Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina and the diocesan standing committee have made public a letter sent March 27 to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in which she was asked not to proceed with a “special convention” meeting she announced and personally will convene on March 29 at St. John the Baptist Church in Lodi, Calif.
The meeting agenda includes adoption of the 2003 version of the San Joaquin Constitution and Canons certification of delegates and ratification of Bishop Jefferts Schori’s nomination of retired Northern California Bishop Jerry Lamb to be provisional bishop for the newly reconstituted diocese. The diocese seeks a second “canonically correct vote” by the House of Bishops on the depositions of bishops John-David Schofield and William Cox.
“Additionally, for the good of our Church, we ask you not to proceed with the planned election of a replacement for Bishop Schofield until the matter of his deposition can be legally and canonically resolved,” the letter added.
“The Diocese of South Carolina demonstrated our commitment to the proper observance of The Episcopal Church Canons with two election conventions and 18 months of Standing Committee and Bishop confirmations. Because we feel so strongly that the canons were not followed in the depositions of Bishops Schofield and Cox, we must respectfully refuse to recognize the depositions, and we will not recognize any new bishop who may be elected to replace Bishop Schofield, unless and until the canons are followed.”
Neva Rae Fox, public affairs officer for Episcopal Life Online Media, and other officials from the Episcopal Church Center, were traveling to Lodi when the letter was made public. Ms. Fox said shortly after her arrival on March 28 that she had “not received any notification of any change in plans to proceed with the special convention.”
The Rev. James Snell, president of the San Joaquin Standing Committee, has previously raised the possibility that Bishop Jefferts Schori might be liable for a presentment complaint under the canons which prohibit bishops from entering another bishop’s territory without permission. Under the canons to be considered for adoption by the special convention, the standing committee is the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese. The special convention is scheduled to begin in a few hours.
“Bishop Lawrence and the South Carolina Standing Committee have really gone out on a limb in respectfully calling for a second vote on the depositions and for postponement of the special convention,” the Rev. John Burwell, president of the standing committee told a reporter from The Living Church. “I am hoping that other diocesan bishops and standing committees will join me in respectfully calling for the consistent application of our canons.” Fr. Burwell, who also serves as rector of Holy Cross Church, Sullivans Island, also confirmed that the diocese had informed Bishop Jefferts Schori of their intent to make public the letter ahead of time and waited for confirmation that she had received it before doing so.