Friday, March 21, 2014


By Ronald J. Caldwell, PhD, Professor of History Emeritus

The primatial oversight scheme for the independent Diocese of South Carolina approved in their recent annual convention is remarkable in many ways. Here are the salient facts as we know them now:

1-Bishop Lawrence and Bishop Mouneer Anis are longtime close friends and conservative allies. Anis is the chairman of Global South, an alliance of socially reactionary Anglicans committed to opposing rights for homosexual persons. Global South is closely associated with GAFCON and its offshoot the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. All of these groups were formed to oppose rights for homosexuals.

2-The Global South Primates Steering Committee suddenly issued a statement on February 15, 2014 inviting DSC into a primatial oversight arrangement. This was four weeks before the DSC convention.

3-The Steering Committee is composed of the Anglican primates of: Egypt, Indian Ocean, Myanmar (Burma), Southern Cone, Burundi, South East Asia, Sudan, and Nigeria. All signed the Feb. 15 statement except Nigeria, the largest Anglican province in the world. The signers represent many of the smallest provinces in the Anglican Communion. The Global South Steering Committee does not represent anywhere near a majority of the AC. Many provinces have refused to join as Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea.

4-In the statement of Feb. 15, not one detail was presented for this "Primatial Oversight Council." Who is to be on the Council? How many members will be on it? How are they to be chosen? How long will their terms last? Is the primatial oversight for DSC to be by committee or by an individual primate? If by individual, how is he to be selected? What powers will he have? What will be the relationship between the Council and the primate? How much is DSC to pay this Council? 

5-R-3 says DSC can withdraw from the Council arrangement as it chooses. How is the Council to exercise power over a diocese that does not have to obey its will?

6-The "Rationale" with R-3 says this offer is God's Will ("providential"). However, there is to be no set time limit because they do not want to "box in" the Holy Spirit. This business of proclaiming God's Will is truly astonishing and should go without comment except to say that in the past Bishop Lawrence has declared events to be God's Will.

7- The offer was rushed through the convention. The proposal for the oversight Council was presented immediately to the DSC for vote with the directive that it was "providential." There was very little time to consider it. In a newspaper article (P & C, March 15, 2014) one delegate complained that "There was no time to sit and have an examination with the laity of the whole diocese." This has become the habit of DSC in quick succession: decision from the top, passed on the Standing Committee and Council for unanimous approval, passed on to clergy, passed on to diocesan convention. Along the way little or no public discussion. Little or no room for differences of opinion let alone dissenting positions.

8-R-2 and R-3 passed unanimously. The offer of primatial Council got not one negative vote. This demonstrates the complete bond between diocese and bishop.

9-Bishop Lawrence does  not know the details of the primatial Council offer. He said in a video interview on March 19 that "as I understand it" there will be one primate. (  Anglican TV Interviews Bp Mark Lawrence," 18 min.). He cannot say for sure what the arrangement will be.

10-Lawrence is to appoint personally and solely a "discernment" committee. They will come from the Council and Standing Committee. This gives him complete control over the discernment process. Can there can be any doubt that the "discernment" will be his choice?

These are the conclusions I reach from all this:

---DSC and Lawrence are desperate for legitimacy. For the last 16 months the DSC has had no identity and no legitimate status. They are not the Episcopal Church in lower South Carolina and they are not in the Anglican Communion. So, what are they? Where are they?

---DSC and its leaders have a jarring way of declaring to know God's Will. This implies that any differentiation is not God's Will. It is presumptuous to dare to speak for God.

---An authoritarian process has settled into the life of DSC. The DSC convention was little more than a Duma that rubberstamped decisions already made. Two votes were unanimous, the rest "overwhelming." DSC is solidly under its leadership.

---The DSC has put absolute faith in its bishop. The diocesan conventions have surrendered all rights to the bishop who now has authoritarian power to govern DSC (see the other resolutions). He alone can interpret the Constitution and Canons. Vestries and standing committees have been reduced to insignificance.

---The primatial Council is entirely uncertain. Its relationship to DSC is equally unknown. The history of the relationships of the other splinter groups from the Episcopal Church with overseas primates is not good. There is no reason here to think otherwise.

---The logical future course for DSC is to join the Anglican Church in North America. All of the other four seceding diocese joined it. For some unknown reason Lawrence refuses to join ACNA. This leaves DSC in a quandary of where to go as an "Anglican" diocese.