Friday, May 17, 2019


It is Friday, May 17, 2019. Another week in the schism has passed. And, alas, once again, there is nothing to report. We are still waiting on the three courts to act: 1-the circuit court to implement the SCSC decision, 2-the SCSC to respond to TEC's petition for a Writ of Mandamus, and 3-the federal court to move on the TECSC bishop's suit against Mark Lawrence. Almost two months have gone by now without a word from any of these three legal fronts. The waiting is tiring and frustrating if unavoidable. 

My purpose on this blog is to provide information and opinion on the schism in South Carolina. I do not usually presume to give advice, and certainly not to judges. However, given the inexplicable inertia of all of the courts at once, it may be time to make an exception. So, as opinion, here is my unsolicited advice to the judges to get things moving toward a much-needed resolution: 

1-circuit court Judge Edgar Dickson. The South Carolina Supreme Court remitted its Aug. 2, 2017 decision to your court on Nov. 17, 2017, a year and a half ago. Your task is to implement the SCSC decision, nothing else. The three orders of the SCSC are clearly listed on the last page of the decision. You are now facing the probable embarrassment of having the high court order you to do your job. You can avoid this public humiliation by proceeding to order the enactment of the SCSC decision before the SCSC responds to TEC's petition for a Writ. TEC has offered means to expedite this by a Special Master and an accounting firm. You have the tools at hand. Implement the decision and forestall an impending loss of face.

2-SCSC justices. Almost two months ago, TEC filed a petition with you to grant a Writ of Mandamus to the circuit court directing it to implement the SCSC decision. The circuit court has had the remittitur for a year and a half and has done nothing to carry it out. It appears to be unwilling or unable to do its assigned job. You must step in and protect the integrity of the legal system in South Carolina. Issue the Writ ordering the circuit court to implement your decision. You  must not allow a circuit court judge to ignore or re-litigate a final decision of the state supreme court.

3-federal judge Richard Gergel. Both sides have asked you to render a decision in the case before you of vonRosenberg v. Lawrence. This case has been in the court for six years (a year and a half with you). Justice delayed is justice denied. You have suggested the possibility of a formal courtroom trial on or after May 1. You, and the public, do not need a trial to decide this matter. You have volumes of information and arguments before you that provide the positions of both sides in detail. You are clearly a thoughtful, careful, and thorough jurist. Consider the material at hand and issue a decision. Spare yourself and everyone else the trauma of a full trial. The public on both sides is longing for closure.

Now, let us shift gears from the legal war to the underlying culture war. Anyone who has read my history of the schism or reads this blog regularly, knows my thesis that the schism in South Carolina is part of a larger culture war going on in contemporary America, and to some extent in the world, particularly in the Anglican world. This week has brought the culture war back into full focus and has revealed some interesting shifts in the battlegrounds of the war. And, unsurprisingly, Alabama is leading Pickett's charge. Two days ago, the governor of AL signed a bill into law that is so crazily over-the-top even the Rev. Pat Robertson said it was ridiculous. Now, that is saying a lot. The new law is brazenly and wildly unconstitutional and will be struck down in an instant by the first federal judge to get it. The stated purpose of the law is to take the abortion issue back to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes the 5-4 conservative court will overturn Roe v. Wade. I will bet my bottom dollar SCOTUS will never touch AL's new blast of madness.

Stunts such as this leave a lot of us in Alabama pulling out what is left of our hair. Of course, we are used to bad government. In the last couple of years the heads of all three branches of the state government have either been forced out by self-made scandals or convicted in court of felonies. The unofficial AL state motto is "Thank God for Mississippi." Not even Mississippi is this corrupt and inept. Every time we in AL think things are getting better, we are jolted back to reality as our state officials seem resolved to preserve our reputation as the most regressive state in the nation. The new anti-abortion law is just that. These Neanderthal legislators do not realize just how damaging this sort of self-inflicted wound is to the overall health and well-being of the state. It is as if they learned nothing at all from the George Wallace disaster. South Carolina, you may be next. There is an anti-abortion bill in the state assembly similar to Alabama's.

This leads us back to the subject of the culture war. What we are in now is a counter-revolutionary backlash against the democratic reforms of the second half of the Twentieth Century and early years of the Twenty-First Century. In particular, three groups were beneficiaries of the great democratic revolution of this time: African Americans, women, and homosexuals. They gained equal rights and inclusion into American society. The Episcopal Church played an important role in carrying out this democratic revolution.

Interestingly enough, the struggle for the last group is largely over. After the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, the counter-revolutionaries mostly closed off this part of the war as a lost cause, a dead horse. Instead they have reverted to the first two as renewed battlegrounds.

For blacks, the counter-revolutionaries have been carrying on a long fight to remove or minimize their power and role in American life. Mass incarcerations for crimes, targeted at the ghetto, packed prisons with young black men. The U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world. This is no accident. It is deliberate racist policy. Meanwhile, conservative state legislatures passed voter suppression laws to decrease the number of black voters and gerrymandered electoral districts to segregate black voters. In addition, they have changed polling places and reduced the days and places for voter registration. Recent elections show the effectiveness of this racist anti-democratic movement in America. Conservatives know they cannot undo civil rights, but they can work around the edges to reduced freedom and equality for blacks. Too, the anti-immigrant and anti-foreign moves now popular among the conservatives are nothing more than extensions of white racism. 

While giving up on homosexuality and just fighting around the edges on race, the counter-revolutionaries are now aiming all of their big guns on rights for women. This is the obvious new focus of the reactionaries' backlash against democracy. This is why state legislature after state legislature is passing overtly unconstitutional anti-abortion laws. These are not about "protecting life." They are not about babies. They are about gender. They are all about keeping women under male domination. Under these new laws, made overwhelmingly by men, women are not allowed to control their own bodies. In fact, they, and the medical professionals who attend them, can be imprisoned for trying this. This is a direct attack on a woman's constitutional right to have an abortion. It is outrageous.

President Trump has been ingenious at combining the economic conservatives and the cultural conservatives in his scheme to undermine our constitutional system and replace it with autocracy invested in himself. For the former, he gave the largest transfer of wealth in American history from the middle classes to the very wealthy in his so-called tax-reform law. For the latter, he has persecuted immigrants and packed the federal courts with conservative judges, most importantly two new justices on the Supreme Court. Cultural conservatives, such as the angry white working class man and evangelicals, now believe the courts will roll back rights for women. That is the big push now in state legislatures to pass anti-abortion laws some of which may work up the the Supreme Court and perhaps cause the court to seriously diminish or remove the present constitutional protection of a woman's right to control her own body. Thus, interestingly enough, it is on women's rights that the culture war is now focused. This suggests that all along it was not blacks or homosexuals that reactionaries saw as most dangerous; it was women, who are, after all, the majority of the country. Apparently, the counter-revolutionaries see empowered women as the biggest threat to their future.

This helps us understand what is going on in the schism in South Carolina. In the two dioceses, the issue of homosexuality has been settled for all practical purposes. In 2015, the breakaway leaders imposed on the DSC a stringent policy banning same-sex weddings and declaring all sex outside of lifetime heterosexual marriage as sin. The hypocrisy of divorce and re-marriage, common in their diocese, did not seem to bother the people who made this Draconian law. In the Episcopal Church diocese, same-sex marriage is perfectly legal and regular. Thus, in both dioceses, the issue of homosexuality has turned moot. 

While the schism in SC was directly caused by the issue of homosexuality, it also involved a less-visible backlash against equal rights and inclusion of women in the life of the church. This has worked out on several levels. As for clergy, women priests are tolerated but not promoted in DSC. No woman priest has ever headed a large or medium sized parish in DSC. Moreover, no woman has ever chaired a major diocesan committee and women have never been in a majority on any major diocesan committee. Indeed, women have never had more than a quarter of the places on the DSC standing committee. When it comes to attendance and work, women form a large majority in every local church. When it came time to join a larger group, DSC chose to unite with the Anglican Church in North America which is an unabashed male chauvinist bastion. Women are not allowed to be ordained as bishops. The all-male bishops control the institutional structure of ACNA. Women are left powerless, and, indeed, are taught (by men) to submit to male authority. Check out the "Women's Ministries" page on the DSC website. Too, it is interesting to note that the very first resolution passed by the DSC convention after the schism was a restriction of women's freedom (an anti-abortion resolution). Both DSC and ACNA are strongly anti-equal rights for women. They are part and parcel of the counter-revolutionary movement against the reforms that brought freedom, justice, and equality for women.

Thus, DSC has made its stand in the culture war very clear, on the side of the counter-revolution. For blacks, DSC has done virtually nothing. In fact, as with women, no African American has ever been promoted to a position of authority in the diocese. Very few blacks have ever been allowed into the DSC leadership. DSC is entirely controlled by white males. As for women, DSC has kept them as second-class communicants and is actively striving to keep women from the right to control their own bodies. For homosexuals, we know the story there all too well. DSC has an absolute ban on equality and inclusion of open homosexuals and transgendered. If DSC is anything, it is up front about this. What all this tells us is that the schism in SC was primarily a socio-cultural event. It was part of the backlash against the great American democratic revolution of the post-Second World War era.

Then comes the question, What does DSC's role in the counter-revolution portend for its future? Driving out the homosexuals and keeping blacks and women down does not exactly promise a rosy future for growth in this "diocese." Even in relatively conservative South Carolina, the counter-revolution is generational, the older the person the more conservative in this culture war. Even in SC, ninety percent of people under the age of thirty support equality and inclusion of blacks, women, and gays. DSC will have a very hard time attracting young people. As we know, DSC has actually lost a third of its communicants since the schism. The downward trajectory is clear and relentless. Given the demographics in the culture war, the DSC decline will only worsen in time. This means it is hard to imagine a long-term institutional viability of DSC. After the court cases are over, DSC will have six parishes and a handful of other small churches. I expect this remnant will eventually melt into Steve Wood's diocese in ACNA.

Anyway, enough of war. It is Friday and time to take a break and stroll around my garden. We are having a beautiful springtime in the south with abundant rain and mild temperatures. The plants are flourishing. Here are a few pictures of my garden this week:

A walk path at the back edge, in the larger part of the garden. The purple shrub is barberry (Berberis thunbergii 'Rose Glow', the green one Abelia "Little Richard.' The pine tree is a longleaf pine. It was a seedling gift of Bok Tower, in Lake Wales FL, my favorite getaway place in winter.

In the smaller part looking toward the central lawn and the larger part of the garden beyond. On right is Japanese silver grass, on left Burning bush shrub. The low, yellowish plants by the chairs are dwarf bamboo. The tall plants by the chairs are Italian cypresses.

Sun drops (Oenothera fruticosa). Reliable perennial that likes some shade. Bright small lemon-yellow flowers.

St. Francis overlooks much of the garden although he is about to be enveloped by a camellia bush. Somehow I do not think he would mind. The ground cover on right is Algerian glacier ivy.

A Persian maiden adorns a seating area in the farthest part of the garden. This is my favorite spot. The shrub in front is Eurya japonica "Green Thinly Margined.' It is an unusual evergreen with small leaves, kin to the tea plant.

Pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana) is a tropical shrub that produces small edible fruit from unusual flowers. 

Japanese pea shrub (Lespedeza thunbergii) is just starting to flower. Soon this 6' wide bush will be covered with these flowers for months.

My garden is an eclectic collection of some 700 plants from far and wide. Except for the large trees already present, I chose and planted all of them myself. I have no training in horticulture, so I planned the garden on my own just to suit myself. My landscape scheme was as a bowl, open and flat in the middle (the central lawn) with sides gradually rising in height. The guiding principle of plant choice and placement was democracy. I chose a wide variety and mixed up the plants by color, size, texture, form, and the like, put them together and treated all of them the same. As one can see, most of the plants have loved this arrangement. Now, all of us should learn a lesson of how to get along from this flourishing democratic community of flora. This would end the culture war. 

My best wishes to you, reader. My advice to you---get outside and enjoy the wonders of God's creation in this glorious springtime. You do not have to have a big garden to do this. You can just go outside your door, breathe in the fresh air, enjoy the plants around and listen to the sweet singing of the birds. Be still and remember what is really important in life, life. It is good for the soul.