INDEPENDENT DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA VOTES TO JOIN
THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA
As expected, the fifth annual meeting of the schismatic Diocese of South Carolina voted today to join the Anglican Church in North America. See the public relations announcement from DSC here . See the article in the Charleston Post and Courier here .
DSC declared its "disaffiliation" with the Episcopal Church on October 15, 2012, and announced it publicly two days later. The schism had been planned in secret by about twenty DSC leaders beforehand. The clergy and people were given a fait accompli and had to choose whether to go along with the schism or stay with the Episcopal Church. About two-thirds of the old diocese trusted their leaders and went along with their break. The direct cause of the schism was the DSC leadership's rejection of the Episcopal Church's reforms to grant equality and inclusion of non-celibate homosexuals.
Today's news release said nothing of the real reason for the schism. That is because the DSC leaders have tried to rewrite history to erase their anti-human rights record. They failed.
DSC's joining ACNA is a dead end. The ACNA was created in 2009 by anti-homosexual rights equatorial African bishops of GAFCON and the four anti-homosexual rights schismatic dioceses in the U.S. It was based on the Jerusalem Declaration of 2008 that 1-condemned homosexuality, and 2-rejected the authority of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada because of their pro-homosexual policies. GAFCON and their American allies declared ACNA to be the replacement church to take the place of the Episcopal Church as the legitimate Anglican province in the U.S. It was the GAFCON primates who consecrated the archbishops of ACNA.
The ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion. Note in today's DSC press release, DSC, for the first time to my knowledge, is not claiming ACNA to be part of the Anglican Communion. Note too, for the first time, that DSC is not claiming ACNA to be a "province." These are subtle but important changes. Of course, they can say whatever they wish after the vote.
In fact, ACNA is an independent Christian denomination. The Archbishop of Canterbury has said very plainly that it is not part of the Anglican Communion.
In the January 2016 primates' gathering in Canterbury, the GAFCON/Global South (the fundamentalist coalition of mostly African and South Asian provinces) primates abandoned ACNA. The primates stated that if ACNA wanted to join the AC, it would have to apply to the Anglican Consultative Council. Moreover, the primates recommended against the ACNA admission. This killed the chance of ACNA ever joining AC and ended the replacement strategem. What is left is for ACNA to have friendly support of the most conservative, mostly anti-homosexual-rights, primates of the AC. The ACNA-GAFCON coalition has one common bond, opposition to rights of homosexuals (and by extension opposition to the Episcopal Church). It is an alliance built on a negative. It will not last. ACNA itself is a house of cards made of widely varying partisans who have no common positive bond. It too will not last.
One should note that it took the DSC leaders four years to decide where to go. If they were not going to return home to the Episcopal Church, they really had no viable alternative but to go with their fellow fundamentalists in America, the ACNA. This still leaves DSC out of the Anglican Communion in spite of DSC claim in today's blurb: "The Diocese of South Carolina is recognized by Anglican Dioceses and Provinces around the world." Recognized as what?
I suspect, but have no evidence, that today's vote is connected to Mark Lawrence's age. He will be 67 years old this month. No doubt he has in mind retirement somewhere down the road. His virtually rent free lease on the diocesan-owned million dollar bishop's house on Smith Street in Charleston ends in 2020 when he will turn 70 (unless, before then, the SC supreme court finds it belongs to the Episcopal diocese). Joining ACNA gives DSC a mechanism for choosing a new bishop and ensuring continuation of the cabal that has controlled this diocese for many years. I imagine they will choose one of their own to succeed Lawrence. ACNA will give them a patina, albeit a false one, of legitimacy.
Other than this, joining ACNA really does not solve any problem. Institutionally, DSC is jumping from the frying pan into the fire. If any of today's delegates read the Constitution and Canons of the ACNA they would know that. They are turning over the choice of the next bishop to the archbishop/bishops of ACNA who must give 2/3 approval (ironically, Lawrence would not be a bishop today if that were the rule in the Episcopal Church. He barely squeaked by in gaining consents on the second try after failing on the first try.)
As I have pointed out in my posts about the statistics of DSC, the schismatic diocese is in decline and has been since the schism of 2012. In terms of communicants ( active members), the diocese today is only slightly over half as large as it was when Lawrence became bishop in 2008. DSC has lost members every year steadily since the schism. So has the schismatic diocese of Pittsburgh which is now much less than half of its pre-schism diocese and considerably smaller than the Episcopal diocese of Pitt. The ACNA claim of 112,000 members is suspect. It is only an estimate. The real number is probably much lower but we cannot know for sure since they refuse to release statistics. Joining ACNA will do nothing to reverse the relentless decline of the Diocese of South Carolina.
The take-away from all this is that when the DSC declared its "disaffiliation" from TEC, it also left the Anglican Communion. Joining ACNA does nothing to change this. ACNA is not now and almost certainly never will be in the Anglican Communion. Moreover, GAFCON failed to break up the Anglican Communion and carry the fundamentalist part into a separate organization. The Anglican Realignment movement, on which the leaders of DSC banked their hopes when they broke away from TEC, has failed and is declining as a force in the AC. Thanks mainly to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Communion has weathered the storm of schism. The thirty-eight provinces are still united as the Anglican Communion. The gamble that the DSC leaders made in 2012 failed. The consolation prize is ACNA, a far cry from what they thought would happen. The schism of 2012 has been a failure in almost every way.