Sunday, July 13, 2014


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

Friday, July 11, was the fourth day of the trial. We now have three first-hand reports, one from Holly Behre of the Episcopal Church diocese (, one from the independent diocese (Jan Pringle?) (, and one from Steve Skardon ( All were fairly long and detailed. All seemed to convey a feeling of tedium and restlessness in the courtroom, at least from the judge. The day saw the continuation of the parade of prepared witnesses from the secessionist parishes, now eighteen in all,  from Trinity, Pinopolis; St. David's, Cheraw; St. Helena's, Beaufort; St. Bartholomew's, Hartsvile; Trinity, Myrtle Beach; St. Matthew's, Darlington; and St. James, James Island (Charleston). They all had the same "identical" rehearsed testimony to be repeated yet again. Behre reported that the majority of the witnesses actually said they never considered themselves part of the Episcopal Church. This was stunning as well as puzzling. It should leave one wondering just what church they thought they were in. Historically speaking, the idea that the local Episcopal Churches in South Carolina were never in the Episcopal Church is too absurd to take seriously. 

Apparently, after a while Judge Goodstein had had enough of this Ground Hog's Day. She asked the attorneys to agree on stipulations to "undisputed facts." The lawyers agreed to meet over the weekend and make agreements to expedite matters by court time on Monday. This should move things along at a faster pace next week, the last week set aside on the court docket for the trial. The independent diocese side expressed gratitude for this even though their side was in charge and had caused the situation in the first place.

The independent diocesan report on the day also gives a quote from Judge Goodstein that should give pause to the Church side. She was reported to have said "There's been too much focus on the justification for why they did what they did. As it stands now we're not a hierarchical state, we are for neutrality." If this quote is true and this is the judge's working viewpoint, her apparent inclination is to follow the independent diocese's arguments. It seems to me that the entire Church case rests on the principle of hierarchy, of national sovereignty over local parts and diocesan sovereignty over parishes. This thought also found emphasis in Skardon's report. He suggests the judge may have shown her hand in her rather off-handed statement, that she has already made up her mind.

It is interesting to note the myths listed as usual at the end of the independent diocese's news release. They have been altered. Gone was the offensive untruth that TEC had adopted a radical fringe theology. (Thank you Jan, or whoever was responsible for removing that remark.) There was no mention of theology. Their presentation in court is trying to avoid it. Instead we still get the usual spin that the diocese left TEC because of the way Lawrence was treated, 80% of the people approved, and the diocese has been "recognized" by Anglican provinces around the world.

Thus, what is the summary about the first week (4 days) of the trial? The proceedings were mostly predictable humdrum with little fireworks, apparently a bit tiresome. If the reports are true that the judge is following neutrality and not hierarchy, and she continues to do that, then it seems to me the logical outcome would be a decision favorable to the independent diocese. However, it is still too early to draw that conclusion. First, the plaintiffs (independent diocese) must conclude their presentation early next week, then the defendants (TEC and ECSC) must be given equal time to make their case and bring in their witnesses. That part should be very interesting.

Who is winning the public relations battle? We are getting more and longer reports on the trial from the Church side. It appears to me the independent diocesan side is not happy with the present flow of information. But then public relations is not really the issue here. The trial is non-jury. It will be decided by one person alone, Judge Goodstein. So, there is not much point in either side carrying on a propaganda campaign for the benefit of the court.