Friday, March 11, 2016


On February 20, 2015, I posted an article on this blog entitled "The Decline of the Diocese of South Carolina." ( ) It showed that the DSC lost 10,000 members around the time of the schism and continued to lose both members and income.

Now, a year later, we have the new statistics of DSC for the year 2014 as published in the Journal...2015 that is available online at the DSC website under "Convention---Journals." The new data show the continuing decline of the schismatic diocese.

Reading and interpreting the figures can be a bit tricky. "Baptized members" is meaningless. That counts everyone that was ever baptized in or associated with the parish/mission. It is notoriously unreliable as a true reflection of membership, so should be discarded as a guide. Much closer to accuracy is "Communicants." This is the number of people who attended even one service in the year. 45 parishes and missions of DSC reported statistics for 2014.

Looking at the "Communicant" numbers for the 45 DSC parishes and missions in 2012, 2013, and 2014 we can see clear trends downward. Overall, DSC had 21,722 communicants in 2012, 17,611 in 2013 (down 19%), and 16,152 in 2014 (down 26% from 2012). Thus, in just two years, active membership in the parishes and missions of the schismatic diocese fell by a quarter. DSC has lost a staggering 5,570 communicants since the schism of 2012 (this is for the DSC churches only and does not count the parishes and missions that stayed with the Episcopal Church).

Looking at individual parishes and missions in DSC, we see some shocking declines. Of the 45 local churches reporting, 29 showed falling numbers. That was 64% of the diocese. 8 parishes and missions showed level numbers, 18% of DSC. 8 showed growth, 18% of the diocese.

Between 2012 and 2014, 12 churches showed severe decline, that is, more than 100 members in flat numbers, while 16 showed 20% or more decline. The biggest loser in numbers and percentage was Holy Cross of Sullivans Island, down
a whopping 1,540 members, or 61%.

Other massive declines between 2012 and 2014 occurred in St. Michael's of Charleston (-832 members, or -45%), St. Helena's of Beaufort (-773 members, or -45%), St. Philip's of Charleston (-542, or -20%), Old Saint Andrew's of West Ashley (-452, or -47%), St. Luke's of Hilton Head (-287, or -30%), Holy Comforter of Sumter (-279, or -53%), St. John's of Florence (-257, or -39%), Trinity of Myrtle Beach (-227, or -38%), Church of the Cross in Bluffton (-182), Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant (-150), St. James of James Island (-112). Other big losses happened in St. Paul's of Orangeburg (-51%), Redeemer of Orangeburg (-35%), Christ/St. Paul's of Yonges Island (-26%), St. Bartholomew's of Hartsville (-26%), St. Paul's of Conway (-21%), and Trinity of Edisto (-21%).

Only 3 of the 45 local churches of DSC showed significant gains 2012, 2013, 2014. Prince George of Georgetown, 450-500-625; Resurrection of Surfside, 282-351-360; St. Matthias of Summerton, 128-132-141.

Before the schism, Mark Lawrence was fond of calling the Episcopal Church a comatose patient on life support, that is, a dying institution. His implication was that the liberal reforms of the Church had caused its decline. It is true that Episcopal Church membership fell by half between 1967 and 2016. Many different explanations have been offered for this decline. However, if the theory is that"orthodoxy" leads to growth, this is disproven by the figures of the DSC since the schism. Quite the opposite. DSC has fallen by a shocking quarter in two years since the schism. And, even more troubling is a clear pattern of continuous decline.

In the last sixteen years, the once great Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has suffered three schisms. One started in 2000 when former DSC bishop Fitz Allison and several other bishops ordained Chuck Murphy, rector of All Saints of Pawleys Island, and John Rodgers as bishops. They adhered to the Anglican primate of Rwanda and operated the Anglican Mission in America. All Saints parish voted to leave the Episcopal Diocese/Church in 2004. DSC Bishop Salmon went to court to apply the Dennis Canon but the state supreme court ruled (in 2009) that the property legally belonged to All Saints.

The second schism occurred in 2009-10. In May of 2009, the DSC Standing Committee approved a plan of St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant, to move $3.5m in property into a hidden trust. In March of 2010, St. Andrew's declared its independence from the Episcopal Diocese/Church, the second schism. This happened under Mark Lawrence's watch.

The third schism happened on October 15, 2012, when the DSC ruling clique declared "disassociation" from the Episcopal Church enacting a plan they had made much earlier. About 2/3 of the diocese followed this schism out of TEC.

The Diocese of South Carolina of the year 2000 now lies shattered in four parts: All Saints, St. Andrew's, DSC, and the Episcopal Church diocese. All Saints went through turmoil after its schism, following Murphy and AMiA under Rwanda until that turned into an ugly and embarrassing scene in 2012. All Saints fell into a pro-Murphy and anti-Murphy split with the antis carrying a majority. All Saints majority then joined the Anglican Church in North America. Murphy pulled out and took a couple hundred followers to start a new church called The Abbey at Pawleys Island. St. Andrew's joined the Anglican Church in North America. In 2012, its rector Steve Wood was ordained the bishop of the Diocese of the Carolinas of ACNA.

On today, the schismatic DSC opens its fourth annual convention. What is the state of this group now? Much of it lies hidden. The budget for 2016 has been released but was hidden in the documents on the DSC website. The budget for 2016 shows little change ( ). The resolutions to be presented for vote tomorrow have not been released publicly. Indeed, the convention is closed to outsiders. Steve Skardon and I will not be able to make our reports from the DSC convention this year as we did last year. DSC operates largely in secret. We have been banned from attending the meeting.

What we can know shows a troubled church. DSC is an independent entity, really its own individual church of around 15,000 members. It refuses to join any larger group. It steadfastly rejects membership in the Anglican Church in North America, the intended replacement for the Episcopal Church. DSC is not in the Anglican Communion and almost certainly will never be in the Anglican Communion. The recent primates' gathering in Canterbury in January made it very clear that there will be no change to the existing 38 province arrangement of the Communion. ACNA cannot get admittance to the AC. This also leaves the independent Diocese of South Carolina in limbo indefinitely. It is in nowhere going nowhere. And, it is bleeding members and income all the time. Moreover, its has faced millions in lawyers' fees while now looking at the real possibility that it is about to lose all in the South Carolina Supreme Court. Its future is grim and growing ever more so all the time.

The schism of 2012 seemed like a good idea to a lot of people at the time. In hindsight it was a disaster all around. It has accomplished nothing positive. It has brought division, loss, hardship, and pain to all parties. The DSC's persistent stand against equal rights for homosexuals is making it an irrelevant relic of the past increasingly ignored by younger generations. The schism was a scandal and a blight on the history of South Carolina.

NOTE:     Last year, I was able to use the section in the annual Parochial Report called "Plate and Pledge." It gave the figures for the local DSC parishes and missions showing how much people contributed to the churches. The data for 2011-13 for the DSC churches showed significant declines in two-thirds of the local churches.

However, DSC has deleted the "Plate and Pledge" reporting this year. Thus, one cannot know how much money people contributed to the DSC churches in the year 2014. We can only speculate on why the diocesan leadership would withhold the figures on giving for the year 2014. 

MUST READ:  Steve Skardon's analysis of the state of DSC, post of March 11, at .