“dreaming a new church into being” –and the Diocese of South Carolina

The official word is that the Title IV Disciplinary Board has certified that Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina has “abandoned” the Episcopal Church. The news article is here. Crusty Old Dean provides background on the notion of abandonment. He also points out that we’ve all seen it coming but no one seemed able to prevent it.

And now the war of words escalates.  Mark Harris asks Bishop Lawrence to admit he lied during the process that led to his consecration as bishop. The Episcopal Lead assembles the evidence pro and contra. The Diocese of South Carolina cries foul and criticizes the “assault” on their bishop.

I find it interesting that these events are taking place this week against a backdrop of the first meeting of TEC’s Executive Council after General Convention 2012. There were also stories about the work that took place this week: conversations about budget, mission, and restructuring. All of that talk about “putting everything on the table,” the end of Christendom, imagining a new way way of being church for the twenty-first century.

Ah, that word–restructuring. It seems to me that here is a prime opportunity to think creatively about structure, the way we do business, and imagining what a twenty-first century Episcopal Church might look like.

Here’s my question. Why not let the Diocese of South Carolina go? It’s been clear for at least a decade that they don’t want to be part of the Episcopal Church. Their recent actions suggest the plan is to incorporate as a separate denomination (The Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of South Carolina).

What’s coming next is years of litigation, increased acrimony, conflict played out in the press. The lawyers will make money; bloggers will get lots of website hits; there will be anger, pain, and bad publicity all around.

So why not stop it all now? Why not imagine what a church would be like that could allow those who want out to go, leaving behind all of those who want to remain in the Episcopal Church? Let them have their property and go their separate way. And after they go, let’s imagine what an Episcopal mission might look like in the low country of South Carolina–an Episcopal mission freed from the oppressive traditions of slavery, racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.

Why not put our limited resources toward that vision of a future church rather than paying lawyers and fighting to hold on to a vision of an eighteenth or nineteenth century Church?

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