For those still watching the Anglican wars, there is a crucial story unfolding down in Charleston, S.C., where conservative Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina are waiting to see if the man they elected as bishop -- Father Mark Lawrence -- can be consecrated. What's the problem?
Episcopalians on the left say that Lawrence wants to take his diocese out of the U.S. Episcopal Church. Lawrence has denied that, but it is clear that he is on the side of those who are more committed to remaining in the mainstream of the worldwide Anglican Communion than they are to staying in the good graces of the powers that be in liberal North America.
To become a bishop -- under ordinary circumstances -- Lawrence needs a majority of "consents" from bishops and "standing committees" across the nation. He is coming up short and there are only a few hours left, as I type this. So big news is about to happen, one way or another.
The result was some strange language earlier this week in a story by reporter Adam Parker of The Post and Courier and some enlightening quotes, as well. As always, the big issues are the Bible and sex. Thus, we are told:
Lawrence is a priest in California's Diocese of San Joaquin, which has criticized the election of Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay bishop, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who supports the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in church life. San Joaquin and South Carolina are among several dioceses that asked for an "alternative primatial relationship," oversight by someone other than Jefferts Schori.
The dispute within the Episcopal church -- ignited by the consecration of Robinson -- has rippled through the loose affiliation of Anglican churches throughout the world. The debate mostly is about whether Episcopalians ought to accept Scripture as the word of God and a text that condemns homosexuality, versus maintaining an ethic of inclusion.
The selection of Lawrence as the bishop to succeed Salmon has been viewed favorably by those in the diocese who accept the authority of Scripture and support alternative oversight or realignment. Others who prefer to remain part of the Episcopal church have expressed concern.
It's hard to write about this stuff, isn't it? Calling the global Anglican Communion a "loose affiliation" rather settles the issue, from the perspective of the U.S. church. People on the left, meanwhile, will shudder to hear that they do not believe that Scripture is the "word of God." And what does it mean to say that someone does not want to "remain part of the Episcopal Church"? Does that assume mandatory consent to the actions of the church's leadership in the here and now?
However, the story also contains some interesting quotes. I would be interested in knowing if Lawrence would say that he is quoted accurately in this next section of the report. I think this is interesting stuff, so I hope it's solid.
Lawrence said the debate has been framed by some as pitting biblical concerns against a secular concept of justice.
"If you define the issues of same-sex blessing and ordination of gay and lesbian persons ... as a justice issue, and the other side defines it as a biblical issue, those who call it a justice issue -- how can they in good faith stop until those who oppose them are silenced?" he said. He added that many hope and pray the two views can be reconciled.
Social justice is not the same as biblical truth, but it's not entirely separate from it either, Lawrence said.
"If there's a God in the universe, one can assume justice and truth won't be at odds," he said. "Either somebody is wrong or we have missed a major component (of the argument)."
Note that the explosive phrase -- "Social justice is not the same as biblical truth" -- is not a direct quote. It is a paraphrase. This is where the newspaper needs to post a transcript.
There are other hot phrases in the story. For example, an anti-conservative group called Via Media USA is described this way:
Via Media USA is an alliance of associations of laity and clergy committed to promoting the Episcopal church as the American expression of Anglicanism.
Now what in the world does that mean? I thought the whole argument was whether the all-but-independent Episcopal Church could remain a member of the Anglican Communion -- Anglicanism, in other words -- while promoting some rites and doctrines that clashed with the majority of the world's Anglicans? A kind of "we agree to disagree" arrangement.
Whew. Stay tuned (the conservative titusonenine blog in South Carolina posts tons of links on both sides of this battle). And for the latest on what the left is saying and doing, just turn -- forever and ever, amen -- to The Washington Post. It appears that some liberal strategists insist they are mad about how things are going.