Wednesday, February 21, 2018




We now have the proof of what we have suspected for a long time, that the independent Diocese of South Carolina is planning to break up the congregations of the 29 parishes that the South Carolina Supreme Court recognized as remaining under Episcopal Church trust control. The hard evidence came in the form of a four-page document from the DSC headquarters, dated December 1, 2017, and sent to the DSC parishes. It was entitled "Parish Contingency Plan Template." The plan was secret. It has never been released to the public. It did not carry a signature, letter-head, or any other identification except the date, but was obviously written by someone in authority at the diocesan headquarters.  

First, I will give a transcription of the text of the Plan, then provide remarks on it.

The document:


Parish Contingency Plan Template
December 1, 2017

I. Guiding Principles - Biblically/Prayerfully Discerned starting point for planning (i.e....)

   A. People are more important than possessions.

   B. Preserve a sense of unity for as long as possible.

   C. Insure continued Gospel focus/priority.

   D. Maintain Christian witness that inspires confidence of those inside and outside congregation.

   E. Create a Kingdom Building Paradigm that would be more fruitful, regardless of the outcome of the litigation.

   F. Educate the Congregation on the possibilities ahead.

   G. Be advised by legal counsel at each stage of decisions.

   H. Communicate the theological underpinnings of why we are here today:

      1. We did the right thing to leave TEC.

      2. We are optimistic about the future, because our hope is in God (Joshua 1:9).

      3. God can use this situation to make us even stronger and vibrant church.

      4. God is always about the business of refining His people.

II. Prepare to meet the Emotional and Spiritual needs of the Parish.

   A. Communicate to the Parish a vision for the future.

   B. Give special thought to last services in current spaces.

   C. Give special thought to first services in new location.

   D. Materials to minister to children and youth in adjusting to change.

   E. Caring for our People.

      1. Education - They need to understand "Why?"

      2. Pastoral Care suggestions

         a. Group meetings or other means to process grief and loss. Don't minimize pain.

         b. Share letters of encouragement from others.

---(end of first page)-------------------------------------------------

         c. You will be surprised by who stays with you and who leaves.

         Respect and bless, to the degree you can, the choices people make.

         d. Know that "living out of a box" during transition is tiring for everyone. Be prepared for that reality. Be very patient. Take time to breathe.

         e. Leadership Continuity is important. Anxiety is contagious. So is confidence and trust in God. Consequently, for clergy and lay leaders, self-care is critical. Prayer - Exercise - Relationships. We will have to shift from being warriors to being fishermen.

III. Identify Strategic Decisions needed by Clergy/Wardens/Vestry

   A. Church organization going forward (i.e. location, services, staffing).

   B. Recruit leaders with gifts for missionary season in life of the parish.

   C. Review upcoming calendar events for those needing special accommodations (i.e. weddings).

IV. Plan for Financial and Legal Consequences of possible litigation and relocation.

   A. Projections of impact on budget and cash flow going forward.

   B. Identify possible sources funding to maintain ministries.

   C. Determine need for and possible size of "emergency fund."

   D. Identify status all current contracts for continuation, cancellation or transfer.

   E. Determine legal status current bank accounts.

   F. Explore possible need for line of credit.

   G. Budget for relocation and source of funding.

   H. Determine effect of relocation on music and other licenses.

   I. Review impacts Directors and Officers insurance coverage.

V. Plan for how to address staff needs that arise with relocation.

VI. Expand Church communication with lay leaders, parishioners and friends in event relocation.

   A. Brief ministry leaders on impact relocation plans.

   B. Expand church website to provide communication in this area.

---(end of second page)--------------------------------------------------

   C. Preserve the Church's ability to use its website and other social media.

   D. Update parish records and email addresses.

VII. Establish records retention policy.

   A. Create summary of all records being maintained.

   B. Identify those needed for government or other mandated retention.

   C. Determine where records will be maintained.

   D. Identify all records requiring duplication in advance.

   E. Plan for how identified records will be duplicated and stored.

VIII. Inventory Equipment, Supplies, Furniture, AV Resources, Instruments, Bibles, Hymnals, etc...

   A. Inventory with notation of date of acquisition.

   B. Identify personal property that can be removed if relocation required.

   C. Determine what should be relocated, taken home, or left to successors.

   D. Get estimates of relocation costs.

   E. Identify and budget for what will be needed after relocation.

IX. Plan for Continuing Ministries if Lose the Buildings.

   A. Each ministry leader should have a plan for how their area will continue to function.

   B. What will need to be done differently in transition?

   C. Who does this need to be communicated to before transition begins? Inside the congregation? Outside the congregation?

X. Develop a Comprehensive Relocation Manual.

   A. Needs to address all the details required for actual relocation.

   B. Be sure to address wiping hard drives of computers as appropriate.

   C. Plan for final commercial cleaning of buildings if required to relocate.

XI. Appoint a Transition Team to work with "successor" for orderly transition, is needed. See

---(end of third page)---------------------------------------------------

this as an opportunity to share the love of Christ.

XII. Identify Interim Locations for Worship, Administration and Ministry activities.

   A. First priorities: Worship and Sunday Faith Formation.

   B. Other needs...

   C. Plan for signage as needed at new site and in community.

   D. Plan for storage if needed and transportation of ministry resources (weekly?).

   E. Confirm that phone service can be transferred to new location.

   F. Assign space to staff after interim location determined.

   G. Develop estimates time required acquire new locations and provide needed resources.

XIII. Identify Permanent Location.

   A. Develop criteria to evaluate permanent options.

   B. Develop an integral financial plan for how to achieve objective.

   C. Plan how to appropriately share the vision with the congregation as it progresses.

---(end of fourth and last page)------------------------------------------------------------


What does this document suggest? Some major points:

1. DSC recognizes that the Episcopal Church will resume control over the parishes in question. (e.g., II, B. "Give special thought to last services in current spaces.") 

2. DSC is using the time in the interval to rally the faithful against the Episcopal Church (e.g., I.H.1. "We did the right thing to leave TEC.").

3. DSC is endeavoring to unify the congregations in order to move them as groups out of the buildings into new locations beyond the walls. (e.g., I.B. "Preserve a sense of unity for as long as possible.").

4. DSC is preparing congregations to fund relocation. (e.g., IV.B. "Identify possible sources funding to maintain ministries.").

What the document does not tell us is also important.

There is nothing here about:

---Keeping the whole church family together. 

---Reconciliation of the pro-TEC and pro-DSC elements in each and every one of the 29 parishes.

---Reconciliation of the TEC and DSC sides in this long dispute.

---Discernment in the parishes, open discussion, debate, or other public processes to deal with inter-parish differences.

---The failure of DSC to deliver to their people. They spent millions of the peoples' money on legal costs and gained almost nothing. 

---The refusal of DSC to negotiate a peaceful settlement in the mediation process of November 2017 to January 2018.

One of the remarkable ironies of the schism was in the issue of local power. The diocesan leaders made a major point that the schism was all about local rights. Judge Diane Goodstein even ruled in her Feb. 3, 2015 decision that the Episcopal Church is congregational with authority arising from the parishes. In fact, the experience of the schism has been the exact opposite. The diocese has exerted heavy control over the parishes in numerous ways:

---at the time of the schism, the diocese had the parishes sign a commitment to the diocese form. This was revealed in the circuit court trial.

---at the time of the lawsuit, in Jan. of 2013, the diocesan lawyers bound 36 parishes as parties in the suit. This meant they had to pay two sets of lawyers, one for diocese, and one for parish. (None of the earlier cases of 4 breakaway dioceses had done this.)

---in June of 2015, the diocesan leaders rejected offhand the compromise agreement offered by TEC to give the parishes freedom and property in exchange for the Church's resumption of the legal entity of the pre-schism diocese.

---in 2015, the DSC Marriage Task Force forced on the parishes and officials a pledge against marriage equality.

---In the last few months, DSC leaders leaned on the parishes to join in the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

---now the "Plan" above to relocate parishioners from the parish properties to new places. Thus, the Plan is simply the continuation of a long-established policy of control over the parishes. 

In December of 2003 the Chapman Memo provided the "smoking gun" of the ultra-conservatives' plan to break up the Episcopal Church and replace it in the Anglican Communion with an anti-homosexual-rights church. The Memo outlined the steps to accomplish this. The ultimate goal of the Memo failed but only after five dioceses voted to leave the Episcopal Church.

The document given here, from Dec. 1, 2017, is the "smoking gun" of the DSC plan to remove communicants from the 29 parishes. The point is to rally the faithful to leave their church buildings rather than return to the Episcopal Church.

The plan helps us understand what has been happening in the litigation. DSC is using stalling and delaying tactics at every turn apparently in order to buy time to implement their secret plan of division. It is a slash-and-burn, scorched earth policy typical of retreating and defeated armies.

DSC's secret plan of Dec. 1, 2017, only puts off longer any chance of peace and harmony, let alone reconciliation, in the scandalous schism of South Carolina.