Wednesday, June 15, 2016


The aftermath of the Orlando Massacre of June 12 tells us a lot about the schism in South Carolina. How so?

In the past half-century, the Episcopal Church was on the cutting edge in America for civil rights for racial minorities, for equality of women, and for full rights for homosexual persons. The old Diocese of South Carolina had to respond to this. On the first issue, civil rights, Bishop Temple finally succeeded in establishing equality for blacks in the diocese, a century after the Civil War. On the second, Bishops Allison and Salmon slowly and unenthusiastically allowed a few women to be ordained. Bp Lawrence, who came from a diocese that had never ordained a woman to the priesthood, ordained 2 women to the diaconate before the schism. Before the schism women were never given a majority on any important diocesan body, never placed at the head of any body, and invariably made the secretaries of whatever groups they were in. The few women clergy allowed in, were never allowed to serve as rectors of any large or medium sized churches. On the third issue, homosexuality, well, we all know that story. When the  2012 General Convention approved of a liturgy for the blessing of same sex unions and of transgendered clergy rights, Bp Lawrence stalked out of the House of Bishops, went home and, vloilĂ , the DSC broke away from TEC on October 15, 2012.

It should have come as a surprise to no one then that at the schism, the majority of blacks, women clergy, and homosexuals of the old diocese remained with the Episcopal Church although Bp Lawrence seemed puzzled by this in his speech to the secessionist convention of Nov. 17, 2012.

So, how have the three issues impacted on the two dioceses since the schism of 2012? On race, in the Episcopal Church diocese (ECSC) blacks have served as the heads of important diocesan bodies. Bp vonRosenberg was planning to develop a diocesan-wide anti-racism program based on the DeWolf family experience when the Emanuel Massacre of June 17, 2015, occurred. After the murders, ECSC contributed generously to public programs promoting equality for blacks. The diocese also carried out its extensive plan of anti-racism training using the DeWolf narrative. On the other side, the independent diocese (DSC) has yet to move blacks into any positions of leadership in diocesan bodies. After the Emanuel Massacre, DSC called for prayers (more payers for June 16 at the Cathedral). I have scoured the DSC newsletters and newspaper and have found no other response beyond prayers from DSC. Apparently DSC has done nothing to go beyond praying. This is indicative of DSC's strictly vertical orientation of religion. It appears that racism was not and is not important to the leaders of DSC, or at least not important enough to actually do something about it. Ironically, however, they have paraded through the diocese a constant stream of African bishops, all of whom seem to have one bond with DSC, opposition to rights for homosexuals.

Concerning women, ECSC committed itself to full equality for women across the diocese. For the first time in the long history of the old diocese, a woman has been placed as "second in command," the archdeacon, the Ven. Calhoun Walpole. Over at DSC, women continued to endure second-class status. The first resolution the DSC passed after the schism was to oppose the right of women to control their own bodies. They are still the secretaries, never the chairs. Lawrence did consent to ordain one woman to the priesthood (she was terminally ill). He has ordained 2 more women to the "vocational diaconate." Apparently, there is not a single female postulant for Holy Orders in DSC. At DSC, it's a man's world. Or, perhaps one should say a world of "discriminate exclusivity."

As for equal rights for homosexuals, ECSC has quite the brilliant record particularly in the approval and establishment of the blessing of same-sex unions and of same-sex marriage. After the Orlando Massacre, Bp vonR condemned the crimes (see here ) and clergy and laity rallied to public events of solidarity. On the DSC side, the leaders have continued to fight against equality for all people. Since Sunday's mass murder in an Orlando gay nightclub, there has been a deafening silence from DSC, not a word of sorrow, not a hint of concern. This is sad but not surprising. After all, it was just last year that DSC passed 3 resolutions opposing equality for homosexuals.

Human rights are also Christian rights. We are here to uphold and promote the dignity and equality of all of the children of God. The Episcopal Church has championed freedom, justice, and equality for a long time now. ECSC has admirably carried out this mission. No one should wonder now at the difference between the two dioceses. No one should wonder too that ECSC is alive with spirit and growth while DSC is searching and struggling, even losing a quarter of its communicants in its first two years.