Thursday, January 5, 2017



There are indications that the independent Diocese of South Carolina is turning into a fundamentalist cult-like sect. Let me explain.
I grew up in a fundamentalist church. Here are the main characteristics of fundamentalism:
1-WORLD VIEW. An absolute Manichean dualism. The universe is a war zone between opposites. Everything has two opposite sides: God/Satan, good/evil, saved/unsaved, Heaven/Hell etc. There are no in-betweens or shades of grey.
2-GOD. God is seen as the all-powerful force but in anthropomorphic images. He demands total submission of human beings. Those who do are granted eternal paradise (a literal and physical place). Those who do not are consigned to eternal torture in the burning Hell (also a literal and physical place). He is a fierce, vengeful, and violent being as seen in the Old Testament.
3-SAVED. One gains eternal paradise only by being "saved." This is a highly emotional experience (being born again) that begins with the pits of despair (I am lost), then goes through a sudden ecstasy of salvation (I am saved). It is a wild emotional experience that leaves many people completely exhausted. For the vast majority of the "saved" the ecstasy wears off in a few weeks and life goes back to normal. Some fundamentalists extended the ecstasy in Baptism by the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. 
4-BIBLE. The Bible is the only word of God and is literally true word-for-word. "Modernist" biblical scholarship is evil. All truth is defined by the church as interpreted infallibly by the ordained clergy. They "speak" for God and interpret His will.
5-INTOLERANCE. There can be no toleration of different views. In the world of rigid dualism it is either truth or untruth. For untruth there can be no toleration. What is "true" is defined by the clergy and handed down to the people.
6-SOCIAL CONSERVATISM. Since the all-powerful God created all, it is not man's place to question that, let alone try to change it. God controls the universe.
These characteristics produce a narrow, rigid authoritarianism that allows no room for differences. This, of course, inevitably leads to schism since, in time, someone is bound to disagree with the official line and will be shunned or expelled from the congregation.
Classical Anglicanism
Anglicanism is far removed from fundamentalism. Anglicanism was formed in the experience of the sixteenth century Church of England breaking away from Rome and creating a blanket religion of general Christianity for the kingdom of England. In time, English people carried this interpretation of Christianity around the world. These are the main characteristics of classical Anglicanism:
1-Non-dogmatic. At the break from Rome, the Church of England sought to be a national church appealing to the Catholics on one side and the Calvinists on the other. It had to be open and tolerant of different views. It tried to unite all parties in the Book of Common Prayer with a Catholic form and Protestant content. It had to be a non-confessional religion.
2-The 39 Articles. These incorporated the generalized concepts of the continental Reformation. They were meant to be guides to religion.
3-The greatest Anglican theologian, Richard Hooker, defined Anglicanism as resting on three sources: Scripture, reason, and tradition. This concept became embedded in the Anglican ethos.
4-The Anglican Communion developed in the nineteenth century as a worldwide extension of the Church of England. In time, a network of thirty-eight independent churches formed around the world all linked by the common heritage of the Anglican prayer book. The traditional Anglican ethos of generalization and toleration worked into this Communion. It did not form a centralized authority, government, judicial system, or confession.
Fundamentalism and Anglicanism
The twentieth century was a transformative time in world history and in Anglicanism. By mid-century secular democratic republicanism was triumphant. This brought an era of social reform extending to neglected elements justice, equality, and incorporation, particularly for blacks, women, and homosexuals. However, in various social and cultural contexts a backlash occurred in the late twentieth century as fundamentalists arose to resist the modern democratic secularism. This has been most noticeable in Islamic fundamentalism which has spawned a list of religiously-driven fanatic groups resolved to resist this largely western-driven secular modernism. But, it also occurred in the Anglican world, most notably in ultra conservative American Episcopalians and in equatorial Africa where the Anglican bishops were competing in highly traditional societies for converts against other Christian denominations on one side and a surging Islam on the other. The American and African elements united in the 1990's around the issue of homosexuality. A movement formed called the Anglican Realignment to create a fundamentalist Anglican world by splitting off the conservative majority of the old Anglican Communion into a fundamentalist-oriented and confessional church resolved to retain social conservatism.
From 1996 to 2016 this Anglian Realignment tried to create a separate fundamentalist Anglican Communion. They came close to success. In 2009 they formed the Anglican Church in North America as the replacement for the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Realignment. Numerous fundamentalist-leaning Third World Anglican primates declared non-recognition of the Episcopal Church and recognition of ACNA. This came to a crisis in 2016 at the primates gathering in Canterbury in January. At that time, the Archbishop of Canterbury confronted the Third World primates, and as a result they agreed to keep the old Anglican Communion and turn away from the Anglican Realignment agenda. GAFCON abandoned the scheme of ACNA replacing the Episcopal Church. The old Anglican Communion survived the threat of schism.
South Carolina
The ultra-conservative, fundamentalist-leaning leadership of the Diocese of South Carolina managed to remove the majority of the old diocese from the Episcopal Church in 2012. However, they refused to join ACNA; and now, following the failure of the Anglican Realignment movement have no place in the Anglican Communion other than some friendly relations with certain primates.
Actually, the fundamentalist turning of the diocese began a long time ago, in 1982 to be exact. Bishop Allison, an evangelical ideologist and a founder of Trinity School for Ministry, moved the diocese rightward and brought in as many new clergy from Trinity as he could. His successor, Salmon, was not an ideologist but tried to please all sides. In this case the conservatives held the balance of power and by the end of his episcopate he surrendered, allowing them to select the next bishop. 
Under Bishop Lawrence, 2008+, the fundamentalist elements in the diocese solidified. He was an enthusiast of the Anglican Realignment building as many ties as he could with ultra conservatives in the U.S. and certain Anglican primates abroad. Meanwhile the diocese gave the bishop absolutely authoritarian power and showered him with benefits: infallibility in interpreting the constitution and canons, lifetime employment, virtually-rent free housing until 2020, power over the Trustees. Once the bonds had been formed, the leadership planned and carried out a schism to remove the majority from the Episcopal Church.
In 2015, the leadership set up the "Marriage Task Force' under Kendall Harmon and Peter Moore. This was meant to incorporate fundamentalist concepts into the life of the diocese. It produced a fundamentalist regime for the Diocese of South Carolina. On October 6, 2015, the diocesan standing committee adopted "A Statement of Faith," a decidedly fundamentalist document. It exhibited well the characteristics of fundamentalism as given above: world view, view of God, literal interpretation of the Bible, authoritarianism, intolerance, and social conservatism. (The Statement is too long to reproduced here. Find it at this link , p. 60.)
The Statement declared the bishop to be the infallible authority: for purposes of the Diocese of South Carolina's faith, doctrine, practice, policy, and discipline, our Bishop is this Diocese's final interpretative authority on matters of doctrine and their application.
It denounced homosexuality and transgender and denied all rights to homosexuals.
It required total obedience to the Statement from parishes, missions, and employees: It is imperative that all persons employed by the Diocese in any capacity, or who serve as leaders, agree to abide by this Statement of Faith.
Moreover, the Task Force issued a form to be signed by all local churches adopting this Statement.
A point of irony here is that Judge Goodstein declared in her "Final Order" of Feb. 3, 2015, that all authority in the diocese arose from the parishes, that power moved from the bottom upwards. In actuality, it is the opposite as we can see here.
The DSC leadership has made itself clear. It is trying to reform the diocese into a fundamentalist religion. Perhaps what has happened does not quite meet the definition of cult and should best be called a cult-like sect. So, my conclusion is that the leaders are trying to turn the majority of the old diocese into a fundamentalist cult-like sect. What remains to be seen is how this will fly with the communicants. Are they too ready to go down this path far from the mainstream of historic Anglicanism? Only time will tell. So far, over 6,000 communicants have abandoned this disaster with  more leaving every year.

In my life, I have thoroughly experienced both fundamentalism and classical Anglicanism. Fundamentalism is not a healthy form of Christianity. It is based on the worst instincts of human nature: fear, love of ignorance, bigotry, intolerance, division. In my experience, it is a deranged philosophy with elements at least bordering on the delusional. It is woefully lacking in support of the other two legs of the classical Anglican three-legged stool, reason and tradition. It is scriptural verticalism in the extreme. It is authoritarianism that demands full submission of the individual mind. It is a religion of intellectual, emotional and spiritual destruction. On the other hand, and again in my experience, classical Anglicanism is a religion of construction that brings out the best in people who are, after all (all of us), made in the image of God and are here to do God's work. A firm balance comes from three legs, not one.