Saturday, May 23, 2015


The more I observe the schism in South Carolina, the more I am drawn to reread Alice in Wonderland. Both are episodes of absurdity. The difference between the two is that Alice is amusing.

The visit of Bishop Hector Zavala, primate of the Anglican Church of South America, is just the latest act in South Carolina's non-comedy of errors. His appearances, his remarks, the reports of what he said and did not say, on what he meant and did not mean are head-spinning. What is going on here? As in Wonderland, have we all gone mad?

Zavala's visit supposedly stemmed from the independent diocese's search for affiliation. He was brought in to shore up the claim that DSC is part of the Anglican Communion, something that is not true and has not been since the group going by the name of DSC left the Episcopal Church on October 15, 2012. When it left TEC, it also left the Anglican Communion.

Global South has been the core of the Anglican support for Mark Lawrence and has been very active from the start in seeking to protect the legitimacy of South Carolina's schism from TEC. Zavala is on the GS steering committee. On February 14-15, 2014, the GS Primates' Steering Committee met in Cairo. The Archbishop of Canterbury attended at least part of this meeting accompanied by his Director of Reconciliation. On February 20, the Primates' Committee published a Statement signed by the entire Committee but not the Archbishop of Canterbury or his aides. The Statement declared the Committee would set up a "Primatial Oversight Council" to provide pastoral and primatial oversight to "dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses." Although ABC attended the Cairo meeting, there is no record that he had anything to do with the Cairo Statement of Feb. 20. The assertion that the Archbishop of Canterbury supports Global South's primatial oversight of DSC is not supported by any evidence that I can find.

Indeed, on the contrary, the Archbishop has been a steady defender of the so-called "Instruments of Unity" that bind, however loosely, the worldwide Anglican Communion. In fact, he said in an interview last year that the Anglican Church in North America is not in the Anglican Communion. ACNA has been recognized by GAFCON, the larger organization tied to Global South, as the only legitimate Anglican body in the U.S.  

Zavala was quoted as saying last Wednesday in Charleston, "I'm here with you with the consent of the Archbishop of Canterbury." One must ask, exactly what "consent"? When, where, how, and why did the ABC give his "consent" to Zavala to ignore the Instruments of Unity of the AC? (I have contacted Lambeth Palace about this. I will keep readers posted.) Zavala may have gone on to imply that the Archbishop's presence at the Cairo meeting meant his approval of the oversight scheme. Again, there is no evidence of the Archbishop's support of the Cairo Statement. If Zavala meant to say that he was representing the Archbishop of Canterbury in South Carolina and that the Archbishop had approved the primatial oversight scheme, there is no evidence at all of this. Indeed, it contradicts everything else we know about the Archbishop's attitude to the structure of the Anglican Communion.

Where is the independent diocese going with this whole business about affiliation? I think it is more useful at this point to focus less on where it might go and more on where it has been. After more than two and a half years, the Lawrence diocese is still on its own. The "primatial oversight" scheme concocted by Lawrence and his socially conservative allies in Global South is nonsense in terms of the structure of the Anglican Communion. It is, as lawyers say, ultra vires, that is, beyond their legal rights. Global South had no right within the structure of the Anglican Communion to set up any such arrangement. DSC is not, as Lawrence claims, an extra-provincial diocese of the Anglican Communion. It is not now and has not been since Oct. 15, 2012.

Despite repeated assertions to the contrary, in truth the Lawrence diocese is neither "in" the Anglican Communion nor "part" of it. What Lawrence's group does have is the friendship and moral support of several Anglican primates of Third World countries who agree with him that Anglicanism must reject the full inclusion of homosexual persons, and to a degree women, into the life of the church. This is at heart a culture war.

Mark Lawrence left the Episcopal Church in 2012 and the majority of the communicants of the old DSC followed him. From there, the secessionists went off on a path all their own. Unlike the earlier four cases of departures, DSC refused to join the ACNA. It has also failed to adhere to any Anglican province. Meanwhile, Lawrence continues to enjoy authoritarian power in the diocese with an all but ironclad lifetime employment, a quarter of a million dollar annual income, and a million dollar residence for a dollar a year. After two and a half years on his own, he appears to be in no hurry to change anything.

It seemed to me in listening to Lawrence's talk in the recent diocesan convention that he has a grand vision of promoting true Anglicanism (as opposed to the false gospel of TEC) in the world. This is a much bigger cause than just the small matter of diocesan affiliation. It may be that what he is doing now is his way of approaching the enactment of that sweeping vision. He has not joined ACNA. He has gained the visible and vocal support of conservative Anglican prelates overseas. Now he is engaged in two wars, one alone against TEC in court, and one jointly against TEC in the world. I think if we hold that in mind, we have a better understanding of the issue of affiliation in the independent Diocese of South Carolina.

(Read Steve Skardon's excellent first-hand description of Zavala's visit:  He was present at the public presentation; I was not.)