The Diocese of Upper South Carolina approved a resolution Oct. 22 asking Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Mark J. Lawrence to “come together in person at a mutually convenient time and place in order to strengthen the bonds of our community” and “engage in healing conversation regarding the ongoing tensions between The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina.”
The resolution asks that the Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo, eighth Bishop of Upper South Carolina, hand-deliver a copy of the resolution to both Bishop Lawrence and Bishop Jefferts Schori.
“The resolution passed very, very easily,” said Sally McKay, who oversees communication for the diocese. “Somebody suggested adding the Diocese of South Carolina and the Presiding Bishop to our diocesan cycle of prayer. It was a friendly amendment that everyone decided was not necessary.”
Upper South Carolina’s resolution follows a guest column Bishop Waldo wrote in The State newspaper of Columbia, S.C.
“I consider Bishop Lawrence a friend and respected fellow-laborer in the vineyards of the Lord. I know him to be a loyal and faithful minister who seeks to raise valid and serious questions as to the theology, polity and structure of the Episcopal Church,” Waldo wrote.
“We need Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina in the Episcopal Church,” Waldo added. “We need their witness and their challenge. We need their love even as, I believe, they need ours. We need the Diocese of South Carolina to say that it is of us and for us, even if it disagrees — vehemently — with most of us. And we need to be willing to sacrifice for these our brothers and sisters as we ask them to do so for us. I believe this is for all our sakes. It is at the heart of our claims to catholicity — to unity in diversity.”
Bishops Jefferts Schori and Lawrence have communicated before, both in person and by telephone, but without reconciliation to date.
“Unfortunately, after lengthy and respectful conversation, the Presiding Bishop and I stand looking at one another across a wide, deep and seemingly unbridgeable theological and canonical chasm,” Bishop Lawrence told the Diocese of South Carolina’s annual convention in March 2010. “At present both of us have signaled a willingness to continue the conversation even if it requires phone conversations from vastly different area codes.”
In October 2010 Bishop Jefferts Schori welcomed an offer by the Rev. James Simons, a member of Executive Council, to help encourage communication between the bishops.
“Jefferts Schori encouraged Simons to make informal, personal contact with Lawrence, saying ‘the more bridges we can build, the better,’” Mary Frances Schjonberg of Episcopal News Service reported.
Both bishops joined in the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Daniel H. Martins as Bishop of Springfield — Jefferts Schori as chief consecrator and Lawrence as one of 20 other participating bishops.
The Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, seventh Bishop of Upper South Carolina and president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, has stressed that the allegations against Bishop Lawrence were filed from within his diocese, and that the board is “made up of bishops, other clergy, and lay people from many dioceses across the country (none of whom are in the employ of, or under the direction of, the Episcopal Church Center).”
Bishop Jefferts Schori is a member of Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on Governance and Administration for Mission, which decided in June that a resolution adopted by the council in 2007 also applies to the Diocese of South Carolina in 2011.
Lawrence also has received a supportive letter from across the Pacific Ocean.
“I received with deep concern and sadness the news of formal allegations against you and your diocese with respect to some ill-defined sense of abandoning the faith of the Church,” wrote the Rt. Rev. John Harrower, Bishop of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia. “I write so that my recognition and support of you as a Brother Bishop in the Anglican Communion may be clear and unambiguous, and to assure you of my prayer for you and your leadership team at this time.”