Saturday, February 23, 2019


The archbishop of Canterbury has sent out the invitations for the 2020 Lambeth Conference. Bishop "Skip" Adams was invited. Bishop Mark Lawrence was not invited. Why not? Will he be invited at some time between now and the meeting? Let's look at these questions as they are important in understanding the schism in South Carolina.

The archbishop of Canterbury, now Justin Welby, is the host of the Lambeth Conference. He gets to choose whom to invite and whom not to invite to his big party. As a general rule, the archbishop invites all the current bishops of the provinces of the Anglican Communion. At the moment there are 861 bishops in the forty provinces which count some 85m baptized members. However, the invitations are entirely at the discretion of the archbishop. He does not always invite all the AC bishops. In 2008 he refused to invite the bishop of New Hampshire. The archbishop also traditionally invites all of the bishops' spouses. This time he has pointedly dis-invited three of the legal spouses.

It is also true that Archbishop Welby invited the head of a non-Anglican Communion body, Foley Beach, of the Anglican Church in North America, as a non-voting observer in the primates' meeting of January 2016. The primates' meeting is one of the Four Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion, along with the Archbishop, the Lambeth Conference, and the Anglican Consultative Council. Will Archbishop Welby invite the bishops of the ACNA to Lambeth?

We have to go back to the simple fact that the Episcopal Church in South Carolina is part of the Anglican Communion and the Diocese of South Carolina is not part of the Anglican Communion. This is not a difficult concept to grasp. It is black and white. One of the most regrettable aspects of the schism in South Carolina is that the leaders of the breakaway diocese carried on, and are still carrying on, a major campaign to convince their followers they are part of the Anglican Communion. This is at best misguided, and at worst outright deceit. In any case, it is wrong.

From the moment of the schism in 2012, Bishop Lawrence and the other leaders of the breakaway diocese insisted they were Anglicans and part of worldwide Anglicanism. In my history of the schism, I dealt with this at some length and so will not repeat all of it here. At first, Lawrence clearly implied the diocese was an extra provincial diocese of the Anglican Communion. In fact, since the schism, DSC has not been, and is not now, a part in any way of the Anglican Communion. Yet, he worked hard to convince his followers that they were fully Anglican. In his addresses after the schism he repeated the words Anglican and Anglicanism countless times as if repetition would make them true. In his official address to the 2016 diocesan convention, he did not say the word Episcopal one time, but said the words Anglican and Anglicanism twenty-five times. 

To be sure, Lawrence and the others leaders parsed their words carefully. They did not say outright they were parts of the Anglican Communion even while obviously implying it. For instance, the DSC website today says this:  "The Diocese of South Carolina is recognized by Anglican Dioceses and Provinces around the world." Find it here . This is really a meaningless sentence. What does "recognized" mean? It could means all sorts of things. In this context, it seems to me the diocesan leaders are trying to get their followers to believe they are part of the "Anglicans" in the "world." Who could miss the point?

Some of the parishes that went along with the schism made, and still make, the outright false claim that they are parts of the Anglican Communion. On St. Philip's, of Charleston, website today is this flatly untrue statement:  "St. Philip's is an evangelical parish in the Diocese of South Carolina, which is a constituent member of the worldwide Anglican Communion." Find it here . In simple fact, the DSC, and St. Philip's, are not in the Anglican Communion. The clergy of St. Philip's should be ashamed of themselves. 

So should the clergy of St. Helena's, of Beaufort. On their website today is a nearly identical statement:  "St. Helena's is an evangelical parish in the Diocese of South Carolina, which is a constituent member of the worldwide Anglican Communion." Untrue. Find it here . The word "constituent" appears in both statements. What does "constituent" mean? Constituent, in this context, means "a component part of something." They are saying the Diocese of South Carolina is a component part of the Anglican Communion. Absolutely false.

The clergy of St. Michael's, of Charleston, are more subtle but no less misleading. They omitted the statement made by St. Philip's and St. Helena's but under Home > About > we find "Anglican Communion" (find it here ) with links to "The Worldwide Anglican Communion" that goes directly to the AC homepage, and The Archbishop of Canterbury that goes directly to the archbishop's homepage. In fact, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said very clearly that he is not in communion with the Anglican Church in North America and that ACNA is not in the Anglican Communion. The DSC is part of the ACNA. The clergy of St. Michael's should be ashamed too.

The clergy at Holy Cross, on Sullivans Island, also tried to be clever with their wording:  "As Anglicans, we are part of a global communion of churches established over the centuries by the Church of England." Find it here . "Part"? What does that mean? I think we know what they mean.

Thus, it is perfectly clear that the diocesan, and at least some of the parochial authorities in the Diocese of South Carolina have deliberately perpetuated and promoted the myth that their diocese is in the Anglican Communion. I imagine if one asks the typical person-in-the-pew at any DSC church, he or she would be certain their church is in the Anglican Communion. The natural tendency in this situation is to trust what their authorities have told them. The average person cannot be expected to know all the intricacies of the institutional organizations in the Anglican world.

Now, it is true that some parts of the Anglican Communion have strongly advanced the Anglican Church in North America. In fact, GAFCON has made Foley Beach, the archbishop and head of the ACNA, the next chair of their council of primates. GAFCON has rejected the legitimacy of the Episcopal Church and has declared ACNA to be an Anglican province. Actually, GAFCON has no authority to declare anyone in or out of the Anglican Communion. While it is true the DSC is "recognized" and supported by some Anglican provinces, it is not true that it is recognized and supported by the Anglican Communion. Big difference.

Now, back to our first questions. Lawrence has not been invited to the Lambeth Conference. We know this because Welby has said he invited the bishops of the forty Anglican Communion provinces. Lawrence is not in one of the forty provinces. 

Second question, will Lawrence be invited at some point in the future? Well, invitations are entirely up to the archbishop of Canterbury. It is possible, but extremely unlikely that Welby will relent and invite the bishops of the ACNA. If he does choose to do this, it would only be because of extortion from GAFCON. Since the three hard-right GAFCON primates have already declared they will not attend, they have lost all leverage with the archbishop. Present and future leverage would be with the rest of the GAFCON primates. So far, they seem reluctant to go along with the hard-liners. If Welby did change his mind and invite non-AC bishops, the disturbance he is in now on the same-sex spouses issue would seem like a picnic. It would blow up the whole Conference. I think there is nil to zero chance he will invite the ACNA bishops to Lambeth. They can call themselves "Anglicans" all they wish. They are not in the Anglican Communion and many of those who are in the AC would not stand for this invasion. After all, Welby is working hard to keep the Anglican Communion together. Inviting the ACNA bishops would destroy it. No doubt he is well-aware of that.

The breakaway diocese now using the name Diocese of South Carolina is claiming itself as Anglican. This is a charade. It is Anglican in name only. It is not in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is not in the Anglican Communion. Its umbrella, the ACNA is not now, never has been, and never will be in the Anglican Communion. As far as the theology and practice of religion in DSC goes, at best it could be called a fundamentalist manifestation of Anglicanism. Classical Anglicanism is a three-legged stool, reason, scripture, tradition. The leaders of DSC have discarded two of the three legs in favor of only one, scripture. A one-legged stool will not stand.  

The main point of all of this is that the people in South Carolina should get the reality that the Episcopal Church diocese is in the Anglican Communion and the breakaway diocese is not in the Anglican Communion. Lawrence will not be joining the Anglican bishops at Lambeth. What people do with this reality is up to them.