Saturday, December 31, 2016

Today is the last day of the year. I say goodbye and good riddance to the year 2016. Surely, 2017 will be better.
As I look around at the world, the nation, and the church, I feel a sense of unease today. All is not well. I see lamentable division, hostility, and pain all about.
In the world, I grieve for the man-made death and destruction in too many places, most notably in Syria, one of the oldest civilized spaces on earth. Countless hundreds of thousands of helpless civilians have been brutally slaughtered as five million terrified people have fled in desperation from their homeland. Who of us can watch them on television without wanting to help? One of the great old cities of the Middle East, Aleppo, lies in utter ruin. None of this had to happen.
In the nation, I grieve for the deep social divisions that showed themselves in the recent, ugly political campaigns. A person woefully unqualified and unfit to the president won the office thanks to our anachronistic system of the Electoral College (although he lost big time in the popular vote). He did so by very skillfully bringing out the worst in human nature: fear, anger, hatred, resentment, jealousy, even violence. The result is that the nation is torn apart as it has not been in years. This is a dangerous moment in American history. This did not have to happen either.
In the church, I grieve for the ongoing divisions in the grand old diocese of South Carolina. Dissolving into four parts between 2004 and 2012, the two largest parts made legal warfare for the property. Millions have been spent on lawyers yet we are no closer to resolution than we were a year ago. Both federal and state courts are reluctant to tackle the obviously very difficult issues involved. The destruction of the old diocese was another thing that did not have to happen.
What next for the new year? In the world, no one can predict how the geo-political dynamics will change. Trump is enamored of Putin and seems poised to alter radically American foreign policy. No doubt the Middle East will continue to boil in murderous violence as fanatical religious fundamentalists abound.
Likewise, one cannot predict what will happen in the nation. We will have a president who has never held office, never served in the military, and is driven by childish egomania. The other political pole will be the Republican congressional leadership. Trump was a demagogue who had no consistent inner convictions. He had no clear agenda. The Republican leaders definitely have an agenda. We can expect rollbacks of all sorts of progressive initiatives and sweeping economic changes to transfer more wealth to already wealthy individuals and corporations. "Trickle down" is the age-old Republican agenda. Trump is unlikely to know how to resist this, even if he wanted. If his cabinet picks are any indication, we can expect massive reversals of progressive programs all over the place. This will be the Anti-New-Deal.
In the church, there will be more of the old waiting game. Everything is on hold until the SC Supreme Court issues its written decision(s). It is possible we could go through another year waiting. The court has been known to take well over two years on cases simpler than the church's. Even after we get a decision, we can expect appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court which, sooner or later, will have to resolve the fundamental issue at stake of the relationship between the Episcopal Church and her dioceses.
The majority faction of the old diocese, now the independent Diocese of South Carolina, is obviously not doing well. It has lost considerably in membership as it keeps wringing from its faithful money to pay lawyers in its ill-conceived scheme of schism. After four years of independence, it has become clear that this was a bad idea. Contrary to the Trinity Gang's assertions, the diocese is not the Episcopal Church in the Low Country and is not in the Anglican Communion. Moreover, it has no prospect of ever being in the Communion. Its "friends" in GAFCON and Global South abandoned the replacement stratagem they had concocted in 2009. That was the plan to have the new Anglican Church in North America replace the Episcopal Church as the legitimate Anglican province in America.  In 2016, GAFCON/Global South abandoned the idea of getting ACNA into the Anglican Communion. The ill-conceived scheme of the anti-homosexual "Anglican Realignment" is dying away in failure. Meanwhile the Diocese of South Carolina is left out in the cold.
There are signs of discontent in the majority Diocese these days. Perhaps some of the good church people are realizing that they were misled. The promises of being "Anglicans" in the Anglican Realignment have fallen flat. However, it will not be easy for the parishes to get out from under the control of the misguided diocesan leadership. At the time of the schism, the leadership leaned on the parish leaders to sign a written "Commitment" to stay with the Diocese. Also, they tied in the parishes as parties in the lawsuit, the only one of the five diocesan secessionist cases to do this. As the parish leaders see how they have been misused, they will have difficulty getting out of the tight bonds the diocese has forced on them.
I do not mean to sound too gloomy because in reality, I am an optimist. I am a historian and a Christian. In my many decades of studying history, I have come to believe that history is the working out of the reconciliation of God and humankind. This is the definition of progress. However, this process moves fitfully with deep troughs interspersed. It is far from being a smooth glide upwards. There are two parties at work here; and on the human side, men and women were created in the image of God to promote and enhance His creation. Yet, since humans have Free Will, they can choose to do good or evil, sometimes in great measures (I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the French Revolution). Thus, a great deal rests on the free choices that human beings make.
I have found strange comfort of late in revisiting the 1930's and 1940's. These decades were arguably the worst time in modern history: Great Depression, Nazism, Fascism, Communism, militarism, and the Second World War. All of this brought unprecedented, and near cataclysmic, misery, death, and destruction. Yet, mankind survived, and not only survived, went on to thrive. The second half of the Twentieth Century saw the Great Democratic Revolution of freedom, justice, and equality. If the people of the 30's and 40's made it through, we can too. My most recent read was Erik Larson, In the Garden of Beasts. I highly recommend it (a history professor becomes US ambassador to Nazi Germany).
On a personal note I look back on 2016 with some satisfaction. This blog continues to be surprisingly popular. Since I started it 3 years and 3 months ago, it has had 166,000 "hits." About half of those came in 2016. I hope that I have contributed some to a better understanding of the unfortunate schism in South Carolina (the ongoing unpleasantness). I have finished writing my history of the schism. Originally over 600 book-sized pages, I pared it down to about 500. At present I am cleaning up the footnotes, nearly 2,000 of them, and the bibliography. I hope to get it published asap and into peoples' hands. I think readers will find it informative and interesting.

Unfortunately, my botanical garden do not fare so well. A five-month drought devastated it. It too is "pared down," much to my dismay. Dozens of beautiful shrubs and trees, accustomed to the wet and humid South, did not survive the "desert" of 2016 and will have to be undertaken before spring. Others were wounded. I doubt that my garden will ever be as beautiful as it was before then.
Thank you readers for your encouragement and your emails. Keep them coming, even the critical ones. I wish you and yours a good new year.
And so, I look forward to 2017 with faith, optimism, and the confidence that the better angels of our nature will prevail. We are here to do God's work; and we should get on with it.     

Monday, December 19, 2016

As the year 2016 comes to a close, those of us who treasure the Anglican Communion should offer up a fervent prayer of thanksgiving. This was the year that saved this unique institution that we know and love.
For twenty years, an ultra-conservative coalition tried its best to break up the old Communion into hostile majority and minority units. The events of this year show that this schismatic movement has failed and, although still at work, is now on fatal decline. The fragile old Anglican Communion has survived the most dangerous threat it has ever faced in its history.
The threat went by various names, probably the most familiar being "the Anglican Realignment" movement. It formed in earnest in 1996. First some background.
---The direct cause of the AR was the issue of equal rights for practicing homosexuals.
---From 1976 to 1991, the Episcopal Church followed the principle that ordaining open homosexuals was "not appropriate."
---From 1991 to 1996 the pro and anti sides fought a war in TEC as the Church was divided roughly into thirds, for, against and neutral. In 1994, General Convention resolved that "sexual orientation" could not block ordination. In 1996, a church court declared that there was no doctrine of TEC against the ordination of practicing homosexuals. These events threw the balance to the "pro" side in TEC for good.
---In 1996, the right-wing PAC, Institute on Religion and Democracy, set up the American Anglican Council to fight against rights for homosexuals in TEC. Jim Naughton's 2006 article, "Following the Money" revealed the right-wing funding for IRD/ACC.
From 1997 to January of 2015 the AR movement sought to divide the Anglican Communion along lines of pro and con homosexual rights.
In September 1997, ACC and others convened "Anglican Life and Witness" conference in Flower Mound TX. This began the coalition of anti-homosexual-rights Americans and equatorial African Anglican bishops (see Miranda Hassett, Anglican Communion in Crisis, 59-61). This formed the core of the ongoing AR movement.
In 1997, the schismatic movement began in the U.S. with the First Promise conference in Pawleys Island SC. Out of this came the Anglican Mission in America, under Rwanda in 2000, the first foreign intervention.
In the Lambeth Conference of 1998, the anti-homosexual-rights coalition pushed through a resolution condemning homosexuality. The war was on in the AC.
TEC's affirmation of practicing homosexual Gene Robinson as a bishop in 2003 exploded the AR movement.
October 2003, AAC held a conference in Plano TX to organize foreign intervention under the guise of "Alternative Primatial Oversight."
TEC offered three plans of alternate oversight. Ultras rejected all three. TEC demanded oversight within TEC. Ultras demanded oversight outside of TEC.
The Chapman Memo of December 28, 2003 laid out a plan for schism from TEC.
Ultras turned to idea of a covenant in the Anglican Communion forcing TEC to backtrack on homosexual rights. This movement failed because of the nature of the Communion, 38 independent churches that could not be forced into any agreement.
The failure of the covenant movement and the election of the first woman as TEC presiding bishop (and first woman primate in the AC) was followed by the first four diocesan schisms (San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Quincy, Ft. Worth) as all claimed to transfer primatial authority overseas (Southern Cone).
GAFCON was created by anti-homosexual-rights Anglican primates in 2008. It issued the Jerusalem Declaration denouncing homosexuality and rejecting the authority of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
In 2009, the four schismatic dioceses, in alliance with GAFCON, formed the Anglican Church in North America as the replacement for the Episcopal Church. Equatorial African primates, having broken off recognition of TEC, recognized ACNA as an Anglican "province." GAFCON and its overlapping association, Global South, placed the ACNA archbishop on their councils of primates. This was the high point of the Anglican Realignment. The anti-homosexual coalition was trying to divide the Anglican Communion into a "anti" majority (Global South counted 24 provinces), and a "pro" minority.
The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recognized the crisis facing the Communion. He set out to visit in person all of the 37 other primates. He committed himself to preserving the integrity of the old Communion. Danger was apparent as he announced the Lambeth Conference, supposed to be in 2018, would be postponed.
The Role of South Carolina
The Diocese of South Carolina sided with the ultras from the start. It was a founding member of the Anglican Communion Network, the ACC-led ultra alliance in the U.S.
Before he became bishop, Mark Lawrence wrote two articles critical of TEC and calling on TEC to submit to the majority of the Anglican Communion.
As bishop, 2008+, Lawrence warmly supported the AR idea. He regularly attended the GAFCON and GS conferences as well as the other ultra organizations in the U.S. The diocese developed along two lines. One gave to the bishop authoritarian power (infallibility in interpreting the constitution and canons, lifetime employment, and rent-free residence until 2020). The other moved to "Anglican" identity. An "Anglican Communion Development" committee was set up under Kendall Harmon. Michael Nazir Ali, outspoken conservative former bishop of Rochester, was hired as "Visiting Bishop" for Anglican Communion Development. In 2009 and 2010, DSC declared its sovereign independence from TEC, leaving only accession to the Constitution of TEC.
When TEC attempted to enforce its constitutional discipline on Lawrence in 2012, DSC leadership announced "disassociation" from TEC. Lawrence announced DSC was a free and independent "extra-provincial diocese of the Anglican Communion." Such a thing had never existed.
DSC declared "oversight" by the Global South primates' council. Another thing that was meaningless.
In 2016, the DSC leadership announced a call to join ACNA. After 4 years of going it alone, DSC would join a larger group.

In spite of endless claims otherwise, the entity calling itself the Diocese of South Carolina is not in the Anglican Communion and will not be after joining the ACNA.  DSC's motto "Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age" is nonsense.
The Crisis of 2016
The year 2016 was to be the moment of truth for the Anglican Realignment movement.
With courage and hope, ABC Welby assembled almost all of the primates in a "gathering" at Canterbury in January. In order to get the GAFCON/GS group to attend he allowed the ACNA archbishop to attend, but without vote.
This meeting turned out to be the game-changer. An obviously well-prepared, shrewd, and courageous ABC corralled the primates right away into declaring unity ("walk together"). The sticking point was TEC's stand on rights for homosexuals. Primate Stanley Ntagali of Uganda tried to get TEC expelled from the Communion. The GAFCON/GS coalition collapsed. Only 15 votes could be found against 20. TEC dodged the bullet and Ntagali bolted. No other primate followed him. The crisis passed. They agreed with Welby to "walk together." The primates then agreed to impose "consequences" on TEC that turned out to be really meaningless. This was a face-saving device that allowed the GAFCON primates to return home and declare "victory." The most important decision of the gathering was not the consequences. It was the refusal to accept ACNA. The primates ruled that if ACNA wanted to join the Communion it would have to go through the Anglican Consultative Council, one of the Four Instruments of Communion. Furthermore, the primates discouraged any such admission by ACC. Thus, the GAFCON/GS primates abandoned ACNA and the replacement stratagem on the spot. This broke the back of the Anglican Realignment.
In April, the ACC met. There was no mention of ACNA joining the Communion. ACC also refused to endorse the "consequences" for TEC and conducted business as usual.
The GAFCON primates met shortly thereafter in Nairobi and made no mention of the issue of homosexuality, of ACNA, or of the replacement idea.
Global South met in October and issued a rather benign statement emphasizing unity in the AC. It issued a separate paper: "Statement from the Global South Primates and GAFCON Primates Council Concerning Same-Sex Unions." This listed 11 points condemning homosexuality, the most extensive statement on this subject ever from this body. However, GAFCON made no overt threat to the unity of the Anglican Communion.
The Person of the Year
My choice for person of the year is Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. I must admit, I was one of those throwing stones at him in January because of the "consequences." I wrote a blog post accusing him of a Faustian bargain. I was wrong. He was right. He had greater knowledge and wisdom than I.
As it turned out, the so-called consequences were inconsequential. It was a face-saving device to give cover to the anti-homosexual-rights primates. It was enough to satisfy them and, most importantly, keep them in the Communion. This diminished the Anglican Realignment movement.
With the primates' gathering in January, the threat of the AR passed. It is still there but it is now on the decline. It is almost certain at this point that ACNA will never be a province of the Anglican Communion. It will not replace the Episcopal Church as the legitimate Anglican province in America. By all signs, the Anglican Communion has survived intact. Surviving intact too is the Episcopal Church. Of the 111 dioceses, 5 voted to leave, the last one 4 years ago. The danger of more defections seems to be over. The storm of disunity has passed both in the Communion and in the Church. Moreover, the controversy over rights for homosexuals is on a downslope. More and more provinces of the Communion are adopting equality for gays. This is the trend for the future in the world as a whole as well as in the AC.

Justin Welby gets my vote as the greatest Archbishop of recent history.

Monday, December 12, 2016



On Friday, December 9, the United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Virginia, held a hearing on the Church side's appeal of Judge Houck's decision in the U.S. District Court in Charleston. Houck had ordered a stay in the case pending a ruling by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
Church lawyers originally brought suit in federal court in March of 2013 claiming that Bishop vonRosenberg and not Bishop Lawrence was the rightful bishop of the Episcopal diocese and that Lawrence was in violation of the federal Lanham Act that protects trademarks. U.S. Judge Houck suspended that case pending the state court action. Church lawyers appealed that to the U.S. Court of Appeals which ruled that Houck should have followed the Colorado River principle that required federal courts to adjudicate federal cases with only rare exceptions. A second time, Houck ruled that the two cases, state and federal, were parallel. He deferred again to the state court pending the outcome of the SC Supreme Court decision. It was Houck's second ruling that the Appeals Court discussed on Friday.
Judges Roger L. Gregory, Diana Gribbon Motz, and Richard D. Bennett held the hearing. Attorney Thomas Tisdale spoke for the Church side and Henrietta Golding for the Lawrence side. The hearing lasted 43 minutes with roughly equal time for the two sides, Tisdale first. All three judges asked questions.
The lawyers' arguments were essentially the same as before. The Church asserted that Lawrence could not claim to be the Episcopal bishop after he was removed as bishop and vonRosenberg was installed as the Episcopal Church bishop. The diocesan side pointed out that the state court had issued an injunction preserving the names and rights for the independent diocese.
All three judges seemed mostly interested in understanding how the state court proceedings might impact on the federal Lanham Act. Motz asked the most questions, often going back to how a decision of the SC Supreme Court might impact on the Lanham Act. She wondered that even if the diocese prevailed in SCSC if Lawrence might still be charged in violation of the Act. The basis of Houck's deference to the state courts was his assertion that the cases were parallel. Motz seemed to think that even if they were parallel, the state court could not address the federal Act.
One interesting point arose concerning vonRosenberg's resignation as bishop provisional of the Church diocese. Golding revealed that her side had not made a motion to end the case. Tisdale said that the case continued and that the new bishop would be added as a party.
The judges were primarily concerned with the problem of the interconnection between the state and federal court cases. Colorado River standard holds that a federal court could defer to the state if the cases were parallel. The issue of "parallel" then becomes the sticking point. Judge Houck said they were. The Lawrence side said they were. The Church side said they were not. This issue, it seems, is the one the Appeals court judges must decide before they make a new decision on Houck's ruling.
There is no way to know by listening to this hearing which side the judges favored, but the Church lawyers have good reason to be optimistic.

The first hearing before this court was on January 28, 2014. Judges Motz and Gregory were on that panel. The three judges then issued a unanimous written order on March 31, 2014 directing the lower court to follow the Colorado River standard. If it takes two months this time, we have a decision from the U.S. Appeals court in mid-February of 2017.

What I took away from Friday's hearing was that if the Church prevails in the SC Supreme Court, the federal case will disappear. It will become moot. If the Lawrence side prevails in the SC Supreme Court, there is a good chance the federal case will resume.

A great deal depends on the state Supreme Court decision. Even the federal judges were impatient with the glacial movement of that court. We are all waiting, waiting.    

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

You must read the wonderful essay by Dan Ennis "How Supply Priests Helped Save the Episcopal Church in South Carolina." Mr. Ennis was senior warden at St. Anne's of Conway. Find it here . It was published in The Magazine of Episcopal Café on 27 November. There were many heroes who helped save the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, but we often overlook the supply priests. We should not; and no one could tell us why better than Mr. Ennis. Besides, my new son-in-law is one of them, I am proud to say: the Rev. Phil Emanuel who is serving the intrepid faithful in Cheraw.

So, let's all show our gratitude for the clergy who stepped in to minister to those who kept the faith even at cost. From one end of the diocese to the other, the secessionist rebels seized the local church properties even though under Church law they were held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal diocese. Loyal Episcopalians were forced out of their homes through no fault of their own. They were innocent victims, but they refused to be vanquished. The schism has been a hard time but from it has come a bounty of grace, in part thanks to the selfless generosity and service of the indispensable supply priests, the "break-the-glass-and-pull-the-lever" clergy.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

In order to whip up support for joining the Anglican Church in North America, the leaders of the Diocese of South Carolina are misrepresenting the ACNA as an "Anglican" "province," meaning it is a province in the Anglican Communion. It is "Anglican" in name only. ACNA is not now, has never been, and will not be a province of the Anglican Communion. It is a separate denomination, certainly with friendly ties to the anti-homosexual-rights organizations of Anglican primates called GAFCON and Global South. The good and faithful communicants of the DSC need to understand the truth about the status of the ACNA before they vote.
ACNA was created in 2009 in an alliance of the four schismatic dioceses: Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, Ft. Worth, and Quincy and GAFCON. Its aim was to become the replacement for TEC as the legitimate province of the Anglican Communion in the U.S. Many of the GAFCON primates had broken off communion with the Episcopal Church in the wake of TEC's confirmation of the first openly gay bishop in 2003. GAFCON was created in 2008 in a conference in Jerusalem, attended by Bp Lawrence, that drew up a declaration (the "Jerusalem Declaration") denouncing rights of homosexuals and rejecting the authority of the Anglican provinces, i.e. TEC and Canada, that accepted such rights. ACNA styled itself a "province." In fact, it was not, and is not, a province of anything. It is an independent entity. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is clearly on record saying that the ACNA is a separate church not in the Anglican Communion.
Before this year, there was talk in the Anglican Communion of making ACNA the 39th province. Under pressure, the Archbishop of Canterbury invited ACNA's archbishop, Foley Beach to the primates' gathering in Canterbury last January as an observer. He was not considered a primate and was not given a vote as a primate. He was invited only to appease GAFCON. In the meeting the issue of admitting ACNA to the Anglican Communion came up. The GAFCON/Global South primates abandoned ACNA on the spot. The primates issued a statement saying that if ACNA should want to join the Anglican Communion it would lave to apply to the Anglican Consultative Council. They added a discouragement to ACC against admitting ACNA. Since then the GAFCON/Global South block has had two opportunities to press the issue and abandoned both. In the ACC meeting in April, no one mentioned ACNA joining the Communion. In the Global South meeting in October, ditto, even though Beach is a member of the GS "Steering Committee" as he is also a member of GAFCON's primates' council.

It is clear that in its retreat from schism in the Anglican Communion, the anti-homosexual rights coalition, led by the equatorial African primates, has abandoned the idea of ACNA being a province of the Anglican Communion. This means they have also abandoned their aim of having ACNA replace TEC in the Communion. The people of South Carolina need to understand this before they attach themselves to this entity.
As I have pointed out in earlier posts, there is plenty of downside to joining ACNA, primarily from its authoritarian structure that gives great power to the bishops and virtually none to the laity. The most obvious problem will be in getting the diocese's choices of bishops confirmed. DSC's bishops in the future will be determined by the bishops of ACNA who have to give 2/3 vote for confirmation of an election for bishop. This is a steep obstacle. Ironically, Lawrence would not be a bishop today if this were the rule in the Episcopal Church. ACNA is a fraud in that it pretends to be localized but in fact is a system far more authoritarian than the one DSC left in 2012.
The DSC leaders have a regrettable habit of spreading misinformation about the diocese's relationships with other bodies. Before the schism of 2012 they spent years promoting untruths, half-truths, exaggerations, and opinions advanced as facts in their concerted campaign to herd the good communicants out of their ancestral church. It worked for the majority. Now they are trying it in an effort to get DSC into ACNA.

Something has gone wrong in the diocesan leaders' plan to move DSC into ACNA. Last spring they announced there would probably be a diocesan convention in the autumn of this year for the first of the two necessary votes to join ACNA. The clergy met in September to discuss joining. Autumn is nearly over and there has been no mention of a convention. We do know that Bp Lawrence is out in the parishes talking up the idea. He will be in Old Saint Andrew's this Sunday to discuss the topic. He has made joining ACNA his cause. Why the delay? My guess is that the leaders are not yet sure they can get a strong vote in favor and need more time to propagandize the idea before calling for a vote.  
The communicants of DSC need to understand, before they go along with another bad choice, that the ACNA is not in any way a province of the Anglican Communion in spite of what their leaders are telling them. Joining ACNA will simply be moving into another denomination and one this is not now and will not be in the Anglican Communion. The only way DSC will ever be in a province of the Anglican Communion is to return to the Episcopal Church. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


The United States started down its path to darkness two weeks ago in the election of Donald Trump as president. The night is overtaking us quickly. Videos are showing white supremacists shouting "Hail Trump" in a not-so-subtle reminder of another great nation that brought catastrophe upon itself by willingly marching into the abyss of totalitarianism. Those Americans who dismissed Trump as a foolish clown, a rude and crude buffoon, an inept politician who could not harm the country should think again. Just look at what has happened in the two weeks since the election. Trump is no joke.
Authoritarian strong-men typically carry out several sweeping changes to solidify their power. Trump is showing signs of these. One is to surround himself with loyalists and put them in secondary positions of power. This is happening in the appointments Trump has already announced. Naming Jeff Sessions as Attorney General should send chills down any thinking person's spine. He was rejected for a federal judgeship in the Regan era because of reported racist remarks. The people of Alabama then rewarded him with election to the U.S. Senate. He has been in the forefront of the move to clamp down on immigration and was an early supporter of Trump on this issue.
As a political power, Trump has no opposition. The Republican party has completely caved. Its leaders, even some who had spoken out in moral indignation against candidate Trump are now groveling before him. Nothing spoke louder of this dynamic that the sad imagine of Mitt Romney arriving before a magisterial Trump standing at the front door of his palatial New Jersey golf club. It reminded me of Louis XIV standing at the top of the long and ornate staircase at Versailles receiving his foreign representatives who had to climb up to him. The symbolism was too obvious, then and now. Romney kowtowed to the strongman he not so long ago called a phony, a fraud, and a con man. It is remarkable what a dangling of the Secretary of State job can do to even the most principled of men. As for the Democrats, they are holding on to only one shred of power, the 60 vote requirement to cut off debate in the Senate. Otherwise, they had been reduced to impotence. Bottom line, the strongman has virtually no opposition to whatever power he wishes to wield.
A second move a dictator uses in solidifying power is to abolish other political parties and imprison his opponents. Trump does not need to worry about a Democratic Party opposition. It is almost non-existent. However, it is not out of the realm of possibility that he will imprison his opponent. With ultra-conservative Sessions as Attorney General there is a real possibility that the FBI will reopen the investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails and indict her. This could mean a trial which could mean conviction and punishment. It is not unthinkable given the vindictiveness Trump displayed in the campaign.
A third move a dictator uses is to abolish the free press. On Monday, a downright terrifying event occurred along this very line. Trump summoned 25 TV news network executives and reporters to his Manhattan Versailles (Trump Tower) and informed them in no uncertain terms what he expected of the press. Moreover, it was all ordered off-the-record. See a report of this confrontation here . It was reported that he unloaded on his most outspoken critics, CNN and NBC. My canary-in-the-coal-mine is CNN's Wolf Blitzer, one of the attendants. The moment the Wolf capitulates is the moment we know the Bill of Rights is dead. 
All signs indicate this will be a strong counter-revolution that will last for a long time. In fact, roll backs are already happening weeks before Trump takes office. The House of Representatives just defeated a bill that would have required federal contractors not to discriminate against LGBT persons. Now the contractors are free to discriminate at will. This is just the tiny tip of a big iceberg. There is much more to come, some of which we cannot even imagine today. There are horror stories of rolling back voting rights, abolishing Medicaid, and privatizing Medicare and Social Security, not to mention "registries" for Muslims, and mass deportations of immigrants. A powerful and massive internal police to carry out these policies may be on the horizon.
What could all of this mean for the schism in South Carolina and for the Episcopal Church? It is impossible to know the effect on the Church which has been in the forefront of human rights for the last sixty years. The Church's great democratic crusade culminated last year in the adoption of same-sex marriage. It is unimaginable that the Episcopal Church would bend to any pressure to scale back its commitment to the equal rights of all people. However, the conservatives in power will likely soon restore a Scalia-type majority to the Supreme Court that may well take a dim view of the Church's social reforms. Eventually, a state decision on the issue of the Church/diocesan relationship will probably be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It could either refuse to take the appeal or it could take the appeal and rule against the Church as backlash against its social policies. At this point, much is uncertain.
What is certain is that basic American democratic-republican values are on the line both in the structure of the government and in the relationship of the government and social groups. A strongman is in the process of consolidating power. He was elected after he ran a campaign of bigotry, fear and division. The early signs of the new administration are frightening. Those of us who are committed to the defense of historic American principles had better renew our vigilance and prepare to fight in the trenches. Wolf Blitzer where are you?

See also the thoughtful essay by House of Deputies President Gay Jennings here .        

Thursday, November 17, 2016


I am beginning to wonder if we have gone down the rabbit hole into Wonderland where in is out, up is down, left is right, night is day. Last week, the electorate chose the least qualified person ever to be nominated by a major party for the U.S. presidency, the only one never to have been elected to office, hold public office, or serve in the military. Moreover, we chose him over arguably the best qualified person ever to run for the presidency.
Now comes the news that Judge Diane Goodstein is one of the three finalists to be one of the five justices of the South Carolina Supreme Court. See Steve Skardon's comments and the Post and Courier article at .
We will all remember her as the circuit court judge presiding over the Church trial in July of 2014 who rendered an astonishing decision. It was appealed to the SC Supreme Court which held a hearing on it in September of 2015.
Goodstein has been in the running before for a seat on the state's high court, once in 2007. She has been in the public eye several times over the years since she was elected by the state legislature to be a circuit court judge in 1998. In 2008 questions were raised about her possible collusion with the Catholic Church to settle child abuse cases. Gregg Meyers, a lawyer for some of the clients, said "'Apparently all counsel were colluding to move settled cases to Dorchester County to get the cases to Judge Goodstein.'" A newspaper article said Meyers was "'accusing the church of delaying payment of $1.375 million and colluding with class counsel and Diane Goodstein, the circuit court judge in Dorchester County who presided over the class-action case.'" [Adam Parker, "Charges Fly in Suit over Catholic Diocese Settlement," Charleston Post and Courier, June 25, 2008, ].

Another matter concerned property. ["Judge, Husband Settle Bankruptcy Dispute," Summerville Patch, March 15, 2013, ]. Goodstein and her husband agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit that they had improperly transferred real estate holdings involved in bankruptcy proceedings. Her husband, Arnold Goodstein, had built a large construction business but declared bankruptcy following the housing crash of 2007-08. Diane Goodstein did not admit guilt in the matter of the questionable transfer of property to her and disputed the claim of impropriety, yet she agreed to the half-million-dollar payment. [see also Charleston Post and Courier, Katy Stech, "Goodstein Details Downfall," July 24, 2010, ]. 

When it came time for Alan Runyan, the lead lawyer for the independent Diocese of South Carolina to bring lawsuit against the Episcopal Church, basically to claim ownership of the properties in question, he chose the circuit court in Dorchester County which had only two judges. He could have chosen the more appropriate major circuit court in Charleston, or another of the eight circuit courts in the boundaries of the Diocese. At the least, Runyan would have known much about Goodstein since one of the four lawyers in his firm in Beaufort, Andrew Platte, had been a clerk to Goodstein. [ ]. It was no accident that Runyan chose Goodstein's court as the one to enter his lawsuit against the Church on January 4, 2013. As time would tell, he was not to be disappointed.

Anyone considering Goodstein for the state supreme court would do well to review her conduct of the Church trial in July of 2014 and her decision of February 2015, or at least go over the state supreme court's remarks about them. Not one of the five justices had a good word for her conduct of the trial or her decision. In fact, quite the opposite. They went to lengths to criticize the one-sidedness of the trial and lack of substantial rationale in her order. If one reviews the trial transcript, this is readily apparent. For instance, when the main witnesses for the Church side took the stand, each could hardly get out a sentence without being interrupted, often by the judge. As an example there was Martin McWilliams an esteemed law professor at USC. On the stand and under the Church lawyer's questioning, diocesan lawyer Henrietta Golding interrupted him 62 times and made 19 objections, all of which Goodstein sustained. Runyan broke in 24 times making 6 formal objections. Goodstein sustained 5 of them. Judge Goodstein herself interrupted McWilliams 141 times. This turned out to be mild compared to what happened to the greatest historian in the state, Walter Edgar, when he took the stand. Goodstein's written decision was apparently very close to what Runyan wanted. It sounded to me as if he had written it himself. If so, it was too clever by half. It was so over the top, the supreme court justices apparently discarded it right away. It is almost certain that they dismissed it and are in the process of writing a new decision(s). My guess is that this is the holdup. I think if they were going to remand to Goodstein, they would have done so by now.

I am not saying Goodstein should not be on the South Carolina Supreme Court. I am saying that those legislators voting should consider the known records of all three candidates involved and weight all the evidence for each of them. Goodstein has a public record as a circuit court judge. At age 65, with not many years before mandatory retirement, she deserves full consideration. As for probably her highest-profile case in recent years, my guess is that even Judge Goodstein would agree that the Episcopal Church-diocesan trial was not her finest hour. In fairness to her, I think the scope, depth, and complexity of the issues raised in this particular case in South Carolina were probably beyond any single judge, at least on the lowly state circuit court level. (The four earlier cases of diocesan secession were simpler.) That is why I think the Episcopal Church-diocese issues will eventually have to be resolved by the collective wisdom of the highest court in the land.

To change gears, I have been spending a lot of time in my garden lately. I need it. I am sharing a couple of pictures to remind myself and others that the Wonderland we are really in is God's magnificent creation. It is all around us and in ways most gloriously at this time of the year. The star of my garden right now is the simple maple tree. Nothing can compete with its magnificence, especially in early morning and late afternoon when the sun illuminates its wonderful brilliance. These pictures are from this morning. (BTW I am praying for rain. We are in an exception drought. No measurable rain in 109 days and none in sight.)



Sunday, November 13, 2016

Following the political disaster of last week, I am desperate for some good news; and here it is. Another priest of the pre-schism diocese who abandoned the Episcopal Church to follow Mark Lawrence has returned to the Episcopal Church. On November 11, the Rev. Matt McCormick reaffirmed his ordination vows and rejoined the Episcopal Church becoming part of the Episcopal Church diocese of South Carolina. Read about it here . McCormick said, '"I love the Episcopal Church, I am a cradle Episcopalian who has been nurtured by this church, and my orders to call as a priest were issued in the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church has always been my home, and now it is time to come home."'
In 2013, Bishop vonRosenberg released and removed 104 priests and deacons of the pre-schism diocese who had abandoned the Episcopal Church to follow former bishop Mark Lawrence in the schism of October 2012. Three have now returned to the mother Church: H. Dagnall Free, Jr., Jeff Wallace, and now McCormick.
The schismatic Diocese of South Carolina continues its troubles and decline. It has lost members every year since the schism of 2012. It has failed to find meaning and identity. Apparently, there is trouble about joining the Anglican Church in North America. Last March the diocesan committee on affiliation, hand-picked by Lawrence, recommended the diocese join the ACNA. They predicted a diocesan convention would be called in the Fall of 2016 to pass the first vote. Since then, we have heard nothing of a convention. Apparently, there is unexpected opposition in the breakaway group about joining ACNA. If it were a sure thing, DSC would have called a convention by now. Two conventions will have to vote approval before it can join ACNA. After four years, the schismatic diocese is still a rudderless ship lost at sea led by a crew equally lost. It is not in the Anglican Communion and will not be even if it joins ACNA. The idea of making ACNA a province of the Anglican Communion has been abandoned by GAFCON. ACNA will never be a province of the Anglican Communion.
So, I say to the DSC, as the Rev. McCornick said, It is time to come home. You have no other home but the Episcopal Church and if you have not realized this by now, you will in time.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016



In last March's convention of the Diocese of South Carolina, we were told that a special convention would likely be called in the Fall of 2016 for a first vote on DSC's joining the Anglican Church in North America. There has been no mention since then about a special convention. Fall is well under way and there has been no word about a meeting. It takes a couple of months to arrange such a convention. It looks as if there will be no special convention to vote on affiliation this Fall. What's the problem?
There must be two votes before DSC can affiliate with any larger group. If the regular annual convention in March of 2017 votes to join ACNA, another convention must vote the same. The application would presumably come before the bishops of ACNA in their June 2017 conference. If DSC does not call a special convention before the March 2017 annual convention , it will have to do so between March and June in order to be accepted into ACNA on June.
Bishop Lawrence has made it very clear that he wants DSC to join ACNA. He held a clergy conference last month on that very subject. No one could have missed the point. The recommendation to join ACNA came last March in the annual diocesan convention from the task force on affiliation. This task force was hand-picked by Lawrence. It is unimaginable that DSC would not go along with Lawrence's wishes.
Bishop Lawrence has presided over 10 conventions of the DSC. There have been dozens of resolutions passed, perhaps a hundred in all, most either unanimously or nearly so. Of all the many resolutions called up for vote, only one has even been defeated. That was a proposed resolution from the Revs. Craige Borrett and Kendall Harmon in March of 2009 to suspend the General Convention, that is for DSC to boycott the 2009 General Convention. The clergy voted it down. That is the one and only resolution ever defeated by vote in one of the 10 conventions led by Lawrence. (It showed that the clergy of DSC were not quite ready to leave the Episcopal Church. The diocesan leadership was to change that attitude quickly.) I found only three proposed resolutions that were tabled, that is, suspended. One was "The Rubric of Love" in the October 2009 special convention. It expressed "love" and support for homosexuals. It caused a near melt-down of the convention; and the diocesan leadership, seeing the chaos, called for a vote to table. It passed 182-117. Next year that resolution was "withdrawn" i.e. killed. So much for "Love" for homosexuals in DSC.
Another proposed resolution to be tabled was the Rev. Shay Gaillard's call to support "Anglicans for Life" an anti-abortion group. The leaders of the March 2012 had that one tabled so as not to muddy the waters they were preparing for the great issue of the homosexuality. The General Convention of 2012 was about to meet and was expected to give green light to a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions. Gaillard's proposal was tabled, but brought back in the first secessionist convention, in March of 2013, in Florence, for passage. The last proposed resolution to be tabled came in 2014 when the diocesan leaders put forth one to give the local rector control over the parish property. That one was tabled and mysteriously disappeared never to be heard from again. No explanation of it has ever been put forth.
The closest a diocesan convention has ever come to going against the wish of Lawrence was in March of 2015 when a proposed resolution on marriage came up carrying a sentence condemning transgender, a topic that everyone knew was important to Lawrence. In the vote, two-thirds of the convention voted for the resolution, after it was slightly revised. One-third abstained or voted against.
The historical fact is that the DSC has never refused Mark Lawrence anything. It is unthinkable that they would deny him his wish to join ACNA. This begs the question of why there is no special convention this Fall. If this decision, like all others, is a slam dunk, why not go ahead and call a special convention to approve and get it set up for the March 2017 convention to give second and final passage? Is it because they are unsure of passage? I would be very surprised if this were the case. Or, are they waiting for the state Supreme Court ruling?
There has been no public explanation of why a special convention has not been called this Fall. But then, DSC operates under a lot of secrecy, has for years. However, it does make one a little suspicious that all is not well in DSC these days.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


The organization of Anglicans called the Global South has just held its sixth conference, in Cairo. It issued two important documents that are worth studying, a Communiqué ( here ) and a Statement from the Global South Primates and GAFCON Primates Council Concerning Same-Sex Unions ( here > "Statement..." 08 October). These documents reaffirm two realities that were already apparent: homosexuality was the driving issue splitting the Anglican Communion, and Global South/GAFCON have failed to break up the Anglican Communion into two hostile camps on that issue.
The second item, the Statement, speaks for itself simply and clearly as it condemns homosexual behavior. It continues the fundamentalist belief that God assigned gender and that people who go against their assigned gender are rebelling against God. In other words, homosexuality is a learned behavior and not an innate state. "Our role is to restore them to God's divine patterns" (#10). Restore them. Homosexuals are not really homosexuals, they are "same-sex attracted" (#11). There is nothing new in this Statement. It would be dismissed offhand by a great host of psychological and medical professionals.
The first item, the Communiqué, is much more interesting and revealing about the state of the anti-homosexual rights provinces of the Anglican Communion. Here are some items to note in this document:
1---(#2) 16 provinces participated in the recent Global South conference. That represented less than half of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion. It also meant 8 of the 24 provinces that are part of Global South did not attend. This indicates a weakening of the anti-homosexual movement in the Anglican Communion.
2---(#8) the new Global South Primates Steering Committee is headed, once again, by Mouneer Anis of Egypt (Mark Lawrence's constant defender). Of the nine primates, four are from equatorial Africa, the provinces that have been historically the most opposed to rights for homosexuals. This shows the continued importance of the issue of homosexuality among the core of Global South/GAFCON.
3---(#22a) Explicit recognition that the division in the Anglican Communion came from the issue of homosexuality: "We recognize that division and dislocation amongst orthodox Anglicans have arisen during the disputes on human sexuality." Any claim from the Diocese of South Carolina, or any other breakaway group, that this was about "theology" or "polity" is just nonsense. Even Global South finally admitted the obvious. It is time for DSC to do the same. The schism of DSC from the Episcopal Church was directly caused by DSC's rejection of equal rights for homosexual persons.
4---The Communiqué is replete with references to sexuality.
5---The attitude toward the Anglican Communion is ambivalent. On one hand it called for unity in the Anglican Communion: "bind Anglicans worldwide together as one people" (#23). On the other hand, it criticized the Instruments of Communion of the Anglican Communion for failure to "discipline" those [Episcopal Church] who supposedly abandoned the historic faith and to check the marginalization of Anglicans in "heterodox Provinces" [ACNA and DSC]. 
     It is important to note what the document do not say. It does not call for, or even imply, division, schism, or any form of rebellion against the Anglican Communion. Global South/GAFCON has abandoned its threat to bolt the Anglican Communion. In the end, it only set up a "task force" to study the future (#33).
     While Global South/GAFCON recognized the Anglican Church in North America as a fellow "province," the documents said nothing about supporting it for membership in the Anglican Communion. In fact, that is a dead issue. In last January's Primates' Gathering in Canterbury, Global South/GAFCON abandoned ACNA on the spot and agreed that if ACNA should want to join the Anglican Communion it would have to go through the Anglican Consultative Council. In addition, the primates recommended that ACNA NOT be admitted to AC. When the Anglican Consultative Council met last April, all but three of the Global South/GAFCON provinces attended. Not one of them raised the issue of the admission of ACNA to the Anglican Communion. The fact that the new Communiqué completely ignores the issue of ACNA's joining AC confirms the point that this is dead. GAFCON helped create ACNA in 2009 with the goal of making it the replacement province in the Anglican Communion to take the place of the Episcopal Church. It is abundantly clear now that this stratagem has completely failed.
     People of South Carolina should understand that joining ACNA will NOT be joining the Anglican Communion. ACNA is not now and will never be a province of the Anglican Communion. At best it is "recognized" by a minority, and a shrinking one at that, of the most socially conservative provinces of the Anglican Communion.
The take-aways from the recent Global South Conference:
---the hard right of the Anglican Communion is still obsessed with the issue of homosexuality.

---the hard right knows it has failed to remove the pro-homosexual rights provinces from the Anglican Communion, most notably the Episcopal Church. It is at a loss to know what to do about this.  
---Opposition to equal rights for homosexuals is declining in the Anglican Communion. One province after another is taking up the issue of equal rights for homosexuals. We are on the downward slope, historically speaking, on this issue that peaked in 2015 with the U.S. Supreme Court and the Episcopal Church's adoption of same-sex marriage.
---Global South/GAFCON is on the decline in the Anglican Communion. They know they have lost the war on homosexuality. They are now only fighting a rear-guard action to delay the acceptance of historic reality as long as possible. At this point, it is just that, only delay of the inevitable.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Reflections on the SC Supreme Court
Hearing a Year Later
September 23, 2016, marks one year since the Supreme Court of South Carolina held a hearing on the Church case. We are all still anxiously awaiting the Court's decision. 
In the last few days, I have gone over again the hearing transcript and the documents around it. Here are my thoughts about what has happened and what is happening in the Court. I offer these only as my opinions.
---The case before the Court is an appeal of Judge Diane Goodstein's circuit court decision of February 3, 2015. In short, that ruling was: --the Episcopal Church (TEC) is congregational, --the Diocese (DSC) is an independent self-governing entity, --the parishes are the owners of the properties, --DSC properly amended its corporate documents to legally withdraw from TEC. This was a total victory for DSC. 
---DSC asked the state Supreme Court (SCSC) to affirm Goodstein's decision. TEC/ECSC asked SCSC to reject the decision and write a new one.
---The five justices of SCSC conducted the hearing for about an hour before noon on September 23, 2015. The proceeding was led and dominated by the Chief Justice, Jean Toal. Other justices were Donald Beatty, Costa Pleicones, John Kittredge, and Kaye Hearn.
---Soon after the hearing, perhaps the same day, the five justices met in private and voted on a decision. One justice had already been assigned to lead the case. My guess it was Toal, who came loaded with documents to the hearing and dominated the entire hearing from start to finish. The majority then started writing their decision and the minority, if there were any, started writing their dissenting opinions either together or separately. Along the way and while the decisions were being drawn up, justices could change their votes, so that the majority/minority dynamic could change. Only when all justices were satisfied would they release the written opinions.
These are my best guesses at the moment.
---The justices unanimously rejected Goodstein's decision. This was clear during the hearing. Toal and Hearn eviscerated it. Not one justice had one word of support for it. They had two problems with it 1-the very lopsided way Goodstein had conducted the trial and 2-the injudicious written decision. Toal and Hearn were particularly appalled at the way the revered experts professors Edgar and McWilliams had been treated in the trial. Thus, the court rejected DSC's request to uphold the decision and granted TEC/ECSC's request for a new opinion.
---Another choice of the justices was to agree with parts and disagree with other parts of Goodstein's order and remand it to her for re-adjudication under certain guidelines. If they were going to do this, I think we would know it by now. I doubt that remand was their choice.
---The justices probably decided to write a whole new decision, and that is where the internal divisions showed up. What would the new decision be?
---In the hearing the justices were in unanimous agreement that Goodstein's decision was unacceptable. That is all they agreed upon.
---Toal and Hearn took their objections down entirely different paths. They became the competing  leaders for the new decision.
---Toal seemed to be primarily interested in local corporate and property rights. I saw two main points of hers: 1-the "settlor" (property title holder) must establish in writing  a trust for another party (the implication was that TEC could not impose a trust by itself), 2-a body incorporated under the state laws of SC is protected independently by the state laws.
Toal excoriated DSC lawyer Alan Runyan perhaps for getting the courts entangled in what she considered issues of lesser importance. After she raked him over the coals about what she apparently saw as Runyan's misuse of the 2009 All Saints decision, just before the end of the hearing she brought him back and spoon-fed him apparently what she saw as his two main arguments. She asked of Runyan: "They [DSC] withdrew their accession to the national church and as a corporation they had the authority to do that, that's your argument, isn't it?" "If we see it as a matter of corporation law, and don't get tangled up in all the doctrinal issues, as a matter of corporate law they legitimately filed papers accomplishing that, that's your argument?"
When Hewitt made his brief closing rebuttal, she hammered home the same issues. She said to him: "So once the, let me see if I get you, you want us to declare that the corporate law of South Carolina is that once you put a purpose clause in your charitable corporation you are forever bound to that purpose clause and, it can never be changed even if your constitution and other operational documents are properly amended to do so?" "What corporate, what constitutional documents were violated by amending the purpose to withdraw their accession from the national church?"
Thus, it seemed to me that Toal was trying to settle this case under state corporate law, in favor of DSC. It must be remembered that she was the author of the 2009 state Supreme Court decision called All Saints. In that, she had made two main points: All Saints parish was the owner of the property under a 1903 quit claim deed, and All Saints had properly amended its corporate documents to withdraw legally from the diocese.
Justice Beatty made only two brief comments in the hearing. He was the only other justice there who had been part of the All Saints decision. He had joined in it and had signed it. My guess is that he remained with Toal on this one.
---In the hearing, Justice Hearn advocated strongly and relentlessly for the Church side: TEC is hierarchical, there is no inherent conflict between hierarchy and neutral principles, the Dennis Canon was in effect as part of the accession to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and the court should defer to TEC as a hierarchical religious institution.
---If the scenario of a Toal-Beatty v. Hearn split is true, this left two justices as the deciding factors, Pleicones and Kittredge. At least three justices were required for a majority decision. Toal-Beatty had to bring over one of them. Hearn had to sway both of them.
---Which way did Pleicones and Kittredge lean in the hearing? This is difficult to answer because each said relatively little. It seemed to me that Pleicones probably favored the Church side. He was a Greek Orthodox and certainly understood hierarchical institutions. (Of course, Toal, a devout Roman Catholic also understood all of the meanings of hierarchy.) Pleicones made four comments that may have revealed a pro-Church attitude. As soon as Hewitt opened his presentation to the court, Pleicones broke in to raise the issue of whether the Episcopal Church was hierarchical. Later he asked how the case was different than that of All Saints. At another time he questioned the effect of a trust on parish property. Perhaps Pleicones's most important remark came when Runyan declared: "The Dennis Canon is not religious doctrine. It's purportedly declaring an interest in property." Pleicones responded, "It's a governance measure though, is it not?" This seemed to indicate that Pleicones might have had a favorable attitude toward the Dennis Canon. My guess is that Pleicones probably joined Hearn.
---To me the biggest mystery of all was Justice Kittredge. He made more comments in the hearing than Beatty and Pleicones. He was mostly concerned with clarifying the issues and the positions of the two sides. As Pleicones, he wondered about hierarchy and the relevance of the All Saints decision. Once when Runyan was defending the parishes' right to control their property, Kittredge asked him, "I'm just wondering if, does your analysis there, is it impacted if we determine that this is a hierarchical church? Could your clients unilaterally take the steps they took if it's determined to be a hierarchical church?" Runyan said hierarchy was completely irrelevant. It did not seem to be irrelevant to Kittredge. Toward the end, he made the most enigmatic remark of all in response to Toal's question to Hewitt about amending corporate documents. Kittredge said, "If they are properly amended. I have no problem with it. What you're [Hewitt] saying is, it's got to be amended in accordance with the rules regarding amendment?" 
The problem was in deciding whether the Diocese had amended its corporate documents "properly." That got down to a basic difference. The Church side argued that the DSC was incorporated in 1973 explicitly "under" the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. The DSC lawyers argued that DSC had the right to amend its corporate charter to unilaterally withdraw its recognition of the Constitution and Canons of TEC regardless of what it said in 1973. The question then that the justices had to decide was whether DSC had the right to remove itself at will from TEC. I do not see how they could decide such until they had determined whether or not TEC was hierarchical. By discarding Goodstein's decision off hand, they indicated a leaning away from the congregational interpretation.
One very important event has happened since the hearing that will certainly impact on the justices' decision(s). On April 5, 2016, a California court of appeals ruled in favor of the Church in the San Joaquin case. That court made two major points relevant to SC: 1-the Episcopal Church is hierarchical, and hierarchy is not incompatible with neutral principles (the CA courts followed neutral principles), and 2-the earlier decision in the Diocese of Quincy case in Illinois was irrelevant to California. The state courts in Illinois had ruled in favor of the local entity. The breakaway side declared the Illinois decision to be the law of the land. The problem was that state courts have jurisdiction only in that state. The California court ruled that the Illinois decision had no bearing in California because the state laws were different. Thus, unless the state laws in South Carolina are identical to those of Illinois, the Quincy decision in favor of the breakaway diocese would have no relevance to South Carolina. The California decision of April 5 could have had a major impact on the writing of the supreme court decisions in South Carolina. If so, it would be in favor of the Church side.
Bottom Line----my wild guess is that the reason for the long delay in a decision is that SCSC split. Toal-Beatty were for DSC and Hearn-Pleicones were for the Church. The big question mark then is how Kittredge came down. It is impossible to tell from his remarks in the hearing.
When will we know? It is unusual for the court to go for more than a year. However, given the size and complexity of this case that involves the most basic principles of the Constitution, it should not be surprising that it will take a long time to settle. I think chances are we will have a decision before the end of this year. But then, your guess in all of this is as good as mine.