South Carolina re-elects Lawrence

The Very Rev. Mark Lawrence was re-elected as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina August 4 at a special electing convention held at St. James Church on St. James Island, South Carolina. Lawrence was the only candidate in the election since no petitions to add other names to the slate were received by the July 11 deadline.

A majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan Standing Committees must now consent to Lawrence’s ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.

Lawrence, 56, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bakersfield, California, in the Diocese of San Joaquin, was first elected September 16, 2006 to be South Carolina’s 14th bishop.

On March 15, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori declared that election “null and void,” saying that a number of the consent responses did not adhere to canonical requirements since Lawrence’s election did not receive the consent of the majority of diocesan standing committees.

Episcopal Church canons, which govern the procedures for the election of bishops, call for consents to episcopal ordinations from standing committees to be “signed by a majority of all the members of the Committee. (III.11.4 (b))”

Further, the canon states (on pages 101-102) that standing committee members must sign in their own handwriting: “In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hands this (blank) day of (blank) in the year of our Lord (blank).”

Where the signature requirement had not been met by standing committees, the consent forms for Lawrence’s election were rejected for not complying with that part of the canon.

Canonically adequate ballots were received by South Carolina from 50 diocesan standing committees of the 56 required. Several other standing committees were reported to have consented, but no signatures were attached to their ballots, or the ballot itself was missing from South Carolina’s records, Jefferts Schori reported in March. Any committee that did not respond to the diocese’s consent request is considered to have voted no.

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