July 8, 2014, A DAY OF IRONY
By Ronald J. Caldwell, PhD, Professor of History, Emeritus
How ironic that on the first day of the trial set up by a group that left the Episcopal Church because they opposed equal rights for homosexual persons, that the ongoing Episcopal Church diocese in lower South Carolina announced it would begin allowing the rite of the blessing of same-sex unions in the local churches of the diocese. Bishop vonRosenberg issued a letter announcing the process on July 8. The choice of using the liturgy is entirely at the discretion of the local vestry/mission council and clergyperson. No one will be forced to do anything.
The old diocesan leadership had fought against rights for homosexuals for nearly thirty years. In the Church as a whole they lost on every turn: homosexuals in the priesthood, homosexuals in the episcopate, the blessing of same-sex unions, and equality for transsexual persons. However, they could have kept all of that out of the Diocese of South Carolina. For instance, allowing the blessing of unions was the choice of the diocesan bishop. If Lawrence had remained the Episcopal Church bishop of South Carolina he could have simply refused to allow the rite in the entire diocese, period. When he became bishop in January of 2008 the Diocese had about 29,000 communicants. 2,000 left with St. Andrew's, Mt. Pleasant. Approximately 7,000 remained with the Episcopal Church after the schism in 2012. That means the secessionist group has the majority of the old diocese. Now, about a quarter of the old diocese will have access to the liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions. If Lawrence had remained, he certainly would have refused to allow the rite in the Episcopal diocese.
Lawrence is in court leading the charge in a major battle of a war he has already lost. The driving issue in setting up the battle was homosexuality. Studies show a sea change now going on in America in favor of equal rights for LGBT persons. Within a decade, even the most socially conservative parts of the U.S. will support these rights. Indeed, Lawrence and his allies are now denying that it was ever about homosexuality at all. They cannot cover up the past. The historical record is starkly clear. The situation they are now in resulted from their opposition to the Episcopal Church's resolve to extend human rights to all of God's creation.
Odds are Lawrence will win in the Circuit Court. Judge Goodstein has been overwhelmingly favorable to him from day one. Afterwards, the decision will be appealed. Somewhere down the road, maybe far down, a final settlement will be made. The tide of history cannot be held back. Eventually, the forces fighting for rights and equality will prevail, as in the end it is God's will that the right replace the wrong.