Sunday, June 28, 2015


Last week will live forever in the history books. As a student of history, I was like the kid in the candy shop all week long. I hardly know where to begin; so much happened, and happened so quickly. It will take some time for us to absorb, digest, and reflect well on just what occurred in that whirlwind.

Monumental events happened in politics, society, and religion, and all impacting each other. It was also a moment of extremes, very bad and very good. On the very bad side was the continuing shock and grief from the monstrous evil of June 17 in Emanuel A.M.E. Church in downtown Charleston. On the very good side there was much more: the response to that satanic event, the Supreme Court decision validating the heart of Obamacare, the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the entire nation, and the Episcopal Church's super-landslide election of its first Presiding Bishop to be an African American. Any one of these would have been a bomb explosion, but coming all together they were like a nuclear blast. The world has been rocked, and changed forever, in my opinion for the good.

Let's concentrate on the good. In the first place, the loving reaction to the massacre of June 17 has been almost overwhelming. The whole world has come together to surround the families, the churches, Charleston, and South Carolina in its moment of terrible sorrow. I cannot recall a time when there was such an enormous outpouring of good will in the face of malevolence. Good simply over swept evil and reduced it to its knees; and that all began with the victims' families who told the alleged murdered in front of the world, "I forgive you." In that very profound moment of grace, good destroyed evil and practically the whole world said, "Amen." President Obama was so moved that he delivered what I think was the greatest speech of his presidency, his eulogy on June 26 at the funeral of the Rev. Pinckney. It was all about grace. We have all learned how to be better Christians.

The Supreme Court moved on to uphold Obamacare, particularly in the part that helps the poorest people. That was a much-needed victory for populism. Then on Friday, that same court handed down its monumental judgment legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States. This brings to an end the front of the culture war on homosexuality, a campaign that has been going on for nearly half a century. It is finished. The issue of rights for homosexual citizens has been settled. (A bit late. 20 other nations had already legalized same-sex marriage.)

An African-American Presiding Bishop. Unthinkable even a few decades ago. What is more, he was elected on the first ballot by 70% of the bishops and affirmed by a near unanimous vote of the 800+ deputies present in General Convention. It is as if an ancient wrong has finally been made right. It is hard to find words to express my amazement and joy of this event. The vote of the bishops was by secret ballot, so we do not know how Bishop vonR voted, but I think we can take make a safe guess. This in itself is historic. The bishop of South Carolina probably helped elect the first black Presiding Bishop; South Carolina has been arguably the most racist diocese, historically speaking, in the entire Episcopal Church, the very last to integrate.

All in all, that was a great week for the Episcopal Church, and not so good for the schismatics. Sixty years ago, the Episcopal Church abandoned its lifelong indifference to the ills in the society all around it and committed itself to human rights, first for blacks, then for women, and finally for homosexuals. It has been a long and hard fight, but it was the right thing to do.

The independent diocese has reeled from the onslaught of history. The Supreme Court decision on marriage, of June 26, dealt only with the civic state. It had nothing to do with churches which are always free to set their own policies for marriage. Yet, the DSC felt it necessary to issue a press release right after the Supreme Court decision blasting the Court and reasserting its belief in heterosexual marriage only. Actually, the Court decision did not pertain the DSC at all. There was no need to react to it except to promote unity among its faithful.

As I have said often on this blog, TEC is on the side of history, DSC is against history. In time this will be become more and more apparent and problematical for DSC. A recent Pew Research study showed a dramatic sea-change in the American public's perception of homosexuality, especially among the young. As the years go by, the independent diocese, denouncing rights for homosexuals, will find itself shrinking into ever more irrelevancy. Down the road, when this schism is all over, as it is bound to be, people in the future will shake their heads in dismay of why it ever occurred in the first place. History moves on whether we like it or not, that is the only law of history.   

Saturday, June 27, 2015


The Rt. Rev. Michael Bruce Curry has been elected and confirmed as the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The news was announced at 3:50 p.m. EDT today by the president of the House of Deputies. The Rt. Rev. Curry is bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina. He was elected on the first ballot in the House of Bishops this afternoon. Of the 174 votes cast he won 121, or 70%. The vote of the House of Deputies to confirm his election was 800-yes and 12-no. He will be the first African American to hold this highest post of the Episcopal Church. When his election was announced, the 800+ deputies in the House of Deputies erupted in prolonged applause and song. His term will begin on November 1, 2015. This is a historic moment for the Episcopal Church.

Friday, June 26, 2015


On today, the funeral of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, martyr of the faith, will be held in Charleston. Much of the American leadership will be present. Much of the world will look on in sorrow. There is a time for everything; and this is the time for grief. I would also add it is a time to reflect on the sin of racism.

It is interesting to note the difference in the ways the two dioceses of the schism have reacted to the ghastly tragedy of June 17 at Emanuel A.M.E. Church on Calhoun Street in Charleston. Mark Lawrence, and indeed a host of other schismatic "Anglican" bishops in South Carolina, called for prayers and assemblies for prayer. This was a typical "vertical" response. Bishop vonRosenberg, of the Church diocese kept true to the Episcopal Church "horizontal" attitude. No only did he call for prayer and outward support, he took money from his diocesan budget for a donation to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund and made another contribution to the Lowcountry Ministries Reverend Pinckney Fund." Moreover, he called for the faithful to make donations on their own and provided a link on the diocesan website for that. As of yesterday, the Hope Fund listed $660,000 received and the Ministries $106,000.

There is hope too. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church opened its triennial session on June 25. Racism was on everyone's mind. For more than sixty-five years, the GC has dealt with racism in America grappling with ways to bring it to an end. The Episcopal Church became a leading participant in the Civil Rights movement. The Diocese of South Carolina finally came along too, admitting the first black parish in 1955, ninety years after it applied for admission, and finally ending all segregation in the diocese in 1965 thanks to Bishop Gray Temple.

It is fitting then that we look at the election of the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The election will occur tomorrow, June 27. The odds-on favorite is the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina. He is the first diocesan bishop in the south to be an African American. (He is not the first black Episcopal bishop in the South. Arkansas elected a black Suffragan Bishop in 1917, and North Carolina in 1918, but they were to minister only to the black church members and had no power in the House of Bishops). If elected, Curry will make history as the first African American Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Such a thing would have been unimaginable sixty-years ago when the Episcopal Church first committed itself to racial justice, but it was only because of that commitment that we have reached this great moment. We should reassure ourselves that progress does happen.

It happens too for South Carolina in the General Convention. For the past thirty years, the diocese was increasingly at odds with the GC. It started in the mid-1980's as the diocesan leaders denounced the Convention's discussion of sexuality. In 2003, the diocesan leaders exploded in rage after the GC in which a partnered homosexual man was approved as a bishop in the Church. They declared a crisis and called an emergency meeting of the diocesan convention that blasted TEC for approving a gay bishop, called for foreign oversight, and differentiation from TEC. DSC then helped form the Network of Confession Dioceses and Parishes, a pact of a dozen ultra-conservative dioceses seeking to distance themselves as far as possible from TEC. In December 2003 appeared the Chapman Memo that became the guide to how to leave the Episcopal Church.

DSC also reacted against the next GC, in 2006, but not as dramatically. The diocese was preoccupied with the election of a new bishop. Nevertheless, the diocesan leaders railed against the election of the first woman to be Presiding Bishop and first woman primate in the Anglican Communion. They called for the Archbishop of Canterbury to arrange Alternate Primatial Oversight for the diocese. This did not occur.

The next General Convention, in 2009, was another story. It passed resolutions supporting homosexual persons in Holy Orders and setting up a process for making a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions. Bishop Lawrence returned to SC and declared a crisis. He called an emergency meeting of the diocesan convention, in October, that voted to nullify the hated resolutions of GC and to begin removing the diocese from the governing bodies of TEC. The nest year, the convention withdrew recognition of the canons of TEC leaving only a tentative tie to the Constitution of TEC. This was a virtual declaration of independence for DSC from TEC. In November of 2009, the DSC Standing Committee hired Alan Runyan to be its lawyer.

The next General Convention, 2012, was to be the final crisis. It was one that the diocesan leadership planned for months in advance. Lawrence spent six months preparing himself and the diocese. He and the delegation of deputies planned their courses of actions. When the GC met and as expected passed resolutions for a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions and recognized rights for transgendered clergy, the South Carolinians were well-prepared. The delegates staged a dramatic walk-out of the House of Deputies, leaving only John Burwell and Lonnie Hamilton as the place holders. The next day, Lawrence staged his dramatic walk-out from the House of Bishops. He returned to South Carolina and declared a great crisis. Within three months this crisis would produce the schism of 2012. On August 21, Lawrence and the Standing Committee agreed on a secret plan (that still remains secret although we can take a wild guess at it). On October 2, under Lawrence's advice, the Standing Committee passed a resolution to remove the diocese from TEC if the Church "took any action" against Lawrence. It did and they did, thus schism on October 15, 2012.

The leaders of the old Diocese of South Carolina, growing ever hostile to the Episcopal Church, used the General Conventions of 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2012, to progressively move the diocese away from the Church, finally to separation. This appears to me to be a pattern, not an accident.

Yet, we should remember there is continuity. Lonnie Hamilton was a deputy to GC before the schism, in 2012, and is one again now. He is ECSC's outstanding tie to the past. The faithful of ECSC owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Hamilton.

So now, the delegation from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina will participate fully and enthusiastically in General Convention for the first time in three decades. Again, progress does happen.

One can only wonder what the leaders of the schismatic diocese are thinking now that they no longer have General Convention to use for their own purposes. I suspect they miss it. Apparently Kendall Harmon does. He has carried several stories about it on his well-known blog, the semi-official voice of the breakaway diocese. (And, what are they going to do after their favorite punching bag, Jefferts Schori, retires this year?)

This is a historic moment in the life of the Episcopal Church and the Church in South Carolina. In spite of all the wrongs in the world around us, in spite of all the division, hostility, intolerance, life goes on. As a historian and a Christian I believe time brings progress, but not in a even line. Along the way there are many temporary setbacks.

P.S. I just learned the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. See, progress does happen.

Note-after I posted the above, DSC put out a press release promoting donations to the two funds mentioned above.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


A major argument the independent diocesan lawyers are making before the state supreme court involves history. They hold that the Diocese of South Carolina existed before the Episcopal Church and remained a sovereign, independent, and autonomous entity. Since it voluntarily joined the Episcopal Church, they said, it could voluntarily leave it. It is useful at this point to revisit this problem for a history lesson on how the diocese and the Church came into being and what relationship they saw to each other.

Fortunately, we have all the necessary primary documents in Dalcho's classic history of the early Church in South Carolina, the original journals of the early conventions of the Episcopal Church, and the journals of the state conventions. Let us review what these tell us about our question at hand.

Space here limits us to salient facts and main interpretations:

---6-7 October 1784. Representatives from 8 state associations of Episcopalians met in New York City to begin organizing a national church. South Carolina was not present as it had not organized a state body. The convention resolved to invite South Carolina to organize a state association and send delegates to the next general convention.

---the Rev. William White, president of the above convention, sent a letter to the Rev. Robert Smith, rector of St. Philip's in Charleston, inviting him to make a state association which would choose delegates to a general convention.

---8 Feb. 1785. Rev. Smith and the Rev. Henry Purcell, rector of St. Michael's in Charleston, joined their vestries to invite the 20 other old Anglican parishes to a state organizational meeting.

---12 May 1785. Eight parishes sent representatives to a state meeting in Charleston. The assembly read aloud the letter from the Rev. White and resolved to call another meeting in hopes of uniting more than 8 parishes. They adjourned.

---12 July 1785. Eight parishes sent representatives. They read aloud the letter from White then elected delegates to the Episcopal Church general convention.

---27 Sept. to 7 Oct. 1785. General convention of Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. The two delegates from South Carolina were named to the committee of 14 charged with composing the preliminary constitution of the Episcopal Church, called the "Ecclesiastical Constitution." This would become the basis for the formal Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons adopted in 1789.

---26 April 1785. Nine parishes sent representatives to a state convention in Charleston that 1-set up a committee to compose a state church constitution and 2-agreed to the new Ecclesiastical Constitution except for article number 6 that required a bishop in each state. This state convention was opposed to having a bishop in South Carolina. Otherwise they approved the new Episcopal Church Ecclesiastical Constitution.

---29-31 May 1786. Delegates met for a state convention in Charleston. They approved the liturgy drawn up by the 1785 general convention of the Episcopal Church and unanimously approved and adopted a constitution for the Episcopal Church in the state of South Carolina. It was signed by 23 representatives from 13 parishes. This was a preliminary constitution that was to be completed later in a detailed set of "Rules and Regulations." They set up a committee to accomplish this. (20 years later the state convention adopted the "Rules and Regulations" thus finishing the state constitution.)

---20-26 June 1786. 3 deputies from South Carolina attended the Episcopal Church general convention in Philadelphia. The delegates resolved to call a general convention of the Church to compose and ratify a formal Constitution and Canons. A resolution was passed calling on the several states to "authorize and empower their deputies to the next General confirm and ratify a general Constitution." All of the states present accepted that they would sent representatives who would ratify the new constitution in convention on behalf of their states.

---22 Feb. 1787. State convention in Charleston read and accepted the resolution of the last general convention.

---8 May 1789. State convention elected deputies for the general convention to meet in Philadelphia on 28 July of 1789. The South Carolina state meeting understood they were sending their delegates to compose and ratify the new Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons on behalf of the state.

---July-October 1789. The Episcopal Church general convention met in two sessions (July-Aug. and Sept.-Oct.). One delegate from South Carolina sat on the committee of 7 to compose the constitution and 1 sat on the committee of 7 to draw up the canons. The entire delegation from South Carolina signed all the documents and did so on behalf of the state. The Constitution and Canons were ratified by the nine state associations present and went into effect immediately.

---19 Oct. 1790. State convention in Charleston made as first order: "The General Constitution and Canons being read, were unanimously agreed to."

---16 October 1794. State convention unanimously agreed that South Carolina should have no bishop. Immediately, a delegate arose and suggested a reconsideration on the fear their continued refusal to have a bishop would cause a schism in the Episcopal Church and cause the state to be removed from the rest of the national Church. Following further discussion, the delegates set up a committee to select a bishop.

---10 Feb. 1795. State convention unanimously elected a bishop, the Rev. Robert Smith. Consecrated in Philadelphia by 4 bishops 13 Sept. 1795.

---1799-1804. State conventions suspended. Church moribund.

---1806. State convention adopted the "Rules and Regulations" to complete the state constitution it had started in 1786. The preamble read: "Whereas, by General Conventions of the Protestant Episcopal Churches in the U.S.A. a constitution and canons have been formed for the government and discipline of the same." The finished state constitution remained in place until 1840. 

---1807. State convention affirmed that state deputies to general convention in 1789 had ratified the Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons on behalf of the state and this had been confirmed by state convention in 1790. The state convention reaffirmed that the Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons were in effect in the state.

12-15 Feb. 1840. State convention adopted a new constitution and canons drawn closely on those of the national Church. "Article 1. Of Acceding to the Constitution and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the General Convention. The Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina accedes to, recognizes and adopts the general Constitution and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A., and acknowledges their authority accordingly."

1861-1865. State of war forced the state conventions in the Confederacy to form a separate Episcopal Church of the Confederate States almost identical to the parent Church. Church in U.S.A. held all places of southern states vacant for the duration. At end of war, states returned to national Church. 

1866---State convention voted return to the general convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.


---The national Episcopal Church organized before the church in South Carolina.

---The national Episcopal Church invited South Carolina to organize a state association and send delegates to general convention.

---The South Carolina Episcopal Church formed a state meeting for the purpose of sending delegates to a national meeting.

---SC state convention approved the Ecclesiastical Constitution, the forerunner of the national Constitutional and Canons before it drew up a state constitution.

---The state convention drew up a preliminary, brief state constitution in 1786. This was mainly to please the national general convention. It was completed only 20 years later by adoption of "Rules and Regulations."

---State convention sent deputies to general convention in 1789 to compose and ratify a Constitution and Canons for the whole Episcopal Church.

It is important to note that the Episcopal Church C and C were self-effective in 1789 upon the signatures of the nine party states. There was no provision that they be ratified separately by the individual states such as the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The men signing in 1789 understood they were setting up a new structure for all the Episcopal Church, their states included. James Dator (Many Parts, One Body, How the Episcopal Church Works. 2010), the leading authority on the institutional structure of the Episcopal Church, described the Church government as a "unitary" system as opposed to a confederacy (as Articles of Confederation) or a federation (as U.S. Constitution). The individual states were "uniting" to form one single system. They saw themselves as integral to the structure and not separate from it except on matters of strictly local concern. The deputies from South Carolina understood their state was uniting with the eight others to form one single Church for the nation. They did not think of themselves as retaining separate independence for their local state. They saw sovereignty in the whole of the Church, not in its local parts.

From 1789 to 1861, the state convention, then Diocese of South Carolina worked hard to make itself more and more an integral part of the national Church, repeatedly reaffirming their allegiance to the Episcopal Church. Incidentally, the national Episcopal Church, to please the South Carolinians and other southerners, deliberately avoided the slavery issue all the way to 1861, and then the racial issue for a century after that.

The assertion that the Episcopal Church in South Carolina existed before the national Church is not sustained by the evidence. The idea that the Diocese of South Carolina saw itself as a sovereign entity that never accepted the superiority of the Episcopal Church is likewise non-historical. The conclusion that South Carolina voluntarily joined the Episcopal Church is indisputable. Of course, it joined voluntarily, just as the state of South Carolina voluntarily joined the United States. That point is not germane to the issue. The charge that South Carolina could voluntarily leave the Episcopal Church at any time as it wished is to misunderstand the "unitary" nature that the South Carolinians believed they had in the Episcopal Church.

The independent diocesan lawyers argue that two points allow a diocese to leave the Episcopal Church 1-lack of a provision in the Church Constitution and Canons forbidding a diocese from withdrawing from the Church, and 2-lack of a supremacy clause in the C and C giving the national Church power over the dioceses (the U.S. Constitution has a supremacy clause giving national laws authority over the states). In the first case, the U.S. Constitution also does not have a provision banning a state from withdrawing from the Union. However, the Civil War and Supreme Court decisions have settled that issue. Union is implicit in the Constitution. On the second point, if Dator is right and the Episcopal Church is a "unitary" system, then union is integral to the structure. It is understood that every diocese is incorporated in the union whose decisions are made by a general convention of all the dioceses. The general convention controls the admission to and release from the Episcopal Church. Moreover, canons require clerical vows of loyalty to the Episcopal Church, not to individual dioceses.

The body of historical evidence shows that the Episcopalians of South Carolina organized themselves as an integral part of the national Episcopal Church in the 1780's and 1790's. They did not see themselves as separate from it let alone sovereign apart from it.    


Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Yesterday, June 15, the independent diocese flatly rejected the overtures of negotiations for a peace settlement in the ongoing war between the two dioceses in South Carolina. One of the benefits of this has been to clarify for us the larger issues in this contest. Conventional wisdom has always held this fight was about property, who owned the lands and buildings, the local parishes or the national Church and its diocese? Yesterday's events have forced us to rethink this assumption.

On the Episcopal Church side, the objectives are clear: reconciliation with those who left the Church. The goals are healing, peace, and security under the broad and tolerant arms of the national Church. Bishop vonRosenberg has made this very clear. His offer to open negotiations with the schismatics and to make major concessions to them was done in this vein.

On the independent diocesan side, we were told when the schism occurred in 2012 it had to be done to protect the local properties of the parishes. It was all about the parish properties. However, when ECSC chancellor Tisdale offered, on June 1, to recognize that the parishes were independent and owned their local properties, the diocesan authorities said no. Thus, we can now see the schism was really not about property all along.

If the schism were not about property, then what was it about? It seems to me the ruling clique of the independent diocese ("Bishop" Mark Lawrence and a hundred or so allies) see something much bigger than just land deeds and old buildings. They see the transformation of the Anglican world in the twenty-first century and have said so repeatedly. Apparently, they believe their mission is to help save the Anglican world from the evils of the Episcopal Church and the other errant liberal provinces that they believe have corrupted the old Anglican Communion. By joining their socially reactionary allies in GAFCON, Global South and the like, they are creating a new parallel and "biblical" communion that will simply push aside and ignore the old structure in which the Episcopal Church had played such an important part. GAFCON and her subsidiary, Anglican Church in North America, have said explicitly they are out to replace the Episcopal Church as the legitimate Anglican province in the U.S.

Yesterday's events help us see this struggle is not really about property per se. It seems to me it is about replacing the Episcopal Church and the new social equality it represents.

It is important to note how the independent diocese handled the offer of negotiation. The response came yesterday in a long press release from Lawrence's assistant, Jim Lewis. It is available on the DSC website. It is the most belligerent, cynical, sullen, and accusatory diatribe to come out of Coming Street since the schism. That in itself tells us something about how threatening the ruling clique saw Tisdale's offer. Yesterday they came out all guns blazing. As far as anyone knows, Tisdale's offer was not taken to any parish for discussion among the parishioners or vestries. There is no evidence it was even mentioned to the parishes. It is not in the ruling clique's interest to allow parishioners to discuss possible peace deals in which they, the parishioners, would get everything they had supposedly wanted.

No doubt the independent diocese is feeling confident after their sweeping victory in the circuit court last July. However, they are facing two much more serious court proceedings in the federal court and the state supreme court. They know they have to keep their diocese united and contributing money.

In the bigger picture, matters are not going well for the socially reactionary anti-Episcopal Church parties. Of the 110 dioceses, 5 voted to break away from the Church after it stood up for equal rights for homosexual and transgendered people. Less than 5 percent of the Episcopal Church left the Church. Moreover, some of the conservative bishops remaining in the Church have changed their minds to allow the blessings of same-sex unions in their dioceses. In addition, studies show a sudden and rapid change in public opinion in America in favor of homosexual rights. Even some evangelical Christians are joining in the parade of history. Too, everyone expects within the next few weeks for the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the legality of same-sex marriage in the U.S.

Among the schismatic former Episcopalians themselves, there is disagreement and dissention. The ACNA declared itself the "province in formation" of the Anglican Communion, but the dozens of other Anglican breakaway groups have largely ignored it. 

What is the future of the independent diocese? Good question. They have made a fig leaf of legitimacy by getting the backing of the other socially reactionary Anglican groups such as Global South, but Lawrence has steadfastly refused to join any Anglican province. More than two and a half years have passed since the schism. In effect, "Bishop" Lawrence has created his own little independent church with friendly support of like-minded others but without having to account to a higher authority. Of course, there is the inconvenient fact, as far as we know, Lawrence does not hold valid Holy Orders in any denomination. He left the Episcopal Church and was released from his orders and offices in 2012. In what sense is he a bishop?

It seems of late a rising crescendo of desperate shrillness among the anti-Episcopal Church factions, a heightened level of animosity, if that is possible. For instance, on June 1, David Virtue, the most important "orthodox" Anglican blogger, posted a "satirical essay" describing the killing of Jefferts Schori, the TEC Presiding Bishop, in a missile attack, "Hamas Rocket Kills the Presiding Bishop..." Lewis's angry diatribe of yesterday does not compare, but it does speak for itself. You have only to read it to see its relentless shrillness.

The independent diocese has suffered two public relations disasters within a month. In the first, Bishop Zavala claimed he was in the diocese with the "consent" of the Archbishop of Canterbury who had approved of primatial oversight. This turned into a public embarrassment when the Archbishop's spokesman had to correct Zavala on it. Now, the diocesan leaders have made themselves look bad again by refusing to even talk about negotiations for a peaceful out-of-court settlement. This makes them appear to be the stubborn war mongers while TEC holds the higher ground of peace.  

So, what can we take away from yesterday's events? We have learned the schism is not about the property. It's about destroying the old Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion to replace them with socially reactionary, intolerant, and unanglican entities. The good news from the rest of the world is, "it ain't gonna happen."


Monday, June 15, 2015

N O    P E A C E  !

Aggressors Shoot the Messengers

The independent diocese announced this afternoon it had completely spurned the offer of negotiation for a peace deal made by the Episcopal Church side.

On June 1, Thomas Tisdale, chancellor of the Episcopal Church diocese, sent a letter to a lawyer on the Lawrence side offering to negotiate a peace settlement between the two sides. Tisdale suggested the Church would surrender its claim to all of the properties of the 35 parishes that had broken away from the Episcopal Church. In return, the Church requested the return of the legal rights, property, and assets of the pre-schism diocese. He said Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop had agreed to this offer. If a settlement were made, it would immediately end all litigation between the two sides. Tisdale stressed this was an offer to negotiate, not a demand.

The independent diocese, the Church diocese, and the Post and Courier all issued reports on the rejection today. You can find them on their websites.

The independent diocese is composed of two groups: a ruling clique and the parishioners. Over the years the clique has developed a highly authoritarian system where power flows from the top. There is an inner core of no more than two dozen people and a larger core of about 100 clergy. Since the clergy have been released from the Episcopal Church they have no where to go. They are dependent on Lawrence for their livelihoods. The ruling clique is a solid block. It also tightly controls the message in its diocese. 

Tisdale's suggestion was an offer to recognize that the 35 parishes own their properties. It was not a suggestion they return to the Episcopal Church. Quite the contrary, it recognized the independence of the 35 parishes. This would mean the Episcopal Church would suspend the Dennis Canon in this case. This was a historic and astonishing offer. The parishes, however, were bound to the ruling clique from the very start. When Lawrence brought suit in court against the Episcopal Church on Jan. 4, 2013, he bound the 35 parishes into the suit shortly thereafter, something that none of the other four seceding dioceses had done. Today's rejection proves the ruling clique still has iron control of the parishes. Apparently, they would not allow the parishes even to talk with the Church side about a peace deal. 

The ruling clique of the independent diocese led the majority of the old diocese out of Episcopal Church in 2012 declaring the Church to be hopelessly in error, mainly because of its support of the rights of homosexuals and transgendered persons. Since then Lawrence has refused to join any larger institution. The ruling clique sees itself on a special mission to save the Anglican world from the evils of the corrupt old Episcopal Church. Therefore, their rejection press release of today only continues the venom of the past. One has only to read it to see the thorough going hostility toward the side that was only offering to talk about a negotiated settlement. Not only would the ruling clique not talk to the messengers, they shot them. 

War continues and does so on two fronts, one in federal court and one in the state supreme court. Apparently, the Lawrence diocese thinks it is going to win in court and the parishioners are going to keep pouring money into their lawyers'  pockets. They are wrong. Their effort is wrong. In the long run this schism is bound to run to exhaustion. There will be a reconciliation down the road. I think it will occur when the parishioners regain control of their own diocese that they have in good faith handed over to their present misguided leaders.
In time they will realize they have been misled.

Time and history are on the side of the Episcopal Church. In fact, the culture war the ruling clique is still fighting is all but over. Their side lost. They seem to be the only ones who do not know it. America is moving on.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and the Diocese of South Carolina reported today that the U.S. District Court in Charleston is proceeding with the case vonRosenberg v. Lawrence. Judge Houck, who originally handled the case in 2013, held a hearing today with the attorneys.

DSC lawyers had filed a motion with Judge Houck to dismiss the case. They must now file a brief supporting their motion by June 30. Bishop vonR will then have 15 days in which to file a counter brief. Thus we can expect the two sides' briefs to be in the public record just over a month from now. These briefs will lay out the main arguments the lawyers will follow in their courtroom presentations in the U.S. District Court in Charleston.

Judge Houck is under direction of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider this case. The judges of that court ruled in March he had used the wrong principle in his 2013 judgment and should have used the Colorado River rule. This makes it much more difficult for a federal court to refuse to adjudicate a case involving federal law by deferring to a state court. Bishop vonR is charging Lawrence with violation of a federal law, the Lanham Act, which concerns trademark infringement. Bishop vonR claims he is the one and only true bishop of the Episcopal diocese of South Carolina.

Judge Houck can still dismiss the case, but his window of allowance is much smaller than it was in 2013. He would have to present very compelling and clear reasons why he would do so. At this point, that does not seem likely.

One interesting point of discussion today concerned the case moving in the state supreme court. Judge Houck asked attorney Tisdale, chancellor of ECSC, whether the appeal to the supreme court should interfere with the action in the federal court. Tisdale said no; and Judge Houck agreed. Thus, apparently, the judge does not see the state court action as impacting on his court.

Under the U.S. constitutional system, federal courts are superior to state courts and are responsible for adjudicating federal law which, by the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, takes precedence over state and local law.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


The Pew Research Center has just released an important new study of American attitudes towards homosexuality and same-sex marriage: "Support for Same-Sex Marriage at Record High, but Key Segments Remain Opposed, 72% Say Legal Recognition is 'Inevitable.'" ( ). The findings are cause for alarm in the independent Diocese of South Carolina.

The study appeared on the eve of what everyone expects to be a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of the legality of same-sex marriage. It is most likely that decision will be announced in the next three weeks. If the Court rules favorably, that will end the issue of the legality of same-sex marriage in the nation. If the Court decides as expected, it will reflect the will of the people. A clear-cut majority of Americans now favor rights for homosexual persons and same-sex marriage.

The change in American attitudes is one of the most dramatic reversals in the social history of the country. The new Pew study shows that in just 5 years, the public attitude has flipped. 57% of Americans now support same-sex marriage (up from 42% 5 years ago) while 39% oppose (down from 48%). What is more, all signs indicate rapid acceleration of this trend in the future. Approval rose in every category of measurement except for one, conservative Republicans. 

In relation to religion, the study found that of all the social categories surveyed, white evangelical Protestants (I would put the independent DSC in that group) were the most opposed to same-sex marriage. 70% said they were against (64% strongly opposed) while 25% favored. None of the other religious groups had a majority opposed: white mainline Protestant (63% in favor), black Protestant, and Catholic. Thus, a clear majority of Christians in America now favor same-sex marriage. 54% said there was no conflict between their religious beliefs and homosexuality.

Other correlations also stood out in the statistics. Age and education were directly related to attitudes. The younger the group, the more support for homosexual rights and same-sex marriage. The higher the education, the same.   

On the issue of whether homosexuality is inborn or learned, a religious breakdown also appeared. 71% of white mainline Protestants and 68% of Catholics said it is innate while 56% of black Protestants and 55% of white evangelical Protestants said a person's sexual orientation can be changed. Traditionally, evangelicals have stressed their belief that birth gender is God-given and should not be denied and certainly not altered. The study shows that most Christians in America now believe that sexual orientation is inborn and not learned.

What does all of this mean for the two bodies in lower South Carolina claiming to be the Episcopal diocese? The Episcopal Church and its local part, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, have been in the forefront of rights for homosexual persons for decades. This is part of a concerted campaign for human rights the Church has been conducting since the 1950's for elements in society denied justice, liberty, and equality, namely blacks, women, and homosexuals. The Pew study statistics show that the Episcopal Church is in the mainstream of America (I would argue in the leading edge of the stream).

The picture is starkly different for the independent diocese. As we have seen, the direct cause of the schism in 2012 was the issue of homosexuality. Bishop Lawrence and the majority of his followers left the Episcopal Church as an immediate result of the Church's adoption of rights for homosexuals and for transgendered persons in the general convention of 2012. For two years, they denied their secession had anything to do with homosexuality ("It's God not Gays"). Last year they seemed to soften this attitude with the local promotion of Wes Hill, an openly gay professor at Trinity School for Ministry, an evangelical seminary in Pennsylvania, who argued that homosexuality is inborn (and homosexuals should remain celibate). Then, last March, in their annual convention, they reverted to hardline opposition to homosexuality as they passed three resolutions strongly opposing same-sex marriage. The independent diocese has clearly staked out its position on the issue of homosexuality. The Pew study shows it is far from the mainstream of the American public. What is more, it is likely to be washed away in the ever rising flood of time.

According to other scientific demographic studies, the majority of South Carolinians, among the most conservative people in the nation, will support same-sex marriage within a few years. Moreover, the independent diocese's category, white evangelical Protestants will come to accept same-sex marriage in 20 years. Right now the group most adamantly opposed to rights for homosexuals is white-old-male-conservative-Republican-evangelical-Protestant (reminds me of the independent diocesan ruling clique). As that demographic category diminishes in time, the population base for the independent diocese will shrink too. It will have an increasingly difficult time attracting new members.

The Diocese of South Carolina has already lost a third of its members and income since Mark Lawrence became its bishop. Signs show it has not been able to rebound from the seismic loss of the schism when 10,000 communicants abandoned the diocese. 

Signs also show a rising difficulty is raising money for lawyers. Recent resorts to gimmicks such as lapel pins indicate desperation. The diocese claims it has spent $2m on legal costs. Unfortunately we cannot know the actual figures that are kept secret. There has been no public accounting of where the money has come from or where it has gone. Nevertheless, the diocese keeps going to the same well to draw ever more water in what must be a falling pool.

Since there has been no public accounting of DSC's legal budget, we cannot know what outside money may been added. We do know that in the early 2000's well-known right-wing funds were funneling money into anti-homosexual rights groups. However, it may be that these funds have given up on that issue in favor of donating to more hopeful causes now such as the anti-abortion crusade. They know they have lost on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. That big campaign of the culture war is all but over as far as the American public is concerned.

The big picture shows an enormous social transformation in America (indeed the world) since the post-war 1950's. Justice, freedom, and equality, long hailed as bedrock American principles, were finally applied to social elements long denied them: blacks, women, and homosexuals. American society of 2015 is vastly different that that of 1950.

The efforts of social reactionaries, as the leaders of DSC, cannot stop the tide (or flood) of history, even in South Carolina. As the new Pew Center study shows, the future looks dire for them. If they keep on their chosen path, society will sweep them away into irrelevancy if not into oblivion.      


Monday, June 1, 2015


Summer is upon us in the lower South. Seersucker season has begun (Memorial Day to Labor Day). Everyone who has the opportunity either stays inside or flees for higher ground. This is an appropriate moment to step back and take stock of where matters stand in the ongoing saga of the schism in South Carolina. What has happened recently; and what can we expect in the near future?

The high point for the fortunes of the independent diocese (DSC) came on February 3, 2015, when Judge Goodstein handed down an astonishing ruling in the circuit court case heard last July. We know now what we suspected at the time, that her Final Order was written largely by Alan Runyan and his associates. The Order gave the DSC side everything it wished and then some. As it turns out, it may have been too clever by half. The excessively partisan nature of it may be its own undoing when it reaches the state supreme court in September. From my layman's perspective, it was an egregious violation of the First Amendment that enshrined the bedrock American principle of the separation of church and state. At any rate, Goodstein's decision was a sweeping victory for the DSC side. Lawrence and friends understandable basked in the glow of success even hailing it as God's Will.

Since then, it has been steadily downhill for DSC, one misstep after another:

1-In February, DSC released its statistics for 2012 and 2013 showing a drastic decline in communicant numbers and falling income. The present DSC is approximately two-thirds of what the old diocese was when Lawrence was consecrated bishop in January of 2008.

2-Also in February, DSC set up "The 1785 Society" offering a lapel pin and a dinner with Lawrence in return for a contribution to the lawyers' coffers of $1,785. This signaled growing desperation to raise ever more money from the same fatigued donors.

3-On March 14, DSC held its annual convention. No report was made on affiliation except to present three vague "options" that amounted to 1-ACNA, 2-Golbal South, 3-going it alone. So far, number 3 is in place with a false patina of legitimacy from #2. Instead, three resolutions were passed condemning marriage equality. Ironically, this returned the issue of homosexuality to the front stage of DSC after it had been set aside for two years as DSC ludicrously claimed the schism had nothing to do with gay rights. DSC's passage of the three resolutions was self-contradictory.

4-On March 31, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, overturned Judge Houck's decision of Aug. 23, 2013 in which he deferred to the state circuit court. A three judge panel unanimously ordered the case back to the U.S. District Court in Charleston. On April 29, the entire bank of judges of the Fourth Circuit rejected Runyan's request for reconsideration and once again ordered the case back to Charleston.

5-The South Carolina state supreme court agreed to hear an appeal of the Goodstein decision (Feb. 3). Date for oral arguments was set at September 23, 2015. This will be the first time that a state supreme court will rule on the issue of TEC-diocesan relations. Most of the justices on the state high court were not participants in the All Saints decision of September 2009. Chief Justice Toal, who did participate, is reportedly slated for retirement on Dec. 31, 2015. On May 15, lawyers for TEC and Episcopal Church in South Carolina filed a brief with the court asking the justices to set aside Goodstein's decision and start over.

6-April 28-29, Lawrence and inner circle met with the ACNA archbishop and others to discuss possible DSC affiliation with ACNA. Afterwards, DSC only gave reasons against affiliation. Nothing came of this meeting.

7-The recent low point for DSC was the embarrassing episode of the visit of Bishop Zavala, primate of the Anglican Church of South America. Meant to bolster claims that DSC was "in" the Anglican Communion, Zavala instead may have reached too far as he claimed he was there by "consent" of the Archbishop of Canterbury who had approved of Global South's primatial oversight scheme for DSC. Steve Skardon was an eye-witness to Zavala's presentation. When I made enquiry of the Archbishop of Canterbury's office at Lambeth Palace, Ed Thornton, Senior Press Officer of the Archbishop, would not confirm Zavala's claims. Instead, Thornton said the Archbishop was only exploring ways of Global South possibly offering pastoral support to DSC. He said explicitly the Archbishop opposed primatial oversight.

When I posted Thornton's remark word-for-word on my blog on May 25, Episcopal CafĂ© repeated it and it went viral. My most vociferous critics went into angry denial. My name was taken in vain on various anti-Episcopal Church websites. Nevertheless, I was not offended. It is understandable that sometimes people let their baser emotions of anger and resentment overcome their higher powers of common sense and reason. We have all been there. Actually, I appreciate critics bringing attention to my blog. My readership is soaring; the more people read my postings, the more information they get to make their own decisions.

Just today, Mr. Thornton, of Lambeth Palace, informed me that the statement he sent me on May 25 was posted in Church Times, the official newspaper of the Church of England, on May 29 ( ). To those of you who went on the Internet to accuse me of "making it up," you need not apologize to me. I understand your feelings.

Having looked at the recent past, what can we expect for the course of the schism in the near future?

In the month of June there are two important items to anticipate, one in the big picture and one in the little. In the big picture, the U.S. Supreme Court will, in all probability, issue its much awaited decision on marriage equality, that is on the legal status of same-sex marriage. Every source I have seen expects the court to declare for marriage equality. If so, that will end the matter in the history of the U.S. This will bring closure to the aspect of homosexuality in the broad culture war, at least in the U.S. In reality, the war is all but over as of now. With breath-taking speed the country has reversed from homophobia to full equality and justice for homosexual and transgendered persons. It has been one of the most astonishing transformation in history. And, I for one could not be prouder of the Episcopal Church for being in the vanguard of that remarkable sea-change. (Of course, the culture war is not just in America. Ireland just voted in a landslide for marriage equality. In one generation the Roman Catholic bishops have gone from being the moral arbiters of the nation to being irrelevant.)

In the little picture, we can expect Alan Runyan and his fellow lawyers to present their counter-brief to the South Carolina Supreme Court by June 15. It will be interesting to see how they defend Goodstein's Order of Feb. 3.

There are also several other developments to await in the near future:
a-Soon the U.S. District Court in Charleston will announce how it will handle the rehearing of the case of vonRosenberg v. Lawrence which has been remanded by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. It may be that a judge other than Houck will be assigned the case. That court has been in the news recently with important progressive decisions (as in marriage equality in SC).

b-The South Carolina Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on September 23. At some point afterwards, normally several months, the Court will hand down its decision in regards to the Goodstein Order. They could uphold Goodstein's decision, or they could overturn it and issue a new one.

c-The issue of affiliation for DSC is ongoing. At the last diocesan convention, it was announced that a special convention could possibly be called in 2015 to vote on affiliation. So far, I see no sign of a possible affiliation. It seems to me Lawrence and his advisors are content to keep things the same as they have been for over two and a half years now.

We saw an eventful spring for the schism. We can expect even more important months ahead in terms of legal actions. Both the federal court and the state court will move in fateful ways for everyone involved.