Thursday, October 26, 2017


Autumn is the second best season in the garden, after spring. The seemingly interminable hot and humid summer of the South has passed. Cool and dry air has finally arrived from Canada, and not a moment too soon. Many of the plants are at their best now, in full growth and flower, putting on their last and best show of the growing year. In a few days frost will arrive here and the deciduous plants will do what they always do, drop their leaves and go into a winter's sleep to rest up for next year's burst of growth and beauty. The perennials will fall to the ground to escape the cold. The evergreens will hunker down waiting out winter. The sun has mercifully moved down in the sky to throw a soft light and shadow anew replacing the glaring and searing furnace of the summer sky. This is a delightful time for strolling around the garden, and for doing garden work. Let us take a break from the stress of debilitating church politics and renew our souls amid the wonders of God's creation. This is my garden, today, October 26, 2017.

Camellia japonica 'Daikagura' Variegated.
A strikingly beautiful camellia that blooms before frost, from September to November, with large blossoms of variegated pink and white. A good choice for a fall-blooming camellia. We think of camellia as a winter flower, but actually there are varieties that bloom in fall and others in spring.

Banana tree and Blue Star (Amsonia, "Hubricht's Bluestar').
Bluestar shines in spring covered with blue "star" flowers. In autumn it turns banana yellow. It is getting there. The banana tree never produces fruit because it has to have two years of growth. In most of the South, banana trees die down to the ground in winter. 

When I first placed St. Francis here years ago, he was out in the open. Now he is surrounded by growth of all kinds. I think he would approve. Besides, the garden has lots of happy birds. I supply them with a variety of natural foods. They repay me with their beauty and song. I think he would like that too. (I am already missing the hummingbirds. They have left for the winter, to return in April. I have lots of them too.)

Camellia sasanqua 'Setsugekka'.
There is a ring of alternating white and pink full-grown camellia bushes around a tree, three white and three pink. All are in full bloom in October. This is the white blossom.

Camellia x 'Autumn Pink Icicle'.
This is the pink blossom.

A trellis arch leading into a pathway on one side of the garden. On the arch is jasmine and climbing rose. The palm is a Windmill Palm tree, the most cold-hardy of all palm trees.

Looking toward the central lawn. On right is Loropetalum "Plum Delight'. The clump grass is Japanese Silver Grass  (Miscanthus sinesis condensatus "Cabaret'). The large tree is elm. The small tree on the left is Grancy Greybeard. The shrub in the lower left is forsythia. The thin upright evergreens are Italian Cypresses.

One of these days, when I get more tech savvy, I will post a video of my garden. I have made many DVDs of the garden with my video camera over the fourteen years since I bought the vacant lot and began planning, planting, and tending my little Garden of Eden. My modest garden has been great therapy. First, however, I will have to figure out how to transfer a file from my camera to my blog. I will put that on my "to do" list before next spring.

I hope you enjoyed this walk through my garden, and I hope you enjoy too the gardens all around you, large and small. We are in a lull period now awaiting two monumental events in the schism, the mediation and the SC supreme court response to DSC's appeal for recusal or rehearing.

Sunday, October 22, 2017


Adam Parker, of the Charleston Post and Courier, announced publication of my new book, A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina, in the "Happenings" section today, October 22, 2017: "Scholar pens history of local schism." He called it "a comprehensive account of the conflict between the church and the now-disassociated diocese." Find Parker's generous remarks here . 

The book is available at the Gifts of Grace bookstore of Grace Church Cathedral, in Charleston. The shop is located in Hanahan Hall. Find more information on the bookstore here .

Wipf and Stock, the publisher, is now offering the book in paperback and hardback with an e-book edition to appear soon. Find their link here . They have the paperback discounted from $62 to $49.60 and the hardback from $87 to $69.60.

Amazon is also offering the book. Find their link here . They are listing he paperback at $61.51 and the hardback at $84.89. 

The paperback edition of the book will also be available at the annual diocesan convention meeting of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, in Spartanburg, on November 3-4, and at the meeting of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, in Hilton Head, on November 10-11. I expect to be present at both for book signings.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

OCTOBER 18 --- 

Five years after the schism, we are finally nearing the resolution of the legal issues between the two sides. The litigation officially began on January 4, 2013 when the independent diocese (DSC) sued the Episcopal Church essentially claiming 1-the legal rights of the old diocese, and 2-the local ownership of the properties. This began the litigation in the South Carolina state courts. Three months later, the Episcopal Church diocesan bishop (of TECSC), sued the bishop of DSC in federal court for violation of the Lanham Act, a federal act protecting copyrights. The Church bishop essentially asked the court to recognize him, and not the DSC bishop, as the legal bishop inheriting the old diocese. This began the litigation in the United States courts.

At present, the litigation is divided into three avenues: state court, federal court, and mediation. Let's look at where matters stand in each.


DSC's suit against TEC and TECSC went to trial in the circuit court of Dorchester County in July of 2014. On Feb. 3, 2015, Judge Diane Goodstein issued a decision awarding all issues to DSC.

In June of 2015, TEC/TECSC offered a compromise settlement. The Church would recognize the 36 parishes' outright ownership of the local properties in return for the entity of the old diocese. DSC flatly rejected this offer.

The South Carolina Supreme Court held a hearing of the appeal of the circuit court decision on September 23, 2015. On August 2, 2017, the Court released its decision. It recognized the trust control of TEC/TECSC over 29 of the 36 parishes and returned Camp St. Christopher to TECSC. Otherwise, it deferred to the federal court. Thus, the state supreme court reversed the bulk of the circuit court decision.

On September 1, 2017, DSC filed three petitions for rehearing in the SC Supreme Court. The major one requested: 1-that Justice Kaye Hearn's opinion (in the Aug. 2 order) be vacated (removed), 2-that Justice Hearn be removed from participating in the petition for rehearing, 3-that if the rehearing without Hearn should be deadlocked, the Chief Justice would appoint a fifth justice to break the tie, and 4-as the alternative to the above three, the court order a new rehearing with new oral arguments before a new court (the present court instead of the court that heard the case on Sept. 23, 2015).

DSC filed a 345-page paper for its petition for recusal of Hearn. It ranged from the silly, quoting Internet blogs, to the serious, affidavits of purported authorities on judicial ethics, Lawrence J. Fox and Nathan M. Crystal. Much of the case against Hearn rested on her membership in the Episcopal Forum and in St. Anne's Episcopal Church, the continuing Episcopal congregation in Conway SC. DSC lawyers said Hearn should have recused herself from the case in view of her conflict of interest.

TEC/TECSC filed a response on September 18 basically making two counter-arguments on Hearn. They said church membership is not grounds for recusal, and DSC lawyers failed "timeliness" (they should have raised the issue to start with, not 22 months after the hearing). 

The next day, Sept. 19, two retired judges in SC filed "Amici Curiae" (friends of the court) briefs defending Justice Hearn's role in the case and denying any infringement of ethics rules.

On Sept. 25, DSC filed in the SCSC, a "Response" to TEC/TECSC's Sept. 18 paper, once again arguing Hearn was in violation of ethics rules, her opinion should be removed, and she herself should be excluded from the case.

On October 13, DSC lawyers filed a "Response" to the two judges' brief of Sept. 19 reiterating their charges against Hearn.

Thus, since August 2, 2017, there have been nine legal actions entered into the SC Supreme Court: the Aug. 2 decision of the Court, DSC petition for time extension on Sept. 1 (denied), DSC's three petitions for rehearing on Sept. 1, TEC/TECSC's response to DSC's three petitions on Sept. 18, TEC/TECSC's Amici Curiae of Sept. 19, DSC's response of Sept. 25 to TEC/TECSC, DSC's response of Oct. 13 to the Amici Curiae. Apparently (at least let's hope) this is the end of the back-and-forth in SCSC. If you are dizzy from all this, you are not alone.

We are now awaiting SCSC's response to DSC's three petitions (Sept. 1) for rehearing in the SCSC.

Will the South Carolina Supreme Court grant a rehearing?

Reminding everyone I am not a lawyer, this is what this layman sees:

Petitions for rehearing in the Sc Supreme Court occur often. The vast majority are denied. However, there was an occasion, this year, in which the SCSC responded to a petition for rehearing. It was in the case of Harleysville Group Insurance v. Heritage Communities, Inc. The court originally heard the case on June 14, 2016, then rendered a written decision on January 11, 2017. Shortly thereafter, there was a petition for rehearing. On July 26, 2017, the court denied the rehearing but at the same time issued a revised written decision to supersede the original one. This was to reflect the new briefs that had been presented. I do not pretend to understand anything about this case as it involved complicated insurance laws, so I cannot say why the justices decided to revise their original decision.

Thus, as I see it, there is precedent for the SCSC to issue a new opinion to replace an old one even if they decide not to have a rehearing. 

I have also found examples in which the court granted petitions for rehearing, but the only ones I have seen dealt with corrections to small technicalities, such as dates. As far as I can tell, the court has not, at least in recent years, granted a rehearing on the issues of a case. 

What DSC is asking is unprecedented. They are requesting of the court much more than a simple rehearing. They are calling for one of the justices to discard her opinion, remove herself from the case, and have the court appoint a tie-breaking justice (who would not have been present for the hearing). And, this demand is appearing for the first time 22 months after the court hearing. This is radical. Can you imagine the precedent this would establish in the court system? If the court accepted this, justices and judges forever after would be subject to threats of retribution for their decisions. The whole integrity of the independent judiciary would be corrupted.

As I see it, it is most unlikely the SC Supreme Court will agree to anything DSC is requesting. Church membership is not grounds for recusal. Hearn was an Episcopalian and a member of the Episcopal Forum. So what? Membership does not prove a thing. In fact, it is erroneous to say that the Forum orchestrated the charges that brought the restriction of Bishop Lawrence. The case against Lawrence in 2012 was drawn up by 24 individuals (neither Hearn nor her husband), communicants of the Diocese of South Carolina. Even if they were members of the Forum, the 24 were acting on their own, not as representatives of the Forum. The Forum as an entity had nothing to do with the Lawrence's restriction or removal. As for the argument Hearn had something to gain by making the decision, where was it? The local DSC parish was one of the seven allowed to remain independent. 

When will we know? Consider the fact it took the court six months to respond to the rehearing in the insurance case this year.


Judge Richard Gergel, of the United States District Court, in Charleston, is handling the case of vonRosenberg v. Lawrence (has been updated to include Bp Adams). In August he set a schedule of end of discovery by December of 2017, and trial in March of 2018. However, on Aug. 30 he ordered a mediation. There is now a "stay," or recess, during the mediation period. If the mediation fails, the stay will be lifted and the process will resume in the federal court.

In this case, the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina are essentially asking the court to recognize the Church diocese as the legal heir of the pre-schism diocese (specifically asking that the Episcopal Church bishop be recognized as the Episcopal bishop). The SC Supreme Court decision gave a majority opinion in favor of this, but deferred to the federal court to decide finally since federal trademark takes precedence.


As I understand it, mediation is fairly routine, at least in cases as large and important as this. The federal court rule book says mediation can last up to 30 days with another 14 for the writing of an agreement. The first session has been set for November 6-8 in Columbia guided by Judge Joseph Anderson, the senior federal judge appointed by Judge Gergel.

Both sides have agreed that all issues, state and federal are to be considered. 

Mediation does not require settlement, but it obviously encourages the two sides to try for an agreement. Any settlement would have to be mutually agreeable. This implies compromise, or give-and-take. However, it is not occurring in a vacuum. There is already a body of legal judgment that would have to be considered in any arrangement.

If the sides adhere to the rule book (and they have not so far), we can expect to know by early December if there is not to be a mediated settlement, and late December if there is a written deal. If an agreement is reached in the mediation, it becomes final when written and signed by the parties. Along the way of mediation, all talks are confidential. The public will not know the outcome of the mediation until there is an announcement of failure, or a written agreement is produced. I imagine we can expect one or the other in December.

Between now and Nov. 6, all parties should be engaged in prayerful preparation for the negotiations that could end all of this mess once and for all.

In sum, there are three parts of litigation going on now. In the first, we are awaiting a response from the SC Supreme Court to DSC's petitions for rehearing. I doubt very much the court will agree. If not, DSC has the option of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is extremely unlikely SCOTUS would take a case based on state property and corporate law. They deal in national issues.

In the second, the federal case is "on hold" pending the mediation.

In the third, mediation is on and talks are to begin shortly. Whether anything will come of this is anyone's guess. The Church is going in with the much superior position. However, as long as the petitions for rehearing are pending in the state supreme court, neither side will be able to assert its demands well. There will be too much uncertainty. It is hard to see mediation working until the state supreme court issues a decision on rehearing. Given the court's slow process, we have reason to doubt there will be a decision very soon.

Nothing is finally resolved, but we are getting nearer all the time to a resolution of the legal issues of the schism in South Carolina. I still believe that chances are good it will all be over within a year from now. And, at this point, the advantage is with the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church diocese. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017


It was five years ago today that the schism in South Carolina occurred, October 15, 2012. It is appropriate now to reflect on that momentous event.

As of today, October 15, 2017, the schism is approaching its most critical period. Two monumental events are about to happen, the South Carolina Supreme Court's response to the independent diocese's (DSC), petition for a rehearing, and the initial mediation session of November 6-8. Both of these will have enormous consequences for the future of both sides of the schism. Our focus now is on the near and long term future, but in order to know how to proceed onward, one must know how one got to the present. This is why we need to review, at least briefly, what happened five years ago.


The people who made the schism in South Carolina had two immediate goals:

1-to remove the diocese intact from the Episcopal Church. This would include the legal rights, assets, and properties of the old diocese.

2-to have the parishes leave the Episcopal Church owning outright their local properties.


The schism was the result of creeping increments spanning a thirty year period. 

Bishop Allison (1982-1990) established an adversarial interface with the Episcopal Church primarily because of the Church's reforms in favor of the inclusion of and equal rights for homosexual persons. He cloaked this as a religious issue, old-fashioned orthodoxy, which he championed, against modernist relativism, which he said too many Church leaders advocated. Allison packed the diocese with all the "orthodox" clergy he could giving it an indelibly conservative stance.

Bishop Salmon (1990-2008) defended the institution of the  national Church while siding with the ultra-conservatives (those who refused to accept the validity of TEC's pro-homosexual reforms). He tried to enforce TEC's Dennis Canon (parish property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal diocese). At the same time he promoted the ultra-conservative anti-homosexual-rights agenda.

After the 2003 General Convention, that approved of a non-celibate homosexual man as a bishop, Salmon introduced a top-down secretive decision-making process that remains in place. He also joined the Anglican Communion Network, an ultra-conservative alliance of a dozen dioceses, the forerunner of today's Anglican Church in North America.

After the 2006 General Convention, Salmon denounced the choice of the new presiding bishop and called for Alternate Primatial Oversight, that is, oversight of DSC by a primate outside of the Episcopal Church. This idea failed.

Bishop Lawrence arrived in 2008 having written articles defending diocesan "dissociation" from TEC and the submission of TEC to the (anti-homosexual-rights) majority of the Anglican Communion. Nevertheless, he vowed to adhere to the discipline of TEC. DSC continued to accede explicitly to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

After the 2009 General Convention, that set up a process to develop liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions, Lawrence presided over a convention that declared virtual independence from TEC. The special convention of Oct. 24, 2009 asserted local sovereignty and resolved to withdraw DSC from the governing bodies of TEC. The March 2010 diocesan convention gave Lawrence the sole right to interpret the constitution and canons. The special convention in Oct. of 2010 completed the de facto declaration of independence from TEC by voting to revoke the accession to the canons of TEC and by revising the corporate charter to remove TEC. After this, DSC recognized only the Constitution of TEC. 

By this point, a virtual state of war, albeit a one-sided one, existed between DSC and TEC. Victimization became a common theme in DSC, that is, Bishop Lawrence was being persecuted by the leadership of TEC who were out to remove him as bishop and flip the diocese from "orthodox" to liberal. The campaign of the victimization theme would bind the majority of communicants to defend their bishop in a siege mentality. It worked.

In 2011, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops investigated Lawrence and voted that his actions had not met the threshold for charges of abandonment of the communion.

At the very moment when Lawrence was cleared by the DBB, he issued quit claim deeds for all the parishes, in direct disregard of the Dennis Canon (convention had revoked accession to TEC's canons in Oct. of 2010).

The year of 2012 was the final stage of the long schism by increments. The General Convention of that year was sure to adopt a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions. This would cap a lengthy process in TEC of inclusion of and rights for homosexual persons in the life of the Church. After this, the issue of homosexuality was likely to fade away in the Episcopal Church. The DSC leaders prepared to make their last stand. 

In the first half of the year, the DSC leadership set the stage. Plans were made for pension and insurance coverage outside of TEC. Bank funds were shifted around. Lawrence worked tirelessly campaigning across the diocese. In addition to his usual visits, he conducted 28 "bishop's forums" to inform people of the impending crisis. The Standing Committee planned the events that the deputies would carry out in the upcoming Convention sessions. 

When the 2012 GC did meet, the DSC carried out its pre-planned actions and Lawrence staged a dramatic walk-out from the House of Bishops in protest of the reforms favoring homosexual and transgendered persons. DSC leaders returned to SC to declare a major crisis.

The DSC leadership apparently planned the action of the schism between late July and October 2, 2012. There was an ultra-secret meeting of the leadership on August 21, 2012, that, although we cannot document it at this time, apparently was the conference that laid out the plan for the final diocesan break from TEC. On September 18, the DSC Standing Committee discussed secession from TEC and asked Lawrence for authoritative guidance on how this could be done. On October 2, 2012, Lawrence, his aides, and the Standing Committee met in secret. Upon Lawrence's "authoritative" ruling in a 16-page letter, the Committee unanimously resolved to remove the DSC from TEC if TEC took any action of any kind against Lawrence, something everyone knew had a good chance of happening in light of the quit claim deeds of last November. This Oct. 2 resolution remained a tightly held secret among the two dozen DSC leaders.

The next day, October 3, 2012, Lawrence met in New York with Bishop Andrew Waldo, of Upper South Carolina, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to discuss "creative" ways to keep DSC in TEC. Lawrence did not reveal the secret plan which was actually a trap for the Presiding Bishop. The three failed to arrive at any "creative" suggestions other than to meet again. Lawrence left the meeting agreeing to meet again on October 11. Just before the 11th, Lawrence refused the meeting on excuse of a funeral in Florence. The meeting was re-set for October 22. However, on October 13, the Presiding Bishop was in Atlanta, and asked Lawrence to meet her there for talks. Lawrence refused. (In fact, Lawrence refused to meet the PB in person after Oct. 3).

Meanwhile, also in secret, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops met to investigate Lawrence a second time. Mainly owing to the quit claim deeds, which were not a part of the 2011 investigation, the DBB voted on September 18, 2012, to certify that Bishop Lawrence had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church primarily because, by issuing the deeds, he had willfully violated the Dennis Canon. The PB received formal notification of this on Oct. 10. She could not communicate it to Lawrence in person since he refused to meet her on Oct. 11 and Oct. 13. She scheduled a telephone call for Oct. 15.


Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori had a conference call including Lawrence, Wade Logan (Lawrence's chancellor, or lawyer), and the Disciplinary Board for Bishops. The PB told Lawrence that, following the DBB decision, she had to place a restriction on him. He was not to perform any acts as an ordained person until the restriction was lifted. She placed the restriction as of 12:00 p.m. (noon) of that day, October 15. The PB also told Lawrence she wanted this to remain confidential until their meeting of October 22. According to the TEC timeline, Lawrence agreed with this. Jefferts Schori wanted a peaceful and quick solution to this problem before word could get out. Lawrence did not tell Jefferts Schori at that time about the secret Oct. 2 resolution for schism. 

Lawrence knew exactly what Jefferts Schori's call meant and he swung into action immediately afterwards. In effect, he rejected all that the PB had said as he rejected the "discipline" of the Episcopal Church. Confidentiality disappeared. He called chancellor Logan and got the green light. By 1:30 he was on a conference call with the Standing Committee relaying the news. The DSC leadership of no more than two dozen people agreed that the diocese had "disaffiliated" with the Episcopal Church as of the moment of the restriction, noon. This meant that a part of the Oct. 2 resolution kicked in, calling of a special diocesan convention in 30 days to make the required changes in the diocesan constitution and canons removing all references to the Episcopal Church. The convention was not to be called to decide on secession from TEC. The leaders declared that was already done, by the Standing Committee, as of that day. At the end of the day, the self-declared schism was still a tightly-held secret among the two dozen diocesan leaders. In the view of the entire DSC leadership, they, and the diocese itself, had all left the Episcopal Church once and for all, and had done so as of noon, Oct. 15, 2012.


With the schism still secret, on October 16, Lawrence met with the convocation deans and relayed the news of "disaffiliation" to them.

On October 17, Lawrence called Jefferts Schori and announced that DSC had withdrawn from the Episcopal Church and therefore he was no longer subject to Church rules. This was the first she, and Bishop Waldo, knew of the secret plan for schism. The DSC leadership announced to the diocesan clergy and the rest of the world, the news of the diocesan break from the Episcopal Church. It was two days after the schism that the diocesan clergy were officially informed of their disaffiliation from the Episcopal Church. This situation forced the clergy and the communicants to choose between going along with the diocesan schism or staying with the Episcopal Church.

Lawrence did not meet again in person with the Presiding Bishop.

Shortly thereafter, the Standing Committee directed the diocesan lawyers to begin legal actions to "protect" the diocese against TEC.

On Nov. 17, a special convention met representing 55 of the 71 local churches. With little dissent, the delegates affirmed the "disaffiliation" of Oct. 15 and declared that Lawrence was the bishop of the diocese. The canons were rewritten to remove all references to the Episcopal Church. 

The schism was complete. 


1. Bishop Lawrence was not kicked out of the Episcopal Church. He voluntarily left the Church.

2. Bishop Lawrence was not convicted of anything. He was only charged by the DBB. Had he stayed in TEC, he would have had the option of submitting a simple letter to the Presiding Bishop or pleading his case in the House of Bishops. The PB or the HOB could easily have removed the restriction against Lawrence and restored him as bishop of the diocese. 

2. The Episcopal Church did not "assault" the Diocese of South Carolina. The actions concerning Lawrence were for the bishop alone. The Disciplinary Board for Bishops and the Presiding Bishop's restriction were for Bishop Lawrence only. They had nothing to do with the diocese.

3. The Presiding Bishop tried to resolve the issue of the Disciplinary Board's charge against Lawrence quietly and quickly after Oct. 10. However, Lawrence refused all in-person meetings with the PB after Oct. 3.

4. The diocesan leaders made a premeditated secret plan to remove DSC from the Episcopal Church. This was a set-up. The plan was a trap for the unsuspecting Presiding Bishop. This was the conclusion of the victimization theme. The majority of the diocese rallied around their bishop and left the Episcopal Church.

5. The schism was made in secret by no more than two dozen people and handed down to the clergy and the communicants. This was an action of the DSC leadership. The schism did not arise from the ordinary clergy and people of the diocese.

For more on the above, see my book, A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina. Information on it may be found here . 

Addendum, Oct. 16.    MUST READ---today's post by Steve Skardon at scepiscopalians (see it here ), "Breakaways Approaching Mediation with Guns Ablaze." It describes well the meltdown in the independent diocese since it lost in the state supreme court on Aug. 2. DSC appears to be in total disarray with its leaders flailing about madly at their perceived adversaries, primarily one of the justices on the supreme court and the local Episcopal Church bishop. So much for the Rev. Jeff Miller's pious talk of a few days ago about "the Christian way." Just exactly how this "all-guns-ablaze" attitude against the Church side is going to help DSC in the mediation talks with these very people remains to be seen. The first mediation session starts in 21 days.



Everyone should take a moment of silence today to recall five years of schism. 

The schism in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina occurred at noon on October 15, 2012. If one cannot take a minute at noon, one should take some time during the day to reflect on what has happened in the five years since that fateful time.

I for one will do that and will return with my thoughts on this somber anniversary.

Monday, October 9, 2017


Last month, the Episcopal Church released its most recent membership statistics, through the year 2016. Find this information here . The new figures show the year-to-year change in membership of the Church diocese, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. 

Before the schism of 2012, there were 71 local churches (parishes and missions) in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. At the schism, 21 of these remained with the Episcopal Church, and 50 left with Bishop Lawrence. Before the schism of 2012, the 21 churches that stayed with TEC held a baptized membership of 5,781. After the schism, the Church diocese counted 30 local churches. In 2014, these counted 6,387 members, an increase of 10% over 2011. The next year, 2015, these 30 counted 6,706 baptized members, a rise of 16% overall, and 5% in one year. The new figures, for 2016, show the Church diocese with 7,053 members, an overall increase of 22% since the schism, and 5% over one year. In sum, the churches of the Episcopal Church diocese in South Carolina grew from 5,781 members just before the schism to 7,053 in 2016, a gain of 22% since the schism. To recap:  2011: 5,781 members;  2014, 6,387;  2015, 6,706;  2016, 7,053. There is a clear pattern or constant rise in membership in the Church diocese.

The 50 churches that adhered to Bishop Lawrence as the independent Diocese of South Carolina, counted 21,993 communicants before the schism. Communicants were active members. In 2013, the year after the schism of 2012, these 50 churches listed 17,999 communicants, a decline of 18%. The 50 local churches of DSC lost some 4,000 members as an immediate effect of the schism (overall DSC lost 9-10,000 members in the schism, counting both the loss of members and the loss of the 21 churches that stayed with TEC). In 2014, DSC listed 16,361 communicants, a fall of 26% since before the schism. The next year, 2015, DSC  claimed 15,556 communicants, a decline of 29% since the year before the schism. Altogether, the 50 DSC churches lost 6,435 active members in the four years between 2011 and 2015. To recap: 2011: 21,993;  2013, 17,999;  2014, 16,361;  2015, 15,556. 2015 was the last year of figures for DSC. The diocese's own statistics show an unmistakable pattern of continuous loss of membership since the schism.

Overall, the Diocese of South Carolina fell from 27,670 communicants when Bishop Lawrence arrived in 2008, to 15,556 in 2015, a decline of 44%. In other words, the Diocese of South Carolina is now only slightly more than half as large as it was when Lawrence was consecrated bishop in January of 2008. Over 12,000 communicants have left the Diocese of South Carolina since Lawrence's arrival. The budget has also declined, by a third.

Nevertheless, the DSC media are still repeating the myth that the schism was overwhelmingly popular in the diocese. They boast that 80% of the people backed it. This figure is misleading. The 80% counted all baptized members in the 50 churches at the time of the schism. As we have seen 4,000 members left these 50 churches at the schism. In fact, of the 71 churches in the pre-schism diocese, 55 were present at the special convention of Nov. 17, 2012. 6 of these 55 abstained from voting, leaving 49 of the 71 to vote. Thus, about 2/3 of the local churches favored schism from TEC. While this was obviously a majority, it was not the huge mandate the leaders claimed at the time and are still asserting. 

The loses in some local DSC churches are startling. St. Michael's of Charleston lost 27 % of its members after the schism. Old Saint Andrew's lost 43%. St. Helena's of Beaufort fell 45%. St. Philip's of Charleston declined by 25%. (See my new history of the schism for detailed statistics.) Only one local church, Church of the Cross in Bluffton, has shown any significant gain in membership since the schism. Meanwhile, in the Church diocese, Grace Church Cathedral has ballooned in membership making it now the largest of all the 71 churches of the old diocese.

All of these dizzying statistics might not mean much except for the fact that Bishop Lawrence and others made a major point before the schism that the Episcopal Church was in death spiral decline. At one point, Lawrence called it a comatose patient on life support. The implication was that while "liberal" religion was shriveling away, conservative faith would boom with growth. Given the statistics we now know, the exact opposite is the truth. It is the "liberal" Episcopal Church diocese that is rising while the "conservative" independent diocese is in relentless decline in membership. Moreover, this is in spite of the well-known fact that the national Episcopal Church is experiencing long-term membership decline (it has lost about 50% of its membership since 1967). The 22% rise in the Episcopal Church diocese of South Carolina between 2012 and 2016 makes it the fastest growing Episcopal Church diocese in the United States.

What is most important about all this is that the remaining communicants in 29 parishes, now in DSC, will, in almost certainty, have to choose whether to stay with the buildings and return to TEC or leave the buildings and form communities in exile on their own with DSC.

The leaders of DSC can no longer make the credible argument to their communicants that their diocese is growing while the Church diocese is doomed to decline. Statistics do not lie. They show the opposite. This is something the communicants of DSC need to consider as they face the choice of which diocese to follow.   

Sunday, October 8, 2017


The schism in South Carolina occurred five years ago. At long last, reality may be setting in on the independent diocesan side. On October 15, 2012, the leaders of the Diocese of South Carolina declared the diocese to be "disaffiliated" from the Episcopal Church. They were sure they could leave the Church with the diocese and all its properties intact. A month later, a diocesan convention affirmed this belief. It has taken a long time, but reality may be finally arriving to the officials of Coming Street and their allies. The turning point in this long haul was the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017, returning 29 of the 36 parishes in question, plus Camp St. Christopher, to the Episcopal Church and the Church diocese. The majority of the Court justices declared that the Dennis Canon did indeed become effective in South Carolina, at least as the parishes acceded to it (only one of the five justices, Jean Toal, said the Dennis Canon did not become effective in SC). 

At first, the independent diocese went on a furious backlash against the state Supreme Court, even making a major effort to overturn the Aug. 2 decision by removing the decision of one of the justices, Kaye Hearn, and ultimately the justice herself, from the case. This was extreme, never-heard-of desperation. At the same time, the diocese made a major public relations effort under the banner of "freedom of religion." Exactly what they thought they were going to gain from this furious campaign remained to be seen. Attacking a justice of the Court was more likely to make the other justices rally around her in defense. The double attack appears to have fallen flat.

On August 30, the U.S. District Court judge, Richard Gergel, in Charleston, ordered a mediation between the two sides. Nevertheless, the independent diocese refused even to admit the news of the mediation. There was stony silence on that side.

Then, on October 4 (just 4 days ago), the independent diocese finally admitted to mediation as it announced the organizational meeting for mediation that took place on the 4th. All of a sudden, the whole attitude of Coming Street seems to have changed. From attacking the Episcopal Church, they are now talking conciliation.

Nothing points out this reversal more than the writings of the Rev. Jeff Miller, the rector of St. Philip's Church, in Charleston. In the midst of the all-out barrage in the public relations campaign of August and September for "religious freedom," Miller published an op-ed in the Charleston Post and Courier, "Court Ruling Imperils Freedom to Worship, Sanctions Confiscations." Read it here . The title tells it all, but I encourage you to read it. It was hard-hitting against the Episcopal Church, and even against the Court, at least implying the Church, aided by the Court, was trying to seize the property of the people.

After the mediation meeting of October 4, the whole attitude of the independent diocese apparently changed, and no where more than in Miller's writing. The Rev. Miller wrote a letter to his parishioners at St. Philip's calling for prayers for the Episcopal Church. Absent was the denunciation of the Episcopal Church, of Justice Kaye Hearn; gone was hard-hitting talk of religious freedom. Read Miller's letter to St. Philip's here . Kendall Harmon reprinted it on Oct. 7 under the heading "The Rector of Saint Philips, Charleston, writes his Parish about the proposed mediation process in the South Carolina Anglican-Episcopal Dispute." 

Why the reversal of attitude? Obviously, mediation is a give-and-take process that relies on the good will of both sides to make a compromise. The independent diocese is in the inferior position in litigation. The state supreme court ruled against them. The federal court is likely to side against them. It behooves the diocesan leaders to appeal to the good nature of the other side if they want to gain anything in mediation. Keeping up an all-out attack against their opponents would be self-defeating in mediation. Moreover, it is highly unlikely the state supreme court will agree to a rehearing of the case as DSC is asking. So, having lost in state supreme court, and facing a probably loss in federal court, the diocese needs to make the best deal they can in the mediation. It is their best hope for the future.

This apparent reversal of attitude is stunning. In the first place, Miller told his parishioners not to expect to "prevail": It would be unwise to assume that this will necessarily resolve the litigation or guarantee that we will ultimately prevail. In other words, do not assume the independent diocese will keep the buildings.

In the second place, Miller called on the faithful to pray for the Episcopal Church side! To my knowledge, this is the first time since the schism of five years ago that a leader of the independent diocese has called for this. It may not seem to be much, but from my perspective this is major news. Miller wrote:

Please remember Bishop Lawrence and our legal team as you pray, but also include Bishop Skip Adams and the legal representatives from TEC. It may be difficult to bless our adversaries and pray for those who appear to persecute us, but it is the Christian way. It is our hope that in ALL things Jesus Christ may be glorified, so pray especially that God's will may be done on earth as it is in heaven...

To this, we can only say Amen, and thank you to the Rev. Jeff Miller. Even though one may take issue that the Episcopal Church has "persecuted," or is persecuting anyone, (I for one would take issue with that unfounded assertion), surely Miller is right that we all should pray for both sides in the month before mediation begins. Everyone should be glad to see bitterness and hatred being replaced by "the Christian way." It is long overdue. Better late than never.

As I have said before, I think we are at the beginning of the end of a long and sad chapter in an otherwise very long and glorious history of the great Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. One must not let exhaustion cloud the view of a brighter future.

Saturday, October 7, 2017


The primates of the Anglican Communion have adjourned their meeting of 2-6 October 2017, in Canterbury. On Oct. 6, they issued an official communiqué, available here . It contained this paragraph:

It was confirmed that the Anglican Church of North America is not a Province of the Anglican Communion. We recognised that those in ACNA should be treated with love as fellow Christians.

This rejected the aspiration of ACNA as an Anglican "province" and gave de facto confirmation that the Episcopal Church is the one and only province of the Anglican Communion in the United States.

33 of the 39 primates of the Anglican Communion attended the conference. Three boycotted the meeting in protest of the presence of the Americans: Uganda, Nigeria, and Rwanda, the three hardest-line provinces opposing equal rights for homosexual persons. Three other primates were absent for other reasons. This means that a majority of the GAFCON/Global South primates were present. At this point, we cannot know the role of these primates in the meeting, but obviously the majority of Anglican primates approved of the communiqué. 

Actually, the primates had rejected the ACNA in their "gathering" of January 2016. At that time, GAFCON/Global South abandoned the ACNA, with Foley Beach present. They said if the ACNA wanted to join the Anglican Communion, it would have to go through the Anglican Consultative Council, but at the same time they discouraged the ACC from admitting ACNA. When the ACC met in Lusaka in April of 2016, there was no mention of ACNA. Meanwhile, the Jan. 2016 gathering issued "consequences" (punishments) for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada. These were roundly ignored by the ACC. The consequences were inconsequential.

The primates' meeting of this week slapped the same "consequences" on the Episcopal Church of Scotland because of its support of same-sex marriage. However, enforcement of such was left up to the Archbishop of Canterbury: The Archbishop of Canterbury will take steps within his authority to implement this agreement. In fact, the ABC has no authority to intervene in any province of the AC. He is only a figure-head.

As a strike against the ongoing ultra-conservative incursions into progressive Anglican provinces, the communiqué strongly denounced unauthorized invasions by Anglican bishops into other dioceses. This was clearly a reprimand of the GAFCON/Global South coalition cross-border interventions that have been going on since the year 2000 and have gained strength in view of the rise of pro-homosexual policies in the North American and European provinces.

In general, the primates reaffirmed their unity while admitting differences: In our last meeting in January 2016 we made a clear decision to walk together while acknowledging the distance that exists in our relationships due to deep differences in understanding on same-sex marriage. We endorsed this approach, which we will continue with renewed commitment.

It was also interesting to note what the communiqué did not say. It did not mention the "consequences" for the Americans and Canadians. The consequences (sanctions, or punishments), of 2016, had a term of three years which means they remain on the books until the year 2019. The meeting this week ignored the earlier "consequences" for the Americans and Canadians.

In sum, the Anglican Communion, and the Archbishop of Canterbury have won another victory for union. The crisis of schism in the Anglican Communion, that came to a head in January of 2016, has passed. The GAFCON/Global South Anglican sub-set has failed to split the Communion into two groups, fundamentalist-leaning (anti-homosexual rights) and progressive (pro-homosexual rights). In effect, the Anglican Communion has reaffirmed its historic nature as 39 independent churches, each left to decide its own policies and procedures. The ultra-conservatives' 20-year effort to recreate the Communion into a fundamentalist-leaning confessional church has failed. I think we have to give a lot of credit for this to Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

This year, the independent Diocese of South Carolina joined the ACNA. The leaders of the diocese repeatedly called the ACNA "Anglican" and a "province." No doubt, many of their followers believe they are in a province of the Anglican Communion. This is not true. Such a notion has now been officially refuted, once and for all, by the Anglican Communion. The Diocese of South Carolina is not in the Anglican Communion and has no prospect of ever being in the AC. This is something the communicants of DSC need to consider as 13,000 of them, in 29 parishes, will soon face the choice of returning to the Anglican Communion or remaining adrift at sea.


Thursday, October 5, 2017


Mediation will begin on November 6-8, 2017. According to the U.S. District Court rule book, mediation may last up to 30 days with another 14 days for preparing a written agreement. However, the court is not strictly adhering to the rule book.

The two sides are: the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina on one side and the Diocese of South Carolina on the other. Both sides have agreed that all issues are on the table for negotiation.

Within the month before mediation starts, there is a good chance that the Supreme Court of South Carolina will respond to DSC's three pending petitions for rehearing. I think it is all but certain the court will deny these petitions. What DSC is asking is unheard-of. A response from the court will help greatly to prepare the way for a possible deal between the two sides. IF the court decision of August 2 stands, TEC/TECSC will hold 29 parishes and Camp St. Christopher. It will also be in the superior position in the federal court since the SCSC has explicitly deferred to the fed court to settle the diocesan issue with opinion in favor of TEC/TECSC.

It is a fact that mediation will begin in a few weeks. However, mediation does not require an agreement. If the two sides fail to reach a mutually acceptable deal, the mediation will end and the litigation continues in court.

Going into mediation, the Church side is in the superior position. The DSC side has the least to lose and most to gain from a compromise agreement. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017


My new book, A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina, is available for purchase at the Grace Church Cathedral bookstore in Charleston and at online sources.

The book is an extensive, detailed, well-documented narrative history of the causes, events, and effects of the 2012 schism in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. It was published on August 9, 2017.

The publisher, Wipf and Stock, of Eugene OR, have posted the book on their website for ordering online. For online orders, the book is discounted from $62.00 to $49.60. This is the paperback edition. 

To see more information on the book and/or to order it online:

For those who do not want to order online, the book may be ordered on the telephone at Wipf and Stock, 541-344-1528.

The book may also be ordered from Amazon and other online suppliers.

At the moment, only the paperback edition is available at Wipf and Stock. The hardback and e-book editions will appear within a few weeks.