Friday, January 1, 2016


To say that 2015 was an unusual year in South Carolina would be an understatement. It was a year of traumatic events, some natural and some man-made. Topping the list of "natural" would be the river of rain that turned the state into a river of destruction. Leading the "man-made" would be the monstrous massacre in the most sacred of spaces. So, here is my list of the ten greatest heroes of the year in South Carolina whose names I think should be inscribed in the great book of life forever.

1. Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson. They all, every one, went to their deaths ministering to the crazed monster who had invaded their sacred space to kill them. They refused to abandon good even in the face of the worst evil imaginable. May they be revered forever as true martyrs of the faith. May light perpetual shine upon them.

2. The families of the nine martyrs. "I forgive you." In almost unbearable grief, the families of the nine addressed the impassive accused murderer to shower him with forgiveness. Ethel Lance's daughter spoke for them all: "You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But God forgives you. I forgive you." The families demonstrated the best of Christianity in the worst of circumstances. They did not allow evil to overcome good. They taught us all how to be good Christians even in the hardest of times.

3. Governor Nikki Haley. Although she had been elected by some of the most conservative elements in South Carolina, she immediately arose to lead the state to condemn the murders and to denounce racism. She demanded the Confederate flag that was flying on public property, on the state house grounds, be removed to a museum. Under her resolute leadership the state legislature complied. She demonstrated the best of political leadership: toleration, conciliation, and healing.

4. Jenny Horne. This descendant of Jefferson Davis and conservative Republican legislator from Dorchester County arose in the legislature to give one of the most memorable speeches ever: "I can't believe." Gushing and shaking with morally indignant emotion she shamed the legislature into doing the right thing and removing the Confederate flag. May we have more statespersons like Horne who lead from the heart and the head.

5. President Barack Obama. He has said repeatedly the hardest part of his job is being all too often Mourner-In-Chief. He reached far to do his very best in Charleston on June 26 in a rousing eulogy and a memorable rendition of "Amazing Grace." Leading practically the entire political establishment to Charleston, Obama brought everyone closer to healing and peace. He showed us what real leadership is all about.

6. Jean Toal. The Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court demanded fairness and fullness in the dispute between the two competing dioceses. She took command of the case and conducted a hearing on Sept. 23 demolishing the injudicious decision of the lower court and snatching away any idea her All Saints decision of 2009 had any bearing on the present matter. She is retiring on Dec. 31. The Episcopal Church decision is likely to be the one by which she will be remembered.

7. Kaye Hearn. One of the five justices on the SC Supreme Court and a loyal Episcopalian. There is no evidence she was asked to recuse herself from the case. In the hearing, she refused to be intimidated by Alan Runyan who had all but directed the circuit court trial in July 2014 under Judge Diane Goodstein. She forcefully joined with Toal to eviscerate Goodstein's order and demolish Runyan's case of reliance on the All Saints decision. The Episcopal Church could not have had a better champion.

8. Martha Horn. Suffering from a long and serious case of cancer, Horn refused to be vanquished by the insidious invader. She kept up her ministry. She convinced Bishop Mark Lawrence to ordain her to the priesthood even though he had never ordained a woman to the priesthood. She taught us how to be brave in the face of terrible disease. She taught Lawrence how to overcome prejudice. She and Lawrence both are to be commended.

9. The judges of the United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit. The U.S. District Court judge, C. Weston Houck, in Charleston, had deferred to the state court holding the two lawsuits, in state and federal courts, were parallel and the state one had chronological precedence. The judges of the Fourth disagreed and reminded everyone that federal law takes precedence over state law. They sent the case back to Houck with directions for a new procedure.

10. Thomas S. Tisdale. He has been from the start the lead lawyer on the Church side. In 2013 and 2014 he was rocked back on his heels by an initial surprise attack from Alan Runyan, the well-prepared and clever lawyer for the independent diocese. In 2015, however, Tisdale caught his breath and staged a strong counter-attack for the Church side. He pressed the case, successfully, on the federal court of appeals. He pressed the case very well on the state Supreme Court. His offer of compromise settlement in June showed which side was reasonable, showed too the breakaways' aim was not the property. Regardless of the court outcomes, no one could have done a better job, legally speaking, for the Episcopal Church than Tisdale.

These are my leading heroes of the year 2015. There are many others who deserve to be included. I am remembering mostly the thousands of long-suffering loyal Episcopalians in South Carolina who refused to allow prejudice, intolerance, and division to lead them too away from the true historic nature of our religion.