Tuesday, February 27, 2018



On today, February 27, the U.S. Supreme Court requested a response from the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The response would be a counter argument to the Feb. 9 petition from the Diocese of South Carolina to the court. TEC and TECSC had originally waived a response to DSC's petition in order to expedite the case.

The court's deadline for the response is March 29, 2018.

The information of this case is on the Supreme Court website. Find it here .

 Presumably this will mean the conference that the court had set for Mar. 16 will be delayed; however the court website is still listing the conference date as Mar. 16.

This is all the information I have at the moment. I will return when I have more to share.

A response does not necessarily mean anything one way or another. It just means the justices want more information from the opposing side. This happened in the Ft. Worth case. In that incident, the Church side petitioned the court for cert. The independent diocese of Ft. Worth waived its right to file a response whereupon the court requested a response. Ft. Worth did make a response and soon thereafter the court denied the Church's petition for cert. Thus, a response is not necessarily a precursor of the decision to come. 

Monday, February 26, 2018


S.C. Episcopalians has alerted us to the financial problems of the Diocese of South Carolina. See scepiscopalians.com, "Annual Meeting of Former Breakaway Parishes Promises Headaches and Delusion," Feb. 22. DSC has posted its new diocesan budget online. Find it here . DSC has also posted the parishes' "2017-2018 Pledge Report"; find it here . Both of these documents tell us a great deal about the financial health of the diocese and its local churches.

Let's begin with the diocese. In 2018, DSC is listing an income of $1,998,483. Income has steadily declined, from $2,258,311 in 2016, and $2,102,851 in 2017. This is a fall of $259,828, or 12%, in the two years of 2016-2018. Expenditures have moved from $2,245,858 in 2016, to $1,959,851 in 2018, a drop of 13%.

There are numerous cutbacks in the budget in many areas. A glaring one is the zeroing out of Camp St. Christopher, which everyone knows the SC supreme court said remains with the Episcopal Church. 

Three areas that certainly were not hit were the bishop's income, the Anglican Church in North America, and legal costs. Bishop Lawrence continues to enjoy generous support from the diocese. His direct compensation package is $210,055. He lives virtually rent free ($1/yr) in the diocesan-owned bishop's residence on Smith Street. That place is valued at between $1.5 and 2.5m. The expected monthly rent would be around $10,000. Combining his compensation and his housing, his annual income from the diocese amounts to around a third of a million dollars. (One should bear in mind he is eligible to draw retirement from the Episcopal Church retirement system. It is possible he also draws Social Security income.) Lawrence's assistant, the Rev. Jim Lewis, is also well-paid at a package of $126,639/yr.

DSC is also contributing to the Anglican Church in North America a whopping $196,848. This amounts to 10% of the diocesan budget. To put this in perspective, DSC gave the Episcopal Church $35,741 in 2010, $23,377 in 2011, and $14,924 in 2012. The last contribution, in 2012, amounted to .07% of the diocesan budget. Thus, DSC is paying ACNA 14 times as much as it last paid TEC. 

Legal fees are another matter. In 2017, DSC budgeted $50,000 for legal costs but wound up paying $298,044. And, this was just for one year. Multiply this for many years and one sees why the lawyers would want to keep litigation going. This year, 2018, DSC is budgeting $200,000, again unreasonably low considering the three avenues of litigation now underway (appeal to SCOTUS, lawsuit in circuit court, and the federal court case). This is lining up to be a very expensive year legally speaking. (A document I obtained from a DSC parish revealed that DSC expects to spend $300,000-350,000 on the SCOTUS appeal.)

Putting this in a broader perspective, the DSC budget of 2008, the year Lawrence began his episcopacy, was $2,995,289. The DSC budget for 2018 is $1,998,483. This is a decline of nearly a million dollars, or 33% in the ten years. (Membership decline is even sharper but that will be the subject of another blog post.)

Bottom line---the financial state of the DSC is not good and is getting worse. Income is going down steadily. Many programs have been cut or eliminated. Apparently, DSC has stopped drawing from endowment accounts. Yet, expenses are going up.

The overall financial condition of the parishes is no better as revealed in the "2017-2018 Pledge Report." 54 local churches were listed, each with its "NDBI" (Net Disposable Budget Income). Of the 54, 18 failed to submit reports. Another 6 showed no change in income. 12 churches reported increases in income between 2017 and (projected) 2018 for a total gain of $439,466. The largest gain was at the Church of the Cross, of Bluffton, at $100,000. Our Saviour on Johns Island and St. Paul's of Summerville also reported sizeable gains.

While 12 DSC local churches showed increases, 18 reported decreases in income for a total of $957,849. The gain of $439,466 subtracted from the loss of $957,849 leaves a net loss among the 54 churches of $518,383, or a net decrease of 30% in one year (2017-18). By far the most critical loss was at St. Michael's of Charleston. Its income dropped by a staggering amount of $400,000, or 19% (in one year!). (It should be no surprise that Kendall Harmon and Al Zadig have scheduled a three-week campaign in St. Michael's next month, but that will be the subject for another day.) Other serious drops in income came at Holy Cross of Sullivans Island (-$91,192, or 5%), Holy Comforter of Sumter (-$80,350, or -12%), and St. Johns of Johns Island (-$54,650, ot -7%). Bear in mind these are changes in only one year. 

Altogether, the total NDBI of the 54 DSC churches moved from $25,498,658 in 2017, to $23,487,425 in 2018. This is a drop of $2,011,233 or -8% for the one year of 2017-18.

Thus, to summarize, on the diocesan level, DSC's income fell by 5% in the one year between 2017 and 2018 (12% for the two years of 2016-18). On the parish level, total income of the 54 local churches declined by 8% in the year.

DSC's long term outlook is dismal, to say the least, on many levels. The state supreme court has already ruled that 29 of the 36 parishes that purported to have left the Episcopal Church really had not. DSC's chance of reversing this in the U.S. Supreme Court is about the same as the proverbial snowball's. Their chance in the federal court case in Charleston is about the same. Yet, with income going downhill, their expenses are only escalating. Since the bishop's income, contributions to ACNA, and legal costs seem to be off the table, everything else in DSC will be decreased.

What is causing the decline in the financial state of the DSC? Good question that we cannot answer now. We know there has been a serious decline in membership. Since Lawrence became bishop, DSC has lost 44% of the number of its communicants. But, I imagine there is more involved here. I know there is lawsuit fatigue among the membership, and I suspect there is a flagging confidence in the diocesan leadership following the legal reverses.

The tragic irony of all of this should be evident to everyone. For years, the DSC leaders had their followers believe God was on their side and "orthodoxy" would mean health and growth. It is hard to maintain any such fiction now.  

Friday, February 23, 2018

with Update

Feb. 23:     The Rev. Jim Lewis, assistant to Bishop Lawrence, sent an email today (Feb. 23) to the Diocese of South Carolina clergy and wardens announcing that the U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled a conference on DSC's petition to the court, on March 16. I do not know yet whether the Episcopal Church and the Church diocese have filed a response to the DSC petition with the court. I will return when I have more on this.


UPDATE (Feb. 24):  

The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina momentarily waived the right to respond to the Feb. 9 DSC petition for cert in SCOTUS on Feb. 13 and 14. TEC/TECSC could return in the future and file a response. I assume TEC/TECSC did this to expedite the process. Filing a response would have delayed the court's action on this matter by weeks or months. Waiving a response occurred in the Ft. Worth case when the Church side appealed to SCOTUS and the independent diocese of Ft. Worth opted not to file a response in the interest of speeding up the process which they believed would lead to dismissal of the petition for cert. In that case, the court asked the independent diocese to file a response which it did. After that, SCOTUS denied cert ending the matter.

The Church side's choice of no response to the DSC petition of Feb. 9, 2018, tells me the Church lawyers expect SCOTUS to dismiss the appeal right away.

On Feb. 21, DSC's petition was distributed to the justices in preparation of a conference on Mar. 16.

SCOTUS releases the results of conference decisions on the Monday following the week in which the conference occurred.
Therefore, we should know the decision at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, March 19.

See the official listing of the case on the Supreme Court website here . The case Number is 17-1136.

What is a Supreme Court "conference"? These are normally held twice a week during the court term (October-June), on Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Only the nine justices are allowed in the room. Their first order of business is to discuss the appeals for "certiorari." Four of the nine justices must vote to approve the acceptance of an appeal, that is to grant "cert." Granting or denying cert has no relationship to their opinions of the case. The choice to accept a case depends on the justices' attitude of the importance of the constitutional issues at hand. It is not a reflection of how they will judge the case. The justices then go on in conference to vote on the cases they have heard in oral arguments during the week. The decisions are usually announced the following Monday. For more on the court process see here . For more on a writ of certiorari, see here .

Thus, on Mar. 16, we can expect that the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will either grant or deny "cert," that is, they will accept the appeal from DSC or reject it. If they accept, the case will be put on the court docket for an oral hearing, after which the justices will render a decision by majority vote. If they deny, that is the end of the matter. The South Carolina Supreme Court decision of Aug. 2 will stand as the final word on the matter. In this, the court ruled that 29 of the 36 parishes in question, plus Camp St. Christopher, remained under trust control of the Episcopal Church. This decision is not on stay, meaning that the Church lawyers could move to enact the decision and reclaim the properties of the 29 parishes and the Camp.

So, what will SCOTUS decide? One factor to consider is that the court accepts only about 1% of all appeals. The most important factor is whether the justices see the issue in the case as of urgent national or constitutional importance. Odds are that SCOTUS will deny cert. As I see it, the best hope DSC has of acceptance is that the court would want to clarify its "neutral principles" guideline, that is, to differentiate between their earlier Jones and Serbian Orthodox decisions. 

Bottom line. I doubt seriously that SCOTUS will take this case mainly because of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that strictly forbids the civic state from interfering in the matters of a religious institution. The Supreme Court will be loath to take on this sacrosanct bedrock principle of American life. Time and again, the court has rejected appeals from Episcopal Church cases involving property. I expect they will do the same again next month.  

On another note, DSC is stepping up its demonization of the Episcopal Church, no doubt in preparation for the enactment of the Dec. 1, 2017 Plan of relocation of congregations to new quarters. In this case, the Rev. Al Zadig, of St. Michael's, and the Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian have scheduled three sessions at St. Michael's but we are told this is "not about politics and sexuality." Really? Read the schedule here . Sounds as if it's nothing but politics and sexuality.

I will return when I have more information on the SCOTUS events.


I have the growing feeling that the schism has turned the corner toward settlement, whatever form that may take. The end is in sight. In the deep South, winter is coming to an end and spring is bursting out in glorious beauty all around us. Times end, times begin.

This has been another difficult week. In the schism, we learned of the Diocese of South Carolina's disturbing secret plan to remove people from their home churches to make separate DSC congregations. This reminds us that the division and destruction of the grand old diocese goes on. In spite of lip service about mediation, it is clear DSC has no interest in a peaceful settlement with the Episcopal Church. It is preparing to fight on to the bitter end and break up 29 church families in the process. 

I do not want us to end this week on a sad note. I am amazed at the number of people who like my garden pictures. Therefore, I have more photos of my garden to share with us (it is a large botanical garden). Spring is here even if the calendar says it is still winter. Let's walk around my garden as it appears today:

Spiraea thunbergii 'Fujino Pink.' Loropetalum on left. Fujino Pink has tiny white/pink flowers. This one is full grown at 5'. It is one of the earliest flowering shrubs in the spring.

Spiraea arguta, "Baby's Breath Spirea." Another early flowering shrub, now in its prime with countless tiny pure white blossoms that appear before the leaves. This shrub is full grown at 6'.

Camellia japonica, 'Emmett Barnes.' A small shrub with large, pure white blossoms.

Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince). Possibly 'Cameo.' Apricot pink blossoms. Another early blooming shrub. This is a rare color for flowering quince.

Camellia japonica 'Goggy.' (Last Friday I mistakenly identified another camellia as 'Goggy.' Actually that one was 'April Tryst.' I was thrown off because it is blooming two months early. We have had summer-like conditions for the past several weeks bringing out some plants well ahead of schedule.)

Loropetalum chinesis rubrum 'Blush' (Blush Loropetalum). This is one of the most common ornamental shrubs of the South, for good reason. It thrives in almost any condition and blooms lushly starting in early spring. It can be left to grow naturally or be pruned. This bush has been left to grow. It is full grown at 8'. 

I hope you enjoyed this little walk around my garden. It is a nice way to end the week and celebrate Friday.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018




We now have the proof of what we have suspected for a long time, that the independent Diocese of South Carolina is planning to break up the congregations of the 29 parishes that the South Carolina Supreme Court recognized as remaining under Episcopal Church trust control. The hard evidence came in the form of a four-page document from the DSC headquarters, dated December 1, 2017, and sent to the DSC parishes. It was entitled "Parish Contingency Plan Template." The plan was secret. It has never been released to the public. It did not carry a signature, letter-head, or any other identification except the date, but was obviously written by someone in authority at the diocesan headquarters.  

First, I will give a transcription of the text of the Plan, then provide remarks on it.

The document:


Parish Contingency Plan Template
December 1, 2017

I. Guiding Principles - Biblically/Prayerfully Discerned starting point for planning (i.e....)

   A. People are more important than possessions.

   B. Preserve a sense of unity for as long as possible.

   C. Insure continued Gospel focus/priority.

   D. Maintain Christian witness that inspires confidence of those inside and outside congregation.

   E. Create a Kingdom Building Paradigm that would be more fruitful, regardless of the outcome of the litigation.

   F. Educate the Congregation on the possibilities ahead.

   G. Be advised by legal counsel at each stage of decisions.

   H. Communicate the theological underpinnings of why we are here today:

      1. We did the right thing to leave TEC.

      2. We are optimistic about the future, because our hope is in God (Joshua 1:9).

      3. God can use this situation to make us even stronger and vibrant church.

      4. God is always about the business of refining His people.

II. Prepare to meet the Emotional and Spiritual needs of the Parish.

   A. Communicate to the Parish a vision for the future.

   B. Give special thought to last services in current spaces.

   C. Give special thought to first services in new location.

   D. Materials to minister to children and youth in adjusting to change.

   E. Caring for our People.

      1. Education - They need to understand "Why?"

      2. Pastoral Care suggestions

         a. Group meetings or other means to process grief and loss. Don't minimize pain.

         b. Share letters of encouragement from others.

---(end of first page)-------------------------------------------------

         c. You will be surprised by who stays with you and who leaves.

         Respect and bless, to the degree you can, the choices people make.

         d. Know that "living out of a box" during transition is tiring for everyone. Be prepared for that reality. Be very patient. Take time to breathe.

         e. Leadership Continuity is important. Anxiety is contagious. So is confidence and trust in God. Consequently, for clergy and lay leaders, self-care is critical. Prayer - Exercise - Relationships. We will have to shift from being warriors to being fishermen.

III. Identify Strategic Decisions needed by Clergy/Wardens/Vestry

   A. Church organization going forward (i.e. location, services, staffing).

   B. Recruit leaders with gifts for missionary season in life of the parish.

   C. Review upcoming calendar events for those needing special accommodations (i.e. weddings).

IV. Plan for Financial and Legal Consequences of possible litigation and relocation.

   A. Projections of impact on budget and cash flow going forward.

   B. Identify possible sources funding to maintain ministries.

   C. Determine need for and possible size of "emergency fund."

   D. Identify status all current contracts for continuation, cancellation or transfer.

   E. Determine legal status current bank accounts.

   F. Explore possible need for line of credit.

   G. Budget for relocation and source of funding.

   H. Determine effect of relocation on music and other licenses.

   I. Review impacts Directors and Officers insurance coverage.

V. Plan for how to address staff needs that arise with relocation.

VI. Expand Church communication with lay leaders, parishioners and friends in event relocation.

   A. Brief ministry leaders on impact relocation plans.

   B. Expand church website to provide communication in this area.

---(end of second page)--------------------------------------------------

   C. Preserve the Church's ability to use its website and other social media.

   D. Update parish records and email addresses.

VII. Establish records retention policy.

   A. Create summary of all records being maintained.

   B. Identify those needed for government or other mandated retention.

   C. Determine where records will be maintained.

   D. Identify all records requiring duplication in advance.

   E. Plan for how identified records will be duplicated and stored.

VIII. Inventory Equipment, Supplies, Furniture, AV Resources, Instruments, Bibles, Hymnals, etc...

   A. Inventory with notation of date of acquisition.

   B. Identify personal property that can be removed if relocation required.

   C. Determine what should be relocated, taken home, or left to successors.

   D. Get estimates of relocation costs.

   E. Identify and budget for what will be needed after relocation.

IX. Plan for Continuing Ministries if Lose the Buildings.

   A. Each ministry leader should have a plan for how their area will continue to function.

   B. What will need to be done differently in transition?

   C. Who does this need to be communicated to before transition begins? Inside the congregation? Outside the congregation?

X. Develop a Comprehensive Relocation Manual.

   A. Needs to address all the details required for actual relocation.

   B. Be sure to address wiping hard drives of computers as appropriate.

   C. Plan for final commercial cleaning of buildings if required to relocate.

XI. Appoint a Transition Team to work with "successor" for orderly transition, is needed. See

---(end of third page)---------------------------------------------------

this as an opportunity to share the love of Christ.

XII. Identify Interim Locations for Worship, Administration and Ministry activities.

   A. First priorities: Worship and Sunday Faith Formation.

   B. Other needs...

   C. Plan for signage as needed at new site and in community.

   D. Plan for storage if needed and transportation of ministry resources (weekly?).

   E. Confirm that phone service can be transferred to new location.

   F. Assign space to staff after interim location determined.

   G. Develop estimates time required acquire new locations and provide needed resources.

XIII. Identify Permanent Location.

   A. Develop criteria to evaluate permanent options.

   B. Develop an integral financial plan for how to achieve objective.

   C. Plan how to appropriately share the vision with the congregation as it progresses.

---(end of fourth and last page)------------------------------------------------------------


What does this document suggest? Some major points:

1. DSC recognizes that the Episcopal Church will resume control over the parishes in question. (e.g., II, B. "Give special thought to last services in current spaces.") 

2. DSC is using the time in the interval to rally the faithful against the Episcopal Church (e.g., I.H.1. "We did the right thing to leave TEC.").

3. DSC is endeavoring to unify the congregations in order to move them as groups out of the buildings into new locations beyond the walls. (e.g., I.B. "Preserve a sense of unity for as long as possible.").

4. DSC is preparing congregations to fund relocation. (e.g., IV.B. "Identify possible sources funding to maintain ministries.").

What the document does not tell us is also important.

There is nothing here about:

---Keeping the whole church family together. 

---Reconciliation of the pro-TEC and pro-DSC elements in each and every one of the 29 parishes.

---Reconciliation of the TEC and DSC sides in this long dispute.

---Discernment in the parishes, open discussion, debate, or other public processes to deal with inter-parish differences.

---The failure of DSC to deliver to their people. They spent millions of the peoples' money on legal costs and gained almost nothing. 

---The refusal of DSC to negotiate a peaceful settlement in the mediation process of November 2017 to January 2018.

One of the remarkable ironies of the schism was in the issue of local power. The diocesan leaders made a major point that the schism was all about local rights. Judge Diane Goodstein even ruled in her Feb. 3, 2015 decision that the Episcopal Church is congregational with authority arising from the parishes. In fact, the experience of the schism has been the exact opposite. The diocese has exerted heavy control over the parishes in numerous ways:

---at the time of the schism, the diocese had the parishes sign a commitment to the diocese form. This was revealed in the circuit court trial.

---at the time of the lawsuit, in Jan. of 2013, the diocesan lawyers bound 36 parishes as parties in the suit. This meant they had to pay two sets of lawyers, one for diocese, and one for parish. (None of the earlier cases of 4 breakaway dioceses had done this.)

---in June of 2015, the diocesan leaders rejected offhand the compromise agreement offered by TEC to give the parishes freedom and property in exchange for the Church's resumption of the legal entity of the pre-schism diocese.

---in 2015, the DSC Marriage Task Force forced on the parishes and officials a pledge against marriage equality.

---In the last few months, DSC leaders leaned on the parishes to join in the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

---now the "Plan" above to relocate parishioners from the parish properties to new places. Thus, the Plan is simply the continuation of a long-established policy of control over the parishes. 

In December of 2003 the Chapman Memo provided the "smoking gun" of the ultra-conservatives' plan to break up the Episcopal Church and replace it in the Anglican Communion with an anti-homosexual-rights church. The Memo outlined the steps to accomplish this. The ultimate goal of the Memo failed but only after five dioceses voted to leave the Episcopal Church.

The document given here, from Dec. 1, 2017, is the "smoking gun" of the DSC plan to remove communicants from the 29 parishes. The point is to rally the faithful to leave their church buildings rather than return to the Episcopal Church.

The plan helps us understand what has been happening in the litigation. DSC is using stalling and delaying tactics at every turn apparently in order to buy time to implement their secret plan of division. It is a slash-and-burn, scorched earth policy typical of retreating and defeated armies.

DSC's secret plan of Dec. 1, 2017, only puts off longer any chance of peace and harmony, let alone reconciliation, in the scandalous schism of South Carolina.

Friday, February 16, 2018


This has been a hard week in too many ways. The unspeakable tragedy in my home state has left us all disbelieving, stunned, grieving. How can we let this happen, over an over? Is there no end to this madness? Has the world devolved into nothing but chaos, violence, and mayhem? These are all legitimate questions to be asking at this terrible time.

There are some questions that cannot be answered, but as good Christians we all know the universe is not chaos. There is a divine order to things. There is a greater power in control. There is meaning in life however hard it may be to discern sometimes. 

Since this is Friday, I wanted to end the week on a small reminder of hope. Seasons change. Here in the deep South we have had a cold and snowy winter. Yet, I walked out in my garden this morning to see all around me the incredible beauty of nature being reborn. I thank God that Spring is on the way. The long, dark winter is ending. Whenever I am feeling down, all I have to do is walk around my garden. I am better instantly. How could I be otherwise when surrounded by such overwhelming loveliness? I sit and allow myself to be enveloped in the sights, aromas, and sounds of God's magnificent creation all around me. Then I know, again, that all is well.

So, I want to end this week sharing with you some of the beauty of my garden today. I hope this will lift your spirits too.

Narcissus "Tête-à-tête". The first of the flowering bulb plants. I rejoice at seeing them bloom every year.

Camellia japonica, "Nuccio's pearl". One of the loveliest pink-flowering camellias. Right now the camellias are at their peak bloom in my garden. They are also called the "winter rose" for good reason. I have 20 camellia bushes with a wide range of sizes, colors, and flower types.

Camellia japonica, "Bob Hope". Cold hardy, prolific bloomer.

Camellia japonica, "Kramer's supreme." Another faithful showpiece.

Camellia japonica, "Goggy". Heavy blooming red camellia.

So, in spite of bad things going on all around us, life goes on and we have to do the same as well as we can. The best way we can do that is to remind ourselves that we are not alone, that "this is my Father's world," as one of my favorite hymns says.

Thursday, February 15, 2018



The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has just announced (find it here ) that on February 14, 2018, Judge Richard Gergel, of the United States District Court in Charleston, lifted the stay in the case of vonRosenberg v. Lawrence. The stay, or suspension, had been in place since August 30, 2017. This means the case in federal court between the two rival dioceses now resumes with proceedings of discovery moving toward a trial.

The stay had originally been imposed at the start of the mediation process. Mediation was first ordered by Gergel on Aug. 30, 2017. All issues in state and federal courts were to be on the table for negotiations with an eye toward a settlement. Such an agreement would have ended all litigation and brought peace between the warring sides. 

The mediation meant that a stay has been in place for five and a half months thus holding back the proceeding of the federal case for that length of time. The mediation process was to be confidential. This meant all participants were to keep the proceedings secret.

In the mediation, the first meeting between the two parties was on Oct. 4, 2017. This was an organizational session. It set up the first working conference between the two sides as Nov. 6-7, 2017.

The two parties met on Nov. 6, then abruptly adjourned at 10:45 on Nov. 7.

They met again on Dec. 4, 2017 only to quit suddenly.

The third meeting was on Jan. 12, 2018. It too adjourned abruptly. Obviously nothing substantial came of the three mediation meetings.

On January 25, 2018, the two parties submitted a "Joint Status Report" to Judge Gergel. It was made public since it was a submission to the court. Bishops vonRosenberg and Adams, on the Church side, and Bishop Lawrence, on the independent side, agreed that mediation would continue but that no progress had been made. They did reveal that, on Jan. 23, the Church side had submitted a proposal of a protocol for Bishop Adams to meet with the 29 parishes in question to discuss "settlement." According to this Report, Lawrence had until Feb. 2 to make a response to the proposal. We cannot know the response because it is covered by the cloak of secrecy surrounding the mediation. 

However, given the fact that Gergel lifted the stay 12 days later, it is reasonable to assume there was no progress in the idea of discussions for settlement. Apparently, Adams will not meet with the 29 congregations.

Thus, it seems that the mediation has ended for all intents and purposes if not in name. This means three avenues of litigation remain. 

1---DSC's "Complaint" of Nov. 19, 2017, in the (state) circuit court of Dorchester County. This suit demands payments from TEC/TECSC under the "Betterments Statute." In this, DSC gives tacit recognition that the 29 parishes belong to the Episcopal Church and its diocese but that these must pay for the "improvements" the occupants made on the properties.

DSC asked for a jury trial. They also asked the case to be put on stay pending a response from the appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

In response, TEC/TECSC filed a motion in the circuit court to dismiss DSC's Complaint.

The case was assigned to Judge Edgar Dickson, rather than Diane Goodstein. As of this writing, there has been no response from the court to the Complaint or to the Motion to Dismiss.

2---DSC's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, filed on Feb. 9, 2018. This asked the court to consider the SC supreme court decision of Aug. 2, 2017, that recognized TEC/TECSC control over 29 parishes and Camp St. Christopher and judged TEC to be an hierarchical institution.

Interestingly enough, the 7 parishes that the SCSC allowed to remain outside of the Church trust control officially informed the U.S. Supreme Court (find the document here ) that they were not parties in the appeal:

Christ the King, Pawleys Island
St. Matthew's, Darlington
St. Andrew's, Mt. Pleasant
St. John's, Florence
St. Matthias, Summerton
St. Paul's, Conway
Prince George Winyah, Georgetown

What are we to make of this? This says to me that the 7 parishes lack confidence in the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. If they believed DSC would win, surely they would have helped their side. It seems to me the 7 are protecting themselves, a smart move.

3---vonRosenberg v. Lawrence. This is the federal case that was initiated in March of 2013. It is now before Judge Gergel in the U.S. District Court, in Charleston. One will recall this case has had a tumultuous history. Judge C. Weston Houck handled it until his death in 2017 only to refuse to litigate it, even after he was ordered twice by the appeals court in Richmond to proceed.

In this suit, the Church side is arguing that Mark Lawrence is in violation of the Lanham Act that protects federally registered trademarks. The Episcopal Church is under trademark. In essence, the Church side is asking the federal court to recognize the Episcopal Church as an hierarchical institution and as such has the right to recognize the legitimate bishop of the local diocese. At the time of the schism, and ever since, Lawrence has claimed to be the legal and legitimate bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina even though he also claimed the diocese left the Episcopal Church on Oct. 15, 2012. 

The circuit court judge, Diane Goodstein, issued a restraining order and an injunction in January of 2013 recognizing Lawrence's claim. 

The SC supreme court decision of Aug. 2, 2017, did not address this issue, thus leaving in place Goodstein's ruling, but looked forward to the federal court settling the issue as part of the vonR case. The SCSC settled the property issue but deferred on the diocesan legal rights issue.

Thus, the question of the ownership of the legal rights of the pre-schism diocese is now before Judge Gergel.

So, where do we stand now? In my opinion, the fundamental issue of the litigation between the Church and the breakaway diocese has been settled. The Episcopal Church holds rights over 29 of the 36 parishes. This essentially validates the Church's claim to the properties under the Dennis Canon.

The other great issue is still pending, that is, which of the two dioceses holds the legal rights of the pre-schism diocese. This would include titles, marks, assets, and other diocesan owned entities (as headquarters and bishop's residence). 

What is the outlook? The federal court will probably rule in favor of the Church. Federal courts have overwhelmingly sided with the national institution of the Episcopal Church and her attendant dioceses. Of the 100 or so cases of breakaway parishes claiming the local property, only one has been settled finally on the side of the secessionists. That one happened to be in SC, the famous All Saints case in which All Saints parish, of Pawleys Island, wound up with the property and rights in opposition to the diocese. Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court is unlikely to take the present appeal from DSC, in my opinion, because DSC is arguing that TEC is not hierarchical and that state laws should determine the outcome of this case. This is a weak case.

What DSC is doing now is buying time. Why drag this out? To rally the 29 congregations to leave the buildings as DSC churches beyond the walls. With only 6 parishes now legally in DSC, the viability of the diocese in the future is in jeopardy. DSC needs all the people it can muster. Under the present scenario of litigation, they have at least another two years to do this.

The unknown element at this point is whether the Church lawyers will go to court to move the enactment of the state supreme court decision on the 29 parishes. Only time will tell if they act to enforce the decision. The SCSC decision of Aug. 2 is not on stay pending the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. I see no reason why the Church lawyers could not get enforcement of the state supreme court decision. If they were to get it enforced, the Episcopal Church bishop would resume control over the 29 parishes in question.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Today is Ash Wednesday, 2018. Ash Wednesday is the second most solemn and sobering day of the year, after Good Friday. On Good Friday, however, we know that our sorrow will be over in three days and end with a glorious victory over death. On Ash Wednesday we are looking into forty days of introspection and purification, hard work if we do it right. As the last part, we have a whole week to go through before reaching the spectacular moment of Easter when light banishes the darkness. So, every year, it is with a heavy heart that I approach the deposition of the ashes with its stark reminder of human limitations.

Speaking of human frailties, we have the schism at hand. We are now in our sixth year of brokenness and pain in the grand old diocese of South Carolina. When will it end? When will all of this be over? This is the question I get most often in person and by email.

We cannot know the future. I have always believed this is really a good thing because if we did, none of us would want to get out of bed. Only God knows the future. That knowledge has never been given to human beings. Personally, I am glad.

What is given to human beings is free will. We are free to choose between good and evil, indeed must choose countless times each and every day. Human beings chose to make the schism. It was a willful and deliberate act of people who thought it was the right thing to do. They were wrong. It has been destruction without justification and recompensation.

Given the present state of the litigation, I regret to have to say that the schism is not likely to end anytime soon. The schismatic side has lost in the high court of South Carolina but is fighting tooth and nail to keep that decision from being implemented. They could drag this out for several more years. That seems to be their strategy now.

So, today, Ash Wednesday, and for all of the coming forty days, let us remember a prayer for reconciliation (from the TECSC website):

Gracious and living God of justice and compassion: We pray for your church caught in a crushing schism in South Carolina. We believe that you favor reconciliation in all situations; and we ask you to be with all parties involved in the case. (...) bring this process to a just conclusion. Give all of us strength and courage to act and pray in ways that can lead toward reconciliation. Help us be agents of your reconciliation with our friends on both sides of this dispute. We ask all of this in the Name of the Holy Reconciler, Jesus your Son. Amen.

Saturday, February 10, 2018


On February 9, 2018, the Diocese of South Carolina submitted "Petition for Writ of Certiorari" to the United States Supreme Court. This was an appeal of DSC to SCOTUS in an effort to overturn the South Carolina Supreme Court's August 2, 2017, decision favoring the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. In that ruling, the majority of justices of SCSC said that 29 of 36 parishes and Camp St. Christopher remain under trust control of TEC and TECSC; they also said TEC was an hierarchical institution.

[NOTE. Again, I must remind readers I am neither a lawyer, nor a legal expert, nor an official of a diocese. I am giving my opinions as an ordinary layman.]

The Petition was sent on Feb. 9 to the DSC parishes along with a letter from the Rev. Jim Lewis. The most interesting point of Lewis's letter is that, for a change, it avoided any reference to God's favor of DSC. DSC has not made such claims since the Aug. 2 SCSC decision.

A "petition for cert" is a request to SCOTUS to take an appeal. SCOTUS receives at least 10,000 of these every year. They accept around 100, or 1% of the total. Most are discarded quickly. The term of SCOTUS runs from October to June. Thus, we are likely to get a response to DSC's "Petition" by July of 2018. SCOTUS avoids carrying over issues from one session to the next. The high court will either accept or deny the petition. If it denies, that is the end of the matter. The SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017, becomes final. If it accepts, SCOTUS will hold a hearing in its 2018-2019 session and issue a written decision by July of 2019.


The Feb. 9 Petition is surprisingly brief and straightforward. It is not just another lengthy, complicated, and dense treatise that one may have come to expect from the DSC lawyers. 

The  main point of the Petition is that "neutral principles" must prevail in this case. As in the famous Jones decision, a court may resolve property disputes between two religious groups following local laws of property and trust. The lawyers argued that "neutral principles" must be strictly followed but that the SCSC erred in making a "hybrid approach." That is, SCSC did not adhere to a strict interpretation of neutral principles as they should have. The lawyers briefly reviewed what they claimed were 11 jurisdictions in which courts properly applied a "strict approach" and 8 in which courts, incorrectly, followed a "hybrid approach." In conclusion, they said that SCOTUS should clarify this issue as guidance for courts around the country. In other words, the court should promote the "strict approach" to neutral principles. (This strict approach would mean that the SCSC decision of Aug. 2 would be overturned.)

Observations on the Petition:

1 --- It continues the main argument that the DSC lawyers made in the circuit court and in the SCSC that the 2009 SCSC All Saints decision should be expanded to the whole diocese. That decision found for the local parish in both legal rights and property ownership.

In fact, the only one of the five SCSC justices to defend the All Saints decision in the Aug. 2 ruling was Jean Toal, the author of the decision. 

Moreover, All Saints is unique in the U.S. Not one other state supreme court has replicated it. It stands as the only case in which a secessionist unit got a final decree in its favor against the Episcopal church and diocese. 

An important point to make about the All Saints case was that it was a dispute between the diocese and a parish. It was not between the national church and a diocese. Since it was contained entirely within the state of SC, there seemed to be no question among the justices as to the outcome. Thus, trying to apply All Saints now to the church/diocese disagreement is like mixing apples and oranges. 

2 --- It argues that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution works in favor of the diocese. 

The First Amendment forbids the government, as a court, from interfering in a religious institution. 

The key question then becomes whether the court is interfering in a church. The majority of the SCSC said that TEC is a hierarchical institution (courts around the U.S. have overwhelmingly agreed with this). If TEC is hierarchical, then the national church has sovereignty over the local parts, as the dioceses. Dioceses are not independent agents but are subject to the authority of the national church. If TEC is hierarchical, then the court must defer to the church to govern itself. If a dispute is religious in nature, a court may not interfere. It has to defer to the religious institution.

Interestingly, the DSC lawyers described the situation in SC as a "schism." This word appeared in the very first sentence of the Petition. "Schism" could well be interpreted as a religious dispute. I do not see how the lawyers thought the use of this word would strengthen their case. (To my knowledge, this is the first time DSC has used the word "schism" in an official document since the schism of October 2012.)

The Dorchester County circuit court judge seemed to have no problem in delving into the internal working of TEC to declare it to be congregational in nature. This created great consternation in the SCSC where even Chief Justice Toal railed against the lower decision and not a single justice arose to defend it.

3 --- The DSC lawyers said the Dennis Canon could not and did not create a trust under SC law.

The 2009 All Saints decision, and Toal in the Aug. 2, 2017 decision, said that, under SC law, the title holder [parish] had to create a trust in writing for a beneficiary [diocese and TEC] and this had not happened. Therefore, the Dennis Canon was not valid in SC because it claimed to be imposed from the outside.

In the Aug. 2 ruling, four of the five justices agreed that the Dennis Canon had indeed set up a trust but in different ways. Justices Pleicones and Hearn said the Dennis Canon automatically went into effect because TEC was hierarchical and any ruling of the national church immediately applied to the church's local parts. Justices Beatty and Kittredge said the Dennis Canon did go into effect, not because it was imposed by the national church but only because the parishes acceded to it individually. However, while Beatty opined that a parish could not unilaterally revoke its accession, Kittredge said a parish could revoke its accession. Beatty concluded that 29 of the 36 parishes had in fact made irrevocable trusts for TEC. This made three (Pleicones, Hearn and Beatty) of the five justices to agree that the Dennis Canon was effective in SC (thus reversing the All Saints principle). In sum, the SCSC ruled that the Dennis Canon effectively created a trust in SC whether by Church authority or by parochial action.

4 --- The Petition has numerous historical inaccuracies. 

In one (p. 10), it said DSC acceded to the TEC Constitution and Canons in 1841. In did indeed vote such in 1841. However, DSC originally acceded in 1789. Before the church constitutional convention of that year, the church agreed that the states would draw up a constitution and canons for the whole church and that their representatives would agree to it by signing their names for their respective states. The TEC C and C was not submitted to the individual states for ratification (as the U.S. Constitution was) because it was automatically ratified by the signatories of 1789. All of the SC delegates signed the documents giving SC's permanent accession to them.

In another (P. 10), the lawyers said DSC withdrew its accession to the TEC canons from 2009 to 2011. This is a dubious, and very debatable assertion.

In another (p. 11), they said DSC "disassociated" from TEC. Ditto. 

In yet another (p. 11) they said All Saints "involved a property dispute between the national Episcopal Church and a local congregation." Actually, it was the Diocese of South Carolina, particularly Bishop Edward Salmon, that fought that case all the way from local to state supreme court. It was "a property dispute" between the diocese and a parish.

5 --- It is most curious to note the Petition's reference to Justice Kaye Hearn.

It has only one, fairly brief, paragraph about her. One will recall the major effort DSC made in August and September of last year to invalidate Hearn's decision and have her removed from the case. That fell flat, in fact, may have backfired as every one of the other justices vociferously defended her, even chastised DSC for the smear campaign. Now, this Petition changes the argument against Hearn from herself to her husband [!] (p. 17). (The motion to recuse was based primarily on the fact that Justice Hearn's husband was involved in the underlying schism and was deposed in this case as a witness in support of the national Episcopal Church, p. 17). It is disingenuous to think the august SCOTUS would be impressed by such rank amateurism as this.

The U. S. Supreme Court has provided two avenues for courts to deal with property disputes between religious bodies. One is the Serbian Orthodox decision of 1976. See the Wikipedia article here . This held that courts may not interfere in the workings of a hierarchical religious institution because of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Thus, a hierarchical church, such as TEC, must be left alone to decide its own affairs including questions of property ownership. Following this path, the courts would defer to TEC to decide the property issues in South Carolina. 

The other avenue came in the decision of Jones v. Wolf in 1979. Find a summary here . In this, the courts may take a "neutral" approach to decide property disputes between church bodies. The court would favor neither side but make a judgment drawn from local property laws. This, however, would presume the church in question to be non-hierarchical so as not to violate the Serbian Orthodox case.

The DSC lawyers based their entire Petition to SCOTUS on the Jones decision. They asked the court to take a resolute stand for a strict interpretation of "neutral principles." They said the SCSC had failed to do this; and only SCOTUS could correct the error.

It seems to me that all this boils down to whether the Episcopal Church is hierarchical or not. The circuit court went out of its way to declare TEC to be congregational. The SCSC rejected this. The majority of justices said TEC is hierarchical. 


Not likely. The DSC lawyers' case in both circuit court and SCSC was based on two ideas: that TEC is not hierarchical and therefore not entitled to the Serbian Orthodox principle; and state laws on property, trusts, and corporations alone must decide this case under neutral principles.

In the first place, courts around the U.S. on the whole have agreed that TEC is hierarchical. Perhaps for this reason, SCOTUS has never accepted an appeal from an Episcopal Church case. Numerous appeals have been made to the high court, most famously from the Virginia breakaway parishes, and from the Texas case of Ft. Worth.

In the second place, the purpose of SCOTUS is to clarify constitutional issues. It does not concern state law except as it may affect the constitution. The DSC argued their cases entirely on state laws.

Moreover, the avenue of "neutral principles" does not preclude the "hierarchical principle." For instance, the California courts used both in their decisions concerning San Joaquin that came down entirely on the Episcopal Church side. Thus, it is not a question of one principle or the other. Both can be used and have been used.

It seems to me DSC's appeal to SCOTUS is another example of their post Aug. 2 strategy of defer and delay the inevitable. First, they agreed to a mediation process. They went to meetings three times and apparently agreed to nothing. At least we have no evidence of any negotiation let alone settlement. The last we heard, Bp Lawrence had agreed to consider an offer from TECSC to have the Church bishop meet with the 29 parishes to discuss "settlement." Lawrence was to have responded to this offer by Feb. 2. There has been no evidence since then of any movement on this. It seems that DSC is only using mediation to delay the federal court case. So far they have used up five months by this tactic.

DSC has also entered a new lawsuit in the circuit court demanding money from TEC/TECSC under the "betterments statute." They have asked this be put on "stay" pending the outcome of the appeal to SCOTUS. TECSC has asked the court to dismiss this suit. All of this is pending in the circuit court and eating up more time.

The federal court will eventually resume the case and hold a trial. Of course, if the court rules in favor of TEC/TECSC, which is likely, DSC can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals dragging out the end for another year or more.

The fundamental decision in the dispute between the independent diocese and the Episcopal Church has already been made. The Church won. Apparently what we have now is a movement of DSC to delay the end as long as possible. This will give them much more needed time to rally the faithful against the Episcopal Church and to prepare the people to vacate the buildings as DSC communities. That is what is happening now. I see no other way to view what is going on. The pain continues. 

[NOTE. On Friday, Feb. 9, DSC sent the Rev. Jim Lewis's letter and the Petition to the DSC parishes. As of this writing (1 p.m. Feb. 12) DSC has not released these documents to the public. Presumably they will do so shortly. 

UPDATE. On Feb. 12, at 4:50 p.m., DSC publicly released Lewis's letter and the Petition. Find the letter here and the Petition here .]