Thursday, June 8, 2017


The Anglican Communion News Service has just announced that the Episcopal Church of Scotland has adopted marriage for same-sex couples. These couples will be allowed to marry in Episcopal churches of Scotland. The vote in the church synod today was not close: Bishops 4-1 for, clergy 42-20 for, laity 50 to 12 for. This is another victory for human rights.

Numerous other Anglican provinces are moving along in the pioneering path made by the Anglican Church of Canada and the U.S. Episcopal Church. 

The Anglican primates meeting in October should be quite interesting.

Read the story here .


These are troubling, disturbing, even dark times in which our basic institutions of church and state and being tested to their cores. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the gravity of all of this. The grand old diocese of South Carolina lies shattered in four parts and bitterly divided, hostile parties in civic courts. There is no resolution in sight. The courts appear to be unable to resolve the differences. Our federal government is now being tested to see if the old constitutional system can stand the challenge of a president who does not understand, let alone respect, the basics of the American constitutional governmental structure. The problems of both church and state here stem from the same basic issue: government by laws or by men. As for the old diocese, the majority decided that it would no longer recognize the rule of church law and turned to guidance of a leadership that declared it alone knew truth. They threw in their lot with a highly authoritarian system in defiance of the standing church law. In short, they chose rule of man over rule of law. President Trump is trying to do the same, to set up personal power in disregard of the traditional structure of the government. He is challenging the country to decide between rule of law and rule of man. I think the government is strong enough to stand up for itself although getting there will be traumatic. We have always been a country of the rule of law and I am confident this will prevail.

Yesterday, I returned to work in my garden for the first time in six months. I managed two periods of work. It was my best day in months and I slept soundly afterwards. This lifted my spirits greatly. I think we are all in need a lift now. So, let's take a break and walk around my garden as it appeared this morning. (You see from the weeds all the work I still have to do, but then a garden that will not grow good weeds is not much of a garden.)

Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii, "Black Knight") and Sabal minor "McCurtain." In late afternoon, the bush is covered with numerous monarch butterflies.

Gardenia "August Beauty." Every southern garden should have gardenia, for the aroma is nothing else.

Dwarf peach tree (Prunus persica 'Bonanza').

Japanese Pea Shrub (Lespedeza thunbergii). Tiny purple flowers from frost to frost.

Every southern garden/yard should have a banana tree.

Balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus). Tough perennial.

Andorra juniper, lower; Dwarf Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria 'Nana'), middle; Abelia grandiflora 'Sherwood,' with white flowers.

Beyond, or in spite of, all the disturbing events going on all around us, the beauty and wonder of God's creation is a constant. It is always there. It reminds us that in the big picture there is an order in the universe that exists independently of human behavior, good, bad or indifferent.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


This is Part 4 of my reflections on the schism of 2012 in South Carolina. This time I want to address the question:

Why did the Episcopal Church remove Mark Lawrence as a bishop in 2012?

Actually, this is not a good question, because in fact Lawrence removed himself from the Episcopal Church voluntarily on Oct. 15, 2012. The Church's official "release and removal" of Lawrence as a bishop came seven weeks later (Dec. 5). Then, the question should be:

Why did Lawrence leave the Episcopal Church? That is the issue at hand.

There is a great deal involved in this. We have already discussed the causal factors of the schism, the underlying causes, direct causes, and initiating events.

Entwined in all of the many layers of events was a crucial permeating factor, how to leave the Episcopal Church with the local property in hand. Anyone may leave the Church at any time. However, not anyone can leave with the property, not under Episcopal Church law.

That was the dilemma of the schismatics in South Carolina: how to take the diocese out of the Episcopal Church with the diocesan and parish properties in hand. The first four cases of dioceses that voted to leave the Church (2007-08) all had to go to court, and all to mixed results. Only one of the four went on to win in court (Quincy). Two went on the lose outright (San Joaquin and Pittsburgh). One is still pending (Ft. Worth). Thus, South Carolina's leaving the Episcopal Church with perhaps $500m in property was problematical at least. Schism would be a risk, but one worth taking in the view of the secessionists.

The Episcopal Church adopted the Dennis Canon in 1979, the DSC in 1987. The canon said that all local church property was held in trust for both the Episcopal Church and the diocese. What this meant in practice was that the deed holder could not dispose of any property without permission of the two trustees. This would be true even if the local parish held the legal title to the property. Under Church law, the trustees held control over the property. For the secessionists of South Carolina then, the problem was how to leave the Episcopal Church in defiance of the Church law. The diocese could surrender its own trust interest, but could it do the same for the national Church?

Here is a summary of how this problem evolved in DSC:

1. On Jan. 26, 2008, Lawrence made a sacred oath before God, dozens of bishops, hundreds of clergy, and a thousand laity: "I, Mark Joseph, (...) do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church." At the time, DSC explicitly recognized the Dennis Canon and held in its corporate charter that it existed "under" the authority of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. Lawrence and DSC were under the Dennis Canon.

On October 15, 2012, Lawrence effectively rejected the discipline and, together with the Standing Committee and lawyers, unilaterally agreed on the independence of the diocese, property in hand. This was the schism of 2012.

Thus, in less than five years, DSC went from recognition to rejection of the Dennis Canon. How did that happen?

2. It began with building a platform of hostility to the Episcopal Church, something that had actually been going on in the diocese since 1982. Lawrence attended the GAFCON I meeting and welcomed the Jerusalem Statement of June 29, 2008. This statement rejected the authority of the Episcopal Church (because of its support of rights for homosexuals). Lawrence supported the statement. The DSC Standing Committee unanimously adopted the statement on Nov. 6, 2008. In effect, the diocesan leadership renounced the legitimate authority of the parent Church. This set the diocesan trajectory for all subsequent events.

3. On May 30, 2009, in a secret meeting of the Standing Committee, chaired by Jeff Miller, and attended by Lawrence, the committee approved the transfer of several million dollars worth of property held by St. Andrew's Church, of Mt. Pleasant, into a special trust of the parish beyond the control of the diocese and Church. Recall that the Dennis Canon was still diocesan law. This event remained hidden from the public until the minutes of the Standing Committee were uncovered in the circuit court trial. This transfer set the template for the diocese from then on.

4. Three months later, the SC Supreme Court issued its All Saints decision, on September 18, 2009. The court ruled that All Saints was entitled to its local property because the diocese had issued the parish a quit claim deed a century earlier. The justices said that, in SC, only the title holder could make a trust. It could not be imposed by another party. This decision greatly bolstered DSC's disregard of the Dennis Canon.

DSC refused to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The local Episcopal congregation at All Saints did file an appeal with SCOTUS but got no help from DSC. Shortly thereafter, they made a negotiated settlement with the breakaway parish and withdrew the appeal to SCOTUS.

Also, shortly after All Saints, Alan Runyan met with Lawrence and agreed to become the lawyer for the Standing Committee.

5. A month after All Saints, DSC held a special convention and declared virtual independence from the Episcopal Church. It resolved to withdraw from the governing bodies of TEC as well as to nullify all the acts of General Convention with which they disagreed. TEC made no response.

6. On Dec. 17, 2009, St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant voted to leave TEC and DSC for the Anglican Church in North America, property in hand. This was finalized in 2010. DSC did nothing to enforce the Dennis Canon to which it still officially adhered. TEC began to respond.

7. In January of 2010, Atty. Thomas Tisdale contacted Wade Logan, the chancellor of DSC, to seek agreement that the Episcopal Church could exercise its particular trust interest in the properties of the diocese, as per the Dennis Canon. Tisdale sent several letters to this effect Jan. 25-29, 2010. He asked for the minutes of the Standing Committee. 

Unknown to him, at that very moment, DSC was apparently preparing to issue the first quit claim deeds, to three parishes. On Feb. 1, 2010, DSC secretly gave the quit claims to St. John's Church of Johns Island, Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston, and Church of the Cross in Bluffton. If DSC granted Tisdale's requests, he would discover the St. Andrew's and the quit claim acts of the diocese. (Two more were issued in March of 2010: Christ/St. Paul's of Yonges Island and St. James of James Island.)

Lawrence assumed control of the Tisdale affair and declared a crisis. He moved the upcoming diocesan convention back by three weeks and loudly demanded that the Presiding Bishop remove her counsel from the diocese. He adamantly refused to surrender one item to Tisdale who wound up with nothing. DSC's rising disregard of the Dennis Canon remained hidden.

When the diocesan convention did meet, in March of 2010, it handed over to Lawrence absolute control over the interpretation of the constitution and canons of DSC.

8. On October 15, 2010, the special diocesan convention completed the virtual independence from TEC that the Oct. 2009 convention had begun. It resolved to revoke its accession to the canons of TEC (including the Dennis Canon), and to alter the corporate charter to remove all reference to TEC (this was done on Oct. 19, 2010). This ended DSC's official recognition of the Dennis Canon.

9. DSC secretly issued 15 more quit claim deeds to parishes between Oct. 19, 2010 and Nov. 16, 2011.

10. May 25, 2011, Atty. Melinda Lucka sent letter of complaint against Lawrence and supporting documents to TEC. This led to the first investigation of Lawrence by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops on abandonment of communion. Since the diocesan property actions remained secret, the investigation centered not on property but primarily on Lawrence's role in the diocesan conventions' actions withdrawing from TEC. On Nov. 29, 2011, the DBB announced decision not to charge Lawrence with abandonment.

11. On Nov. 15, 2011, two weeks before the DBB announcement, Lawrence notified the clergy he had issued quit claim deeds to all parishes. Logan mailed the deeds the next day and the stunning news became public. However, the DBB could not consider the deeds at that point since they had not been part of the original May 25 complaint.

12. DSC's open and public defiance of the Dennis Canon in Nov. of 2011 finally forced the Episcopal Church to respond since it maintained that all dioceses were required to adhere to the constitution and canons of TEC. It could not allow one diocese to defy canon law. On Mar. 23, 2012, Lucka and 23 other lay people of DSC filed a new complaint with the DBB. The first item was "Failure to Safeguard Property." The second investigation, of 2012, remained secret, but everyone knew Lawrence was likely to be charged anew following the sensational news of the quit claim deeds.

13. The DBB voted in secret on Sept. 18, 2012, that Lawrence should be charged with abandonment, primarily on the strength of his issuance of the quit claim deeds in direct violation of the Dennis Canon. This remained secret for the moment. Finally, it was the issue of property that effected the break between DSC and TEC. This was where the Episcopal Church finally lost patience with Lawrence.

14. Knowing that Lawrence could very well be charged anew following the quit claim deeds, in August of 2012, DSC leadership met secretly and apparently planned the final act of schism. They would break away from the Episcopal Church to protect their claims to the properties. On September 20, 2012, the Standing Committee requested of Lawrence his interpretation of how they could effect the schism. On Oct. 2, 2012, Lawrence told the Standing Committee they could "disassociate" the diocese from TEC; the committee resolved that DSC would separate from TEC if TEC took any action of any kind against Lawrence. This remained secret. It was a trap set for the completely unsuspecting Presiding Bishop as a justification for the schism.

15. On Oct. 10, 2012, the DBB reported its decision to the Presiding Bishop. On Oct. 15, 2012, PB called Lawrence and placed a restriction on him. Immediately after the call, Lawrence, his lawyers, and the Standing Committee agreed among themselves that DSC had disassociated from TEC. Lawrence announced this to PB on Oct. 17. DSC announced this to the world on Oct. 19.

16. Before and after the schism, DSC established several talking points to justify the schism: 

a-TEC was out to remove Lawrence in order to flip the diocese from "orthodox" to liberal. There is no evidence to support this claim.

b-TEC deliberately set up the Title IV revision to "get" Lawrence. Ditto.

c-Lawrence was trying to negotiate a peaceful settlement with TEC when he was "attacked." The evidence shows the opposite.

d-Lawrence was "mistreated" by TEC. DSC witnesses in the circuit court trial repeated this opinion.

17. In fact, after the schism, DSC immediately initiated legal actions to retain the diocesan and parish properties. The local parishes were brought in as parties to the lawsuits. All of the litigation since Jan. 2013 has basically revolved around ownership of the properties.

Back to the original question on why Lawrence left the Episcopal Church. He left when it finally became clear that the Episcopal Church would enforce the Dennis Canon. Everyone knew in 2012 it was likely he would be investigated a second time by DBB and probably charged with abandonment following the violation of the Canon in the quit claim deeds. 

So, how well did it work for DSC to leave the Episcopal Church with the property in hand? It worked very well for the majority of diocesan communicants. So far so good for DSC. Today, going on five years since the schism, DSC is completely in control of the property in question and the state supreme court seems unable to decide what, if anything, to do about it.   

Thursday, June 1, 2017


"On the Schism - Part 1" (April 20) covered the use and misuse of history. "On the Schism - Part 2" (May 1) discussed the reasons why the fourth reform movement in TEC produced schism while the first three had not. In "On the Schism - Part 3," I will look at the question of whether the schism was the result of a conspiracy.

The word "conspiracy" can have different meanings. In the legal sense, it means a secret agreement among two or more people to do something illegal. Otherwise conspiracy can mean a secret deal among a group to something nefarious, not necessarily illegal. 

On the legal side, attorney Thomas Tisdale, representing the Church diocese in the circuit court, formally charged conspiracy. At first, he tried to get twenty-eight people named, but Judge Goodstein overruled it. Then, Tisdale charged that four prople were involved in a quid pro quo deal to make Mark Lawrence bishop of the diocese in return for his taking the diocese, with property in hand, out of the Episcopal Church. Goodstein overruled that too, as she did practically everything Tisdale requested. That is as far as the legal charge went.The legal issue of conspiracy was never really hashed out in court.

I am not qualified to speak to the legal issue of conspiracy, but I can speak to "conspiracy" in the historical and general sense.

Was the schism of 2012 the result of a conspiracy?

Short answer - Yes.

Long answer - requires a great deal of explanation. Space here does not allow a full discussion (my history of the schism is in press). I will summarize what I found in my research on the history of the schism.

The "smoking gun" of the conspiracy was the secret resolution of the DSC Standing Committee to "disaffiliate" DSC from the Episcopal Church "if any action of any kind" were taken by TEC against Bishop Lawrence. This was made on October 2, 2012, thirteen days before the schism happened. I counted seventeen people in on this act, the twelve members of the Standing Committee, and five others. Everyone knew that the Disciplinary Board for Bishops might be at work bringing charges against Lawrence. If the DBB did charge Lawrence with abandonment, the Presiding Bishop, Jefferts Schori would have to act. She would be required to "restrict" Lawrence formally. The October 2 resolution was a hidden trap set for the Presiding Bishop who was entirely unaware of it and would remain so until the trap had snapped closed. In short, the resolution was a set-up as an excuse for schism. It was a "conspiracy" of about seventeen people in the leadership of the DSC.

Now, the question is, how far back did the conspiracy reach in time before Oct. 2, 2012? This, unfortunately is impossible to know for sure given the documents publicly accessible now. Nevertheless, I will share with you what I found.

There are four substantial pieces of evidence that seemed to me to indicate a conspiracy before 2012. 1-Rev. Thomas Rickenbaker's testimony that he had been approached in late 2005 by two men from Bishop's Search Committee who said they were looking for a bishop to take DSC out of the Episcopal Church, property in hand. He made an affidavit and provided written testimony in the circuit court (he was not present in person). He gave a contemporary account to his bishop, Clifton Daniel. 2-Rev. Dow Sanderson's testimony in the circuit court that the Rev. Jeff Miller (member of the Bishop's Search Committee) had told him in 2009 that "we" had hired Lawrence to take DSC out of TEC. 3-By DSC's own documents, in 2010, Bishop Lawrence issued five quit claim deeds to parishes while the diocese still acceded to the Dennis Canon and to the Constitution and Canons of TEC. 4-In 2011, while Lawrence was being investigated the first time by the DBB, the DSC Standing Committee passed a resolution, similar to that of Oct. 2, 2012, to "disaffiliate" if TEC took any action against Lawrence. That one became moot when the DBB refused to charge Lawrence at that time. Whether these four items prove pre-2012 conspiracy must be left to the judgment of the reader.

Although the direct evidence of conspiracy before Oct. 2, 2012 may not be conclusive, there is a mountain of circumstantial evidence that must be considered. Space here does not permit a full accounting, thus a summary:

1. Diocesan leaders used the Robinson affair of the General Convention of 2003 to create a crisis to unite DSC in hostility against TEC. On August 18, 2003, the Standing Committee joined with the bishop, and several others to form a diocesan ruling block of two to three dozen people. All decisions from then on would be made as one and sent down to the deans, the clergy, and the laity. All pro-TEC elements in the diocese were excluded from the power block. When the Episcopal Forum arose, it was treated as the enemy. On Oct. 2, 2003, the special diocesan convention declared the right of nullification, local sovereignty, and defeated a resolution affirming loyalty to TEC. This set the template for the future.

2. In 2004, DSC was one of a dozen ultra-conservative dioceses of TEC to form the Anglican Communion Network. It demanded alternative primatial oversight, that is, authority of a foreign Anglican primate over their dioceses. This was impossible under the Constitution and Canons of TEC that forbade foreign rule in the Episcopal Church. TEC offered four plans of oversight within the structure of TEC. DSC, and the others in ACN, rejected all of TEC's offers. In 2006-07, four of the ACN dioceses declared, unilaterally, realignment to a foreign primate (Southern Cone), thus the first four schisms. DSC was to act several years later, after a new bishop was settled in place.

3. The Bishop's Search Committee of 2005-07 was a set-up to choose a new bishop overtly hostile to TEC. Although Bishop Salmon had sought to maintain the Constitution and Canons of TEC (he applied the Dennis Canon against All Saints, Pawleys Island), in the end he created a search committee guaranteed to lead to a new bishop who would not be so committed to the authority of TEC. Of the 12 members of the committee, 3 were named by Salmon, 3 by the Standing Committee, 3 by the Diocesan Council, and 3 by the diocesan convention. Thus, the ruling establishment set up the committee. Moreover, Salmon said that no nomination could come from the floor of the convention. All candidates would have to be approved by the committee. 

The Search Committee represented the ruling establishment. In time, all twelve members left the Episcopal Church. The committee conducted its business in secret. Its records, if they still exist, are hidden. It considered about 50 candidates, turned them all down, and called on Mark Lawrence to present himself. Lawrence was known to the committee as the leader of the opposition in the House of Deputies to Robinson in 2003 and as the author of an essay calling on the Episcopal Church to surrender its independence to the rule of the Anglican Communion. He was soon to write another paper advocating "dissociation" from TEC.

To summarize DSC before Lawrence became bishop (Jan. 2008), there is no hard evidence of a written, or even spoken, conspiracy. However, it was entirely possible there was an unspoken understanding, an attitude, of a trajectory of relentless hostility against TEC, the logical end of which would be schism. It did not have to be written or spoken. It could have been silently understood. 

4.  The trajectory of differentiation from TEC accelerated after Lawrence took office. In May of 2009, he gave at least tacit support to a pivotal act in disregard of the Dennis Canon. The Standing Committee, chaired by Rev. Jeff Miller, approved St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant's, movement of millions of dollars' worth of parish property into a irrevocable trust beyond the reach of the diocese and TEC. This was the practical end of DSC's recognition of the Dennis Canon although the state Supreme Court was yet to rule on All Saints and the diocese still overtly adhered to the Dennis Canon.

In 2010 and 2011, the DSC granted quit claim deeds to all local parishes.

5. The DSC leaders used the General Convention of 2009 to create a crisis in which DSC declared its virtual independence from TEC. This was planned in a highly secret leadership meeting of July 28, 2009. Diocesan conventions soon thereafter declared the sovereignty of the diocese, nullified resolutions of General Convention, resolved to withdraw from the governing bodies of TEC, revoked diocesan accession to the canons of TEC, and rechartered the corporation of the diocese to remove references to TEC. This was essentially the schism that formally occurred in 2012.

Lawrence was investigated by the DBB in 2011 following the virtual schism. The DBB refused to charge him choosing to give him every benefit of the doubt and forestall another diocesan schism. However, at the very moment the DBB cleared him, Lawrence announced the issuance of the quit claim deeds leaving TEC no choice but to enforce its authority over the diocese. Defiant disregard of the Dennis Canon finally forced a reluctant TEC to act. 

6. DSC leaders used the General Covnention of 2012 to set the stage for the final act of the schism that they had essentially made in 2010 (the only tie left was accession to the Constitution of TEC). They worked steadily the first six months of the year preparing the diocese for the event. The issue of homosexuality, that the leaders had used conveniently for years, now came to the front as TEC resolved to establish a liturgy for the blessing of a same-sex union. Homosexuality, long the leaders' wedge issue, now inflamed the diocese against TEC in the last push for "disassociation."  

Soon after the GC of 2012, the DSC ruling establishment met in an ultra secret session on August 18, 2012. Apparently this was the moment of decision for final schism. This gathering was so secret that no word of it has ever leaked out. A month later, the Standing Committee met in secret and discussed removing DSC from TEC. They asked of Lawrence his authoritative opinion on how the schism could be done. On October 2, he presented a 16 page explanation to the Committee approving, perhaps urging, of their right to disassociate the diocese from TEC. It was on the strength of Lawrence's letter that the Committee passed its unanimous, and top secret, resolution for schism on Oct. 2, 2012.

Looking back, the circumstantial evidence of a conspiracy seems overwhelming even if a legal case might be dubious.

A quid pro quo?

If there were a deal, as Tisdale claimed, between Lawrence and the diocesan power base, Lawrence apparently got the better part of it. This son of a postal worker, this man who spent eight years working his way through college, whose first rectorship was "under the poverty level" now has wealth he could only have dreamed as a child. His annual compensation package amounts to around a quarter of a million dollars a year. On Mar. 17, 2010, he was awarded a ten-year lease on the diocesan-owned $1-2 m bishop's residence in downtown Charleston at $1/yr. The rent on that place would be $5-10,000/mo. Even better, on Feb. 1, 2011, he got an open-ended employment contract whether he remained bishop or not. If not bishop, he would remain chief operating officer of DSC at full pay.

Lawrence has also built up his authority in the diocese. He spent the first few years bonding with the clergy and laity of the diocese until he routinely used the term "we." In March of 2010, the convention awarded him total authority over the constitution and canons of the diocese. His word was hereafter law and could not be questioned, let alone disputed (this was the basis of his letter to the Standing Committee on Oct. 2, 2012). He soon became the guiding power of the Standing Committee. By 2012, he had personal power over the Board of Trustees. He came to routinely appoint the members of the important diocesan committees. Of course, the clergy of DSC are entirely beholding to him having been released and removed from the Episcopal Church. He named the persons on the discernment committee and the Marriage Task Force. The convention has never denied Lawrence anything. Sometimes he puts his name on the line. In the convention of 2015, some delegates questioned a resolution condemning transgender. Lawrence made a personal appeal for approval. The meeting voted two-thirds to support him. This year, he made the vote on affiliation a vote on himself. Before the balloting, he made a long and personal appeal ("10 Reasons") for approval. The convention unanimously approved it, and by extension him. Under the terms of the Marriage Task Force actions, he can fire any employee of the diocese at will. It is hard to imagine a bishop with more power.

Meanwhile, the local parishes have come under complete control of the diocese. At the schism, they were presented with a "commitment" form to bond them with the diocese. In the lawsuits they were brought in as plaintiffs. No other schismatic diocese had done such a thing. In 2015, the DSC rejected, in their name, a negotiated settlement that would have given them their local properties and independence. They are being drained of money to pay for two sets of lawyers, one set for the parish and another for the diocese. Now they are trapped in a web and could not get out even if they wished.

Where does all this leave the Diocese of South Carolina having thrown in its fate to the decisions of its ruling establishment? When Lawrence became bishop in 2008, DSC had 27,003 communicants (active members). At last count, in 2015, it had 15,556 communicants. DSC is now 58% of what it was when Lawrence arrived. Its budget is a 66% of what it was then. The surviving members are facing ever rising legal costs and years more of litigation with a very uncertain future. Joining the Anglican Church in North America will not solve their problems. It is not now and almost certainly will not be a province of the Anglican Communion.

In the big picture, the schism of 2012 was part and parcel of a great cultural war in world civilization. The twentieth century saw the great democratic revolution of history. The Episcopal Church played a vital role in that fighting for rights, equality, and inclusion of all people regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. However, not everyone in the Church agreed with the democratic revolution. Five dioceses voted to break away from the Church in a counter-revolution. The ultra-conservatives who made these schisms believe they are warriors in a great struggle against secular humanism. They have the right to believe whatever they wish. But the reality of history is clear. The tide is against them. They have already lost the war.  


On April 20, I made a posting on this blog "On the Schism - Part 1" giving some of the observations I had made while researching and writing about the schism. The post turned out to be surprisingly popular, 896 hits as of now. The next question I would pose is "What caused the schism?" In February of 2015, I posted three essays on this question looking at the underlying causes, the direct cause, and the initiating events. I reviewed those today and would not make any changes to them now. Thus, I am reposting them here.

After the causes, the next question I would pose is "Why did the fourth reform movement in the Episcopal Church produce schisms when the earlier three had not?" That is the topic of today.

Between 1950 and 2015, the Episcopal Church experienced a democratic revolution. What had been heretofore a conservative and staid denomination given to the endless reiteration of the lofty liturgies in the Prayer Book and disinterested in social causes changed (what I call vertical religion). Starting around 1950, really for the first time in history, the Church transformed itself into a socially conscious activist denomination devoted to righting the wrongs in society all around it (what I call horizontal religion). The Church devoted itself to four great reform movements, 1-civil rights, 2-women's equality and inclusion, 3-modernization of the Prayer Book, and 4-equality for and inclusion of homosexuals. Civil rights began in the 1950s and ran until the early 1970s. Women's equality occurred from the 1960s to the 1980s. The new prayer book ran through the 1960s and 70s. The last, rights for homosexuals lasted from 1976 to 2015.

The first three reforms certainly upset a lot of traditional Episcopalians who liked the old vertical religion and saw little or no need to change things. To my knowledge, civil rights did not cause any whole congregations to leave the Episcopal Church but many individuals did begin abandoning the "too liberal" Church, especially in the South. The next two reform movements came at about the same time, women's ordination and new prayer book. Here dynamics began to change. The two Church wings became particularly disturbed. Anglo Catholics took a dim view of the ordination of women and evangelicals held a similar attitude toward the revisions of the prayer book. Congregations began to split and new breakaway churches popped up around the country, at least two in South Carolina. By the 1970s, disgruntled Episcopalians began organizing into resistance alliances. Nevertheless, women's ordination and inclusion and the new prayer book were overwhelmingly successful. Not one diocese voted to leave the Episcopal Church following the first three reforms, civil rights, women's ordination, and new prayer book.

However, just as the Church was weathering the storms of the earlier reforms, the issue of homosexuality arose, first in the Church's General Convention of 1976. In 1979, GC passed a resolution stating that it was "not appropriate" for the Church to ordain "practicing" (non-celibate) homosexuals. Conservatives breathed a great sigh of relief. This remained until 1991. In 1989+, bishops Spong and Righter in Newark ordained "practicing" homosexuals in defiance of the GC resolution of 1979. Conservatives exploded and declared war. From 1991 to 1997, conservatives and liberals fought an open war in the Episcopal Church on the issue of the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals. General Conventions in this period were contentious to say the least. To make a long story short, the liberals won in this period. As a result, from 1997 to 2015, the Church openly approved of the ordination of homosexuals, confirmed a "practicing" homosexual as a bishop, established liturgical blessings of same-sex unions, and adopted same-sex marriage. It was a total victory for the reformers. Five dioceses voted to leave the Episcopal Church, something they had not done for the three earlier reforms.

Why did the last reform lead to schism when the first three reform movements had not?

There are several factors that should be taken into consideration is addressing this problem.

1. The issue of homosexuality was different than the earlier three because it operated on two levels, morality and polity. Many conservatives sincerely believed that the "practice" of homosexuality was sinful. They quoted the half-dozen verses in the Bible that they said upheld their view. If homosexual behavior were sinful, the Church should not condone it, let alone put "practicing" homosexuals in positions of authority and leadership. Liberals, on the other hand, held that homosexual behavior was morally neutral (amoral) and that the Bible verses were all debatable in context. The verses really proved nothing. Liberals insisted that homosexuals deserved human rights just as African Americans and women had. The Church must not turn away from them.

The Episcopal Church never had a full, open discussion of the issue of homosexuality and morality. It was far too difficult. Instead, the Church opened the back door and made a de facto acceptance of homosexuality by opening up ordination to non-celibate gays. By allowing ordination, the Church was in fact giving unspoken recognition of the amorality of homosexuality. This, however, was something the conservatives did not see until it was too late. The great battle that occurred around Bishop Robinson in 2003 had actually been settled years earlier "under the radar." The ultra-conservatives (about a third of the conservatives) refused to accept the legitimacy of the Church's reforms for homosexuals and resolved to have foreign primatial oversight for themselves.

2. A major difference between the first three reform movements and the fourth was in organized resistance. In 1996, the right-wing PAC, Institute on Religion and Democracy, funded by deep-pocketed right wing backers, set up the American Anglican Council for the purpose of diminishing the "liberal" Episcopal Church. They focused on the big issue of the day, homosexuality. From then on, the well-funded, organized, focused AAC sponsored and guided the resistance movement that eventually produced the diocesan votes for schism. By January of 2004, the AAC had played a major role in creating the Anglican Communion Network, a union of a dozen ultra-conservative dioceses. In 2007-08, four of these dioceses voted to leave the Episcopal Church, a major coup for the AAC.

3. Another major difference between the first three and the fourth reform movement was in foreign ties. There was little to no foreign connection to the first three. With the fourth, all that changed. In 1997, AAC sponsored the first union of American ultra-conservatives and equatorial African bishops. The common bond was opposition to rights for homosexuals. From 1997 to 2016, the tie appeared to grow. In 2000, the primate of Rwanda sponsored the first Episcopal schismatic group, the Anglican Mission in America (based in Pawleys Island, SC). After that Nigeria and Uganda also set up missionary districts to tie in the American ultra-conservatives. In 2008, the equatorial African Anglican primates took the lead in setting up GAFCON and gave the Jerusalem Statement that condemned homosexuality and rejected the authority of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. In 2009, GAFCON and the four breakaway American dioceses set up the Anglican Church in North America as the replacement province to take the place of TEC as the legitimate Anglican province in the U.S. In 2016, however, the primates began to back away from their stand and failed to defend ACNA in the Anglican Communion meetings of that year. Nevertheless, the support of the equatorial African Anglicans bishops has been crucial in the American schismatic movement.

4. One should also consider the role of technology. The Internet began in 1995. It revolutionized information and greatly facilitated communications around any number of causes. On Anglicanism in general, David Virtue's "Virtue Online" played a major role in publicizing the "orthodox" (anti-homosexual-rights) viewpoint. In South Carolina, Kendall Harmon's "Titus One-Nine" fulfilled a similar role on the local scene. One must not underestimate the power of the new communications.

5. Fatigue. One must not underestimate too the cumulative nature of the reform movements. By the 1990s, the conservatives reeled from battle fatigue. They had been fighting and losing for years. Homosexuality was the last great battle in a long war, but by then the fighters were battle weary. In 2003, with Bishop Robinson, it finally occurred to them that they had lost the last campaign and the whole war. Their appeal to the Anglican Communion to set up a "covenant" to force the Episcopal Church back went nowhere. The most exhausted of them threw in the towel. The last straw was the Church's election of a woman as presiding bishop in 2006, and a "liberal" one at that. At that very moment, the first ultra-conservative bishop (Iker) stood in the House of Bishops and demanded a foreign primate. It was the beginning off the end for Ft. Worth, San Joaquin, Quincy, and Pittsburgh.

6. Another point worth considering is the backlash of the angry white man. Equality for blacks, women, and homosexuals meant that the traditionally monopolistic white man would never again have unchallenged power. He would have to share with others. It is even possible that South Carolina's schism of 2012 was a delayed reaction to the civil rights' movement of the 1950s-70s. At that time, diocesan records revealed a loud protest against the Episcopal Church from large, conservative parishes in Charleston, but Bishop Temple at the time managed to keep the diocese on an even keel. After Temple retired in 1982, hostility to the national Church exploded in the diocese. 

In sum, the fourth reform movement on homosexuality led to schism because of the nature of the issue, the well-organized resistance, the foreign support for the TEC dissidents, the Internet, cumulative fatigue, and the backlash of the angry white man.

All of these factors were evident in South Carolina after Bishop Allison appeared in 1982. The last one, however, the angry white man, is impossible to document or quantify. In the thirty years after 1982, the Diocese of South Carolina built up hostility to the Episcopal Church that derived largely from the issue of homosexuality. The outcome of this was the schism of 2012. 

All things considered, the Episcopal Church weathered the opposition to the four great reforms well. Five of the 111 dioceses voted to leave, making less than five percent of the Church. This meant that more than 95 percent of the Church supported and accepted the reforms. Considering the dramatic magnitude of the changes, this is remarkable. Still, it is not insignificant loss for the Church.

If you have questions about the history of the schism in SC that you would like me to discuss in future posts on this blog, please e-mail them to me at . 

The next appropriate question might be, "Was there a pre-meditated conspiracy to make a schism in South Carolina?" (That is, was the shism in SC a planned event or just an accident of history?) 


After four years of researching and writing on the history of the schism in the Episcopal Church diocese of South Carolina, I would like to share with you some of my observations. There are too many of these to put in one posting. I will divide them into small groups. The first I would emphasize is the use and misuse of history. As a student of history this struck me the hardest.

1. Denial. I found that on both sides there was denial of schism. I found not a single instance in which a leader of either side ever used the term "schism." The secessionists used euphemisms as disaffiliation, disassociation, and realignment. The Church side preferred reorganization. The only people who ever used the term "schism" were those of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, and they did not use it often. They tried, in vain, to warn people of the schismatic trajectory of the diocese.

The bare truth is that schism occurred. It is a verifiable and empirical fact. The old Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina split up into two separate dioceses, one called the Diocese of South Carolina and one called the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. That was a schism, pure and simple. 

Denial of history is never justifiable. It occurs a lot but it is never right and can sometimes lead to destructive consequences. 

The ancient Greeks taught us it is best to know the truth, even if it hurts, because the truth leads to wisdom. Oedipus Rex was the classic expression of this. We must learn from this. It is indeed better to know the truth, even if it is exceedingly painful.

The first lesson that people on both sides of the schism need to learn is that there was a schism.

2. Spin. While denial was disappointing, the positive spin that both sides employed was no more justifiable but was more understandable. Each side pretended that what was happening was necessary and good. They had to justify what they were doing.

In reality, the schism caused a great deal of human suffering. Virtually every parish and mission split up. Old friends parted, and communities turned against each other as loss and bitterness set in. According to the statistics, 10,000 people of the old diocese were displaced by the schism. About half of those were in the churches that stayed with the Episcopal Church and half were people who fled from the schismatic churches. The 50 parishes and missions that left the Episcopal Church lost 26 % of their active membership as a result of the schism. By the year 2015, the Diocese of South Carolina stood at 56 % of the size it had been when Bishop Lawrence arrived seven years earlier, in 2008.

It is hard to spin figures as these, but the DSC did so. The leaders insisted they were taking the diocese away from sin and heresy and toward true religion, "the faith once delivered" as they were fond of saying. They promised a better day in the Anglican Realignment with support from GAFCON and other ultra conservatives. 

Refugees flooded from virtually all of the 71 local churches of the pre-schism diocese. On the Episcopal Church side, 10 "worshipping communities" formed in spots all the way from Georgia to North Carolina. They met wherever they could: living rooms, bar-be-que restaurants, funeral homes, boat docks, borrowed churches, banks, offices, old schools. On the other side too, two worshipping communities formed. In the end, there were thousands of innocent victims who were forced out of their church homes through no fault of their own. 

Besides the human cost, there was the expense of resources. God only knows how many millions of dollars have been spent on lawyers on both sides. The litigation has gone on for nearly four and a half years now and in five different courts. And, it is not over, far from it.

Bottom line---the schism was costly in human and material terms. This is a fact.

3. Demonization. Far too often, both sides demonized the leaders of the other side. This, of course, was directly related the the two items above. This was most disappointing among people who claimed to be Christians. This kind of behavior gives all of Christianity a bad name.

I was appalled at the way Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori was maligned by the anti-Church crowd, even to her face. Some of the remarks about her from partisans on the Internet were shocking. In addition, the secessionists made a serious charge against her, that she was out to get rid of Bishop Lawrence in order to flip the diocese from "orthodox" to "liberal." There was no evidence to support this charge.

On the other side, the pro-Church side was quick to denounce Bishop Lawrence as the source of the schism. In fact, the diocese had been moving toward schism from the Episcopal Church for 25 years before Lawrence appeared. The permanent trajectory of hostility to the Episcopal Church really began in the 1980s under Bishop Allison who established the principle that ideological purity took precedence over institutional integrity. The Lawrence episcopate was the last stage of a long-term schism by increments. Moreover, he was far from being alone. There was a diocesan leadership coalition committed to a hostile interface with the Episcopal Church years before Lawrence arrived. He was put in office by actions of this coalition. 

Along with denial of history came misuse of history. This came from the secessionist side in attempts to justify their actions. The diocesan leaders insisted the diocese existed before the Episcopal Church, that it never surrendered its sovereignty to the Church, and retained the right to secede from the Church at any time. 

In fact, the national Episcopal Church began organizing and held its first national meeting in 1784. The leaders invited the South Carolina Anglican churches to form a state organization for the purpose of sending delegates to the national convention in order to draw up a constitution and canons that would be binding on the whole Episcopal Church. In 1785, the South Carolinians accepted the offer, organized, and sent representatives to the national meetings. They were highly enthusiastic. They sent delegates to Philadelphia who signed the Church constitution and canons in 1789 for South Carolina. Accession was instant and unconditional. At home in South Carolina, church leaders recognized this. They even set aside their aversion to bishops in order to keep the peace in the national church. They had only high enthusiasm for the national church from then on to the Civil War. In fact, the national Episcopal Church existed before the diocese and the diocese enthusiastically and automatically accepted the sovereignty of the national Church. The separation in the Civil War had nothing to do with their attitudes to the national Church. It was from the necessities of the war; and as soon as the war was over the diocese went right back into the national Church as if nothing had happened.

The secessionists' historical construct was a self-serving misinterpretation of history. 

History is the art of gathering the facts, organizing them into a coherent narrative, and interpreting them logically and reasonably. We can disagree about the interpretations of history, but we cannot differ on the facts.

In sum:

Schism occurred.
The schism was painful and costly.
Both sides demonized the other.
The secessionists misrepresented the facts of the history of the diocese. 

In future, I will continue with more observations on the history of the schism.