BY SCHISMS RENT ASUNDER
Though with a scornful wonder/ we see her sore oppressed,/ by schisms rent asunder,/ by heresies distressed (The Church's One Foundation).
Schisms by the dozens have rent asunder the Anglican Communion and the U.S. Episcopal Church. The Anglicans Online website lists at least 55 independent splinter "Anglican" church entities in the United States and dozens of other "Anglican" denominations outside of the U.S. ( http://anglicansonline.org/communion/nic.html ). Not one of these is in the Anglican Communion (AC), not one recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC). In the eastern half of South Carolina there are at least 10 "Anglican" denominations, all claiming jurisdiction over this small space of earth and operating local churches therein. That means there are 10 "Anglican" bishops claiming authority in the same place. Only one entity, the Episcopal Church, is in the AC and recognized by the ABC. The others are:
---The Reformed Episcopal Church (REC), the old Reconstruction era splinter group;
---The Anglican Mission in America, the handiwork mostly of Chuck Murphy;
---PEARUSA, the Rwandan mission;
---The Diocese of the Holy Cross, Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas;
---The Anglican Church in America;
---The Anglican Catholic Church;
---The Orthodox Anglican Church;
---The Diocese of South Carolina (Mark Lawrence);
--The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).
Now comes the news that Mark Lawrence and his inner circle have met a group of "leaders" of ACNA for conversations at Camp St. Christopher, April 28-29. DSC, the independent diocese, posted a report of the meeting on its website (www.diosc.com/sys/index.php?view=article&catid=1:latest-news&id=652:leaders-from-the-Diocese ). The meeting raised more questions than it answered.
Mark Lawrence has had a mysterious relationship with ACNA. The ACNA was formed in 2009, largely under the leadership of the former Episcopal bishop of Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan. Lawrence was well acquainted with Duncan as Lawrence served in that diocese for fourteen years before returning to Bakersfield in 1997. The four breakaway dioceses all joined the new ACNA (San Joaquin, Lawrence's previous diocese; Ft. Worth, Pittsburgh, and Quincy). The ACNA was created to be a sort of broad confederation of diverse semi-independent "Anglican" denominations, such as the Reformed Episcopal Church. Its views and policies are also wide-ranging. For instance, women were allowed to be priests to satisfy one party, and not allowed to be bishops to satisfy another. ACNA claims 100,000 members. In 2012 it created "the Diocese of the Carolinas" and made Steve Wood, the rector of St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant its new bishop. Wood had been a finalist for bishop of DSC in 2006-07. Wood and his parish left the Episcopal Church, property in hand, under Bishop Lawrence's tenure after Lawrence had signaled he would not enforce the Dennis Canon. While he was still an Episcopal bishop, Lawrence attended Wood's consecration as an ACNA bishop although he did not participate in it (grounds for removal as bishop in TEC).
When Lawrence announced he and the diocese had left TEC in October 2012, he also announced there would be no affiliation with a higher group for the time being. His oft-repeated quip was about coming out of a bad marriage, one did not want to rush into another marriage. He declared that DSC was an "extra-provincial diocese" of the Anglican Communion, something that had never existed and would not be recognized by the ABC. He made it plain there would be no joining ACNA in the near future. Instead, in 2014, Lawrence made an even more peculiar arrangement of "oversight" by the Global South, a collection of socially and theologically conservative Anglican prelates, mostly in the Third World. This was also something that had never existed and would not be recognized by the ABC. The "oversight" arrangement was not described. At the same time the DSC annual convention rubber-stamped this deal, it also passed a resolution requiring only the Episcopal Church Book of Common Prayer be used in DSC churches. This came on the heels of a new prayer book that had been adopted in ACNA, and much of which was written by Lawrence's friend Keith Ackerman. The new ACNA prayer book was silently but pointedly ignored in DSC.
The question of affiliation continued to hang over DSC as everyone awaited leadership from the authoritarian bishop. He hand picked a committee on discernment in the Spring of 2014. They were to present a report on an affiliation of DSC with a larger body at the 2015 annual diocesan convention. The chair of this committee was Craige Borrett, Kendall Harmon's fellow clergyman at Christ/St. Paul's, and stalwart Lawrence partisan.
In 2014, Lawrence attended the installation of Foley Beach as the new archbishop of ACNA but did not participate in the consecration. The ABC announced beforehand that ACNA was not in the Anglican Communion, if anyone were still wondering. GAFCON, however, in defiance of the ABC and the instruments of unity of the AC announced that it recognized ACNA as the legitimate branch of Anglicanism in the U.S. GAFCON had been created in 2008 largely by equatorial African Anglican prelates promoting a rigidly conservative social and religious agenda to suit their local needs.
In the DSC annual convention of 2015, Lawrence had few good words for affiliation with ACNA, or with anyone else for that matter. Borrett's committee on discernment, that had been charged with making a report, in fact gave no report. Two and a half years into the schism and there was still no proposal of affiliation. Lawrence talked in circles about affiliation to the convention. He gave no clear view at all of where DSC should go on this issue. ACNA has been around for almost six years. DSC has been out of TEC for two and a half years. How long should a decision on affiliation take? In fact, DSC was still adrift in nowhere, going nowhere as everyone looked to Lawrence for guidance.
Duncan and ACNA had tried hard to recruit Lawrence. In September of 2013, Duncan invited various "Anglican" groups in the low country to a meeting at Camp St. Christopher. He brought together representatives of PEARUSA, REC, Diocese of the Holy Cross, as well as ACNA and DSC. Without explanation, he omitted several other "Anglican" entities in SC. Chuck Murphy, an original pioneer of the "orthodox" Anglican movement in South Carolina was not present. Nothing came of this meeting.
Once again, DSC and ACNA met, this time just a few days ago. According to the DSC press release, DSC was represented by: Lawrence; Wade Logan, chancellor of DSC; Alan Runyan, attorney of the Standing Committee; Craige Borrett, chair of the affiliation committee; Kendall Harmon, canon theologian of DSC; Jeffrey Miller and Elizabeth Pennewill, members of the affiliation committee; and Jim Lewis, assistant to Lawrence. This was the inner core of DSC.
ACNA was represented in the meeting by Foley Beach, archbishop of ACNA; Ray Sutton, a bishop of REC; John Guernsey, ACNA bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic; Bill Atwood, bishop of "The International Diocese," one of the constituent elements of ACNA; Terrell Glenn, missionary bishop of the ACNA Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast (he resigned from the Anglican Mission in the Americas in the midst of the Rwandan debacle of 2011); Phil Ashley, chief executive office of the highly conservative American Anglican Council; Jack Lumanog, "Canon to the Archbishop and Chief Executive Officer" of ACNA; Scott Ward, chancellor of ACNA, chancellor of ACNA Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, and chancellor of Falls Church Anglican in VA; and Ted Brenner, chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Quincy and leader of the team of lawyers, including Alan Runyan, that litigated the case of the breakaway diocese of Quincy against TEC.
Absent from the meeting was anyone from the local ACNA Diocese of the Carolinas. The bishop, Steve Wood, was not present, nor was his chancellor, nor was anyone else in authority of that diocese which, after all, includes all of South Carolina. No explanation was given for this absence.
What did the assembly discuss in the two days? The press release tells us very little but does offer some tantalizing clues. Anyone can make of these whatever they wish. Here are my thoughts. One sentence said the group had "frank exchanges" (translation-widely differing opinions) on "compatibility of the ecclesiologies" of ACNA and DSC (translation-DSC is a long way from joining ACNA). Apparently they discussed mostly the numerous overlapping "Anglican" jurisdictions in SC. DSC saw these as "barriers" whose removal would be a "necessary precursor to ecclesial order" (translation-Lawrence wants a unified "Anglican" diocese before he joins ACNA). How all of this was to be accomplished was left blank. And how any of this could possibly proceed without the local ACNA bishop was equally blank.
The tone of the DSC press release was one of differences between DSC and ACNA with no real process for reconciling them. No evidence was presented that the conferees discussed ways to move forward to union. No statement of any kind was issued by the conference at its conclusion either as a group or individually.
Bottom line, it seems to me that after all these years the former Episcopal bishop Mark Lawrence, now head of an independent diocese in the low country of South Carolina, is not inclined to join ACNA; and the reasons are just as mysterious now as they have always been.