A LETTER, 16 NOVEMBER
The following letter was sent to Judge Dickson on yesterday, 15 November 2019. The author kindly sent me a copy and permitted me to post it for you to read. I am doing so because it is a poignant and eloquent statement to which many faithful churchpeople in South Carolina can relate.
Dear Judge Dickson:
Another holiday season approaches. The seventh season when I and my family are absent from our church home at St. Philip's in Charleston. I grew up in this church: a member of the youth choir, and an award-winning, perfect attendance Sunday school enthusiast. It was in Sunday school that I learned about the early Christian martyrs, and it was here where I spent every Sunday morning, sitting up in the balcony, entranced by the multitude of carved cherubs overhead, and the gilded commandments which flanked the high altar. It was from this church that I attended summer camp at St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center, and where I attended Episcopal Young Churchmen (EYC in those days). It was here that I found God, and it was here that I attended confirmation class and was confirmed. And it was here, more than 30 years later, where my sons would attend confirmation class as well. The eldest went on to be confirmed at St. Philip's; the youngest --- sadly --- had to leave confirmation class just weeks before he was to be confirmed. This was by his own choice, as he wanted to continue with the generations of the family confirmed in the Episcopal Church. As St. Philip's had just chosen to leave the Episcopal Church, we found our home hijacked.
It was this same young man who suggested to the family that we would have to leave St. Philip's, and not just because of the confirmation issue. His comments followed a sermon where the rector mentioned the formation of a 'task force' with a mission to 'normalize' and correct homosexuals. My sons are not gay, but they were raised in the doctrine of the Episcopal Church, with its inclusiveness and openness to all God's children. Even at that tender age seven years ago, my son knew this was wrong, and that those beliefs had no place at St. Philip's. We sadly left the church home both of my sons and I had grown up in, while those with changing beliefs declared my home church their new 'home base' to spread convictions which have never been part of the Episcopal Church.
The rector of my youth, Canon Samuel T. Cobb of St. Philip's, wrote my letter of recommendation to the Episcopal college The University of the South (Sewanee), where I graduated cum laude in 1980. With my convictions formed at St. Philip's at such an early age, I went on to study Religion at Sewanee, receive a master's degree in the same from the University of Washington (Seattle), and pursue doctoral work in religion from Vanderbilt University. All of this --- all of it --- evolved from my experience growing up in the faith and principles which surrounded me on all sides at the Episcopal Church of my youth --- St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Charleston.
The dissidents who created the schism in the Church have charged many times that the Episcopal Church doctrine is entrenched in liberal indoctrination, adapting doctrine to changing mores of contemporary culture. Specifically, among other charges, they state that the Episcopal Church strays from biblical principles which abhor homosexuality and the role of women in the Church. As one raised among generations of family who were also raised within the Episcopal Church, I can state without hesitation that their charges have no basis in the Episcopal Church, which has always been based on supporting inclusiveness and independent interpretation. In point of fact, the dissidents who created the schism are guilty of the very charge they make: they are distorting the Episcopal faith to suit their own evolving conservatism, and then claiming that the Episcopal Church has always believed that way. For this reason, the dissidents claim to be the "one true Church," --- in fact, they have staged a coup on doctrine and sit like squatters in property which never historically acceded to the hateful exclusion they promote in their "new doctrine."
My life/interests/family/vocation/avocations would not be what they are at my current age 62, if I had been raised in the church the dissidents claim to represent. It is wrong that they sit in an historically Episcopal Church (St. Philip's among others) preaching and promoting a doctrine which does not represent the doctrine of the historical Episcopal Church. A coup and squatting does not change historical facts. Please give grave consideration in your rulings to those of us who were forced to leave our history in 2012 and have lived in Diaspora and lost so much since. We know the law is on our side, and although spread widely since we left our church homes, we all trust that you will see justice to its proper end, and restore our church homes and property.
I say a big "thank you" to Bambi Downs for allowing us to read the letter she sent to the judge. I doubt that anyone could have said these thoughts as well. We should all have sons as these.
We need to emphasize the point the author makes here that the schismatics in SC have diverted from classical Anglicanism. They are not following the mainstream of the historic religion that came out of the Church of England that is often described as the three legged stool: scriptures, tradition, reason. Instead, what the secessionists in SC have done is to move to a modern fundamentalist Anglicanism, based on a literal interpretation of scripture alone, and closely aligned with the socially conservative cultures of equatorial Africa, particularly in opposition to equality for and inclusion of women and open homosexuals in the life of the church. The Anglican Church in North America is allied with this African block in opposition to the traditional structure of the Anglican Communion which honors classical Anglicanism. The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina and its parent, the ACNA, may call themselves "Anglican" but they are not, in the historic and standard sense of the word. They are not in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and there is virtually no chance they ever will be. The people-in-the-pews in the "Anglican" churches in SC certainly have every right to define their own religion, but they should be honest about what that is.