Father Burwell Responds

Father Burwell has responded to my post in two emails sent last night. Rather than take any of what he said out of context, I will print them in their entirety below.

Dear Tim,

Thank you for taking the time to get to know me a little bit better today and I appreciated your kind report of our time together. I still feel we are closer on our theology than you do, but I can live with that.  I only wish that you had mentioned more of the why I voted in favor of the four resolutions. In his speech to the convention the bishop passionately urged us to support the first four resolutions.  The first resolution was not perceived by us the way you did, and I thought I made that clearer that I evidently did.  If I had thought it was as you presented it, I too would have had problems with it. 

Like you, I do agree resolution is problematical.  But Resolution 2 was a resolution on strategy for engagement with the wider church, not a plan to begin leaving it.  Resolution 2 did not take a stand on Scripture, ethics, or even the doctrine, discipline or worship of the Church. As a strategic proposal, the resolution was, in fact, amoral (neither immoral nor moral).  As I mentioned to you, because am a priest who made an ordination vow to support his bishop and because I am a dean chosen by the bishop to represent him, I do not consider disobedience on amoral issues to be an acceptable course of action. Quite simply, I am duty bound to follow my Bishop’s leadership in this matter, even if the strategy is not one that I myself would pursue. Thus, when faced with a vote on an issue of amoral strategy, I believe I can disagree privately with my bishop but I must publicly support him when he specifically and publicly asks me to do so.

My vote on Resolution 2 was motivated by catholic ecclesiology. I see the promises I made in my ordination vows requiring fidelity with my Bishop on matters of this nature despite my personal reluctance to pursue such a strategy. Had Bishop Lawrence asked something of me that plainly contradicted the teaching of Holy Scripture or the Church throughout the ages; that would have been an entirely different matter.  No one is ever obligated to obey Episcopal leadership when to do so would require sin against God. I have conducted my entire priestly ministry with these principles ever before me.

I can not understand how my loyalty to my bishop in a non-moral resolution on a strategy intended to engage the church (not leave it) by staying and making a statement of conscience should call into question my fitness to serve you as bishop. I simply can not understand how something like this completely negates (or at the very least discounts) all of my gifting in the very areas Upper South Carolina said it wanted for their next bishop. 

Is this grace? I wouldn’t treat you this way and I humbly ask you to reconsider.

In Christ,


Email #2


One last note and I’ll shut up. You also wrote that Dioceses do not have the canonical right to reject individual resolutions with which they disagree. Actually, while canons passed by convention are binding, resolutions are not. This is why a canon was passed requiring ordination of females.

If resolutions of the Church are indeed as binding as canons, why were Bishop Browning and 28 other bishops allowed to go unpunished when they posted a statement years ago saying that they would not abide by a resolution passed by the 1979 Convention? Here is a quote from /Toward a Full and Equal Claim/: “…we cannot accept these recommendations or implement them in our dioceses…”

Their statement of 30 years ago was praised in the wider church as a statement of conscience. That is what SC was doing, in the eyes of the people who crafted it.

I promise I’ll say no more till I hear back from you. Thank you for hearing me out.

In Christ,


4 thoughts on “Father Burwell Responds

  1. I am a lawyer. Mind you, I'm not an Episcopal, but I am a lapsed Catholic with a few years of Bible study under my belt.

    My reading of resolution #2 amounts to a “just cause” to leave “The Episcopal Church”. It looks like a warning shot in the wider context of open rebellion. Very Thomas Jefferson Declaration of Independence sounding but without
    Maybe the context of discussion at the convention might shed greater light on the meaning behind resolution #2, but from a plain reading of the resolution, it is a first step of withdrawl. To ascribe any other meaning to the resolution would be disingenious at best. And again, that is just a legal reading of the plain words without grounding the reading in Episcopalian theology. Maybe that might make a difference.


  2. That's my read as well, and I am but a poor ignorant deacon. The real problem is that being in the church with gay people gives them the willies. But rather than say that, they cloak it in quasi-legal and wuasi-religious language.

    Thanks for hanging in there. This is an important issue in South Carolina. The most progressive voice on social issues in the faith community is at risk in the outcome of this election.


  3. If “catholic ecclesiology” requires that the bishop decide the issue posed in Resolution 2, then say so. To pretend that there is a vote reflecting the individual consciences of the clergy of the diocese lacks integrity.

    Further, the roots of Resolution 2 lie not in some neutral amoral territory, but in moral questions of great importance. The underlying issue is the manner in which our fellow Christians participate in the life of the church. In the absence of those issues, Resolution #2 would not have been written or proposed for a vote. To pretend otherwise makes no sense.


  4. First, if resolutions of General Convention are non-binding on the diocese, then why would they have needed to pass a resolution stating that they are not bound by the General Convention's resolution?

    Second, does this candidate believe that the ordination vows of a priest REQUIRE that the priest vote in accordance with the wishes of the Bishop on such issues? If that were the case, then why allow the clergy to vote on such issues at all?


Leave a Reply to Lynn T. Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s