WHY THE DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA SHOULD RETURN
TO THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
The independent Diocese of South Carolina (DSC) is now in "discernment" about affiliation. Most of the leadership and communicants left the Episcopal Church (TEC) in 2012 then announced an unclear oversight scheme with some of the primates of Global South. Now the independent diocese is considering whether to join the Anglican Church in North America. The diocese should not join the ACNA. It should return home to the Episcopal Church. Here are ten reasons why:
1---SCHISMS AND LAWSUITS ARE UNCHRISTIAN.
A schism is a man-made and willful rupture in the Body of Christ. DSC made a schism in 2012 against TEC. Lawsuits of Christians against Christians are scandals and should be avoided according to St. Paul. DSC sued TEC in state court in January of 2013. DSC acted wrongly in both cases. DSC can now make it right.
2---MOST CONSERVATIVE EPISCOPALIANS HAVE REMAINED IN TEC.
DSC was one of 12 ultra-conservative dioceses in TEC. Ultra-conservatives were those who refused to accept the legitimacy of TEC's reforms for the equality of women and homosexuals. About a third of TEC was conservative, that is, in opposition to the reforms but eventually accepting of them. The "ultras" were about a third on the far right of the conservatives. The dozen ultra dioceses formed the Anglican Communion Network in January of 2004 and demanded alternative primatial oversight. Five of the 12 make schisms against TEC (San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy, and South Carolina). The majority of the ultras remained in TEC: Central Florida, Springfield, Dallas, Albany, Northern Indiana, Rio Grande, and Western Kansas. If the majority of like-minded Church people could stay in TEC, the minority could too.
3---THE REASONS GIVEN FOR THE SCHISM OF 2012 WERE NOT VALID.
DSC leaders gave misleading reasons to their followers to justify their decisions to break away from TEC. They said TEC had abandoned orthodox Christianity by denying the uniqueness of Christ and turning against Holy Scriptures. In truth, the General Convention of TEC has never done any such thing and never would. In actuality, the DSC leaders took the remarks of certain leaders of TEC, and took them out of context, as evidence. Classical Anglicanism/Episcopalianism has never been a "confessional" religion with a fixed "orthodox" viewpoint to the exclusion of all others. The assertion of the "ultras" that they were the true Anglicans and the others were in error is itself outside the bounds of Anglicanism. Anglicanism is a broad and tolerant religion balancing differing viewpoints as equally valid.
DSC leaders opposed the blessings of same-sex unions under the sincerely held belief that God assigned gender. No problem. In 2012, TEC gave option to all dioceses and clergy on whether or not to allow the blessings. DSC was always free to ban the blessings within its own diocese if it wished. The leaders gave the false impression that TEC was cramming down the throats of all communicants the acceptance of homosexuality. In fact, it was a delegate from DSC at the 2012 General Convention who got the GC to accept the local option; and this was repeated in 2015 when GC voted to change the canons to allow same-sex marriage and kept the option. Ironically, it was DSC that was responsible for TEC toleration of all views on homosexuality.
Historical facts show that TEC did not initiate the schism by an "attack" Bishop Lawrence or the DSC. By issuing the quit claim deeds, Lawrence ignored the canons of TEC giving the Church no choice but to charge him with abandonment of the communion. Facts also show the DSC leaders conspired to make a schism from TEC at least several weeks beforehand.
The schism of 2012 was premeditated and unjustified.
4---DSC SHOULD NOT JOIN ACNA.
When digging oneself into a hole, the first rule is to stop digging. Joining ACNA would be digging a bigger hole.
Every communicant of DSC should read the Constitution and Canons of ACNA, available on the ACNA website.
ACNA is a top-heavy authoritarian system that will deprive DSC of much of its freedom. Power is controlled by the archbishop and the College of Bishops. The clergy control every part of the ACNA structure. The laity control nothing.
DSC will lose its freedom to choose its own bishop. DSC can elect a bishop, but he must be confirmed by two-thirds of the ACNA bishops. That means only one-third plus one of the bishops can block any choice. This gives the ACNA bishops virtual dictatorial power over the choice of bishops. A case of this just occurred in Pittsburgh where the convention wanted to choose a local candidate (Millard) but was told he would be rejected by the College of Bishops because he was (gasp) divorced. The convention wound up choosing the one the bishops wanted rather than the one the delegates really wanted. This will happen in DSC too.
ACNA C and C also discriminate against women and homosexuals. DSC might not care about the homosexual part, but the women in DSC should care about how they will be treated. ACNA is a male-controlled regime. Women are excluded from authority. Do the women in DSC really want to be treated as second-class citizens in this day and age?
Another problem with ACNA is that it already has a diocese called the Diocese of the Carolinas under Bishop Steve Wood, rector of St. Andrew's in Mt. Pleasant. No one has yet explained how the DSC is to mesh with the ACNA diocese.
5---TO BE IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION, DSC MUST RETURN TO TEC.
TEC is the only province of the Anglican Communion in the United States. When DSC left TEC in 2012 it also left the AC. It remains outside of the AC.
Joining ACNA will not put DSC in the Anglican Communion. ACNA is not in the AC and will never be in the AC. ACNA was created in 2009 by an alliance of anti-homosexual-rights African prelates and anti-homosexual former and present Episcopal bishops in the U.S. GAFCON "recognized" ACNA. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the AC have never recognized the ACNA. In last January's primates' gathering in Canterbury, the GAFCON/Global South primates (the majority of the 38 primates) abandoned the ACNA on the spot. They refused to press for ACNA to be admitted to the AC. In fact, the primates adopted a communiqué stating that should ACNA desire admittance to AC it would have to apply to the Anglican Consultative Council and also stating that ACC should not admit ACNA if they applied. In street parlance, GAFCON threw ACNA under the bus. This abandonment continued in the ACC meeting in Lusaka last month. Only 3 of the 38 provinces boycotted the meeting which treated the American delegates as stars. GAFCON made no mention of the ACNA in that meeting. This virtually guarantees that ACNA will never be in the AC.
ACNA's original goal was to become the replacement church to take the place of TEC in the AC. It is all but certain now that this will never happen. Even most of the conservative prelates who set up ACNA have abandoned it.
6---REUNIFICATION WILL END LITIGATION.
Only God knows how much money has been spent on legal expenses. And, just think of all the good that fortune in money could have done. Everyone knows the litigation has been very expensive. Millions have been spent. For what?
The South Carolina Supreme Court will render a written decision in the foreseeable future. That is not likely to be the end of litigation. There is the possibility of appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. More millions. The Church side has the insurance program on which to rely but DSC has to pay its own way. It has two sets of lawyers to pay, those for the diocese and those for the 35 individual parishes involved in the lawsuits. Who is paying? That is a good question. DSC keeps its accounts secret. The ordinary DSC communicants-in-the-pews have probably been maxed out on contributions.
Much more than the money is the personal cost of the schism. People have had to leave almost every one of the 70-odd parishes and missions of the old diocese. I cannot tell you the number of e-mails I have received from the sad people who were victims of this needless division. It has been especially hard on the people outside of Charleston who may not have convenient alternatives. The people who made this schism ought to know the harm they have done to so many of the good people of the old diocese for whom they were supposed to be caring. Enough. End the litigation and end the divisions.
7---TEC AND THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN SOUTH CAROLINA WANT RECONCILIATION.
They have even offered a compromise in which TEC would give the local deeds to the parishes for the return of the legal rights of the old diocese. The leaders of DSC refused offhand. It is not TEC and its diocese that have blocked reconciliation.
8---RECONCILIATION WILL BE EASY.
In many ways, DSC has kept itself an Episcopal diocese. This is particularly true in form and substance. For instance, only the TEC prayer book may be used in DSC services even though ACNA has a separate prayer book. Although DSC left the institution of TEC, it could not pull itself away from the religion of TEC.
Bishop Mark Lawrence voluntarily left the Episcopal Church by telephone announcement to the presiding bishop on October 17, 2012, retroactive to Oct. 15. Upon his announcements of abandonment of TEC in the special convention of 17 November the presiding bishop accepted Lawrence's renunciation of Holy Orders in TEC and granted him an official Release and Removal on Dec. 5. She "released" Lawrence from his office. Lawrence was not removed by the House of Bishops. He was not "deposed" by the authorities of TEC. This would make it easier for Lawrence to be reconciled with his old Church. Lawrence must think of his legacy. Does he really want to be remembered in history as the bishop of the schism?
Likewise, when Bishop vonRosenberg dealt with the 103 DSC clergy who had abandoned TEC, he granted them a release and removal rather than deposing them. This will make it easier for them to return to the Holy Orders of TEC.
TEC has the door wide open for the return of the clergy and laity of DSC who left TEC.
9---THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IS THE ANCESTRAL CHURCH OF DSC.
South Carolina was one of the nine founding states that established the Episcopal Church in 1789. SC sent delegates to Philadelphia with the intent that they help draw up the Constitution of the Church and adopt it for SC by signing it. Done. SC has reaffirmed its adoption of the TEC Constitution and Canons numerous times since then.
SC played an important role in the growth and development of TEC in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For instance, it was a key backer of the General Theological Seminary in NYC.
SC has had two schisms, both of which were resolved. After the Civil War started, SC helped set up the Episcopal Church in the Confederate States out of necessity. This ended promptly after the War. Again, in 1887, white racists demanded a whites-only diocese and made a schism to get it. The schism ended when the diocesan leaders agreed to keep the black members apart. This wrong-headed segregation ended in the 1950's and 60's when long-suffering African American communicants were fully integrated into the diocese. Since the diocese has worked through its differences twice before, they can do it again.
The Episcopal Church has been the home of the planter-professional-commercial elite of the Lowcountry forever. Many a generation of the old families have been proud to call themselves Episcopalians. Many churches in SC have graveyards filled with these ancestors who must have turned over in their graves in 2012 when their descendants decided to abandon their ancestral church.
DSC has only one home. It is the Episcopal Church.
10---REUNIFIATION WILL RESTORE THE HEALTH OF THE DIOCESE.
The data published by DSC in its annual journals of the convention show that DSC lost a quarter of its communicants in the first two years after the 2012 schism. That was after 10,000 members fled from DSC in the schism.
Decline has been apparently true in all of the five schismatic diocesan cases. For instance, figures show that in Pittsburgh, the old diocese had about 19,000 members. Now the Church diocese has about 10,000 while the breakaway diocese lists about 8,000, some of whom are actually outside the boundaries of the diocese.
Loss of members also means loss of income. Balancing budgets is a problem. This is magnified by the rising cost of the litigation.
The membership and income figures of DSC show ill health. Reunification would restore good health.
Demographic studies show a dim future for DSC. SC society is moving rapidly to full equality and inclusion for homosexual persons. Long ago, SC as well as the rest of American society accepted the principle of equal rights for women. A religion founded on discrimination against gays and women is doomed to decline, even in conservative South Carolina.
It is time for DSC to reconcile with the Episcopal Church. Schism may have seemed like a good idea to most people at the time, but hindsight shows us something else. It was not a good idea. It was not justifiable. It was not necessary. It has broken a one grand and great prime diocese. It has brought immeasurable harm and hardship to many innocent victims. It has divided friends, neighbors, and parishes. It has led to decline, even of its own body. It has accomplished nothing good.
In a broken and hurting world, it is our job as Christians to bring healing, reconciliation, and peace. The best place for that to begin is in South Carolina.
Let us end with a prayer for reconciliation (taken from the ECSC website):
Gracious and loving God of justice and compassion: We pray for your church caught in a crushing schism in South Carolina. We believe that you favor reconciliation in all situations; and we ask you to be with all parties involved in the case...Give all of us strength and courage to act and pray in ways that can lead toward reconciliation. Help us to be agents of your reconciliation with our friends on both sides of this dispute. We ask all this in the Name of the Holy Reconciler. Jesus your Son. Amen.