Tuesday, February 7, 2017


This year, 2017, marks the tenth year since the first of the diocesan votes to leave the Episcopal Church (TEC). The Diocese of San Joaquin was the first to resolve to leave, in December of 2007 (the first of the two votes was the year earlier). Then followed Pittsburgh, Quincy, and Fort Worth, all voting to transfer to the Anglican province of the Southern Cone (South America). In 2009, these four joined in the start-up of a new church called the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). On October 15, 2012, the diocesan leadership of South Carolina declared a "disassociation" from TEC  making the fifth schismatic diocese.

After ten years, it is appropriate to look back, review, and assess the five schisms. What caused the schisms? How have the departing groups fared since they left TEC? How has TEC fared? What is the outlook for the future?


A summary of the causes of the schism is in order. The basic cause was a disagreement over the philosophy of religion. After the 1950's, TEC moved into a new phase of its history, into a horizontally oriented social activism. The majority of TEC championed equal rights and inclusion of African Americans, women, and homosexuals. A traditionalist minority, however, objected to this demanding that religion must remain vertical, that is to devote itself to salvation of the soul, one person and one God. They declared faith unchanging "the faith once delivered." As God controls the universe, we must preserve the social order. 

The traditionalist minority (they called themselves the "orthodox") was first enraged over the ordination of women. Three of the five later schismatic diocese refused to ordain women to the priesthood. This was mild, however, in comparison to their reaction to the equality and inclusion of homosexual and transgender persons. TEC's affirmation of the first openly gay bishop in 2003 lit the fuse for the ultra-conservatives' explosion. The election of the first female presiding bishop in 2006, and first woman primate in the Anglican Communion, added to it.

The American ultra-conservatives (people who refused to accept the legitimacy of the ordination of openly gay people) and equatorial African primates united to form a movement called the Anglican Realignment. This was meant to split off the anti-homosexual majority of the old Anglican Communion leaving out TEC, Canada and anyone else favoring equal rights for all. In 2008, this coalition formed GAFCON and signed the Jerusalem Declaration that rejected equality for homosexuals and denied the authority of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. In 2009, the ultra-conservative-GAFCON coalition formed the Anglican Church in North America. Its aim was to replace TEC as the legitimate Anglican province in the U.S. and Canada. American ultras saw the Anglican Realignment as the viable alternative to TEC. They believed the majority of the Anglican Communion was conservative enough to maintain vertical religion and overcome the hated social reforms. They sought to change fundamentally the Anglican Communion.


The Diocese of San Joaquin was one of the three that refused to ordain a woman to the priesthood. Its highly conservative bishop, Schofield, began leading the majority away from TEC by the early 2000's, well before Jeffert Schori's election. Mark Lawrence was rector of one of the largest parishes of this diocese, St. Paul's of Bakersfield. This was a relatively small diocese, of about 6,000 active members.

In 2008, the House of Bishops deposed Schofield. 

Ironically, the first schism resulted in the greatest legal victory for the Episcopal Church. Eight years in the state courts found all in favor of the Church. Judges ruled the Church to be hierarchical. In the end, the entire chain of state courts agreed that the breakaways had to return all the assets and properties of the old diocese to the rightful owners, TEC and its diocese. The Anglican diocese is now in the process of complying with the court orders. This was a complete legal victory for TEC.

The Anglican diocese's website lists 40 local churches, about half outside the old diocesan boundary. This diocese does not reveal membership numbers. The Episcopal diocese lists 19 local churches. The 2016  Episcopal Church Annual gives 2,131 active members. Apparently, roughly two-thirds of the old diocese went along with the schism and one-third remained with TEC. Without sufficient statistics, it is impossible to know membership trajectories.

Lawrence's parish, St. Paul's of Bakersfield, went along with the schism (Lawrence was conveniently absent for the vote; he had just won consents to be the next Episcopal bishop, of DSC). From 2007 to 2013 St. Paul's was Anglican. By court order, the Episcopal diocese regained the property in 2013. The majority of the old congregation moved out to become Trinity Anglican Church. The assistant rector there is Joseph Lawrence, a son of Mark Lawrence. This congregation raised $2.7m to build a new campus on the west side of town. According to its website, Trinity has an Average Sunday Attendance of around 180 and an annual budget of $572,000. The old church, St. Paul's Episcopal, has an ASA of 110 and a budget of $235,000. Again, about a 2-1 split.

The Anglican diocese has the majority of the members of the old diocese. However, they lost all of the assets and properties.


As San Joaquin, Pittsburgh began moving away from TEC in the early 2000's under Bishop Duncan. After the Robinson affair of 2003, he became the leader of the alternate primatial oversight movement that formalized into the Anglican Communion Network of a dozen ultra dioceses. Unfortunately for him, he agreed to a legal "Stipulation" in 2005 that all property would remain with the Episcopal Diocese. 

In 2008, the House of Bishops deposed Duncan and the diocesan convention voted a second time to leave TEC. Three years of litigation followed in which the chain of state courts agreed that the Stipulation meant all assets and properties would remain with TEC and its diocese. However, some parishes owned their own properties; and a few refused to vacate returned facilities. 

The Episcopal diocese rebounded as the majority. In 2015, it listed 34 local churches and 8,688 members. The Anglican diocese declined. In 2014, it listed 7,937 members (with a large share outside the old diocese); in 2015 it listed 6,929 members, of which 5,765 were in the territory of the old diocese. Since the schism, the Episcopal side has grown and is now much larger than the breakaway side which seems to be declining.

Mark Lawrence was rector of St. Stephen's of McKeesport, Diocese of Pittsburgh from 1984 to 1997. At the schism, the parish wrestled with its choices but finally resolved to remain with TEC. To this day Lawrence is warmly remembered in the old parish he served well.

The people who made the schism in Pittsburgh wound up losing both the assets and the majority.


TEC and its dioceses won complete legal victories in San Joaquin and Pittsburgh, but this was not to be the case in the Diocese of Quincy, in fact, the opposite. 

This was one of the smallest dioceses in TEC, with just 2,200 members before the schism. It was also highly Anglo-Catholic and one of the three dioceses that refused to ordain women. 

In 2008, a majority vote in the diocesan convention resolved to leave TEC for the Southern Cone. Keith Ackerman, a friend of Lawrence's from Pittsburgh days, was bishop. The Presiding Bishop accepted his resignation and granted a formal Release and Removal from the office of bishop. He was not deposed by the House of Bishops the way Schofield and Duncan had been. She was to do the same for the next two bishops to leave TEC, Iker and Lawrence. They too were granted Release and Removal rather than being deposed.

The case between the two dioceses went up the chain of state courts which ruled consistently under strict construction. They said that since TEC did not explicitly forbid a diocese from seceding, it could do so, and keep the assets to boot. They found that legal rights remained in the local party and that TEC was not hierarchical (the California courts ruled the exact opposite).

The split of the old diocese was again about 2-1. Of the 22 local churches, 18 followed the schism with about 1,400 of the original 2,200 members. Four congregations remained with TEC, the largest being St. Paul's of Peoria. Afterwards, nine congregations made up the Episcopal side. Owing to its small size, the Episcopal party resolved to merge with the Diocese of Chicago in 2013. The Anglican diocese of Quincy does not release its membership figures; therefore, it is impossible to know its size or development. However, according to its website, it has 16 churches in the old diocese and another 20 beyond, as far away as Hawaii. By all appearances, the Anglican diocese is doing well. It wound up with the assets and the majority.


Another decidedly Anglo-Catholic diocese that adamantly refused to ordain women was Fort Worth, under its formidable bishop, Jack Iker. In fact, immediately after Jeffert Schori's election in 2006, he arose to demand alternate primatial oversight, by a foreign primate, in the House of Bishops. He did not get it, but he did get a schism in 2008. 

The litigation went to both sides. The early judgment found for the Church side, but on appeal this was overturned. The court then reversed itself and found for the Iker side. This is now in the state court of appeals. We are awaiting a judgment at any time. One interesting point was that the state supreme court, in remanding the case, declared that the Dennis Canon could not be enforced since it did not contain a provision that it could not be revoked (if this principle were followed invariably, few laws could ever be enforced).

In this instance, both sides use the identical titles and marks. 

As with Quincy and San Joaquin, the Anglicans of Ft. Worth refuse to give their membership and financial statistics making it impossible to judge their size and growth. We do know that there were 55 local churches before the schism and that the majority went along with Iker. As of last year, the schismatic diocese listed 40 of the 55 and another dozen churches beyond. In 2016, the TEC diocese named 17 local churches and 36 missions and stations with around 8,000 members (the number in the Church Annual for the year 2014 was 4,617).


The experience of the Diocese of South Carolina was considerably different than the first four cases. 

In the first place, the schism was made in secret by a small clique of bishop-lawyers-aides-standing committee. On Oct. 17, 2012, it was presented as a fait accompli to the clergy and laity to be rubber-stamped by a diocesan convention. In the second place, DSC had aggressive lawyers who took the initiative and established the advantage in court. Through this chosen court, they quickly seized control over the names, marks, rights, and property before the Church side could get organized. They also bound most of the parishes into the lawsuit making it impossible for them to act independently. In 2015, when TEC offered to give the parishes their property in return for the diocesan assets, DSC instantly and disdainfully rejected the offer. The local court later rendered a sweeping verdict in favor of the local diocese over TEC. This was appealed to the state supreme court. We are awaiting their decision, now for 16 months and counting. This will be the first time that a state supreme court will rule on the issue of the relationship between TEC and her dioceses. If the Church loses, the decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. So far, the federal courts have been reluctant to get involved even though the TEC side has appealed to them.

DSC claimed that their schism had nothing to do with homosexuality. They insisted it was all about theology and polity. However, post-schism DSC, of all the five, has been the strongest in opposing rights for homosexuals and transgender. It has adopted strict policies rejecting marriage equality even requiring diocesan bodies, parishes, employees, and anyone wanting to use church property to sign written oaths of this. It has declared marriage to be a lifetime commitment between one man and one woman (but it still allows remarriage in the church---consistency has never been a strong point of DSC). 

See my posting of Jan. 4, 2017, "The Continuing Decline of the Diocese of South Carolina" for details of the impact of the schism on each side's membership. In short, when Lawrence became bishop in 2008, DSC had 27,670 communicants (active members). 50 of the 71 local churches went along with him in the schism. Just before the schism they had 21,993 communicants. After the schism, in 2013, the number was 17,998. In 2014 this fell to 16,361; in 2015 to 15,556. DSC churches lost 29% of their membership as a result of the schism. Almost all of the large parishes endured double-digit declines. Overall, DSC lost 44% of its membership under Bishop Lawrence. Its trajectory is clearly downward. Meanwhile the TEC diocese is up 16 % to about 7,000 communicants. As in the earlier cases, South Carolina was about a 2-1 split. However, DSC is suffering a rapid rate of decline. The seriousness of this fall is magnified by the rising need to pay between 40 and 50 lawyers for the ongoing litigation in both state and federal courts. DSC has had a number of fund-raising campaigns, even going so far once as having Lawrence call his courtroom opponent evil ("the spiritual forces of evil"). It has been an expensive, not to mention ugly, course of litigation.


Three of the five schisms have been settled in court: San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Quincy. The Episcopal Church and its dioceses won in San Joaquin and Pittsburgh. The secessionist diocese won in Quincy. So far, the schismatics have had their greatest success in Quincy. Two cases are still hung up in state courts, Fort Worth and South Carolina. Of all the five cases of litigation, South Carolina is the most important because it will be the first decision by a state supreme court. No court has made a definitive ruling on the Dennis Canon in the context of Church/diocese. 

The five schisms had mixed results. For the breakaways, the Diocese of Quincy was most successful winding up with the majority of the communicants, local churches, and properties. Pittsburgh was the least successful. The secessionists there wound up losing in court and losing the majority of the old diocese. In San Joaquin, the Church won the property but lost the majority of the people. Fort Worth and South Carolina are to be determined, but the majorities of the communicants are remaining with the secessionists.

Four of the five are in the ACNA with South Carolina about to join them. ACNA is a separate Christian denomination that is not now and will never be in the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church is rebuilding the five dioceses hit by schism. The Anglican Communion has reaffirmed its commitment to its unity with the Episcopal Church.

Sooner or later the U.S. Supreme Court will have to make a definitive ruling on the question of the sovereignty of the Episcopal Church, that is, whether the Church has the right to control its local dioceses or not. Thus, the issues involved in the schisms will remain for years to come. 


All five of the secessionist dioceses left TEC because they believed they had a viable alternative. The Anglican Realignment movement had started in 1996 as the ultras in TEC formed a union with the anti-homosexual-rights Anglican primates of equatorial Africa. The goal was to coalesce a majority of the Anglican Communion around an anti-homosexual rights agenda. This movement gained great momentum in 2003 at the Robinson affair. An immediate result was an ultra scheme to peel away the far-right dioceses from TEC to join with the anti-homosexual-rights overseas primates. This produced the first four schisms in 2007-08. After GAFCON and its Jerusalem Declaration appeared in 2008, the American ultra-equatorial African union created the Anglican Church in North America expressly to be the replacement province to take the place of TEC in the Anglican Communion. The first four secessionist dioceses promptly joined. ACNA was recognized as a "province" by the GAFCON/Global South faction, whose provinces actually counted the majority of the members of the Anglican Communion. The ACNA archbishop was made a member of the primates' councils of GAFCON/GS. After this, it looked as if this movement would succeed in dividing the Anglican Communion into majority anti-homosexual-rights and minority pro-homosexual-rights hostile parts. 

In South Carolina, the diocesan leadership counted on this Anglican Realignment movement as they planned their schism. They believed they would be leaving the corrupt minority and joining the "orthodox" majority part of the old AC.

The DSC leadership miscalculated, however. The AR movement did not turn out as they thought it would. In the January 2016 primates' gathering in Canterbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury guided the primates into "walking together" and away from schism. The majority of the primates abandoned ACNA, even as its archbishop looked on. They agreed to minor "consequences" (punishment) for TEC as retribution for its pro-homosexual/transgender reforms. In later meetings in 2016, the GAFCON primates grumbled but also backed away from the replacement scheme for ACNA as well as any other talk of schism or other division of the old AC. With this, the original aim of ACNA died. ACNA will not become a part of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Realignment will not divide the old Communion into majority/minority camps. The South Carolina diocesan leadership's gamble to leave TEC for a rising "orthodox" majority failed. DSC is now in nowhere going nowhere. With nowhere to go, it is moving to do the next best thing, join ACNA, even though they know they will still be out of the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury has declared ACNA to be a separate Christian denomination. It is not now and, in all likelihood, will never be in the Anglican Communion. It is "Anglican" in name only.

Thus, the majorities of the five schismatic dioceses will wind up together in the ACNA self-declaring themselves to be "Anglican." Other anti-homosexual-rights Anglicans will welcome them as friends but they cannot make them part of the Anglican Communion. The five departed ones are consigned to live just beyond the edge of the Anglican Communion. Perhaps they will be content with that. Perhaps not.

As for the Episcopal Church, there is no denying the schisms have hurt. For an international institution, division and loss are not good things. I do sense a slight turning back toward a more balanced horizontal/vertical trajectory. It is too early, however, to judge how the schisms may affect TEC's institutional integrity. It depends on how the courts rule on the question of where sovereignty lies, particularly on the strength of the Dennis Canon. In a way, though, even if the Church winds up "winning" it has also "lost" a lot. This is regrettable.

It is hard to see much good to come of the five schisms. There is plenty of bad, the brokenness, the hard feelings, the deadly competitions in civil courts, the human and monetary costs. And, for what? If the "orthodox" sincerely objected to the ordination of women and the inclusion of open homosexuals, they would have been allowed to continue under the tolerant policies of TEC. Ordination is now and always has been at the discretion of the local bishop. At both the blessings of same-sex unions and same-sex marriage, TEC took pains to allow local dioceses to refuse these. All five of the departing groups could have remained in TEC and peacefully practiced their own sincerely held understandings of religion. After all, most of the dozen ultra dioceses did remain in TEC and they have done this. Therefore, I have to conclude that the schisms were both unnecessary and harmful for both sides.

A personal note.
I have finished my manuscript of the history of the schism in South Carolina. At present it is 500 pages with 50 pages of footnotes. I condensed it from 600+ pages. I am negotiating with publishers for a paper book. The length is a problem. It would be an expensive book. If all else fails, I would publish it as an e-book on Amazon. This could be done instantly. One could buy it for a low price and have it on a Kindle reader. At any rate, it should be available in the foreseeable future.

I am beginning a course of medical treatments that may last for several months. They have a high rate of success, but along the way may cause me to fall behind in my posts on the history of the schism. This site has had 172,461 hits in its three and a half years of life. Hundreds of readers consult it regularly. I do not want to disappoint anyone. I will try my best to keep up this little blog. It means a lot to me, and I hope it does to you whether you agree with my interpretations or not.