Tuesday, October 22, 2019

22 OCTOBER 2019

Thank you, readers, for the numerous emails I have received since last Saturday's letter from Alex S. Jones. The discussion centers around how the Episcopal Church can repossess the properties that the federal and state courts have said belong to the Episcopal Church but remain in the hands of the schismatics. The breakaways have not turned over any property to the Church. In the federal court, they obeyed the court order to cease and desist from pretending to be the Episcopal diocese. However, they continued to occupy the diocesan-owned bishop's residence and diocesan headquarters not to mention controlling the financial assets they took over at the schism. In the state court, the breakaways have not even recognized the South Carolina Supreme Court decision on the 29 parishes and the Camp, let alone agree to turn over the properties.

On the Episcopal church side, many people are frustrated and disappointed that the breakaways have stubbornly refused to honor the court decisions. How can the Church side make the breakaways hand over the keys? Readers of this blog have suggested several avenues to the repossession of the properties that legally belong to the Episcopal Church. 

Most reader responses are in this vein:


Dear Ron,

The latest two emails expressed my frustration perfectly. I, too, am ready to do something more forceful to get our Episcopal owned properties back now. We have been patient long enough. At this point, the patient waiting for justice has become ridiculous! What Judge Dickson is doing is wrong. It is our Christian duty to right wrongs. Maybe there is strength in acting together. Count me in.

Catherine Fellows,
North Myrtle Beach

Mary Murray thought it best to contact Judge Dickson directly:

Honorable E.W. Dickson
P.O. Box 1949
Orangeburg, SC 29116-1949

Your honor,

Please implement the SC Supreme Court decision you were given January 10, 2018 to implement. This involves thousands of people. We have been dealing with this for seven years. Please implement this ruling quickly so we can end this situation.

Mary Murray,

If you would like to contact Judge Dickson directly, the SC Courts website provides his contact information. Find it here .

The Honorable Edgar W. Dickson
P.O. Box 1949
Orangeburg SC 29116-1949
Office 803-535-2187
FAX 803-535-2188
email:  edicksonsc@sccourts.org

Another reader, who requested anonymity, urged caution before playing hardball with the schismatic side:

Dear Ron,

While I fully share the impatience and even outrage of those who have written to you recently concerning the possibility of "direct action," I would also advise caution, perhaps extreme caution.

While we understand that the buildings belong to us, that the SCSC has said so, and that SCOTUS has implied as much by declining to hear the case, others (mistakenly) don't quite get that. It is very important to play a long game here, in terms of public perception, and therefore to be very careful about the "optics" one is creating. Picketing churches and demanding that they be handed over, right now, makes the current occupants look like martyrs. Their martyrdom would be false, of course, but they don't see it that way; perhaps more important, neither would many, many disinterested parties who would see unfortunate images splashed all over the Post and Courier and on local television. In addition to folks entirely outside the fray, these parties might even include some more or less on-the-fence Episcopalians, not all of whom have been following all the ins-and-outs with nearly the kind of attention that we might expect.

Given that the local newspaper is clearly biased toward the Lawrence organization, as is at least one of the local television stations, you can bet your bottom dollar that there would be coverage and that the coverage would lean very heavily in the direction of a message along the lines of: "These poor, God-fearing local people just want to stay in their beloved churches and they are being harassed by these radical monsters...many of whom are from 'off'!" Or something to that effect. The fact that we would know such an interpretation to be utterly erroneous and deeply disingenuous wouldn't change matters. The damage to our reputation would be done, it would be considerable, and it would prove to be both far reaching and long lasting.

Some misunderstandings, distortions, and falsehoods of this sort are going to end up going against us, no matter what we do. And that is not fair. On the other hand, we can and should see to it that we do not add fuel to a public perception dumpster fire that would almost surely leave us more badly burned than it would them.

In short, we have the moral and legal right to take direct action, absolutely. Justice is not being served and we have the right to scream that from the rooftops. But that doesn't mean that it is in our best strategic interest to do so.

[name withheld]

Thank you to Catherine Fellows, Mary Murray and anonymous for contributing so well to our online discussion. 

I want to remind you that Church attorney Thomas Tisdale made a request on Oct. 4 to Judge Dickson for a hearing on the implementation of the SCSC decision. Tisdale is awaiting a response. I think the matter before Judge Dickson should be our focus right now. He needs to have time to respond.

Personally, I like the idea of readers contacting Judge Dickson directly to urge him to implement the SCSC decision. If enough people do this, he cannot help but be impressed. It won't hurt and it could do a lot of good to energize the too-reluctant judge. 

Meanwhile, you can join the conversation here. Send your remarks to the email address above. Your opinion is just as important as anyone's. Besides, everybody needs to vent once in awhile.