Monday, November 20, 2017





MY LETTER TO 
THE POST AND COURIER


The Charleston Post and Courier is biased in favor of the disassociated diocese, at least among the editors. They are quick to publish letters critical of the Episcopal Church and slow to publish those favorable. Thankfully, the paper's reporters are not biased. Adam Parker and Jennifer Hawes have done a stellar job of keeping us abreast of developments in an even-handed manner.

Putting my energies into my blog, I had not intended to write a letter to the editor of the P & C. Then, on November 5, 2017, the editors published an editorial on the front page of the Sunday editorial section entitled " End Church Dispute with Mediation." They said the breakaway diocese should be left with what it had taken from the Episcopal Church in spite of what the state supreme court had ruled. That was the last straw for me. That day, I put up a short blog piece, "Post and Courier Confused." It went viral on Facebook. Numerous people then asked me to write a response to be sent to the P & C. I did. I wrote the following and sent it to the editors. To my knowledge, they have not published any version of it. I am guessing they have no intention of publishing it. So, I will share it with you.


________________________________________________


November 8, 2017

Letter to the Editor, or Op-Ed
THE POST AND COURIER

There is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding floating around about the Episcopal Church schism in South Carolina, and unfortunately, The Post and Courier has played a role in the misconceptions. As the author of the long and detailed A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina, I wish to set the record straight.

On October 15, 2012, the leaders of the Diocese of South Carolina declared the diocese independent of the Episcopal Church. Fifty of the 71 local churches went along and claimed they alone owned the local properties. A minority of the old diocese remained in TEC. DSC sued TEC in state court for: 1-the ownership of the old diocese, and 2-local ownership of the parish properties.

The basic issues at stake are: 1-Does a diocese have the right to withdraw on its own from TEC, and 2-Do the local parishes own their own properties outright? TEC says no to both, DSC says yes.

On August 2, the state supreme court basically sided with TEC. It said TEC is an hierarchical institution and 29 of the 36 parishes in question remain under trust control of TEC and its local diocese. Local property is subject to TEC's Dennis Canon which holds that all parish property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and its local diocese. DSC officially adhered to this Canon from 1987 to 2010. The majority of the justices ruled that once a parish acceded to the Canon, as the 29 did, it was bound by it, as akin to a contract. It could not abrogate the deal unilaterally. In fact, courts all over America have overwhelmingly recognized the right of the church and the diocese over local property.

Freedom of religion is not really the issue here. Anyone is free to practice whatever faith he or she chooses. Anyone can leave any church at will. He is not free, however, to violate the institutional laws he had promised to obey. This is what DSC and the 50 local churches tried to do in 2012. They violated the laws of the Episcopal Church. They had no right to do that.

TEC is not now and has never been a congregational church. A parish exists only in context of the diocese. A diocese exists only in context of the Episcopal Church. Sovereignty rests in the church as a whole, not separately in the local parts, although parishes and dioceses have a good deal of control over local matters.

TEC is a unitary body of 109 dioceses governed by a bicameral legislature called the General Convention. Resolutions and canons of the GC apply to all dioceses equally. A diocese is not free to nullify church laws. A diocese is not free to leave TEC except by action of the GC. A local church is not free to own its own property outright, even if it has a deed. DSC was well aware of this all the while before 2012. In 2012, it tried to change the rules on its own. Now, the court has overruled this. Whether the mediation will reach a mutually agreeable settlement remains to be seen.

The fact is, as the court has shown, St. Philip's and 28 other churches remain under control of the Episcopal Church and its local diocese. There are 13,000 communicants in these 29 churches who, almost certainly, will soon have to choose whether to stay with the buildings and return to TEC, or leave the buildings and form communities outside. It is a hard choice, but a predictable one.

Ronald James Caldwell, Ph.D.
(Author, A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina. Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock, 2017. 546 p.)

Sunday, November 19, 2017





THOUGHTS ON 
THE SCSC'S DENIAL OF REHEARING



On Friday, November 17, 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court denied the independent Diocese of South Carolina's petition for rehearing of the SCSC's August 2, 2017 decision that awarded 29 of 36 parishes in dispute and Camp St. Christopher to the Episcopal Church diocese. Find that decision here . At the same time, the court issued another decision, this one regarding Justice Kaye Hearn and DSC's petition for her recusal. Find that Order here .

The second Order, on recusal, is most interesting. DSC had asked that Hearn be recused, or removed, from participating in the court decision on the petitions for rehearing. In addition, DSC had asked that Hearn's opinion in the August 2 decision be vacated, or removed (that would have left a tie decision, 2-2; a tie would have left in place Goodstein's decision of Feb. 3, 2015). In the second Order of Nov. 17, the five justices unanimously agreed to deny the motion of recusal, and added scathing comments about it boot. What is more, the harsh words against DSC came from the justices who were the best friends of the DSC lawyers. All of the justices agreed that the petition had to be discarded because of timeliness:  "Timeliness is essential to any recusal motion. To be timely, a recusal motion must be made at counsel's first opportunity after discovery of the disqualifying facts." In other words, the justices said it was disingenuous of the DSC lawyers to challenge a justice after more than two years in which they could have and did not. They had five months before the SCSC hearing, and twenty-two months afterwards.

DSC had asked that Hearn recuse herself from the court decision on rehearing. She did. The decision on rehearing was made by the other four justices. Two decided for rehearing, and two against. Lacking a majority, the petition for rehearing was denied. So, it would not have mattered even if Hearn had joined in the decision. The request for rehearing was turned down anyway.

In the Order denying recusal, Justice Kittredge and former Chief Justice Toal took the highly unusual steps of speaking out strongly in defense of Hearn even though these two had voted against her on the issue of rehearing. Kittredge wrote, "Justice Hearn has elected, to her great credit, to recuse herself prospectively and not to participate in the resolution of the rehearing petitions."

Toal, famous for her "controlled aggression," could hardly contain her ire at the DSC lawyers. She declared, "While I make no criticism of the respondents' lawyers for filing the motions to recuse and for vacatur, I am disappointed in the tone of these filings. They are unreasonably harsh criticisms of a highly accomplished judge and a person of great decency and integrity. The respondents' legal points could have been made without such unnecessary language."

Thus, just as I suspected, the DSC attempt at character assassination of Justice Kaye Hearn backfired. It actually made all of the other four justices rush to her defense. An attack on one justice was an attack on all of them. So, the DSC lawyers succeeded in unifying the SCSC, for the only time in this whole business. Every one of the other four justices rushed to Hearn's defense.

Here are some opinions I have about the two SCSC decisions of Nov. 17. These are just my views. I am speaking for no one else:

---This signals the beginning of the end of the legal war between the secessionist diocese and the Episcopal Church. The major decisions have been made. It is only a matter of time before the final arrangements are made.

---The Episcopal Church won a stunning victory, DSC a bitter defeat in the state courts. The state courts were the best hope DSC had of winning the legal war.

---The independent diocese's attempt to leave the Episcopal Church with the diocese intact and with the local properties in hand has failed.

---The Nov. 17 decisions clear the way for the mediation to work if it is going to do so. 

---DSC would be wise to make the best deal it can in the mediation and call an end. The federal case is set to go to trial in the next few months. Federal courts have almost invariably sided with the Episcopal Church. If the federal decision comes down entirely against the secessionists, DSC could possibly lose everything and wind up paying even more.

---The 29 parishes in question and Camp St. Christopher will return to the Church diocese.

---The DSC lawyers can delay a final settlement by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. There is virtually no chance that SCOTUS would take this case of SC law. DSC can, however, buy time by using this delaying tactic.

---The 13,000 communicants in the 29 parishes and the 104 clergy who abandoned the Episcopal Church had better be considering their futures. The future is very near.

---DSC's vicious attack on Hearn may well have been meant not to change the court decision, but to de-legitimize it in the minds of the faithful. 

---The DSC lawyers, otherwise brilliant attorneys, made several fatal mistakes in conducting their legal actions against TEC. Two of their biggest mistakes involved women. One was to try their circuit court case before Judge Diane Goodstein. Here they were too clever by half. The conduct of the trial and Goodstein's decision were so partisan, the supreme court justices openly ridiculed both. Chief Justice Toal lashed DSC lawyer Alan Runyan. She had wanted a nice, neat little decision to reaffirm her signature All Saints decision of 2009. What she got in the Goodstein decision was a stew of competing issues. As it turned out, Toal was the only justice to defend her All Saints decision. Even Justice Donald Beatty, who had signed the decision, abandoned her. 

Perhaps the worst mistake of all that the DSC lawyers made was the vicious post-Aug. 2-decision attack on Justice Hearn. It unified the court against DSC. Who Knows? Perhaps a more judicious and "decent" approach to Hearn would have produced a decision in favor of a rehearing. My guess is the DSC lawyers went for broke in attacking Hearn. I suppose they must have thought they had nothing left to lose. If so, it may indeed have broken them.

The challenges now facing the two sides are entirely different. In order to remain a viable entity, DSC must salvage what it can from this mess. It has 6 parishes. The DSC leaders' big challenge now is to move as many communicants and clergy out of the 29 parishes to form congregations in exile. This is enormously problematical in Charleston with its scarcity of available properties, even in the near suburbs.

The challenge facing the Church diocese is to find ways to make the best reconciliation possible. No doubt there will be communicants staying with the buildings, however unhappily. The diocese must reach out to them and calm their uncertainties. It must also reach out to the undecideds, the people who are not committed to one side or the other. They must be given every reason to remain with the buildings and return to the Church.

Has it occurred to you that the SCSC released its two orders, against DSC, on November 17? Nov. 17, 2017 is exactly five years after the special convention met in St. Philip's Church, in Charleston, and affirmed the schism that the DSC leaders' had made on October 15, 2012. Five years of waste. What did it accomplish other than a lot of division, hard feelings, pain, and expense? Who lost? Both sides. Who won? The lawyers. 





SOUTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT
DENIES REHEARING




On Friday, November 17, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued a decision on the DSC's three petitions for rehearing. It then informed, by mail, the independent Diocese of South Carolina that it had dienied DSC's petitions. DSC received the news yesterday, Nov. 18 and posted this on their website. Find the ruling here .

As it turned out, Justice Kaye Hearn did not participate in the decision. This left four justices. Two voted for rehearing (Kittredge and Toal) and two rejected (Beatty and Pleicones). The failure to gain a majority meant the failure of the petitions. This leaves the August 2 decision final:

The petitions for rehearing have been denied, and the opinions previously filed in this case reflect the final decision of the Court.

The decision was dated November 17, 2017, and was signed by all four justices. 

DSC posted a response to the denial. Find it here .

DSC said it would seriously consider appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is extremely unlikely that SCOTUS will take the case. They take only 1% of cases requested. Too, this is a case based on state property and corporate law. SCOTUS only considers issues related to the U.S. Constitution.

The mediation is to resume on December 4. At least the lawyers on both sides have a definitive order from the state supreme court from which to work. The order leaves TECSC with 29 of the parishes in question and Camp St. Christopher, DSC with 6. Friday's decision throws the enormous weight of the matter over to the Episcopal Church side. 

I will return with more thoughts soon (interestingly enough, I am off this moment to give a talk at my local church on the schism in TEC).

Saturday, November 18, 2017




HOUSE OF CARDS


The Anglican Church in North America is a house of cards that may well be teetering on the verge of collapse. Scepiscopalians brought this up recently in its November 14 posting, "The ACNA Braces for Battle over Female Clergy." Find it here .

The basic issue dividing the ACNA is whether women should be allowed into holy orders. 

One should recall that, while homosexuality was the primary driving issue leading to the votes of five dioceses to leave the Episcopal Church, there was another important topic propelling these same dioceses, equality for and inclusion of women into the leadership of the church. It did not get the attention homosexuality got, but it was a powerful driving force nevertheless. It is now coming to the surface to fracture the fragile alliance. All of ACNA agreed that homosexuals should be excluded and that the Episcopal Church was in error, if not in apostasy. They did not agree on women. This issue is now threatening to pull down the house of cards called the ACNA.

Of the five dioceses voting to leave TEC, three had steadfastly refused to ordain women to the priesthood, San Joaquin, Ft. Worth, and Quincy (TEC established ordination of women to the priesthood in 1976). In fact, Bishop Iker of Ft. Worth, stood on the floor of the House of Bishops to demand alternate primatial oversight immediately after Katharine Jefferts Schori's election as presiding bishop in 2006. Shortly thereafter, four dioceses voted to leave TEC (to transfer to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone). In Ft. Worth there was a movement to join the diocese with the local Roman Catholic diocese. A delegation went to the RC bishop for talks. Nothing came of this. My guess is that the RC bishop sensibly refused to get entangled with the legal issues bound to arise.

GAFCON and the four "disaffiliated" dioceses created the ACNA in 2010 to be the replacement province for the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion. Two major factors brought this about: hatred of the Episcopal Church, and opposition to equality for and inclusion of non-celibate homosexuals in the life of the church. Both of these were negatives, that is, they were against something. There was no positive force that bound this disparate group of malcontents together. Thus, having established the ACNA as the non-TEC and settling opposition to rights for homosexuals, the ACNA had nowhere to go. It has been repeatedly banned from the Anglican Communion. It is not now and almost certainly never be a province of the Anglican Communion.

With that, the internal contradictions in ACNA inevitably began to arise, now to the edge of disintegration. Enter Bishop Iker. In his address to his diocesan convention on November 4 (find it here  and here), Iker declared, "We [his diocese of Ft. Worth] are in a state of impaired communion because of this issue." In other words, Ft. Worth has broken off from the Diocese of South Carolina and every other diocese in ACNA that dares to ordain women. Iker continued: "I informed the College of Bishops that I will no longer give consent to the election of any bishop who intends to ordain female priests...I have informed the Archbishop of my resignation from all the committees to which I have been assigned...Bishops who continue to ordain women priests in spite of the received tradition are signs of disunity and division."

The "disaffiliated" Diocese of South Carolina has women priests and deacons. Bishop Lawrence has ordained one woman to the priesthood and is about to ordain another, Mary Ellen Doran at Our Saviour, on Johns Island, on November 30. This means the "disassociated" diocese of Ft. Worth is no longer in communion with DSC. This also means that Iker, and the other like-minded bishops in ACNA will refuse to consent to the election of any new bishop in DSC who accepts women clergy. This raises a serious problem for the future of DSC. ACNA requires that two-thirds of the bishops (there are now 51 bishops) must consent to the election of a new bishop of any diocese in ACNA. If Iker and his friends round up one-third plus one they can control the choice of the next bishop of DSC. This gives them the power to force DSC to reject the ordination of women.

My guess is that Iker's ploy is to force the ACNA to agree to ban the ordination of women. It was only this year that the ACNA bishops argued over this issue and finally agreed to keep what they had, local option. Obviously Iker did not like this arrangement. He is adamant that women should not be allowed ordination in the church. Apparently he is willing to break up the ACNA for this. The anti-women's ordination faction in ACNA appears to be ready to pull out of ACNA if they do not get their way.

History shows that schism only begets schism, more and more. ACNA is doomed to disintegration. It may well be that ACNA will soon divide into two churches, one without women clergy, and one with. After all, Iker and Lawrence have divided. Iker has announced that he is no longer in communion with Lawrence. Lawrence is set to go right ahead and ordain a woman this month. Lawrence knows very well what this means to Iker and his cohorts. This surely looks like division to me.

What this illustrates is that, in the big picture, the Anglican Realignment has failed. This is a two-decades long attempt to destroy or diminish the Episcopal Church and replace it in the Anglican Communion with a socially conservative entity dedicated to the exclusion of non-celibate homosexuals, and to a lesser degree women clergy. The "disassociated" DSC joined ACNA in 2017 basically because it had no other viable choice outside of TEC. It joined only after five years' of wandering in the wilderness. This means both ACNA and DSC are outside of the Anglican Communion where they will remain in perpetuity. 

The South Carolina schism of 2012 has been a failure in almost every measurable way. The Anglican Realignment has failed. The ACNA is dissolving on its own. Membership and income in DSC have fallen off a cliff. DSC has lost big-time in the state court with little hope of changing that. Mediation is on, but it remains to be seen what DSC could possibly gain that would leave it a viable force. In the present picture, it will have six parishes, none in Charleston. In short, DSC has a dismal future, to say the least. For years before and after the shcism we heard a lot of boasting from DSC's leaders about God's will. Interesting that we have heard none of this lately.

I think it all but certain that the Episcopal Church diocese will resume control over the 29 parishes the state supreme court has awarded to it. The next step then is for the Church diocese to move towards a reconciliation with the 13,000 communicants now inhabiting these parishes. It will be very hard for these people to accept the fact that their leadership took them down the wrong path. No one likes to admit he or she made bad choices. Thus, these good Christians must be treated with the utmost of love and welcomed home. Home is where you go and they take you in, no questions asked. The ancestral home of the Diocese of South Carolina is the Episcopal Church.  

Thursday, November 16, 2017



ALABAMA, ALABAMA


Dear reader, please indulge me in a moment of diversion from the schism in South Carolina. Something important is happening in Alabama, and the whole world is watching.

OK, I admit it, I live in Alabama. I first moved here in 1971. What is more, I live near Gadsden; and yes, I shop often in the Gadsden Mall. I do not know Roy Moore. I do not know any of his accusers, but I believe these women. I know this part of Alabama. What they are saying has a loud ring of truth. So, what are we to make of all the stories crowding the news reports these days? With its less than stellar past, Alabama is sometimes called the state of embarrassment. What is going on with Roy Moore is not surprising; and it is nothing new. (The unofficial motto is Alabama is, "Thank God for Mississippi". MS keeps AL from being 50th in every list.)

If you think your state government leaves much to be desired, you should look at Alabama. It will make you thankful for what you have. Recall, this was a state that elected George Wallace, not once, twice, or three times, but four times, and his wife once. This is the Wallace who, confined to a wheelchair, spent his last days apologizing for his whole life. It is Alabama that should have been apologizing for ever electing him.

The heads of all three branches of the Alabama state government have been removed from office for wrongdoing one way or another in the last months. In June of 2016, Mike Hubbard, the speaker of the state House of Representatives was convicted on 12 felony ethics charges, and subsequently sentenced to 4 years in prison. In April of 2017, Governor Robert Bentley resigned from office rather than face removal following a sex scandal. Rumors had it that his wife of 46 years who found out and turned him in. They have divorced. Then, there is Roy Moore. In May of 2016 he was suspended from his office as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court by a state commission because he defied federal law. He told probate judges in the state they did not have to recognize the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. Still suspended, Moore resigned from office in April of 2017 in order to run for the U.S. Senate.

Roy Moore is a well-known figure in the state, and has been for many years. He rose through the legal ranks in Etowah County (Gadsden) as a defiant religious zealot, displaying the Ten Commandments conspicuously in court. "The Ten Commandments Judge" developed a strongly devoted base of fundamentalists/evangelical devotees in the state who believed that the state should be subject to the church. (AL and MS have the highest church membership in the U.S., both mostly fundamentalist/evangelical.) Moore and his followers do not understand the Constitution of the United States. They have no patience for the fundamental American principle of the separation of church and state. They do not understand the First Amendment.

Moore was elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2001 and immediately installed a 5,000 pound monument to the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the supreme court building in Montgomery. The ACLU took him to court on the First Amendment and a federal judge ordered the removal of the monument. Moore refused. His followers hailed him as a great hero. The state ethics board removed him from office.

He was just getting warmed up. In 2012, he ran for the seat of Chief Justice again, and won. His base celebrated the return of their fighting hero. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2015, Moore told the probate courts of the state they did not have to follow federal law. Moore was promptly suspended from office, again, by the state judicial commission. So, Moore, the highest judicial official of Alabama twice told people they did not have to follow the law; and twice he was removed from office. This man is now the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. In the primary, he beat out the former Attorney General and Senate-appointee, Luther Strange. President Trump even campaigned in AL on behalf of Strange (It should tell you a lot that even Trump found Moore to be too much). 

The accusations of Moore's sexual misconduct are new, and this is a problem. Why did the women wait until now? (Nine women as of today.) It makes sense to me. You have to understand the deeply embedded sexism in the culture. Even now, in an age of growing awareness of sexual harassment, Alabama lags way behind. So, for these women to come out, and give their names, not to mention all the details, means a great deal. Believe me, this makes them entirely credible. The sad thing is, they should have done this long ago. But, I understand why they did not.

So, what happens now?

Today it looks as if Moore will remain in the race. He is certainly not leaving on his own. His followers are demanding that he stay in the race. The state Republican establishment is supporting him. Governor Kay Ivey, who replaced Bentley, says she is voting for Moore. I see no movement at all on the state level for Moore to leave the race, or to change the terms of the election. However, I detect cracks in Moore's base as local Republicans here and there are beginning to turn against him, astonishing on its own.

Will Moore get elected to the U.S. Senate? A few days ago, I would have said, yes. Now, I think it is a toss up and the situation is fluid. If the already strong case against Moore of pedophilia and sexual predatory behavior toward young women continues to grow, enough public opinion may begin to bend against him. His base will never desert him, just as Donald Trump's base would never leave him. It does not matter what these men do, their hardcore followers will support them anyway. This group, however, is a minority of the population. Moore's solid base is a minority in Alabama. The Democrats in Alabama are not numerous enough to carry the election on their own. The outcome, then, will depend on the suburban Republicans around the cities, particularly Birmingham, Huntsville, and Tuscaloosa. This group is hard to read at the moment. I think if matters continue on as they are going, the majority in the suburbs will vote against Moore, not so much for Jones, but against Moore. The key is the white woman Republican suburbanite. 

We have several more weeks to go before the election. My prediction is that if the story on Moore continues on the present track, the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones has a good chance of winning the election. If he does, Alabamians will go a long way to restoring decency and ethics to our government. If the voters choose Moore, Alabamians will validate the too-familiar stereotypes of the state, and for good reason. Roy Moore is Donald Trump on steroids, or the reincarnation of George Wallace without the overt racism. For this, we cannot rule out Moore winning in Alabama. Trump won this state 2 to 1. 

Alabama is a wonderful place in so many ways. I would not be here if I did not think that. It is beautiful country, from the gentle verdant hills of the north to the emerald waters of the south. The people are kind, honest, and generous. If you sit on a bench in Wal-Mart, I will guarantee you within 5 minutes someone will sit down and tell you all about their family and want to know about your kin. In traffic, if you let someone in, you will invariably get a thank-you wave. Here, all problems can be solved by food, and all ugly comments can be made good by "bless his/her heart." So, the shortcomings of Alabamians do not come from the heart, they come from the head. To be sure, the shortcomings are serious: e.g. racism, sexism, and homophobia. But, these can be changed; and I think there is evidence they are being repaired, however slowly.  

There is an old saying, people get the government they deserve. I wonder what Alabamians did to deserve what they have. I do not know. But, I know there is a chance at redemption, and it is coming up in a few weeks. We will see. 






Wednesday, November 15, 2017





THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
IS ALIVE AND WELL 
IN THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA 



I can report to you firsthand that the Episcopal Church in the state of South Carolina is thriving. To be sure, the church in the eastern half, now called "the Episcopal Church in South Carolina" is battered, bruised, and diminished but very much alive and gloriously vibrant. I attended both diocesan convention meetings this month, the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, on November 3-4, and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, on Nov. 10-11. Today, I can say that I have never felt so sure that all will be well. The Holy Spirit is at work across the state.

 Upper SC met at Advent Church in Spartanburg. Check out the pictures on Facebook here . That lovely old Gothic church was packed for the Eucharist, I guessed 4-500 people. The parish house, that I found to be most impressive, was crowded with the faithful too. The theme of the meeting was reconciliation, without any overt reference to the lower state. The dinner speaker was J. Neil Alexander, dean at Sewanee and former bishop of Atlanta. Walter Edgar, dean of all historians in SC, was there too. I was given an exhibit table near the front door to display my book. I lost track of the number of people who stopped and chatted about the schism. I was most impressed by how well-informed, and how concerned everyone was. I left the meeting feeling refreshed and hopeful. I could not do otherwise, as the Sisters of St. Helena had commanded me, "lift up your heart!" I did as I was told. One does not argue with nuns, the purest of hearts.

The lower state diocese met at All Saints' Church, in Hilton Head. See the photos on Facebook here . A reported 300 people came together in spite of the fact that HH is in the very southern end of the state, almost in Georgia. Here the bookstore of Grace Church Cathedral displayed my book as, once again, many people stopped by to talk about conditions of the schism. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with old friends and new. And, once again many vibrant elements of the church were present: the Sisters of St. Helena, the Companions of the Holy Cross, the Hospitaliers of St. Martin, the Daughters of the King, Education for Ministry, the Episcopal Forum, Voorhees College, Porter Gaud, Bishop Gadsden, Still Hopes, Episcopal Relief and Development, Kanuga, and so on. 

Other than the good fellowship, what stood out to me were the budget, the bishop's address, and the therapy. Let me explain. On the budget, $602,597.61 was the figure given for 2018. The diocese is self-sustaining and has been since the first year after the schism. In the first year, 2013, the budget was $378,000,($175,000 of that was a gift of the Episcopal Church). After that year, all of the income came from the diocese. Thus, the 2018 budget is 60% higher than that of 2013 and much more than that from the diocese itself. Financially speaking, TECSC  is in good shape.

The bishop's address came at the Eucharist service on Nov. 10. "The Wisdom of the Body" was the theme, the body being interpreted in many ways. Bishop Adams declared "The holy work of inclusion must continue to be our work." The body, in its broadest sense, means the Body of Christ, and for our immediate purpose, the diocese. We include everyone. No one is excluded from the Body of Christ. "We need to participate with God in the healing," he continued, "True religion brings peace." Leadership is born in community, and we must listen to the collective wisdom of the body, the bishop added. 

The body can also mean the individual's personal body. This was the attention of the featured speaker, the Rev. Bill Redfield, a priest/social worker/therapist from New York. I have said all along there are three steps to healing from schism: acknowledge the reality of the schism, embrace the pain of the schism, and move forward with as much reconciliation and peace as possible. The TECSC leadership has indeed moved through step one and recognized the schism (DSC leaders on the other hand have never publicly uttered the word "schism"). Redfield went a long way toward accomplishing step two, working through the pain. He conducted a collective exercise  calling on each person in the congregation to evoke the emotions of the schism and to locate their physical seat in the body. He then divided people into pairs and had each spent 10 minutes talking directly to the partner. Most remarkably, Redfield asked each person to locate the physical seat of the pain, as the head, the heart, the stomach and to direct healing to that particular location. Physical healing can lead to emotional healing. I could not hear the paired-off conversations but I can tell you they were everywhere, some animated, some sad, many with tears. At the end there was a palpable emotional relief arising from the group. Redfield's remarkable exercise went a long way to getting through step two. 

I doubt that the people who made this schism have ever realized the amount of pain they have inflicted on thousands of innocent victims. However, if the state supreme court's decision holds up, they, and their followers, will feel pain soon as 13,000 communicants in 29 parishes face the choice of returning to the Episcopal Church or going out into churches in exile. They will also feel a lot of pain as they hand over the diocese and all of its assets, as Camp St. Christopher. I guarantee you there is a lot more hurt to come, and it is not far off. I hope Redfield stands by.

The chancellor (lawyer), Thomas Tisdale also made a report to the convention on the litigation. All ears perked up. He could not talk about the mediation specifically, but he did project an unusual optimism, as he said, "a clear sign on the horizon" that the conclusion of litigation is beginning to appear. He also assured the attendees that any settlement would have to have the full support of the diocese. 

These two diocesan conventions showed that the Episcopal Church is moving ahead strongly in the Palmetto State. This must be bad news to the Church's adversaries. For twenty years there has been a movement to destroy or severely diminish the Episcopal Church in order to remove its "liberal" influence in American society. This Anglican Realignment movement has failed. The Church is down but far from out. It is rebounding with vigor. I can assure you, first hand, that is the case in South Carolina.

The reactionary move to destroy the "liberal" (pro-women's and pro-homosexuals' rights) Episcopal Church started in earnest 20 years ago in a movement called the Anglican Realignment. In 1996, the right-wing PAC Institute on Religion and Democracy set up a new entity directed against the Episcopal Church called the American Anglican Council. This is the body that in essence has coordinated the move against the Episcopal Church. In 1997 AAC hosted a conference that brought the first bonding between the anti-homosexual-rights equatorial African Anglican bishops and anti-homosexual-rights ultra-conservative Episcopalians. The next year, this alliance pushed through Lambeth a resolution condemning homosexuality. Soon thereafter, foreign bishops began intervening in America. With the Robinson affair of 2003, the pace accelerated. The Chapman Memo, from an ACC official, outlined how churches could split off from TEC. AAC promoted the Anglican Communion Network, an alliance of a dozen ultra-conservative dioceses demanding alternate primatial oversight (foreign primates in America). Right after Katharine Jefferts Schori's election as presiding bishop, 4 of these dioceses voted to leave TEC. In 2008, GAFCON formed. In 2009, GAFCON and the AAC-led American ultra-conservatives formed the Anglican Church in North America. It was overtly meant to be the replacement of the Episcopal Church as the legitimate Anglican province in the United States. Finally, the Episcopal Church was to be cast aside into oblivion.

Not so fast. The Archbishop of Canterbury declared, more than once, that the ACNA was not a province of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican primates, assembled in January of 2016, declared that ACNA was not a province of the AC, and what is more, discouraged the Anglican Consultative Council from ever admitting the ACNA to the AC. The ACC refused to consider the ACNA. Meanwhile the independent Diocese of South Carolina finally decided to join ACNA anyway, in 2017. There is virtually no chance that ACNA will ever be a province of the Anglican Communion. The replacement strategem has failed. The place of the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion is stronger than ever. Both the ACNA and the Diocese of South Carolina are outside of the Anglican Communion.

As Tisdale, I too believe the dawn is breaking on the far horizon. It is far too early to declare the end of the long nightmare of the schism, but I sense we are moving in the right direction. If we have made steps one and two, we will soon be ready for step three, reconciliation.

Unless there is a most unexpected reversal of the state supreme court (something I think is extremely unlikely), the 13,000 communicants in the 29 parishes will have to make hard choices along with a lot of clergy. I think these people fall into three vague divisions: 1-die-hards who will leave the buildings to follow DSC leadership wherever, 2-die-hards who will stay with the buildings no matter what, 3-non-committals who could go either way. Their choices will depend on a complicated set of circumstances. 

I suspect it is this last group, the people in the middle, who are the micro-target of DSC's furious public relations campaign, the one they have been waging ever since the Aug. 2 SCSC decision. As they leave the buildings, the clergy who stick with DSC will need to take as many congregants as possible to form viable churches in exile. This will be especially hard in downtown Charleston where new space is non-existent. Under the SCSC ruling, DSC will have not one church left in Charleston, downtown or suburbs. DSC's public relations barrage I think is meant to demonize the Episcopal Church and to de-legitimize the SCSC decision in the minds of the communicants of the 29 parishes in question in order to keep as many people as possible with DSC.

If the SCSC decision stands, there will be reconciliation of some sort as the diocesan entity and the 29 parishes return to the Episcopal Church. This will be the greatest challenge of all, how to heal a terrible wound, how to bring peace after a long and hard war. It can be done. It will be done. After attending the two conventions, I am certain of it. 



P.S. The beauty of summer is still around as we have not had frost yet in the garden. Take a look at the garden today.



Climbing rose, "Don Juan."




Ornamental grasses are at their best right now. In the foreground is Miscanthus sinesis condensatus 'Cabaret' (Japanese Silver Grass, 'Cabaret.')




A shrub rose, "Magic Blanket."




Ice Angels Camellia, "Winter's Fire." 

Sunday, November 12, 2017





IT'S HUMAN RIGHTS, STUPID

(with Update)


The Democratic strategist James Carville famously said to his staff in the 1990s campaigns, "It's the economy, stupid." The Democrats won in 1992 and 1996.

In the schism in South Carolina, the fundamental issue was, and still is, human rights. It is not basically about property, freedom of religion, uniqueness of Christ, local sovereignty, or any of the many other reasons thrown up for the break of 2012. Let's be honest. Everything gets back to whether we want women and homosexuals to have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The Episcopal Church struggled for a half century working out equality for and inclusion of African Americans, women, and homosexuals in the life of the Church. This was a movement for human rights. I call it the great democratic revolution of the Episcopal Church. However, a minority of people in the Episcopal Church remained opposed to the revolution, at least to the reforms for women and homosexuals. The intransigent ultra-conservatives who made the five diocesan schisms against the Church rejected equality for and inclusion of women and homosexuals. Hence, the five schisms including that of South Carolina.

What brings this up again is a new court paper. On November 10, 2017, the Diocese of South Carolina side submitted to the South Carolina Supreme Court, "Brief for 106 Religious Leaders as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents' Petititon for Rehearing." Find it here . This was meant to support DSC's three petitions for rehearing submitted to the SCSC on September 1, 2017. It argues that local churches must be free to own their own properties outright.

The brief is twenty pages of text followed by 106 signatures of religious "leaders" in South Carolina. Exactly one clergyman of DSC signed, the Rev. Gregory Kronz (chair of the bishop's search committee that chose Mark Lawrence). More than half of the 106 signers, 60 to be exact, were Baptists. Almost all the rest were from other congregational churches. 

The Palmetto Family Council in South Carolina is a highly conservative political action committee devoted to enacting reactionary social policies in the state government, particularly by passing measures against freedom and equality for women and for homosexuals. Check out their website home page here . Ever since the SCSC's August 2 decision favoring the pro-human-rights Episcopal Church, the PFC has carried out a robust campaign to arouse public opposition to the decision and pressure the justices to backtrack. They framed it as a campaign for freedom of religion. Actually it is a campaign against equal rights for women and homosexuals. They encouraged religious figures to enlist in the campaign online. See the list of supporters here . As of now, 113 men and 1 woman have signed. 

106 (105 men and 1 woman) signed the amici brief. 114 signed the PFC list. Are they the same names? Close, but not exactly. In fact, 70 of the 106 signatories of the amici paper were also among the 114 on the PFC form. Thus, 70 names are on both lists, that is, more than half the names on each. Thus, I wonder about what role the PFC played in this amici move. Is it just a coincidence that 70 names from the PFC list showed up in the amici brief?

There are two big problems affecting the credibility of this amici brief. In the first, it is built on untruths. The very first sentence is not true:  "For over 300 years, since before the Founding of the Nation, members of the Respondents' congregations contributed land, money, and labor in reliance on settled South Carolina law---only to have this Court divest them of their property based on a canon unilaterally adopted centuries later by a national denomination." The problem is the word "unilaterally." The truth is that the Episcopal Church adopted the Dennis Canon in 1979. Canon law is automatically applicable in all dioceses. It is law, not suggestion. The Diocese of South Carolina formally adopted the Canon in 1987. A convention in 2010 voted (illegally) to revoke the law. In other words, the diocese made the Dennis Canon part and parcel of the local church government, at least from 1987 to 2010. All parishes were part of this. 29 of the 36 parishes in question explicitly acceded on their own to the Dennis Canon. This fact was confirmed by four of the five justices of the state supreme court (only Toal differed) in the Aug. 2 decision. Thus, the Dennis Canon was not imposed on South Carolina "unilaterally."

The second big problem with the amici brief is that the issue of property, that the signatories raised, is irrelevant to congregational institutions such as Baptist and other independent associations where local churches always own their own properties outright (I know whereof I speak; I spent my first 21 years in an independent, fundamentalist Baptist church). Congregational pastors arguing that churches should own their own property is redundant. Congregation-governed churches have no superior body over them that could possibly make a property issue. Southern Baptists do have a system of regional "associations" but these are purely administrative and have no authority to interfere in the internal affairs of the self-governing congregation. Occasionally they take action to enforce common policies but the only real power they have is to expel an errant congregation from the association. This happened in my county recently when a Southern Baptist church decided to ordain women as deacons. The local association threatened to expel the church if they did. The church did and the association did. This made absolutely no difference to the church that went right on, with their women deacons, and without the association. This is the way congregational churches work. Baptist churches are congregational. The Episcopal Church is not congregational.

Let's be honest about this. As this amici paper indicates so obviously, the fundamental issue between the "disaffiliated" diocese and the Episcopal Church is human rights. The schism was not motivated by ownership of property. Property is obviously an issue, but not at the heart of the matter. So, trying to disguise this, or hide behind other issues in court will not work. And, this is exactly what the justices of the South Carolina Supreme Court saw. It is what guided them to their decision on August 2 in favor of the Church. It is highly unlikely they will backtrack. They know the issues at stake. They are not stupid, and we should not be either.



UPDATE, Nov. 13, 5 p.m.:


Now we know. It was the Palmetto Family Council that organized the signatories of the amicus brief of Nov. 10. DSC posted an announcement about the brief today. Find it here . 

Here is more evidence, as if we need it, that DSC has dissolved into frantic flailing about grasping at straws in a desperate effort to salvage something of their vanishing dream. They called the signatories "a diverse group." That is humorous. I encourage you to read the list yourself. It is anything but diverse.

The blurb also continues the outrageous untruth that DSC has been promoting since August 2 that there is no agreement among the justices: "There is no legal consensus among the Justices." The truth is there is indeed a clear majority of justices in agreement that the Dennis Canon went into effect in the state (4 of 5 justices), and a majority (3 of 5 justices) that the 29 parishes voluntarily acceded to the Canon and therefore recognized the Episcopal Church's overriding trust interest in the local properties. In the supreme court, the majority rules. It does not have to be by unanimous opinion. In fact, on Aug. 2, the majority ruled clearly that 29 parishes remain under trust control of TEC and the Church diocese. There was nothing unclear about that. 

The amicus brief continued the fiction that the supreme court has thrown church property law into confusion: "the Court's fractured decision leaves church property law in this state in utter confusion." Baloney. There is no "confusion" in South Carolina about church property. If there is any confusion, it is on the part of the people who lost in the court, not the court.

Something else that should disturb us is the fact that this amicus brief came after mediation had begun. Mediation is a negotiation period that assumes a cease-fire in the legal war. A hand-grenade like an amicus brief could threaten to blow up the whole thing. The fact that one side would do such as this diminishes credibility in their good will toward a peaceful settlement. This leaves us wondering if DSC truly wants a mediated resolution to the litigation.  

Once again, the amicus brief is so far out it is ridiculous. Congregational pastors serve churches that own their own properties outright. Period. There is no threat that anyone else will ever lay claim to their properties. Therefore, I say again, this ultra-conservative attack on the August 2 state supreme court decision is motivated by deeper factors, namely to keep women and homosexuals from enjoying the same rights and opportunities in American society that other people have. As Carville would say, It's human rights, stupid.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017





MEDIATION RECESSED


The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has just announced that mediation has been recessed until December 4-5, 2017. No reason was given for the suspension. Obviously the two sides did not reach an agreement in their first session that was scheduled for Nov. 6-8. The recession was announced at 10:45 this morning, that is, early on the second day of the scheduled three day conference.

For those who wanted the mediation to bring a settlement, the bad news if that there is no agreement, but the good news is that they will meet again.

The mediation talks are strictly confidential and the lawyers and officials involved are not allowed to talk about them publicly. So, we cannot know any details now of what went on between the two sides yesterday and today. Moreover, it is not appropriate at this point for us to speculate publicly on what the terms of a final agreement should be. We have no choice but to await the eventual outcome of the mediation. 

Since they have agreed to meet again in a month, my guess is that the two sides made their demands and both need time to consider them and make counter-offers. If all issues, both state and federal, are on the table, there is a great deal to be considered. This is a very large and complicated case.

More time may allow the state supreme court to release its decision on whether to grant or deny DSC's three requests for rehearing. DSC is trying to overturn the court's August 2 decision that awarded 29 of the 36 parishes, and Camp St. Christopher, to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

Find the TECSC announcement of the recession here .

Sunday, November 5, 2017




POST AND COURIER CONFUSED





The Charleston Post and Courier published an editorial in today's paper (Nov. 5), "End Church Dispute with Mediation." Read the editorial here . Unfortunately, the editors were confused and apparently understood neither mediation nor the issues involved.

On one hand, the editors said, "The purpose of mediation beginning Monday is to determine how to implement the August decision..." In fact, the August decision returned 29 parishes and Camp St. Christopher to the Episcopal Church diocese. Implementing the decision would be settling the details of exactly how the 29 parishes and the camp will return to their ancestral home in the Episcopal Church.

Then, the editors contradicted themselves by declaring, "But an agreement should be reached that lets the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina part ways while remaining in the churches..." The editors concluded by calling for the DSC congregations to be allowed to keep the properties in question.

What the editors suggested was contradictory. A property cannot be returned to the Episcopal Church and stay outside of the Episcopal Church.

In fact, the mediation covers all issues involved in state and federal courts, not just property.

Concerning property, the Diocese of South Carolina recognized the Dennis Canon for years before the schism of 2012. The parishes were part and parcel of the diocese. This meant they also recognized the Dennis Canon . The Canon said all property was held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the diocese. So, the idea that the parish always owned the property on its own is simply not true.

In the August 2 decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court, the majority of justices agreed that 29 of the 36 parishes had acceded to the Dennis Canon and that this accession, once made, could not be unilaterally revoked. The deal was akin to a contract. One side cannot change the terms without agreement of the other side.

The fact is that in its schism against the Episcopal Church, the breakaway diocese tried on its own to change the church rules it had accepted. It had no right to do that. It had no right to discard the laws of the church. Therefore, the parishes did not in fact remove their local properties from the Episcopal Church. The SC Supreme Court said this in its August decision.

Under the Dennis Canon, all 36 parish properties are under trust control of the Episcopal Church and the Church diocese. If the Church allows even 7 of them to discard this it will be a major concession to the breakaway diocese.

The editors of the Post and Courier should do their homework. Obviously they have a lot of work to do.

Thursday, November 2, 2017




APPROACHING MEDIATION


Mediation is to begin in a few days. The initial session has been scheduled for Monday, November 6, to Wednesday, November 8. The two sides are the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina on one and the Diocese of South Carolina on the other. The lawyers of the two sides will meet with senior federal district judge, Joseph Anderson, in Columbia. Judge Richard Gergel, The U.S. District Court judge in Charleston who is handling the case of vonRosenberg v. Lawrence, ordered the mediation on August 30. Both sides agreed that all issues in contention, in state and federal cases, would be open for consideration. 

According to the U.S. District Court rule book, the two parties may choose not to meet face to face. (Find the rule book here .) They may sit in separate rooms, write out their demands, and have the mediator deliver the offers and counter-offers back and forth. Although the judge is the facilitator, any agreement is entirely at the discretion of the lawyers and their institutional authorities. The rules allow thirty days for the mediation. If the two sides cannot come to a mutually agreeable conclusion, the mediation ends and the court processes resume as before. If, on the other hand, the two sides reach an agreement, they put it in writing and sign it. Once signed, it is fixed law and will be announced to the public. If the written agreement is long, the court allows fourteen days for its preparation. If all issues are settled in the agreement, all litigation ends in the courts. Thus, the mediation has the potential of ending once and for all nearly five years of legal warfare between the two sets of Christians. 

So far, the court has not strictly adhered to the rule book. Yet, it seems reasonable to assume we will know the outcome of the mediation by mid-December, if not before. If the mediation fails, we will know sooner rather than later. At this point, apparently only one session has been scheduled, Nov. 6-8, but presumably there could very well be more meetings if no agreement is reached next week.

The time has passed for public speculation on what a settlement should be. Communicants on both sides should have made their thoughts known to their diocesan officials by now if they were going to do so. Once mediation begins, it is done in private. All talk is conducted confidentially. No one on either side is allowed to reveal what is going on in the talks. It will not be appropriate for the public to try to influence the negotiations once the mediation begins.

Certainly everyone on both sides wishes all this whole mess would go away. Reality holds, however, that this is not likely since the two sides have very different views of what the best settlement should be. Basically each wants the same things: the legal entity of the old diocese and the parish properties. I do not see how the entity of the pre-schism diocese can be divided up, part here and part there. Surely, the whole legal status of the diocese must be granted to one side alone. The 36 parish properties are another matter. They could be divided. 

Indeed, this is where we stand now in the courts. The South Carolina Supreme Court issued an order on August 2, 2017, that 29 of the 36 parishes in question remain under the trust interest of the Episcopal Church and the Church diocese while 7 parishes are free of this. The trust derives from the Dennis Canon, a church law that was part of the Episcopal Church after 1979 and officially part of the Diocese of South Carolina, at least from 1987 to 2010. The 7 include 6 parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina and one now in the ACNA Diocese of the Carolinas, St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant. So, in other words, the SCSC has ordered 29 parishes back to TEC and allowed 6 to remain in DSC separate from TEC. The Court also awarded Camp St. Christopher to TEC/TECSC. At the same time, the SCSC opined that the Episcopal Church is hierarchical and that the Church retains the entity of the old diocese. However, the SCSC left it to the federal court to finish up this point.

However, the Aug. 2 decision is not quite final. On Sept. 1, the DSC lawyers entered in the SCSC three petitions for rehearing of the case. Although it is extremely unlikely the Court will agree to reopen the case, the Aug. 2 decision is on hold until these petitions are answered. This uncertainty will hang over the mediation process.

I have no official connection with either diocese and am certainly not privy to the thoughts, policies, and procedures of the lawyers and officials of the two sides. I can only speak for myself as a student of the history of the schism. However, I think everyone would do well to tamp down expectations for the mediation. There are several reasons for this.

The gulf between the two sides is wide and deep. The schism was the result of thirty years of rising animosity on the part of the diocesan leadership against the Episcopal Church. These men did not take the actions they did frivolously. They believed very deeply in their cause. They came to see the Episcopal Church as fatally flawed. What brought this to a head was the issue of homosexuality. The DSC leaders refused to accept non-celibate homosexuals in the clergy, the blessings of same-sex unions, and equal rights for the transgendered, all reforms adopted by the Episcopal Church in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. The DSC ruling clique believed they were saving the diocese from Episcopal Church apostasy by taking it out of TEC and into the Anglican Realignment. This is meant to be a restoration of "orthodox" Anglicanism, or a preservation of "the faith once delivered" as they often say. 

Case in point: Bishop FitzSimons Allison's recent letter to the editor denouncing the idea of reconciliation and implying that mediation should fail (see commentary here ). He said TEC should allow DSC to keep all it has now (the diocese and all the parishes in question). If not, DSC should abandon mediation. Allison was bishop of DSC from 1982 to 1990. His record is well known (see detailed discussion in my book, A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina ). For the last twenty years he has actively aided and abetted movements against the national Church by supporting First Promise and defending its leaders (FP created the first schism by forming Anglican Mission in the Americas under Rwanda), "ordaining" bishops contrary to the canons of TEC, and very publicly supporting DSC's efforts to remove itself from TEC. For his provocative actions, Allison was censured by the House of Bishops in 2004. In 2007 he advised the diocese to defy the laws of the Episcopal Church and consecrate Mark Lawrence as bishop anyway after ML had failed to get consents. The elder statesman Allison became the usual leading public cheerleader for Lawrence after that. Now, at age 90, he remains a staunch defender of the schism in SC. The guiding principle among the leadership of DSC since the Allison years is that ideology takes precedence over institutional integrity. If Allison's "all or nothing" attitude is the prevailing one in DSC, mediation is doomed to fail before it starts.

Other DSC leaders also have many years of emotional investment in their one-sided war against the Episcopal Church. Kendall Harmon arrived in DSC in 1987 and immediately moved to the forefront in Allison's crusade on sexuality. Mark Lawrence made his maiden convention speech on sexuality in 1991. I imagine there are many clergy and laity in DSC who would like to have a compromise settlement with TEC. However, they do not run DSC. DSC is now, as it has been for many years, controlled by a small and secretive collection of like-minded men who are devoted to their deeply-held views of religion. In spite of the circuit court's ludicrous assertion, DSC is not congregational, quite the opposite. It is rigidly authoritarian. Decisions are routinely made in secret by a small number of people who hand them down to the clergy and laity (as in the schism of 2012).

In fact, from the announcement of the mediation, Sept. 1, to the organizational meeting for mediation on Oct. 4, the leaders of DSC refused even to admit that mediation was going to take place. There was a news blackout among DSC and its Internet allies. Perhaps at the time they were too busy trashing Justice Kaye Hearn and conducting a public relations campaign for "freedom of religion" (i.e. the buildings are "ours"). As of this writing, the DSC leaders have made no mention of mediation since their announcement of Oct. 4. The Church diocese, on the other hand, has issued numerous announcements about mediation, the most recent from Bishop Adams. Find it here . 

Another case in point: DSC flatly refused even to talk about TEC's offer of a compromise settlement in June of 2015. TEC offered to recognize the independence of all 35 parishes and to relinquish any claim to the property. In return, TEC would get the legal entity of the diocese including all of its rights and assets. In short, a swap of the parishes for the diocese. If DSC had accepted this offer, the parishes would now own outright the local properties. Instead, the SCSC has returned 29 of them to TEC control. Thus, there is a record of "mediation" of a sort. DSC defiantly rejected the offer. This kind of attitude does not bode well for the new mediation.

The situation for TEC has changed too. At the time of the offer of compromise settlement in 2015, TEC was coming off a complete defeat in the circuit court and viewing a dim prospect of going to a supreme court that had issued the All Saints decision. This ruling (Sept. 2009) defended secession and local property and rejected the Church's claim of automatic validity of the Dennis Canon in South Carolina. Today, matters are quite different. TEC and TECSC have the superior position from what the SCSC ruled on Aug. 2 and from the prospect of an advantageous ruling from the federal court next year. This should make one question whether TEC/TECSC would repeat the offer of 2015. I think it reasonable to doubt it.

In addition, the lack of a final resolution in the SCSC will complicate the mediation. Given the size and complexity of this case, it is reasonable to assume it will take the SCSC several months to deliver a response to DSC's three petitions for rehearing. (It took the court six months to respond to the last appeal for rehearing.) I do not see how the SCSC can make a response to the petitions for rehearing during the time allotted to the mediation process. This will leave the lawyers to discuss what might be rather than what is. Moreover, the DSC lawyers can cling to the hope that the U.S. Supreme Court could take the case on appeal if they lose in SCSC. This too could dampen DSC's interest in making a compromise deal now.

If the leaders of DSC were really smart, they would recognize the reality of their situation and make the best deal they can right now with TEC/TECSC in order to salvage what is left of their experiment. The fact is that the schism has failed. DSC is collapsing into disarray. The diocese has lost almost half its members and a third of its income in the nearly ten years since Mark Lawrence arrived. It lost 10,000 members in the schism alone, counting the local churches that stayed with TEC and those who abandoned the 50 secessionist parishes and missions. Moreover, DSC has lost members steadily every year since the schism. The trends are very clear. DSC is free falling to disaster. Common sense would say DSC should cut the best deal they can now and not repeat something like the terrible mistake they made in rejecting compromise in 2015. However, I wonder whether people who are committed to a rigid ideology would be flexible enough to compromise on some really big issues. 

Thus, given the realities of the history of the schism and the current state of affairs, I think it best that we restrain expectations for the mediation next week. If it works to bring mutual agreement, well and good. If it does not, we must go on striving for the best as God gives us the ability to discern it.

We are living in an age of destructive division. Our nation is torn by forces that want us to turn against each other and diminish our fellow countrymen and women. Our church is torn by forces that want us to turn against each other and condemn our former friends as enemies. We are all being put to the test of good will for our fellow travelers. Our nation and our national church were founded at the same moment a long time ago on the principle of the common good. We are all in this together. We work best as corporate bodies where individuals give and take for the sake of something bigger than themselves. The individual has rights, but not the right to destroy the common good. To be true to our great historical legacy, we must not allow the dark forces that would divide us and turn us against each other to prevail. We must stay together on common ground. We have too much at stake. The future of our civic state and our religion depends on our commitment to mutual respect and cooperation. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017






THE DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA 
AND DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN



In view of all the recent dusturbing news on the national scene about sexual harassment, it is timely to look at how women have been treated in the pre-schism diocese and in the post-schism dioceses in South Carolina. 

As in the case of race, the Diocese of South Carolina was the very last diocese in the Episcopal Church to allow women into the institutional structure of the diocese. Bishop Temple lamented this fact and worked hard to gain equal access for women in the constituted bodies of the diocese and to extend ordination to women. Under his guidance, the diocesan convention voted, in 1971, to allow women to serve as delegates to the convention (the last of the 110 dioceses in TEC to do this).

The Episcopal Church recognized the ordination of women in 1976 and committed itself to full equality for and inclusion of women into the life of the church. This was one of the four great reform movements in the Church in the late twentieth century (others: equal rights for African Americans, democratization of the Prayer Book, and equal rights for non-celibate homosexuals). In time, women moved into positions of leadership and authority in the Church, all the way to the presiding bishop.  

Meanwhile, a minority of conservative churchmen refused to support the Church's reforms for women. Three dioceses adamantly refused to allow women to be ordained to the priesthood, Quincy, Ft. Worth, and San Joaquin (Bishop Lawrence's home diocese).

Bishop Allison (1982-1990), a conservative Evangelical, was ambivalent about equality for women. Giving a great deal of time and attention to sexuality, particularly homosexuality, he all but ignored the issue of women's rights. He neither overtly supported nor opposed it. Nevertheless, small steps occurred. The first woman ordained to the priesthood in South Carolina was the Rev. Constance D.S. Belmore, in 1984. Allison did not participate. He did, however, agree to ordain two women, the Rev. Cynthia Nan Taylor, in 1987, and the Rev. Jennie Olbrych, in 1989. Women also found their way into the diocesan standing committee, in 1987 and 1988.

Sexual harassment was very much a part of the diocese in the Salmon years of the 1990's according to the memoir of Eugene Nick Zeigler (When Conscience and Power Meet. Univ. of SC Press, 2008). Zeigler was the diocesan chancellor, or lawyer at the time. He described an episode in which the Rev. Tony Campbell, canon missioner of the diocese, was elected suffragan bishop of Virginia in 1993. A woman came forth and asserted that she and Campbell had carried on an adulterous affair. The presiding bishop then suspended the consent process for Campbell whereupon the clergy of South Carolina exploded in protest against the national church and the accuser. According to Zeigler, practically the whole diocese rushed to Campbell's defense. Zeigler, however, said there was "substantial evidence" of wrongdoing and resolved to pursue justice. This was not easy: "in the eyes of the clergy I was literally the devil's advocate." A diocesan ecclesiastical court found Campbell not guilty. Nevertheless, Virginia withdrew its election. Then, two more women in the diocese, a priest and a layperson, came forth with sexual harassment accusations against Campbell. "There was even stiffer resistance on the part of the clergy to a second trial, but I insisted." Zeigler threatened to resign as chancellor if justice was not rendered. A settlement was made; and Campbell moved away to Texas. If Zeigler's account is to be believed, and I see no reason to doubt it, the diocesan establishment and most of the clergy behaved shamefully in this episode. It was only by the chancellor's, and the presiding bishop's, resolution for justice that justice was in fact done. If it had been left to the diocesan power structure alone in 1993, the rights of women, and by extension of all people, would have been ignored. In fact, if it were not for Zeigler's book, very few people today would even know of this dark passage in the history of the diocese.

To be sure, the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as presiding bishop in 2006 created another anti-women explosion on the right, especially in South Carolina. Bishop Salmon demanded "alternate primatial oversight," that is, another Anglican primate to oversee South Carolina, rather than "Mrs. Schori," one of the nice terms for her. Jefferts Schori was pointedly not invited to serve as lead consecrator for Mark Lawrence in 2008.

Jefferts Schori had no idea what she was in for when she visited the diocese in February of 2008. What was supposed to be a "conversation" between herself and the clergy of the diocese turned into an ambush. For more than two hours she was trapped, preached to, lectured to, accused, and forced to listen to her character being impugned. We have the videos to prove it. They are on The Living Church website. Her visit was a low point in the run-up to the schism and should have alerted her to what was to come. She, however, seemed to brush it off to give Bishop Lawrence plenty of leeway, perhaps hoping long- suffering would keep him in the Church. It did not work, as she learned much later.

Meanwhile, progress of incorporating women into the life of the diocese remained extremely slow. Women were elected to the diocesan bodies, as the standing committee and the council, but they never held a majority and never gained a chair. They invariably served as "secretary" of whatever committee. No woman served as rector of a large or medium-seized parish of the diocese. On rare occasions when they spoke out in opposition to the men leaders, women got nowhere. Case in point, May 30, 2009, the standing committee met to consider St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant's proposal to transfer millions of dollars' worth of property into a separate and irrevocable trust outside of the control of the diocese and Church, thus in violation of the Dennis Canon, something both the diocese and Church held as church law at that time. When a woman committee member spoke out that day, and only to look into the legal aspects of such an action, she was immediately overridden. The committee brushed aside her thoughts and railroaded through the measure that was in blatant violation of the laws of the diocese. So much for the opinion of women. Meanwhile, the core leadership of the diocese remained entirely male.

Bishop Lawrence had come from a diocese that had never ordained women to the priesthood; and he continued this attitude all the way to the schism. He even spoke out in the 2012 diocesan convention disparagingly about women's ordination. At the time of the schism in 2012, only 8% of the diocesan clergy were women, when the national Church was 30%. The schism itself was planned and carried out overwhelmingly by men. Of the two dozen people in on the secret plan of schism in October of 2012, three were women, all members of the standing committee. None of them, however, was in the inner circle of power.

When women appeared to play important roles in the run-up to the schism, they were attacked by the diocesan leadership. Of course, their attitude to the (woman) presiding bishop hardened if anything between 2008 and 2012, as she became the convenient enemy. Leadership depicted her as the dark "liberal" aggression from off out to expel the supposedly innocent local bishop who was only fighting for the right and for "orthodoxy" (the victimization theme). Attorney Josephine Hicks likewise came in for attack. She was the attorney for the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, in 2011, who had the nerve to ask the diocese for certain relevant documents. Diocesan leaders disdainfully refused and, instead, hounded her into removing herself from the case. She was replaced by a man who apparently demanded nothing of the diocese.

The relationship between the DSC (all-male) leadership and women in the post-schism litigation is fascinating. First, the DSC lawyers chose a court with a (woman) judge who turned out to be as favorable toward them as possible. Judge Diane Goodstein gave them everything they wanted and then some. No doubt, the lawyers sailed into the state supreme court in 2015 fully expecting another supportive woman to back them up. She was none other than the chief justice, Jean Toal, the very author of the famous All Saints decision of 2009 that had recognized the secession of the All Saints parish from the diocese and awarded the parish the local property. One of the DSC lawyers, Henrietta Golding, had handled that case for All Saints all the way to its stunning conclusion in September of 2009. No doubt, lawyers Runyan, Golding and their cohorts, fully expected Toal to apply the All Saints decision to the whole diocese. In fact, as we know now, this is exactly what she wanted to do.

However, big mistake in assuming Toal would be another Goodstein. Chief Justice Toal was famous far and wide for her self-proclaimed "controlled aggression." She was the epitome of the independent and strong-willed woman justice on the bench. She would be in charge, not anyone else. She would defer to no one. Toal was definitely in control of the hearing as everyone watching knew. She raked Runyan over the coals for introducing so many extraneous issues into the circuit court trial, and subsequent decision, thus muddying the waters of her pure All Saints decision that was simply on two issues, corporate and property rights. If the DSC lawyers thought they were going to make the chief justice fall in line behind them, they should have known better. Ironically, all the time, Toal and Runyan wanted exactly the same thing, the extension of the All Saints decision. In the supreme court's written decision of Aug. 2, Toal was the only justice to uphold the decision entirely. The dynamic between Toal and Runyan was the most fascinating aspect of the supreme court hearing. In my view, Runyan met far more than his match.

Now we arrive at the case of Justice Kaye Hearn, one of the five justices on the South Carolina Supreme Court. She has been mercilessly attacked ever since the decision appeared on August 2. It is an attempt at character assassination. Perhaps she is the revenge for Toal. Obviously, the DSC lawyers' goal is to reverse the decision that went against them. Hearn, however, was not the lead justice in writing the majority pro-Episcopal Church decision. That was Justice Pleicones. Nor was she the swing vote to make a majority. That was Chief Justice Beatty. Yet, she was singled out for vicious denunciation as unfair and unethical because she happened to be an Episcopalian and to be listed on the membership rolls of the Episcopal Forum. The DSC lawyers appealed to the Court for her to remove her part of the Aug. 2 decision and to recuse herself from further court action. They never mentioned this in the twenty-two months since the hearing. This is an outlandish, never-heard-of last-minute ploy that reeks of desperation. Nevertheless, it is a personal attack on a woman, the only woman on the state supreme court other than Toal. Could anyone imagine a lawyer having the gall to do this to Toal? He or she would be toast. 

One woman who was not about to be toast was Melinda Lucka, an attorney in Charleston. In all of my research on the schism, she was the only woman I found, who played an important role, to escape, at least largely, the wrath of the all-male diocesan leadership. And, how she did this remains a mystery, at least to me. On the Church side, Lucka played the key role in defending the interests of the Episcopalians in the diocese in the run-up to the schism of 2012. She did a tremendous amount of work on preparing a case concerning Bishop Lawrence. In 2011, she led the pro-Church party in the diocese to appeal to the national Church for intervention. It was she who led the two actions in 2011 and 2012. In the latter, her committee of twenty-four communicants presented an effective petition to the national Church. The Disciplinary Board for Bishops found it convincing and brought a charge against Bishop Lawrence for abandonment of the Episcopal Church. I still marvel that she avoided being burned at the stake, metaphorically speaking, by the Coming Street cabal. Although the diocesan leadership's treatment of Lucka was nowhere near that of Jefferts Schori and Hicks, she did not escape their ire entirely. In 2013, she was on the usual list of suspects to be served court papers, and she and her husband were subpoenaed for depositions by the DSC lawyers. In my opinion, of all the people on the Church side in the run-up to the schism, Melinda Lucka played the most heroic role. She will be remembered in history; and I hope she writes her memoir about her role. We need to know more about her crucial work.

It should  not be surprising that after the schism, the two dioceses have treated women very differently. Not surprisingly, most of the pre-schism diocesan clergy who were women remained with the Episcopal Church in the split. In the Episcopal Church in South Carolina today, there are 19 women clergy. 12 of the 92 priests (13%) are women. Among the deacons, a majority (7 of 12) are women. The Ven. Calhoun Walpole is the archdeacon, the highest rank any woman has ever achieved in the diocese. While making progress, TECSC still has a long way to go to full equality. In the Episcopal Church today, about half the new ordinands are female; and women make up about 40% of the clergy.  

The post-schism Diocese of South Carolina is another story. Today, DSC is listing 11 women clergy, 6 priests and 5 deacons. They account for 6.5% of the DSC clergy (11 of 155). Percentage-wise, there are twice as many women clergy in the Church diocese as in the independent diocese.

After the schism, and seven years after his ordination as bishop, Bishop Lawrence finally agreed to ordain a woman to the priesthood, the Rev. Martha Horn, in 2015. She died a few weeks later. Another woman has been ordained in DSC, but not by Lawrence, the Rev. Catharine Norris. Low and behold, another woman is about to be ordained, and by Lawrence this time, the Rev. Mary Ellen Doran, next month. This will make two women that Lawrence will have ordained to the priesthood in the last nearly ten years.

One ominous note for women in the independent diocese is that DSC has joined the Anglican Church in North America. ACNA is a male-chauvinist bastion with no patience for women's issues. It is controlled by men, almost all old white men. The structure of the ACNA, with its four governing bodies, places most power in the hands of the 50 bishops. Only men can be bishops in ACNA. A few months ago, these bishops met to discuss women clergy and released a statement, on September 7, 2017, agreeing to disagree. They left the ordination of women up to the local dioceses but at the same time condemned the ordination of women to the priesthood: "We agree that there is insufficient scriptural warrant to accept women's ordination to the priesthood as standard practice throughout the Province." Find the statement here . Moreover, the archbishop of ACNA, Foley Beach, is on record as opposing the ordination of women to the priesthood and boasting he has never ordained a woman. Although individual dioceses may allow women clergy now, it is entirely possible the ACNA will decide to ban this. After all, numerous dioceses in ACNA have a history of opposing equal rights for and inclusion of women into the life of the church.

The ACNA's attitude towards women should not be surprising. The counter-revolution they are leading against the Episcopal Church is part of a wider culture war. On one side is the revolution of the Episcopal Church with its half-century commitment to democratic reforms for the equality of all people. On the other side is the counter-revolution against these reforms. It is not just rights for homosexuals in the cross-hairs of DSC and its allies, it is rights for women too. If the men who run ACNA have their way, women will remain subservient in the church and in the wider culture.

Thus, the women in the present Diocese of South Carolina should ask themselves whether they are willing to accept the low place the men in power have assigned to them. ACNA and DSC would keep women subservient to men. On the other hand, the Episcopal Church has committed itself to full equality for and inclusion of all women into the life of the modern church.

Women make up the majority of the church. They are most of the church-goers. In my experience, they are the backbone of the local church, doing the real everyday work of the parish and mission. In a sense, the church belongs to the women.  

The women of DSC would do well to ponder the history of he treatment of women in the diocese and to consider what is facing them now and in the future. They have a choice between the discrimination in DSC and ACNA on the one hand and the equality in the Episcopal Church on the other.