Tuesday, November 29, 2016

 
 
 
LET'S HEAR IT
FOR THE SUPPLY PRIESTS
 
 
 
You must read the wonderful essay by Dan Ennis "How Supply Priests Helped Save the Episcopal Church in South Carolina." Mr. Ennis was senior warden at St. Anne's of Conway. Find it here . It was published in The Magazine of Episcopal CafĂ© on 27 November. There were many heroes who helped save the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, but we often overlook the supply priests. We should not; and no one could tell us why better than Mr. Ennis. Besides, my new son-in-law is one of them, I am proud to say: the Rev. Phil Emanuel who is serving the intrepid faithful in Cheraw.

So, let's all show our gratitude for the clergy who stepped in to minister to those who kept the faith even at cost. From one end of the diocese to the other, the secessionist rebels seized the local church properties even though under Church law they were held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal diocese. Loyal Episcopalians were forced out of their homes through no fault of their own. They were innocent victims, but they refused to be vanquished. The schism has been a hard time but from it has come a bounty of grace, in part thanks to the selfless generosity and service of the indispensable supply priests, the "break-the-glass-and-pull-the-lever" clergy.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

 
 
 
THE "ANGLICAN CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA"
IS NOT A PROVINCE
OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION
 
 
 
In order to whip up support for joining the Anglican Church in North America, the leaders of the Diocese of South Carolina are misrepresenting the ACNA as an "Anglican" "province," meaning it is a province in the Anglican Communion. It is "Anglican" in name only. ACNA is not now, has never been, and will not be a province of the Anglican Communion. It is a separate denomination, certainly with friendly ties to the anti-homosexual-rights organizations of Anglican primates called GAFCON and Global South. The good and faithful communicants of the DSC need to understand the truth about the status of the ACNA before they vote.
 
ACNA was created in 2009 in an alliance of the four schismatic dioceses: Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, Ft. Worth, and Quincy and GAFCON. Its aim was to become the replacement for TEC as the legitimate province of the Anglican Communion in the U.S. Many of the GAFCON primates had broken off communion with the Episcopal Church in the wake of TEC's confirmation of the first openly gay bishop in 2003. GAFCON was created in 2008 in a conference in Jerusalem, attended by Bp Lawrence, that drew up a declaration (the "Jerusalem Declaration") denouncing rights of homosexuals and rejecting the authority of the Anglican provinces, i.e. TEC and Canada, that accepted such rights. ACNA styled itself a "province." In fact, it was not, and is not, a province of anything. It is an independent entity. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is clearly on record saying that the ACNA is a separate church not in the Anglican Communion.
 
Before this year, there was talk in the Anglican Communion of making ACNA the 39th province. Under pressure, the Archbishop of Canterbury invited ACNA's archbishop, Foley Beach to the primates' gathering in Canterbury last January as an observer. He was not considered a primate and was not given a vote as a primate. He was invited only to appease GAFCON. In the meeting the issue of admitting ACNA to the Anglican Communion came up. The GAFCON/Global South primates abandoned ACNA on the spot. The primates issued a statement saying that if ACNA should want to join the Anglican Communion it would lave to apply to the Anglican Consultative Council. They added a discouragement to ACC against admitting ACNA. Since then the GAFCON/Global South block has had two opportunities to press the issue and abandoned both. In the ACC meeting in April, no one mentioned ACNA joining the Communion. In the Global South meeting in October, ditto, even though Beach is a member of the GS "Steering Committee" as he is also a member of GAFCON's primates' council.

It is clear that in its retreat from schism in the Anglican Communion, the anti-homosexual rights coalition, led by the equatorial African primates, has abandoned the idea of ACNA being a province of the Anglican Communion. This means they have also abandoned their aim of having ACNA replace TEC in the Communion. The people of South Carolina need to understand this before they attach themselves to this entity.
 
As I have pointed out in earlier posts, there is plenty of downside to joining ACNA, primarily from its authoritarian structure that gives great power to the bishops and virtually none to the laity. The most obvious problem will be in getting the diocese's choices of bishops confirmed. DSC's bishops in the future will be determined by the bishops of ACNA who have to give 2/3 vote for confirmation of an election for bishop. This is a steep obstacle. Ironically, Lawrence would not be a bishop today if this were the rule in the Episcopal Church. ACNA is a fraud in that it pretends to be localized but in fact is a system far more authoritarian than the one DSC left in 2012.
 
The DSC leaders have a regrettable habit of spreading misinformation about the diocese's relationships with other bodies. Before the schism of 2012 they spent years promoting untruths, half-truths, exaggerations, and opinions advanced as facts in their concerted campaign to herd the good communicants out of their ancestral church. It worked for the majority. Now they are trying it in an effort to get DSC into ACNA.

Something has gone wrong in the diocesan leaders' plan to move DSC into ACNA. Last spring they announced there would probably be a diocesan convention in the autumn of this year for the first of the two necessary votes to join ACNA. The clergy met in September to discuss joining. Autumn is nearly over and there has been no mention of a convention. We do know that Bp Lawrence is out in the parishes talking up the idea. He will be in Old Saint Andrew's this Sunday to discuss the topic. He has made joining ACNA his cause. Why the delay? My guess is that the leaders are not yet sure they can get a strong vote in favor and need more time to propagandize the idea before calling for a vote.  
 
The communicants of DSC need to understand, before they go along with another bad choice, that the ACNA is not in any way a province of the Anglican Communion in spite of what their leaders are telling them. Joining ACNA will simply be moving into another denomination and one this is not now and will not be in the Anglican Communion. The only way DSC will ever be in a province of the Anglican Communion is to return to the Episcopal Church. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016



 
 
THE DARKNESS BEGINS
 
 
 

The United States started down its path to darkness two weeks ago in the election of Donald Trump as president. The night is overtaking us quickly. Videos are showing white supremacists shouting "Hail Trump" in a not-so-subtle reminder of another great nation that brought catastrophe upon itself by willingly marching into the abyss of totalitarianism. Those Americans who dismissed Trump as a foolish clown, a rude and crude buffoon, an inept politician who could not harm the country should think again. Just look at what has happened in the two weeks since the election. Trump is no joke.
 
Authoritarian strong-men typically carry out several sweeping changes to solidify their power. Trump is showing signs of these. One is to surround himself with loyalists and put them in secondary positions of power. This is happening in the appointments Trump has already announced. Naming Jeff Sessions as Attorney General should send chills down any thinking person's spine. He was rejected for a federal judgeship in the Regan era because of reported racist remarks. The people of Alabama then rewarded him with election to the U.S. Senate. He has been in the forefront of the move to clamp down on immigration and was an early supporter of Trump on this issue.
 
As a political power, Trump has no opposition. The Republican party has completely caved. Its leaders, even some who had spoken out in moral indignation against candidate Trump are now groveling before him. Nothing spoke louder of this dynamic that the sad imagine of Mitt Romney arriving before a magisterial Trump standing at the front door of his palatial New Jersey golf club. It reminded me of Louis XIV standing at the top of the long and ornate staircase at Versailles receiving his foreign representatives who had to climb up to him. The symbolism was too obvious, then and now. Romney kowtowed to the strongman he not so long ago called a phony, a fraud, and a con man. It is remarkable what a dangling of the Secretary of State job can do to even the most principled of men. As for the Democrats, they are holding on to only one shred of power, the 60 vote requirement to cut off debate in the Senate. Otherwise, they had been reduced to impotence. Bottom line, the strongman has virtually no opposition to whatever power he wishes to wield.
 
A second move a dictator uses in solidifying power is to abolish other political parties and imprison his opponents. Trump does not need to worry about a Democratic Party opposition. It is almost non-existent. However, it is not out of the realm of possibility that he will imprison his opponent. With ultra-conservative Sessions as Attorney General there is a real possibility that the FBI will reopen the investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails and indict her. This could mean a trial which could mean conviction and punishment. It is not unthinkable given the vindictiveness Trump displayed in the campaign.
 
A third move a dictator uses is to abolish the free press. On Monday, a downright terrifying event occurred along this very line. Trump summoned 25 TV news network executives and reporters to his Manhattan Versailles (Trump Tower) and informed them in no uncertain terms what he expected of the press. Moreover, it was all ordered off-the-record. See a report of this confrontation here . It was reported that he unloaded on his most outspoken critics, CNN and NBC. My canary-in-the-coal-mine is CNN's Wolf Blitzer, one of the attendants. The moment the Wolf capitulates is the moment we know the Bill of Rights is dead. 
 
All signs indicate this will be a strong counter-revolution that will last for a long time. In fact, roll backs are already happening weeks before Trump takes office. The House of Representatives just defeated a bill that would have required federal contractors not to discriminate against LGBT persons. Now the contractors are free to discriminate at will. This is just the tiny tip of a big iceberg. There is much more to come, some of which we cannot even imagine today. There are horror stories of rolling back voting rights, abolishing Medicaid, and privatizing Medicare and Social Security, not to mention "registries" for Muslims, and mass deportations of immigrants. A powerful and massive internal police to carry out these policies may be on the horizon.
 
What could all of this mean for the schism in South Carolina and for the Episcopal Church? It is impossible to know the effect on the Church which has been in the forefront of human rights for the last sixty years. The Church's great democratic crusade culminated last year in the adoption of same-sex marriage. It is unimaginable that the Episcopal Church would bend to any pressure to scale back its commitment to the equal rights of all people. However, the conservatives in power will likely soon restore a Scalia-type majority to the Supreme Court that may well take a dim view of the Church's social reforms. Eventually, a state decision on the issue of the Church/diocesan relationship will probably be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It could either refuse to take the appeal or it could take the appeal and rule against the Church as backlash against its social policies. At this point, much is uncertain.
 
What is certain is that basic American democratic-republican values are on the line both in the structure of the government and in the relationship of the government and social groups. A strongman is in the process of consolidating power. He was elected after he ran a campaign of bigotry, fear and division. The early signs of the new administration are frightening. Those of us who are committed to the defense of historic American principles had better renew our vigilance and prepare to fight in the trenches. Wolf Blitzer where are you?

See also the thoughtful essay by House of Deputies President Gay Jennings here .        

Thursday, November 17, 2016



JUDGE DIANE GOODSTEIN
FOR THE SC SUPREME COURT?
 

I am beginning to wonder if we have gone down the rabbit hole into Wonderland where in is out, up is down, left is right, night is day. Last week, the electorate chose the least qualified person ever to be nominated by a major party for the U.S. presidency, the only one never to have been elected to office, hold public office, or serve in the military. Moreover, we chose him over arguably the best qualified person ever to run for the presidency.
 
Now comes the news that Judge Diane Goodstein is one of the three finalists to be one of the five justices of the South Carolina Supreme Court. See Steve Skardon's comments and the Post and Courier article at www.scepiscopalians.com .
 
We will all remember her as the circuit court judge presiding over the Church trial in July of 2014 who rendered an astonishing decision. It was appealed to the SC Supreme Court which held a hearing on it in September of 2015.
 
Goodstein has been in the running before for a seat on the state's high court, once in 2007. She has been in the public eye several times over the years since she was elected by the state legislature to be a circuit court judge in 1998. In 2008 questions were raised about her possible collusion with the Catholic Church to settle child abuse cases. Gregg Meyers, a lawyer for some of the clients, said "'Apparently all counsel were colluding to move settled cases to Dorchester County to get the cases to Judge Goodstein.'" A newspaper article said Meyers was "'accusing the church of delaying payment of $1.375 million and colluding with class counsel and Diane Goodstein, the circuit court judge in Dorchester County who presided over the class-action case.'" [Adam Parker, "Charges Fly in Suit over Catholic Diocese Settlement," Charleston Post and Courier, June 25, 2008, http://www.postandcourier.com/news/charges-fly-in-suit-over-catholic-diocese-settlement/article_61076476-5e27-5d1e-bb93-a7b0adc3271a.html ].

Another matter concerned property. ["Judge, Husband Settle Bankruptcy Dispute," Summerville Patch, March 15, 2013, http://patch.com/south-carolina/summerville/judge-husband-settle-bankruptcy-dispute ]. Goodstein and her husband agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit that they had improperly transferred real estate holdings involved in bankruptcy proceedings. Her husband, Arnold Goodstein, had built a large construction business but declared bankruptcy following the housing crash of 2007-08. Diane Goodstein did not admit guilt in the matter of the questionable transfer of property to her and disputed the claim of impropriety, yet she agreed to the half-million-dollar payment. [see also Charleston Post and Courier, Katy Stech, "Goodstein Details Downfall," July 24, 2010, www.postandcourier.com/article/20100724/PC05/307249990 ]. 

When it came time for Alan Runyan, the lead lawyer for the independent Diocese of South Carolina to bring lawsuit against the Episcopal Church, basically to claim ownership of the properties in question, he chose the circuit court in Dorchester County which had only two judges. He could have chosen the more appropriate major circuit court in Charleston, or another of the eight circuit courts in the boundaries of the Diocese. At the least, Runyan would have known much about Goodstein since one of the four lawyers in his firm in Beaufort, Andrew Platte, had been a clerk to Goodstein. [ http://www.speightsrunyan.com/attorneys/andrew-platte/ ]. It was no accident that Runyan chose Goodstein's court as the one to enter his lawsuit against the Church on January 4, 2013. As time would tell, he was not to be disappointed.

Anyone considering Goodstein for the state supreme court would do well to review her conduct of the Church trial in July of 2014 and her decision of February 2015, or at least go over the state supreme court's remarks about them. Not one of the five justices had a good word for her conduct of the trial or her decision. In fact, quite the opposite. They went to lengths to criticize the one-sidedness of the trial and lack of substantial rationale in her order. If one reviews the trial transcript, this is readily apparent. For instance, when the main witnesses for the Church side took the stand, each could hardly get out a sentence without being interrupted, often by the judge. As an example there was Martin McWilliams an esteemed law professor at USC. On the stand and under the Church lawyer's questioning, diocesan lawyer Henrietta Golding interrupted him 62 times and made 19 objections, all of which Goodstein sustained. Runyan broke in 24 times making 6 formal objections. Goodstein sustained 5 of them. Judge Goodstein herself interrupted McWilliams 141 times. This turned out to be mild compared to what happened to the greatest historian in the state, Walter Edgar, when he took the stand. Goodstein's written decision was apparently very close to what Runyan wanted. It sounded to me as if he had written it himself. If so, it was too clever by half. It was so over the top, the supreme court justices apparently discarded it right away. It is almost certain that they dismissed it and are in the process of writing a new decision(s). My guess is that this is the holdup. I think if they were going to remand to Goodstein, they would have done so by now.

I am not saying Goodstein should not be on the South Carolina Supreme Court. I am saying that those legislators voting should consider the known records of all three candidates involved and weight all the evidence for each of them. Goodstein has a public record as a circuit court judge. At age 65, with not many years before mandatory retirement, she deserves full consideration. As for probably her highest-profile case in recent years, my guess is that even Judge Goodstein would agree that the Episcopal Church-diocesan trial was not her finest hour. In fairness to her, I think the scope, depth, and complexity of the issues raised in this particular case in South Carolina were probably beyond any single judge, at least on the lowly state circuit court level. (The four earlier cases of diocesan secession were simpler.) That is why I think the Episcopal Church-diocese issues will eventually have to be resolved by the collective wisdom of the highest court in the land.


To change gears, I have been spending a lot of time in my garden lately. I need it. I am sharing a couple of pictures to remind myself and others that the Wonderland we are really in is God's magnificent creation. It is all around us and in ways most gloriously at this time of the year. The star of my garden right now is the simple maple tree. Nothing can compete with its magnificence, especially in early morning and late afternoon when the sun illuminates its wonderful brilliance. These pictures are from this morning. (BTW I am praying for rain. We are in an exception drought. No measurable rain in 109 days and none in sight.)



  

      



Sunday, November 13, 2016

 
 
"IT IS TIME TO COME HOME"
 
 
 
Following the political disaster of last week, I am desperate for some good news; and here it is. Another priest of the pre-schism diocese who abandoned the Episcopal Church to follow Mark Lawrence has returned to the Episcopal Church. On November 11, the Rev. Matt McCormick reaffirmed his ordination vows and rejoined the Episcopal Church becoming part of the Episcopal Church diocese of South Carolina. Read about it here . McCormick said, '"I love the Episcopal Church, I am a cradle Episcopalian who has been nurtured by this church, and my orders to call as a priest were issued in the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church has always been my home, and now it is time to come home."'
 
In 2013, Bishop vonRosenberg released and removed 104 priests and deacons of the pre-schism diocese who had abandoned the Episcopal Church to follow former bishop Mark Lawrence in the schism of October 2012. Three have now returned to the mother Church: H. Dagnall Free, Jr., Jeff Wallace, and now McCormick.
 
The schismatic Diocese of South Carolina continues its troubles and decline. It has lost members every year since the schism of 2012. It has failed to find meaning and identity. Apparently, there is trouble about joining the Anglican Church in North America. Last March the diocesan committee on affiliation, hand-picked by Lawrence, recommended the diocese join the ACNA. They predicted a diocesan convention would be called in the Fall of 2016 to pass the first vote. Since then, we have heard nothing of a convention. Apparently, there is unexpected opposition in the breakaway group about joining ACNA. If it were a sure thing, DSC would have called a convention by now. Two conventions will have to vote approval before it can join ACNA. After four years, the schismatic diocese is still a rudderless ship lost at sea led by a crew equally lost. It is not in the Anglican Communion and will not be even if it joins ACNA. The idea of making ACNA a province of the Anglican Communion has been abandoned by GAFCON. ACNA will never be a province of the Anglican Communion.
 
So, I say to the DSC, as the Rev. McCornick said, It is time to come home. You have no other home but the Episcopal Church and if you have not realized this by now, you will in time.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

 
 
DESCENT INTO DARKNESS
 
 
 
 
To quote Sir Winston Churchill about Nazi Germany, We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude. The United States of America has reached a new low; and we did it to ourselves. We have no one else to blame. We have betrayed our democratic-republican values. We have entrusted our precious government to an egomaniacal and valueless strong-man who now has no check, let alone bounds. He won by dividing people against each other and bringing out their worst instincts. He has no understanding of American history or democratic values. If he carries out his campaign promises he will discard the Constitution of the United States. After 240 years, we have met the enemy and he is us.
 
How did we get here? That will be a question thrown around for years to come. I offer my take:
 
Yesterday's election was the revenge of the Angry White Man. Trump channeled the AWM brilliantly. The AWM got back at everyone and everything he blames for his troubles: foreigners, women, blacks, corporations, the media, the Washington government, and the traditional political parties. The AWM now expects Trump to restore the world as it was in the 1950's when there were plenty of good paying factory jobs and blacks, women, Hispanics, and homosexuals knew their "place" and stayed there. This is in fact an illusion but the AWM does not know this. He will learn it when the dictator he has put in power fails to produce this return to the AWM Eden. Reality will eventually set in, but God only knows what will happen between now and then. I was wrong about my pre-election predictions about the AWM. He was angrier and more numerous than I had imagined.
 
To put this in the bigger picture of history, the AWM is a large part of a counter-revolution going on in the late Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries. The revolution occurred in the Twentieth Century when the democratic-republican system won WWI and discarded monarchism, pulled the world out of the Great Depression, crushed Fascism-Nazism-Militarism in WWII, and witnessed the disintegration of Soviet Communism in the 1980's. In the second half of the Twentieth Century, this democratic revolution carried out a vast reform movement in America to bring liberty, equality, and justice to social groups long marginalized and maligned: African Americans, women, the disabled, the impoverished, the elderly, Hispanics, homosexuals. The great democratic revolution of the Twentieth Century was one of the most dramatic transformative events of world history. However, every great revolution of history has an inevitable backlash, a counter-revolution led by people who felt threatened and displaced by the revolution. In America, that counter-revolution came from the AWM. Donald Trump simply tapped into this and did so spectacularly.
 
America has decided to move to an authoritarian government. The question now is how far this anti-democratic counter-revolution will go before it too runs its course and is overcome by the overall tide of history. Trump will have no limit on his power. He has a one-party government in a Congress that is completely controlled by a cowed Republican Party. The Democratic Party has been shut out of power. There will be no limit on what the dictator can do. If he follows his campaign promises, he will deport millions of people, throw his opponent in prison, and shut down the free press. The Bill of Rights will be assigned to the rubbish pile. An economic depression will devolve.
 
There is no way to sugar-coat this disaster. This is the darkest day in American history in my lifetime. However, we should not get carried away by the numbing shock of it all. This is a disaster but not a catastrophe, at least not yet. We Americans have survived a great deal in 240 years. We can weather this too if we wish. We survived the Civil War. 
 
We are now moving into a great unknown. The people have made a decision to hand over power to an unpredictable and loose cannon. God only knows where we go from here. Even though my faith in the wisdom of the common man and woman has been shaken, it has not been destroyed. We as a nation are better than this. In time, I believe we will listen to the better angels of our nature and right the wrong we have done. The disturbing thing now is that we do not know the terrible events that will occur between now and then. 
 
I have faith that democratic republicanism will survive. The values and principles on which this country was founded and has thrived for these two centuries are too deeply embedded in our national psyche to be discarded now. The great democratic revolution of modern history will go on. History is progress, but not one in a straight line. It moves in fits and starts. This is a setback but not an end.

What does Trump's election mean for the schism in South Carolina? Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate will get to make a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court. There is already one vacancy to fill that will break the present 4-4 conservative-liberal split on the Court; and there will probably be several other vacancies in the next few years. A solid conservative majority on the Supreme Court could mean that the Court will reject the claims of the Episcopal Church over the dioceses. It may well be that the long delay in a written decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court comes from the fact that the justices know their decision is likely to be appealed to SCOTUS and their arguments will be scrutinized carefully by the high court. Thus, Trump's victory could very possibly mean the defeat of the Episcopal Church before the U.S. Supreme Court and the ultimate failure of its legal claims of sovereignty over the dioceses. 

Sometimes one pays a heavy price for doing the morally and ethically right thing. Our nation will now pay a price for righting the wrongs of our society just as the Episcopal Church is paying a price by losing five dioceses. But would we have wanted it otherwise? Would we have wanted to do the wrong thing just to keep short-term peace and unity? I think not. In the end, the right will prevail because it is right. That is the most fundamental of all values of American democracy and Christianity. This is just as true now as it was yesterday.