On July 9, 2020, Bishop Lawrence sent the following message to the Diocese.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Yesterday I announced to the clergy of the diocese my decision to call for a bishop coadjutor. This call for a bishop coadjutor is not an announcement of my retirement nor my resignation. Retirement is a relatively recent development—before the mid-20th Century very few people “retired” or could. Certainly one can hardly imagine the apostle Paul or any other apostle for that matter retiring. Nor is it my resignation as your bishop. It is, however, a necessary and important step for this latter to take place in the future.
A bishop coadjutor is elected to succeed the diocesan bishop upon his resignation. Several things led me to this decision at this time—foremost of which is prayer. On March 19 of this year I turned 70. Of course, we were already in the early pandemic quarantine across the country. As it dragged into April, I began to prayerfully consider several matters that were converging. Recently, by which I mean at least the last 60 years, the bishops of the diocese were required to resign at 72 years of age. While there is nothing in our diocesan canons or in the canons of our province that require a bishop to resign from his diocese at 72, it does seem prudent to honor the practice of recent predecessors rather than establish a new precedent. Since an election process, with the consent of the College of Bishops, and planning for a consecration can normally take eighteen months to 2 years it seemed prudent to begin the process now.
Secondly, Allison and I have 19 grandchildren some are all but grown and others are moving quickly through life’s early stages. Being with them at important life passages becomes increasingly challenging for a bishop with a full diocesan schedule. With our family spread across South Carolina and Pennsylvania, and extended family still in California, these primary loyalties of the heart call to be honored.
Thirdly, there are many opportunities waiting to be explored in the years ahead if God should so will. The French essayist, Montaigne said, “There is nothing more remarkable in the life of Socrates than that he found time in old age to learn to dance and play on instruments and thought it was time well spent.” Well I hasten to add I am not there yet—resignation as bishop that is. No, I have many tasks, duties and commitments here before this can take place. Yet it is essential for me to take this step of calling for a bishop coadjutor in a timely fashion.
Here is the path ahead as clearly as I can see it. At our Standing Committee meeting on May 5, 2020 I announced my decision. Our diocesan canons places the search process under the authority of the Standing Committee. For the past two months, they have been working on the details of the search process. I will leave it to them to outline the details in the days ahead. However, the preliminary plan is for an election to take place sometime in May of 2021. This would allow the elected candidate to meet with the ACNA College of Bishops in June of that year. The candidate if confirmed by the college would then be consecrated at a date scheduled by the Archbishop and the Standing Committee in mid to late fall of 2021. The time at which I hand the crozier to my successor can be decided at a future date, but beginning the process of succession now at least allows it to take place in a timely manner before my 72nd birthday in March of 2022. While some have asked, what is next for Allison and me and “Where will you go?” I can only say, “I haven’t the slightest idea.” I have long felt the best way to prepare for what’s next in one’s life is to finish well where one is. I have a full-time job at present and, frankly, I do not see that changing in the foreseeable future. So let us all press on to the upward call in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Yours in Christ,
The Right Reverend Mark Joseph Lawrence
Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina