Clergy Reflect on Lawrence’s Leadership

“A Loving and Gracious Pastor to All”

Thank you to the clergy who submitted reflections about Bishop Lawrence’s leadership. Unfortunately we did not have space to include them all.

The Rev. Gary Beson

One memory of Bishop Lawrence that I hope I never forget came while I was still a student in Seminary. Susan and I had become close friends with his son Joseph, his wife Joette and at the time their two daughters, Samantha and Sophia. The Joe Lawrence family came over one Sunday to watch a Steelers game and enjoy a Frogmore stew with fresh Charleston shrimp we brought back after a Thanksgiving trip home to Summerville. During the game Joette, who was pregnant with their third child, went into labor. Their son Andrew was delivered at the local hospital less than a couple hours after her labor started. Joe and Joette, left their two young daughters with Sue and I and barely made it to the hospital in time for the birth. Sue took Samantha and Sophia home later that night to put them to bed and ended up staying with them until Allison could come from Charleston to help out and greet the new grandchild, Andrew.

The next week I received a handwritten note from our Bishop that began, “Gary for this note, I am taking off my “Bishop’s Hat” and putting on my “Father Hat” to thank you Father to Father for caring for my son and his family during the birth of Andrew.” I still have the note and I pray those heartfelt words and sentiment will never leave my memory. Great Bishop he has certainly been, but I will always first remember him as Joe’s dad and Samantha, Sophia and Andrew’s grandfather.

The Very Rev. Peet Dickinson

I could write hundreds of words about how Bishop Lawrence blessed me with his courageous leadership and anointed preaching and teaching, but I think what blessed me most over the years were his interactions with my children. One time my daughter Ellen was complimenting his amethyst episcopal ring; the young lady loves the bling! Bishop Mark asked, “would you like to try it on?” “Yes please,” she said with glee! He slipped it off his finger and onto hers, and she beamed as she admired it on her hand. Another time, I remember an interaction between the Bishop and my little boy, Bo, who wanted to tell jokes. The Bishop patiently listened to Bo’s 7 year old jokes and then he asked Bo if he’d like to hear one. Bo said, “Oh yes!” The Bishop then launched into a rather long and complicated joke with airplanes and parachutes and nap-sacks, if I recall. Bo’s eyes began to glaze over and finally he said, “Bishop! That’s not a joke! That’s a story!” The Bishop burst into fits of laughter and the two were bonded for life. I love to see a leader who sees the small and shows them kindness and honor. Bishop Lawrence always did that with my children and I’m sure with countless others around the diocese. Even though there were so many spectacular public moments during Bishop Mark’s episcopacy, it’s the hidden moments with my kids that I’ll remember with greatest fondness. He is a lion, a great defender of the faith, but he is also a loving and gracious pastor to all, even our little ones. I thank God for Mark and Allison and pray for many blessings upon them as they move into this new chapter in their ministries.

The Rev. Dr. Charles Echols

Bishop Mark has modeled the Christian life to me in many ways, perhaps chiefly in obedience to God’s will when one knows the calling will be marked with continual hardship. For most of his ministry as our bishop, my sense is the Diocese has been on the defensive vis-a-vis the litigation. Bishop Mark could have retired long before now, but he resisted the easy opt out and served and encouraged us all along the way. I will always be grateful to him for his support when I walked through some valleys. I have also enjoyed knowing Allison. Prior to ordination, we joked about having clergy spouses. I do hope that there’s been some mutual blessing, as in the broadening of the Lawrences cultural horizons through the introduction of such things as Mrs. Hane’s Pickled Okra. May the Lord reward their faithful ministry in their next season.

The Rev. Ronald Gauss

I give thanks to God for Bishop Mark Lawrence and his pastoral presence in our Diocese. He has proven himself to be A PASTOR TO THE PASTORS. Almost six years ago my wife had a stroke. She walked into the hospital but as evening progressed, she could no longer walk. Someone informed Bishop Lawrence because that evening he called us at the hospital through my cell phone, and prayed for and with us. That evening he was the Pastor we needed. I have seen him in this role again and again as I lived out my ministry throughout the Diocese. We are blessed to have had this PASTOR.

The Rt. Rev. Alden Hathaway

I first met Mark and Allison when they came to our home for a reception for new clergy coming in to Pittsburgh in the fall of 1984. I quickly came to know him as one of the most deeply spiritual and articulate of all my clergy. So well read in theology and history and philosophy – and the arts. Every year he selected a great figure and read everything written by them or about them. One year St. Augustine, another year Bishop William Lawrence of Massachusetts, another, Beethoven. So he did, year by year. He remembers everyone and everything he has read; weaving their spirits and wisdom into his preaching and teaching of The Gospel of Him who is ‘The way the truth and the life.’ We became good friends; Mark and Allison, I and Anna; his children and ours. Jeff Miller asked that I phone the priest in California I had mentioned as bishop material for South Carolina. Mark answered my call; “Allison and I are just thinking. ‘All our kids are back east. Our work at St. Paul’s is complete. Yes, we’re open to having my name submitted.” He was the only non-southerner at the walkabout meetings, to meet the candidates. At one, he was asked. “Well, Rev. Lawrence, you being from California, how do you figure to relate to us Lo-Country Episcopalians?” His answer. “Oh, I think it’s deep enough for Ivory Bills.” For a consecration gift, the diocese gave him a canoe; so he could paddle up the creeks and bayous to find the lost (Ivory Bill Wood Peckers) of South Carolina.

The Rev. Joyce Harder

I taught high school French for 20 years and was always amused by how my students were astonished to encounter me in a grocery store or on the beach, as if I didn’t eat or enjoy recreation.

I must confess that I viewed Bishop Mark in the same elevated position. When I was first ordained and had the opportunity to serve him as a rookie deacon in our parish’s confirmation service or as bishop’s chaplain at a friend’s ordination, or at a diocesan Eucharist, I was terrified that I would “mess up” and let him down.

The Bishop’s compassionate and discerning spirit, coupled with his sense of humor, unfailingly served to put me at ease. I appreciated learning that he is a kind, ordinary man with an extraordinary call on his life, and I thank God that I have had the honor to be ordained by and serve under him.

Godspeed, Bishop Mark. You are well-loved and will be sorely missed, but oh, how your retirement is well-deserved!

The Rev. Tripp Jeffords

Some months after being asked to join the search process for the new rector at St. Paul’s in Summerville, I had not heard a clear word from God on the issue, so I politely declined and tried to remove my name. The very next morning, I received a call from Bishop Lawrence asking, “What are you doing?” My reply, “Well, Bishop, I told Scott (chair of the search committee) that I didn’t feel “called” to St. Paul’s.” Bishop Lawrence’s reply was unexpected, “You are not called. You are in a prayerful process. If at the end of the process, they call you, then you will need to confirm or deny the call.” So, with those wise words, I continued in the process. Bishop Lawrence went on to tell me that he was exercising (walking) that same morning. While he walked, he was praying through the clergy and churches of the diocese, when the Holy Spirit gave him a strong inclination that “Tripp Jeffords” is supposed to be the new rector at St. Paul’s in Summerville. If not for his wisdom, his prayerfulness, and the Holy Spirit’s power leading Bishop Lawrence, I would not be with my new parish family in Summerville, and I would have missed out on so many blessings over the past six years!

The Rev. Arthur Jenkins

Mark Lawrence lived spiritual authority for me. One of the first lessons I had to learn upon becoming rector of Saint James Anglican Church was how to faithfully use the authority that was expected of me. Overnight I had authority over the vision, mission and spiritual health of the parish. There were so many aspects of this authority from staff organization to worship, from finances to ministries, where to begin?

It was tempting to assume that my ordination or my collar or my title as rector gave me this authority. How wrong I was. Just because I was the leader didn’t mean I had the authority to do so. Where and from whom was I to find this authority?

Ultimately, I turned to our new bishop, Mark Lawrence. Where did his authority come from? Yes, he was ordained. Yes, he was consecrated. Yes, he was chosen by our entire diocese. Still, I know there was something different. Bishop Lawrence had spiritual authority. His authority was much greater than the authority of his office. His was the authority of the Spirit and it was bestowed on him by God. But how? Or why? As I watched Bishop Lawrence and served with him and prayed for him, I recognized the key to his authority, specifically his spiritual authority. The key was sacrifice and submission. Mark Lawrence wielded great spiritual authority over me and all of our diocese because he sacrificed for us. When the lawsuits began and the attacks on him became personal and vicious Bishop Lawrence had the very attractive option to retire and return to his beloved Sierra Nevada. He didn’t. He stayed with us and for us.

I have great love and respect for Mark Lawrence because he sacrificed himself on our behalf. Isn’t there some gospel in that somewhere?

The Rev. Mike Lumpkin

I believe Mark Lawrence, with Allison, received a particular Anointing by the Holy Spirit of Grace and of Power on his consecration day. The Holy Spirit descended on him for the labor that was ahead of him. His Call from the West Coast to the East Coast was to steer the Diocese through the troubled, dangerous, malignant institutional waters of the past decade and longer. Mark’s and Allison’s grace and graciousness have been manifested on every occasion without exception when Mark has been attacked, vilified, mistreated, ridiculed, undermined by those opposed to the direction the Diocese has ultimately taken. Mark has responded to every public and private attack with kindness, a smile, and a loving heart. Mark’s power and authority as Bishop of our Diocese has been exercised first and foremost with humility and with kindness. In spite of the potential distraction of the lawsuit, Mark has enabled the Diocese to prosper and grow on innumerable fronts. What a Servant Leader! What a ‘man for all seasons’. What a hero he has been for many of us. I will always be grateful to have served as a priest and a parish Rector under this good shepherd.

The Rev. Glenn Ohanesian

When we were in the infancy stages of church planting at The Well by the Sea, Bishop Mark came to our house with our core group and blessed us with his vision and excitement (he even blessed our home which was a powerful experience). Over the years I have always taken the opportunity at confirmation and reception services to get close to the altar and listen to the prayers and blessings he would give to the confirmands. Many times, I knew things about the people he was praying for though he would not. How many times I have heard his prayers and blessings speak right to the situations, gifts, or needs of that particular person, exercising a powerful gift of words of knowledge. So powerful, often moving both the confirmand (and me) to tears. His warm visage and moving sermons, his caring heart and spiritual leadership have been an awesome blessing from the Lord. They will never be forgotten. Godspeed to you and Allison wherever He shall lead the two of you!

The Rev. Chuck Pollak

I had been approved by Bishop Salmon to become a Vocational Deacon. After Bishop Mark became our Diocesan, several priests encouraged me to meet with him and let him know what ministry work I was doing. He decided that I was being called to be a priest. It must have taken considerable courage for Bishop Mark to take this rather unorthodox and bold move, as I was 75 years old at that time and was not ordained a priest until the age of 79. But now, 91 years old, I recently retired as a SC Prison Chaplain and am still going strong. Bishop Mark changed my life and I will be forever grateful.

The Rev. Hamilton Smith

I was going through a particularly difficult time in ministry and Bishop Lawrence said, “Hamilton, whatever comes your way: 1) receive it from the Lord, 2) for your blessing, and 3) for His glory. If you do that, you can thrive in ministry.”

The Rev. John Sosnowski

Bishop Lawrence was in the first year of his Episcopacy and was serving as the speaker for St. Michael’s parish family retreat at Kanuga. I was part of a group with him that was hiking up one of the longer trails on Saturday afternoon. He and I happened to get a little ahead of the others and we had been having pleasant conversation when I decided to ask what I thought was a good question. I said, “Well Bishop, when do we leave?” meaning “When do we leave the Episcopal Church?” Bishop Lawrence was about 10 steps up the trail from me. He turned around abruptly and stepped back toward me. The look on his face was so very serious. He said, “Where would we go? The vision for the diocese is that we would make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age. Where would we go that would allow for this better than where we are?” We were not in earshot of anyone else that afternoon. He was free to say whatever was in his heart. From the very beginning, it was Bishop Mark’s intention that, if at all possible, our diocese would remain, and be a force for doctrinal theology under the authority of scripture. He made every effort to do so. He has led us with Grace and Godly Wisdom through one of the most challenging eras in the history of our diocese. It has been my great privilege to be led by him both as a lay person and to be ordained by him as a priest in the diocese.

The Rev. Franklin Wiggins

As I reflect back over my Christian journey, l realize that if it wasn’t for Bishop Lawrence’s help and support, my ministry would not have been accomplished to where l am now. So, all of my praises and thanks go out to him. May God continue to bless you in your retirement.