October 31, 2007

Congratulations, Bishop Lawrence

Episcopal News Services reported Monday that the Rev. Canon Mark Lawrence has received sufficient consents for him to be consecrated Bishop of South Carolina on January 26, 2008. I offer him my congratulations, and commend the The Rev. Mark LawrenceStanding Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina for its attention to detail in its campaign to collect the necessary consents this time around.

Clearly, Bishop-elect Lawrence finally made statements that seemed clear enough to those who had to vote on the matter to the effect that he was not becoming Bishop of South Carolina with the intention of removing that diocese from The Episcopal Church. I sincerely hope that he will be a bishop who acts more like Bishop John Howe, of Central Florida, than like my own Bishop of Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan, or Lawrence’s current bishop, John-David Schofield. Though hopeful, I am not exactly sanguine. Bishop Lawrence will be watched carefully.

Since Lawrence is going be be consecrated a bishop, was the effort to deny him consents useless? I think not. Most importantly, the church learned that it can choose not to grant consent for a consecration. The matter was widely discussed, and some standing committees even publicized their reasons for withholding consent following Lawrence’s first election. One imagines—hopes, anyway—that Lawrence has actually rethought his views on the proper course of action for the Diocese of South Carolina. In any case, that Lawrence will now be consecrated belies the lamentations from the right that an “orthodox” priest can no longer become an Episcopal bishop. Finally, the mechanics of the consent process—still a rather opaque enterprise—came under some scrutiny and was brought more into conformity with the actual canons of the church.

As far as I know, Lawrence has not retracted his earlier statements (see “No Consents: A Crucial Test for The Episcopal Church”) or explained how he reconciles them with his now seemingly more charitable view of The Episcopal Church. I, for one, would appreciate such an explanation.

There have been a lot of stories about Mark Lawrence in the past year, and so many of them have been illustrated with the same recent photograph. (I have been a part of the crowd; see my own piece on Lawrence from last December here.) That photo is a fine portrait, but I, for one, am getting a bit tired of it. Therefore, I decided to illustrate this post with the image of a younger Mark Lawrence. The photo, above is from the mid-80s, during Lawrence’s days in Pittsburgh. I got it from a friend who served on a committee with the bishop-to-be.

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