Thursday, March 13, 2014


By Ronald Caldwell,  PhD, Professor of History Emeritus

In Part I of this question, we started looking at the resolutions being offered for approval at the upcoming annual convention of the independent Diocese of South Carolina (DSC). We considered the strange and problematical Resolution in which DSC would give temporary recognition on its own terms to a primatial "Council" of legitimate Anglican primates under Lawrence ally Anis, head of the province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Eight other resolutions are being offered.

Resolution R-1 "Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans." This gives DSC adherence to and endorsement of the Jerusalem Declaration of 2008 that was drawn up by GAFCON (Global Anglican Futures Conference) in Jerusalem on the eve of the Lambeth Conference of 2008. GAFCON was a self-made group without any legitimacy at all in the Anglican Communion. It was organized and led by distinctly socially conservative Anglicans, mostly of the Third World, that condemned the TEC and Anglican Church of Canada's stands on rights for homosexual persons. The Declaration (Statement) lists fourteen points. The two critical ones are #8 that condemns homosexuality and #13 that rejects the validity of TEC and ACofC because they supported rights for homosexuals. Bishop Lawrence attended GAFCON and warmly endorsed the Declaration even though he had sworn an oath of allegiance to TEC only a few months earlier. GAFCON I (2208) and GAFCON II (2013) rejected TEC and recognized the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as the legitimate branch of the Anglican Communion (AC) in North America and accepted its archbishop, Robert Duncan, as a constituent primate. GAFCON is now a shadow government of the AC in competition with the traditional structure of the AC headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC). The common bond of GAFCON is opposition to rights for homosexual persons.

By passing this resolution, DSC will be giving tacit recognition to ACNA and Duncan.

R-2, "Discernment of Provincial Affiliation," states that the bishop will appoint a joint committee of members of the Council and Standing Committee to "decide our means of affiliation" with an Anglican province. They are to make a recommendation to a future diocesan convention. The Council and Standing Committee are now, and have been for years, solidly controlled by the leadership of DSC. They routinely vote unanimously. The fact that the bishop will appoint the members of this "discernment" committee guarantees his control of the whole discernment process. By this, can there be little doubt that DSC will wind up affiliating with the bishop's choice?

Six resolutions change the canons of DSC. C-1, "Regarding Clergy of the Diocese," gives the bishop single and authoritarian control over all clergy, including appointing and dismissing them ("The ordination process in the Diocese shall be under the direction of the Ecclesiastical Authority... Clergy may be removed from the the Ecclesiastical Authority...") This only increases the rising authoritarian control in the office of the bishop of DSC that has been developing for several years. Power is being concentrated in the hands of one person.

C-2, "Of Parish Membership," states that "Membership shall be in only one congregation." This precludes anyone from membership in DSC and TEC congregations concurrently.

C-3, "Authority of the Rector," is the most important of all the canonical changes. It states "...the Rector shall have authority for...real and personal parish property..." As the rector serves at the discretion of the bishop, this gives the bishop and the rector full power over the property of a parish. The vestry would have no right to control the assets of money, lands, furnishing etc. of the parish. This is ironic since Lawrence and the DSC have greatly emphasized local ownership of property. In fact, Lawrence issued quit claim deeds to all parishes in 2012, the crux of the matter that got him removed as an Episcopal bishop. This resolution would give the bishop and rector virtual ownership of all local properties. This would mean, for instance, that if the vestry voted to return the parish to TEC, it could be blocked by the rector alone, or by the bishop through the rector.

C-4, "Removal of Congregations from Union with Convention," gives the bishop the right to remove a parish or mission from union with DSC, another elevation of authoritarian power.

C-5, "Of Worship in the Diocese," says that "Worship in the Diocese of South Carolina shall be those liturgies as described by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer..." This continues usage of the standard TEC liturgies and worship thus demonstrating that the break of DSC from TEC was not about religion. In fact, DSC is continuing the very same religion from TEC. The break, then, had to come from other factors, the most important of which was homosexuality. The oft-made argument from DSC that "It's about God not gays" is simply not true as clearly demonstrated in C-5.

C-6 "Of Lay Pensions in the Diocese," concerns a relatively minor issue of pension coverage for lay employees.

So, what should one make of these proposed resolutions? As we have seen R-3 is a  hastily, poorly constructed and unworkable scheme. It is doomed to failure. The rest of the resolutions basically continue a trend of several years to concentrate power in the hands of the bishop. Early on Bishop Lawrence established a working relationship of decisions unanimously confirmed by the Standing Committee, sent on to the clergy and to the diocesan convention for approval. The proposed resolutions at hand simply solidify this authoritarian trend. This is ironic considering that DSC leaders loudly criticized the Title IV revisions as giving too much power to the Presiding Bishop (presumably to use against Lawrence) and that DSC had issued quit claim deeds so that local parishes would have clear control over their property. Central power is the opposite of local rights. Authoritarian hierarchy is the opposite of congregationalism.

These resolutions are certain to pass, possibly unanimously. This is the trend of the past few years. At some point in time, though, the good communicants of DSC have got to begin to wonder about the direction they are going and the wisdom of their leadership. It will happen, and not a moment too soon.

Mark Lawrence will be sixty-four years old in a few days. He can retire anytime under the lucrative retirement system of TEC [!] in which he is fully vested. What then is to become of DSC?