Monday, July 7, 2014


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

The eve of the great battle is here. The trial is slated to open tomorrow, July 8, 2014 and run until Friday, July 18.

Napoleon Bonaparte typically spent a sleepless night before a great battle moving among his men from one campfire to another telling them the great moment was at hand and everything depended on them personally. He made each soldier believe the future of the world rested of his shoulders. It usually worked. They even marched a thousand miles to Moscow; and ninety percent never returned home.

So, the independent Diocese of South Carolina is rallying its forces for the great battle, the one for which they have been preparing for many years, thirty if one counts the first denunciation of the Episcopal Church under Bishop Allison.

The independent diocese is reporting a pastoral letter from Bishop Lawrence and a prayer for victory by John Barr, being circulated among the faithful:

   Gracious Lord, we pray that your will should be done through this trial. May we want what you desire. Speak your words alone through Alan Runyan and the other attorneys who represent us. May the courtroom be filled with the pleasant aroma of Christ, and at the end of the day, protect this Diocese and its parishes, that we might bring the redemptive power of the biblical gospel to the South Carolina Lowcountry, the Pee Dee and beyond. Let not our fear of outcomes tarnish our joy or deter us from the mission you have given us. Teach us to bless and never curse those on the other side of this conflict. They will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And make us victorious over-comers wherever this road leads. For we ask it all in Jesus' Name. Amen.

Lawrence's version of the prayer is slightly different but both offer a bargain to God: bring us courtroom victory so that we may take the "biblical gospel" to South Carolina. Curiously enough, Lawrence also changed the wording "Teach to bless and never curse..." to "Enable us to bless and never curse..." One should think that every person, particularly one in a position of Christian leadership, is able to choose his actions.

Several interesting points in this prayer: 1-Alan Runyan is the only person named, 2-calls for God's will to be done and then specifies that should be courtroom victory, 3-bless and never curse those on the other side.

Evidently, everyone at DSC is not on the same page on point number three. Space here does not permit a full explanation, just one example. Last October, Bishop Lawrence labeled his courtroom opponents as "the spiritual forces of evil." Who is "evil"? Surely Lawrence did not mean to call another bishop "evil." However, not only did Lawrence not retract or clarify that shocking statement, he has repeated it on the diocesan website. One has only to glance over the Chronology post on this blog to see how the old diocesan leaders demonized the Episcopal Church, particularly the Presiding Bishop, for years. "To bless and never curse" is certainly commendable, but it would also certainly be a dramatic reversal of DSC policy.

Alan Runyan et al have been preparing for the great battle for a long time. And, let us not forget who started all this mess of litigation. It was Lawrence's independent diocese that sued the Episcopal Church first, on Jan. 4, 2013. Runyan even went to Illinois last year to argue in court on the side of the breakaway diocese of Quincy, perhaps practicing up. We know that the DSC lawyers have now taken a number of depositions from loyal Episcopalians in SC. Everyone expects the DSC team to come out all guns blazing on July 7.

We can predict Runyan's arguments from the records of previous trials in other secessionist dioceses as well as his remarks in the public record. What we are likely to hear from DSC lawyers:

1-The Diocese of South Carolina is a sovereign entity. It existed before the Episcopal Church; it helped found the Church; and it never surrendered its sovereignty to the Church; (ECSC will say sovereignty rests in the General Convention. Dioceses are subject to the Church as parishes are to dioceses. The Episcopal Church is hierarchical. Once a diocese joins TEC it agrees to live under the C and C of TEC.)

2-DSC's accession to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church was at its discretion; it could revoke the accession as it wished; its revocations in 2011 and 2012 were perfectly legal. (ECSC: DSC acceded to the C and C of TEC and agreed to the rules. Dioceses can only enter and leave with permission of the General Convention. Dioceses are required to give unconditional accession to the C and C of TEC.)) 

3-Only dioceses joining TEC later were required to give unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of TEC; that did not apply to the founding dioceses; (ECSC: the idea of a two tier government, one for the founders and one for everyone else, is absurd.)

4-Canons of TEC cannot be forced on the diocese because there is no sovereignty clause in the C and C of TEC (as there is in the US Constitution giving laws of Congress supremacy over the states); (ECSC: supremacy of General Convention is clearly implied and does not have to be spelled out.)

5-secession from TEC is permitted because there is no provision in the C and C of TEC to prevent it; (ECSC: again, this is clearly implied, as it is in the U.S. Constitution. Besides, canons control admission and departure of dioceses.)

6-DSC is a separate legal entity under state law with all the rights to the identity and assets of the diocese; (ECSC: DSC was incorporated under the C and C of TEC. DSC had no right to remove TEC from its incorporation.)

7-the Dennis Canon is invalid in the state of South Carolina because the state Supreme Court ruled in the All Saints Waccamaw case that a trust cannot be created by an entity which did not have deed to the property. (ECSC: All Saints Waccamaw decision was for one parish alone. It did not invalidate the Dennis Canon is in SC.)

8-TEC attacked Lawrence and DSC and forced them to leave TEC. (ECSC: Lawrence and several others enacted a secret conspiracy over a several year period to cause a schism in order to defraud TEC of the diocesan properties and assets.)

In summary, the issue is where sovereignty rests, in the Episcopal Church or in the individual dioceses, and its corollary, whether the Episcopal Church is hierarchical or not. In general, court cases lean to TEC's positions.

Let's agree with the Rev. Barr "to bless and never curse" the other side. That would be an improvement. Let's remember that we are all in the same big boat. We are all going through life trying our best to carry out the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world. We are not enemies.

For the ECSC announcements and a useful summary of the ECSC position, see the recent press releases on the ECSC website. Also see the precise and concise article in the Charleston Post and Courier, June 25, .