Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Looking for Golden Eggs?

Word has come down that the national church is going to depose Bishop Lawrence of South Carolina for abandonment. If you want to look, you can see the papers here. The form of the action looks, to my admittedly non-legalist eye, utterly invalid: the charges are a list of canonical violations, and therefore he by right must be tried for these violations in order to depose him. It's a nice shortcut not to actually take testimony from him or hold proceedings out in public or any of those other niceties, but Bishop Lawrence obviously hasn't gone off to join a different church or otherwise quit his post, and therefore the charge of abandonment looks fraudulent as all get out.

One gathers that the point of this is to set off the diocesan convention recently put into that diocese's canons. At that point the genuine legal machinery can kick into gear so that KJS can attempt to seize all the property and change all the locks.

On one level this is supremely stupid. SC is not a huge diocese, and surely not everyone is going to leave, but they have about 1% of membership and 1.8% of attendance, so booting them is going to hurt. SC is also pretty much the only diocese with a strong record of growth. Also, nothing that Lawrence is supposed to have done wrong, it seems to me, was going to have adverse consequences unless the national church pulled a stunt like, well, this. I have to think that it is going to increase friction in the House of Bishops yet again, because there are surely a lot of bishops who do not agree that this act is legitimate, much less that it is well-conceived. In the public relations department, it gives the appearance that the national church cannot let pass any insult to its dignity.

The joker in the pack is that SC case law may favor the diocese and not the national church. Their courts have already given indication that they do not have to accept the ex post facto rewrites from above of the diocesan corporate charter. Thus the national church may well be left with nothing.

It is really is long past time for this sort of destructive act to be set aside. Litigation is costing the national church a pile, and even if they get the real estate, they aren't going to get the people. The atmosphere of hostility is palpable, and we cannot afford it.

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