Monday, March 14, 2016

 OF 12 MARCH 2016

As we all know, outsiders were barred from attending the DSC convention last week. Only members of DSC churches were allowed into the secretive business meeting. That means I have no first-hand report to offer. However, the DSC office today posted several reports about the convention. Here are my thoughts about what is on the lines and between the lines of these Polyanna-esque reports.

The big news of the day concerns affiliation. DSC claimed to make a "disaffiliation" from the Episcopal Church in October of 2012. In the three and a half-years since it has not adhered to any larger body instead making the fantastical claim to being a non-provincial diocese of the Anglican Communion. Absurd. On leaving the Episcopal Church, it also left the Anglican Communion. When Mark Lawrence abandoned the Episcopal Church in 2012 he left behind the Holy Orders that made him a bishop in the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the official structure of the Anglican Communion do not recognize Lawrence as a bishop of the Anglican Communion or the independent DSC as part of the Anglican Communion.

So, what should DSC do about affiliation? It seems to me, and this is only my observation, that after the schism two competing tracks of affiliation appeared in DSC: 1-go it alone, and 2-join the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

For three and a half years the promoters of Track # 1 prevailed. This track had actually started to develop much earlier, soon after Lawrence became bishop. In 2009, the diocese set up an Anglican Communion Development Committee. Kendall Harmon was the important figure in this. DSC began developing closer and closer ties with foreign conservative bishops who shared the same view of homosexuality. It even brought in a foreign bishop, Nazir Ali, to be a visiting bishop of DSC. Close ties were built with GAFCON and Global South, the chair of which, Mouneer Anis of Egypt, was a vocal supporter of Lawrence. After the schism, a peculiar arrangement was made between the Global South primates and DSC giving a sort of "oversight" for DSC. This deal was never even described. It was a sham meant to convince DSC communicants they were "in" the Anglican Communion. Perhaps the people in DSC who promoted this go-it-alone track entertained the delusion that DSC by itself was going to restore "orthodox" Anglicanism in North America with the help of conservative, i.e. anti-homosexual, bishops of the Third World. Well, after three and a half years, this track is being abandoned.

In 2014, DSC set up an affiliation task force. The members were hand-picked by Lawrence. They were charged with making a recommendation on affiliation in 2015, but failed to do so. Now, two years on they are recommending that DSC join ACNA. Since Lawrence picked the affiliation committee, it is inconceivable they would be going against his wishes. This says to me that Lawrence wants to join ACNA. If so, he has rejected the side of go-it-alone in favor of joining ACNA. Track #2 has displaced track #1. Since DSC operates in secret, one can only guess at how all this transpired.

The "discernment" on whether to join ACNA is only a formality. Of course DSC will follow the task force's (bishop's) wish. For many years the DSC convention meetings have been rubber-stamping Dumas almost completely devoid of differences of opinion. Today's announcement said a special convention will be called this autumn to pass the first resolution to join; and the second and final vote will come a year from now in the annual diocesan convention. Thus, a year from now DSC will be in ACNA---unless there are strange and unforeseen events coming out of the two cases in litigation now and likely to be settled soon.

Joining ACNA will actually help DSC no more than Track #1 did. ACNA is an independent denomination outside of the Anglican Communion. And judging from the primates' gathering last January it never will be part of the AC. DSC's insistence they are joining a "province" is as far a stretch as their claim of "oversight" from Global South. ACNA is not a province of the AC, never has been, never will be.

Too, there is the problem of diocesan arrangement in the ACNA. In 2012, the ACNA made Steve Wood, the rector of St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant, the bishop of its Diocese of the Carolinas [North and South Carolina]. Wood just happened to be one of the two also-rans when Lawrence won election as bishop in 2006. Is DSC to be absorbed into ACNA's Diocese of the Carolinas? Certainly not. Is ACNA supposed to divide its Diocese of the Carolinas in two? If so, how is Wood, in suburban Charleston supposed to serve as bishop of North Carolina? That does not seen plausible either. Is Wood supposed to resign and let Lawrence be the only bishop? Can anyone see that happening? Then, are the two dioceses supposed to operate in the same territory? Nonsensical too. So, how DSC is to operate as part of ACNA is anyone's guess.

ACNA is a loose gathering of various independent entities, as the old Reformed Episcopal Church, so keeping DSC independent will not be a problem, but ACNA does have an archbishop to whom DSC would be accountable. The Constitution and Canons of ACNA are available online. It is an authoritarian, undemocratic, constitution with a powerful House of Bishops. ACNA also has its own prayer book different from the TEC prayer book which DSC has steadfastly kept.

DSC does have to be cognizant of the fact that Lawrence is 66 years old this month. Choosing his replacement will be arriving in the foreseeable future.

Back to the recent DSC convention. The published reports really tell us nothing else. There was no mention of any business that transpired or of any resolution passed (other than the routine courtesy ones). We will have to wait for DSC to release the other important work of the convention.

Apparently the 800 pounder in the room was ignored---the litigation and how to pay for it. DSC is facing two major pending decisions in court, one in state and one in federal. The SC Supreme Court will probably release its decision within the next three months. The federal will follow. Given the hearing in the state supreme court last September, odds are the court will take a dim view of DSC's claims. If DSC loses in that court, the consequences for DSC could be catastrophic. It stands to lose the legal rights to the diocese and all the diocesan and local properties. Then, all this talk about affiliation will be much ado about nothing and the only sensible thing to do will be to bring the DSC back home to where it really belongs in its ancestral Episcopal Church.