Tuesday, July 22, 2014


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

Monday, 8 p.m.:    As we await our three daily eye-witness reports from the courtroom in St. George, there is one preliminary bit of news to report. The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (www.episcopalchurchsc.org) has just made a post that today's star witness was Dr. Walter Edgar. As everyone knows, Edgar is the greatest living authority on South Carolina history. He is also a devoted and very active Episcopalian in South Carolina who is intimately familiar with the inner workings of the Church. A copy of Edgar's comments is now available on the ECSC website. It is 12 pages long. One should also recall that Edgar submitted an affidavit made on February 17, 2013, and filed as part of the ECSC court papers of March 7, 2013, in the United States District Court in Charleston. It is also readily available on the ECSC website.

Edgar reviews the key events in the history of the relationship between the diocese and the Episcopal Church from 1790 to the late twentieth century. I highly recommend these articles, particularly the one released today. It destroys two favorite myths of the independent diocese side 1-that the diocese existed before the Episcopal Church and always remained an independent and sovereign diocese above the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and 2-the ridiculous assertion made by numerous witnesses in the first week on the Lawrence side that the Episcopal Churches of lower South Carolina were never in the Episcopal Church. 

Tuesday, a.m.:    We now have the daily reports from the courtroom, Steve Skardon's (www.scepiscopalians.com), Holly Behre for the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (www.episcopalchurchsc.org), and the independent diocese (www.diosc.com). I highly recommend the first two as they are long and detailed.

If anyone thought last Friday's dignified proceedings and judicious demeanor would continue, they could forget that right away on Monday morning. The old trial and its judge reappeared as the proceedings moved into the tenth day on Monday, July 21. By all accounts, yesterday was the most tumultuous, and revealing, of the trial so far. And, it all had to do with the appearance of the best-known witness yet, Dr. Walter Edgar, universally admired and respected as the greatest living historian in South Carolina and practically a household name in the state. It was clear from the start that the defendants (Church) were anxious to get his esteemed opinions on the record while the plaintiffs (independent diocese) and their friend, the judge, were equally anxious to keep him off the record at least on issues of hierarchy and religion (he was supposed to talk about a hierarchical church without mentioning hierarchy or religion). Judge Goodstein very clearly showed her hand as she said about Edgar: "At the end of the day, what difference is it going to make? Because here is where my head is: if he is going to testify as to the hierarchical nature of the Church, I get that. I don't need to hear any more about that. It's not going to help me. We won't enforce a hierarchical relationship in this case. You can take that up on appeal...I mean, IF you appeal.(Skardon's report)" Does anyone need any more evidence on how this trial is going to end? Runyan et al are in control now as they have been since they set the agenda on Jan. 4, 2013.

Edgar took the stand at 10:20 a.m. He was allowed to start testifying at 1:45 p.m. That alone speaks volumes about what went on in the courtroom yesterday. Even when he did speak he was instructed not to offer opinions on the meanings of documents or to speak on hierarchy or religious issues. He was interrupted endlessly on objections sustained by the judge. Nevertheless, in spite of every roadblock imaginable, Edgar did testify on the stand for hours and offered powerful evidence of the dependent ties of the diocese to the national church throughout history. Meanwhile the Church lawyers succeeded in getting thousands of pages of documents into the trial record. It seems to me that Edgar's was the strongest testimony given yet on the Church side. It authoritatively demolished the plaintiffs' claim that the diocese existed independently outside the structure of the Episcopal Church from the start in the 1780's. It showed that the plaintiffs had had every reason to fear Edgar's testimony. They had no reason, however, to fear the outcome of this trial.