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.