

I think Bishop Mark Lawrence's biggest problem is that he has rejected the polity of TEC, which accepts the fact the LGBT people are members of the human race, deserving of respect and acceptance. God accepts all of us - no matter what our differences from one another. Surely the Church has a 'duty of care' for all people?

If the bishop is so certain that TEC is adrift from his own understanding of Christian propriety, he must voluntarily resign his position as one of its accredited leaders? He made promises of fealty at his episcopal ordination - to obey the polity of TEC. If he can no longer live with that, then the honourable thing, surely, would be to resign.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 23 October 2012 at 10:04am BST

They've been working at "giving away the family silver", in the form of handing supposedly legal (and apparently expensive to the diocese in terms of what has been paid - $500,000 since Lawrence's election - to attorneys in recent years) documents to like-minded parishes, assigning property rights to them, for quite some time now, Randal. This is not a new development.

The Lawrence standing committee and diocese, in pursuit of an anti-TEC policy, is working hard to re-invent itself as a Congregational body, extending to the individual parish that same "right" to autonomy which it claims for itself.

This is an extremely significant fact - one which few commentators - and maybe not the diocese - seem to have grasped.

Posted by Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer at Tuesday, 23 October 2012 at 12:19pm BST

David, there is a good deal of information available on the transgender issue. You are correct that people change their identity on passports to say male or female. The issue is one of congruence of the external appearance or physical reality of sex to match the inner psychological sense of gender. The changes range from superficial (clothing, hair and makeup) to reassignment surgery. What I find disturbing in the SC view is that they seem to find this morally offensive. I am at a loss to understand the outrage -- and strong language.

A good bit of this information, and testimony, was provided to the leadership and membership of TEC, in print and video and in personal testimony, prior to the General Convention, which added two categories (gender identity and expression) to the non-discrimination canon. I will also note that a prior General Convention called upon all civic institutions to enact such non-discriminatory language, and so the church was a bit behind its own call to the world on this matter, and was merely catching up with its own demands of others.

My chief astonishment is that SC should find this to be the camel-back breaker.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Tuesday, 23 October 2012 at 2:46pm BST

I'm always surprised when I come across a comment like this: "I think Bishop Mark Lawrence's biggest problem is that he has rejected the polity of TEC, which accepts the fact the LGBT people are members of the human race, deserving of respect and acceptance." We who think that homosexual practice is immoral certainly don't think that it puts one outside the race or entails a loss of respect or acceptance (of the person) any more than lying, adultery, lust, greed or any other moral failing. I have serious moral failings, some of which I struggle not to justify, and yet I claim full membership in the race. Why would I think differently about any LGBT person?

Posted by Douglas lewis at Tuesday, 23 October 2012 at 6:33pm BST

you might think that insisting that I must not live as full a life as you do shows me respect and acceptance, but it actually does not because it places me in a different category to you, a category where making the same life choices you can make is by definition immoral for me.

It takes a long stretch of the imagination to call that respect and acceptance. And while anti lgbt people have convinced themselves that they are accepting, there can be very very few lgbt people who would agree with that assessment.

Applying different moral standards to different groups of people is the precise opposite of accepting them, far less of respecting their full humanity.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 23 October 2012 at 6:49pm BST

"We who think that homosexual practice is immoral certainly don't think that it puts one outside the race or entails a loss of respect or acceptance (of the person) any more than lying, adultery, lust, greed or any other moral failing. I have serious moral failings, some of which I struggle not to justify, and yet I claim full membership in the race. Why would I think differently about any LGBT person?"
Douglas lewis

While I think there is a small amount of hyperbole involved in the remarks about Bp Lawrence's "problem", one wonders whether your own personal failings have led you to be beaten, spat upon, or even murdered on account of your sins as has happened to countless homosexual persons.

Posted by Davis d'Ambly at Tuesday, 23 October 2012 at 9:25pm BST

"We who think that homosexual practice is immoral"

Douglas, if you think you have the moral judgment to call my spousal intimacy "immoral practice", then I'm going to insist upon the moral judgment to say, "No, you do NOT accept and respect my person."

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 23 October 2012 at 10:26pm BST

What I found strange is that D002 and D0019 rule out prohibiting access to the discernment process due to marital status, yet there are explicit biblical references to marital status as a qualification for public ministry. Paul's concern was that it brought the ministry into disrepute:

'A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach'.(1 Tim. 3:2).

'Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. (1 Tim. 3:12)

Also, 'If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.' (Titus 1:6) One who is not the husbnd of one wife is clearly denied access to the governance of the church.

I can understand a pastoral response that encourages the laity to participate, but to those who swallow the whole camel of permitting the re-married to function as elders, bishops and deacons in defiance of three scriptural prohibitions, conniving at an incongruence of sex, gender identity and expression with no desire for its resolution must seem like straining a gnat.

The reality is that gender reassignment attempts to achieve congruence between biological sex, gender and gender expression. Resolved gender congruence should be a pattern set by all leaders in the church.

If the discernment process is at all credible, it should ensure that my gender incongruence is resolved as much as it *should* review my marital status before considering my conviction that I've been called to public ministry. Until then, I may be a gifted speaker, but if my life is inconsistent with apostolic standards for ministry, it will fail to provide a thoroughly convincing example of Christian maturity.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 24 October 2012 at 12:13am BST

Anyone wanting to understand Bishop Lawrence's views may find his (fairly recent) address to the Guildford DEF helpful, see

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 24 October 2012 at 4:12pm BST

Thanks for the link, Simon. As I suspected from the earlier quote, Lawrence is confounding a few different concepts and categories under the heading "eros" or "sexuality." Perhaps I'm being pedantic in wanting to keep the issues clear, but I think in an area where there is so much confusion it is helpful to do so.

Lawrence says, in the speech to which you link:

"Individual Eros has gone now to the point of not just how I express my sexuality, but what my sexuality is, and we now have the capacity don’t we, because of medical developments in technology to even change our sexuality, so that we are at a place where we can choose whether we be male or female, how we engage that, how we understand that, everything about sexuality is now individualised; and it can be radically reinterpreted, reapplied, lived out and changed."

As far as I know, it is only the reparation therapists who seek to "change" people's sexuality or sexual orientation. A transgender person who has surgery to conform anatomy with psychology has not changed "sexuality" but physical aspects of the body. I presume Lawrence would rather such a person "change" their psychological and emotional sense of self to conform with the biology -- but that is also change.

Is this "individualized." Well, yes. Every person is an individual. Perhaps it is after all the old divide between idealism and realism, or platonism and nominalism, that feeds this debate. My point is that any individual person expresses a cluster of attributes and characters (biological, social, psychological, affectional, cultural, anatomical), which do not necessarily coincide with a society's, a culture's or even their own individual expectations. I sense that Lawrence would rather these issues had never come up, or would just go away.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 24 October 2012 at 7:29pm BST

Just out of curiosity, does the action of DioSC in awarding quitclaim deeds to its individual parishes mean (or does it purport to mean) that if TEC wanted to prevent its assets leaving the church upon DioSC disaffiliation, it would have to sue parish by parish? In other words, is the DioSC action intended to be a sort of "poison pill" making TEC legal action prohibitively expensive? Just wondering.

Posted by Charlotte at Thursday, 25 October 2012 at 10:19pm BST
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