Spokesman for Departed Episcopal Diocese Disputes Renunciation Order

A spokesman for the Diocese of South Carolina, which voted to leave The Episcopal Church over theological differences, has denounced the recent decision by the denomination to "accept the renunciation" of their bishop.

Episcopal News Service reported that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori "has accepted the renunciation of the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church of Mark Lawrence."

The Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary for the diocese, told The Christian Post that the official report on the renunciation is inaccurate since Lawrence "never offered a renunciation of his orders."

"The TEC canons are explicit that such a renunciation must be in writing, to the presiding bishop, expressing the desire to be removed," said Lewis.

"None of those criteria have been met because it has never been the intention of Bishop Lawrence to renounce his orders. It is also not canonically possible to consider a request for renunciation while another disciplinary canon is in effect."

Lewis also told CP that since the South Carolina Diocese voted to leave last month, the renunciation decision by Jefferts Schori cannot remove Lawrence from his ecclesiastical position.

"Because the Diocese of South Carolina has already disassociated from TEC, the presiding bishop's declaration of renunciation has no practical significance for us," said Lewis. "The diocese and its parishes will continue to do ministry on a daily basis with Mark Lawrence functioning as our bishop in all the capacities that the office entails."

Jefferts Schori officially removed the orders of Bishop Mark Lawrence of the South Carolina Diocese in a process known as renunciation.

Episcopal News Service reported that the presiding bishop did so with the consent of the nine-member Council of Advice. The renunciation took effect on Wednesday.

Jefferts Schori informed Lawrence of the renunciation, stating in the official document that Lawrence "is therefore removed from the Ordained Ministry of this Church and released from the obligations of all Ministerial offices."

In a letter to his diocese, Lawrence wrote that he has not renounced his orders as a deacon, priest or bishop "any more than I have abandoned the Church of Jesus Christ" and that the renunciation of his orders is "superfluous."

In October, the South Carolina Diocese leadership announced their intention to leave The Episcopal Church due to theological differences and the denomination's Disciplinary Board for Bishops finding Lawrence guilty of "abandonment of the communion of the church."

On Nov. 17, at St. Philip's Church in Charleston, the diocese voted to amend their governing documents to finalize their departing The Episcopal Church. As the diocese sought to leave, those loyal to The Episcopal Church formed a "Steering Committee" to continue the diocese under TEC.

Holly Behre, communications committee chair for the Steering Committee, told The Christian Post that Jefferts Schori's "acceptance of Mark Lawrence's renunciation" was "another step in a difficult and sad period for Episcopalians in our Diocese."

"The Steering Committee has been working to lay the groundwork for reorganization, beginning after Mark Lawrence was placed under restriction and was unable to function as our bishop," said Behre.

"Now that he has been released from the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church, our continuing diocese can move forward with holding a Convention and electing a standing committee and a bishop who can make decisions for the future of our diocese."

According to Behre, the steering committee held a meeting on Thursday regarding plans to elect a new bishop at a "special convention" in 2013.

The debate still continues between the defected Diocese leadership and the steering committee over who can officially be classified as the Diocese of South Carolina.

While Behre and Lewis disagree as to who has the exclusive right to the title and seal of the Diocese, both agree that the renunciation decision by Jefferts Schori will have no effect on the issue.

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