Thursday, March 13, 2014


by Ronald Caldwell,  PhD, Professor of History Emeritus

The independent Diocese of South Carolina (DSC) will hold its second annual convention at Christ Church in Mt. Pleasant on March 14-15. Proposed resolutions have just been published. For now, let's look at Resolution R-3. We'll consider the others later. R-3 states:  the Diocese of South Carolina accept the offer of the newly created Global South Primatial Oversight Council for pastoral oversight...during the temporary period of discernment...we reserve the right to revisit this decision... . In the following "Rationale," we are told this is an act of God:  we believe the timing Providential and   we choose to see it as a providential provision. But, we are told there is no certain time frame for this because  We do not want to box the Holy Spirit in. (The "Rationale" with the Resolution actually says that. As if someone could "box in" God!).

When I first read this resolution, I was stunned. Then I was puzzled and I wondered, What in the world is going on in the independent "Diocese of South Carolina"?

Here are the salient facts about R-3. 1-the DSC would not have a single primate but several in something called the "Global South Primatial Oversight Council," 2-DSC would be in "discernment" to choose a permanent primate, 3-DSC could remove itself from the Council at will. 

Many questions pop into mind immediately. For instance, What is the Global South Primatial Council? We know it was created just a couple of weeks ago by the "Global South Primates Steering Committee." The chairman of the committee is Mouneer Anis, the Bishop of Egypt and head of the Anglican province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. He is a long-time friend and close conservative ally of Lawrence. In 2010, Lawrence made a long sojourn to Egypt as Anis's guest. Anis was the first to jump to Lawrence's defense when the Episcopal Church removed Lawrence from the post of bishop in 2012. In 2009 the DSC set up the "Anglican Communion Development" committee headed by Kendall Harmon. He has "coordinated" this arrangement with the Steering Committee. The "Global South" is a self-created association of certain highly conservative Anglican leaders to the "South" of the U.S. and U.K. The primates of the "Global South" are mostly in Africa and southern Asia. They represent several provinces, mostly small, of the thirty-nine in the Anglican Communion. (The primate of Nigeria, the largest Anglican province, refused to endorse the Feb. 2014 statement). They do not include many other Anglicans in the southern part of the globe such as Australia and New Zealand. Many members of the "Global South" are also in GAFCON, a larger self-made Third World-based organization of Anglicans committed to highly conservative social policy, particularly on homosexuality. Neither "Global South" nor GAFCON has any official standing in the Anglican Communion. Indeed, GAFCON has made itself a rival to the traditional structure of the AC headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. GAFCON has condemned and has broken communion with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada because of their stands for rights for homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions. It has recognized the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as the rightful Anglican province in North America and has welcomed its archbishop, Robert Duncan, as a primate. The stated goal of ACNA is to replace TEC as the official branch of the Anglican Communion in America.

Since Global South and its Steering Committee have absolutely no official standing in the Anglican Communion, they have absolutely no authority or right to create a "Primatial Council" in the AC. To have legitimacy, such a "Council" would have to be approved by the Anglican Consultative Council, something that will not happen. Thus, this "Primatial Council" will have absolutely no legal or legitimate status in the worldwide Anglican Communion. The people of South Carolina should recognize this fact before they approve this resolution.

The Feb. 15 statement of Anis's Global South Steering Committee said simply    We decided to establish a Primatial Oversight provide pastoral and primatial oversight to dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses in order to keep them within the Communion. No other information was given about this Council. To keep them within the Communion? Who is on the Council? How were they appointed? What are their terms, powers, rights, responsibilities? What obligations will DSC owe to the Council? If DSC can withdraw at will, what power will the Council have over DSC? The people of the DSC are being ask to buy a pig in a poke. They ought to ask a lot of questions about that pig before they buy it.

The Steering Committee created this Council at the last minute just before the DSC diocesan convention and it was done by a close ally of Lawrence. South Carolina will have absolute discretion to obey this Council. It is hard to believe that any of this was accidental. Whether it was "providential," only God knows. DSC is trying to have it both ways, to be in the Anglican Communion but remain a sovereign diocese that can decide its own way. This was precisely the mindset that got DSC into trouble with TEC. Should anyone think it will go better with the Council?

Why does not DSC just join the ACNA? After all, it is led by Lawrence's old friend and close ally, Robert Duncan. The two have a long history together fighting against TEC. Duncan has certainly courted Lawrence for a long time as the entrance of DSC would be a major boost for ACNA. Nevertheless, Lawrence has kept a distance from ACNA for reasons not apparent. Even as far back as 2009, Lawrence gave an interview to Anglican TV showing hesitation about ACNA. Perhaps there are hard feelings over St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant. Lawrence defeated Steve Wood, the powerful rector of St. Andrew's, for the post of bishop in 2007. Then, in 2010, before the schism, Wood led his, the largest parish in DSC, out of the diocese, property in hand, and joined ACNA. Soon thereafter, Wood became the bishop of the ACNA "Diocese of the Carolinas." It is hard to imagine that Lawrence would want to merge DSC into that diocese that already has a bishop who just happens to be an old rival. That leaves a quandary of how DSC would unite with ACNA.

Of course, DSC could adhere to another Anglican primate, such as the Anglican Mission in the Americas's Chuck Murphy of All Saints, Pawleys Island, did with Rwanda. That relationship did not go well to say the least. Murphy and the Rwandan primate had a very public and embarrassing falling out. Then, All Saints split 2-1 as the majority voted to leave Murphy's AMiA (and Rwanda) for ACNA. AMiA and ACNA split apart. Thus, the splintering history of All Saints could hardly be a guide for the future of DSC.

In other ways too, things are not going well for Lawrence's independent Diocese of South Carolina. Revenues are declining as shown in the new budget (see at That budget does not include legal fees. A separate committee has been formed to raise millions to pay dozens of lawyers. The bewildered communicant-in-the-pew is being pressed to pay up. Membership is falling too. Across the diocese, people are having second thoughts about their choices and quietly slipping out of the breakaway churches to return to the real Episcopal churches. On top of everything else, DSC is also challenged to boost sagging morale.

Lawrence and the diocesan leadership assured their people before and after the schism that they were the Episcopal Church in the Low Country and that they were in the Anglican Communion. At first people commonly accepted this. They wanted to believe what they were told. Actually neither was true; and in time people began to realize the truth. Despite names, signs, advertisements and the like, the parishes that went with Lawrence are not the Episcopal Church. In fact, they do not belong to any larger denomination. Lawrence claimed that DSC was an extra-provincial diocese of the Anglican Communion. Nonsense. The only isolated dioceses (except for the unique case of Cuba) in the AC are directly under the Archbishop of Canterbury which DSC certainly is not and will never be. The simple fact is that DSC is not in AC. And that's the point of R-3. It is to give DSC a shred of legitimacy by linking it to official Anglican primates. But in the end it's just another unworkable hair-brained scheme coming down a well-trod pike.

The lesson of all this is that it is much easier to leave home than to find a new one. It is easier to tear down than to build up. South Carolina has been in TEC since 1789 (except for the Late Unpleasantness). For years the disgruntled leadership clique in DSC had fought to cut the anchor rope and sail away from their ancient ancestral home port. Their persistence finally succeeded. Without anchor, they sailed away. Once at sea, however, they revealed that they had no idea of where to go. Their only plan had been to get away. The anchorless ship drifted in the middle of nowhere going nowhere. After more than a year lost at sea, signs are now showing that the passengers on board are beginning to question the wisdom of the captain and crew who are now racing about looking for something, anything to use as an anchor. Not all ideas that sound good at first turn out to be good (we've all been there). Not all voyages are meant to be. Not everything one likes is "providential." This venerable old ship belongs to its passengers, not to its hired hands. It has become obvious that the captain and crew are lost at sea. It is time for the long-suffering passengers to muster up the courage to take over their own vessel from the misguiding leaders and return it to its ancestral home.