Saturday, July 9, 2016


On July 6, 2016, the independent Diocese held a memorial service for the late bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, Edward Salmon. A report and pictures are available here . The "sermon" in the half filled cathedral was given by the Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon. His forty-minute presentation is available on audio at the above mentioned site. Having listened to his words, I can say that Harmon's perception of the life and work of Bishop Salmon did not square with what I found in my historical research of the schism in South Carolina. 

Harmon's talk dwelled much on himself, albeit tied in with Bishop Salmon (one learns more about Harmon than Salmon). To hear Harmon tell it, Salmon was a great supporter of his. He made some other curious implications too that are not appropriate to discuss here such as the assertion that he (Harmon) and Salmon turned around a troubled St. Paul's of Summerville. In my historical research, I found the relationship between Salmon and Harmon was actually quite complicated.

What offended me the most was not Harmon's self-absorption or his particular interpretation of history, it was his repeated implication that Bishop Salmon supported and still would support the schismatic "diocese" of South Carolina. It seemed to me that he tried to use Salmon to affirm and promote what the schism had done, what is was doing, and what it planned to do in the future. On the subject of "affiliation" (DSC is about to affiliate with the Anglican Church in North America), Harmon said, "If Ed were here." he would tell the independent diocese to "make the right decision," "stay connected," "make sure everyone is on board," and stay "in love with one another as we go forward." On hearing this, I was aghast.

Harmon did not give one example of Salmon's approval of or support for the schism of 2012 or of what the schismatic diocese did afterwards. This was because Salmon never, ever said a word in public of approval or support for the Diocese of South Carolina to break away from the Episcopal Church. Salmon had plenty of opportunities to give aid to the Lawrence diocese. He never did. To say that he would now tell the schismatics to "go forward" is in my view wrong-headed and malicious to the memory of Bishop Salmon.

Bishop Salmon was a lifelong Episcopalian and die-hard loyalist of the Episcopal Church. He was a great critic of the Church, particularly on homosexuality, but he never, ever advocated schism from the Episcopal Church. In fact, he fought against it all he could. He was pained and hurt by much of what he witnessed in the Episcopal Church in his late years, but he never entertained the idea of ever leaving the Episcopal Church.

Although Harmon  said the words "church" and "churchman" often he did not once utter the word "Episcopal." He did use the word "Anglican" once trying to paint the schismatic diocese as somehow Anglican although it is not part of the Anglican Communion.

The most galling stretch of Harmon's self-serving imagination came at the end of his talk. Referring to Mark Lawrence's imagery in the recent diocesan convention of putting the ship of the diocese "into the wind" of discernment, Harmon dared to speak for Salmon. Harmon said Salmon would say something like: "Are you putting her into the wind high enough?" I think Salmon would have been appalled at this and any other suggestion of his support for schism.

Harmon also had the nerve at least to imply that Salmon would approve of the schismatic diocese's global reach. He said Salmon would say it was "good" that the diocese is thinking globally. In fact, Salmon had plenty of opportunity to say this and the other things, but he never did. Again, there is not one public record of Salmon ever supporting what the schismatics did in South Carolina.

It seemed to me that Harmon tried to use the memory of Bishop Salmon to justify what Harmon and the other diocesan leaders of the old Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina did after Salmon left in 2008. As bishop, Salmon spent eighteen years fighting to promote his conservative understanding of Christianity in the Episcopal Church that he loved. The people who followed him in power in the Diocese of South Carolina did not share Salmon's love of the Episcopal Church. As soon as he was gone, they began moving to lead the diocese out of the Episcopal Church as soon as they conveniently could.

In his Memorial "Sermon," Harmon apparently tried to use the memory of Bishop Salmon to defend what the schismatics had done in Salmon's old diocese. In my opinion and my judgment as a student of the history of the schism, to say the least, any attempt to use the life and witness of Bishop Edward Salmon to validate schism against the Episcopal Church would be a serious misuse of history and a discredit to the honored memory of the thirteenth bishop of the Episcopal Church Diocese of South Carolina.

I have already posted on this blog two entries on Bishop Salmon. Readers may refer to them for more of my historical reflections on Bishop Salmon and his episcopate.

The schism in South Carolina is an ongoing disaster. The schismatic leaders succeeded in taking roughly two-thirds of the old diocese out of the Episcopal Church in October of 2012. It has been downhill for them ever since. They lost 25% of their membership in the first two years. They saddled their misled communicants with two sets of huge legal bills, one for the diocese and one for the individual parishes. By their own reports they spent two million dollars on lawyers right away. Meanwhile, the leaders could give their communicants neither meaning nor identity. At nearly four years out now, the schismatic diocese is still a rudderless ship lost at sea. Anyone who listened to the state supreme court hearing last September knows the renegade "diocese" is probably going to be on the losing end of the pending court decision. At this moment, any attempt to cloak this disaster in the mantel of the honored memory of the larger-than-life bishop who came before them and abhorred the very idea of schism not only smacks of desperation, but also sad delusion.