Statement from Bishop Benhase on the
situation in the Diocese of South Carolina
Broken bottles broken plates, Broken switches broken gates
Broken dishes broken parts, Streets are filled with broken hearts
Broken words never meant to be spoken, Everything is broken - Bob Dylan
I was saddened when I heard that the Disciplinary Board for Bishops charged the Bishop of South Carolina, Mark Lawrence, with abandoning The Episcopal Church "by an open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church." They made that determination under Canon IV.16(A). You can read the details of this on the Episcopal News Service website and read reactions from the Diocese of South Carolina on their website. I commend both websites so you may better understand what is transpiring.
Bishop Lawrence is my friend. He has been and continues to be a good colleague of mine. I respect him as a person and as a disciple of Jesus. Our relationship has always been marked by candor, mutual support, and affection. We always have great discussions, with only occasional disagreements, on the challenges facing the Church as we engage in God's mission. Our disagreements have only been "occasional," because we're united in our commitment to spread God's Kingdom on earth and make disciples for Jesus while making a difference in God's world.
I have prayed that the ongoing tension between Bishop Lawrence (and leaders of his Diocese) and The Episcopal Church would be resolved by other means and would come from our Anglican ethos of comprehensiveness and a generosity with those with whom we disagree. I regret that the Disciplinary Board for Bishops felt they had to act in such a way at this time. I'm not judging them harshly for I don't know all of what they know nor was I privy to their deliberations. I simply believe that the pastoral work of grace is sometimes impeded by the application of the letter of the law.
I also regret the actions that Bishop Lawrence and other leaders in the Diocese of South Carolina have taken. Their actions have been and continue to be provocative and have not been marked by self-restraint and our Anglican ethos. The escalation of this conflict mirrors other conflicts we have all seen in human history where two sides are unwilling to back down. Both are acting out of fear that the other side will get the upper hand, so they escalate their defenses, begin demonizing the other side, and the drum beat for more drastic action continues unabated. Bishop Lawrence, like some of those in disagreement with him, has in my judgment participated in this escalation.
I hope we will find a way forward together. It would be a painful loss to lose members of the Diocese of South Carolina from our Church. It is, however, way too early to make any sort of conjecture about what will or will not happen next. Pray for our sisters and brothers in South Carolina. Pray also for our Church that together we will live out God's will on earth as it already is lived out in heaven. Dylan's lament that "everything is broken," however true, is never the last word for Christians. We believe everything will be mended through the merits and mediation of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.
The Rt. Rev. Scott A. Benhase