NEWS UPDATE --- OCT. 26
We are now in the "waiting" period in the history of the schism in South Carolina. We have had the state supreme court hearing (Sept. 23), and are now awaiting the court's written decision. Since the Chief Justice is retiring on Dec. 31, that may well come before the end of the year, if not, in early 2016. Everyone is anxiously awaiting the ruling. This blog has had over 6,000 "hits" since the hearing. Although I have nothing to add at this point about the supreme court, there are several other items of noteworthy events of interest concerning the schism.
1. Mark Lawrence presided over his first ordination of a woman to the priesthood. On October 10, Lawrence ordained Martha Horn (one of only two women he has ordained to the diaconate). Read the short article about this in the DSC e-newsletter of October 16 and see the photo section. It should be recalled that Lawrence came from the Diocese of San Joaquin that had never ordained a woman; and he himself is on record as speaking disparagingly of women's ordination. We do not know at this point whether Lawrence's change of heart is only a personal favor to a clergy couple loyal to him, or really signals a change of policy to favor women's ordination in DSC. It may well be the former since to my knowledge there is no woman "in the pipeline" to ordination in DSC. Both Horn and her husband are struggling against serious cases of cancer. Although the DSC press release did not mention it, this first ordination of a woman by Lawrence is a landmark in DSC. As we know, the direct cause of the schism was rejection of the Episcopal Church's equality for homosexual and transgendered persons. The schism came from a stand rejecting equality. If DSC can now accept equality for one oppressed group, it can do the same for others. Thus, Horn's ordination is a great step forward for a "diocese" that has been much too reluctant to step at all toward accepting all of God's children as equal.
2. The primates and representatives of 12 Global South provinces met in Cairo, October 14-16. They wrote: "We were happy to receive a report from Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina, which receives Primatial oversight from the Global South." No other words about this were given. It should be recalled that DSC set up a strange "oversight" arrangement with the steering committee of the Global South primates. No explanation of the arrangement was ever given; but it did hold that DSC could withdraw at will rendering any "oversight" a sham. DSC remains a "diocese" apart from any legitimate or illegitimate province of the Anglican Communion.
The conference also welcomed the Anglican Church in North America as a "partner province" and recognized its archbishop, Foley Beach, as a fellow primate. It should be recalled that the Anglican Communion officially recognizes only the Episcopal Church as the legitimate province of the Communion in the United States, and does not recognize the legitimacy of the ACNA nor its archbishop as any kind of "primate."
The conference also issued a "Communique" stating the Global South primates would attend the January conference called by the Archbishop of Canterbury (11-16 Jan. 2016, Canterbury) but made it clear they would go only with an "agenda." As a hint of its agenda, the next item blasted the Episcopal Church for its acceptance of same-sex marriage which the primates unilaterally declared violated the teachings both of the Anglican Communion and the "one Holy, Universal, and Apostolic Church." That should put to rest any lingering doubt anyone might have had that this schism in the Anglican Communion and in South Carolina is not about homosexuality.
The recent bishops' synod at the Vatican suggests that what is happening to tear apart the Anglican Communion is not unique to it. News reports show that the same sort of split may be occurring in the Roman church where once again the equatorial Africans and their western conservative allies have set up a counter force to oppose western democratic liberalism. Pope Francis's moves for a more merciful and accepting church have been fiercely opposed, and perhaps even blocked, by a coalition led by the African bishops who are resolved to promote their own Afro-centric socio-cultural agenda. See the articles in Yahoo News such as: http://news.yahoo.com/african-bishops-criticize-vaticans-priorities-eurocentric-174924024.html .
Recommended reading: Miranda Hassett, Anglican Communion in Crisis: How Episcopal Dissidents and their African Allies are Reshaping Anglicanism (Princeton University Press, 2007. 295 p.). Although written before GAFCON and dated, this is the definitive work on the formation of the alliance of American counter-revolutionaries and the equatorial African bishops. Prophetic in that this alliance has indeed created a de facto schism in the old Anglican Communion.
3. Foley Beach, archbishop of ACNA, attended the clergy conference of DSC, October 19-21. The only information we have about this visit came in a news release from DSC: www.diosc.com/sys/news-events/latest-news/700-archbishop-beach-speaks-at-diocese . The only descriptive remark the news release made was that between Foley and the clergy, "The discussion was frank." One can make of that whatever one wishes; however, "frank" is often a euphemism for difference of opinion. Obviously since there was no other statement from DSC or Beach, the two sides agreed to disagree. Why DSC refuses, after three years, to join ACNA remains a secret tightly held among the ruling clique. The situation of DSC now is that it is virtually an independent Christian denomination vaguely "recognized" as legitimate and somehow "overseen" however strangely, by the Global South Anglican primates. It is not in the Anglican Communion. It is not attached to any province, real or pretend, of the Communion. In effect, DSC is its own little church led by an authoritarian bishop who shows no sign of changing that. DSC is in nowhere going nowhere.
4. The Episcopal Church in South Carolina filed a "Notice of Appeal" with the U. S. Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit (Richmond) on October 19. One should recall that in 2013, Bishop Charles vonRosenberg filed a suit in the U.S. District Court (federal court) in Charleston against Mark Lawrence claiming Lawrence violated the Lanham Act that protects federally registered trademarks. He asked the court to recognize himself, and not Lawrence, as the only legal and legitimate bishop of the Episcopal diocese of South Carolina. The federal judge, C. Weston Houck, set aside the suit pending the state circuit court proceeding. ECSC appealed this to the Court of Appeals in Richmond. This year, that Court found Houck had used the wrong standard to abstain and remanded the case to him to be reconsidered following another, and more demanding, principle. In spite of this order, once again Houck abstained and set aside the suit pending the state supreme court decision. By this, Houck ignored the Appeals Court clear direction to adjudicate the case. The new appeal, of Oct. 19, asks the Court of Appeals in Richmond to act again to overturn Houck's decision to refuse adjudication in favor of the state court proceeding. Instead of repeating, I will direct you to Steve Skardon's informative summary at www.scepiscopalians.com .
5. The new presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, will be installed on Sunday, November 1, in the Washington national cathedral. The two-hour service will be live streamed beginning at 12:00 p.m. EDT. Find it at the cathedral's website: www.cathedral.org. The service leaflet of 31 pages is available now: www.cathedral.org/pdfs/20151101PBCurryInstallation.pdf . In the service, the present presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori will hand over the office of presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church to Curry. This will be a historic event as Curry is to be the first African American to head the Church. It is amazing and heartwarming to see how the Church has developed from its first tentative steps toward racial justice in the 1940's to his point. Indeed, a full-fledged commitment to civil rights was the first part of the "horizontal" revolution of social justice the Church started after the Second World War. Equality for women and homosexuals ensued. It was the last that the leaders of the old Diocese of South Carolina decided they could not tolerate. They led the majority of the diocese out of the Episcopal Church in 2012 after the General Convention approved a service for the blessing of same-sex unions and equality for transgendered clergy.