Friday, August 31, 2018





A LATE SUMMER GARDEN STROLL




Let's take a break from the heavy news of recent days and stroll around my garden. I think we could all use some r and r.  Late summer and early fall form a distinct season in the south as many of the perennials reach maturity and most shrubs are in full bloom. I am partial to ornamental grasses of which I have numerous examples scattered about my garden. At this time of the year most of them are shooting up eye-catching feathery blooms. As we walk about the garden in these last days of August, this is what we see:



A camellia, believe it or not! We think of camellias blooming in winter, and most of them do, but there are some cultivars that bloom in late summer. Here is a particularly attractive one, Daikagura variegated, a pink and white beauty. I always like to see it bloom because I know cooler weather is not far away.





Gardenia, "August Beauty." This bloom is just opening in the early morning light. Every southern garden and yard should have gardenia, for the aroma if nothing else.




Chinese dwarf indigo (Indigofera decora). This makes an elegant border perennial of about 18" tall. I have it along the central lawn. It has to be kept under control or can become invasive.



Zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus.') A crown of elegant feathers. This is app. 8'.



Japanese Pea Bush (Lespedeza thurnbergii). An excellent deciduous shrub for the south but under-appreciated and under-used. This one grows to 6-8' x 4' and is covered with tiny purple blooms from frost to frost. The palmetto is Louisiana Palmetto (Sabal minor "Louisiansis'). It is very cold hardy and easy to grow. Blue-green fronds. This one is app. 6'.



Althea, aka Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus). An old standard southern deciduous shrub, it comes in numerous colors. Give it full sun and it blooms prolifically.



Chinese abelia (Abelia chinensis). Anorther great shrub for the south, it thrives almost anywhere. It is strikingly aromatic, so plant near a public place and enjoy the sweet scent. Grows to app. 5'.



Abelia "Rose Creek" (Abelia x 'Rose Creek'). Another good choice as it thrives in spite of my neglect. This one is app. 4'. My three favorite families of shrubs are abelia, spirea, and viburnum. One cannot go wrong with these in a southern garden.



Rose pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana 'Rosea'). Pampas grass is ubiquitous in the lower south, for good reason, and most of the clumps have white plumes. Here is a pink variety. Pampas grass requires a lot of room and full sun. This one is getting too much shade from the cryptomeria in the background but still thrives.

As you see, I am fond of shrubs and also favor grasses, trees, perennials, palms, ground covers, and vines. However, I no longer keep any annual flower beds. My garden is in the spirit of a Japanese garden except I do not have a large water feature (no piped water). Annual flowers are too much work and too hard to keep in the summer. "Low maintenance" is my motto. It has to be in a garden of this size tended by an aging gardener. My vegetable plot turned into a free cafeteria for the wildlife so I closed it down. However, I left the blueberry bushes and apple trees as free snacks for the deer. I have learned they are partial to both (have you ever seen deer eat blueberries?---it is hilarious. They start in the middle of a branch and strip the berries all the way to the end leaving themselves with blue mouths). 

If you live in the south and are interested in gardening, I have a couple of books to recommend if you do not know them already. First and foremost is the bible of southern gardening, The Southern Living Garden Book. I carry it around with me to garden shows and sales. I do not buy anything unless I check the book first. It is incredibly detailed and easy to use. Next, I suggest Dirr's Trees and Shrubs for Warm Climates: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, by Michael A. Dirr, professor of horticulture at UGA. I have followed his advice on numerous choices and have never been disappointed. He knows what works best in our climate of long, hot and humid summers. One can find these books on Amazon for less than $10.

I am looking forward to the cooler days of autumn right around the corner. I need to catch up on many garden chores that I have been putting off with one excuse after another. The cool, dry, and sunny days of fall are perfect for gardening. The garden needs me, but I need the garden even more.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018





THE DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
AND CREDIBILITY



Whom to believe? What to believe? The Diocese of South Carolina is telling its communicants, and the public, a lot these days. But how much of this is true? How much can people trust? That is the matter at hand now. How much confidence can the people of DSC place in what their leaders are telling them?

DSC has published a lengthy discourse of its view of the schism called "Frequently Asked Questions." Find it here . It is a propaganda piece loaded with untruths, half-truths, and misinterpretations. I will not address it now since that has been done so well by scepiscopalians. Find their thorough analysis of DSC's FAQs here .

The issue of credibility goes back a long way. Before the schism, the DSC leadership put forth some serious and dramatic assertions which apparently were unquestioningly absorbed by the majority of people in the diocese. It is natural for people to assume that what their leaders are telling them is true. We want to trust those in authority. We want to go along with the crowd. These were the main points the DSC leaders made before the break:

1---the diocese was sovereign and independent.

2---the diocese had the right, on its on, to withdraw from the Episcopal Church.

3---the Dennis Canon was not valid in South Carolina.

These were judged wrong by the courts. The South Carolina Supreme Court said that 29 of the 36 parishes had acceded to the Dennis Canon and did not have the power to revoke that. They also opined that the Episcopal Church in South Carolina was the heir of the pre-schism diocese. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the case. The main points the DSC leaders made before the schism were not true. They were wishful thinking.

Meanwhile, in order to differentiate DSC from TEC, the diocesan leaders carried on a propaganda crusade denouncing the "beliefs" of the Episcopal Church, even as recently as last spring when they conducted a teaching campaign in St. Michael's and St. Philip's against the "false gospel" of TEC. They would have people believe TEC no longer sees Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, no longer respects the Bible, and possibly no longer believes in the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection. Bishop Lawrence said on his recent Last Hurrah tour that TEC believed there were many avenues to salvation. All of this is wrong. In fact, TEC has not changed its "beliefs" or theology. It still uses the same prayer book, recites the same creeds, and conducts the same liturgies, in fact, the same ones DSC uses. What the DSC leaders did was to take some controversial remarks by some bishops, and take them out of context, and imply that these are the "beliefs" of the whole Episcopal Church. This is despicable and shameful. Yet, apparently many DSC faithful are assuming this propaganda to be fact because it is what their leaders are telling them and surely the beloved authorities would not tell falsehoods.

In addition to spilling out all sorts of misinformation, the DSC leaders have another problem of credibility in that they keep changing their reasons for the schism. So far they have given us three different explanations. Before the schism, Bishop Lawrence often talked about the diocesan differences with TEC as three: 1-theology, 2-polity, and 3-morality. It was the third he emphasized the most, particularly homosexuality. Then, immediately after the schism, Jim Lewis, Lawrence's assistant, published an essay insisting the break came from theology alone (It's God, not Gays). Now, on his recent tour of a few weeks ago, Lawrence said he left TEC because of transgender. He could not accept TEC's reforms of equality for and inclusion of transgendered people in the life of the church. If the DSC cannot get their story straight, perhaps they had no story to start with. A revolving door of explanations only diminishes the credibility of any story. What will be the explanation tomorrow?



THE STATUS OF THE LITIGATION.


As for the litigation, where do we stand now?

There are two avenues of legal actions.

1---in the circuit court, we are waiting on Judge Edgar Dickson to decide what he will do with the six petitions in front of him. He has received the wish "lists" from the two sets of lawyers. I expect he will follow TECSC's suggestion of a Special Master to carry out the property transfer and an accounting firm to conduct an accounting of DSC's assets since 2008. Dickson has been ordered by the SCSC to implement the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017. He has no choice but to enforce the law.

2---in the federal court, Judge Richard Gergel has set the trial in the case of vonRosenberg v. Lawrence at March 1, 2019. Right now, the lawyers are doing their homework before the trial. Odds are that TEC/TECSC will prevail here too. I expect the court will agree that TECSC is the rightful heir of the pre-schism diocese, as the SCSC had opined.

I like football, although I was too hopeless at it ever to be on a school team. I've been a fan since my days at Blount Junior High School, in Pensacola. To use football imagery, we are in the Fourth Quarter of the game. The play has been very uneven. In the first half, DSC completely dominated the field, monopolized the football, and led at halftime 17-0. DSC lawyers went into the locker room at halftime riding high and fully confident of an easy victory. The first half covered January 4, 2013 to September 22, 2015. 

The Second Half started on September 23, 2015 (the SCSC hearing). It has proven to be the reverse of the First Half. TEC came roaring back, ran over their opponent up and down the field, and now leads 35-17. We are well into the Fourth Quarter and it is all but certain TEC will win, and by a big margin. The game is close to being over. The end is in sight and the outlines of the resolution are forming. Spectators are beginning to leave.



DSC'S MISTAKES.


How is it possible that DSC could have been so controlling in the first half, but the reverse since halftime? What happened to DSC's momentum? I have been doing a lot of thinking about that lately. As a historian, I am always trying to understand how matters get to where they are. What are the factors to explain the collapse of DSC on the legal field? Here is what I think at this point. I offer this as a layman's opinion only. As everyone knows I am not a lawyer or legal expert.  

In my view, the DSC lawyers made several decisions that turned out to be very costly:


1---choosing the court of Judge Diane Goodstein. It is easy to see why Alan Runyan et al chose Goodstein. Runyan's fellow lawyer in his firm, Andrew Platte, had clerked for Goodstein. The DSC lawyers knew her well. Runyan was the awesome maestro of that trial. I was amazed at how he dominated the whole business. I could understand how he had been a spectacularly successful litigant squeezing millions of dollars from big corporations on asbestos. Poor Judge Goodstein did not seem to grasp the admittedly complex and complicated issues involved. She was even confused by the word "Episcopal." 

In retrospect, the biggest mistake Runyan et al made in that trial was the treatment of Walter Edgar. The DSC lawyers apparently did everything they could to limit and restrict his testimony. This would come back to haunt them big time. In a sense, Walter Edgar saved the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. I will return to this momentarily.

The time came for Judge Goodstein to render a judgment. I cannot confirm this by documents, but I strongly suspect that she followed Runyan's "Orders" of December 2014. Both sides submitted "Orders" to her. These were the lawyers' requests of judgment. My guess is she followed Runyan's "Orders" only too well. Her decision, of February 3, 2015, was everything DSC could have wanted and then some. It was entirely partial and lacked the usual judicial reasoning and explanation. It read like a lawyer's brief, which perhaps it was.

In my opinion, the DSC lawyers would have been wiser to choose another judge, conduct a fair and balanced trial, and get a well-reasoned and substantial judgment. This could very well have held up in the state supreme court. But, this was not what actually happened.


2---the second big mistake the DSC lawyers made was to reject the TEC/TECSC offer of a compromise settlement of June 2015. The Church offered to give the 36 parishes their independence and property in exchange for the entity of the pre-schism diocese. This would have ended all litigation, all differences between the two dioceses. DSC summarily rejected the offer.

At the time, and ever since, DSC has gone out of its way to try to justify its colossal error. They insisted that the offer was not legitimate, that there was nothing in writing and the national Episcopal Church did not support it. Their excuses were not valid. I have posted the documents showing that TEC/TECSC made a specific offer in writing and that the lawyer representing the national Episcopal Church verified the Church's part in the offer (see my post of August 17, "The Documents of the Episcopal Church's June 2015 Offer of Compromise Settlement"). DSC's excuses for not accepting the offer have been shown to be wrong. I am guessing the real reason for DSC's rejection was the belief that DSC would prevail in the state supreme court and would wind up winning all. If so, they could so no reason to give away half.


3---the mishandling of Justice Kaye Hearn.

The state supreme court hearing of September 23, 2015, was surprising to me, and I expect to many other people. I think it was for the DSC lawyers as well. Apparently, Runyan expected Chief Justice Jean Toal to lead the court in applying her All Saints decision of September 2009 to the whole diocese. That decision had declared the Dennis Canon to be invalid in regards to the case of All Saints parish, Pawleys Island. Runyan argued before the justices, that the Dennis Canon was invalid, in and of itself, in the state of South Carolina.

As it turned out, it was not the Dennis Canon that was the main issue in the hearing, it was the circuit court trial and decision. All five justices derided the conduct and outcome of the trial. They unanimously demolished Goodstein's decision. But, what bothered them more than the decision was the one-sided way in which the trial had been conducted; and what brought that out the most was the courtroom treatment of the esteemed historian and radio personality Walter Edgar. Toal was particularly steamed at this. Turned out she was a big fan of the universally beloved Edgar. In fact, Toal agreed with Runyan that the All Saints decision should be applied to the whole diocese, but she could not reach that because of the distractions raised by the trial and the decision. As we learned later, Toal was the only justice who wanted to enlarge All Saints. If Goodstein's decision had been narrowly focused on state property and corporate law, I suspect there would have been a good chance the SCSC would have upheld it. However, the decision was not narrow. It even declared TEC to be a congregational institution, and did so without any reasonable explanation. In the hearing, then, Toal, could not control the narrative and could not keep the court on track to adhere to All Saints. Her frustration was clearly evident. She raked Runyan over the coals in the hearing before she picked him up and spoon fed him her main points.

When the SCSC decision finally appeared, twenty-two months after the hearing, the majority agreed to overturn the most important parts of Goodstein's decision. Four of the five justices said that the Dennis Canon had gone into effect in SC and three of the five agreed the parishes did not have the right to revoke their accessions. Only Toal disagreed. The court ordered 29 parishes and Camp St. Christopher back to TEC control. 

All of this is lead-up to a monumental mistake of the DSC lawyers' own making, the all-out attack on Justice Kaye Hearn. On September 1, 2017, Runyan petitioned the SCSC for a rehearing. He also asked that Hearn's part of the decision be removed and that Hearn herself be removed from future deliberations on the case. The grounds for the attack was conflict of interest. Hearn was a member of a local church in the Episcopal Church diocese. From September 1 to November 17, DSC and its allies in the state conducted an extensive public campaign to discredit Justice Hearn. This was their approach to overturning the decision and replacing it with one favoring DSC. The campaign was personal and fierce. Hearn's defenders saw it as an attempt at character assassination. 

DSC had not made Hearn an issue before this. The DSC lawyers had not raised Hearn's supposed conflict of interest before or during the September 23, 2015, hearing. They had not mentioned it in the twenty-two months after  the hearing. Suddenly, on September 1, they declare it the crucial issue. Apparently, this did not stand well with the court.

The attack on Hearn backfired spectacularly. The other four justices saw the attack on Hearn as an attack on all of them. They rushed to unify in defense of their colleague under assault. They were defending themselves too. No one can document this, but I suspect this attack on Hearn may well have driven the other justices to keep the case closed. On November 17, 2017, the SCSC denied DSC's request for a rehearing and rejected DSC calls for Hearn's opinion to be removed and for Hearn to be replaced in future actions on the case. Even the justices most sympathetic to DSC, Toal and Kittredge, took the unusual step of chastising the DSC lawyers for their treatment of Hearn. The SCSC completely rejected DSC's appeal. Immediately thereafter, the SCSC sent an order to remit to the circuit court, directing the court to implement the SCSC August 2, 2017 decision. 

The DSC lawyers must have realized their terrible mistake. When they appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, in February of 2018, they argued overwhelmingly on the grounds of neutral principles, something they perhaps should have done in heir petition for rehearing in the SCSC. SCOTUS would have none of it. They swept it aside as unimportant. They did not even elevate the SC case into the top ten of the day. I will always wonder what Hearn's treatment had to do with that.


4---the failure of mediation.

Right after the SCSC decision of August 2, 2017, federal judge Gergel ordered a mediation of the two sides with all issues on the table. If the opponents could agree on terms, all matters could be resolved and all litigation would end. 

The three sessions of the mediation, from October 2017 to January of 2018, remain secret. At this point we cannot know what the two sides discussed. However, we do have a public document showing that TEC requested that DSC agree to a protocol whereby Bp. Adams would be allowed to communicate with the 29 parishes. Apparently, DSC flatly refused this.

Mediation ended in January although it is still technically open and could possibly resume. However, obviously nothing came of the mediation or we wold know about it. Thus, DSC had another chance to work out a litigation-ending settlement. So far, absolutely nothing has come of it and I see no reason to think it ever will.


THE FATAL MISTAKES.


To summarize, in my view, DSC made two fatal mistakes that left them in the weak position where they are now, trailing badly in the Fourth Quarter. The first was to reject the TEC offer of a compromise settlement in June of 2015. TEC made an offer. DSC rejected the offer. Whatever reasons or excuses anyone wants to make, the facts are clear and bare. If DSC had taken this offer, the 29 parishes in question would now be independent and in sole possession of their properties. 

The second fatal mistake of DSC was the attack on Justice Kaye Hearn. If DSC had taken another approach, say arguing on neutral principles, it is entirely possible the court would have listened to the plea. By making it personal against one of the justices, DSC attacked the integrity of the whole court. It certainly forced the court to rally around Hearn. It is entirely possible this ruined any chance of DSC to get a rehearing, and perhaps an appearance in SCOTUS. It sealed the fate of the 29 parishes and the Camp.

But, I think in a way all this hinges on Walter Edgar. If he had been treated generously and respectfully and allowed to testify freely in the circuit court, the state supreme court would have seen the trial, and possibly the decision, differently. It was Edgar's treatment that personified to the supreme court justices everything that was wrong in the circuit court trial and decision. That is why I think Walter Edgar unwittingly saved the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.



The takeaway from all this-----29 parishes are going back to TEC. This means the clergy and the 13,000 communicants will have to decide whether to stay with the buildings and return to TEC or leave the buildings and follow the DSC leadership. In mulling over that decision, the clergy and laity of DSC would be wise to contemplate the credibility of their leadership. They should ask themselves whether their leaders have made wise decisions and whether they have told the whole truth. They should ask themselves too, where is God in all of this? Could God be speaking to us through the events? The schism failed to remove the parishes and their properties from the Episcopal Church. What the clergy and 13,000 of the 29 parishes do is up to them. It is up to the rest of us to lift them up in our prayers and reach out with understanding and support. The 13,000 have the choice of returning to TEC or staying with the DSC leadership.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018




"DO NOT DESPAIR 
OF OUR PRESENT DIFFICULTIES"




Yesterday, John McCain's family released McCain's Farewell Statement to America. Supremely eloquent and poignant, it will stand for the ages. I would like us to see that statement in the context of the schism in South Carolina. It speaks to us:

_____________________________________


My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans.

That you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.

I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else's.

I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America's causes---liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people---brings happiness more sublime than life's fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.

'Fellow Americans'---that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world's greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process.

We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all of the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.

Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening. I feel it powerfully still.

Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.

____________________________________



The message I see in this to the people caught in the ugly division in South Carolina: we have our disagreements, that is part of life, but as long as we respect each other as children of God we will come through this stronger than before. We are all in this together; and we have far more in common than in difference. Nothing is inevitable. The future is up to us. 

What a great statement and what a great lesson for the good Christians in South Carolina. It is interesting to note that McCain was a lifelong Episcopalian. He and his wife attended a Baptist church in North Phoenix for years, but McCain never joined the church. He always listed his "religion" as Episcopalian. He embodied well the three-legged stool of classical Anglicanism: scripture, reason, and tradition.


[NOTE. McCain's memorial service at Washington National Cathedral will be telecast by C-SPAN 1 and live streamed. It is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. EDT.

Did you know that McCain's mother is still alive? She is 106.]

Monday, August 27, 2018





AUGUST 27 - A NOTE TO READERS




This morning I posted an item about an incident at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in North Myrtle Beach. I removed it shortly thereafter. Here is my explanation for that.

On last Friday, two women drove into the parking lot of St. Stephen's and held a prayer vigil praying the church out of hell. They left behind at the door a four-page "Eviction Notice." Here is the first page: 




The "Eviction Notice" had no identifying group on it. I had no way to verify that the two women were connected to DSC or Lawrence, and so I felt compelled to remove the posting. If I do find a connection with DSC, I will re-post the item. Until I can confirm otherwise, I will have to assume this incident had nothing to do with the schism and was only a coincidence of timing.

I apologize for the confusion. I always aim to be accurate in what I am putting on my blog. I want people to have confidence that the information I am providing here is trustworthy.

Sunday, August 26, 2018





CHARACTER




We have known for a year this awful day would come. John McCain has died. He is being eulogized, and will be, all week as we remember his life. He will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol and will have a memorial service in the national cathedral. Nothing could be more fitting for this great man.

I have been thinking a lot about character lately, especially the character of our leaders, or prominent figures. Two people in the public eye stand out to me now as the epitome of good character. Both are more popular now than ever. Mr. Rogers and John McCain. What in the world could these two very different men have in common? I say, a lot. They were the best of the best among us. And so, we are hungry for what they embodied, decency, integrity, moral and ethical principles, and service to others. To me, they are the quintessential horizontal Christians, the best of what Christianity is all about.

God did not have to create human beings. God could have stopped with the animals, the myriad collection of thousands from the very lowly to the mighty. His magnificent creation of flora and fauna could have stood alone on its own. Instead, God in his infinite wisdom, created human beings in its own image. Why? To be its representatives on earth, to care for, promote, and enhance creation and to carry out God's work in the world. At our best, human beings are God's representatives on earth. It is our mission, our raison d'ĂȘtre, to do God's work to make a better world. While our relationship with God begins with the vertical experience of personal salvation, it does not, it must not, end there. That is just the beginning. That salvation must be translated into actions to carry out God's work in the world around us. Vertical must lead to horizontal. We are here to make a better world, not just for ourselves, but for others. Faith without works is dead. Now, we hold up in high regard two who wonderfully embodied that mission in the goodness of Mr. Rogers and the honor of John McCain.

Why are these two more revered now than ever? It is because we are hungry for the good character they had to offer. What we have in our president, and in so many of our leaders today is the opposite of what Rogers and McCain stood for. We see fear, hate, discrimination, racism, division, resentment, violence, and a lack of moral and ethical decency. We have a president who has debased our political order in a way we have never seen. He has alarmingly abused the office of the president. He has wounded the very institutions on which we as a nation rely. He is apparently wholly without moral and ethical principles. The Washington Post has documented more than 4,000 lies he has told as president. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. In the face of this moral bankruptcy, we long for public figures who promote decency and honor. We long for the likes of Fred Rogers and John McCain. They were the best among us and they challenged us as Americans and human beings to do better, to be better, to carry out God's work in the world. We are very fortunate to have such, and may many more Rogerses and McCains arise among us. This is our moment of need.  

So, let's take some time this week to reflect on why we should follow the path of the best among us. We are here to do God's work. Mr. Rogers and John McCain showed us how.

What does this have to do with the schism in South Carolina? Plenty. The schism was a failure of leadership. What stands out to me now loudly and clearly is that people are sick to death of the schism. We long for resolution, for peace, for brotherhood and sisterhood, for good will again. We long for the legal warfare to end. We long for decency and honor. Lastly, it looks as if we may be seeing people enacting for themselves what they long for so much in their hearts. 

Friday, August 24, 2018





ANOTHER DSC PARISH SUSPENDS FUNDS FOR LITIGATION





News arrived today that St. Helena's church, in Beaufort, has suspended its plan to raise funds for the ongoing litigation. The announcement came in today's issue of the "The Weekly eNewsletter" of St. Helena's:

"From the Vestry

The effort to raise the legal funds that was announced at the 2nd Quarter Vision Meeting is on hold at this time until there is greater clarity about our legal position. We will keep you informed as we are made aware of new developments."

This makes the second parish to make such a public announcement (there could be others of which I am not aware). Church of the Resurrection, Surfside Beach, announced it had suspended its payments to the diocese for the litigation and the diocesan assessment. The rector cited a severe financial crisis in the parish. See the blog posting here of August 19, "Fear and Loathing in the DSC Parishes."

St Helena's did not give a reason for the suspension other than need for "clarity." However, the parish has had a fifty percent fall in communicant numbers since the schism. Here are St. Helena's official figures of communicants:

2005 - 1,200

2008 - 1,541

2011 - 1,737

2016 - 880 [numerals fuzzy; possibly 660 or 550]

Thus, St. Helena's grew significantly before the schism, then lost more than half its communicant number after the schism. It is possibly more than half, as the three numbers in the online copy are difficult to determine. At the most the numbers are 880, at the least 550 (see for yourself here , page 149).

It is curious that St. Helena's, of all parishes, would be suspending funds for lawyers. St. Helena's was one of the original parishes that advocated schism well before 2012. For years it was well-known as a hot bed of anti-TEC words and actions. Moreover, it was, and I suppose still is, the home parish of DSC lead lawyer Alan Runyan. The fact that St. Helena's, of all local church in DSC, is now suspending funding for the diocesan legal actions speaks volumes about the state of the litigation on DSC's side. 

It was also curious to note that St. Helena's was not well-represented at Bishop Lawrence's road show stop in the southwestern area of the diocese. The session at St. Jude's of Walterboro was the smallest of the five appearances with at most 100 in attendance. Half of those were communicants of St. Jude's. That means 50 people came from all of the other local churches, Church of the Cross in Bluffton, St. Luke's of Hilton Head, St. John's of Johns Island, and St. Helena's. Not exactly a big turnout for the bishop.

I have theorized that Lawrence's Last Hurrah had two aims, to keep people believing in the litigation in order to keep up fund raising for lawyers, and to bond the communicants to him and the diocese so they will leave the buildings and form DSC congregations when TEC regains control of the properties. The first aim does not seem to be working out very well. The second remains to be seen. 

I expect it is safe to assume there are other local churches in DSC that have also stopped payments to lawyers. If so, the diocese will be hard pressed to keep up the wide array of litigation it has promised to block the return of the parishes.

It is important to note that both Resurrection of Surfside and St. Helena's of Beaufort are among the twenty-nine parishes to be returned to the Episcopal Church control. It is just a matter of time, and I expect it will be sooner rather than later. All twenty-nine of the parishes would be wise to stop paying lawyers and keep the money. The parish property issue is settled for all intents and purposes.

If we learn other DSC parishes have suspended their contributions for the litigation, that may well indicate a crisis of confidence within the diocese. People vote with their feet and their pocketbooks. We know from DSC's own official statistics that the diocese lost a third of its communicants after the schism. The third that dropped out voted against the diocesan leadership with their feet. Now, if one parish after another stops contributing funds for litigation, they will be voting against the leadership with their money. It is premature to jump to any conclusions about the meaning of all of this but it does seem that signs are beginning to appear that DSC's internal institutional integrity is in peril.


ADDENDUM, 25 August.
Other parishes in DSC may not be doing well either. According to the St. John's of Florence newsletter (find it here ), there was a vast budget shortfall in June. The budgeted pledge giving for June was $57,084. The actual pledge giving was $27,318. The operating expenses of June totaled $73,717 while the actual income was $33,000. Perhaps this is just a summertime aberration. Otherwise, that parish is in financial trouble. How in the world can they function long with twice as much expense as income, let alone pay lawyers? St. John's was one of the seven parishes the state supreme court declared outside of TEC control. In 2011, just before the schism, St. John's counted 453 communicants. In 2016 it listed 423.

Thursday, August 23, 2018





AUGUST 23 - LETTER TO THIS EDITOR




It is Thursday, August 23, and we have a new letter to this editor:

__________________________________

Dear Ron:

This hymn was written  by Samuel John Stone for another schism that occurred in the 1860's about another religious schism

"The Church's one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord, She is His new creation
by water and the Word.
..........

Though with a scornful wonder 
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
.........."

Funny how history tends to repeat itself.

This 21st century schism has torn many families and friends apart. And not only has it done this, but I am quite sure that our Heavenly Father is very sad at how we are all acting towards one another. And this includes bishops, priests, deacons, parishioners, bloggers, EVERYONE! Including me. No matter the Supreme Court decision, there are no real winners in this.

I left a beautiful church building that I was a member of since birth. Not to mention leaving family members that I had worshiped with forever. This was the worst thing to happen to me since my father's death. I went through all of the stages of grief. And this was over losing a building (wow, wood and plaster), but especially over not attending church with my cousins. In fact, some of us don't even speak to one another now. This is the sad part of all of this. And if it breaks my heart, imagine what it is doing to God's. The church is what is left when the building is gone. Think about that.

My wish would be that the Episcopalians, would "act right," as we say in the South, and don't gloat about the Supreme Court ruling. And that the people with Mark Lawrence would study up on everything that occurred in the Episcopal Church history from the 1980's to now. Educate yourself on what all has occurred and how we got to where we are. And also keep in mind, we have been where you are. We had to leave our beautiful Episcopal churches and worship on docks, in funeral homes, in bbq restaurants, etc. We lost everything, and we are better off for it! So, we know where you are. But we also know where you could be. We invite you to stay in the churches that are coming back to the national Episcopal Church.

And the second commandment is this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:31.

Love and forgiveness for all.

Eve Caldwell Pinckney

_______________________________________

All I can say is Amen and thank you, Eve Pinckney for this touching note. There are lots of people out there who can relate to this.

Reader, we need to hear from you. As Pinckney, you have a story to tell, and we need to hear it. Send your letter to the email address above. I do not want any excuses: I cannot write well, I have nothing to say, I am not important, nobody cares what I have to say. I do not believe any of that. Everybody has a story. Everybody matters. Write to me. I will omit your name if you wish.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2018





STORM TROOPERS 
IN SOUTH CAROLINA!




I am sitting here in shock. I can hardly believe my eyes. I have read it over and over yet it keeps saying the same thing. Bishop Mark Lawrence is calling on his followers to be storm troopers!

In the new issue (Fall 2018) of "Jubilate Deo," the DSC regular news publication (find it here ), there is a front-page article by Joy Hunter entitled "More than 1200 Attend Deanery Gatherings with Bishop Lawrence." In it, Lawrence is quoted as saying, "It's not that the buildings are bad. They're good. Ministry has been done in them generation after generation and I believe we ought to fight for them until there is no reason to fight any longer, but they ought not keep us from storm trooping the gates of hell to rescue those trapped behind them. That is our calling. We're to storm troop the gates of hell and bring people to Jesus Christ. The reality is God's going to get us out there one way or another. I say we go willingly. So let's get on with it!"

In the first place, this does not make common sense. "Storm troopers" are going to lead an attack on hell and force open the gates and rescue people trapped behind them? What does such as this mean? Just what kind of hell is this? It is definitely not the hell I learned in vivid detail growing up in a fundamentalist Baptist church.

As a student of history, I am most horrified by comparing Christian witnesses to storm troopers. This is the worst analogy imaginable. No one can be that ignorant of history. The term "storm trooper" immediately brings to mind the Nazi brown shirts. The Nazi storm troopers were a paramilitary organization responsible for the worst crimes in early 1930's Germany. By the late 30's they had melted into the SS, now remembered as the worst of the worst among the criminal perpetrators of the Nazi nightmare. The slaughter of the Jews was just one of their unspeakable crimes against humanity.

Surely, surely, Lawrence must change his wording here. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and rack this up to carelessness. He is worn out by the schism, like the rest of us. But come on, this wording must not stand. The analogy of good Christians as storm troopers is beyond cringe worthy.

Memo to Bishop Lawrence: It is always best to think before one speaks; and do not allude to your followers as storm troopers. I am sure the common historical meaning of this term is not what you would intend to convey.




THE TWO LISTS




On July 26, 2018, Judge Edgar Dickson, of the circuit court, Dorchester County, held a status conference with the two sets of lawyers and asked the two groups to submit to him their lists of issues they wanted the court to address. The lawyers agreed to do so in a week. On August 2, they submitted to Dickson their "lists." It is important now to look at these proposals as they enlighten us on both sides' legal strategies and tactics. 


First, a brief background.

---On August 2, 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court handed down its decision on the church case reversing in part the circuit court ruling of Feb. 3, 2015. The SCSC had held a hearing on Sept. 23, 2015. The SCSC decision recognized Episcopal Church control over 28 parishes and Camp St. Christopher.

---Sept. 1, 2017, the Diocese of South Carolina petitioned the SCSC for a rehearing and for Justice Kaye Hearn's part of the decision to be removed and for her to be replaced in future deliberations. 

---On Nov. 17, 2017, the SCSC denied DSC's requests. At the same time, SCSC sent a "Remittitur" order to the circuit court. "Remit" means a decision has to be enacted without change, as opposed to a "remand" which would require some alteration. It is important to note that SCSC remitted rather than remanded.

---DSC petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case, on Feb. 9, 2018. SCOTUS denied the request on June 7, 2018. This meant the SCSC decision stands as the law.


ACTIONS IN THE CIRCUIT COURT (Nov. 2017+):

Judge Edgar Dickson was assigned the case in January of 2018.


DSC

DSC filed three actions in the circuit court after their denial of rehearing in SCSC: 

1)-On Nov. 19, 2017, they sued for "Betterments" demanding payment from TEC for improvements made on the properties in question.

2)-Dec. 27, 2017, DSC filed for "complex case designation."

3)-Mar. 23, 2018, DSC filed a motion for "clarification of jurisdiction" asking the court how to resolve issues from the SCSC decision.



TECSC/TEC

The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina filed three actions in the circuit court:

1)-Dec. 15, 2017, TEC/TECSC sumbitted a motion to dismiss DSC's Nov. 19 suit on betterments.

2)-May 8, 2018, TEC/TECSC made a petition for execution of the SCSC decision and the appointment of a Special Master.

3)-July 11, 2018, TEC/TECSC filed a petition for an accounting of all DSC financial assets since Jan. 1, 2008, and the appointment of a firm to do this.

Thus, by the time of the status conference, Dickson had six petitions before him, three from DSC and three from TEC/TECSC.



Since all of this stems from the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017, it is important at this point to review exactly what the decision said. The decision (find it here ) was clear. Former Chief Justice Jean Toal was in charge of the case. On the last page (77) of the decision she concisely and precisely laid out the court's decisions: However, we [Toal and Kittredge] are in a minority, because a different majority of the Court---consisting of Chief Justice Beatty, Justice Hearn, and Acting Justice Pleicones---would reverse the trial court and transfer title to all but eight of the plaintiffs' properties to the defendants.

Toal went on to enumerate the three decisions of the court:

1-Eight entities did not accede to the Dennis Canon and hold title to their properties.

2-28 entities acceded to the Dennis Canon forming a trust for the Episcopal Church.

3-For Camp St. Christopher, title is in the Trustees' corporation of the Church diocese.

Toal could not have been any clearer about the decisions of the SCSC.

Once the SCSC denied rehearing and SCOTUS denied cert, the Aug. 2, 2017 decision became the law of the land.  


There is a provision, however, under SC law, to change the wording of a supreme court decision on certain grounds as clerical, typographical or other "mistake." Rule 60 of the South Carolina Code of Laws spells out how a change can be made. Find the Rule here . It says a motion to "correct" a "mistake" has to be made within a year (by Aug. 2, 2018) and cannot affect the finality of the judgment or suspend the decision. Old St. Andrews asserted that Toal made a mistake in listing St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant, instead of Old St. Andrew's, as one of the eight entities outside TEC control. I do not know if Old St. Andrew's formally petitioned the SCSC for a change, but obviously the year has gone by and SCSC has not issued a "correction." If the change cannot affect the finality of the ruling, I do not see how the court could make the change OSA is claiming. Swapping one parish for another would be altering the finality of the decision. It seems clear to me that the SCSC decision stands and OSA is in the group of parishes now under trust control of the Episcopal Church.



THE DSC LIST

The DSC lead lawyer, C. Alan Runyan, submitted to Judge Dickson his "list" on August 2, 2018. It is not actually a list but a fourteen page argument criticizing the SCSC decision of August 2, 2017 entitled "Unresolved Issues For For (sic) Action Consistent with the Five Opinions of the South Carolina Supreme Court Decision." Find it here . 

As everyone knows, I am not a lawyer or a legal expert, but I have to say, I have never seen a legal paper like this one. I have read it several times and I am still scratching my head. It looks like a lot of distractive wordiness to me. As far as I can make out, it does not list anything for the judge and does not ask anything of the judge. I encourage you to read it and see what you make of it. 

It seems to me Runyan is trying to invalidate the SCSC decision so that the circuit court will simply declare that it is not enforceable. As far as I can tell, the whole paper is only a string of criticisms of the justices' five opinions with the implication that nothing was resolved and there was no majority opinion, therefore nothing to enact. If the judge decides he cannot enforce the decision, that, in effect, would invalidate the decision. The time for Runyan to raise these issues was in his petition for a rehearing last September 1. Instead, at that time, he focused all on removing Justice Kaye Hearn's decision and Hearn herself from the case. As we know, that tactic backfired disastrously. The matter before the court now is not whether the SCSC decision is valid. It is how to enforce the decision. To me, Runyan's argument that the decision is unenforceable is nonsensical and irrelevant. 


THE TECSC/TEC LIST

TECSC lawyer, Thomas S. Tisdale, and TEC attorney, Mary E. Kostel, submitted their list to Judge Dickson on August 2, 2018. It is truly a list, given on two pages. Find it here . 

The lawyers reminded the judge that the SCSC issued a "Remittitur" to the court of origin, the circuit court. An order of remittitur is a direction to the lower court to carry out the higher court's decision. This means that the court cannot re-litigate the case (that would have required a remand order instead of remittitur). It can only enforce the supreme court's decision. The lawyers went on to list three requests of the judge:

1---To enforce the SCSC August 2, 2017 decision by providing for a Special Master.

2---To grant the petition for an accounting of DSC's financial matters.

3---To deny or dismiss DSC three motions (Betterment, complex case, and clarification of jurisdiction). 


We are now awaiting Judge Dickson's response to the two lists. I fully expect him to follow TEC/TECSC's suggestions. He has been ordered by the SCSC to enact the decision. He has no choice. As I see it, he cannot accept Runyan's apparent request for non-enforcement. The questions at hand only revolve around how to go about enforcing the SCSC decision. The Special Master and the accounting are reasonable, and necessary, measures considering the size and complexity of this whole matter. I can see no reason why Judge Dickson would oppose either of those. He has already indicated he wanted to get this whole case resolved expeditiously.



Tuesday, August 21, 2018





AUGUST 21 - LETTER TO THIS EDITOR




We have received a new letter to this editor this morning that I think everyone would like to read. Here it is:


Dear Ron:

You have talked a lot about the motivation for the endlessly repeated rhetoric that Judge Dickson will declare the SCSC's decision too complicated to implement. And I'm sure you are right in your conclusion---that rhetoric allows DSC to continue to collect money for their ongoing, and disastrously uphill, legal battle. (Except in places like Surfside, and who knows how many others where funding for that purpose has simply run out at this point.)

Nonetheless, I am sure that there are significant numbers of lay people in the DSC congregations who sincerely, and with good faith, believe that a likely outcome is that, a couple of weeks or a couple of months from now, Judge Dickson will publicly state that the SCSC ruling is just too twisted and that he therefore can't work with it and is sending it back to the SCSC for them to start all over.

There is, however, a fundamental flaw in this logic. The judicial system, in South Carolina, as in every other state of the Union, simply doesn't allow for that. There is a hierarchy of courts and each level of that hierarchy has its own jurisdiction and its own authority; that jurisdiction and that authority have clearly defined limits. The SCSC ruling is res ajudicata, a done deal. It became even more "done" when the SCSC refused to rehear the case last fall. And it became irrevocably "done" when SCOTUS declined the opportunity to undo it. That is a fact.

Judge Dickson has been given the task of implementing that "done" ruling and does not have the right or the power to do anything else. If he were to color outside the lines and make some sort of radical wildcard move, such as the DSC is suggesting he will, he would in effect be refusing to fulfill the duty that he has been assigned by the SCSC. While such a gesture would not be "misconduct" per se, it would certainly be dereliction of duty and would constitute a grave black mark on his professional record, one that could have serious and lasting consequences for his future and certainly for his reputation as a jurist.

If Judge Dickson, as a circuit court judge, were to fail to fulfill his duty to implement and enforce the SCSC ruling (that the 29 parishes and all their property be returned to TEC), he would be like an officer refusing to enact a direct order from a superior officer. A sergeant simply does not have the right not to implement an order given by a colonel.

To continue the military metaphor: when a higher-ranking officer says "Take that hill," a lower-ranking officer may have several different options available to him/her in terms of the logistics of the attack, but he does not have the option of simply saying, "Sorry, sir, the answer is no. That hill looks too high for me. You and the others at high command are just going to have to rethink this whole thing." The result of such arrant insubordination would almost certainly be a court-martial.

In short, the judicial system is a hierarchy, with a specific structure and specific rules about who can do what. Judge Dickson, as circuit court judge, is literally not in a position to refuse to do what he has been told to do by the SCSC and what, in fact, he has publicly and officially agreed to do---implement the SCSC decision of August 2, 2017. Those who believe otherwise fail to understand the basic notions of structure, hierarchy and authority that are at play. They need to do some honest, clear-sighted thinking and realize that their preferred scenario is a fantasy. And they need to stop writing checks to support that fantasy.

P.S. The other thing that some people, it appears, are having a hard time grasping (or accepting) is the fact that, many, perhaps even most, rulings from high courts include all sorts of complicated and conflicting opinions. In a non-unanimous decision, there are always, of course, those of the dissenters. But even among those in the majority, there are often various, perhaps even contradictory, paths leading to the same conclusion.

None of this matters. Once the majority of the justices on a court such as the SCSC or SCOTUS have ruled, it is that majority ruling that must be implemented, regardless of how complicated or contentious the discussion leading up to it was. And regardless of whether it was a close vote (witness how many SCOTUS decisions, every one of which was implemented, have been the result of 5-4 vote). That is just the way the legal system works.

If this were not the case, many, perhaps most, of the rulings of state supreme courts and SCOTUS itself would be unenforceable. And out entire justice system would be a nearly constant stand-still.

______________________________________

I would add only one point about the "done" deal. The SC Code of Laws states that any change to a state supreme court decision must be made within one year of the ruling. That means August 2, 2018 was the deadline for making any change. I have seen no evidence that any change was made. As I read the law, the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017 is absolutely final in every sense. It was remanded to the circuit in November of 2017 for enforcement. It is the final law, period.


Thank you very much, letter writer, for sharing this thoughtful and articulate piece with us. I continue to be impressed by the letters I am receiving, the good the bad, and the ugly. The ones I have posted are very widely read, with thousands of hits on some of them (the Rev. Rob Donehue [July 2] is presently in first place with 2,768 hits). Dear reader, I know you too have thoughts that we all need to hear. You do not have to agree with me, or anyone else for that matter. Your words are just as valuable as anyone's. Look at this blog as a public forum. So, go ahead and vent. It is better than drinking Pepto Bismol. Send your thoughts to my email address above and I will consider posting them as long as they are not slanderous or libelous. I will omit your name if you wish.