828 Rockwood Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224-1213

Lionel Deimel
Telephone: +1 (412) 343-5337 (voice), -6816 (fax), 512-9087 (cell)

Deimel on Lawrence’s Failed Bid: “Most Episcopalians Relieved”
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — 7:30 PM EDT, March 15, 2007 — In a consent process in which The Episcopal Church was lenient to a fault, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has declared that the bid of the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence to become the next bishop for the Diocese of South Carolina has failed. Although the required number of bishops consented to Lawrence’s consecration, and a majority of diocesan standing committees appeared to give their consent, insufficient consents from the standing committees were in the proper form. Additional details are expected to be forthcoming from The Episcopal Church. South Carolina will now have to hold a new episcopal election.
Because Lawrence had aligned himself with the self-styled “orthodox,” “traditionalists,” or “reasserters” in The Episcopal Church who object to what they see as the church’s increasingly liberal trajectory, his election, won easily over two even more conservative candidates, was controversial. Lawrence is now a priest in the Diocese of San Joaquin, which has sought to distance itself from the church’s first female Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and has taken preliminary steps to remove itself from The Episcopal Church. Despite last-minute assurances that he “intended” to remain in The Episcopal Church, Lawrence’s written statements suggested that he would follow the path being blazed by San Joaquin when he became leader of the equally conservative South Carolina diocese.
“I’m sure that most Episcopalians that have been following the quest for consent to consecrate Fr. Lawrence are relieved to know that he will not now become a bishop,” suggested Lionel Deimel. Deimel, a parishioner in the conservative Diocese of Pittsburgh, wrote the essay “No Consents: A Crucial Test for The Episcopal Church” that first laid out the case against consenting to Lawrence’s consecration. Via Media USA sent Deimel’s essay, along with a cover letter, to all bishops with jurisdiction and to all diocesan standing committees. Episcopal Forum of South Carolina subsequently raised concerns about Lawrence in its own separate mailing.
During the four-month consent process, Deimel posted additional commentaries on his Web site and blog, responding to Lawrence’s “clarifications” of his positions and on the details of the process. Other Episcopalians, both supporters and detractors of Lawrence, joined in the Internet debate. “All along, the strongest case against Fr. Lawrence involved his attitude toward The Episcopal Church; he has not been excluded from the House of Bishops for his personal theology,” Deimel explained. “He wrote that the church was ‘a comatose patient on life support,’ and he recommended that the church’s autonomy be surrendered to the primates of the Anglican Communion, a group containing of a large fraction of appointed, archconservative archbishops.”
Not since 1875, when the Rev. James De Koven was rejected as Bishop of Illinois, have diocesan standing committees prevented the consecration of a bishop in The Episcopal Church. The last bishop-elect to be rejected by the church’s ruling body, the General Convention, was John Torok, in 1934. Episcopal elections taking place just prior to the triennial General Convention are voted on at the General Convention. Elections taking place at other times are validated by the voting process to which Lawrence’s election was subject.
In the face of strong lobbying by forces supporting Lawrence, several standing committees that had voted against consent actually changed their votes. More controversial, however, was the last-minute announcement that the church would allow 123 days for voting, not the 120 days called for in church canons. Because the Web site “Stand Firm” (representing “Traditional Anglicanism in America,” according to its banner) was waging a lobbying campaign just before and after the canonical deadline of March 9, the extra days could easily have changed the outcome of the election. Apparently, they would have changed the outcome had all the “testimonials” (i.e., consents) from standing committees been properly executed. Testimonials could have been defective in any number of respects, including not having been signed by a majority of a standing committee’s members.
“There will be more criticism of our church by Anglicans who view the rejection of Fr. Lawrence as unfair,” predicted Deimel. “Moreover, the rejection of testimonials for technical reasons will be criticized by many in our own church, even though improper ballots are regularly discarded in American civil elections. It is unfortunate that the misplaced generosity of allowing an extra three days for achieving consents likely meant that Lawrence’s bid to become a bishop could not be rejected simply for having drawn insufficient consents.
“The greatest burden will be borne by Fr. Lawrence and his family, and I am sorry that this has to be. He is, by all accounts, a person of integrity and a fine parish priest.”

Lionel Deimel
Telephone: +1 (412) 343-5337 (voice), -6816 (fax), 512-9087 (cell)

On the Web:
This document

Lionel Deimel’s Farrago
Lionel Deimel’s Web Log
No Consents: A Crucial Test for The Episcopal Church
Episcopal Forum of South Carolina
Stand Firm
Via Media USA

The Episcopal Church
Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina
Lionel Deimel is a former computer science professor who is now an independent computer consultant and an Episcopal Church activist. He is a board member and past president of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh. He attends St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh.

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