Monday, November 27, 2017

NOVEMBER 26, 2017

Thanksgiving is over and life is settling down again. And so, we return to the schism in SC. Where do matters stand now in the ongoing legal war between the independent Diocese of South Carolina (DSC) and the Episcopal Church (TEC) and its diocese (TECSC)? And, what can we expect in the near future?


---The South Carolina Supreme Court (SCSC) ruled on Aug. 2, and reaffirmed on Nov. 17, that 29 of the 36 parishes in question plus Camp St. Christopher remain under trust control of TEC and TECSC. 

---Mediation is still set to resume on December 4, 2017, having been in recess since the initial session of November 6-7.

---DSC has filed a new lawsuit against TEC/TECSC in the circuit court of Dorchester County. On Nov. 19, DSC submitted a "Complaint" against TEC/TECSC claiming payment under the "Betterments Statute" for "improvements" on the properties that the South Carolina Supreme Court (SCSC) awarded to TEC/TECSC in its August 2 decision that was reaffirmed in its Nov. 17 decision. In this, DSC gave de facto recognition of the property ownership but is demanding payment before surrendering the properties.

---DSC announced on Nov. 19 that it was preparing to appeal the SCSC decision to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS).

---The case of vonRosenberg v. Lawrence is on stay during mediation but is still active in the U.S. District Court in Charleston. Judge Richard Gergel originally set a schedule for a trial in March of 2018.

If anything, the litigation is more complicated now than ever.

Only the leaders of DSC know if the two new legal actions are meant to put pressure on TEC/TECSC in mediation or are intended for the long run. All things considered, I suspect the latter.


(I am speaking for myself only as a non-lawyer with no official connection to either diocese.)

---Immediate attention must be given to the Complaint against TEC/TECSC that DSC filed in the circuit court on Nov. 19. 

     TEC/TECSC will certainly reply to DSC's new lawsuit. My guess is they will file a Motion for a dismissal of DSC's Complaint. As I see it, TEC and TECSC would have a strong argument for dismissal since DSC's Betterments claim was not in any way a part of the original lawsuit of Jan. 4, 2013 nor in any of its amendments. I do not see how DSC can retroactively insert new claims in a suit after it is closed.

     If Judge Diane Goodstein is assigned the case (circuit court of Dorchester Counrt has only two judges), I imagine that, if the case is not dismissed, TEC/TECSC will petition for a change of venue, or for Judge Goodstein to recuse herself from the case. The logical place for this case is the circuit court of Charleston County.

     Personally, I really do not see how DSC's Nov. 19 Complaint has any merit since it was never part of DSC's original suit that ran all the way from Jan. 4, 2013 to Nov. 17, 2017. DSC had almost five years to insert Betterments into the case. It did not. As with the issue of recusal, timeliness would have to be an important factor here.

---DSC has 90 days to file an appeal with SCOTUS. That would put the deadline at February 15, 2017. As I understand it, DSC could request an extension. That would postpone it another couple of months. Thus, DSC's threat of appeal to SCOTUS would hang over over the mediation and possibly over the federal trial even though it is highly unlikely SCOTUS would take the appeal.


Anything is possible, but at this point I doubt that there will be a compromise settlement. Here is my view:

---DSC has shown no interest whatsoever in mediation, let alone a compromise settlement.

     Federal Judge Gergel ordered the mediation on August 30. This was announced on Sept 1 by the TECSC. DSC refused even to mention mediation until Oct. 4.

     The two sides met briefly, on Nov. 6 and 7 then recessed until Dec. 4. This indicated a certain unwillingness to settle differences. Bear in mind DSC's petitions to SCSC for rehearing were still active at that time. 

     DSC sumbitted its Complaint to the circuit court on Nov. 19, just 2 days after SCSC's final rejection of their petitions. It strains credibility that the 34-page Complaint and the accompanying Summons could have been thrown together in 48 hours. They were obviously prepared well in advance. This suggests DSC was expecting to lose in SCSC, and instead of taking up issue of reparations in mediation, decided to launch a new lawsuit against TEC/TECSC. The issue of Betterments could have been raised privately in mediation. 

     DSC's announcement of appeal to SCOTUS adds to its disinterest in mediation as a way to settle differences.


---DSC has a long history of rising animosity against the Episcopal Church and a refusal to compromise. The examples of this are too many to list here. I will just point out some of the most obvious:

     1. In 2011, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops examined a strong case against Bishop Lawrence. When DBB publicly announced the investigation, DSC leaders launched a furious backlash against the DBB refusing to cooperate in any and every way. They even hounded the DBB attorney Josephine Hicks off the case. The DBB finally decided to give Lawrence the benefit of the doubt. They refused to charge him with abandonment of the communion. Just six days before the announcement, Lawrence proclaimed that DSC had issued quit claim deeds to all parishes. This was flagrant disregard of the Dennis Canon, a law of the Episcopal Church. Thus, just as TEC gave Lawrence plenty of leeway, he confronted the Church with an offer it could not refuse. 

     2. On Dec. 14, 2011, a group of bishops from Province IV journeyed to Charleston to discuss with Lawrence his issuance of the deeds. The DSC leaders greeted them with a blistering tirade. Lawrence met them; absolutely nothing came of it.

     3. In the General Convention of 2012, GC considered a liturgy for the blessing of same sex unions. Upon SC's proposal, GC added "the Thurlow Amendment" holding that no one could be forced to accept the reform. Local option would apply. Even so, SC voted against the liturgy. 

     4. From August to October of 2012 there was a secret movement in DSC for secession from TEC while at the same time, Lawrence talked with Bishop Andrew Waldo and Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori claiming he was seeking ways SC could stay in TEC. On Oct. 2, the DSC standing committee passed a secret resolution to make schism. The next day, Lawrence met Waldo and Jefferts Schori and did not tell them of DSC's plan. Lawrence then refused to meet with Jefferts Schori again. On Oct. 15, Jefferts Schori placed a restriction on Lawrence who still refused to divulge the secret plan. On Oct. 17, Lawrence announced DSC had "disaffiliated" from TEC. The Presiding Bishop tried hard to appease Lawrence as he seemed to work hard to take DSC out of TEC.

     5. Jefferts Schori tried to work with Lawrence for another seven weeks as he steadfastly refused to deal with TEC. Finally, she issued Lawrence a Renunciation and Release. Upon this, Lawrence could have gained reinstatement in TEC by 1-a letter to Jefferts Schori, or 2-an appeal to the House of Bishops. He refused both.

     6. In June of 2015, TEC/TECSC offered a compromise settlement with DSC: TEC/TECSC would recognize the local ownership of the parish properties if DSC would hand over the entity of the diocese, a swap of parishes for diocese. DSC rejected this right off.

Time and again the Episcopal Church tried to make peace with the unhappy diocesan leaders, tried to appease Bishop Lawrence. Nothing came of it.

In sum, the DSC leaders refused for many years to compromise with TEC, indeed even to maintain friendly relations. DSC displayed open and growing adversarial relationship with TEC at least from the Robinson affair of 2003 onward.

It is important at this point to recall the big picture. I see the DSC leaders as front line soldiers in a great culture war. They are not inclined to get along with, let alone compromise with the enemy, the Episcopal Church. This culture war is a backlash against the Great Democratic Revolution of the Episcopal Church which occurred from the 1950's to at least 2015. This was the time TEC adopted a strong social consciousness and devoted itself to righting the wrongs in a society of which it was an integral part. The Church devoted itself to human rights for African Americans, women, and homosexuals. A small ultra-conservative minority of the Church refused to accept the body of reforms and bolted the TEC on the heels of the last reforms, for homosexuals. With their African allies, they promoted the Anglican Realignment and created an alternative church, the Anglican Church in North America opposed to reforms for homosexuals but divided on the issue of women's ordination. It is now literally dividing on that issue. Nevertheless, all of the ultra-conservative secessionists still see TEC as the apostate enemy to be crushed or severely wounded in the name of "orthodoxy." 

The DSC soldiers in this culture war appear to be in it for the duration. They know they have lost the properties. I imagine their aim now is to obstruct the implementation of the turn over of the parishes and the diocese as long as possible and drag out any end just as long as they can. This is a rear guard action, or scorched earth. And, this could go on for  long time to come.

In sum, I think we should restrain our hopes and expectations for a peaceful and eminent end of the terrible war in the old Episcopal diocese of South Carolina. There is more destruction to come and I do not see what else the Episcopal Church side can do about it but persist with the litigation to the end. At this point it seems to me clear that this legal war will be settled only by the courts.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We all need a holiday, at least I do. For us southerners, it a great time of the year to celebrate the four F's we value in life: Faith, Family, Food, and Football (not necessarily in that order). We need a break. We need our four F's.

We need to look up to keep from being overwhelmed by looking down. Today there good reasons to feel down, 1-what happened yesterday, 2-November 22, and 3-Roy Moore. Let me explain.

My head is still reeling from the whiplash of yesterday. As you can see in my post, I started out the day optimistic and hopeful that DSC had accepted reality and wanted to wind up the legal war soon on honorable terms. Then, I learned that DSC slapped TECSC with a new lawsuit. And, then, I learned that DSC is going to appeal the SCSC decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Reality set in. I blamed myself for the mess I made in the blog. I of all people should have known better than to trust too much in the good will of people at war. 

DSC's new lawsuit, that they entered in the circuit court of Dorchester County (where the trial was held in July of 2014), does not make much sense to me. I do not even know that a "Complaint" is legally speaking. What is the difference in that and a "Motion"? Even stranger is the crazy vagueness of the whole paper. It demands repayments for improvements made in both the diocese and the 29 parishes without giving any specifics of time, conditions, or anything else. My first question is, If DSC can demand reparations, why cannot TECSC charge rent for the use of the buildings for the five years since the schism? This whole Complaint is just bizarre. But, if you think about it, it is not out of character given the history of the schism.

Appealing to SCOTUS is ridiculous. There is virtually no chance SCOTUS will accept this case, mainly because it was tried and judged entirely on state laws of property and corporations. SCOTUS does not do state law. They only take cases involving U.S. constitutional issues. DSC did not argue the case on constitutional issues, as freedom of religion. Quite the opposite. They avoided these like the plague (except when it was useful for them), with a lot of help from Judge Goodstein.

Assuming that the new lawsuit and the appeal to SCOTUS are sincere and genuine and not just negotiation ploys (and at this point we have no reason to think otherwise), as of this moment, I think mediation is dead. I just cannot see DSC making a compromise on anything. They showed yesterday they are ready to fight to the last breath. It is the Vietnam Syndrome---destroy the diocese to save it. I grew up in a fundamentalist church. I know this rigid mind set. The word is divided into warring opposites. People who believe God is on their side and Satan on the other (remember Lawrence once called his courtroom adversaries the spiritual forces of evil) are not given to compromise. It is do or die. This is what I see here. If I were a lawyer for TECSC (which I most assuredly am not) I would start playing hardball. Get eviction notices to remove illegal occupants from Church-owned buildings. Prepare to go on to federal court and regain the diocese and put it in effect asap. Let's get real. DSC has never shown a ny interest whatsoever in compromise. Do not forget DSC's disdainful rejection of TEC's generous offer of settlement in June of 2015 when the church offered to swap diocese for parishes. Look where that got them.

It is useful at this point to go back to the big picture. The SC schism is part of the Anglican Realignment. This started 20 years go as an attempt to destroy or greatly diminish the Episcopal Church that ultra-conservatives believed had gone apostate, mainly by granting inclusion for and equal rights to homosexuals and women. A coalition of American ultra-conservatives and equatorial African bishops formed the Anglican Church in North America to be the (anti-human-rights) replacement province for TEC in the Anglican Communion. The breakaway diocese in SC joined ACNA. The Anglican Communion has rejected the pretensions of ACNA. The replacement strategem has failed. But, in SC, the culture warriors are leaving behind a scorched earth as they are being defeated. God only knows what will be left in SC when they are finally through and accept the inevitable. Think Vietnam.

2-November 22.
If you are my age, you will remember exactly where you were on November 22, 1963. I remember every detail of that day. I was a junior at F.S.U. It was beautiful, sunny and warm in Tallahassee as I made my way just after noon to French class, taught by a native French woman. In the hall, a group of students huddled around a transistor radio and whispered the news. We all fell into our desks in disbelief. I will never forget what the teacher said, "Do you as American citizens wish to cancel class"? She need not have asked, but we were all touched by her concern for our nation. I walked out into the warm sunshine thinking I  must be in a nightmare, this must not be real. At 5 p.m. the Episcopal chapel held a (packed) service and read the Litany. We all walked around like zombies. No one could eat. We found the nearest television and sat transfixed, on that day, Friday, and the rest of the weekend. We thought it was the end of an age. We did not know, could not have known, that it was really only the beginning of a wild decade.

3-Roy Moore.
The situation here in Alabama is still fluid but I sense it is firming up and Moore will probably get elected, narrowly. The whole state Republican party leadership has rallied around Moore. The governor says she believes the women but is voting for Moore anyway. It is better to have a credibly accused child molester and sexual predator in the U.S. Senate than a "liberal Democrat" (translation--one who favors a woman's right to choose). The culture war here in Alabama is still very strong and is driving this race. People will vote for Moore because they believe he stands for the old-fashioned values they cherish (equal rights for women are not among them). And, alas Alabama will embarrass itself again.

Alabamians are well aware of how practically the rest of the country looks down on them (thank God for Mississippi). In a way, this defensiveness makes them even more tribal. This is a big reason why football is so important in Alabama. It is the state religion. And, this weekend is the biggest event of them all, the Alabama-Auburn game. The whole state comes to a stop on this Saturday afternoon every year. And for one moment, one side can feel good about superiority. Better yet for one to go on to the national championship, which happens often. Football gives Alabamians the feeling of superiority they lack in virtually everything else. So what if they pay Saban mega-millions? He is a winner. He makes us feel better about ourselves.

So, it is time for a holiday. It is time to take a break from the ongoing tragedy of the schism in South Carolina, memories of a horrible day, and the moral lapse of voting for Moore. It is time to recharge our batteries with the four F's. I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. I continue to be amazed, and a bit puzzled, at the number of people who read this humble blog. It has had 63,000 hits since the SCSC decision of August 2. So, to all of you out there in cyberspace, have a great weekend and be thankful for what we have.  

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Today we learned that the independent Diocese of South Carolina is refusing to accept defeat in the South Carolina Supreme Court. On November 19, DSC filed a lawsuit in the circuit court of Dorchester County to enact the Betterments Statute by way of a jury trial. DSC is demanding an undisclosed amount of money before handing over any property.

Then, today, November 21, the DSC Standing Committee voted to appeal the SC Supreme Court decision to the United States Supreme Court. Find the DSC statement here .

For me, the Battle of the Bulge comes to mind.

I will return with commentary soon.


(with updates)

Nov. 21, a.m.:
There are signs that the legal war may well end sooner rather than later.

On yesterday, Monday, November 20, 2017, the website virtueonline posted a letter from Bishop Mark Lawrence to the independent Diocese of South Carolina, dated November 20, 2017. Find it here . Scepiscopalians also posted it here . I have searched the Diocese of South Carolina's website and have not found the letter there. Apparently, this letter was sent internally in the diocese and was not meant for publication. It is public now.

The letter is very important and potentially game changing. Look in the second paragraph:

All parties to the case have previously discussed the timetable for a filing under the Betterments Statute. Legal counsel can give you best directions for how to proceed with that process.

What is the Betterments Statute? Find a description of it here .
As I read it (and remember I am not a lawyer), the Statute says people who occupy property belonging to someone else are entitled to recover the costs of whatever improvements they made when they occupied the property in the mistaken belief they owned it. In other words, the DSC congregations are entitled to receive repayment for whatever investment they made since the schism in the parish properties that have been returned to TEC/TECSC.

If I am reading this right, this is a monumental turning point in the history of the schism. It says that DSC has accepted the loss of the 29 parishes. However, I do not want to assume too much, and I caution people the same.

Here are points I see in this:

---If "all parties" have discussed the Statute, does this mean it has been discussed in mediation? Mediation is supposed to be confidential. If indeed it were discussed in the mediation, this may explain at least part of the reason for the recess, in order to give DSC time to research and list the repayments they are due.

---The Betterments Statute accepts the fact that the property in question belongs to someone else. The someone else in this case would be TEC/TECSC.

---This assumes that the people occupying the property identify themselves as separate from the property owners. DSC is trying to keep congregations together under DSC as these congregations leave the buildings.

---DSC is preparing people to leave the buildings of the 29 parishes in question.

---The only reason to leave the buildings is acceptance of the state supreme court decision. DSC accepts the fianality of the decision.

Just as importantly, and perhaps more so, is what Lawrence's letter does not say. It does NOT say:

---the SC supreme court decision was wrongly derived or in error. There is no recrimination whatsoever against the court, including Justice Hearn.

---DSC will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

---DSC will engage in the federal case ongoing in the U.S. District Court, in Charleston, under Judge Richard Gergel.

---DSC is exploring any other legal avenue to keep the properties.

A couple of other points in the letter:  ---it calls the SC supreme court decision "final." ---the DSC Standing Committee is to meet this morning (Nov. 21). Perhaps we will get a press release from DSC about Lawrence's letter soon.

Again, I do not want to read too much into this and I caution readers the same. However, the tone and the wording of this letter is a drastic change from the past. To me it says the DSC leaders accept the failure of their attempt to leave TEC with the properties in hand. This must be bitterly disappointing to them. They believed strongly in this. They put a great deal into it. It must be very hard for them to accept that their hopes and dreams have failed. I suggest everyone reread Lincoln's second inaugural address and that TECSC use it as the guide for the future: with malice toward none, with charity for all.

Lawrence's letter to the diocese of November 20, 2017, may well turn out to be the clear signal of the end. If so, it has been a long and hard time a coming. It is nearly five years now since DSC opened the war with its lawsuit against TEC on Jan. 4, 2013. Do you realize this war lasted longer than the American conduct of the Second World War, or longer than the U.S. Civil War? No wonder we are all exhausted. Today, I do not want even to think about the casualties and costs of this completely useless and avoidable conflict. It is too overwhelming. Let everyone on both sides just relish the thought that, at long last, and in all likelihood, peace is at hand.

UPDATE Nov. 21, 1:00 p.m.:

Scepiscopalians has brought our attention court papers filed by DSC in the circuit court. DSC has launched a new lawsuit against TEC/TECSC. Find the link to the papers here . On November 19, 2017, DSC filed a "Summons" and a "Complaint" demanding the application of the Betterments Statute. See particularly p. 4, # 10. My first question was, if the Statute were part of the mediation, why was it necessary for DSC to file a court action? Why could not this have been left as part of the mediation?

UPDATE Nov. 21, 5:00 p.m.:

On reading the new lawsuit, I am tempering my earlier optimism about an eminent settlement. I was unaware of the new suit when I wrote my morning post. I am very disappointed in the attitude of the breakaway side. They are not acting in good faith to make a timely compromise agreement. The mediation has already started and will resume on Dec. 4. This new litigation throws an ominous cloud over the upcoming mediation.

The new suit demands a jury trial. The point is to make The Episcopal Church and the Church diocese pay a great deal of money to get the property back. How much money was left undetermined. The most troublesome point to me regarded the entity of the diocese (p. 4-5 of Complaint). DSC is demanding payment for "improvements" but does not specify a time period, other than the start of the diocese in 1785 and the first incorporation in 1973. It sounds to me as if DSC may be demanding total payment of everything in entity of the diocese.

I have no knowledge of why DSC felt it necessary to file this new lawsuit. The state supreme court has already ruled the issues between the two dioceses. It is settled and final. Perhaps the motivation is to put pressure on TEC/TECSC in the mediation. Perhaps it is to buy time to prepare the congregations to find other places to meet. Perhaps it is just spite. I am sure there is a reason, but it is not apparent to me. Be sure to read Steve Skardon's post on this at scepiscopalians here .

I am not the only one disappointed in the actions of the sore losers. The Church diocese has issued a press release about the new suit. Find it here . Thomas Tisdale, the chancellor, expressed his feelings:  "This new filing is not only completely without merit, but unfortunate and inappropriate. It moves us no closer to the kind of resolution that restores unity to our diocese."  Bishop Adams appealed to the DSC leaders "to allow the people in the affected parishes to start having the necessary conversations with us to ensure that they can continue to worship in their churches. It is time to begin healing the division." Obviously, the DSC leaders want anything but healing. They may well be reverting to their old Vietnam Syndrome strategy: destroy the diocese to save it.

What all this tells me is that the leaders of DSC may not have accepted the reality of the state supreme court decision and are resolved to re-litigate the issues in another form (in the friendly circuit court, perhaps with Judge Diane Goodstein again) and to delay any settlement possible. They are obviously making it as difficult as possible for the Church diocese to regain the parishes and enact reconciliation. 

If DSC is really serious about this new lawsuit, rather than just using it as a bargaining chip, I must say my hopes for an early end to the devastating and long legal war are now deflated. The war goes on. It looks as if the DSC leaders will be dragged to a settlement only kicking and screaming. If so, TEC and TECSC will have no choice but to play hardball. 

It is with disappointment and sadness that I have to conclude now that the end of the legal war is not in sight.

Monday, November 20, 2017


The Charleston Post and Courier is biased in favor of the disassociated diocese, at least among the editors. They are quick to publish letters critical of the Episcopal Church and slow to publish those favorable. Thankfully, the paper's reporters are not biased. Adam Parker and Jennifer Hawes have done a stellar job of keeping us abreast of developments in an even-handed manner.

Putting my energies into my blog, I had not intended to write a letter to the editor of the P & C. Then, on November 5, 2017, the editors published an editorial on the front page of the Sunday editorial section entitled " End Church Dispute with Mediation." They said the breakaway diocese should be left with what it had taken from the Episcopal Church in spite of what the state supreme court had ruled. That was the last straw for me. That day, I put up a short blog piece, "Post and Courier Confused." It went viral on Facebook. Numerous people then asked me to write a response to be sent to the P & C. I did. I wrote the following and sent it to the editors. To my knowledge, they have not published any version of it. I am guessing they have no intention of publishing it. So, I will share it with you.


November 8, 2017

Letter to the Editor, or Op-Ed

There is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding floating around about the Episcopal Church schism in South Carolina, and unfortunately, The Post and Courier has played a role in the misconceptions. As the author of the long and detailed A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina, I wish to set the record straight.

On October 15, 2012, the leaders of the Diocese of South Carolina declared the diocese independent of the Episcopal Church. Fifty of the 71 local churches went along and claimed they alone owned the local properties. A minority of the old diocese remained in TEC. DSC sued TEC in state court for: 1-the ownership of the old diocese, and 2-local ownership of the parish properties.

The basic issues at stake are: 1-Does a diocese have the right to withdraw on its own from TEC, and 2-Do the local parishes own their own properties outright? TEC says no to both, DSC says yes.

On August 2, the state supreme court basically sided with TEC. It said TEC is an hierarchical institution and 29 of the 36 parishes in question remain under trust control of TEC and its local diocese. Local property is subject to TEC's Dennis Canon which holds that all parish property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and its local diocese. DSC officially adhered to this Canon from 1987 to 2010. The majority of the justices ruled that once a parish acceded to the Canon, as the 29 did, it was bound by it, as akin to a contract. It could not abrogate the deal unilaterally. In fact, courts all over America have overwhelmingly recognized the right of the church and the diocese over local property.

Freedom of religion is not really the issue here. Anyone is free to practice whatever faith he or she chooses. Anyone can leave any church at will. He is not free, however, to violate the institutional laws he had promised to obey. This is what DSC and the 50 local churches tried to do in 2012. They violated the laws of the Episcopal Church. They had no right to do that.

TEC is not now and has never been a congregational church. A parish exists only in context of the diocese. A diocese exists only in context of the Episcopal Church. Sovereignty rests in the church as a whole, not separately in the local parts, although parishes and dioceses have a good deal of control over local matters.

TEC is a unitary body of 109 dioceses governed by a bicameral legislature called the General Convention. Resolutions and canons of the GC apply to all dioceses equally. A diocese is not free to nullify church laws. A diocese is not free to leave TEC except by action of the GC. A local church is not free to own its own property outright, even if it has a deed. DSC was well aware of this all the while before 2012. In 2012, it tried to change the rules on its own. Now, the court has overruled this. Whether the mediation will reach a mutually agreeable settlement remains to be seen.

The fact is, as the court has shown, St. Philip's and 28 other churches remain under control of the Episcopal Church and its local diocese. There are 13,000 communicants in these 29 churches who, almost certainly, will soon have to choose whether to stay with the buildings and return to TEC, or leave the buildings and form communities outside. It is a hard choice, but a predictable one.

Ronald James Caldwell, Ph.D.
(Author, A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina. Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock, 2017. 546 p.)

Sunday, November 19, 2017


On Friday, November 17, 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court denied the independent Diocese of South Carolina's petition for rehearing of the SCSC's August 2, 2017 decision that awarded 29 of 36 parishes in dispute and Camp St. Christopher to the Episcopal Church diocese. Find that decision here . At the same time, the court issued another decision, this one regarding Justice Kaye Hearn and DSC's petition for her recusal. Find that Order here .

The second Order, on recusal, is most interesting. DSC had asked that Hearn be recused, or removed, from participating in the court decision on the petitions for rehearing. In addition, DSC had asked that Hearn's opinion in the August 2 decision be vacated, or removed (that would have left a tie decision, 2-2; a tie would have left in place Goodstein's decision of Feb. 3, 2015). In the second Order of Nov. 17, the five justices unanimously agreed to deny the motion of recusal, and added scathing comments about it boot. What is more, the harsh words against DSC came from the justices who were the best friends of the DSC lawyers. All of the justices agreed that the petition had to be discarded because of timeliness:  "Timeliness is essential to any recusal motion. To be timely, a recusal motion must be made at counsel's first opportunity after discovery of the disqualifying facts." In other words, the justices said it was disingenuous of the DSC lawyers to challenge a justice after more than two years in which they could have and did not. They had five months before the SCSC hearing, and twenty-two months afterwards.

DSC had asked that Hearn recuse herself from the court decision on rehearing. She did. The decision on rehearing was made by the other four justices. Two decided for rehearing, and two against. Lacking a majority, the petition for rehearing was denied. So, it would not have mattered even if Hearn had joined in the decision. The request for rehearing was turned down anyway.

In the Order denying recusal, Justice Kittredge and former Chief Justice Toal took the highly unusual steps of speaking out strongly in defense of Hearn even though these two had voted against her on the issue of rehearing. Kittredge wrote, "Justice Hearn has elected, to her great credit, to recuse herself prospectively and not to participate in the resolution of the rehearing petitions."

Toal, famous for her "controlled aggression," could hardly contain her ire at the DSC lawyers. She declared, "While I make no criticism of the respondents' lawyers for filing the motions to recuse and for vacatur, I am disappointed in the tone of these filings. They are unreasonably harsh criticisms of a highly accomplished judge and a person of great decency and integrity. The respondents' legal points could have been made without such unnecessary language."

Thus, just as I suspected, the DSC attempt at character assassination of Justice Kaye Hearn backfired. It actually made all of the other four justices rush to her defense. An attack on one justice was an attack on all of them. So, the DSC lawyers succeeded in unifying the SCSC, for the only time in this whole business. Every one of the other four justices rushed to Hearn's defense.

Here are some opinions I have about the two SCSC decisions of Nov. 17. These are just my views. I am speaking for no one else:

---This signals the beginning of the end of the legal war between the secessionist diocese and the Episcopal Church. The major decisions have been made. It is only a matter of time before the final arrangements are made.

---The Episcopal Church won a stunning victory, DSC a bitter defeat in the state courts. The state courts were the best hope DSC had of winning the legal war.

---The independent diocese's attempt to leave the Episcopal Church with the diocese intact and with the local properties in hand has failed.

---The Nov. 17 decisions clear the way for the mediation to work if it is going to do so. 

---DSC would be wise to make the best deal it can in the mediation and call an end. The federal case is set to go to trial in the next few months. Federal courts have almost invariably sided with the Episcopal Church. If the federal decision comes down entirely against the secessionists, DSC could possibly lose everything and wind up paying even more.

---The 29 parishes in question and Camp St. Christopher will return to the Church diocese.

---The DSC lawyers can delay a final settlement by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. There is virtually no chance that SCOTUS would take this case of SC law. DSC can, however, buy time by using this delaying tactic.

---The 13,000 communicants in the 29 parishes and the 104 clergy who abandoned the Episcopal Church had better be considering their futures. The future is very near.

---DSC's vicious attack on Hearn may well have been meant not to change the court decision, but to de-legitimize it in the minds of the faithful. 

---The DSC lawyers, otherwise brilliant attorneys, made several fatal mistakes in conducting their legal actions against TEC. Two of their biggest mistakes involved women. One was to try their circuit court case before Judge Diane Goodstein. Here they were too clever by half. The conduct of the trial and Goodstein's decision were so partisan, the supreme court justices openly ridiculed both. Chief Justice Toal lashed DSC lawyer Alan Runyan. She had wanted a nice, neat little decision to reaffirm her signature All Saints decision of 2009. What she got in the Goodstein decision was a stew of competing issues. As it turned out, Toal was the only justice to defend her All Saints decision. Even Justice Donald Beatty, who had signed the decision, abandoned her. 

Perhaps the worst mistake of all that the DSC lawyers made was the vicious post-Aug. 2-decision attack on Justice Hearn. It unified the court against DSC. Who Knows? Perhaps a more judicious and "decent" approach to Hearn would have produced a decision in favor of a rehearing. My guess is the DSC lawyers went for broke in attacking Hearn. I suppose they must have thought they had nothing left to lose. If so, it may indeed have broken them.

The challenges now facing the two sides are entirely different. In order to remain a viable entity, DSC must salvage what it can from this mess. It has 6 parishes. The DSC leaders' big challenge now is to move as many communicants and clergy out of the 29 parishes to form congregations in exile. This is enormously problematical in Charleston with its scarcity of available properties, even in the near suburbs.

The challenge facing the Church diocese is to find ways to make the best reconciliation possible. No doubt there will be communicants staying with the buildings, however unhappily. The diocese must reach out to them and calm their uncertainties. It must also reach out to the undecideds, the people who are not committed to one side or the other. They must be given every reason to remain with the buildings and return to the Church.

Has it occurred to you that the SCSC released its two orders, against DSC, on November 17? Nov. 17, 2017 is exactly five years after the special convention met in St. Philip's Church, in Charleston, and affirmed the schism that the DSC leaders' had made on October 15, 2012. Five years of waste. What did it accomplish other than a lot of division, hard feelings, pain, and expense? Who lost? Both sides. Who won? The lawyers. 


On Friday, November 17, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued a decision on the DSC's three petitions for rehearing. It then informed, by mail, the independent Diocese of South Carolina that it had dienied DSC's petitions. DSC received the news yesterday, Nov. 18 and posted this on their website. Find the ruling here .

As it turned out, Justice Kaye Hearn did not participate in the decision. This left four justices. Two voted for rehearing (Kittredge and Toal) and two rejected (Beatty and Pleicones). The failure to gain a majority meant the failure of the petitions. This leaves the August 2 decision final:

The petitions for rehearing have been denied, and the opinions previously filed in this case reflect the final decision of the Court.

The decision was dated November 17, 2017, and was signed by all four justices. 

DSC posted a response to the denial. Find it here .

DSC said it would seriously consider appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is extremely unlikely that SCOTUS will take the case. They take only 1% of cases requested. Too, this is a case based on state property and corporate law. SCOTUS only considers issues related to the U.S. Constitution.

The mediation is to resume on December 4. At least the lawyers on both sides have a definitive order from the state supreme court from which to work. The order leaves TECSC with 29 of the parishes in question and Camp St. Christopher, DSC with 6. Friday's decision throws the enormous weight of the matter over to the Episcopal Church side. 

I will return with more thoughts soon (interestingly enough, I am off this moment to give a talk at my local church on the schism in TEC).

Saturday, November 18, 2017


The Anglican Church in North America is a house of cards that may well be teetering on the verge of collapse. Scepiscopalians brought this up recently in its November 14 posting, "The ACNA Braces for Battle over Female Clergy." Find it here .

The basic issue dividing the ACNA is whether women should be allowed into holy orders. 

One should recall that, while homosexuality was the primary driving issue leading to the votes of five dioceses to leave the Episcopal Church, there was another important topic propelling these same dioceses, equality for and inclusion of women into the leadership of the church. It did not get the attention homosexuality got, but it was a powerful driving force nevertheless. It is now coming to the surface to fracture the fragile alliance. All of ACNA agreed that homosexuals should be excluded and that the Episcopal Church was in error, if not in apostasy. They did not agree on women. This issue is now threatening to pull down the house of cards called the ACNA.

Of the five dioceses voting to leave TEC, three had steadfastly refused to ordain women to the priesthood, San Joaquin, Ft. Worth, and Quincy (TEC established ordination of women to the priesthood in 1976). In fact, Bishop Iker of Ft. Worth, stood on the floor of the House of Bishops to demand alternate primatial oversight immediately after Katharine Jefferts Schori's election as presiding bishop in 2006. Shortly thereafter, four dioceses voted to leave TEC (to transfer to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone). In Ft. Worth there was a movement to join the diocese with the local Roman Catholic diocese. A delegation went to the RC bishop for talks. Nothing came of this. My guess is that the RC bishop sensibly refused to get entangled with the legal issues bound to arise.

GAFCON and the four "disaffiliated" dioceses created the ACNA in 2010 to be the replacement province for the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion. Two major factors brought this about: hatred of the Episcopal Church, and opposition to equality for and inclusion of non-celibate homosexuals in the life of the church. Both of these were negatives, that is, they were against something. There was no positive force that bound this disparate group of malcontents together. Thus, having established the ACNA as the non-TEC and settling opposition to rights for homosexuals, the ACNA had nowhere to go. It has been repeatedly banned from the Anglican Communion. It is not now and almost certainly never be a province of the Anglican Communion.

With that, the internal contradictions in ACNA inevitably began to arise, now to the edge of disintegration. Enter Bishop Iker. In his address to his diocesan convention on November 4 (find it here  and here), Iker declared, "We [his diocese of Ft. Worth] are in a state of impaired communion because of this issue." In other words, Ft. Worth has broken off from the Diocese of South Carolina and every other diocese in ACNA that dares to ordain women. Iker continued: "I informed the College of Bishops that I will no longer give consent to the election of any bishop who intends to ordain female priests...I have informed the Archbishop of my resignation from all the committees to which I have been assigned...Bishops who continue to ordain women priests in spite of the received tradition are signs of disunity and division."

The "disaffiliated" Diocese of South Carolina has women priests and deacons. Bishop Lawrence has ordained one woman to the priesthood and is about to ordain another, Mary Ellen Doran at Our Saviour, on Johns Island, on November 30. This means the "disassociated" diocese of Ft. Worth is no longer in communion with DSC. This also means that Iker, and the other like-minded bishops in ACNA will refuse to consent to the election of any new bishop in DSC who accepts women clergy. This raises a serious problem for the future of DSC. ACNA requires that two-thirds of the bishops (there are now 51 bishops) must consent to the election of a new bishop of any diocese in ACNA. If Iker and his friends round up one-third plus one they can control the choice of the next bishop of DSC. This gives them the power to force DSC to reject the ordination of women.

My guess is that Iker's ploy is to force the ACNA to agree to ban the ordination of women. It was only this year that the ACNA bishops argued over this issue and finally agreed to keep what they had, local option. Obviously Iker did not like this arrangement. He is adamant that women should not be allowed ordination in the church. Apparently he is willing to break up the ACNA for this. The anti-women's ordination faction in ACNA appears to be ready to pull out of ACNA if they do not get their way.

History shows that schism only begets schism, more and more. ACNA is doomed to disintegration. It may well be that ACNA will soon divide into two churches, one without women clergy, and one with. After all, Iker and Lawrence have divided. Iker has announced that he is no longer in communion with Lawrence. Lawrence is set to go right ahead and ordain a woman this month. Lawrence knows very well what this means to Iker and his cohorts. This surely looks like division to me.

What this illustrates is that, in the big picture, the Anglican Realignment has failed. This is a two-decades long attempt to destroy or diminish the Episcopal Church and replace it in the Anglican Communion with a socially conservative entity dedicated to the exclusion of non-celibate homosexuals, and to a lesser degree women clergy. The "disassociated" DSC joined ACNA in 2017 basically because it had no other viable choice outside of TEC. It joined only after five years' of wandering in the wilderness. This means both ACNA and DSC are outside of the Anglican Communion where they will remain in perpetuity. 

The South Carolina schism of 2012 has been a failure in almost every measurable way. The Anglican Realignment has failed. The ACNA is dissolving on its own. Membership and income in DSC have fallen off a cliff. DSC has lost big-time in the state court with little hope of changing that. Mediation is on, but it remains to be seen what DSC could possibly gain that would leave it a viable force. In the present picture, it will have six parishes, none in Charleston. In short, DSC has a dismal future, to say the least. For years before and after the shcism we heard a lot of boasting from DSC's leaders about God's will. Interesting that we have heard none of this lately.

I think it all but certain that the Episcopal Church diocese will resume control over the 29 parishes the state supreme court has awarded to it. The next step then is for the Church diocese to move towards a reconciliation with the 13,000 communicants now inhabiting these parishes. It will be very hard for these people to accept the fact that their leadership took them down the wrong path. No one likes to admit he or she made bad choices. Thus, these good Christians must be treated with the utmost of love and welcomed home. Home is where you go and they take you in, no questions asked. The ancestral home of the Diocese of South Carolina is the Episcopal Church.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


I can report to you firsthand that the Episcopal Church in the state of South Carolina is thriving. To be sure, the church in the eastern half, now called "the Episcopal Church in South Carolina" is battered, bruised, and diminished but very much alive and gloriously vibrant. I attended both diocesan convention meetings this month, the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, on November 3-4, and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, on Nov. 10-11. Today, I can say that I have never felt so sure that all will be well. The Holy Spirit is at work across the state.

 Upper SC met at Advent Church in Spartanburg. Check out the pictures on Facebook here . That lovely old Gothic church was packed for the Eucharist, I guessed 4-500 people. The parish house, that I found to be most impressive, was crowded with the faithful too. The theme of the meeting was reconciliation, without any overt reference to the lower state. The dinner speaker was J. Neil Alexander, dean at Sewanee and former bishop of Atlanta. Walter Edgar, dean of all historians in SC, was there too. I was given an exhibit table near the front door to display my book. I lost track of the number of people who stopped and chatted about the schism. I was most impressed by how well-informed, and how concerned everyone was. I left the meeting feeling refreshed and hopeful. I could not do otherwise, as the Sisters of St. Helena had commanded me, "lift up your heart!" I did as I was told. One does not argue with nuns, the purest of hearts.

The lower state diocese met at All Saints' Church, in Hilton Head. See the photos on Facebook here . A reported 300 people came together in spite of the fact that HH is in the very southern end of the state, almost in Georgia. Here the bookstore of Grace Church Cathedral displayed my book as, once again, many people stopped by to talk about conditions of the schism. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with old friends and new. And, once again many vibrant elements of the church were present: the Sisters of St. Helena, the Companions of the Holy Cross, the Hospitaliers of St. Martin, the Daughters of the King, Education for Ministry, the Episcopal Forum, Voorhees College, Porter Gaud, Bishop Gadsden, Still Hopes, Episcopal Relief and Development, Kanuga, and so on. 

Other than the good fellowship, what stood out to me were the budget, the bishop's address, and the therapy. Let me explain. On the budget, $602,597.61 was the figure given for 2018. The diocese is self-sustaining and has been since the first year after the schism. In the first year, 2013, the budget was $378,000,($175,000 of that was a gift of the Episcopal Church). After that year, all of the income came from the diocese. Thus, the 2018 budget is 60% higher than that of 2013 and much more than that from the diocese itself. Financially speaking, TECSC  is in good shape.

The bishop's address came at the Eucharist service on Nov. 10. "The Wisdom of the Body" was the theme, the body being interpreted in many ways. Bishop Adams declared "The holy work of inclusion must continue to be our work." The body, in its broadest sense, means the Body of Christ, and for our immediate purpose, the diocese. We include everyone. No one is excluded from the Body of Christ. "We need to participate with God in the healing," he continued, "True religion brings peace." Leadership is born in community, and we must listen to the collective wisdom of the body, the bishop added. 

The body can also mean the individual's personal body. This was the attention of the featured speaker, the Rev. Bill Redfield, a priest/social worker/therapist from New York. I have said all along there are three steps to healing from schism: acknowledge the reality of the schism, embrace the pain of the schism, and move forward with as much reconciliation and peace as possible. The TECSC leadership has indeed moved through step one and recognized the schism (DSC leaders on the other hand have never publicly uttered the word "schism"). Redfield went a long way toward accomplishing step two, working through the pain. He conducted a collective exercise  calling on each person in the congregation to evoke the emotions of the schism and to locate their physical seat in the body. He then divided people into pairs and had each spent 10 minutes talking directly to the partner. Most remarkably, Redfield asked each person to locate the physical seat of the pain, as the head, the heart, the stomach and to direct healing to that particular location. Physical healing can lead to emotional healing. I could not hear the paired-off conversations but I can tell you they were everywhere, some animated, some sad, many with tears. At the end there was a palpable emotional relief arising from the group. Redfield's remarkable exercise went a long way to getting through step two. 

I doubt that the people who made this schism have ever realized the amount of pain they have inflicted on thousands of innocent victims. However, if the state supreme court's decision holds up, they, and their followers, will feel pain soon as 13,000 communicants in 29 parishes face the choice of returning to the Episcopal Church or going out into churches in exile. They will also feel a lot of pain as they hand over the diocese and all of its assets, as Camp St. Christopher. I guarantee you there is a lot more hurt to come, and it is not far off. I hope Redfield stands by.

The chancellor (lawyer), Thomas Tisdale also made a report to the convention on the litigation. All ears perked up. He could not talk about the mediation specifically, but he did project an unusual optimism, as he said, "a clear sign on the horizon" that the conclusion of litigation is beginning to appear. He also assured the attendees that any settlement would have to have the full support of the diocese. 

These two diocesan conventions showed that the Episcopal Church is moving ahead strongly in the Palmetto State. This must be bad news to the Church's adversaries. For twenty years there has been a movement to destroy or severely diminish the Episcopal Church in order to remove its "liberal" influence in American society. This Anglican Realignment movement has failed. The Church is down but far from out. It is rebounding with vigor. I can assure you, first hand, that is the case in South Carolina.

The reactionary move to destroy the "liberal" (pro-women's and pro-homosexuals' rights) Episcopal Church started in earnest 20 years ago in a movement called the Anglican Realignment. In 1996, the right-wing PAC Institute on Religion and Democracy set up a new entity directed against the Episcopal Church called the American Anglican Council. This is the body that in essence has coordinated the move against the Episcopal Church. In 1997 AAC hosted a conference that brought the first bonding between the anti-homosexual-rights equatorial African Anglican bishops and anti-homosexual-rights ultra-conservative Episcopalians. The next year, this alliance pushed through Lambeth a resolution condemning homosexuality. Soon thereafter, foreign bishops began intervening in America. With the Robinson affair of 2003, the pace accelerated. The Chapman Memo, from an ACC official, outlined how churches could split off from TEC. AAC promoted the Anglican Communion Network, an alliance of a dozen ultra-conservative dioceses demanding alternate primatial oversight (foreign primates in America). Right after Katharine Jefferts Schori's election as presiding bishop, 4 of these dioceses voted to leave TEC. In 2008, GAFCON formed. In 2009, GAFCON and the AAC-led American ultra-conservatives formed the Anglican Church in North America. It was overtly meant to be the replacement of the Episcopal Church as the legitimate Anglican province in the United States. Finally, the Episcopal Church was to be cast aside into oblivion.

Not so fast. The Archbishop of Canterbury declared, more than once, that the ACNA was not a province of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican primates, assembled in January of 2016, declared that ACNA was not a province of the AC, and what is more, discouraged the Anglican Consultative Council from ever admitting the ACNA to the AC. The ACC refused to consider the ACNA. Meanwhile the independent Diocese of South Carolina finally decided to join ACNA anyway, in 2017. There is virtually no chance that ACNA will ever be a province of the Anglican Communion. The replacement strategem has failed. The place of the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion is stronger than ever. Both the ACNA and the Diocese of South Carolina are outside of the Anglican Communion.

As Tisdale, I too believe the dawn is breaking on the far horizon. It is far too early to declare the end of the long nightmare of the schism, but I sense we are moving in the right direction. If we have made steps one and two, we will soon be ready for step three, reconciliation.

Unless there is a most unexpected reversal of the state supreme court (something I think is extremely unlikely), the 13,000 communicants in the 29 parishes will have to make hard choices along with a lot of clergy. I think these people fall into three vague divisions: 1-die-hards who will leave the buildings to follow DSC leadership wherever, 2-die-hards who will stay with the buildings no matter what, 3-non-committals who could go either way. Their choices will depend on a complicated set of circumstances. 

I suspect it is this last group, the people in the middle, who are the micro-target of DSC's furious public relations campaign, the one they have been waging ever since the Aug. 2 SCSC decision. As they leave the buildings, the clergy who stick with DSC will need to take as many congregants as possible to form viable churches in exile. This will be especially hard in downtown Charleston where new space is non-existent. Under the SCSC ruling, DSC will have not one church left in Charleston, downtown or suburbs. DSC's public relations barrage I think is meant to demonize the Episcopal Church and to de-legitimize the SCSC decision in the minds of the communicants of the 29 parishes in question in order to keep as many people as possible with DSC.

If the SCSC decision stands, there will be reconciliation of some sort as the diocesan entity and the 29 parishes return to the Episcopal Church. This will be the greatest challenge of all, how to heal a terrible wound, how to bring peace after a long and hard war. It can be done. It will be done. After attending the two conventions, I am certain of it. 

P.S. The beauty of summer is still around as we have not had frost yet in the garden. Take a look at the garden today.

Climbing rose, "Don Juan."

Ornamental grasses are at their best right now. In the foreground is Miscanthus sinesis condensatus 'Cabaret' (Japanese Silver Grass, 'Cabaret.')

A shrub rose, "Magic Blanket."

Ice Angels Camellia, "Winter's Fire." 

Sunday, November 12, 2017


(with Update)

The Democratic strategist James Carville famously said to his staff in the 1990s campaigns, "It's the economy, stupid." The Democrats won in 1992 and 1996.

In the schism in South Carolina, the fundamental issue was, and still is, human rights. It is not basically about property, freedom of religion, uniqueness of Christ, local sovereignty, or any of the many other reasons thrown up for the break of 2012. Let's be honest. Everything gets back to whether we want women and homosexuals to have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The Episcopal Church struggled for a half century working out equality for and inclusion of African Americans, women, and homosexuals in the life of the Church. This was a movement for human rights. I call it the great democratic revolution of the Episcopal Church. However, a minority of people in the Episcopal Church remained opposed to the revolution, at least to the reforms for women and homosexuals. The intransigent ultra-conservatives who made the five diocesan schisms against the Church rejected equality for and inclusion of women and homosexuals. Hence, the five schisms including that of South Carolina.

What brings this up again is a new court paper. On November 10, 2017, the Diocese of South Carolina side submitted to the South Carolina Supreme Court, "Brief for 106 Religious Leaders as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents' Petititon for Rehearing." Find it here . This was meant to support DSC's three petitions for rehearing submitted to the SCSC on September 1, 2017. It argues that local churches must be free to own their own properties outright.

The brief is twenty pages of text followed by 106 signatures of religious "leaders" in South Carolina. Exactly one clergyman of DSC signed, the Rev. Gregory Kronz (chair of the bishop's search committee that chose Mark Lawrence). More than half of the 106 signers, 60 to be exact, were Baptists. Almost all the rest were from other congregational churches. 

The Palmetto Family Council in South Carolina is a highly conservative political action committee devoted to enacting reactionary social policies in the state government, particularly by passing measures against freedom and equality for women and for homosexuals. Check out their website home page here . Ever since the SCSC's August 2 decision favoring the pro-human-rights Episcopal Church, the PFC has carried out a robust campaign to arouse public opposition to the decision and pressure the justices to backtrack. They framed it as a campaign for freedom of religion. Actually it is a campaign against equal rights for women and homosexuals. They encouraged religious figures to enlist in the campaign online. See the list of supporters here . As of now, 113 men and 1 woman have signed. 

106 (105 men and 1 woman) signed the amici brief. 114 signed the PFC list. Are they the same names? Close, but not exactly. In fact, 70 of the 106 signatories of the amici paper were also among the 114 on the PFC form. Thus, 70 names are on both lists, that is, more than half the names on each. Thus, I wonder about what role the PFC played in this amici move. Is it just a coincidence that 70 names from the PFC list showed up in the amici brief?

There are two big problems affecting the credibility of this amici brief. In the first, it is built on untruths. The very first sentence is not true:  "For over 300 years, since before the Founding of the Nation, members of the Respondents' congregations contributed land, money, and labor in reliance on settled South Carolina law---only to have this Court divest them of their property based on a canon unilaterally adopted centuries later by a national denomination." The problem is the word "unilaterally." The truth is that the Episcopal Church adopted the Dennis Canon in 1979. Canon law is automatically applicable in all dioceses. It is law, not suggestion. The Diocese of South Carolina formally adopted the Canon in 1987. A convention in 2010 voted (illegally) to revoke the law. In other words, the diocese made the Dennis Canon part and parcel of the local church government, at least from 1987 to 2010. All parishes were part of this. 29 of the 36 parishes in question explicitly acceded on their own to the Dennis Canon. This fact was confirmed by four of the five justices of the state supreme court (only Toal differed) in the Aug. 2 decision. Thus, the Dennis Canon was not imposed on South Carolina "unilaterally."

The second big problem with the amici brief is that the issue of property, that the signatories raised, is irrelevant to congregational institutions such as Baptist and other independent associations where local churches always own their own properties outright (I know whereof I speak; I spent my first 21 years in an independent, fundamentalist Baptist church). Congregational pastors arguing that churches should own their own property is redundant. Congregation-governed churches have no superior body over them that could possibly make a property issue. Southern Baptists do have a system of regional "associations" but these are purely administrative and have no authority to interfere in the internal affairs of the self-governing congregation. Occasionally they take action to enforce common policies but the only real power they have is to expel an errant congregation from the association. This happened in my county recently when a Southern Baptist church decided to ordain women as deacons. The local association threatened to expel the church if they did. The church did and the association did. This made absolutely no difference to the church that went right on, with their women deacons, and without the association. This is the way congregational churches work. Baptist churches are congregational. The Episcopal Church is not congregational.

Let's be honest about this. As this amici paper indicates so obviously, the fundamental issue between the "disaffiliated" diocese and the Episcopal Church is human rights. The schism was not motivated by ownership of property. Property is obviously an issue, but not at the heart of the matter. So, trying to disguise this, or hide behind other issues in court will not work. And, this is exactly what the justices of the South Carolina Supreme Court saw. It is what guided them to their decision on August 2 in favor of the Church. It is highly unlikely they will backtrack. They know the issues at stake. They are not stupid, and we should not be either.

UPDATE, Nov. 13, 5 p.m.:

Now we know. It was the Palmetto Family Council that organized the signatories of the amicus brief of Nov. 10. DSC posted an announcement about the brief today. Find it here . 

Here is more evidence, as if we need it, that DSC has dissolved into frantic flailing about grasping at straws in a desperate effort to salvage something of their vanishing dream. They called the signatories "a diverse group." That is humorous. I encourage you to read the list yourself. It is anything but diverse.

The blurb also continues the outrageous untruth that DSC has been promoting since August 2 that there is no agreement among the justices: "There is no legal consensus among the Justices." The truth is there is indeed a clear majority of justices in agreement that the Dennis Canon went into effect in the state (4 of 5 justices), and a majority (3 of 5 justices) that the 29 parishes voluntarily acceded to the Canon and therefore recognized the Episcopal Church's overriding trust interest in the local properties. In the supreme court, the majority rules. It does not have to be by unanimous opinion. In fact, on Aug. 2, the majority ruled clearly that 29 parishes remain under trust control of TEC and the Church diocese. There was nothing unclear about that. 

The amicus brief continued the fiction that the supreme court has thrown church property law into confusion: "the Court's fractured decision leaves church property law in this state in utter confusion." Baloney. There is no "confusion" in South Carolina about church property. If there is any confusion, it is on the part of the people who lost in the court, not the court.

Something else that should disturb us is the fact that this amicus brief came after mediation had begun. Mediation is a negotiation period that assumes a cease-fire in the legal war. A hand-grenade like an amicus brief could threaten to blow up the whole thing. The fact that one side would do such as this diminishes credibility in their good will toward a peaceful settlement. This leaves us wondering if DSC truly wants a mediated resolution to the litigation.  

Once again, the amicus brief is so far out it is ridiculous. Congregational pastors serve churches that own their own properties outright. Period. There is no threat that anyone else will ever lay claim to their properties. Therefore, I say again, this ultra-conservative attack on the August 2 state supreme court decision is motivated by deeper factors, namely to keep women and homosexuals from enjoying the same rights and opportunities in American society that other people have. As Carville would say, It's human rights, stupid.