Sunday, December 21, 2014


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

When the old diocese of South Carolina split on October 15, 2012, how many people went with the Lawrence side and how many remained with the Episcopal Church? Unfortunately it is impossible to know exactly. The independent diocese claimed that 82 % of the old diocese adhered to Lawrence. This is not true. The problem with this figure is that it counts every person who was on the books as a member of the breakaway parishes and missions in 2012 before the schism. In fact, in virtually every parish and mission of the old diocese, members left to go to the other side. There has been a great deal of fluidity. I known personally of many cases where loyal Episcopalians are still counted as members of the non-Episcopal local churches.

Now comes an article that claims the Episcopal Church diocese in South Carolina has suffered sharp declines. The article is Jeff Walton's "Episcopal Church Baptisms Dry Up" . This was copied by Kendall Harmon at TitusOneNine on 12-20-14. The problem with Walton's view is that is a misinterpretation of the statistical data. His assertions of the decline of the South Carolina Episcopal Church diocese are inaccurate.

The Episcopal Church has published its statistical data sheets for the years 2012 and 2013: and .
The table for 2012 gives the figures of the pre-schism diocese. In the 2013 table, the Church lists the full numbers for the old pre-schism parishes, missions, and membership, then changes for baptisms, confirmations, receptions, marriages, and burials. The numbers under these headings refer only to the activities in the Episcopal Church diocese after the schism. The baptisms etc. in the non-Episcopal churches are obviously not legitimate in the Episcopal Church and cannot be counted in the official Episcopal Church statistics. Therefore, there is a big change in the statistics in the categories of baptisms, confirmations, marriages etc. between pre-schism 2012 and post-schism 2013. The numbers given for 2013 are roughly one-third of those for 2012 (e.g. 388 baptisms in 2012 dropped to 135 in 2013). However, another way of looking at the statistics is that the Episcopal diocese has about one-third of the old diocese, a number far more realistic than the purposely inflated claim of the secessionist group. A two-thirds, one-third breakdown is about the fallout of the old diocese.

Whether the people realize it or not, individuals being baptized, confirmed etc. in a church of the Lawrence diocese and not being baptized etc. in the Episcopal Church. Lawrence and all the clergy following him have been released and removed from the list of Episcopal Church clergy. In fact, the Lawrence churches are not in any larger denomination as their leader steadfastly refuses to join one.

Anti-Episcopal Church parties have long claimed that the Church is dying. They gleefully tout this as "proof" of what is "wrong" with the Episcopal Church. Mark Lawrence used to be fond of saying the Church was a comatose patient on life support. He was wrong then and he is wrong now. It was just a lot of wishful thinking. In spite of those who tried to destroy her, the Episcopal Church is alive and well in lower South Carolina. For instance, the loyal Episcopalians of Florence, forced out of their buildings through no fault of their own as former Episcopalians continued to occupy illegally the premises, gathered 12 people in a living room in December of 2012. A few weeks ago, their Sunday service counted 82 people. Meanwhile, the Lawrence diocese is seeing expanding problems. Only recently they put out a desperate-sounding cry for money to pay the horde of lawyers doing their bidding in court. Fewer people are being pressed for more money. It is clear which side is rising and which is falling, and the misuse of statistics cannot hide that reality.

What do you think? E-mail me at .