Monday, January 23, 2017


ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
CONTINUES THEME OF UNITY


On November 28, 2016, the Archbishop of Canterbury sent a letter to the thirty-seven other Anglican Communion primates formally inviting them to Canterbury for the next meeting of the primates, October 2-6, 2017. The private letter was leaked to the website "Anglican Ink" and published there on January 21, 2017. Find the letter here . 

In the letter, the Archbishop continued his theme from the January 2016 primates' "gathering" of unity. He wrote: "Our battle is not against flesh and blood, least of all against each other," and "We are all in the one boat." If ABC is shifting metaphors from "walking together" to being in one boat, the earlier "walking" does not work unless it were a very large boat which the tiny fishing smacks on the "Sea" of Galilee certainly were not. Still, the idea is the same---togetherness. Thus, the proclaimed theme of the upcoming meeting will be the same as the last, the similarities rather than the differences among the thirty-eight independent Anglican provinces. The Anglican Communion is one boat.

Presumably, Foley Beach, the archbishop of the non-Anglican church with the presumptuous title of The Anglican Church in North America, has not been invited since the letter went only to the primates (if he had been we would certainly know it). He is not a primate of the Anglican Communion and his church is not a province or any part of the Anglican Communion. It is a separate denomination, which the ABC made clear long ago.

However, Foley was invited to attend the January 2016 "gathering" but without vote. I have written to Lambeth Palace to ask if Foley will be invited this year. I will post the answer on this blog as soon as I receive one.

ABC said in his letter of 28 November 2016, that the agenda for the Oct. 2017 meeting would be composed in advance through consultation with the primates. This means that a list of topics for discussion and decision will be made which the primates will have to follow. One can only assume that the subject of the "consequences" imposed on the Episcopal Church last year will come up. Let us hope that the agenda will be publicized in advance of the meeting.

Last year's primates' gathering was a turning point for the Anglican Communion. Threat of schism on the part of the fundamentalist-oriented GAFCON and Global South primates had loomed over the Communion for years. However, ABC dominated the gathering and skillfully guided the primates into "togetherness." The GAFCON/GS coalition, that actually has the majority of the members of the Communion (24 of the 38 provinces are in Global South) backed down. They could come up with only 15 votes to expel the Americans. They agreed to a weak compromise of "consequences" that turned out to be meaningless and powerless but provided a face-saving device for the anti-homosexual-rights primates. 

The GAFCON primates met again in Nairobi in April of 2016 and although made a very angry blast at the Episcopal Church, did not threaten to break up the Communion. Global South met in October in Cairo as only 16 of the 24 provinces showed up. The attendees likewise did not threaten to break up the Communion and seemed content to issue a blistering over-the-top denunciation of same-sex unions, perhaps as a warning to the many provinces moving in that direction in the wake of the Canadian and American reforms for equal rights and inclusion of homosexuals. This statement was really a desperate rear-guard action in a war they know they have already lost. The world is moving on in its march of human rights.

The subject of punishment for the Episcopal Church is likely to come up in the October primates' meeting and, of course, the ABC is well aware of this. If he proves once again that he is the shrewd and skillful unifying force of the Anglican Communion, as he did last January, all will be well. So far, so good, as shown in his letter to the primates of last November 28. The grand old worldwide Anglican Communion is together whether walking or riding.



Saturday, January 21, 2017



THE TRUMP ELECTION
 AND THE SCHISM IN SOUTH CAROLINA


We have a new, and very different, political regime in America; and, it is fitting to ask how the new administration might affect the Episcopal Church schism in South Carolina. What might the Trump presidency mean for the schism?

First let's ask a couple of questions for background.

How did we get here?

Donald Trump was elected president basically by the angry white working class man. Trump, the veteran TV performer, was ingenious at knowing how to tap in expertly to his fear, anger, frustration, resentment, prejudice. Trump brilliantly stoked his feelings against women, African Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, and Asians.

In Trump's election, I was most disappointed and puzzled by his overwhelming support from self-described "Evangelical Christians." 80% of them voted for Trump. According to letters to the editor, many conservative Christians believed Trump was God's agent and the election was divine intervention. Really? Look at Trump's personal life. He has been married three times. He has been publicly accused of sexual assault by at least twelve women. He is on record of boasting about sexual assault against women. It has been demonstrated that 70% of what he said in the campaign was untrue. He attacked, smeared, and ridiculed all of his opponents not to mention whole swaths of society. At the same time, his opponent was a model Christian with an impeccable moral record. I understand that Evangelicals want to overturn Roe v. Wade and think that Trump will appoint Supreme Court justices who will do that, but this is problematical. It is far from certain that Scalia-like justices will reverse Roe. This decision has been the law of the land for nearly half a century and has been upheld repeatedly by federal courts. Another Scalia will not guarantee the repeal of Roe. Throwing away one's moral principles on the outside hope of a Supreme Court justice is indefensible.

Much of the emotion of Trump's voters came from basic economic changes that were beyond anyone's control, particularly the shift from a manufacturing to a service/technology based economy. Good paying factory jobs are disappearing. Low paying service sector jobs are rising. Recently a major car maker opened a new plant near my home offering 2,000 assembly-line jobs starting at $18/hour. 75,000 people applied. The line stretched for miles. This has been repeated numerous times all around the country. Unfortunately, there is really very little that Trump, or anyone else, can do to change this new reality. The white working-class man has a legitimate economic fear. 

There is another factor at work too that I think people have overlooked. For the last quarter of a century American has been dividing ever more into separate and hostile social elements. Our old unity is dissolving into disunity. The dysfunction of our federal government is a manifestation of this. Throughout the Twentieth Century, until 1990, the U.S. faced a common threat that more or less forced the various elements of society to unite: World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. By 1990, the Cold War was over and there were no more unifying external threats. Soon "terrorism" emerged but it was too divided a force, too amorphous. Even after 9-11 "terrorism" did not do the job of uniting the country. In other words, the U.S. defeated all its great enemies, became unrivaled and supreme in the world, and then became a victim of its own success. With no more external threat to unify the people, the old internal divisions, long smoothed over by external threats, erupted into major conflicts. People turned against each other. In the U.S. government, conservative Republicans declared war on the Clinton presidency. Clinton was impeached but was eventually spared. The Election of 2000 added to the stresses. President George W. Bush's inept handing of the aftermath of 9-11 greatly magnified the divisions. He gave two unnecessary and very expensive wars and, by borrowing the money for them, gave the worst economic recession since the 1930's. On the face of it, the election of the first African American president in 2008, and reelection in 2012 brought people together, but this was not really the case. There was an explosion of racially-driven reaction against Obama so that he lost his majority in Congress in 2010 and thereafter. That is where Donald Trump came into the political picture. He became the champion of the racist "birther" movement claiming that Obama was an illegitimate president. He rode this starting place to electoral victory in 2016. His win was racist-driven revenge against Obama. Hence, American social divisions are worse now than they have been at least since the 1960s. In short, America is falling apart internally because we have no external challenge to unify us. In a way, we Americans are victims of our own success.

I have been thinking lately of historical parallels to America's situation of today. The closest I can come up with is the late Roman Republic. Rome had a republican government from 509 to 27 B.C.E. This was a complicated set of assemblies and magistrates based on old social divisions. Perhaps it should be described as quasi-democracy. The system worked relatively well as long as Rome was defeating its enemies. Her last great rival, Carthage, was crushed in 146 leaving Rome the undisputed master of the Mediterranean world. The overall effect of these wars was to make the Roman rich much richer and the poor poorer. In Rome, internal tensions exploded as social groups clashed in a long series of conflicts among Roman social classes after 146. To oversimplify, in the long run the propertied classes seized control and turned the old republican government into a dictatorship and then an empire under an emperor ("law and order"). The Roman Republic fell not because Rome was declining, but the exact opposite, because of its success. I think this is similar to America's story of today.

Where Are We Now?

There are presently two power bases in Washington, the president and the congressional leadership. 

Trump was/is a demagogue. He very cleverly played to his audience to get their votes. He has no core political principles. In his past, he has been on various sides of various issues. For much of the time he favored a woman's right to abortion. The great constant that does drive Trump is overriding ego. This "trumps" all. He has the maturity of a third grade bully on the playground. A person such as this can be easily manipulated, as we are seeing with Putin. What is important to Trump is not political or social policy but his self-concept. This is why he Tweets endlessly. He will not let one slight pass without a response. What this will mean now, is that the Republican leaders in Congress can manipulate him by appealing to his ego to get what they want.

The other center of power is the old conservative Republican leadership in Congress. They have a definite agenda and have already started enacting it. They controlled the very first day of Trump's presidency: --raised FHA mortgage payments by average of $500/yr, --had the justice department abandon a civil rights case in Texas, --empowered officials to counteract Obamacare. Trump went right along with all of these with hardly a glance. This says to me that the real power will rest on Capitol Hill. We are in for a major reversal of a great number of progressive reforms. In short, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer, just as in late republican Rome. Only time will tell whether the American constitutional system, unlike Rome, can survive the present strains of social conflicts.

What Might This Mean for the Schism in South Carolina?

The next step will be to see the decision of the SC Supreme Court. It was appear eventually. If the Episcopal Church side loses, it is almost certain to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. There is a good chance that SCOTUS will take the case. It refused to take an appeal from Texas probably because the state supreme court had not rendered a decision. It only remanded to the lower court with directions. SCOTUS will be reluctant to get involved until it has something definitive on which to act. The SC Supreme Court decision will most likely be definitive.

Trump and his congressional allies will appoint at least one new justice to the Supreme Court, probably more than one. They are certain to choose highly conservative, Scalia-type, judges. However, this might not guarantee a defeat for the Episcopal Church. It depends on how the justices define the matter at hand. If they see it as a social issue, they are likely to side with the local dioceses. If they define it as a constitutional matter only, they may go to the Church side. Separation of church and state is a bedrock American principle. A strict constructionist is likely to take this seriously and let the Church alone to settle its own problems. Thus, a conservative Court, does not necessarily mean it will side with the local entity against the national Church. Besides, federal courts have entirely sided with the Church on parochial disputes. Remember too that same-sex marriage was decided by a supreme court with a conservative majority. 

Bottom line---the Trump victory strengthens the hand of the local diocesan side but does not guarantee its eventual victory in court. 

   




Thursday, January 19, 2017





CONSERVATIVES IN SC MANEUVERING FOR REVENGE ON HEWITT


At least one socially conservative political action group in South Carolina is working to defeat Blake Hewitt for the SC Court of Appeals, and it is all because of his role as the lawyer for the Episcopal Church side in the South Carolina Supreme Court hearing of September 23, 2015.

The news was broken by the blog calling itself "Fitsnews, Unfair, Unbalanced" (thanks for the honesty). This is a highly conservative site that focuses on political and social actions in South Carolina. Fitsnews published a memo from the Palmetto Family Alliance (find it here ). 

Blake Hewitt had not been one of the lawyers involved in the Church case circuit court action in 2013-15. However, he was chosen for his outstanding skills as an appeal lawyer to lead the presentation to the justices of the SC Supreme Court. By all accounts he did an excellent job. The justices slammed Goodstein's ruling and the independent diocese's main defense of the precedent of the 2009 All Saints SC Supreme Court decision (written by Chief Justice Jean Toal). Hewitt had once been a clerk to Toal. By the end of the hearing, the diocese's case was in shreds on the courtroom floor. Much of the credit for this went to Hewitt.

Now, conservatives are out for revenge. Some have targeted Hewitt's candidacy for the state Court of Appeals. They were especially outraged by Hewitt's remark that he was very proud of his work for the Episcopal Church. He said this to the Merit Selection Commission which was interviewing him on Nov. 16, 2016. Apparently, the Palmetto Family Alliance and its friends are out to destroy Hewitt's chances. The General Assembly (SC state legislature) will elect the new judges on February 1, 2017.

The Palmetto Family Alliance, based on Columbia SC, is a highly conservative political action committee devoted to social action particularly to prevent reforms of equality for women and homosexuals. PFA's website says it is allied with the well-known right wing national PACs Focus on the Family and Family Research Council. These have been in the forefront of the national fight against rights for women and gays.

PFA and its friends have defined the Episcopal Church/Diocese of South Carolina fight as one of religious freedom, for the diocese that is. What they are really concerned about, however, is the Episcopal Church's stand for full rights and inclusion, particularly for homosexuals, but also for women. They have unfairly linked Hewitt with the Episcopal Church.

What PFA and such groups are doing is fighting a campaign against equal rights for all people. They have targeted Blake Hewitt. Although I know of no hard evidence, they may be supporting the candidacy of Diane Goodstein for the SC Supreme Court for the same reasons, that is, to reward her for her sweeping judgment against the Episcopal Church (the one that was shredded by the SC supreme court). "Fitsnews" at least implied such.

Every great revolution in history has a smaller ensuing counter-revolution. This is what we are in now, on both the national and local levels. In South Carolina, what the independent diocese and its supporters are doing is to lash back at the democratic social reforms made from the 1950's to 2015. They know they lost the war. They cannot undo the reforms. What they can do is get spiteful revenge on whatever is handy. 

In this case, Blake Hewitt is the innocent victim. PFA does not know, or care about, his personal views, philosophy, or opinions. They simply want revenge for his helping the Episcopal Church which they see as the enemy. If he goes down to defeat on February 1, we will know why.      

Sunday, January 8, 2017



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.


3-SOCIAL CONSERVATISM.

---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.       
  

Thursday, January 5, 2017

 
 
 

A NEW FUNDAMENTALIST CULT
IN SOUTH CAROLINA?
 
 

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.
 
Conclusion
 
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.        
 
 
 
 


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

 
 
 
THE CONTINUING DECLINE
OF THE DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
---with Addendum

 
 

Original post of Jan. 3, 2017:

The Diocese of South Carolina recently posted its statistics for the year 2015 in The Journal of the 225th Convention...2016 here . The figures show the relentless decline of the diocese.
 
"Communicants" means active members, or ones who attend church at least once a year. This is the most meaningful measure of parish membership. In the year 2015, the 53 local churches in the diocese reported a total of 15,556 communicants.
 
Mark Lawrence became bishop in 2008 when DSC counted 27,670 communicants. DSC had 15,556 in 2015. This means DSC lost 12,114 members, a drop of 44% in seven years under Lawrence, 2008-2015. Soon, the diocese will have lost half its membership under Lawrence.
 
In the schism of 2012, 50 of the 71 local churches of the diocese went along with Lawrence out of the Episcopal Church. In 2011, the year before the schism, these 50 counted 21,993 communicants. By the end of the schism year, 2012, this number was down to 17,812, a drop of 19% in one year. The number declined every year after the schism: 17,798 in 2013, 16,361 in 2014 (down 8% in the year), and 15,556 in 2015 (down 5% in the year). Overall, the 50 churches lost 6,437 communicants from 2011 to 2015, down 29%.
 
The vast majority of the 50 (now 53) local churches of DSC have suffered losses in membership, some dramatically. Almost all of the large parishes have seen double-digit declines:
 
---Holy Cross of Sullivans Island fell from 2,540 communicants in 2011, before the schism, to 1,354 in 2015, a loss of 46%.
 
---St. Michael's of Charleston dropped from 1,847 in 2011, to 1,351 in 2015, a loss of 27%.
 
---St. Helena's of Beaufort went from 1,737 in 2011 to 951 in 2015, down 45% (Jeff Miller the rector, was recently rewarded with the plum job of rector of St. Philip's).
 
---Old Saint Andrew's of West Ashley, fell from 962 to 546, down 43%.
 
---Holy Comforter of Sumter went from 525 in 2011 to 271 in 2015, a fall of 48%.
 
---St. John's of Florence declined from 652 to 417, down 36%.
 
---Trinity of Myrtle Beach dropped from 595 to 298, down 50%.
 
---St. Luke's of Hilton Head fell from 951 in 2011 to 644 in 2015, a drop of 32%.
 
---St. Philip's of Charleston declined from 2,677 in 2011 to 1,974 in 2015, a loss of 26%.
 
---St. James of James Island went from 612 to 500, down 18%.
 
---The Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul fell from 305 in 2011 to 200 in 2015, a loss of 34%.
 
---Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant went from 925 to 780, down 16%.
 
---St. Paul's of Conway dropped from 270 in 2011 to 207 in 2015, down 23%.
 
---Trinity of Edisto Island fell from 183 to 155, down 15%.
 
---Good Shepherd of West Ashley fell from 302 in 2011 to 202 in 2015, a loss of 33%.
 
All was not loss, however. The one bright spot in the diocese was Church of the Cross in Bluffton. It went from 1,702 communicants in 2011 to 1,775 in 2015, a gain of 4%.
 
Numerous local churches saw steady declines every year for five years in a row (2011-2015), most notably St. Helena's, St. Luke's of Hilton Head, St. Philip's of Charleston, and Good Shepherd of West Ashley.
 
Of all of the pre-schism churches in Charleston, Grace Church Episcopal Cathedral now has the largest membership. It eclipsed St. Philip's. The Episcopal Church diocese as a whole grew 16% after the schism.
 
Before the schism, Bishop Lawrence was fond of saying the Episcopal Church was dying ("a comatose patient on life support") while true "orthodox" religion was booming. Turns out to be the opposite. Members of the 53 local church of DSC are voting with their feet to abandon this disaster.
 
Meanwhile, shedding itself of the pro-Episcopal party and wavering members, and down to about half the old membership, the leaders of the old diocese are creating a fundamentalist cult out of what is left over. But that will be the subject of another posting.
 
For now, let's pay attention to the statistics that do not lie. The independent diocese is declining while the Episcopal Church diocese is growing.
 
 
Addendum
 
 
 
January 4, 2017.
 
After posting the information above, I returned to examine in detail the statistical data from DSC again for the years 2011-2015 in an effort to get a clearer picture of what has happened to the post-schism DSC in terms of membership and income. The membership data are clear but the financial are not. Here is what I have discovered:
 
In terms of membership, most of the 50 parishes and missions that made up DSC in and after the schism lost active members in significant numbers. A few gained. The biggest losers 2011-2015 were:
 
 
COMMUNICANTS
 
Biggest losers by number
 
 
---Holy Cross of Sullivans Island, -1,186 (2,540 to 1,354).
---St. Helena's of Beaufort, -786 (1,737 to 951).
---St. Philip's of Charleston, -703 (2,677 to 1,974).
---St. Michael's of Charleston, -536 (1,887 to 1,351.
---Old Saint Andrew's of West Ashley, -416 (962 to 546).
---St. Paul's of Summerville, -393 (773 to 380).
---St. Luke's of Hilton Head, -307 (951 to 644).
---Trinity of Myrtle Beach, -297 (595 to 298).
---Holy Comforter of Sumter, -254 (525 to 271).
---St. John's of Florence, -235 (652 to 417).
---Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant, -145 (925 to 780).
---St. James of James Island, -112 (612 to 500).
---Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, -105 (305 to 200).
---Good Shepherd of West Ashley, -100 (302-202).
---Holy Cross of Stateburg, -82 (177 to 95).
---Redeemer of Orangeburg, -75 (265 to 190).
---St. Paul's of Conway, -63 (270 to 207).
---St. David's of Cheraw, -61 (113 to 52).
 
Biggest losers by percentage
 
---St. David's of Cheraw, -54%.
---St. Paul's of Summerville, -51%.
---Trinity of Myrtle Beach, -50%.
---Holy Comforter of Sumter, -51%.
---Holy Cross of Sullivans Island, -47%.
---St. Helena's of Beaufort, -45%.
---Holy Cross of Stateburg, -46%.
---St. John's of Florence, -36%.
---Good Shepherd of West Ashley, -33%.
---Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, -34%.
---St. Luke's of Hilton Head, -32%.
---St. Michael's of Charleston, -28%.
---Redeemer of Orangeburg, -28%.
---St. Philip's of Charleston, -26%.
---Christ/St. Paul's of Yonges Island, -24%.
---St. Paul's of Conway, -23%.
---Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant, -16%.
 
Gainers
 
---Church of the Cross in Bluffton, +73 (1,702 to 1,775).
---Prince George Winyah of Georgetown, +180 (450 to 630).
---St. Matthew's of Ft. Motte, +17 (72 to 89).
 
 
 
AVERAGE SUNDAY ATTENDANCE
 
 
Biggest losers by number
 
 
---Holy Cross of Sullivans Island, -222 (845 to 623).
---St. Philip's of Charleston, -201 (563 to 362).
---St. John's of Florence, -198 (378 to 180).
---St. Helena's of Beaufort, -103 (739 to 638).
---St. Paul's of Conway, -73 (234 to 161).
---Trinity of Edisto, -62 (189 to 127).
---Trinity of Myrtle Beach, -56 (381 to 325).
---Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, -54 (258 to 204).
---St. John's of Johns Island, -51 (281 to 230).
 
 
Biggest losers by percentage
 
 
---St. John's of Florence, -52%.
---Holy Apostles of Barnwell, -46%.
---St. Paul's of Bennettsville, -39%.
---St. Philip's of Charleston, -36%.
---St. David's of Cheraw, -33%.
---Trinity of Edisto, -33%.
---St. Paul's of Conway, -31%.
---Redeemer of Pineville, -30%.
---Holy Cross of Sullivans Island, -26%.
---Trinity of Pinopolis, -23%.
---St. Bartholomew's of Hartsville, -22%.
---Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, -21%.
---Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant, -16%.
---St. John's of Johns Island, -18%.

---St. Helena's of Beaufort, -13%.
 
 
Gainers
 
 
---Church of the Cross in Bluffton, +480 (739 to 1,219) +65%.
---All Saints of Florence, +15 (86 to 101).
---St. Matthew's of Ft. Motte, +12 (42 to 54).
 
 
 
GIVING (PLATE AND PLEDGE)
 
 
The amount of money that people gave to their local churches was listed as "Plate and Pledge." In 2011, this was $1,393,804. In 2013, it was $1,137,098; in 2015, $1,468,549. The difficulty with these figures is the inability to distinguish between regular giving and donations to the legal funds. When people give to the legal funds they may make their checks out to the diocese. I imagine that perhaps a third of the 2015 figure went to the legal accounts. One cannot know what is in these accounts as they are held in secret. For instance, the following parishes listed enormous gains in giving between 2011 and 2015 even though three of these were declining parishes:
 
---Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant, +$706,000 (+190%).
---St. Luke's of Hilton Head, +$687,000 (+181%).
---St. Helena's of Beaufort, +$500,000 (+27%).
---Church of the Cross in Bluffton, +$339,000 (+19%).
 
About half of the 50 (now 53) parishes and missions of DSC showed no real change in giving. Nine showed significant declines in annual giving between 2011 and 2015:
 
---St. Philip's of Charleston, -$550,000 (-24%).
---St. Paul's of Conway, -$305,000 (-46%).
---Holy Cross of Sullivans Island, -$191,000 (-11%).
---Our Saviour of Johns Island, -$132,000 (-21%).
---St. Paul's of Bennettsville, -$79,000 (-61%).
---St. Matthew's of Darlington, -$76,000 (-29%).
---St. Bartholomew's of Hartsville, -$61,000 (29%).
---St. David's of Cheraw, -$29,000 (-17%).
---Holy Apostles of Barnwell, -$24,000 (-16%).
 
 
CONCLUSION
 
All together, what does this snow storm of numbers mean? What the numbers show if that the entity known as the Diocese of South Carolina has suffered significant decline in membership while struggling to meet financial obligations since the schism of 2012. Communicants are leaving these churches every year, about 5,000 have left since the schism. The diocese is about half the size of what it was a decade ago. The vast  majority of the local churches are declining in membership. The only bright light of vitality is the Church of the Cross in Bluffton. This means that fewer people across the diocese are being pressed to pay three expensive needs: upkeep of their local churches, support of the diocese, and fees for high-priced lawyers (between 40 and 50 lawyers). As far as anyone can tell, the diocesan leaders are managing to keep the balls juggling in the air, for how long, no one can know. It seems to me this cannot last. It is not sustainable long term.
 
No one should take comfort in these statistics. The schism has been a disaster all around. The only group of people who do not seem to get it is the insular leadership cabal that produced this tragedy and now do not want to admit it to themselves or anyone else. They are trying to justify their colossal misdeed by turning the diocese into a fundamentalist cult (more about this later).
 
The schism of 2012 did not have to happen. The excuses that the leadership gave to make it were not legitimate. They have not held up under historical scrutiny. Nevertheless, the people of the diocese made their choices. We are now beginning to see the dark consequences of these. There are no winners here. The sooner the good communicants of the errant diocese come to their senses and stop this self-destruction, the better. They will have to do it themselves. They have made a start by refusing to be herded into joining ACNA. This must be a shock to the ruling clique. It is a good start for the ordinary people-in-the-pews to take their church back. May there be many more steps toward the healing and reconciliation that all people of good will should want for South Carolina. The old diocese belongs together. There will be no peace until the broken parts reassemble in their common bond that stretched back for centuries.