Friday, February 20, 2015


-Schism Costs DSC 1 in 3 Members-
-Nearly 10,000 Communicants Abandon Bishop Lawrence-

(Last updated Feb. 22, 6:00 p.m.)
In a few weeks, the Lawrence diocese (DSC) (at present, legally The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, and The Diocese of South Carolina) will hold its annual diocesan convention. It will be the third since the schism of 2012, the 224th if one insists on counting the pre-schism diocese. As everyone is painfully aware, in 2012 the old diocese split into two hostile camps now pitted as enemies in court. The larger part broke away from the Episcopal Church and followed Mark Lawrence, the previous Episcopal bishop (Jan. 26, 2008-December 5, 2012), as their bishop. DSC has prevailed, at least momentarily, in local court for the legal rights to the diocesan names, insignia, and assets. The smaller part remained with the Episcopal Church (TEC) as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC). It is appropriate to ask at this point how the independent diocese is doing. How well has it fared in the two years and four months since the schism? How is it doing now?

Answering these questions is not easy. However, by digging and sifting through pages of data and statistical charts we can assemble a sort of jigsaw puzzle to give us a reasonably good composite picture. The journals of the annual conventions of the diocese are available online, at least for certain years. Each journal includes a good deal of data, particularly on the diocesan budget (income and expenditures) and parish and mission statistics. Three journals are most useful here. The 2008 journal gives the data from the year 2007, the last full year before Mark Lawrence's tenure. It is available at . The parochial statistics for 2007 are on pages 148-149. By studying these figures we can get a good view of the status of the diocese just before Lawrence arrived. Next, the journal of the 2013 convention provides data on the year 2011 (year 2012 was skipped) on pages 128-129: . These figures will show the state of the diocese in the last full year before the schism (occurred Oct. 2012). The third journal of use if that of the 2014 convention; see pages 128-129: . It gives the data for the year 2013, the first full year after the schism. By looking at these three we can see the status and trends of the diocese before Lawrence arrived, after four years under Lawrence, and the year after the schism.

The diocesan budget is in decline. From 2012's $2,273,000 it fell 8% in 2013, and another 2 % in 2014 to $2,059,285. While it is clear the diocese is on a budgetary downslope, one must look at the statistical tables of the local churches to see the real picture of the financial conditions in the diocese.

Plate and Pledge Contributions 2007-2013

Here too, decline is the clear picture. In the statistical charts, the column marked "Plate and Pledge" shows how much money people are contributing to their local churches. In 2007, they gave $30,991,880. In 2013, church people in DSC gave $23,411,932, a striking drop of 24% between 2007 and 2013. One must consider, though, two major departures from DSC in this time, St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant ($2,955,535), and the churches that remained with TEC ($4,861,928 in 2011). If one removes St. Andrew's and the TEC churches, DSC's plate and pledge money increased slightly, but still fell 2% if one accounts for the U.S. inflation rate. Overall the money collected in the DSC parishes and missions from 2007 to 2013 fell 12% as adjusted to the U.S. annual inflation rate.

Let's look in more detail at the Plate and Pledge figures in the parochial statistical tables. From 2007 to 2013, 23 parishes and missions of DSC had declining income, while 18 had rising amounts. The most significant increases from 2007 to 2013 came in St. Helena's of Beaufort, Church of the Cross, Bluffton, St. Michael's of Charleston, Prince George Winyah of Georgetown, St. James of James Island, St. John's of Johns Island, and Christ/St. Paul's of Yonges Island. In flat dollar figures, the most serious declines in collections from 2007 to 2013 were at: St. Luke's of Hilton Head (-$282,386, or -22%), St. Philip's of Charleston (-$123,073 or -6%), St. Paul's of Conway (-$127,938, or -24%), St. Paul's of Summerville (-$100,694, or -8%), Trinity of Edisto (-$96,868, or -22%), St. Paul's of Bennettsville (-$90,710, or -56%), Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant (-$90,381, or -9%), All Saints of Florence (-$80,677, or -28%), and St. Bartholomew's of Hartsville (-$79,346, or -32%). There were many others with serious downward trends.

Plate and Pledge Contributions 2011-2013

Perhaps it is more enlightening to look at the figures for the DSC parishes and missions of 2011, just before the schism, and 2013, the full year after the schism. This would be the last three years in the seven year span covered in the section above. It is important because it shows the immediate effect and aftermath of the schism. We will omit the ECSC parishes and missions from consideration here. From 2011 to 2013, 21 DSC parishes and missions showed declines in giving while 19 showed increases. Adjusted for inflation, however, only 8 local churches showed significant increases in giving between 2011 and 2013: St. Helena's of Beaufort, the Cathedral, All Saints of Florence, Holy Cross of Stateburg, St. Matthias of Summerton, Old St. Andrew's, St. James of James Island, and Christ/St. Paul's of Yonges Island. Thus, less than a quarter of the DSC churches showed significant gains in individual giving after the schism. Most showed declines.

The sharpest drops in contributions between 2011 and 2013, that is around the time of the schism, came in Holy Cross of Sullivans Island (-$236,338, or -13%), St. John's of Florence (-$198,482, or -27%), Trinity of Myrtle Beach (-$166,058, or -25%), Holy Comforter of Sumter (-$82,168, or -12%), Trinity of Edisto (-$73,552, or -18%), St. Paul's of Bennettsville (-$49,156, or -38%), Our Saviour of Johns Island (-$47,485, or -8%), Christ the King of Pawleys Island (-$27,925, or -11%), St. Bartholomew's of Hartsville (-$24,624, or -13%), St. Paul's of Conway (-$23,153, or -5%). Others with declines were : St. David's of Cheraw, Prince George Winyah of Georgetown, Holy Apostles of Barnwell, St. Matthew's of Ft. Motte, St. Paul's of Orangeburg, Trinity of Pinopolis. In short, twice as many local DSC showed serious declines in members' contributions as showed significant increases. It is said that people vote by their feet, but they also vote by their pocketbooks. People give as they feel it is important to do so. The bottom line is that most DSC churches collected significantly less money from their congregations in the year after the schism than they had collected before the schism.

People do vote by their feet. An examination of the membership figures of the parishes and missions will give us an even clearer picture of the status of DSC. The parochial statistical tables give us 'Baptized Membership." This is not a useful measurement as it counts everyone who was baptized in the parish. As we all know, many "baptized" people are not members of the parishes and missions on any meaningful level. The "baptized" number really tells us nothing. A far more significant number is "Communicants." This usually means people who attend church at least once a year. It is a more reliable measurement of the size of a church's membership.

Membership 2007-2013

What do the figures on "Communicants" tell us? Between 2007 and 2013, 32 parishes and missions that adhered to Lawrence in the schism lost communicants while 9 gained. The most dramatic losses in the entire period of the seven years of 2007-2013 were: Resurrection of Surfside (-312, or -47%), St. Michael's of Charleston (-285, or -19%), Holy Comforter of Sumter (-277, or -41 %), Trinity of Myrtle Beach (-252, or -40%), St. Paul's of Conway (-214, or -55%), Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant (-210, or -20%), St. Paul's of Summerville (-148, or -15%), the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul (-140, or -43%), St. Andrew's Mission of West Ashley (-130, or -74%), St. John's of Florence (-123, or -25%), Redeemer of Orangeburg (-106, or -34%), St. Helena's of Beaufort (-106, or -7%), Old St. Andrew's of West Ashley (-101, or -16%), All Saints of Florence (-100, or -46%), Trinity of Pinopolis (-90, or -49%), St. James of James Island (-75, or -13%), Holy Trinity of Grahamville (-61, or -40%), St. Bartholomew's of Hartsville (-48, or -26%), Epiphany of Eutawville (-48, or -32%). Others losing significant numbers between 2007 and 2013 were: Holy Cross of Stateburg, St. Luke's of Hilton Head, St. John's of Johns Island, Advent in Marion, Trinity of Edisto, St. Paul's of Bennettsville, and St. David's of Cheraw. Local churches losing members outnumbered the gainers 3 to 1.

Membership 2011-2013

Perhaps more useful is to zero in on the last three years of the seven year period noted above. This was the time just before the schism (2011) and the year after the schism (2013). What do the figures reveal about communicant membership in the aftermath of the schism? What impact did the schism have on church membership? We will look at just the DSC parishes and missions, omitting the ones that remained with TEC. Here we see that in the two years right around the schism, 25 local DSC churches lost members while 15 gained. According to the data shown in DSC's 2013 statistical table, the most serious losses were: Holy Cross of Sullivans Island (-1,336, or -53%), St. Michael's of Charleston (-651, or -35%), Old St. Andrew's of West Ashley (-433, or -45%), St. Philip's of Charleston (-356, or -13%), St. Helena's of Beaufort (-353, or -20%), St. John's of Florence (-277, or -42%), Trinity of Myrtle Beach (-212, or -36%), Holy Comforter of Sumter (-126, or -24%), Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul (-116, or -38%), St. James of James Island (-112, or -18%), Church of the Cross of Bluffton (-102, or -6%), Christ Church of Mt. Pleasant (-96, or -10%), and St. Paul's of Conway (-95, or -35%). Other local DSC churches with serious losses after the schism were: Trinity of Pinopolis, Holy Cross of Stateburg, Redeemer of Orangeburg, and Trinity of Edisto. In contrast to the flood of churches losing members, several parishes reported significant gains from 2011 to 2013: Resurrection of Surfside (282 to 351), St. John's of Johns Island (566-620; still 6% less than 2007), St. Paul's of Summerville (773-855; still 15% less than 2007), and Christ/St. Paul's of Yonges Island (330 to 397). Figures show a tremendous negative impact from the schism on membership of St. Michael's, St. Philip's, Old St. Andrew's, St. Helena's, St. John's of Florence, Holy Comforter of Sumter, the cathedral church, St. James on James Island, just to name a few. These are some of the largest and most important churches in DSC.

Of the parishes and missions that adhered to Lawrence in the schism of 2012, the 25 that lost communicants reported a total loss of 4,716 people. The 15 parishes and missions that reported gains, showed a total gain of 439. Subtracting the 439 gain from the 4,716 loss means a net loss of 4,277 members in DSC in the year after the schism. In other words, the Lawrence local churches loss a net total of 4,277 active members in the aftermath of the 2012 schism. If the DSC churches had 21,863 communicants before the schism, the loss amounted to 20%. The local churches that stayed with TEC counted 5,113 members at the end of 2011. If one adds the 4,716 lost from DSC churches and the 5,113 that left DSC in order to stay with TEC, one would get a total of 9,829 communicants who left the diocese at the time of the schism and the year following the schism. A loss of 9,829 communicants out of a starting number of 26,976 (all churches in DSC in 2011) means a 36% drop in membership in DSC as a direct result of the schism. In other words, about one-third of the diocese left at the time of the schism. At the end of calendar year 2013, DSC reported 17,999 communicants, a far cry from the 27,670 when Lawrence arrived in 2008, and the 26,976 on the eve of the schism.

Statistics of ECSC churches

How did the parishes and missions that stayed with TEC compare with those who followed Lawrence? Unfortunately, we have no post-schism statistics yet from these local churches. Hopefully, we will have soon. However, we do have figures on these churches from the statistical tables of 2007 and 2011. Nineteen parishes and missions of the old diocese remained with TEC. The data for them show only a very small change in their status in the run-up to the schism, 2007 to 2011. By 2011, the Plate and Pledge giving rose only 1 % to $4,861,928. In 2007 they reported 4,909 communicants, then 5,113 in 2011, a rise of 4%. In this period, 10 churches increased giving and 9 declined while 10 increased in membership and 9 declined. The greatest rise in membership occurred in the larger churches, particularly Grace of Charleston (+2%), St. Stephen's of Charleston (+15%), Holy Communion of Charleston (+30%), All Saints, Hilton Head (4%), and some of the smaller churches, as St. James Santee (+25%). Overall, the nineteen local churches that remained with TEC showed little change in the first four years of Lawrence's tenure (2008-2011).


Some of the small details in the statistical tables should also give pause to the diocese, for instance, baptisms. The parishes and missions that adhered to Lawrence had 389 baptisms in the year 2011. In 2013 that was down to 258, a whopping 33% drop (Journal of 2014, p. 130). Other important categories also show cause for cause for alarm in DSC.

Some of my readers may refuse to believe the data. I can assure it is there, and it comes from the Diocese of South Carolina itself. I did not make it up. The statistical tables are freely available for anyone to see and study.

No doubt the leaders of DSC will try to downplay the devastating data and publicize the few positive signs out there. It is true DSC has two new worshipping communities (North Charleston, North Myrtle Beach) and has gained a new parish in Pawleys Island (remnant of the feud in All Saints). However, these do not alter the undeniable picture of the sudden and dramatic decline in the status of the diocese, parishes, and missions that followed Lawrence out of the Episcopal Church. The data show that the parishes and missions that adhered to Lawrence dramatically lost people and money and did so immediately after the schism. This shows up clearly in the figures for the whole year of 2013, the first full calendar year after the schism of 2012.

It is obvious to everyone that this self-inflicted schism has been very damaging to the once grand old diocese of South Carolina. There is not a parish or mission that has not been directly and negatively affected, even the largest and grandest of the ancient churches. Some of the small parishes and missions are on the brink of collapse. Lawrence's claim that 80% of the old diocese remained with him is not supported by the data from his own diocese, far from it. In fact, since Lawrence became bishop in 2008, there have been three major episodes of exodus from DSC: St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant in 2010 with 2,390 communicants, the 5,113 who stayed with TEC and the 4,716 who left the DSC churches around the time of the schism. In Lawrence's tenure, the old unitary diocese split up into three hostile groups, 1-St. Andrew's, now in ACNA, 2-the ECSC churches, and 3-DSC.

The statistics may well substantiate the theory that the schism was a revolution from the top (it was actually a counter-revolution against the revolutionary reforms of the Episcopal Church). It was not a popular event that generated from the ordinary people-in-the-pews. A small group of no more than 20 people conspired to break DSC away from TEC in October of 2012 and then presented their fait accompli to the clergy and laity for certain validation, which they got. DSC's own data show that one in five church members left DSC churches after the schism. Although the majority supported the schism, the support was not as wide and deep as the ruling clique claimed.

What do the statistics portend for the future? That is impossible to know. On the first hand, DSC may be able to stop the bleeding, cauterize the wound, stabilize or even rebound. On the second hand, DSC may continue the trend of decline. The glaring problem here is that with fewer people and less money, they are facing ever rising challenges to pay for the 40+ lawyers they have employed. Endowments, investments, and other non-communicant sources of income may prop up DSC for a while, but that would not be sustainable long term. We will not know the statistics for the year 2014 until a year from now when they will be released with the journal of the convention of 2015. My personal observation of DSC parishes and missions in the last year makes me believe the second hand is the more likely trend.  

Lawrence and the other leaders who made this schism want their faithful to believe they are better off today and will be even better off tomorrow. DSC's own statistics prove that fewer and fewer people are buying that. The decline in membership and in members' giving shows their real feelings about their leadership and what they have done.

As the 18,000 active members of the DSC get ready for their annual convention next month, they would do well to take stock of where they are and where they are going. I urge them to study their own data and draw their own conclusions. They have good cause for concern if not alarm. The diocese belongs to them, the ordinary communicants of the Diocese of South Carolina. They would be wise to assert their ownership while there is still a viable diocese to claim.