Tuesday, July 31, 2018





THE LAST HURRAH?




Bishop Lawrence has announced a whirlwind tour of the diocese of South Carolina stopping in five places in 10 days. Find the official announcement of this here . From July 31 to August 9 he will stop in Sumter, Walterboro, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and James Island. Is this the last hurrah, the swan song, the grand finale, the final act before the curtain falls? I sense that it may well be.

At the age of 68, with the failure of the schism too evident, his work crashing all about him, and his dreams of a great independent diocese vanishing, I expect Lawrence would be thinking a lot these days about his life and his legacy. He probably does not have many more years before he heads off into retirement although he has guaranteed employment and virtually free use of the bishop's residence on Smith Street until 2020 or the Church diocese reclaims it, whichever occurs first.

The status conference in the circuit court last Thursday made it very clear, as if anyone needed such, that the Episcopal Church has been legally recognized as the controller of the 29 parishes and Camp St. Christopher. Judge Edgar Dickson made it plain that he expects to wrap up the enactment of the state supreme court decision at the earliest convenience. It is just a matter of time before TECSC repossesses the properties.

So, if Lawrence has lost the 29 parishes, what is the point of his grand tour?he blurb from DSC says it is all about "refocusing on mission." Mission would presumably be reaching out to new people to join the group. Reaching out to new people now would be like the Titanic taking on more passengers after it struck the iceberg. I doubt seriously that anyone would believe it is about mission. Then what is it about? Why the mad dash?

I expect there is a simple explanation, to sway as many people as possible to leave their church buildings and form congregations in exile. These would be DSC local churches. At the moment, DSC legally holds six parishes, none in Charleston. Old Saint Andrew's of West Ashley claims to be one of the DSC parishes but it is not according to the SC supreme court decision. It is included in the 29 under TEC control.

What will Lawrence say in his performances? I think we can get a hint in the blurb. At the end, DSC lists "Helpful Resources" presumably to help people get ready for the "gatherings" with Lawrence. Four items are listed. One is the recorded program "Why the Battle?" that the Revs. Kendall Harmon and Al Zadig conducted at St. Michael's last spring. They demonized TEC about as thoroughly as they could. Another is "Litigation Facts," a highly imaginative and self-serving accounting of the years of litigation between the two dioceses. Then there is the Kennedy video smear of Bishop Skip Adams's disposition of the property of a defunct parish in Binghamton, NY. Plus there is a handy transcript of the video. Every bit of this material trashes the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church bishop, Adams. This should give us a good idea of what is going to happen in Lawrence's five appearances. They should be very interesting at the very least. If nothing else, Lawrence is a fighter and we can expect him to go to "the mat" a last time in which may well be the last great match of his life, his attempt to save what he can of the DSC. 

No one should underestimate Mark Lawrence. In doing research for my history of the schism I came to admire many of his personal qualities. In a way, his whole life has been a struggle against the odds, the tiny baby who barely survived birth, the undersized boy who had to work hard to keep up, the scrappy high school and college wrestler who did not like to lose and rarely did, the intrepid if uneven student who spent eight years working his way through college, the late convert who felt called to devote his whole life to what he saw as a mission from God. Who could not admire all of that? His unusual stamina, energy, strength, and resolve were evident. He proved to be an outstanding parish priest and much beloved by admiring parishioners. And, in a way, all of this earlier promise and accomplishment makes this slightly pathetic, desperate-appearing display all the more poignant.

Lawrence did not seek the office of bishop. The search committee started seriously looking at candidates, some 50 in all, in 2006. Lawrence was not a candidate then. In May of 2007, the committee decided it really did not like any of the finalists. It asked Bishop Hathaway, Lawrence's old boss in the diocese of Pittsburgh, to contact Lawrence, then in Bakersfield CA, and ask if he would submit his name. Hathaway did and Lawrence did. Long story short, a few weeks later, the search and standing committees recommended Lawrence as a finalist and the convention elected him even though he was virtually unknown in South Carolina. In other words, Lawrence was virtually drafted by the search committee. We do not know the full story of this as the search committee minutes have not appeared. I am not sure they still exist.

In the background of the circuit court trial, of 2014, TECSC lawyers charged in court that Lawrence had been part of a conspiracy, a quid pro quo, to make Lawrence bishop in return for his leading DSC out of TEC, property in hand. This may be. There was some evidence of it but perhaps not enough to prove the charge conclusively. Lawrence certainly was well rewarded after he became bishop with a generous salary, virtually free housing at diocesan expense, guaranteed lifetime employment even if he were removed as bishop, and a great deal of authority. Since he failed to lead DSC out of TEC with property in hand, one could argue that he got by far the better end of the deal, if there were a deal.


Lawrence has invited people to attend his "gatherings." I encourage people to go and ask questions. I will not be in SC at the time, but I have written down a few questions off the top of my head I would ask of Lawrence:


1--- You assured people in TEC before the second try at consents for bishop, in 2007, that you "intended" to stay in TEC. At what point did your intent change and why?

2--- When you were rector of St. Paul's in Bakersfield, that diocese voted twice to support diocesan secession (2006, 2007). St. Paul's voted yes. The second time you were absent, but how did you vote the first time? This was before your statement of "intent." How did that vote square with you later expressed "intent" to remain in TEC?

3--- In 2012, the TEC General Convention voted to approve same-sex blessings. This included the local option for a bishop and diocese to opt out yet you rejected this. What was wrong with accepting the local option and staying in TEC?

4--- On August 21, 2012, there was an ultra secret meeting of the diocesan leadership which apparently planned to take DSC out of TEC. The meeting remains secret to this day. What happened in that meeting?

5--- On Oct. 2, 2012, the standing committee secretly passed a resolution to withdraw DSC from TEC if TEC took any action of any kind against the bishop. You met Bishop Waldo and the Presiding Bishop the next day. Why did not you tell them about the resolution? Why did you keep it secret for 15 days? Does not the resolution prove a premeditated plan of schism?

6--- After the Oct. 3 meeting with the PB, she tried several times to meet with you. Why did you refuse to meet her again? On one occasion she was in Atlanta. You had nothing on your schedule yet you refused to see her. Why?

7--- After the PB placed a restriction on you, on Oct. 15, 2012, you had two ways to remove it and restore yourself. One was a letter to the bishop explaining yourself, the other an appearance before the House of Bishops with an explanation. You refused both of these. Did not this contradict your earlier declaration that it was your intent to remain in TEC?

8--- You, and your lawyers, entered a lawsuit against TEC even though TEC had shown no sign of taking legal action. Is not it hypocritical to file a lawsuit after criticizing the other side for doing the same thing?

9--- In your ten years as bishop, DSC communicant number have fallen by nearly half and the budget by a third, by DSC's own records. How do you account for this?

10--- You have had several chances to settle your differences with TEC by compromise and mediation yet you refused all. Why? Do you regret rejecting the June 2015 offer?

11--- You have indicated repeatedly that the schism was about religion and not homosexuality, yet DSC went to great lengths to adopt a diocesan-wide ban of same-sex marriage in 2015-16. Does not this prove the schism was about homosexuality?

12--- Records show that you started issuing the quit claim deeds early on. You must have known this was in opposition to TEC's Dennis Canon. Why did you issue the deeds? Were you provoking a move against you from TEC?

13--- TECSC's lawyer charged in court that you were in a conspiracy to make you bishop in return for taking DSC out of TEC. Was there a quid pro quo conspiracy?

14--- Why does DSC keep telling people the property issue is "unsettled" when the state supreme court has ruled and the circuit court judge has indicated he will enforce the ruling on returning the 29 parishes? 

15--- Why does DSC keep telling people the DSC is part of the Anglican Communion when it is not. The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the Anglican Church in North America is not part of the Anglican Communion.

16--- How much money has DSC spent on legal fees?

17--- Where are all the bank accounts of DSC and how much money is in them?


I am sure everyone can think of other questions. Send them to me, or, better yet, ask Lawrence in person. You get five chances starting today.

It is increasingly clear that DSC's experiment in secession has failed. The schism was a bad idea; and the fruits of it have become painfully evident. It may well be that Lawrence's tour next week is his last hurrah, his last effort to salvage what he can from the ruins of a great diocese he inherited a decade ago. Legally, all of the parishes where he will be speaking are under control of the Episcopal Church bishop. That is what the state supreme court said. I wonder if Lawrence has asked Bp Adams's permission to speak in these places? Somehow I doubt it. 


Thursday, July 26, 2018





STATUS CONFERENCE TODAY
(with update)




UPDATE. July 26, 5:00 p.m. EDT.  
The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has just issued a press release about the status conference. Find it here . The only significant decision of the day was the request of Judge Dickson to the two sets of lawyers that they submit to him a list of the issues they think he needs to address in carrying out the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017. The lawyers said they would submit the lists in a week.

The TECSC press release was an eyewitness report. For another first hand account see scepiscopalians .

From these reports, it seems to me that Dickson was resolved to enact the SCSC decision and to do so expeditiously. There was no discussion about returning to the issues of the decision itself. My understanding of today is that the judge intends to enforce the decision, that is, to return to TEC the 29 parishes and Camp, and to wrap up all of the various petitions involved as soon as possible. Thus, DSC's public propaganda that the SCSC decision cannot be enforced and even if it could be they would keep throwing up road blocks in state court to delay the implementation indefinitely has no substance. The game is up, at least in the state court.

We  may now discard any suggestion that DSC will re-litigate the case and somehow keep the 29 parishes. The 29 are absolutely going to be returned to the Episcopal Church, and in the not too distant future. This is the great takeaway from the status conference.

I know many of us are disappointed at the glacial speed of justice. I am. However, we need to keep the big picture here. The wheels of justice are turning however slowly (for five and a half years!). Nevertheless, they are moving and the end is in sight on the horizon.

It will be most interesting to see how Bishop Lawrence addresses all of this in his whirlwind tour of the next few days. He was present in the courtroom. He knows the truth of the litigation. Will he accept reality, or will he continue to spin a fantasy view of the future on his swan song performances? We shall see.


  

______________________________________




Today, Thursday, July 26, Judge Edgar Dickson, of the circuit court, will hold a "status conference" with the lawyers of the Diocese of South Carolina on one side and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina on the other. It is scheduled to be in the courthouse of Orangeburg at 3:00 p.m. EDT.

Dickson has five petitions before him, two from DSC and three from TECSC. Presumably he will discuss a general organization for proceeding with these and reach a common agreement on a time frame. The direction of this is up to the judge.

The petitions from the two sides are strikingly different. DSC is asking Dickson for a jury trial on its "Betterments Statute" claim demanding money from TEC for "improvements" made on the properties they illegally occupied. On the other hand, TECSC is asking for the judge to enforce the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017, which recognized TECSC control over 29 parishes and Camp St. Christopher. TECSC is asking Dickson to appoint a Special Master to oversee the restoration of the properties, and an accounting firm to survey and report the assets held by DSC since Jan. 1, 2008. We do not know which ones of the five petitions Dickson will address today. I expect he will address all five. It is interesting to note that DSC has not filed court papers responding to TECSC's petitions for Special Master and the accounting firm. I assume we will see responses soon. 

I will not attend the status conference today but will relay reports from some who do attend as soon as I can. Watch the spaces of the TECSC website and scepiscopalians.com for firsthand reports this evening.

After the conference, we should have a clearer idea of how much longer we can expect the circuit court actions to last. However, one should recall that this is not all the litigation going on. The federal case is awaiting disposition; and we can expect U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel to expedite this soon. He is a non-nonsense judge well-known for his prompt and judicious court actions.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018





THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
THE DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
AND THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH



What's the difference between the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church? That is the question at hand, and it is the one the 13,000 communicants in the 29 parishes must ponder as they face the choice of staying in the buildings and returning to TEC or leaving the buildings and staying with DSC. It is important to ask now, just what is it that separates the two dioceses?

Ever since the South Carolina Supreme Court denied a rehearing of the case, in November of 2017, DSC leaders have been working to prepare the 13,000 to vacate the buildings and meet elsewhere to continue as DSC churches. They know it will be very difficult for some people to leave behind their cherished old church homes. In order to facilitate the exodus, DSC began a robust public relations campaign to differentiate itself from TEC. DSC leaders conducted two lengthy "teaching" series, one on "theology" and one called "Different God, Different Gospel?" The point of both was to convince people that the difference with TEC is over religion, that TEC no longer believed in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world and in the authority of the Bible. They labored to frame the difference as a vast and unbridgeable theological chasm. In simplistic fashion, they claimed to be right religion and TEC to be wrong. No one could miss the message. It's about God, not gays, they insisted. There can be no reconciliation.

I am not saying there was no theological element at all in the schism. After all, these are institutions that define themselves as religious entities. In fact, after the schism, DSC moved more and more in religious understanding toward fundamentalism. That being said, I go back to my point that the schism at base was not about religion. It was about social relationships in the context of religion. 

DSC's public relations campaign this year was fallacious. In actuality, there is no basic theological divide between DSC and TEC. Both worship the same God in the same way, using the same prayer book, same creeds, same liturgies. In fact, TEC has not changed its religion. It is the same as it has been for generations on end. That would take acts of the General Convention which have not happened and certainly will not happen. In spite of what DSC asserts, TEC still believes in Jesus Christ as the Savior and in the Bible as the word of God, just as it always has. DSC's assertion that TEC has departed from the true faith is not true and its supporting arguments lack substance.

That there is no significant religious difference between the two begs the question of what caused the schism and what keeps the two sides apart. To be blunt, it is the issue of homosexuality. Let's cut to the chase and get honest. The reality is that this schism was about, and remains about, homosexuality. Everybody knows this even if he or she denies it. How is the church to interact with homosexual persons? Should the church condemn homosexual activity as sin? Should the church ordain non-celibate homosexual persons? Should non-celibate homosexuals be given equality and inclusion in the life of the church? It was the issue of homosexuality that drove the DSC to schism and it is still this issue that separates the two factions (for 300,000 more words on this subject, read my history of the schism). In short, DSC holds that homosexual activity is sinful and "practicing" gays should be excluded from equality and inclusion in the life of the church. On the other hand, TEC holds that homosexual activity is morally neutral and active gays should be given equality and inclusion in the life of the church. All this boils down to whether we accept gays as equal.

The schism occurred in October of 2012. Through the next two years, the focus of attention was not on homosexuality but on the litigation with TEC. DSC won a spectacular victory in the circuit court in February of 2015. However, by that time, the issue of homosexuality had arisen on the national stage as the issue of same-sex marriage arrived at the U.S. Supreme Court. Everyone knew there was a good possibility the court would recognize s-s marriage. The issue returned in South Carolina. In March of 2015, the diocesan convention approved the creation, under Bishop Lawrence, of a "Marriage Task Force" to formalize diocesan policy regarding marriage, i.e. to condemn s-s marriage. Lawrence appointed to the Force: Kendall Harmon, Peter Moore, Ted Duvall, Greg Snyder, Tyler Prescott, and Jim Lewis.

The Marriage Task Force quickly drew up four documents that were presented to and approved by the 2016 diocesan convention and then forced on the whole diocese. These documents collectively institutionalized the rigidly anti-homosexual-rights attitude longstanding in the diocese. The four documents can be found here , on pages 56-71. 

If there was ever any doubt that the schism was about homosexuality, it was now gone. No one could serious doubt that the distance between DSC and TEC was over how to treat gays. The DSC attitude was this: it is OK to be gay, but it is not OK to act like it. Homosexuality is learned and not inborn. Homosexual acts are inherently sinful. Thus, homosexuals must live their whole lives in celibacy, that is, without physical intimacy with a person of the same gender. Only celibate gays can be allowed into Holy Orders.

The DSC position, common among many socially conservative elements, is that God assigns gender to each person and it is wrong to question that, let alone change it. It is a person's duty to God to accept and follow one's assigned gender. As the Task Force said on page 57, "God wonderfully creates each person as male or female." The first problem with this assertion is that the Bible does not say that. The supporting verse is given as Mark 10:6. In fact, Mark 10:6 does not say male OR female. It says male AND female. There is a big difference in the meaning of those terms. The Task Force misrepresented the Bible to bolster their preconceived notions. 

The second obvious problem with the idea that everyone is born with an assigned gender is that it simply is not true. Not everyone is born with a certain sexual identity to be followed throughout life. There are people born without genitals. There are people born with both sets of genitals, others with opposites, internally and externally. There are people who are born with physical characteristics so ambiguous that gender identity is difficult. There are people who are born with genitals that never mature, others whose genitals do not correspond with the make up of the rest of the person. See articles on intersex here and here . Then, how should we Christians regard people with gender identity "irregularities"? Should we say they are God's mistakes? Surely not. Surely everyone is created in the image of God regardless of one's physical and/or emotional make up. We dare not say that people different than ourselves are lesser beings. That would be putting ourselves in the place of God; and that was Adam's downfall. Thus, the neat little concept that God assigns certain gender to every person just does not hold up against empirical evidence and actually may cause us to contradict the Christian precept that all people are created in the image of God.

Now, back to the four documents from the Marriage Task Force of 2015. The whole point of these was to denounce homosexual marriage and to make sure the diocese and its churches never allowed it. The documents went to astonishing lengths to ensure this. The first was entitled, "A Statement of Faith Adopted by The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina October 6, 2015," pages 60-62. It said, "We believe all people are created in the image of God, who wonderfully and immutably creates each person as genetically male or female...Rejection of one's biological sex is in conflict with this created-ness and is inconsistent with our beliefs." Well, we have just seen the obvious problem with the claim "male or female." It is not always true. Then, the statement raises an interesting point, that marriage is a "lifelong union" of a man and a woman. Lifelong? Then why are divorced persons allowed to remarry in the church? Why are clergy allowed to divorce and remarry? Why are remarried people allowed to take the sacraments? The point is DSC was inconsistent in its view of sexuality. Quick to condemn homosexuality, it turned a blind eye to heterosexual adultery. This showed that the beef in DSC was not about sexuality. It was about homosexuality. In conclusion, the statement declared the bishop the final authority and required that all persons "employed in the Diocese in any capacity" even as unpaid leaders, submit a signed oath of loyalty to the Statement of Faith, that is, to vow publicly to reject homosexual marriage.


The second document was the same Statement of Faith to be sent out and filled in by the parish authorities. I am unaware of any parish that refused to do this.


The third document was an addition to the diocesan employee handbook. It required all employees to sign an oath of compliance with the Statement of Faith. It declared that the bishop could terminate anyone's employment at any time without explanation. In other words, every employee of the diocese had to oppose same-sex marriage publicly or be fired.


The fourth item was "A Facilities Use Policy." This required anyone using a church, as for a wedding, to sign a statement in advance recognizing the Statement of Faith, i.e. no same-sex wedding.


What all this adds up to is DSC's total opposition to equal rights for homosexual persons. This is the crux of the schism.


Now we know the DSC's position on homosexuality. What about TEC? In the 1990's, TEC adopted ordination for non-celibate homosexuals. In 2003 it approved a non-celibate gay man as a bishop. TEC adopted the blessing of same-sex unions in 2012 and same-sex marriage in 2015 with local option. No clergy person, no layperson, is required to support this. 



A message to the 13,000 communicants: You will soon have to choose between DSC and TEC. The differences between the two essentially rest on their views of homosexuality. If you honestly believe that homosexual acts are sinful and that the church must denounce such and ban non-celibate gays from Holy Orders, then you should stay with DSC. DSC has made its stand against homosexuality very clear. If, on the other hand, you are willing to respect the rights of others to have different views on homosexuality, even to allow them to have same-sex marriage, then TEC should be your home. TEC has also made its interface with homosexuality very clear: all people are made in the image of God. All of God's children are due dignity, respect and equal rights.


The schism in South Carolina was at its core, and still remains, a social event, not a theological one. It is part of a great culture war going on in contemporary America, indeed  in the world. Conservative church people had opposed but grudgingly accepted civil rights for African Americans and equality for women, but would not do the same when it came to gays. The question remains to this day, how should the church treat homosexual people? Should the church include them wholly, or marginalize them? That is the choice the 13,000 communicants
of the 29 parishes now have to make. 

All this boils down to a fundamental issue. Should we stand in judgment on others and condemn the ones we believe are wrong, or should we love our neighbors as ourselves and leave the judgments to God? This is what you in the 13,000 have to consider. If you are people of faith, and we all know you are, you will bear in mind the two great commandments, love God and love neighbor. So, in a way it is all about about religion after all. It is about how we live our lives as we understand our relationships to the divine and to the human. We all have to make choices in life and live with them. The time of choice is at hand for the 13,000.

Monday, July 23, 2018






JULY 23 - NOTES




It is Monday, 23 July. It is time to pause and take stock of the schism, particularly of the legal actions ongoing.

This Thursday, the 26th, Judge Edgard Dickson, of the circuit court, will hold a "status conference" with the lawyers on both sides at the courthouse in Orangeburg. Find a legal definition of status conference here . I do not know exactly what will be discussed but I assume it will be to plan out some sort of timetable about how to proceed with the various petitions before him.

According to my count, there are five outstanding petitions before Dickson, two from the Diocese of South Carolina, and three from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. 

The two from DSC are:

1-November 19, 2017. "Summons" and "Complaint" claiming payments under the "Betterments Statute." This came two days after the state supreme court denied DSC's petition for rehearing. In this, DSC is demanding money payments from TEC.

2-December 27, 2017. "Motion to Establish Complex Case Designation." DSC is asking for a jury trial. Sorry readers, but I do not know the legal definition of "complex case designation." Find an explanation here .


The three from TECSC are:

1-December 15, 2017. Motion to dismiss DSC's complaint, under the Betterments Statute, of Nov. 19.

2-May 8 and May 16, 2018. "Defendants' Petition for Execution and Further Relief on Declaratory Judgments of the South Carolina Supreme Court and for the Appointment of a Special Master." TECSC is asking for enforcement of the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017, including the appointment of a Special Master who would function as a manager of the transfer of the properties in question from DSC to TECSC control.

3-July 10, 2018. "Petition for an Accounting." TECSC is asking the court to appoint an accounting firm to survey and list the assets of the DSC since January 1, 2008 [Lawrence became bishop on Jan. 26, 2008]. 


Thus, Dickson has a full plate of pending legal actions before him. I suppose he could deal with these individually or combine them somehow since they all relate to one large issue, the disposition of the 29 parishes. I will relay news from the status conference as I receive it. I do not expect to attend the meeting but do expect to get an official report soon afterwards.


The matters in the circuit court, complicated as they are, are far from being the only legal issues pending. There is the federal court case active before Judge Richard Gergel of the U.S. District Court in Charleston. This is the case of vonRosenberg v. Lawrence in which the Episcopal Church bishop (now Skip Adams) is suing Mark Lawrence for violation of the Lanham Act which protects federally registered trademarks. Federal marks get precedence over state ones. In essence, TECSC is suing DSC for ownership of the pre-schism diocese which would be the legal rights, titles, marks, and all assets controlled by the Board of Trustees of the diocese. This would include the bishop's residence on Smith Street and the diocesan headquarters on Coming St. It would also include funds and endowments. I expect TEC will prevail in the federal court as it has in the state court. 

I imagine Judge Gergel will call a hearing soon to plan a schedule for proceeding with this matter. One can expect a "discovery period" before the trial. This allows the lawyers time to do their homework and take depositions. Usually discovery goes on for several months, perhaps six months. After that, there will be a formal court trial.

One should also recall that the Mediation process is still technically alive although probably practically dead. It is still open on the books. From last October to January, the two sides held three meetings that accomplished nothing. TECSC asked for a protocol for the Church bishop to meet with the 29 parishes. DSC flatly refused this. The talks ended. It is possible they could be revived although I see no sign of such.

What I do see is DSC putting out two glaringly contradictory messages to the 13,000 faithful in the 29 parishes that have been legally returned to the trust control of the Episcopal Church but are still being occupied by DSC clergy. On one hand, DSC is spreading the story that the Episcopal Church will not be getting the parishes back in the foreseeable future because the state supreme court ruling is unenforceable. They claim the decision is fatally unclear and inconclusive. Besides, they are saying they can erect road blocks in court indefinitely to forestall any possible transfer. This is all a lot of wishful thinking that flies in the very clear face of reality. Nevertheless, it is there.

On the other hand, DSC is preparing the people in the 29 parishes to move out of their church homes into alternate meeting places. This has been going on since last December when diocesan leaders issued a secret memo to the parishes outlining how to prepare for the evacuation of the buildings. Since then, DSC leaders have stepped up this initiative by demonizing the Episcopal Church. They conducted two "teaching" programs to differentiate DSC from TEC, that is, to identify TEC as apostate and heretical (mainly because of its support for same-sex marriage). They videotaped one series and distributed it to all the parishes. They have also accelerated a personal attack on Bishop Skip Adams implying that he would sell off the church buildings to Muslims. The obvious objective of the DSC anti-TEC campaign is to win over the hearts and minds of the 13,000 communicants of the 29 parishes. At the moment, DSC legally holds six parishes. In order for the diocese to remain viable in its mission to establish fundamentalist Anglicanism in the Lowcountry, it has to have a larger membership. Following the model of Bakersfield, DSC is apparently planning to move the anti-TEC faithful out of the church buildings into new quarters and continue functioning as a diocese. This is the only way DSC can survive in any significant way.

[UPDATE. July 23, 3:30 p.m. DSC just released an announcement of Bishop Lawrence's whirlwind tour of the diocese, five stops between July 31 and Aug. 9. Find it here . He will speak in Sumter, Walterboro, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and James Island on "Mission." The blurb says "he will speak to some of the current events that sap our strength..." I think we all know what that means. Interesting that Lawrence had said nothing about "mission" until after the state supreme court and the U.S. supreme court ruled against him. As an extra jab at Adams, DSC is linking to the smear video and offering a handy transcript of it. What today's announcement really tells us is that DSC is desperate to keep people from returning to TEC.]


Now, I would like to offer a comment to my readers in both camps. For those of you in the 13,000, I understand your dilemma and my heart goes out to you. I think there are three groups in the 29 parishes, one steadfastly pro-Lawrence. Nothing can separate you from the DSC. A second group wants to return, however grudgingly, to the Episcopal Church. Then there is a third group in the middle who really are not committed to either side. I expect a lot of you are confused, bewildered, disappointed, and sad. This has been a wild roller coaster ride. You put your faith in your leadership. It has not gone well. You may be wondering where God is. He was supposed to be on your side. You will soon face the choice of staying with the buildings and returning to the Episcopal Church or leaving the buildings and staying with Bishop Lawrence. Only you can decide that. No one has the right to tell you what to do. No one should demonize the other side. There is only one God; there is only one Gospel. What you do ultimately is between you and God. 

So many of my readers in TEC are also feeling badly. The question I hear all the time is, when is this going to be over? I wish I knew. TEC has won back the 29 parishes but DSC will drag out the implementation of the SCSC decision just as long as possible and make it as hard as possible for TEC to get the buildings back. This is clear. The reconciliation "conversations" of last week were a small step forward but actually only a small fraction of the 13,000 turned out. Reconciliation still seems so remote. I think it is helpful to put this in perspective. The move in DSC to separate from TEC started 35 years ago. Mark Lawrence was consecrated bishop 10 years ago. The schism happened 5 years ago. This unpleasantness has been going on a long time. I am afraid it still has quite a way to go. The end is in sight even if it is sadly far off on the horizon. It is there. Do not lose heart.

It is time to remind ourselves of the biggest picture of all, as in the words of one of my favorite hymns:

This is my Father's world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas-
His hand the wonders wrought.
....
This is my Father's world:
O let me ne'er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let earth be glad! 

Saturday, July 21, 2018




MUST READ




There is a new "must read" at hand. This one is from Steve Skardon at scepiscopalians, "Lawrence Allies Lash Out at Bishop Adams," July 20, 2018. Find it here .

Skardon analyses a letter from Lawrence ally Dr. Peter Moore who has joined the Diocese of South Carolina's despicable smear campaign against Bishop Skip Adams. Find Moore's letter here . They are accusing Adams of selling a vacant church in Binghamton New York to Muslims rather than to the breakaway congregation. Turns out DSC is twisting a true story to suit their own momentary need to demonize the Episcopal Church bishop. The facts of the case are not what DSC is telling its communicants. Adams did indeed try to let the remnant breakaway congregation buy the property, but could not do so from complications, then put it on the market to the highest bidder.

The DSC leadership has turned their new religion into a fundamentalist sect. Fundamentalism defines the universe as a set of dualities. Everything is oppositional: black and white, good and evil, God and Satan, Heaven and Hell, saved and unsaved etc. There are no shades of grey, no in between.  In order to have opposition, there must be an opponent, a bĂȘte noire, an enemy. If he or she does not exist, they must be created in order to have a dualism. That is what we have here with Adams.

This is what we have had for a long time in South Carolina. In the 1980's, Bishop Allison carried on a long and loud crusade against his chosen opponent, Bishop John Spong. Spong wisely ignored him. In 2003, it was Gene Robinson. From 2006 to 2015 it was Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. How the DSC leaders demonized her is a story in itself. Read my history of the schism.

On August 2, 2017, the South Carolina supreme court published its ruling in favor of the Episcopal Church. Suddenly Justice Kaye Hearn was the enemy, according to DSC the sole cause of their defeat. The smear campaign against her was, well I should not get started on that. So, now that Bishop Adams is targeted should surprise no one. He is now the declared enemy of the fundamentalist prophets on Coming Street. They are conducting a no-holds-barred, all out campaign to destroy his reputation in the minds of the 13,000 communicants in the 29 parishes that have been legally returned to the Episcopal Church. As Adams and the Episcopal Church diocese prepare to ease these parishes back into TEC, the DSC leadership is doing everything it can to prevent that. In a nutshell, that is what is going on now in the Lowcountry.

Thus, Moore's letter to virtueonline makes perfect sense in the broader picture. It is par for the course in this schism. Skardon has dissected Moore's writing and everyone should read it.

Why anyone would believe anything at all coming from the DSC leadership at this point is beyond me. They lost credibility long ago. So many of the things they said before the schism have been shown to be untrue. They said the diocese was independent and did not have to follow the national church. False. They said the local parishes owned their properties in disregard of the Dennis Canon. False. They said the diocese could leave TEC whenever they wished. False. They said Church leaders drove Lawrence out of the church. Not true. They said TEC no longer believed in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ or in the Bible. Wrong, wrong. They said they were the "orthodox" Anglicans while TEC was unorthodox. Ridiculous. They said God was on their side and would lead them to courtroom victory. We saw where that went. Now, the DSC leaders are scrambling to construct a new false narrative to justify their bad choices and direction and keep as many as possible of the 13,000 communicants with them, even if that means pulling these people out of their home churches. Hence, the smear of Adams. It is part of a pattern. The truth is their ill-conceived experiment has failed and they refuse to admit it.   

I also recommend everyone read the TECSC report on the reconciliation conversations. Find it here .



  

Friday, July 20, 2018





A PARABLE OF THE SCHISM
By the Rev. Rob Donehue



There once was a noble sailing ship that made its way peacefully across the sea. Though not as large as some of the other ships of the ocean, it was still considered a stately and gallant vessel. The ship had many sails, and each of the sails was held in place by many sturdy ropes. And when the wind filled its sails, the ship made its way through the waves with patient determination to reach its destination.

One day, a mighty storm descended, and the wind began to howl. Though battered by the maelstrom, the ship remained on course. But soon, the sails began to strain. A powerful gust came and filled one of the sails, and it was feared that the sail would be torn apart.

Then one of the ropes said, "The wind is too fierce! Our sail is doomed!" So the rope detached itself from its sail. Other ropes cried out in the same way and detached themselves from their sail. When the ropes found that they were being blown about by the wind, they said to the other sails, "See! We've left the sail that must soon be torn to pieces. But now here we are with no sail for us to cling to. Let us cling to you, and maybe together we can weather this storm!" So the other sails took them in. But the ropes could not help the other sails to catch the wind, and the ship began to founder.

The ropes looked back at the sail they had abandoned and said, "Look how the sail's edges are flailing even more violently now in this storm! It cannot last much longer! Surely we were right to have left it to its fate." All the while, the ship continued to pitch back and forth.

The crew cried out, "O ropes, return to your sail! See, it is not torn asunder, but without you, all it can do is flap about. Return to your sail! Help it capture the wind again, and the ship may yet sail its way through this storm!"

But the ropes answered back, "By no means! For you see that we now belong to these other sails. Only a few more ropes need join us in letting go, and surely that sail will be blown away!"

But the crew pleaded all the more, "You are not helping the other sails! You are only making them more rigid! And your strain on them is causing you to fray! Return now to your sail, for surely if you do not return to your sail, the whole ship may be lost."

Two possible endings:

1) The ropes replied, "We will not return! For we are in no danger from the storm! That flapping sail is the source of our peril. And once it is gone, we trust the storm will end. Yet even so, what care we if the ship is lost! For even if the ship is lost, we will take our new sails and set out wherever the wind will take us!"

And the ropes clung ever tighter to the sails that were not their own. Soon came another blast of wind which battered the ship more fiercely than the first. And the ropes snapped, the sails ripped, the masts buckled, and the rudder splintered. And the once noble ship was left to drift aimlessly upon the ocean.

OR

2) And the ropes returned to steady the sail. Though stretched and strained, the sail was secured. And catching the fullness of the wind again, the sail helped to carry the ship out of the storm.
_________________________________________________

The Rev. Mr. Rob Donehue is priest of St. Anne's Episcopal Church, Conway SC. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018





CONVERSATION IN BLUFFTON




The third and last reconciliation conversation was yesterday in Bluffton. I did not attend but I did receive a firsthand report of the event. Much like the day before in Charleston, there was good attendance, about 150 people, and much lively discussion around issues important to people in the breakaway churches. Attendees came from area Episcopal churches including St. Jude's of Walterboro, Church of the Cross in Bluffton, St. Luke's of Hilton Head, St. Helena's of Beaufort, and others.

This concludes the three "conversation" events hosted by the Episcopal Church diocese. 

The next important event on the calendar is the circuit court session of July 26 in which Judge Edgar Dickson will consult with the lawyers of both sides and set a schedule for proceeding in the future. TECSC lawyers recently asked the judge for two actions, to enforce the state supreme court decision under a Special Master, and to appoint an accounting firm to make a full accounting of all DSC assets since 2008.



On an entirely different note, you may be wondering what is going on with my garden. I have not mentioned it in a long time. Well, high summer in the south is not the time to do much gardening. Much too hot and humid. Plus, we are in a pattern of frequent afternoon thunderstorms. With the heat and the water, two things are flourishing in abundance, weeds and mosquitoes. Nevertheless, my garden is doing well and so I send along a couple of pictures as it appeared yesterday.


Of all the plants blooming now, nothing compares to the common crepe myrtle. This one is "watermelon red." Crepe myrtle is ubiquitous across the south and with good reason. It is the glory of a southern summer. 


My favorite place in my little Eden, on a slight slope overlooking the whole garden. This is early morning. Heavenly.

  

Wednesday, July 18, 2018





YESTERDAY'S CONVERSATION
 IN CHARLESTON




I know many of you are wondering how the reconciliation conversation last evening at the Citadel in Charleston turned out. I was not present but I have received firsthand reports of the gathering. Here is what I know:

150-200 people attended. Many came from area Episcopal churches but there were also groups from many of the 29 parishes returning to the Episcopal Church. There were communicants from St. John's on Johns Island, St. James, on James Island, St. Paul's of Summerville, the cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, St. Philip's, St. Michael's, and others. The structure was the same as the day before at the meeting in Conway, short introductions and movement among tables in four areas to discuss different aspects of reconciliation. My accounts told me the questions and discussion were lively, spirited, and strong but not hostile. People on both sides had plenty of opportunity to air their thoughts and concerns. Overall, the encounter should be rated a success. There certainly was a lot of conversation.

The next, and last, reconciliation conversation is today, in Bluffton:

6:00-7:30 p.m., Oscar Frazier Park, 7 Recreation Court.




Tuesday, July 17, 2018





MUNICH AND HELSINKI




I know, I know, this is a blog about the church schism in South Carolina, and my readers want to know today what happened in the reconciliation "conversation" in Conway last evening. I recommend Steve Skardon's summary of it. Find it here . I have nothing to add to this. The second meeting is today at the Citadel in Charleston and everyone expects a big crowd (60-80 attended in Conway).

Otherwise, indulge me please as I vent about what happened on the world stage yesterday. I have not been an Episcopalian all of my life, but I have been a student of history as long as I can remember. I grew up in an old town surrounded by history, and I was, and still am, endlessly fascinated by it all. And, yesterday was a day for the history books. Here is my perspective for what it is worth.

All I could think about yesterday and today was Munich. We all know about that. In September of 1938, Adolf Hitler threatened war if he were not given the rim of Czechoslovakia called the Sudetenland. As he promised to respect the rest of Czechoslovakia, Britain and France gave in and handed over the region in return for his promise of peace. This has gone down in history as one of the worst deals ever and the prime example of the error of "appeasement." In fact, it opened the door for the Second World War.

As disastrous as this was, at least it made some sense. Britain and France had understandable, if wrong, reasons for doing this. Just twenty years earlier, they had "won" the Great War, but it was a Pyrrhic Victory, that is, one that cost far more than it gained. The War left Britain and France drained financially and morally. There was no money, there was no will for war. The Great Depression of the 1930's only made things worse. In short, Britain and France were unprepared and unable to conduct any significant war in 1938. They also made the fatal mistake of assuming Hitler was an honorable man who would keep his word. Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier were honorable men. Surely Hitler would be too.

So, what was the sense of yesterday's "summit" between President Trump and President Putin? That is what I would like to know. The Helsinki meeting reminds me of Munich, but it may actually be worse. We do not know yet what Trump gave to Putin. They met in secret for two hours attended only by translators. God (and the Russian eavesdroppers) only knows what Trump and Putin said to each other. I shudder to think.

The secret meeting was capped off by a most remarkable press conference. Words now being tossed around about the Helsinki summit are:   treason, collusion, shock, shame, appalled, stunned, betrayal, disgraceful, unbelievable, sad, and many others not printable. The president of the United States threw his own country "under the bus" and groveled before a weaker figure, a reprehensible foreign dictator who is well-known to be trying to undermine the American political system.

America, and to some extend the world, is still reeling from the earth-shaking events of yesterday. As a student of history for nearly three-quarters of a century, I must say that I would use all of the words above. I never thought I would see this day. It is unimaginable, unthinkable. Yet, it did happen and we have to ask ourselves, What did this happen? and What should we as Americans do about it?

With all the world watching, the President of the United States rejected his own government and defended his national adversary. This has never happened in American history.

Why did this happen?
This is the great question being asked all around America today. Why?

I do not know, of course, but I can relate the credible theories being advanced in various media outlets, even Fox News.
Here are the possible reasons being offered, from most to least benign:

---President Trump is simply trying to validate his 2016 election. He won although he was not the choice of the people.

---Trump wants the Russians to continue meddling in U.S. elections to help the Republicans in the November 2018 elections, and in his 2020 reelection.

---Trump is an egotist who truly believes that he alone can solve all problems, in disregard of the U.S. Constitution and established norms.

---Trump is mentally ill either with some form of psychosis or dementia.

---Putin has some kind of control over Trump, for unknown reasons. Speculation runs from financial, perhaps Trump is in debt over his head to Russian lenders, to personal, as perhaps evidence of politically damaging behavior.

It seems to me there is a consensus in the country that Putin has some kind of leverage over Trump as shown in a long pattern of behavior. For a long time now, Trump has been conducting a foreign policy of attacking our best friends and embracing our worst enemies. All of this is in Putin's interest. Everyone is wondering what the leverage could be.

So, I guess at this point we can take our choice of the possibilities above. Your guess is as good as mine. Certainly, there could be other possibilities, just as there could be combinations of various factors. We simply cannot answer the question of "Why" now. 


As important a question as "Why" is, it is not as important as the next question, What do we do about this? What can we Americans do in response to Trump's behavior at the Helsinki summit? Here are my thoughts from least to most drastic:

---the American people flood the offices of their representatives and senators with demands for repudiation of the president's words.

---the Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate stand together today and denounce Trump's words.

---the Congress step up investigations of Russian meddling in U.S. elections and strengthen the hand of investigations ongoing, such as Mueller's.

---Congress enact new and/or stronger sanctions on Russia. 

---the Congress issue a formal censure of the president.

---the heads of the foreign policy and intelligence agencies resign in protest.

---the cabinet resign.

---the impeachment and removal of the president for "treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors."


Whatever choices we make, something has to be done. Trump's behavior is not acceptable in the national interest of the United States. For the sake of the integrity of our country, for the sake of our great history, the American people must collectively reject what our president has done. I never thought I would see the day when our own president would side with our adversary against his own government. Yet, it has happened. This is still a constitutional democratic republic. It is our country and it will go on after Trump. We must pass it on in the very best condition possible to the generations to come.

Yesterday, July 16, 2018, will go down in the history books as a dark day in American history and one of the darkest days in the American presidency. Let's not kid ourselves, our nation is in a crisis created by our president. The operative phrase there is "our nation." We must, and I believe will, rise to the occasion.

In the schism in South Carolina, the established institutions prevailed. The courts ruled that the breakaways had no right to take the properties with them. I believe the institutions of the country are strong enough to survive the shock of yesterday too.

Monday, July 16, 2018





CONVERSATIONS BEGIN



Conversations on reconciliation of the old diocese begin today, Monday, July 16. Today's gathering is in Conway, SC

6:00-7:30 p.m., at the Conway Senior Center, 1519 Mill Pond Road.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 17, the conversation will be in Charleston, same time, at the Citadel: Citadel Alumni Affairs Banquet Hall, 69 Hagood Avenue.

Wednesday, July 18, the session will be at the same hour in Bluffton:  Rotary Community Center, Oscar Frazier Park, 7 Recreation Court.


What are these "conversations"? They are informal gatherings of communicants and clergy from both parts of the old diocese to talk about what reconciliation might look like. There will be no speeches, lectures, presentation or the like. There will be tables scattered about for people to talk individually or in small groups. There will be no pressure to agree or commit to anything. It is only a chance for people to talk with one another. There will be lay people and clergy from the local Episcopal churches and communicants who went along with the schism. As we all know, 29 of the parishes will be returning to the Episcopal Church in the not distant future. This is a first chance for the people of these parishes to explore what reunification with the Episcopal Church might mean to them.


I want to emphasize several points to the communicants of the 29. 

---First, no one is going to remove you from your home churches. These parishes are your homes.

---Second, no one is going to ask you to change your religion. In spite of what you have been told, TEC believes in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world and in the Bible as the word of God. You will continue using the same prayer book.

---Third, no one is going to ask you to change your view of homosexuality. There are many people in TEC who do not condone homosexual acts; and they have every right to their views. All the Episcopal Church asks is for you to respect the rights of other people to hold different views of homosexuality.

I had thought of attending the conversations, but then decided not to do so. I want everyone to feel perfectly free and at ease to discuss their views and questions without worrying about appearing in anyone's blog. So, I will not be at the conversations.


One major myth the breakaways are perpetuating these days is that the Episcopal Church is not getting the 29 parishes back, or, if they do, it will be so far in the future that no one has to worry about it. This is wrong.

In fact, the Episcopal Church is well under way in regaining the parishes. On May 8, TECSC petitioned the circuit court for enforcement of the state supreme court decision of August 2, 2017. The SCSC remitted its decision to the circuit court in November of 2017. As we all know, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the case on June 7, 2018. TECSC asked for a Special Master to manage the transition of the properties.

On July 11, 2018, TECSC moved a second time in the circuit court regarding restoration of the properties. It filed "Petition for an Accounting" asking the court to appoint an accounting firm in Charleston to conduct a search and listing of all assets of the Diocese of South Carolina from 2008 forward.

Judge Edgar Dickson, of the circuit court, has scheduled a status conference on July 26, 2018, to set up a timetable for the disposal of the matter of enforcing the SCSC decision.

So, the idea that the Episcopal Church is not getting the parishes back, is demonstrably false. The reunification is well underway.

As the parishes return, the people in them have to decide whether to stay with the buildings and return to the Episcopal Church or leave the buildings and form new churches in another denomination. The purpose of the conversations this week is to inform these people of what it will mean to stay in their home parishes and return to the Episcopal Church. 

The best starting place for the communicants in the 29 parishes is the "Frequently Asked Questions" of the Church diocese. Read them first. Find them here .

My best regards to everyone as we move into this critical moment in the history of the schism. This has been a terrible time for so many people, but the light is at the end of the tunnel. The last phase has begun. The end is in sight. Courage.

Sunday, July 15, 2018





FRANCE WINS,
THE WORLD WINS




France won the World Cup of soccer today defeating Croatia, 4-2.

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé
Let's go children of the Fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived.

This is sweet victory coming just one day after Bastille Day.

This is a great day for the world too. Lately, we have seen far too much of the forces trying to divide us and turn us against each other. Anti-democratic and anti-human-rights tendencies are alarming all around us, including our own country.

Two great events have happened recently to show us that we human beings have far more in common than in difference, the World Cup and the rescue of the boys in Thailand. The World Cup brought together people from all around the world in goodnatured fun. We played together by the same rules. We respected each other. This is humanity at its best.

Best too was the show of humanity in Thailand where people suddenly showed up from all around the world to do what they could to rescue those dozen boys and their coach. A lot of people gave a great deal and it turned out well. All were rescued. Here again was humankind at its best.

I think the same is true in South Carolina too. The former friends of the old diocese now split into two groups really have far more in common than in difference; and the Episcopal Church is trying its best to heal the wounds, restore unity and return to the task of doing God's work in the world. 

We should all be encouraged by all of these good signs around us. The reconciliation in South Carolina is underway. The first conversation is tomorrow. The end of a very long and hard road is not close but is in sight. That is encouraging enough for now. So, I say good for France; good for Thailand; good for us.






MUST READ:
BISHOP ADAMS 
IN THE POST AND COURIER




The editors of the Charleston Post and Courier apparently have seen the handwriting on the wall. The war is over. Long the primary local media outlet for the anti-Episcopal Church movement in South Carolina, it has published TWO pieces recently from the Church side. Will wonders never cease? First, we had the Rev. Rob Donehue's eloquent letter of July 6. Now we have the words of Bishop Skip Adams:

"Bishop Adams: 'Our aim is restoration and unity.'" Find it here .  

Thank you Post and Courier. Better late than never. Now, let's rebuild the great Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina of long ago.