Thursday, May 1, 2014


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

Come ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness!
God has brought His Israel into joy from sadness

Long-suffering, intrepid Episcopalians of South Carolina, it's time to rejoice in God's goodness and to celebrate the ongoing life of the Episcopal Church in the Low Country! A great weekend is at hand.

"Enthusiastically Episcopalian in South Carolina" is the name of the conference hosted by the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina at Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church at Pawleys Island on May 3. For a decade now, the Episcopal Forum has carried the torch for the Episcopal Church in this diocese. Along the way they were made to suffer many "slings and arrows" from those who wanted to depart from the Church. The Forum never flinched. They never quit. They never gave in no matter the odds against them. They are heroes. Every Episcopalian in South Carolina owes the leaders of the Forum a huge debt of gratitude.

The schedule of the day begins at 9:00 a.m. with the Presiding Bishop celebrating Holy Eucharist. The balance of the day will be a conference of speakers, panels, and discussions that will feature the Most Rev. Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. vonRosenberg, the bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Kenneth Price, former provisional bishop of Pittsburgh, and the Rev. Gay Jennings, president of the House of Deputies. Workshops will include "Rebuilding while Rejoicing" for small churches, and "Showing the Way while Staying the Course," for large ones. It will be a day of worship, celebration, sharing, learning, and support. At least 330 people have registered for the day.

Registration to attend the conference closed a couple of weeks ago. However, for those who cannot attend, there will be streaming information on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The diocese will also post a report on its website . I expect to be in attendance and will post a report on this blog as soon as possible.

This will be the Presiding Bishop's third official visit to the diocese. How different those occasions have been! The first visit was on February 25-26, 2008. Jefferts Schori had been pointedly not invited to the consecration of Bishop Lawrence the month before. She was invited for a visit to South Carolina and a date was arranged. Her entire time was managed by the old diocesan leadership. She was not allowed to celebrate a Eucharist, preside at any service, or visit a pro-TEC church. On the first day she processed into St. Philip's for evensong alongside Lawrence. She was allowed only a brief prayer. Afterwards she stood by Lawrence in a receiving line until the crowd was told to clear out of the hall for a Lenten study group. 

The next day she was put to the test in a closed meeting with the diocesan clergy at St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant. Videos were made, apparently in secret by the staff of St. Andrew's. "Clarity Ensued" is still available in 12 parts on The Living Church website . The videos total 90 minutes, about half of the entire meeting. They were heavily edited to remove many of Jeffert Schori's answers. Edited or not, these videos stand as invaluable evidence of the true feelings of the diocesan leadership toward the Presiding Bishop. I highly recommend these videos to anyone who wants to understand the attitudes of the pre-schism leadership toward the national Church.

The Presiding Bishop was placed alone in front facing the clergy in the pews. An image of a criminal under the lights in the interrogation room of the police station may come to mind. Another imagine may be the wolf surrounded by the ranchers who move in on the one that had been menacing their sheep. What was supposed to be a sort of informal discussion between the Presiding Bishop and the clergy turned into a scripted and choreographed presentation of the diocesan leadership to the Presiding Bishop. They made it plain they were there to present their grievances to her, not to listen to her. She remained cool and calm and endured nearly three hours of charges, accusations, and insults with serene dignity. Lawrence opened the show reading to her from the Bible and demanding that she take back her words from an interview with Time magazine. Kendall Harmon followed with personal accusations. She did her best to ignore them. She showed a ripple of emotion only once on the videos, when a clergyman said he was glad there was one orthodox bishop present (Lawrence). Jefferts Schori calmly stood and said quietly that she resented the insinuation that she was not orthodox. A hush fell over the crowd. The clergyman apologized to her. In the end, it was reported that the Presiding Bishop threw up her hands in frustration and exclaimed that she was struck by their inability to communicate.

The second visit to the diocese was the reverse of the first. It was to attend the special convention of January 25-26, 2013, when the old diocese was reorganized under a provisional bishop, Charles vonRosenberg. That was an occasion of festival celebration. Many a tear of joy was shed as she slowly processed down the grand aisle of that Gothic masterpiece, Grace Church of Charleston. It was as if the whole Episcopal Church filled the high vaulted ceilings of that old edifice.

And so the Presiding Bishop returns to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and once again she brings with her the presence of the entire Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church goes on in South Carolina. It goes on because of the thousands of ordinary, faithful Episcopalians who refused to be defeated and who refused to give in to the pressures of the misled crowd. They are all heroes. It goes on because of the Forum. It goes on because of her devoted deacons, priests and bishops. Even in bar-b-que stands, funeral homes, old schools, and borrowed sanctuaries, the Church goes on in South Carolina. Now is a moment to celebrate.