Saturday, February 28, 2015


You can have a lapel pin and a dinner with Mark Lawrence (and 167 other people) for only $1,785 (1785, get it?). DSC announced yesterday in a whiff of desperation the creation of "The 1785 Society" by the Legal Defense Fund of DSC. You can join, but only if you pay out $1,785. The point is to raise $300,000 in addition to the $2,000,000 DSC has already spent on legal matters. If only 168 people pay up $1,785 each, the goal will be reached. One should make the check out to the diocese in order to get a tax break, but the money actually goes to the DSC Legal Defense Fund which is a secretive committee the details of which are not revealed for communicants to see in the DSC annual budget.

What does this new initiative of DSC tell us? In the first place, it means DSC needs a lot more money. Obviously the Legal Defense Fund has fallen short of raising enough funds to pay its host of 40+ lawyers. Now, Bishop Lawrence is having to dangle new carrots in front of his long-suffering followers to get more money out of them. As we have already seen (posts, "The Decline of the Diocese of South Carolina" and "Further Notes...") DSC has had a drastic drop in the number of communicants, or active members. This means fewer people are having to shoulder growing costs. The people have already been squeezed for $2 million (the size of DSC's entire annual budget). Now, they will be expected to pay more. The announcement implies this $300,000 is for the cost of litigation in the next year. 

Actually, DSC is going to need several times $300,000 for what is most likely to be coming up (the trial last July cost around $1 m). DSC's announcement fails to mention several key points. The TEC/ECSC appeal of Goodstein's ruling is not necessarily limited to the state courts of SC. There is a good chance that a SC Supreme Court ruling would be offered to the U.S. Supreme Court. Besides, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is now deciding on whether to send Judge Houck's ruling back down to the U.S. District Court in Charleston. If it does, and it probably will, this will be advantageous to TEC/ECSC as it will probably carry a direction for the "Colorado River" principle giving strength to the larger institution. Houck himself has already declared that TEC is an hierarchical institution and that Mark Lawrence renounced his ordained ministry. Thus, in all likelihood, there are at least two expensive court cases coming up soon for DSC. $300,000 is not likely to cover it.

Another point this new initiative tells us is that DSC expects TEC/ECSC's appeal of Goodstein's decision to be taken seriously by the higher courts. DSC is girding for a fierce battle. If they were confident in her ruling, they would not be so concerned about future litigation. The fact is, they know Goodstein's decision is highly controversial and weak. It will take a lot to prop it up in the Appeals Court and/or state supreme court. Since DSC's lawyers will not be able to choose these venues in advance, they will have a much harder time making their case.

DSC's announcement is full of omissions. Of course, they neglected to mention that it was DSC that started all this expensive litigation. DSC sued TEC first, on Jan. 4, 2013. Instead, the announcement continues on the threadbare falsehood that TEC "attacked" DSC and Bishop Lawrence and that DSC had no choice but to defend itself against this entirely unwarranted outside aggression. Baloney. The facts are very clear about what happened. The small circle of DSC leadership made a premeditated conspiracy to willfully and deliberately lead the majority of DSC out of the Episcopal Church. In time, the facts of history will replace the mythology that DSC constructed and still promotes as justification for more contributions for lawyers. Too, DSC neglects to mention that there was no mediation of the lawsuit, something they could have had instead of the expensive trial.

I note with interest too that DSC is continuing to drop the third leg of the stool. Before the schism, Lawrence said repeatedly that the differences with TEC came from the three legs of theology, polity, and sexuality. Now we are told "dioceses that disagreed with its theology and polity." Gone is any hint of homosexuality. In reality, all the evidence shows that homosexuality was the direct cause of the schism. The very clear record shows theology and polity were really only rationales in the background of the actual events around the issue of homosexuality that led to the schism of 2012. DSC is trying to rewrite history. It will not work. The people who once railed at length against "indiscriminate inclusivity" will have to live with those words. They cannot change the past.

This business about 1785 is another piece of the misinterpretation of history. The implication DSC makes is that since it existed before TEC was created, it never gave up its independence and sovereignty to TEC. Nonsense. The documents are clear that for many, many years DSC accepted the supremacy of the Episcopal Church. The claim of "disassociation" in 2012 is unhistorical and illegal under the rules of the Episcopal Church that DSC had accepted. Take the case of the state of South Carolina and the United States. The state of South Carolina existed long before the U. S. A. was created. Once SC ratified the Constitution and joined the Union, it accepted the supremacy of the Constitution. The US constitution does not have a clause forbidding secession. South Carolina could not secede from the Union any more than DSC could unilaterally leave TEC. SC tried and brought down upon itself catastrophe. The people of South Carolina should have learned the lesson that once you accede to a higher authority, you must recognize the supremacy of that greater authority. One cannot jump in and out of unions at will. The DSC leaders are wrong in their claim that preexistence means sovereignty over any later agreement.

Another $300,000 on top of $2,000,000 from the faithful of DSC? At the rate things are going, there will have to be many more appeals for money down the road. It is time for some transparency on the part of DSC. Where did the $2 m come from? What diocesan funds/assets have been used for litigation? Did all of it come from the communicants? How much have members contributed to the Legal Defense Fund? How much money came from sources outside DSC? Who outside DSC contributed? Individuals or groups? How much has DSC spent on individual lawyers, other legal costs? Why the secrecy of the Defense Fund? The people of DSC have a right to get the answers.

DSC is risking donor fatigue. This is especially dangerous with a declining membership. At some point, communicants are bound to start asking some hard questions about where their donations are going. In time it will get increasingly difficult for DSC to get more money from its people as its reasons for all this litigation wear thin. To keep on with this, DSC is risking a breaking point and a rebellion.

I think it will take more than lapel pins and dinners with Mark Lawrence to keep the faithful revved up and pouring money into DSC's lawyers' pockets. Besides, it strikes me that boastful lapel pins and select dinners are meant to stroke vanity and ego. These are not attractive qualities of human nature; and they are out of line with the Christian virtues of humility and selflessness. This new ploy may work for the moment, but it raises the question of what next, a sleepover in Bishop Lawrence's Goodstein-granted million dollar residence on Smith Street?

Not all ideas that sound good at first turn out to be good. We all know that. More and more people in DSC will be asking whether what their leadership did for them was such a good idea after all.

The new "1785 Society" helps us understand the present status of the post-schism DSC. Two years and four months after its ruling clique led the majority of the old diocese away from the Episcopal Church, a picture is beginning to come into focus of the state of the post-schism independent diocese. With falling membership, rising costs, and nowhere to go, it is at the least a troubled picture and at worst a disastrous one.      

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Readers who follow my blog will be familiar with my theory that recent Episcopal Church history has been a contest between two different philosophies of religion that I call vertical and horizontal. Vertical is individual salvation, one person-one God. Horizontal is enacting the Gospel through works improving conditions of human society (Social Gospel). Today we have excellent examples of these differences in the state of South Carolina.

On the horizontal side, I alert you to an excellent article from the Episcopal News Service, "Domestic-Poverty Fellows Work to Alleviate Suffering, Teach Church" . The article describes the work of two priests, on opposite sides of the country, who were given scholarships from the Episcopal Church to work for the eradication of poverty. From the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, we have the Rev. Susan Heath who is working with the ecumenical initiative to advocate for the development of public education. For a great many people, education is the only pathway out of grinding poverty; and for them public education is vital. The Episcopal Church allotted $1 million in its last budget for programs to work at eliminating local poverty. The total allotted "to change unjust social structures" was $3.8 million (3.4% of the whole TEC budget).There were also other programs in the budget for outreach. This is an excellent example of the horizontal commitment of the Episcopal Church and its local diocese in the upper state.

On the other hand, we have the Diocese of South Carolina, the Lawrence diocese. Its last budget was given in the 2014 journal of the annual convention of the diocese. The journal is available on the diocesan website. The total budget for 2014 was given at $2,059,285. On page 119 we find the diocesan "Department of Social Ministries." It was allotted a total of $13,700, or .07% of the whole budget. Then, if we look at the small print under the figures, we see that the bulk of this $13,700 is administrative. Actual social programs are at the very bottom. One, the South Carolina Christian Action Council is to get $1,900 to "to advocate for social justice, promote peace-making, foster racial and cultural healing and reconciliation, and pursue goals such as poverty." The second, the Charleston Area Justice Ministry, is to get $1,900 "to powerfully address systematic justice problems in the Charleston area." $1,900 is "powerful"? Thus, the sum total of "horizontal" work of DSC in the year 2014 is $3,800. This amounts to 28% of the "Department of Social Ministries'" tiny budget. The $3,800 for the two outreach programs represents .018 % of the whole diocesan budget for 2014. This is miniscule compared with the many "vertical" programs in the budget. Any horizontal character of DSC is virtually non-existent. 

So there we have it for present-day examples of the differences between the horizontal nature of the Episcopal Church and the vertical nature of the DSC.        

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


(with update Feb. 24, 1:00 p.m.)
On Feb. 20, I posted a page about the diocesan and parochial statistics published by the Diocese of South Carolina (the Lawrence diocese) entitled "The Decline of the Diocese of South Carolina." The big news here was the surprising revelation that around the time of the schism nearly 5,000 members left the parishes and missions that adhered to Lawrence in the schism. Combined with the 5,000+ that remained with TEC, this comes to a total of around 10,000 people of the old diocese who refused to go along with the schism. If one adds the 2,600+ who had left DSC earlier with St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant, one sees that at least 12,500 communicants have left the Diocese of South Carolina since Mark Lawrence was installed as its bishop, Jan. 26, 2008. In its latest figures, DSC is reporting 17,999 communicants. This conclusively disproves the DSC leaders' claims that they have a solid 80% of the pre-schism diocese. They have a majority to be sure, but it is far from being the solid and overwhelming majority they have claimed all along. Their own data disprove their own myths.

In retrospect, the statistics I relayed in my post may have been confusing because I covered two time periods, one overlapping the other. One was the seven year period of 2007-2013. That spanned the whole period of Lawrence's tenure including the whole calendar year after the schism of Oct. 2012. The second time period I addressed was the last three years of the earlier seven year period, 2011-2013. 2011 was the last calendar year before the schism. 2013 was the first calendar year after the schism. By looking at these sets of data, we can see the immediate effects of the schism on church membership in the parishes and missions that went along with the "disaffiliation"from the Episcopal Church. This is the most important period of measurement.

For clarification, I will relay the numbers of communicants from the statistical tables for the years 2007, 2011, 2013. These figures are for the parishes and missions that adhered to Bp. Lawrence in the schism:

1---2007   2---2011   3---2013

Parishes and missions reporting losses from 2011 to 2013:

---Holy Cross, Sullivans Is.  (1,216---2.540---1,204)

---St. Michael's, Chas.  (1.481---1,847---1,196)

---Old St. Andrew's, W. Ashley  (630---962---529)

---St. Philip's, Chas.  (2,341---2,677---2,321)

---St. Helena's, Beaufort  (1,490---1,737---1,384)

---St. John's, Florence  (498---652---375)

---Trinity, Myrtle Beach  (635---595---383)

---Holy Comforter, Sumter  (676---525---399)

---Cathedral, Chas.  (329---305---189)

---St. James, James Is.  (575---612---500)

---Church of the Cross, Bluffton  (1,482---1702---1,600)

---Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant  (1,039---925---829)

---St. Paul's. Conway  (389---270---175)

---Trinity, Pinopolis  (185---184---95)

---Holy Cross, Stateburg  (138---177---93)

---Redeemer, Orangeburg  (314---265---208)

---Trinity, Edisto  (160---183---137)

---St. Bartholomew's, Hartsville  (183---169---135)

---All Saints, Florence  (219---144---119)

---Good Shepherd, W Ashley  (206---302---290)

---St. Paul's, Bennettsville  (74---61---52)

---St. Barnabas, Dillon  (46---47---39)

---St. Paul's, Orangeburg  (35---39---31)

---Holy Trinity, Grahamville  (154---98---93)

---St. David's, Cheraw  (122---113---110)

Between 2007 and 2013, 32 missions and parishes lost members while 9 gained in the whole period. Two of the 32 lost about half of their membership (Trinity, Pinopolis and St. Paul's of Conway). Several others lost nearly half their active members: the Cathedral, All Saints of Florence, and Holy Trinity of Grahamville.

Between 2011 and 2013, 25 missions and parishes lost members while 15 gained in the three year period.

13 parishes and missions lost members steadily 2007-2011-2013:  Cathedral, Christ Ch. of Mt. P, St. Paul's of Bennettsville, St. David's of Cheraw, All Saints of Florence, St. Bartholomew's of Hartsville, Advent of Marion, Holy Comforter of Sumter, St. Paul's of Conway, Trinity of Myrtle Beach, Redeemer of Orangeburg, Holy Trinity of Grahamville, and Trinity of Pinopolis.

2 parishes reported steady rises: St. Matthew's of Darlington and Prince George Winyah of Georgetown. 

Communicant totals for the DSC (parishes and missions that followed Bp. Lawrence):

2011:     21,863  (Reported number of 26,976, minus the 5,113 in the parishes and missions that remained with TEC)

2013:     17,999

Bottom line:  2/3 of the members of the old diocese remained in the churches that adhered to Bp. Lawrence.

The trend 2007-13 was downward for most DSC churches.


UPDATE Feb. 24 1:00 p.m.     The DSC is still in denial about the reality of its own statistics. Today Canon Lewis issued a news release claiming DSC has 80% of the members of the old diocese and that it is TEC that is in decline. Canon Lewis would do well to read the DSC's own statistical charts for the years 2011 and 2013. DSC's communicant membership dropped 35 % around the schism. This makes TEC's experience look positively rosy. Bishop Lawrence used to be fond of asserting that TEC was "a comatose patient on life support." Right now I think we can all see which is the patient in jeopardy. DSC is bleeding profusely. Let's get our facts straight. They are in plain sight in DSC's own statistical charts.



Friday, February 20, 2015


-Schism Costs DSC 1 in 3 Members-
-Nearly 10,000 Communicants Abandon Bishop Lawrence-

(Last updated Feb. 22, 6:00 p.m.)
In a few weeks, the Lawrence diocese (DSC) (at present, legally The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, and The Diocese of South Carolina) will hold its annual diocesan convention. It will be the third since the schism of 2012, the 224th if one insists on counting the pre-schism diocese. As everyone is painfully aware, in 2012 the old diocese split into two hostile camps now pitted as enemies in court. The larger part broke away from the Episcopal Church and followed Mark Lawrence, the previous Episcopal bishop (Jan. 26, 2008-December 5, 2012), as their bishop. DSC has prevailed, at least momentarily, in local court for the legal rights to the diocesan names, insignia, and assets. The smaller part remained with the Episcopal Church (TEC) as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC). It is appropriate to ask at this point how the independent diocese is doing. How well has it fared in the two years and four months since the schism? How is it doing now?

Answering these questions is not easy. However, by digging and sifting through pages of data and statistical charts we can assemble a sort of jigsaw puzzle to give us a reasonably good composite picture. The journals of the annual conventions of the diocese are available online, at least for certain years. Each journal includes a good deal of data, particularly on the diocesan budget (income and expenditures) and parish and mission statistics. Three journals are most useful here. The 2008 journal gives the data from the year 2007, the last full year before Mark Lawrence's tenure. It is available at . The parochial statistics for 2007 are on pages 148-149. By studying these figures we can get a good view of the status of the diocese just before Lawrence arrived. Next, the journal of the 2013 convention provides data on the year 2011 (year 2012 was skipped) on pages 128-129: . These figures will show the state of the diocese in the last full year before the schism (occurred Oct. 2012). The third journal of use if that of the 2014 convention; see pages 128-129: . It gives the data for the year 2013, the first full year after the schism. By looking at these three we can see the status and trends of the diocese before Lawrence arrived, after four years under Lawrence, and the year after the schism.

The diocesan budget is in decline. From 2012's $2,273,000 it fell 8% in 2013, and another 2 % in 2014 to $2,059,285. While it is clear the diocese is on a budgetary downslope, one must look at the statistical tables of the local churches to see the real picture of the financial conditions in the diocese.

Plate and Pledge Contributions 2007-2013

Here too, decline is the clear picture. In the statistical charts, the column marked "Plate and Pledge" shows how much money people are contributing to their local churches. In 2007, they gave $30,991,880. In 2013, church people in DSC gave $23,411,932, a striking drop of 24% between 2007 and 2013. One must consider, though, two major departures from DSC in this time, St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant ($2,955,535), and the churches that remained with TEC ($4,861,928 in 2011). If one removes St. Andrew's and the TEC churches, DSC's plate and pledge money increased slightly, but still fell 2% if one accounts for the U.S. inflation rate. Overall the money collected in the DSC parishes and missions from 2007 to 2013 fell 12% as adjusted to the U.S. annual inflation rate.

Let's look in more detail at the Plate and Pledge figures in the parochial statistical tables. From 2007 to 2013, 23 parishes and missions of DSC had declining income, while 18 had rising amounts. The most significant increases from 2007 to 2013 came in St. Helena's of Beaufort, Church of the Cross, Bluffton, St. Michael's of Charleston, Prince George Winyah of Georgetown, St. James of James Island, St. John's of Johns Island, and Christ/St. Paul's of Yonges Island. In flat dollar figures, the most serious declines in collections from 2007 to 2013 were at: St. Luke's of Hilton Head (-$282,386, or -22%), St. Philip's of Charleston (-$123,073 or -6%), St. Paul's of Conway (-$127,938, or -24%), St. Paul's of Summerville (-$100,694, or -8%), Trinity of Edisto (-$96,868, or -22%), St. Paul's of Bennettsville (-$90,710, or -56%), Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant (-$90,381, or -9%), All Saints of Florence (-$80,677, or -28%), and St. Bartholomew's of Hartsville (-$79,346, or -32%). There were many others with serious downward trends.

Plate and Pledge Contributions 2011-2013

Perhaps it is more enlightening to look at the figures for the DSC parishes and missions of 2011, just before the schism, and 2013, the full year after the schism. This would be the last three years in the seven year span covered in the section above. It is important because it shows the immediate effect and aftermath of the schism. We will omit the ECSC parishes and missions from consideration here. From 2011 to 2013, 21 DSC parishes and missions showed declines in giving while 19 showed increases. Adjusted for inflation, however, only 8 local churches showed significant increases in giving between 2011 and 2013: St. Helena's of Beaufort, the Cathedral, All Saints of Florence, Holy Cross of Stateburg, St. Matthias of Summerton, Old St. Andrew's, St. James of James Island, and Christ/St. Paul's of Yonges Island. Thus, less than a quarter of the DSC churches showed significant gains in individual giving after the schism. Most showed declines.

The sharpest drops in contributions between 2011 and 2013, that is around the time of the schism, came in Holy Cross of Sullivans Island (-$236,338, or -13%), St. John's of Florence (-$198,482, or -27%), Trinity of Myrtle Beach (-$166,058, or -25%), Holy Comforter of Sumter (-$82,168, or -12%), Trinity of Edisto (-$73,552, or -18%), St. Paul's of Bennettsville (-$49,156, or -38%), Our Saviour of Johns Island (-$47,485, or -8%), Christ the King of Pawleys Island (-$27,925, or -11%), St. Bartholomew's of Hartsville (-$24,624, or -13%), St. Paul's of Conway (-$23,153, or -5%). Others with declines were : St. David's of Cheraw, Prince George Winyah of Georgetown, Holy Apostles of Barnwell, St. Matthew's of Ft. Motte, St. Paul's of Orangeburg, Trinity of Pinopolis. In short, twice as many local DSC showed serious declines in members' contributions as showed significant increases. It is said that people vote by their feet, but they also vote by their pocketbooks. People give as they feel it is important to do so. The bottom line is that most DSC churches collected significantly less money from their congregations in the year after the schism than they had collected before the schism.

People do vote by their feet. An examination of the membership figures of the parishes and missions will give us an even clearer picture of the status of DSC. The parochial statistical tables give us 'Baptized Membership." This is not a useful measurement as it counts everyone who was baptized in the parish. As we all know, many "baptized" people are not members of the parishes and missions on any meaningful level. The "baptized" number really tells us nothing. A far more significant number is "Communicants." This usually means people who attend church at least once a year. It is a more reliable measurement of the size of a church's membership.

Membership 2007-2013

What do the figures on "Communicants" tell us? Between 2007 and 2013, 32 parishes and missions that adhered to Lawrence in the schism lost communicants while 9 gained. The most dramatic losses in the entire period of the seven years of 2007-2013 were: Resurrection of Surfside (-312, or -47%), St. Michael's of Charleston (-285, or -19%), Holy Comforter of Sumter (-277, or -41 %), Trinity of Myrtle Beach (-252, or -40%), St. Paul's of Conway (-214, or -55%), Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant (-210, or -20%), St. Paul's of Summerville (-148, or -15%), the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul (-140, or -43%), St. Andrew's Mission of West Ashley (-130, or -74%), St. John's of Florence (-123, or -25%), Redeemer of Orangeburg (-106, or -34%), St. Helena's of Beaufort (-106, or -7%), Old St. Andrew's of West Ashley (-101, or -16%), All Saints of Florence (-100, or -46%), Trinity of Pinopolis (-90, or -49%), St. James of James Island (-75, or -13%), Holy Trinity of Grahamville (-61, or -40%), St. Bartholomew's of Hartsville (-48, or -26%), Epiphany of Eutawville (-48, or -32%). Others losing significant numbers between 2007 and 2013 were: Holy Cross of Stateburg, St. Luke's of Hilton Head, St. John's of Johns Island, Advent in Marion, Trinity of Edisto, St. Paul's of Bennettsville, and St. David's of Cheraw. Local churches losing members outnumbered the gainers 3 to 1.

Membership 2011-2013

Perhaps more useful is to zero in on the last three years of the seven year period noted above. This was the time just before the schism (2011) and the year after the schism (2013). What do the figures reveal about communicant membership in the aftermath of the schism? What impact did the schism have on church membership? We will look at just the DSC parishes and missions, omitting the ones that remained with TEC. Here we see that in the two years right around the schism, 25 local DSC churches lost members while 15 gained. According to the data shown in DSC's 2013 statistical table, the most serious losses were: Holy Cross of Sullivans Island (-1,336, or -53%), St. Michael's of Charleston (-651, or -35%), Old St. Andrew's of West Ashley (-433, or -45%), St. Philip's of Charleston (-356, or -13%), St. Helena's of Beaufort (-353, or -20%), St. John's of Florence (-277, or -42%), Trinity of Myrtle Beach (-212, or -36%), Holy Comforter of Sumter (-126, or -24%), Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul (-116, or -38%), St. James of James Island (-112, or -18%), Church of the Cross of Bluffton (-102, or -6%), Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant (-96, or -10%), and St. Paul's of Conway (-95, or -35%). Other local DSC churches with serious losses after the schism were: Trinity of Pinopolis, Holy Cross of Stateburg, Redeemer of Orangeburg, and Trinity of Edisto. In contrast to the flood of churches losing members, several parishes reported significant gains from 2011 to 2013: Resurrection of Surfside (282 to 351), St. John's of Johns Island (566-620; still 6% less than 2007), St. Paul's of Summerville (773-855; still 15% less than 2007), and Christ/St. Paul's of Yonges Island (330 to 397). Figures show a tremendous negative impact from the schism on membership of St. Michael's, St. Philip's, Old St. Andrew's, St. Helena's, St. John's of Florence, Holy Comforter of Sumter, the cathedral church, St. James on James Island, just to name a few. These are some of the largest and most important churches in DSC.

Of the parishes and missions that adhered to Lawrence in the schism of 2012, the 25 that lost communicants reported a total loss of 4,716 people. The 15 parishes and missions that reported gains, showed a total gain of 439. Subtracting the 439 gain from the 4,716 loss means a net loss of 4,277 members in DSC in the year after the schism. In other words, the Lawrence local churches loss a net total of 4,277 active members in the aftermath of the 2012 schism. If the DSC churches had 21,863 communicants before the schism, the loss amounted to 20%. The local churches that stayed with TEC counted 5,113 members at the end of 2011. If one adds the 4,716 lost from DSC churches and the 5,113 that left DSC in order to stay with TEC, one would get a total of 9,829 communicants who left the diocese at the time of the schism and the year following the schism. A loss of 9,829 communicants out of a starting number of 26,976 (all churches in DSC in 2011) means a 36% drop in membership in DSC as a direct result of the schism. In other words, about one-third of the diocese left at the time of the schism. At the end of calendar year 2013, DSC reported 17,999 communicants, a far cry from the 27,670 when Lawrence arrived in 2008, and the 26,976 on the eve of the schism.

Statistics of ECSC churches

How did the parishes and missions that stayed with TEC compare with those who followed Lawrence? Unfortunately, we have no post-schism statistics yet from these local churches. Hopefully, we will have soon. However, we do have figures on these churches from the statistical tables of 2007 and 2011. Nineteen parishes and missions of the old diocese remained with TEC. The data for them show only a very small change in their status in the run-up to the schism, 2007 to 2011. By 2011, the Plate and Pledge giving rose only 1 % to $4,861,928. In 2007 they reported 4,909 communicants, then 5,113 in 2011, a rise of 4%. In this period, 10 churches increased giving and 9 declined while 10 increased in membership and 9 declined. The greatest rise in membership occurred in the larger churches, particularly Grace of Charleston (+2%), St. Stephen's of Charleston (+15%), Holy Communion of Charleston (+30%), All Saints, Hilton Head (4%), and some of the smaller churches, as St. James Santee (+25%). Overall, the nineteen local churches that remained with TEC showed little change in the first four years of Lawrence's tenure (2008-2011).


Some of the small details in the statistical tables should also give pause to the diocese, for instance, baptisms. The parishes and missions that adhered to Lawrence had 389 baptisms in the year 2011. In 2013 that was down to 258, a whopping 33% drop (Journal of 2014, p. 130). Other important categories also show cause for cause for alarm in DSC.

Some of my readers may refuse to believe the data. I can assure it is there, and it comes from the Diocese of South Carolina itself. I did not make it up. The statistical tables are freely available for anyone to see and study.

No doubt the leaders of DSC will try to downplay the devastating data and publicize the few positive signs out there. It is true DSC has two new worshipping communities (North Charleston, North Myrtle Beach) and has gained a new parish in Pawleys Island (remnant of the feud in All Saints). However, these do not alter the undeniable picture of the sudden and dramatic decline in the status of the diocese, parishes, and missions that followed Lawrence out of the Episcopal Church. The data show that the parishes and missions that adhered to Lawrence dramatically lost people and money and did so immediately after the schism. This shows up clearly in the figures for the whole year of 2013, the first full calendar year after the schism of 2012.

It is obvious to everyone that this self-inflicted schism has been very damaging to the once grand old diocese of South Carolina. There is not a parish or mission that has not been directly and negatively affected, even the largest and grandest of the ancient churches. Some of the small parishes and missions are on the brink of collapse. Lawrence's claim that 80% of the old diocese remained with him is not supported by the data from his own diocese, far from it. In fact, since Lawrence became bishop in 2008, there have been three major episodes of exodus from DSC: St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant in 2010 with 2,390 communicants, the 5,113 who stayed with TEC and the 4,716 who left the DSC churches around the time of the schism. In Lawrence's tenure, the old unitary diocese split up into three hostile groups, 1-St. Andrew's, now in ACNA, 2-the ECSC churches, and 3-DSC.

The statistics may well substantiate the theory that the schism was a revolution from the top (it was actually a counter-revolution against the revolutionary reforms of the Episcopal Church). It was not a popular event that generated from the ordinary people-in-the-pews. A small group of no more than 20 people conspired to break DSC away from TEC in October of 2012 and then presented their fait accompli to the clergy and laity for certain validation, which they got. DSC's own data show that one in five church members left DSC churches after the schism. Although the majority supported the schism, the support was not as wide and deep as the ruling clique claimed.

What do the statistics portend for the future? That is impossible to know. On the first hand, DSC may be able to stop the bleeding, cauterize the wound, stabilize or even rebound. On the second hand, DSC may continue the trend of decline. The glaring problem here is that with fewer people and less money, they are facing ever rising challenges to pay for the 40+ lawyers they have employed. Endowments, investments, and other non-communicant sources of income may prop up DSC for a while, but that would not be sustainable long term. We will not know the statistics for the year 2014 until a year from now when they will be released with the journal of the convention of 2015. My personal observation of DSC parishes and missions in the last year makes me believe the second hand is the more likely trend.  

Lawrence and the other leaders who made this schism want their faithful to believe they are better off today and will be even better off tomorrow. DSC's own statistics prove that fewer and fewer people are buying that. The decline in membership and in members' giving shows their real feelings about their leadership and what they have done.

As the 18,000 active members of the DSC get ready for their annual convention next month, they would do well to take stock of where they are and where they are going. I urge them to study their own data and draw their own conclusions. They have good cause for concern if not alarm. The diocese belongs to them, the ordinary communicants of the Diocese of South Carolina. They would be wise to assert their ownership while there is still a viable diocese to claim. 


Monday, February 16, 2015


Attorney Thomas Tisdale, chancellor of ECSC, and his co-lawyers have delivered a legal tour de force devastating Judge Diane Goodstein's Final Order of February 3, 2015. On February 13, they filed in Goodstein's state circuit court, in St. George, "Defendants' Notice and Motion for Reconsideration of Final Order" (hereafter called Order). It comes to a monumental 182 pages. It asks the judge to reconsider her order and to reverse it. This is probably a technical legal maneuver. Once she rejects the motion, as everyone expects she will, the way will be clear for an appeal of her decisions to the South Carolina Court of Appeals. This Notice and Motion (hereafter called Notice) of Feb. 13, then, sets the framework for ECSC's and TEC's appeal.

It seems to me the main points of the Notice are:

1-The basic issue is the bedrock American principle of the separation of church and state. The Notice shows that the Final Order clearly violates this principle.

2-The Final Order derives entirely from the standard called neutral principles. The Notice shows that the Order repeatedly exceeds this standard in clear violation of the Supreme Court decisions.

The Notice is divided into three parts:
Part 1: pages 2-54. A detailed refutation of the terms contained in the Order. It shows in withering detail the dubious and untrue nature of the so called "facts" in the Order and does so one-by-one. It is extremely detailed and extensive. It is most impressive in its scope and depth. Brilliant.

Part 2: pages 54-176. Discusses, again in minute detail, the issues that were not addressed in the Order. This very long section is actually taken up mostly by an in-depth analysis of each and every one of the 36 parishes that joined DSC in suing TEC and ECSC. The detail is effective and overwhelming. 

Part 3: pages 176-180. Summary. The main points emphasized here were: TEC is without a doubt a hierarchical institution as evidenced by an extensive list of judicial decisions; DSC was subject to TEC and not independent; The corporate actions of DSC after 2010 were illegally self-created and in violation of the authority of TEC; The entire process of litigation in the (state) circuit court was heavily biased in favor of DSC and discriminatory against TEC and ECSC; The Order lacks any evidence to substantiate its findings.

There is a daunting amount of information in the Notice. Here are the parts that stood out to me:

1-On p. 176, TEC and ECSC demand the return of all properties of all the 36 individual parishes involved in the lawsuit. What this means is that, if a higher court agrees with this claim, all of the land, buildings, and other assets of the 36 parishes that have gone along with Mark Lawrence will be returned to the Episcopal Church diocese. The people in those congregations will then have to decide whether to leave and form separate churches elsewhere or to stay in the property and return to the Episcopal Church which will own and operate the properties.

2-The Order misunderstood and misinterpreted the relationship between the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina. In fact, for years DSC explicitly adhered to the Constitution and Canons of TEC including the Dennis Canon. The Order assumed DSC was always an independent and sovereign entity without any obligation to TEC. The Order was replete with factual errors posing as facts.

3-The Dennis Canon did in fact create a trust in which local property came under the legal power of TEC and its diocese. DSC adopted the Dennis Canon. The argument that it did not create an explicit trust is dubious at best.

4-The corporate action of DSC after 2010 was illegal. DSC granted to itself unilateral rights to revoke commitments to TEC without any legal grounds to do so. DSC was subject to the C and C of TEC. DSC's self-made declaration of independence in October of 2012 was without any legal foundation and is therefore invalid.

It seems to me TEC's and ECSC's notice makes an irresistible case for the reversal of Goodstein's Final Order. The Order certainly went beyond the inviolable wall separating church and state. It is full of interference in a particular church. Too, the Order grossly violates the Supreme Court directive on neutral principles. The circuit court proceeding was anything but neutral. Time and again, the Order went straight to the heart of the internal working of a religious institution. That has been strictly forbidden by the Supreme Court.

I can only conclude that Goodstein's decision will be struck down by a higher court.

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has suffered through two years of injustice. Take heart long-suffering Episcopalians. Justice will prevail. Lawyers are at work. This country is still guided by the ingenious principles established by the founding fathers (many of whom were Episcopalians). The courts will eventually find that the Episcopal Church has every right to govern itself separate from the state.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015


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

A week has now passed since Judge Goodstein issued her "Final Order." By now everyone should be over the initial reactions, euphoria on the Lawrence side, and shock on the Episcopal Church side. We all knew all along what the ruling would be, but it was still a great jolt when it actually came down.

The two sides reacted to the news in entirely opposite ways, understandably. The Episcopal Church side (ECSC) tried to put on a brave face. It defiantly announced immediately that it would appeal the decision, therefore assuring the faithful that the decision is not necessarily the last word on the matter. Too, Bishop vonRosenberg issued a pastoral letter to put the decision in a bigger picture of a long-term journey of faith. Patience.

On the independent diocesan side (DSC), the well-oiled public relations machine, that had been brilliant in the run-up to the schism, now went into overdrive again, as one might have expected. One must bear in mind that the Lawrence side still needs a great deal more money from its communicants to pay for the expensive litigation that looms ahead, probably for years to come. This comes on top of the reported two million dollars DSC has already spent on its host of lawyers.

In its new public relations barrage, DSC issued three major statements, all online. The first was a news release about the decision ( ). It came from Jan Pringle at 7:16 p.m. on February 3, suspiciously soon after the judge's Order was released by the Clerk of the Court (5:18 p.m.). Pringle gave an amazing amount of detail from the lengthy and detailed 46-page Order. My blog was instantly flooded by a tsunami of hits from people seeking more information and/or my opinion about it (I did not know the news until the next morning). It strains believability that DSC could have procured the Judge's Order from the Clerk's office, gotten it to the DSC office, digested it, written a long explanation, and posted it on their website, all in less than two hours. It must have been driven from St. George to downtown Charleston, a one-hour trip in rush hour, or scanned and e-mailed, a task that would also take a lot of time. Thus, it seems to me DSC either had an advance copy, or knew in advance what the Order would say, or were confidently anticipating a certain decision. The timing of this raises the legitimate question of whether DSC had the Order in advance. At best the timing reflects spectacular clairvoyance, at worst something sinister. At any rate, DSC was obviously already prepared to make an instant announcement. 

The second public relations initiative came in the form of a statement on Feb, 6 by Canon Jim Lewis, assistant to Bishop Lawrence ( ). The third was a pastoral letter from Lawrence on Feb. 6 ( ).

Put together, the three papers carried the same themes: 1-a decisive and total victory of DSC, 2-the decision resulted from God's Will, 3-a certain interpretation of the issues, 4-a subtle appeal for more money.

All three announced the obvious, a complete victory for DSC in the court. If they "spiked the ball in the end zone" and took a chest-thumping victory lap, I think they can be allowed such harmless if adolescent behavior. We should all be allowed to be graceless once in awhile. It does not change anything.

While total victory for DSC was indisputable, the rest of the statements were far from it. Lewis and Lawrence both declared the judge's decision to be God's Will. Lewis wrote:  " should be observed that it is God's grace that has brought us to this day. Legal counsel has affirmed repeatedly that they have experienced God's grace at work in this litigation from start to finish." Lawrence proclaimed God's Will three times in his letter: "...most grateful for the Mighty Hand of God throughout the whole ordeal"; "...move forward with our God-given dreams and missions"; and "So let us press on undeterred with our mission and ministries...grateful for God's grace..." Surely all of us can feel the presence of God in many ways. And surely God was with everyone in that courtroom last July. God is no more a partisan of Lawrence than he is of vonRosenberg. I do not believe Lewis and Lawrence really meant these words as they may sound, as if speaking for God and saying God was on their side against the other side. I think they could have chosen their phrases better. The working of God's Will is a mystery that will be known to us in the fullness of time. 

All three statements also promoted a certain interpretation of history. It is here that I, as a historian, take the greatest issue. We are told the fight was for freedom of association, and, by extension, disassociation. This is not correct. The issue of contention was not freedom of association. Anyone can leave the Episcopal Church, or any other, and associate with anyone they please. That is called freedom of religion. That was not the issue at stake. The real issue was whether one, or a group in this case, can leave the Episcopal Church and take the property with them. To take the property they would have to leave TEC and retroactively revoke the agreements of association they had followed before the separation. Can a diocese leave TEC and take the property with them even if doing so violates the mutually agreed-upon rules that had been recognized before the separation? In sum, the issue is not freedom of association as DSC claims, it is freedom to ignore the previously recognized laws of earlier association. DSC holds the previous laws can be ignored because they do not comply with state property laws. TEC holds they cannot be ignored because DSC had adhered to the Dennis Canon. The whole matter boils down to who owns the property.

Another old myth DSC still promotes is that TEC is declining while DSC is thriving. They cite a 17.4% drop in the recent membership of TEC as proof. No one can deny TEC is losing members, but that has nothing to do with anything else here. Moreover, DSC has lost a whopping third of its members since Lawrence was consecrated bishop in January of 2008. Over 2,000 (perhaps 2,900) left with St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant; and 6-7,000 remained with TEC. When DSC claims 80% of the old diocese, it is counting everyone in the local churches before the schism. There has been an exodus from virtually every parish and mission remaining in DSC. Indeed, some small parishes of DSC are on the verge of falling into mission status. Exact numbers for DSC are impossible to know and are fluid anyway. As time goes by, some communicants are leaving DSC churches to return to TEC. If I were running DSC, I would avoid the subject of declining membership.

Then there is the tiresome refrain given by Lewis that TEC treated Lawrence badly (another example of repeating): "When TEC attempted to wrongly remove Bishop Lawrence as our bishop, this Diocese elected to disassociate from TEC." I suggest that anyone who believes this should study up on the factual timetable of events, as for instance in the "Chronology" post on this blog. The undisputed facts show that DSC voted to disassociate from TEC on Oct. 2, 2012 in a secret resolution of the 12-member Standing Committee upon the advice of Bishop Lawrence. That was 13 days before TEC took any action against Lawrence. The secret resolution was put into effect on Oct. 15 when Lawrence learned he had been charged with abandonment of the communion. Moreover, TEC did not try to remove Lawrence. In fact, Lawrence removed himself from TEC. The DSC authorities, including Bishop Lawrence, announced (on Oct. 17) that they had voluntarily and willfully left TEC as of 12 noon on Oct. 15, 2012. Lawrence refused the PB's requests to meet again in person. Consequently, the Presiding Bishop accepted Lawrence's renunciation of his ordained ministry on Dec. 5, 2012. The idea that Lawrence was a mistreated victim of TEC is not based in fact. It is a fantasy promoted to rally the faithful around their supposedly victimized and innocent leader.

All of this is troubling enough, but where I really lose all patience with DSC's mythmaking is the most outrageous untruth yet, that this schism was not about sexuality. Lawrence said in his pastoral letter: "This has never been about exclusion. Our churches, our diocese are open to all. It's about the freedom to practice and proclaim faith in Jesus Christ as it has been handed down to us." A reasonable response to this would require a lot of space; and I have already run too long on this blog. Therefore, I will return another day with my thoughts on:


Monday, February 9, 2015


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

My remarks in yesterday's Charleston Post and Courier have brought some responses. I welcome all of them, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more publicity I get the more people read my blog. The more people read my blog the more information they get on the church schism. The more information people get, the better they can make up their own minds about their choices. Last July, when I was personally attacked at length online by a prominent Episcopal Church critic and lawyer and it was repeated by numerous anti-Episcopal Church websites, my readership skyrocketed and has remained high. So, have at it and give my blog address: .

One of my respondents suggested that I could have peace right now, that all this mess in court could end if the Church would simply accept Goodstein's decision and quit the contest. To that person, I would recommend the movie Lincoln or better yet Doris Goodwin's book Team of Rivals. Lincoln could have ended the Civil War at any time and saved countless lives and enormous treasure if he had quit the war. He could have had peace from day one. Confederate emissaries repeatedly offered peace terms if slavery could remain. The greatest genius of the day, Lincoln refused because he would have had to abdicate the moral high ground and abandon his noble campaign for human rights. As horrible as it was, he had to let the war go on for a higher cause, freedom for four million helpless human beings. It was a terrible choice; but in hindsight we know he was right.

This church conflict in South Carolina is about human rights, however much Mark Lawrence and his acolytes protest that it is not. The historical record is loud and clear and will remain so. They cannot change history regardless of how hard they may try. For more than half a century the Episcopal Church has fought hard for human rights, for African Americans, for women, and for homosexual people. This is a moral crusade. The leaders of the old diocese of South Carolina willfully and deliberately pulled the majority of communicants of the diocese out of the Episcopal Church because they could not stomach this crusade. Since the schism the independent diocese has consistently refused to negotiate for a compromise settlement with the Church. Indeed, it was Lawrence's lawyer who initiated the lawsuit against the Church.

Of course the Episcopal Church could have peace, just as Lincoln could have had it. But like Lincoln, the Episcopal Church should not and will not abandon its Godly crusade for freedom and equality. Its opponents may win in court here and there by various momentary legal strategies, but they will not win in the long run. The whole history of the United States is the unfolding of democracy, of freedom and equality among the citizenry. In the end, the right will prevail. The Episcopal Church is on the right side of history.

I invite you on the Lawrence side to talk with me to give me your experiences and perspectives. I will incorporate them as appropriate in the history of the schism that I am writing. If you would like to share your thoughts with me, please contact me by email.

I plan to attend the annual convention of the independent diocese in Charleston next month. I'll be the one in front taking copious notes and hanging out with Steve Skardon. Everybody knows Steve. We will be there as "visitors." If you are there, I hope you will stop by and say a friendly "Hello." . 

Sunday, February 8, 2015


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

Jennifer Hawes has a front-page article in today's (Charleston) Post and Courier providing an even-handed survey and summary of the legal landscape of the Episcopal Church schisms. I recommend it. She quotes, accurately, some remarks from me. In her online version of the story, she includes my photo which, alas, looks exactly like me: .

Thursday, February 5, 2015


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

On February 3, 2015, Judge Diane Goodstein issued her "Final Order," or decision, in the case of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina (DSC) against the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC). The trial was held last July in the circuit court of South Carolina, Dorchester County, St. George SC. There was no jury. Judge Goodstein alone heard the presentations and issued a judgment, called the Final Order.

That Order is now the law and will remain such until and unless it is overturned on appeal. We must all respect it. At the same time we are allowed to have our opinions about it.

The court's decision was about as public opinion expected. I doubt that anyone was surprised by it. The DSC lawyers had chosen this particular court, in rural Dorchester County, in which to enter their lawsuit against TEC after direction by the DSC Standing Committee in November of 2012 to initiate legal action for DSC as a preemptive strike against TEC. DSC attorney Alan Runyan entered the suit on Jan. 4, 2013, three weeks before TEC could get its reorganized diocese up and running, before it could install a new bishop to replace Lawrence. Presumably Runyan could have chosen to enter the lawsuit in another state circuit court, more logically in Charleston. From the first, the circuit court judge assigned to this case, Judge Diane Goodstein ruled favorably for DSC, most famously in her early decision to grant a Temporary Restraining Order against TEC and to so so ex parte, that is, without giving TEC a chance to argue against it. (TEC and ECSC later agreed to a Temporary Injunction.) In the next two years, Judge Goodstein ruled time and again in DSC's favor and against TEC and ECSC (consult the "Chronology" post for details). In the three-week trial last July, no one could argue that the proceedings were unfavorable to DSC. I would submit that the whole slant of all the litigation over the last two years has been advantageous to DSC. This is not a value judgment, only an observation on the events. The court's Order seems to me to be the logical outcome of two years of litigation in the local courts.

The decision came after two years of difficult, contentious maneuvering by both sides. Many people in South Carolina, the country, and even overseas have followed every move. Since the decision appeared, I have had over one thousand hits on my blog, no doubt by people hungry for information on this long-awaited and crucial judgment. The purpose of this post is to share with you some of my understanding and opinions about this landmark decision. I am not a lawyer, but I can read the English language and I do have some power of reason (at least I think so).

These are the questions I will address:
1-What did the Final Order say?
2-What were the issues involved?
3-What were Judge Goodstein's main interpretations?
4-What assessments can be made about the Order?
5-What is the future for this Order?

It was organized into five parts:
I-"Introduction," p. 2-3, laid out the lawsuit, an action by DSC and its parishes against TEC and ECSC. The plaintiffs, mainly DSC, asked the court for two acts: to declare DSC the party entitled to the rights, titles, insignia, and assets of the diocese, and to make an injunction to prevent the same from TEC and ECSC. In short, it was to make DSC the legitimate diocese.

II-"Procedural History," p. 3-5, provides a summary of the litigation from the time of DSC's entering the suit against TEC on Jan. 4, 2013, to the present.

III-"Findings in Fact," p. 5-23. This was divided into four parts:
     A. "Plaintiff Diocese." [DSC] This is longest single section of the Order, with a summary history of DSC from 1785 to present.
     B. "Plaintiff Trustees." The role of the DSC corporation trustees.
     C. "Plaintiff Churches." The states of the various local parishes that joined the lawsuit.
     D. "Defendants REC and TECSC." The legal natures of the two.

IV-"Conclusions of Law," p. 23-44. Set up the standard of Jones v. Wolf and "neutral principles" then subdivided into three parts:
     A. "Corporate Control and Rightful Leadership," discussed whether the plaintiffs [DSC] had established legal control.
     B. "Real and Personal Property Rights," described the legal ownership of the properties.
     C. "Marks," described who owned the names and insignia.

V-"It is Therefore Ordered," p. 44-46. In the conclusion, the judge ordered: that DSC and its parishes are the owners of the properties, that TEC and ECSC have no rights to them, an injunction against TEC and ECSC from using DSC's names and insignia, and dismissal of TEC's and ECSC's counterclaims.


The underlying issue in all of this was the proper interaction between state and church. What was the nature of freedom of religion? What was the nature of the principle of the separation of church and state?

The basic and direct contention between the two sides of the lawsuit was who owned the property of the pre-schism diocese.

In 1979, TEC incorporated into its structure the Dennis Canon: "All real and personal property held by and for the benefit of any Parish, Mission, or Congregation is held in trust for this Church [TEC] and the Diocese thereof." DSC also incorporated this canon into its constitution and canons until 2010. What effect did the Dennis Canon have in SC?

Courts in the U.S. have generally followed two approaches dealing with religious institutions: "deference" and "neutral principles."

Deference means the state defers to the religious institution in governing itself. This approach is supported primarily by the U.S. Supreme Court decision called Serbian Orthodox Church v. Milivojevich (1976). In this ruling, the Court said that the First and Fourteenth Amendments preclude courts from intervening in the internal disputes of churches.

Neutral principles means that courts can settle property disputes between church parties as long as they do not seek to interpret church doctrine or practice. It flows primarily from the U.S. Supreme Court decision entitled Jones v. Wolf (1979). That decision held that a state may adopt neutral principles in church property cases. The South Carolina Supreme Court established this principle in its All Saints/Waccamaw decision of 2009. [Bp Lawrence adopted this immediately and began issuing quit claim deeds to all the parishes, in disregard of the Dennis Canon.]

In general, TEC and its dioceses have sought to have the courts follow the deference principle while the secessionist dioceses have claimed the neutral principles standard.


She declared immediately for neutral principles and the Jones model.

The judge also declared immediately that DSC was a legal corporation in SC and proceeded as if it were a sovereign entity independent of any other association or corporation.

Moreover, Goodstein declared that freedom of association is a fundamental right, along with freedom to disassociate.

The order declared that DSC legally disassociated from TEC in October of 2012.

It also declared that a diocese can withdraw at will from TEC: "The Constitution and Canons of TEC have no provisions which state that a member diocese cannot voluntarily withdraw its membership." (p. 21)

Too, it stated that TEC has no right to rule over dioceses: "There is no supremacy clause or other provision unambiguously giving any central body or officer of TEC governing authority superior to the diocesan bishop." (p. 22)

The Order also affirmed the idea that the Dennis Canon was inoperable in South Carolina because no explicit trust had been established for TEC.

The judge found all in favor of the plaintiffs, primarily DSC and its parishes, as independent legal corporations protected by SC laws. Thus, she excluded all other entities from the same rights.


The wording of the whole Order follows closely the plaintiff [DSC] lawyers' presentations in their original brief and in the court arguments. The lawyers for the two sides (Thomas Tisdale and Alan Runyan) submitted "Orders," or requests for judgments, to Judge Goodstein on December 10, 2014. These have been withheld from the public. We do not know how closely the judge followed a lawyer's written request. The Final Order is entirely one-sided, without any concession to the defendants. It is completely dismissive of TEC and ECSC's arguments and witnesses. [I have been informed by court clerks that the lawyers' Dec. 10, 2014, requests for judgments made to Judge Goodstein, are not part of the public record and will never be released to the public. Thus, we will never know how closely Goodstein's Final Order followed Runyan's "Order."]

The Final Order contains many astonishing statements, many concerning the structure of TEC. One that jumped out right away was the declaration that TEC is a congregational and not a hierarchical institution. It said TEC is organized from the local level up: "Authority flows from the bottom, the parish churches, up." (p. 22) I know of no other judicial ruling in the U.S. that says this explicitly. Moreover, the dioceses are autonomous entities. Too, the local parishes are free to leave the diocese at will. (p. 17). No federal court has ever ruled that TEC is not a hierarchical institution. Indeed, some 100 cases in the last decade have confirmed this. [Judge Houck, U.S. District Court in Charleston, in August 2013, ruled TEC to be hierarchical.]

The Order also said that DSC legally withdrew from TEC. (p. 26). Whether DSC disassociated from TEC is a highly contentious issue. Although the judge approached this entirely from the perspective of the corporation's unilateral legal right, it seems to me this statement may be beyond the limit of neutral principles because it could be construed as interpreting the internal working of a religious institution.

The Order also declares two of the anti-Episcopal Church side's main talking points: 1-that the Constitution and Canons of TEC have nothing to prevent a diocese from seceding and 2-have no "supremacy clause" giving a national authority of TEC power over the local dioceses. In the first place, the U.S. Constitution also has no provision preventing states from seceding from the Union. It does not need it any more than TEC needs it because it is strongly implied in the very nature of the constitution. To join a greater union, one part must surrender at least a portion of its independence and sovereignty. It is impossible to have sovereignty spread out equally among the individual parts. The charge that TEC has no clause preventing secession is not a strong one. On the other hand, the U.S. Constitution does have a "supremacy clause" giving authority of the acts of Congress over the states while the TEC C and C lack such a provision. However, once again, it can be argued that supremacy of a higher organization is implied in the very nature of the constitution. No national organization could function on any meaningful level without agreement among the members to act together. An association without a central authority would be only an amorphous band of friends with little or no common purpose.

Perhaps the most startling statement in the entire Order was: "Mark Lawrence was not elected Bishop of the Diocese with the intent on either his part or on that of the Diocese to lead the Diocese out of TEC. From 2009 until October 2012, his intent was to remain 'intact and in TEC.'" The Order gave no supporting evidence for this statement. All we really know is that Lawrence said under oath he had no intention of leaving TEC. That is it. My study of the events of Lawrence's episcopate reveal a different picture, one of the diocesan leadership's willful and gradual removal of DSC from TEC. Whether Lawrence "intended" it or not, he led DSC out of TEC and did so voluntarily. He and the Standing Committee left TEC; it did not leave them. It is this part of the Final Order with which I as a historian take the greatest issue.

In another place (p. 8 #16), the Order implied that Lawrence became bishop upon the diocese's authority. Lawrence became a bishop only after a majority of the standing committees of the whole Episcopal Church consented and he had been consecrated by the authorities of TEC. Moreover, he made a solemn vow to obey the Episcopal Church. The Order left out all this. Lawrence did not become a bishop because of the legal corporate right of DSC; he became a bishop only because of the authority of TEC.

From my perspective, the most troublesome part of the Order was the longest part, the historical presentation on pages 5-15. It picked out supporting facts, left out many others, and made debatable assumptions. For instance, on p. 14, it said "Lawrence was not served with the certification." This was referring to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops certification in 2012 that he had abandoned TEC. Lawrence said under oath he was not served with the certification. The point was that the resulting "restriction" and later removal imposed by the Presiding Bishop were illegal. In other words, Lawrence meant that he had never been legally restricted or removed. Apparently it was true Lawrence never received a hand-signed copy of the order in the mail. It is an undisputed fact, however, that he got the news by phone and by e-mail from the Presiding Bishop on Oct. 15, 2012. It is not true to say that Lawrence did not know about the charge of abandonment. He knew very well on Oct. 15, 2012, that he had been charged and had been placed under restriction. [I heard him say this to an assembly a few days later.] He immediately rejected and ignored both of them then called the Presiding Bishop on Oct. 17, 2012 to tell her this. To say that Lawrence was "not served with the certification" is Clintonian parsing.

Another jolting statement in the Order was that local parish churches had never been members of TEC. (p. 17) Sorry, but I have no response to any such Alice-in-Wonderland notion that Episcopal churches were never Episcopal churches.

There is also an inconsistency between the idea that the diocese had always been independent and actual events. At the very least, DSC's corporate charter from 1973 to 2010 stated very clearly the diocese was subject to TEC. Too, DSC publicly adhered to the Dennis Canon until 2010. In addition, DSC held, until 2010, as the first item in its own constitution and canons, allegiance to the constitution and canons of TEC. A case can be made that DSC functioned at some time under the sovereignty and authority of the national Church. In my view, the idea that DSC was always sovereign and independent is unsupportable in the well-known historical record.

It seems to me a case could be made on appeal that the Order goes too far beyond the limits of neutral principles. A great deal of the content and rationale of the Order deals with the institutional relationship of TEC and DSC. That could well be argued as intervening in the internal structure of the Episcopal Church, something that is forbidden in the Serbian Orthodox Supreme Court decision. In my understanding, the neutral principles standard strictly limits a court to action only on property issues. Therefore, in my opinion, a strong and convincing case can be made that Judge Goodstein's Final Order improperly surpasses the bounds of neutral principles and violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (the principle of the separation of church and state). Therefore, it should be ruled unconstitutional and overturned by a higher court.


My prediction is that it will be upheld by the SC Court of Appeals and the SC Supreme Court. The state supreme court will probably be eager to defend its 2009 All Saints decision. Although it applied only to one parish, I expect the court will expand its view of the invalidity of the Dennis Canon in the whole diocese. Since Judge Goodstein followed closely the state supreme court rulings, I imagine that court will validate her decision.

[It is interesting to note that the All Saints decision is the only one in the whole country where a local parish won control of the property as a final order. DSC had fought All Saints in court for years before Lawrence became bishop. Upon the decision (Sept. 2009), Lawrence immediately reversed DSC's longstanding policy on Dennis. In direct contradiction of Dennis, he divested DSC of any claim to local properties. He issued quit claim deeds to the parishes. Meanwhile, St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant walked out of DSC with property in hand as Lawrence looked on. Before that Lawrence had supported St. Andrew's removal of millions of dollars worth of property into an ironclad trust beyond DSC's and TEC's reach.]

There is another avenue of litigation going on at present. It is the federal court case of vonRosenberg v. Lawrence. Just last week the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond held a hearing on ECSC's appeal of the U.S. District Court's decision to abstain in view of the current state court action. That case is likely to be remanded to the District Court in Charleston with direction to follow the Colorado River standard. That would require the court to continue the case or find an extremely narrow reason not to do so. This would be to the advantage of ECSC. It is too soon to tell now what impact Goodstein's Order will have on this case. An interesting point about this case is that Judge Houck's order of August 2013, while abstaining, also said that TEC is an hierarchical institution and that Lawrence had renounced his ordained ministry. Goodstein's Order puts herself at direct odds with Judge Houck's earlier judgment.

If the SC Supreme Court finally rules in favor of DSC, as I would expect, it is probable that TEC will offer the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. TEC appealed to the Court last summer in the Ft. Worth case but the Court refused to take it. That may have been because the Texas case was still in process. It had not been finally judged by the state supreme court. SCOTUS is known to be reluctant to take cases that have not been settled in the lower courts. So far, not one of the five secessionist diocesan cases (San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth, Quincy, SC) has received a final ruling from a state supreme court. If SC is the first, I imagine TEC will appeal it to SCOTUS.

It seems to me it is going to take a U.S. Supreme Court decision to bring an end to all this destructive, endless litigation. I think that down the road it will happen and the Court will defend the right of a national religious institution to govern itself. Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle on which this country was founded. Under this most precious of freedoms, the Episcopal Church has the right to govern itself without the interference of any state institution. We citizens have the right, indeed the duty, to defend the freedoms on which this county was founded and has flourished.