Sunday, October 15, 2017


It was five years ago today that the schism in South Carolina occurred, October 15, 2012. It is appropriate now to reflect on that momentous event.

As of today, October 15, 2017, the schism is approaching its most critical period. Two monumental events are about to happen, the South Carolina Supreme Court's response to the independent diocese's (DSC), petition for a rehearing, and the initial mediation session of November 6-8. Both of these will have enormous consequences for the future of both sides of the schism. Our focus now is on the near and long term future, but in order to know how to proceed onward, one must know how one got to the present. This is why we need to review, at least briefly, what happened five years ago.


The people who made the schism in South Carolina had two immediate goals:

1-to remove the diocese intact from the Episcopal Church. This would include the legal rights, assets, and properties of the old diocese.

2-to have the parishes leave the Episcopal Church owning outright their local properties.


The schism was the result of creeping increments spanning a thirty year period. 

Bishop Allison (1982-1990) established an adversarial interface with the Episcopal Church primarily because of the Church's reforms in favor of the inclusion of and equal rights for homosexual persons. He cloaked this as a religious issue, old-fashioned orthodoxy, which he championed, against modernist relativism, which he said too many Church leaders advocated. Allison packed the diocese with all the "orthodox" clergy he could giving it an indelibly conservative stance.

Bishop Salmon (1990-2008) defended the institution of the  national Church while siding with the ultra-conservatives (those who refused to accept the validity of TEC's pro-homosexual reforms). He tried to enforce TEC's Dennis Canon (parish property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal diocese). At the same time he promoted the ultra-conservative anti-homosexual-rights agenda.

After the 2003 General Convention, that approved of a non-celibate homosexual man as a bishop, Salmon introduced a top-down secretive decision-making process that remains in place. He also joined the Anglican Communion Network, an ultra-conservative alliance of a dozen dioceses, the forerunner of today's Anglican Church in North America.

After the 2006 General Convention, Salmon denounced the choice of the new presiding bishop and called for Alternate Primatial Oversight, that is, oversight of DSC by a primate outside of the Episcopal Church. This idea failed.

Bishop Lawrence arrived in 2008 having written articles defending diocesan "dissociation" from TEC and the submission of TEC to the (anti-homosexual-rights) majority of the Anglican Communion. Nevertheless, he vowed to adhere to the discipline of TEC. DSC continued to accede explicitly to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

After the 2009 General Convention, that set up a process to develop liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions, Lawrence presided over a convention that declared virtual independence from TEC. The special convention of Oct. 24, 2009 asserted local sovereignty and resolved to withdraw DSC from the governing bodies of TEC. The March 2010 diocesan convention gave Lawrence the sole right to interpret the constitution and canons. The special convention in Oct. of 2010 completed the de facto declaration of independence from TEC by voting to revoke the accession to the canons of TEC and by revising the corporate charter to remove TEC. After this, DSC recognized only the Constitution of TEC. 

By this point, a virtual state of war, albeit a one-sided one, existed between DSC and TEC. Victimization became a common theme in DSC, that is, Bishop Lawrence was being persecuted by the leadership of TEC who were out to remove him as bishop and flip the diocese from "orthodox" to liberal. The campaign of the victimization theme would bind the majority of communicants to defend their bishop in a siege mentality. It worked.

In 2011, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops investigated Lawrence and voted that his actions had not met the threshold for charges of abandonment of the communion.

At the very moment when Lawrence was cleared by the DBB, he issued quit claim deeds for all the parishes, in direct disregard of the Dennis Canon (convention had revoked accession to TEC's canons in Oct. of 2010).

The year of 2012 was the final stage of the long schism by increments. The General Convention of that year was sure to adopt a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions. This would cap a lengthy process in TEC of inclusion of and rights for homosexual persons in the life of the Church. After this, the issue of homosexuality was likely to fade away in the Episcopal Church. The DSC leaders prepared to make their last stand. 

In the first half of the year, the DSC leadership set the stage. Plans were made for pension and insurance coverage outside of TEC. Bank funds were shifted around. Lawrence worked tirelessly campaigning across the diocese. In addition to his usual visits, he conducted 28 "bishop's forums" to inform people of the impending crisis. The Standing Committee planned the events that the deputies would carry out in the upcoming Convention sessions. 

When the 2012 GC did meet, the DSC carried out its pre-planned actions and Lawrence staged a dramatic walk-out from the House of Bishops in protest of the reforms favoring homosexual and transgendered persons. DSC leaders returned to SC to declare a major crisis.

The DSC leadership apparently planned the action of the schism between late July and October 2, 2012. There was an ultra-secret meeting of the leadership on August 21, 2012, that, although we cannot document it at this time, apparently was the conference that laid out the plan for the final diocesan break from TEC. On September 18, the DSC Standing Committee discussed secession from TEC and asked Lawrence for authoritative guidance on how this could be done. On October 2, 2012, Lawrence, his aides, and the Standing Committee met in secret. Upon Lawrence's "authoritative" ruling in a 16-page letter, the Committee unanimously resolved to remove the DSC from TEC if TEC took any action of any kind against Lawrence, something everyone knew had a good chance of happening in light of the quit claim deeds of last November. This Oct. 2 resolution remained a tightly held secret among the two dozen DSC leaders.

The next day, October 3, 2012, Lawrence met in New York with Bishop Andrew Waldo, of Upper South Carolina, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to discuss "creative" ways to keep DSC in TEC. Lawrence did not reveal the secret plan which was actually a trap for the Presiding Bishop. The three failed to arrive at any "creative" suggestions other than to meet again. Lawrence left the meeting agreeing to meet again on October 11. Just before the 11th, Lawrence refused the meeting on excuse of a funeral in Florence. The meeting was re-set for October 22. However, on October 13, the Presiding Bishop was in Atlanta, and asked Lawrence to meet her there for talks. Lawrence refused. (In fact, Lawrence refused to meet the PB in person after Oct. 3).

Meanwhile, also in secret, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops met to investigate Lawrence a second time. Mainly owing to the quit claim deeds, which were not a part of the 2011 investigation, the DBB voted on September 18, 2012, to certify that Bishop Lawrence had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church primarily because, by issuing the deeds, he had willfully violated the Dennis Canon. The PB received formal notification of this on Oct. 10. She could not communicate it to Lawrence in person since he refused to meet her on Oct. 11 and Oct. 13. She scheduled a telephone call for Oct. 15.


Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori had a conference call including Lawrence, Wade Logan (Lawrence's chancellor, or lawyer), and the Disciplinary Board for Bishops. The PB told Lawrence that, following the DBB decision, she had to place a restriction on him. He was not to perform any acts as an ordained person until the restriction was lifted. She placed the restriction as of 12:00 p.m. (noon) of that day, October 15. The PB also told Lawrence she wanted this to remain confidential until their meeting of October 22. According to the TEC timeline, Lawrence agreed with this. Jefferts Schori wanted a peaceful and quick solution to this problem before word could get out. Lawrence did not tell Jefferts Schori at that time about the secret Oct. 2 resolution for schism. 

Lawrence knew exactly what Jefferts Schori's call meant and he swung into action immediately afterwards. In effect, he rejected all that the PB had said as he rejected the "discipline" of the Episcopal Church. Confidentiality disappeared. He called chancellor Logan and got the green light. By 1:30 he was on a conference call with the Standing Committee relaying the news. The DSC leadership of no more than two dozen people agreed that the diocese had "disaffiliated" with the Episcopal Church as of the moment of the restriction, noon. This meant that a part of the Oct. 2 resolution kicked in, calling of a special diocesan convention in 30 days to make the required changes in the diocesan constitution and canons removing all references to the Episcopal Church. The convention was not to be called to decide on secession from TEC. The leaders declared that was already done, by the Standing Committee, as of that day. At the end of the day, the self-declared schism was still a tightly-held secret among the two dozen diocesan leaders. In the view of the entire DSC leadership, they, and the diocese itself, had all left the Episcopal Church once and for all, and had done so as of noon, Oct. 15, 2012.


With the schism still secret, on October 16, Lawrence met with the convocation deans and relayed the news of "disaffiliation" to them.

On October 17, Lawrence called Jefferts Schori and announced that DSC had withdrawn from the Episcopal Church and therefore he was no longer subject to Church rules. This was the first she, and Bishop Waldo, knew of the secret plan for schism. The DSC leadership announced to the diocesan clergy and the rest of the world, the news of the diocesan break from the Episcopal Church. It was two days after the schism that the diocesan clergy were officially informed of their disaffiliation from the Episcopal Church. This situation forced the clergy and the communicants to choose between going along with the diocesan schism or staying with the Episcopal Church.

Lawrence did not meet again in person with the Presiding Bishop.

Shortly thereafter, the Standing Committee directed the diocesan lawyers to begin legal actions to "protect" the diocese against TEC.

On Nov. 17, a special convention met representing 55 of the 71 local churches. With little dissent, the delegates affirmed the "disaffiliation" of Oct. 15 and declared that Lawrence was the bishop of the diocese. The canons were rewritten to remove all references to the Episcopal Church. 

The schism was complete. 


1. Bishop Lawrence was not kicked out of the Episcopal Church. He voluntarily left the Church.

2. Bishop Lawrence was not convicted of anything. He was only charged by the DBB. Had he stayed in TEC, he would have had the option of submitting a simple letter to the Presiding Bishop or pleading his case in the House of Bishops. The PB or the HOB could easily have removed the restriction against Lawrence and restored him as bishop of the diocese. 

2. The Episcopal Church did not "assault" the Diocese of South Carolina. The actions concerning Lawrence were for the bishop alone. The Disciplinary Board for Bishops and the Presiding Bishop's restriction were for Bishop Lawrence only. They had nothing to do with the diocese.

3. The Presiding Bishop tried to resolve the issue of the Disciplinary Board's charge against Lawrence quietly and quickly after Oct. 10. However, Lawrence refused all in-person meetings with the PB after Oct. 3.

4. The diocesan leaders made a premeditated secret plan to remove DSC from the Episcopal Church. This was a set-up. The plan was a trap for the unsuspecting Presiding Bishop. This was the conclusion of the victimization theme. The majority of the diocese rallied around their bishop and left the Episcopal Church.

5. The schism was made in secret by no more than two dozen people and handed down to the clergy and the communicants. This was an action of the DSC leadership. The schism did not arise from the ordinary clergy and people of the diocese.

For more on the above, see my book, A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina. Information on it may be found here . 

Addendum, Oct. 16.    MUST READ---today's post by Steve Skardon at scepiscopalians (see it here ), "Breakaways Approaching Mediation with Guns Ablaze." It describes well the meltdown in the independent diocese since it lost in the state supreme court on Aug. 2. DSC appears to be in total disarray with its leaders flailing about madly at their perceived adversaries, primarily one of the justices on the supreme court and the local Episcopal Church bishop. So much for the Rev. Jeff Miller's pious talk of a few days ago about "the Christian way." Just exactly how this "all-guns-ablaze" attitude against the Church side is going to help DSC in the mediation talks with these very people remains to be seen. The first mediation session starts in 21 days.