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.