THE MYTHS OF THE INDEPENDENT DIOCESE -2nd Edition
By Ronald J. Caldwell, PhD, Professor of History, Emeritus
For years, the leaders of the independent diocese created myths in order to win and keep the support of the majority of communicants of the old diocese. Some were completely untrue, some only partially true, and others highly skewed versions of reality. The myths were spread throughout the diocese in massive public relations campaigns that escalated after Mark Lawrence became bishop in January of 2008. People tended to assume the story lines to be true since there was little or no counter argument from the Church side. It was important to the leaders that these myths be effective since this was a counter-revolution from the top down. The schism likely originated with the certain views of a relatively small group of people in leadership offices, perhaps no more than two dozen. (Lawyer Tisdale has charged in court that four people, Lawrence and three others conspired to enact the schism).
There were three periods of DSC mythmaking. The first period was from the mid-1980's to October 15, 2012. This was the run-up to the schism. At this time the message focused on the Episcopal Church as falling into sin and heresy and becoming the unrighteous aggressor against the pure, orthodox Diocese of South Carolina. The bishop and diocese were only innocent victims.
The second period was from October 15, 2012, to January 3, 2013. This was the time of the schism. The myths here depicted TEC as the wrongful aggressor trying to remove the righteous bishop in order to seize control of the orthodox diocese and stamp out the true religion in favor of sin and heresy. Thus, DSC was forced the leave TEC in order to preserve orthodoxy.
The third span of mythmaking was from January 4, 2013 to the present. This was the period of litigation. The story here was that DSC was forced to go to court in order "to protect" the diocese and the local parishes, mainly the properties, from illegal seizure by the heretical Church, whose motive, again, was the stamp out orthodoxy.
The common theme in all three periods of mythmaking is that TEC is the aggressor with malevolent motives while DSC is the innocent victim and righteous defender of pure religion.
The public relations initiatives changed from time to time according to the momentary aims of the diocesan leadership. For instance, the issue of homosexuality was the driving force that led up to the schism. Once the break was made, it was shelved. After litigation began, the leaders reversed themselves and declared that it had never been about homosexuality, only about theology. They are now trying to rewrite history to remove the issue of homosexuality apparently because they believe it will be detrimental to their future.
In this post, I would like to review the major myths that the diocesan leadership has put forth starting with those of phase three, the period of litigation. The first four below were ones just repeated on their website on July 3 as "South Carolina Circuit Judge orders TEC..."
Myth # 1: The Episcopal Church adopted "a radical fringe scriptural interpretation that makes following Christ's teachings optional for salvation."
Fact: That is completely untrue. The Episcopal Church has never adopted anything such as this. It would take a resolution of the General Convention which has never happened and will never happen. I challenge anyone in the independent diocese to produce one document from the governing bodies of the Episcopal Church supporting this reprehensible assertion. If you cannot prove it, stop saying it. Anyway, if the Episcopal Church religion is heretical, why are you still using only the Episcopal Church prayer book in the independent diocese?
Myth # 2: The independent diocese disassociated from the Episcopal Church in October 2012 after TEC tried to remove its duly elected bishop.
Fact: Lawrence was not removed as a bishop in October 2012. He was "restricted" on Oct. 15 until either he was cleared by the Presiding Bishop or tried by the House of Bishops. The PB was trying to find a way to clear him. Lawrence announced to the Presiding Bishop on October 17 that the diocese had "disassociated" from the Episcopal Church as of October 15, that he had rejected the "restriction" and that he would not meet with her again. The PB allowed Lawrence seven weeks to reconsider. The PB accepted his renunciation on Dec. 5, 2012. In fact, Lawrence removed himself from the Episcopal Church. The PB deposed him only after that.
Myth # 3: The Episcopal Church and her dioceses sue local churches to punish and intimidate them.
Fact: The Episcopal Church goes to court to carry out the Dennis Canon that has long been church law. The Dennis Canon says that all local church properties are held in trust for the Episcopal diocese and the Episcopal Church. TEC goes to court to enforce its own laws which were duly made in the constitutional process spelled out in the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.
Myth # 4: The independent diocese is part of the Anglican Communion because it has been "recognized" by Anglicans around the world.
Fact: The independent diocese is not in the Anglican Communion. The AC is a loose confederation of independent churches around the world tracing their heritage back to the Church of England. The only legal and legitimate branch of the AC in the United States is the Episcopal Church. The independent diocese is supported by a self-created Third World coalition of Anglican provinces that does not have any legal or legitimate status in the formal structure of the AC.
Myth # 5: It's about God, not gays.
Fact: Homosexuality was the wedge issue between the old diocese and TEC. Aspects included ordination of homosexual persons as priests, then as bishops, as well as the blessing of same-sex unions, and equal rights for transsexual persons. When these aspects came up for approval in General Convention, there was a backlash in DSC that finally led to the schism. Since the schism, DSC leaders have denied the actual events of their own history and now declare it was never about homosexuality, only about theology.
Myth # 6: TEC forced DSC to go to court in order "to protect" the diocese and the local parish properties.
Fact: DSC willfully and voluntarily went to court first and filed a lawsuit against TEC on January 4, 2013. No one forced them to do anything. Records show that the Standing Committee directed Alan Runyan to begin preparing legal action on November 6, 2012, two months earlier. DSC went to court first to set the legal agenda before TEC had time to reorganize the diocese and install a provisional bishop.
Myth # 7: DSC is the only legal and legitimate Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.
Fact: By setting the agenda in court, DSC convinced a judge to recognize such in January 2013. However, under TEC rules that DSC recognized until 2011, only General Convention has the power to admit and dismiss dioceses. This has not happened. In TEC's view, the old diocese did not leave TEC. It was reorganized in January 2013 under new leadership and a new provisional bishop. TEC, and the Anglican Communion, recognize the continuing diocese under its bishop, Charles vonRosenberg, as the only legal and legitimate Episcopal Church entity in eastern South Carolina.
Myth # 8: South Carolina law invalidated the Dennis Canon in the state of South Carolina. (The Dennis Canon, in TEC Constitution and Canons holds that local property is held in trust for the Episcopal diocese and the Episcopal Church).
Fact: The case which the DSC leaders always cite is the All Saints Waccamaw decision of the state supreme court in September 2009. Actually, that decision was for one parish only. It did find in favor of the local church. However, it was not a blanket order for the whole state. The ruling did not declare the Dennis Canon invalid in the state of South Carolina.
These were the major myths of the third period, litigation. In future, I will look at those from the two earlier phases.