December 2, 2011

Mary Roehrich on South Carolina

As regular readers know, I seldom offer guest postings. The essay below is one of my exceptions. It was written by my friend Mary Roehrich, a board member of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh and member of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

After I wrote my last post, “Whither South Carolina?,” I contacted Mary because she has complained more than once about how The Episcopal Church has dealt with the situation in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, and I thought she would find my post interesting. When I spoke to her, she shared the essay below, which she was about to send to various individuals and private lists. I asked for and received Mary’s permission to reproduce her message here.

Mary is, of course, responsible for everything in the essay below, which was written independently of my contribution. I have only edited her text for format.

To loyal Episcopalians in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,

I am about to commit liberal blasphemy. Please hear my plea.

The faithful Episcopalians in the Diocese of SC are in a new place, not a very comfortable place, but different than where they were before. You desire to remain in your diocese and in TEC. As a veteran of the separatist wars in Pittsburgh I have a suggestion. You probably need a new approach. +Mark Lawrence has said he is and will remain a bishop of TEC. Take him at his word and challenge him to use your good offices to achieve his goal.

Meet with the Bishop and say “the strategy we have tried to keep SC in TEC so far has not been successful. If it is your desire to remain in TEC, it is also ours, and we are willing to help you in any way we can that does not threaten our integrity. The Bishop is the chief pastor of our diocese and we need pastoring as much as anyone else AND we are willing to support your goal of staying in TEC. What do you need that we can provide?”

He is probably annoyed with those of you who signed the deposition, and you are angry with what he has done. Try to put the anger aside and deflect his anger and find a way to demonstrate Christian forbearance and love in a material way that breaks through his isolation and your alienation. Get part of him on your side by showing him that your side has something to offer HIM and the diocese.

This approach was not tried successfully in Pittsburgh and I have always thought it was a major mistake. Robert Duncan is a different kettle of fish from +Mark Lawrence and I think you may have a better shot. In the end it is not what he has done that you have to answer for, but what you have done. You will have to put up with the consequences of everyone’s actions surrounding this issue but if you have gone the extra mile in spite of provocation you will be in a better spot.

The church center was of no use to us during the early stages of conflict with Bob Duncan and did not try to reach out effectively to him or to us in spite of repeated pleas from PEP [Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh] to pay attention (as early as 2003). They actually came late to the party, after the first vote for schism, and were best at informing us of what they wanted, not asking what they could do for us. I have the impression they are doing the same thing in SC and suspect it will be equally as effective.

So to all intents and purposes the ball is in your court. Call on +Mark Lawrence to be the best Episcopal Bishop he can be, and be to him the best, not necessarily the most compliant, Episcopalians you can be.

I am not directly involved in your diocese, and there is a great deal about your history and present situation I don’t know, and you probably don’t like being preached at from someone from the outside like me. BUT SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE in order for your diocese to change its current disastrous course. Try getting the bishop to consider you as more than collateral damage. I know such a course will be exceedingly difficult, take a long time, make you vulnerable in ways you have avoided and it may not be what you want to hear. BUT desperate times call for desperate measures. Mix it up, catch ’em off guard.

Yours in faith and fear,
Mary C. Roehrich
Member of the Standing Committee, Diocese of Pittsburgh
Director of PEP


  1. "The church center was of no use to us during the early stages..." Some of us did try to raise awareness, Mary. Alas, the levers of power were above our pay grade.

  2. Yes, loyal Episcopalians in Pittsburgh did have friends at 815, but the top leaders of the church were oblivious to the threat, not only to our diocese, but to the church as a whole.

  3. Thanks Mary for a very interesting perspective. For more than a year at least I've been wondering about just what Lawrence is up to, and what his emerging strategy is all about. My fear was always that he's just a wee bit smarter and a bit less inclined to a Messianic vision than someone we know. But no doubt he has closely studied Pittsburgh to design a new course to mold the National Church in his image. But more recently I've begun to see that 815 is equally reckless. Clearly the only hope is that lowly people - left and right - can save us from these entities.


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