Friday, September 11, 2015


This blog celebrates an anniversary today. I started it on Sept. 11, 2013. My purpose was then, and still is now, to inform readers of my progress on writing a history of the schism and to provide information and commentary about the ongoing events of the schism. My bias is admittedly pro-Church, but I am also trying to provide all the apropos material from both sides. As for the history, a manuscript is coming right along. I keep waiting for some closure to finish the story; and who know when that will happen? No time soon, I'm afraid.

As for the information and commentary, I have posted 112+ essays on this blog. A few I deleted as only of temporary interest. As of today, this blog has had 73,609 visits in the two years. Much of the interest came during the circuit court trial in July of 2014 when around 500 people a day clicked on. By far the most popular post has been "Chronology" with 2,976 visits. In this I have tried to give a timeline of important events in the history of the schism. Obviously, many people have found this useful. A couple of the posts "went viral" on the Internet. One was "The Confederacy and the Independent Diocese" that was listed on various Facebook sites and had over 1k hits in one day. Also, the item on "News Flash, Lambeth Palace..." was posted on EpiscopalCafe with the same result. That one punctured Bishop Zavala's claim that he was in SC for the Archbishop of Canterbury. I am gratified that so many people have found my posts of interest. I hope they have found them beneficial. In the end, though, no one has benefited from this blog as much as I have.

So, what is the status of the schism now, almost three years after the break occurred on October 15, 2012? Here are some points I would emphasize today:

1- The horizontal/vertical division is as great as ever, if not more so. Readers of this blog will be familiar with my theory of the conflict between the horizontal and vertical philosophies of religion. In short, horizontal is outward-focused, a communal sense of spreading the Gospel through improving conditions in the society all around us. Vertical is inward-focused, an individual sense of salvation between one person and God. The Episcopal Church adopted the horizontal approach around 1960 to produce its participation in racial equality, women's equality, and rights for homosexuals in the Church. The vertical side of the Church either peeled off into splinter groups or went into internal minority status. The leadership and majority of the Diocese of South Carolina (DSC) decided to peel off TEC into its own realm. Nearly three years on, DSC remains indifferent to racism, very lukewarm to women's equality, and strongly homophobic.

A perfect example of the differences of the two dioceses can be seen in the aftermath of the Emanuel Church massacre in Charleston on June 17, 2015. The DSC leadership called for prayers, attendance at memorial services, and, off handedly, for contributions to memorial funds. That was it. The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC) called for all of that plus more, much more. ECSC took money from its own budget to contribute to the Emanuel funds. Even more importantly, ECSC set up a diocesan-wide program to actually do something to combat the evil of racism in South Carolina. It is high time. Historically, the Diocese of South Carolina has been the most racist of all of the 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church. In September of 2015, all around the diocese, ECSC will conduct four three-hour seminars on racism based on the story of the DeWolf family. All of the parochial leaders are required to attend one of the sessions; and everyone else is strongly urged to attend. The story of the slave-trading DeWolfs is fascinating and compelling. So there you have it. DSC's vertical response to the massacre was essentially prayers to God for help. ECSC's horizontal response was to pray to God then do something about the problem in the society all around it, to get actively involved to bring an end to the sin of racism in South Carolina.

2-A second point I would emphasize is that DSC is virtually an independent denomination. "Bishop" Lawrence and the ruling clique have steadfastly refused to join any larger institution, most importantly the Anglican Church in North America. It has been "recognized" by Global South in a meaningless oversight scheme to give itself a fig leaf of "Anglican" identity. There is no sign that DSC has any intention of joining any larger group.

In fact, DSC is forging right ahead with its own separate identity. It has just set up "The Anglican Leadership Institute." ( This "Institute" turns out to be a creation of, by, and for DSC. The Board of Directors lists 19 people with, of course, Mark Lawrence as Chair. Many of the 19 are in the ruling clique or are close allies. As the Directors, the faculty are mostly in the leadership of DSC or allies. An applicant can get a full scholarship to attend a month-long course, to be held in DSC, naturally. The big catch is the applicant must sign a pledge of allegiance to "The Jerusalem Declaration." Remember that? The anti-homosexual rights Anglican dissidents drew up the Jerusalem Declaration in 2008 right as they set up GAFCON, also to oppose gay rights. To refresh memory, provision # 8 of the Declaration stated "marriage between one man and one woman." Provision # 13 said "We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word and deed." This clearly meant rejection of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and the Anglican Church of Canada. (Recall that Mark Lawrence enthusiastically participated in the Jerusalem meeting just six months after making a solemn oath before God and everyone of loyalty to the Episcopal Church). The Declaration, GAFCON, and related groups as Global South and Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans all came about in the wake of the issue of rights for homosexual persons that swept the Canadian and American churches after 1980. Such groups as GAFCON did not exist before then. Thus, to participate in DSC's new "Institute" one has to make a written pledge of opposition both to marriage equality and to the Episcopal Church via a signed agreement of adherence to the Jerusalem Declaration.

Last year when DSC promoted the appearance of Prof. Wes Hill, I thought then the DSC might be softening its homophobia. Hill, recall, was the Trinity School of Ministry teacher who was openly gay and taught that homosexuality was inborn (he also called for lifetime celibacy). My hopes were dashed when the diocesan convention last March overwhelmingly passed three anti-homosexual resolutions. With those resolutions, and now the "Leadership Institute" we can see DSC's opposition to rights for homosexual persons is as strong as ever if not stronger. Wes Hill was only an aberration.

This brings us back to the fundamental question about the reason for this schism. We know now it was not about property. Then what was it about? It seems to me to be about some grandiose scheme of transforming the Anglican world, or, as Lawrence is fond of saying, making biblical Anglicans for the twenty-first century. This is a war against the sinful, evil old Episcopal Church that has been taken over by unorthodox forces. If this little independent church of 18,000 members in the Low Country thinks it is going to transform the 80-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, the word that comes to my mind is "delusion." Regardless, what the ruling clique of DSC is really doing is continuing a long war against the Episcopal Church. It seems to me that is what this schism is all about. That is why the DSC ruling clique has refused offers of negotiated settlement and is likely to continue doing so. Apparently they see this as a great war of good against evil. There can be no compromise with evil. They will go on fighting the good fight until the bitter end; and I expect that is what it is likely to be, a bitter end.

3- What about sexism in DSC? It has not been welcoming, to say the least, to women's equality. There are very few women clergy in DSC; and not one medium or large parish is led by a woman priest. Not one important committee of DSC has ever been chaired by a woman, nor even had a majority of women members. Mark Lawrence has ordained two women deacons, but has apparently never ordained a woman to the priesthood. The diocese he came from, San Joaquin, was one of only three that refused to allow women to be ordained to the priesthood (the three voted to leave TEC).

Now word comes that Lawrence is about to ordain to the priesthood Martha Horn, one of the two women he ordained to the diaconate. This will be a first for Lawrence. Is this too an aberration, or does it portend a new attitude favoring women's rights? Horn is to be ordained to the priesthood on October 3 in Hilton Head. This is really a wonderful thing in more ways than one. The July 22, 2015 e-newsletter of DSC had an article about Horn and her husband, the Rev. Robert Horn, of Holy Apostles in Barnwell. Both are battling very serious cancer: "Martha who is also battling cancer (which started as breast cancer and metastasized to her liver and spine) is on a new chemo regiment. Unfortunately the cancer has come back in a few places..." I think we should all give Mark Lawrence a big shout-out of thanks for two reasons, giving this sweet gift to Martha Horn, and for agreeing to ordain a woman for a change. What this might mean for other women down the road in DSC we will just have to wait and see. Let's hope it is not just another false sign of progress, as Wes Hill's visit was. Anyway, let's all give sincere thanks to Mark Lawrence for doing this for Martha Horn.

4- The animosity between the two sides seems stronger than ever. The litigation only grows on itself. The two are at war in both state court and federal court at the same time with no end in sight. In June, the Church side made a generous offer to give the 36 DSC parishes independence and all of the property in return for the legal rights and assets of the diocese. This would have been a landmark settlement, something the Episcopal Church had never offered anyone else. DSC flatly rejected the offer and did so in a hateful way. DSC is now rolling the dice on it all in state and federal court. It's win all or lose all.

The two sides are about to go to the highest court in South Carolina. The state supreme court will rule on the Church's appeal of the circuit court decision. That ruling, probably months away, will also probably not be the end of the story as it will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the federal court in Charleston is considering a suit of the Church bishop asking for legal recognition as the bishop of the Episcopal diocese. Millions of dollars have gone into lawyers' pockets, with millions more to go. Shame.

It is impossible to know how the state supreme court will rule. At first, I assumed they would simply validate the lower court. However, the more I read Goodstein's far-out-of-the-mainstream decision and the briefs and counter-briefs since, the more difficulty I have in believing high-level judges would agree with Goodstein. Although the Church lawyers have the harder task at hand, I think they have a fighting chance to get the high court to reconsider the lower decision. We will have a better idea of this after the hearing of the 23rd. I plan to be in attendance at the hearing and will post a comment on this hearing as soon as possible afterwards.

In summary, the two parts of the grand old Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina seem farther apart than ever. The minority is doing well as a constituent part of the Episcopal Church but has its work cut out in court. The majority has gone off on its own as an independent church under a "bishop," who shows no indication of joining any larger group.  

As I have said many times on this blog, time and tide are against the schismatic diocese. The causes it resisted are all coming to pass, even in highly conservative South Carolina. African Americans, women and homosexuals are all gaining greater and greater equality in South Carolina as in all of America, indeed the western world. DSC is on the wrong side of history and will gradually sink into irrelevancy. I still believe reconciliation will occur down the road, and then there will be a great deal of healing that will have to take place. It took eighty years for the "Schism of 1887" to be healed in the diocese of South Carolina. But it was healed and what seemed to be impossible did become possible. Blacks did gain equality in the diocese. The "Schism of 2012" will be healed too. It will happen.