THE CABAL OF COMING STREET
On Jan.5, I made a post "A New Fundamentalist Cult in SC" about the development of the independent Diocese of South Carolina into a fundamentalist sect. I believe this is so important it requires more examination and reflection. Everyone should read the "Marriage Task Force" report of Feb. 23, 2016, in the DSC convention journal of 2016. It can be found here . It takes a few minutes to download the journal. See pages 56+. The Report clarifies a great deal for us in understanding the causes, nature, and results of the schism.
The Marriage Task Force was chosen by Bishop Lawrence in 2015. They were six clergy (most from Trinity School for Ministry), Kendall Harmon (TSM alum, in DSC since 1987, perhaps closest advisor to Bp Lawrence), Peter Moore (former dean of TSM and chair of its Trustees), Ted Duvall (Christ Ch., Mt. Pleasant), Greg Snyder (St. Johns of Johns Is., alum TSM), Tyler Prescott (asst. at St. Paul's of Summerville, alum TSM), and Lawrence's assistant, Jim Lewis.
It has become clear the conspirators of Coming Street (the headquarters of DSC in Charleston) are creating a fundamentalist cult-like sect in their own image far removed from the mainstream diocese of the past and from classical Anglicanism.
It took several years for the motivation of the schism to become clear, but it did so in the Marriage Task Force work of 2015. The Force laid out an absolute religion and demanded that all obey it. They issued four documents to be followed by the diocese. One was a "Statement of Faith," another a statement of obedience for the parishes to sign, another an addition to the employee handbook requiring conformity, and finally a form for facilities use. These were not made as optional documents. They were handed down and required of the recipients. In all matters, absolute and final authority was given to the bishop.
The documents themselves, which were reproduced in the journal, were thoroughly fundamentalist. Of the many characteristics of fundamentalism that I outlined in my earlier post, three were outstanding: literal interpretation of the Bible, intolerance, and social conservatism. We can see all of these, and more, in the four new documents. In the main document, the Statement of Faith," we see:
1-LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE.
---a belief in the Holy Scriptures as divine revelation, trustworthy, carrying the full measure of His authority, containing all things necessary to salvation, and to be submitted to in all matters of faith and practice in life.
---the bodily resurrection of the dead and their entrance into either eternal damnation or everlasting blessedness.
---God offers redemption and restoration to all who confess and forsake their sin.
---the Bible is the trustworthy Word of God that speaks with final authority.
2-INTOLERANCE AND AUTHORITARIANISM.
---for purposes of the Diocese of South Carolina's faith, doctrine, practice, policy, and discipline, our Bishop is this Diocese's final interpretive authority on matters of doctrine and their application.
---it is imperative that all persons employed by the Diocese in any capacity, or who serve as leaders, agree to abide by the Statement of Faith.
---God, who wonderfully and immutably creates each person as genetically male or female. These two distinct complementary genders reflect the image and nature of God. Rejection of one's biological sex is in conflict with this created-ness and is inconsistent with our beliefs.
---Because God has ordained marriage and defined it as His covenant relationship between a man and a woman, the Diocese will only recognize and solemnize a marriage that is between a man and a woman. Further, the clergy and staff of the Diocese shall only serve in weddings and solemnize marriages between one man and one woman. The facilities and property of the Diocese shall only host weddings between one man and one woman.
The Statement reveals a thoroughly vertical religion of the relationship of one person and one God drawn entirely from a literal interpretation of the Bible. The other two legs of the classical Anglican stool, reason and tradition, were no where to be found. Missing too was any whiff of the social gospel, regard for one's fellow human beings or caring for or improving the world around us. The purposeful denial of human rights for homosexual and transgender persons is obvious.
While handing down their dictates, the Task Force called for the indoctrination of the diocese: It is the sense of this Task Force that we live in a culture where the level of confusion and misinformation around the issues of marriage and sexuality are so profound that it must be presumed that a major teaching initiative is needed just to support our own parishioners.
To enforce conformity and obedience, the Task Force issued a form to be signed by the parishes, another by the employees, and yet another by anyone using the facilities of the churches.
The one for the parishes was entitled "A Statement of Faith Adopted by _____ Parish of the Diocese of South Carolina, _____, 2015." It began: _____ parish (the Parish) in the Diocese of South Carolina is an Anglican congregation in the state of South Carolina. Our Vision is to "_____." We are committed to our Mission, "To _____." As the Vestry of _____ parish in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, we ascribe to the following as our core doctrine: (the Statement of Faith follows).
The one for all employees was entitled "Additions to Diocesan Employee Handbook." It said any employee could be fired at any time by the bishop: Conduct inconsistent with the Diocese's Statement of Faith as finally determined by, and in the sole judgment of the Bishop is subject to discipline, up to and including immediate discharge.
---It is imperative that all persons employed by the Diocese in any capacity, or who serve as leaders, agree to abide by its Statement of Faith.
The form for facilities was called "A Facilities Use Policy." It required that anyone seeking to use church facilities sign an agreement in advance of adherence to the Statement of Faith: The Bishop or official designee must approve all uses of diocesan facilities...Groups or persons requesting facility use must affirm that their beliefs and practices and planned uses of the facilities are not inconsistent with the church's faith and practice...The group or person seeking facility use must submit a signed "Church Facility Reservation Request and Agreement" form.
The point of the facilities use policy was to prevent homosexual couples from getting married on church property.
Actually, we should have seen the total subjugation of the parishes coming. Bishop Lawrence spent a great deal of time in 2012 propagandizing the parishes for the upcoming schism; and it worked. At the time of the schism, the diocese had the parishes sign a loyalty oath to the diocese (this came out in the trial of 2014). They also made 35 parishes parties to the lawsuit making it all but impossible for them to deal separately with the Episcopal Church. Then, in June of 2015 the diocesan leaders summarily dismissed the offer of TEC to give the parishes their independence and properties. One of the great ironies here is that before the schism the DSC leaders complained loudly about the authoritarian interference of the national Church in the local diocese. As it turned out DSC was far more authoritarian over the local churches than TEC ever was.
It took several years for us to realize finally what the schism in South Carolina was all about. It was about homosexuality, but in hindsight we can see that was only the wedge issue the diocesan leaders used to whip up popular support for their schism. Their ulterior motive was to peel off the diocese from the supposedly heretical and apostate Episcopal Church in order to make a purely fundamentalist sect and make it a part of the worldwide movement of the Anglican Realignment which itself was a fundamentalist backlash against modern trends in the Anglican Communion. GAFCON and Global South led this Realignment. They wanted to remove the conservative Third World majority, in union with the ultra-conservatives of America, from the old Communion and create a new form of fundamentalist Anglicanism based on literal interpretation of the Bible, intolerance, and social conservatism. However, this movement failed to break up the old Communion and began to decline after the primates gathering of January 2016 when the GAFCON/GS coalition began backing down and breaking apart. This left the DSC out in the cold. It was not a part of the Anglican Communion and had no prospect of ever being part. As an alternative, it moved to join up with the Anglican Church in North America which itself was not part of the Anglican Communion and in fact had been abandoned as the replacement for TEC by GAFCON/GS in 2016. DSC has no future in the Anglican Communion.
Having failed to find a place in the Anglican Communion, the ayatollahs of Coming Street reacted by doubling down on their work, hence the Marriage Task Force. On their own without the guiding hand of a larger body, they delivered their own particular version of Christianity and dictated it to the communicants. This has left DSC as an independent fundamentalist-leaning separate sect outside of the Anglican Communion and far removed from the mainstream of classical Anglicanism.
Where all this is going remains to be seen. What does not remain to be seen is the flight of DSC's communicants. Over 6,000 have left the 50 (now 53) churches of DSC since the schism and more are fleeing every year. DSC lost 29% of its active membership since the schism. It lost nearly half of its size since Mark Lawrence became bishop in 2008. The ayatollahs of Coming Street, aka the Trinity Gang, may dictate their version of religion and require people to adhere to it but they cannot keep the people in the churches against their will. This reminds me of the Vietnam Syndrome, destroy the village to save it.
The Marriage Task Force has served to clarify for us the ulterior motive of the schism of 2012.