Monday, April 30, 2018


St. Michael's church held its annual parish meeting yesterday, April 29. The rector, the Rev. Al Zadig, told his parishioners the parish has been at work on Plan B. Apparently, Plan A was to leave the Episcopal Church and take the iconic St. Michael's property with them. This, of course, would be in violation of the Church's Dennis Canon which says that all parish property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the local Episcopal Church diocese. Under this church law, no parish is allowed to leave TEC and take the property with them. The reality of this came crashing down on Zadig and all the other clergy of the independent Diocese of South Carolina on August 2, 2017 when the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that 29 of the 36 parishes in question remain under trust control of the Church and the Church's diocese. This means that St. Michael's remains an Episcopal Church and that it never actually left the Church. People may leave, the clergy may leave, but the property (buildings, land, endowments, furnishings and the like) remain with the Episcopal Church. Only recently, the federal judge, Richard Gergel, virtually urged TEC to regain physical control of the 29 parishes. The SCSC Aug. 2 decision has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the order is not under "stay." That means it could be enforced at any time. I see no impediment to the TEC diocese taking possession of the 29 now although I expect they will wait until SCOTUS gives their response.

Apparently, the reality of all this has settled in on the clergy and leaders of St. Michael's parish. Zadig told the parish:

At this time we do not know if we will be able to keep our property or not, nor do we know how long this could draw out.

DSC is awaiting a response from SCOTUS on whether the high court will grant "cert," that is, agree to take the case and rule on the state court decision. The chance that SCOTUS will grant cert is very small. At any rate, we will probably know by the end of June, less than two months from now.

It is highly ironic that St. Michael's could have had both its independence from the Episcopal Church and sole control over the property. In June of 2015, TEC offered to give all of the DSC parishes their independence and properties in return for legal ownership of the diocese. The DSC leadership flatly rejected this offer. If they had accepted it, there would be no issue in St. Michael's today. Thus, the failure of this rested on the DSC leadership, not on TEC.

Zadig went on in his annual report:

In response to the 2017 ruling of our State Supreme Court, I took two actions. First a Plan B team was formed to look into and secure other worship sites if we were removed from Meeting and Broad. Second, and in conjunction with the Theologian of our Diocese (the Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon), we wrote and executed a six talk, three week teaching service called: Why the Battle, Different God and Gospel? We filmed it at St. Michael's to a packed crowd. Since then we have given this teaching to every church in the diocese to use as a tool for congregations to understand what the real issues are.

So, now we know. Zadig did two things in response to the Aug. 2 decision. 1-he set up a committee to find alternate meeting places, and 2-he and Harmon created a course to press on the people their view of what the schism was all about. It is obvious that this course was, and is, a vigorous attempt to persuade people to abandon their old church if and when TEC regains the keys. Time and again the speakers derided the Episcopal Church as one of a false gospel. 

The shock of the August 2 decision, generally unexpected as it was, fell hard on all of the leaders of DSC who perhaps had convinced themselves, as they did their followers, that God was on their side and they were bound to win. The state circuit court said they were right. How could they possibly lose? Well, they did lose.

The reality fell hardest on the historic parishes where some of the parishioners were bound to remain with the buildings and therefore return, however grudgingly, to TEC. Soon after the decision, the Rev. Jeff Miller, rector of St. Philip's, told his congregation they should prepare to leave the old building but that some people had told him they would not leave. To his credit, he said he understood their feelings. I have heard not one other DSC clergy person display any such empathy. As shown above, St. Michael's leadership went into overdrive to prepare an exodus. Old St. Andrew's just announced it would screen the Zadig/Harmon show in its parish. It has the oldest church building in SC. Who knows how many people will leave there?

It seems that the historic parishes are making it as hard as they can for their members to remain with the buildings. Social pressure and propaganda will make it very difficult for anyone to refuse the exodus. Those who choose to stay are bound to feel they have let down their church family and turned against true religion. They are being led to believe now that they have a binary choice: true religion or the building. It is a false choice but it is the unmistakable message of the propaganda course now running through DSC.

It is easy to see why the DSC clergy are so upset and concerned about leaving the buildings. 101 of them have been released and removed from their orders in the Episcopal Church. They attached themselves to Bishop Lawrence when he left the Episcopal Church. They have no where else to go. Most of them gave up a lot to leave TEC and now they face a bleak and entirely uncertain future. Many, if not most, of these clergy have families to support. Of course they want to keep viable parishes going even if they have to find quarters elsewhere. It is interesting to note that the schism occurred only after Bishop Lawrence could retire in the Episcopal Church retirement system with full benefits. That system generally requires 30 years of service in the Episcopal Church to be entitled to such. Lawrence was ordained a deacon in August of 1980. The Church pension plan is an excellent one that generally pays half of the average of the best seven years. Of course, after 62 he would be eligible for Social Security retirement (he is also getting virtually free use of the $1-2m bishop's residence as part of a $1/3m annual compensation package). What about the rest of the clergy who were not well vested in the church pension plan, were not old enough for SS, and had no perks? DSC did find another retirement plan but who knows how good it is? Same for medical insurance. 

The schism has taken a heavy toll on old St. Michael's church. A quick look at the official statistics of the parish shows the troubles there.

In 2005, St. Michael's reported 1,349 communicants, Average Sunday Attendance of 524, and pledge and plate giving of $1,398,812.

2011 was the last full year before the schism. Figures for that year showed that St. Michael's had grown significantly since 2005. 2011:  1,847 communicants, Average Sunday Attendance of 531, and pledge/plate income of $1,888,863. Thus, statistics showed that in the half-dozen years before the schism St. Michael's grew remarkably.

Now, let us look at what has happened after the schism.

In 2014, St. Michael's listed 1,803 communicants, a slight drop from 2011, Average Sunday Attendance of 480 (-10% from 2011).

In 2016, St. Michael's reported 919 communicants (down 50% after the schism). It also listed 453 ASA (down 15% from 2011). In 2016, it listed a plate/pledge income of $1,457,206 (down over $400,000, or -23% from 2011).

In short, between 2005 and 2016, St. Michael's went from 1,349 communicants to 919, and ASA from 524 to 453.

2005 to 2016 can be divided into two distinct periods. Before the schism (2005 to 2011) St. Michael's grew significantly. After the schism (2011-2016) communicant numbers and income fell precipitously. The effect of the schism on St. Michael's is unmistakable.

In this year's annual report, the parish posted a 2017 budget of $2,286,580 but income of only $1,971,012, a shortfall of over $300,000, or -14%.

Putting all of this together it is no wonder that the clergy and leadership of St. Michael's are working hard to keep the congregation together and find alternate meeting space. This is challenging in old Charleston for several reasons. It remains to be seen how effective they will be and how the parish will look a year from now.

It looks as if St. Michael's is going to Plan B. Rumor has it they have been looking at Trinity United Methodist Church several blocks north on Meeting Street. I cannot verify this. We do know for a fact that they are looking at other meeting sites.

It may not be long before the authorities in St. Michael's will have to enact their Plan B. Then we will know just how successful they were in their remarkable dis-information campaign of 2018. 

If people in St. Michael's believe they have to choose between their religion and their building they are wrong. It is understandable why they might think this, but it is still wrong. 

(Sources. For St. Michael's 2018 annual parish report, see here . The statistics are in the annual journals of the diocesan convention. 2006 to 2017 are online here .)

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Yesterday, April 25, 2018, the lawyers for the Episcopal Church asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a time extension in filing their response to the Diocese of South Carolina's petition for cert (Feb. 9, 2018). The original date set for the response was Monday, April 30, 2018. They lawyers requested a new date of May 7. 

The Court responded today, April 26, granting the request of extension. The new date set for filing is May 7, 2018. This was the second time extension given to the TEC lawyers.

The announcement of the motion for time extension appeared on the Supreme Court website. Find the church case here .

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


No, I have not been invited to speak at St. Michael's church in Charleston. I am sure we can rule out that possibility, at least for the time being. In lieu of a "course" or at least a "lesson," I will present the following talk for the good people of St. Michael's. I know there are people in St. Michael's who regularly read this blog. This talk is for you and rest of the people of your parish.


Hello. It is good to be here and to visit with all of you fine folks here at old St. Michael's church. This is a special place. I am honored to be invited. I am honored to address the good people of this grand old parish. 

I have a limited amount of time today, so I want to get right to it. No time to waste. I am here to give you information to help you decide what to do in the future. What you have had for many years is one side of the picture. You have been given a great deal of information, all of it in support of the diocesan position against the Episcopal Church. I am not here to tell you what to think and what to do. That would be unforgivably presumptuous. I am only here to give you information that you have not been given. This is to help you see both sides and therefore make the best informed decision you can as to what you and your church family will do in the future.

The future in this case is in all probability close at hand. As we all know, St. Michael's is one of the 29 parishes that the South Carolina state supreme court has ruled must be returned to the Episcopal Church bishop. The federal judge, Richard Gergel, just affirmed a few days ago. In fact, he all but told the TEC side to go to the circuit court and gain physical possession of the parishes in question. At the moment, we are awaiting action of the U.S. Supreme Court. DSC appealed the SC supreme court decision to SCOTUS in February. We will almost certainly have a response from the court by the end of June. It is highly likely the court will deny DSC's request. If so, that will be the end of the matter and we can expect the Episcopal Church bishop, Skip Adams, to regain control over St. Michael's probably sooner rather than later. In all likelihood, St. Michael's church will return to the Episcopal Church.

When that happens, you in St. Michael's will have, as I see it, four options. You will have to choose one. The options are 1-drop out of religion altogether, 2-go to another denomination (First Scots is a stone's throw away), 3-leave the building and form a DSC congregation elsewhere (Methodist church up Meeting St?), 4-stay with the building and return to the Episcopal Church. I do not see any other choices. If you see any, let us know.

What this really boils down to is whether you will stay in the building or leave. This is a terrible, heart-wrenching choice for so many of you to make and my heart goes out to you. You have been put in a painful dilemma whether you had anything to do with the schism or not. You are still trapped in an unfortunate situation. Right now you are being put under enormous pressure by your leaders to leave the building and form a DSC church elsewhere. We all know that. It is loud and clear on the Internet. The highly regarded DSC figures of the Revs. Kendall Harmon, Peter Moore, and Bishop Lawrence have all been here recently with their messages that I interpret as appeals for you to remain with DSC. You are in the spotlight now whether you want to be or not.

The decision of whether to stay or leave is yours and yours alone. Likewise, religion has to be a personal experience. No one should tell you what to think or what to do. This is your home. This is your church family. You must do what you think best for yourself and your community. It is a very hard choice. I only ask that you get all the information you can to make the most reasonable decisions. And, when all is said and done, you will be at peace with your choices. At the end of the day, you should not have any regrets.

As many of you know, I have published a book on the history of the schism and, or course, I recommend it to you. It will provide you with great detail on how the schism came about, what it meant, and how its aftermath has affected us all. It is readily available for order on the Internet (or ask you local library to order a copy). It is very long at 300,000 words. All I can do here today is to go some main points with information to balance what you have been led to believe.

For convenience, we will use the main talking points presented by the Revs. Zadig and Harmon in their recent course here. 

So, let's get right to it.


Let's be candid and frank. This was the direct cause of the schism and it still drives us apart. So, how are we to deal with the issue of homosexuality?

Is homosexual activity sin? DSC and ACNA say it is. TEC does not have an official stand but regards it is morally neutral. So, each of you must decide for yourself whether you think homosexual behavior is inherently sinful.

If it is sin, you must first define what you mean by the word "sin." What is sin? I think a common definition that most of us agree on is, sin is that which separates us from God and our fellow human beings. OK, does homosexuality separate us from God and from our fellow humans? If it does, how so? How does what two consenting people do in their own privacy separate us from God and our neighbors? I don't see it.

Oh, but you may say it is against God's word. There are several verses in the Bible that some people claim prove God's condemnation of homosexuality. These verses are actually controversial and debatable. They are not clear-cut. For instance, the verses from Romans that Rev. Zadig cited actually condemn idolatry and it is God, not the people, who make them behave as they did. So, it is far from certain that the Bible stands in judgment on homosexuality. Jesus said nothing about the issue. There is not a word in the four gospels about it. So, using the Bible to condemn homosexuality is highly dubious and questionable.

Then, there is problem of standing in judgment on the choices of other people. What right does anyone have to judge what others do as long as it is not harmful or illegal? Even Pope Francis said, "Who am I to judge?" If he won't judge homosexuals, what gives anyone else the right to do so?

Homosexuals are God's children just like anyone else. We are all created in the image of God. The jury is still out on the question of whether homosexuality is inborn or learned but the weight of professional thinking now is inborn. If inborn, it is human nature and part of the human condition at least for some people, not most but some. If inborn, then it becomes an issue of human rights; and homosexuals should have the same rights as everyone else and protection against discrimination.

It took the Episcopal Church 40 years to come to terms with homosexuality. The discussion started in 1976 with a recommendation against ordaining "practicing" gays. In 2015, TEC adopted same-sex marriage. Along the way, the church gradually, and somewhat tortuously, came to a consensus that homosexuality was not sinful and that gays and transgendered should have equal rights and inclusion in the life of the church, even in marriage. This was a radical move to be sure. However, TEC was not alone, and far from being the first denomination to reach this point.

An important point in all this that DSC always ignores is the local option. When TEC adopted same-sex blessings in 2012 and marriage in 2015, it gave the local option. Each diocese can choose whether to have these. In the TEC diocese of SC, the local parish and clergy can choose whether to have these. Some have chosen not to have them. That is their right and everyone respects that. Thus, when St. Michael's returns to TEC, the vestry can vote to ban s-s rites and the local clergy likewise can refuse. That will be a choice that St. Michael's makes. Nothing is to be forced on any church or individual.

Moving on from homosexuality, there are several other major issues that need to be addressed. Of these, nothing riles me up more than the outrageous assertion that TEC has abandoned faith in Jesus Christ as the savior of the world, what some call "the uniqueness of Christ." I assure you, TEC has not done this; and it is most disappointing for DSC leaders to assert such nonsense. What the DSC leaders have done is to take certain remarks from some of the most controversial Episcopal bishops and transpose them onto the whole church, or at least imply such. This is just wrong. Spong, Pike, Jefferts-Schori and the like spoke only for themselves. Under the TEC system, all doctrines, beliefs and such have to be adopted by the General Convention. GC has made no change in the beliefs of religion. As for following the scriptures, the same applies. There has been no change. Now, traditionally Anglicanism has claimed a three-legged stool, scripture, reason, and tradition. The DSC leaders are trying to change this to scripture alone. This is not classical Anglicanism.

Rev. Zadig used an example of the 2003 General Convention's rejection of resolution B001 as evidence of the Church's abandonment of the Bible as authority. This is a misinterpretation. Actually, that resolution was offered to block a vote on Gene Robinson and was voted down by the convention for that reason. The GC went on the approve of Robinson's election. B001 was designed to stop Robinson, not to promote the authority of scripture per se. Conservatives tried to use the scriptures for an ulterior motive.

So, I assure you TEC has made no change in its religion. It has not rejected the uniqueness of Christ any more than it has thrown out the Bible. It still uses the same prayer book it has had since 1979, the same one you use here all the time.

Another topic on which there has been major confusion is the relationship of DSC to the Anglican world. DSC leaders claim they are truly Anglican and fully part of Anglicanism. They call themselves Anglican endlessly. They call the Anglican Church in North America a "province" of Anglicanism. This is highly misleading.

In fact, TEC is the only branch of the Anglican Communion in the United States. DSC and ACNA are not in the Anglican Communion and almost certainly will never be. The AC is a loose association of 39 independent churches around the world that claim a common heritage from the English Reformation of the sixteenth century. The AC has made it clear that ACNA is a separate church not in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Foley, of ACNA, is not a primate of the AC and certainly will not be invited to the Lambeth Conference of 2020. He was invited to attend the 2016 primates' meeting as a courtesy but he was not allowed to vote. 

The ACNA was created by anti-homosexual rights elements in the Episcopal Church and certain equatorial African Anglican primates in 2009. It was set up to be an anti-homosexual rights Anglican church to take the place of TEC as the legitimate Anglican province in the U.S. However, the AC refused to accept this. And, while on the topic of the ACNA, it is also opposed to equality for and inclusion of women into the life of the church. Only men can be bishops; and under the ACNA Constitution and Canons, power rests in the hands of the (all male) archbishop and bishops. It is an authoritarian, male-controlled system. It also gives the ACNA bishops leverage over election of new bishops in the local dioceses. A new bishop must get 2/3 approval of the ACNA bishops (it is 51% of bishops and standing committees in TEC). This means 1/3 plus one of the bishops can veto any choice of any diocese. DSC has surrendered a lot of independence to be a part of ACNA (not to mention almost $200,000 a year). If DSC left TEC because it thought TEC was too authoritarian, what it has now is much more so.

So, what kind of religion does DSC have now? It is not in the Anglican Communion. Since the schism, it has developed into a fundamentalist-leaning sect, an independent Protestant church. It had adopted a regimented system of conformity: literal interpretation of the Bible, born-again salvation, intolerance, rejection of homosexual rights, and authoritarianism. These were institutionally incorporated in the diocese in the Marriage Task Force documents of 2015. These required people to sign oaths of conformity.

So, you do have a clear choice facing you. It is between DSC and TEC. On one hand, DSC is a narrowly-defined fundamentalist-oriented Protestant church. On the other hand, TEC is a broad, tolerant, non-dogmatic general Christian church. 

I think it is useful to use the imagery of vertical and horizontal religion. Fundamentalism is a highly vertical religion that is individualistic, that is, emphasizes one person's relationship with one God as the be all and end all of religion (I should know. I spent my first 21 years thoroughly immersed in fundamentalism). After World War II, TEC developed into a horizontal religion, that is, one that starts with a relationship between a person and God then develops that into social consciousness and activism. Horizontal Christians are those who emphasize improving the lives of people all around them, hence the reforms of civil rights, new prayer book, and equal rights for women and homosexuals. So, the choice is between a self-oriented religion and an other-oriented one. DSC offers the former. TEC offers the latter. At least, that is the way I see the choices before you.

I think all this really boils down to what we think religion is all about. Why are we here? Why do we want to call ourselves Christians? What is our understanding of why we exist? God did not have to create human beings, and there were times when God must have doubted its decision to do so (e.g. the Flood). But God did create us, and did so in its own image. We were created to do God's work in the world. We are God's representatives here and now. This is our reason for being. This is our mission in the world. We have to start with a relationship with God but we have to translate that into works to care for, promote, and enhance God's creation. Faith without works is dead. Salvation is not an end in itself. It is the starting place on the path toward the enactment of God's kingdom. 

I see Christianity as a religion of compassion, caring, love, healing, service to others, and peace. How do you see our religion? Why do you think you are here?

I wish I had more time to talk today but my time is short. Of course, you can always invite me back (laughter). And so, I have to wrap this up.

I say to you, good people of St. Michael's, you must choose where you go from here. It is your choice alone. No one can tell you, no one should tell you, what to do. Whatever choice you make, you should be at peace. You should know that you made the best choice you could. And when it is all over, you should be able to say you behaved as the best Christian you could be. It will be over one day. I promise you. There will be an end to all this unpleasantness.

And now for questions and comments. Anyone?

[questions I anticipate]

Yes, I have a question. Why will not TEC just let us alone to keep our own church they way we want to?

Good question. I'm glad you asked. Under the TEC rules, the parish owns its own property. TEC is a trust beneficiary. All that really means in practical terms is that, under the trust, St. Michael's has to remain in TEC and cannot dispose of property without the permission of the local diocese. Otherwise, the parish has wide latitude to do what it wishes. However, the Episcopal Church is an hierarchical institution, not a congregational one. The local church must follow the rules of the diocese which in turn must follow the rules of the national church. St. Michael's was part of the Episcopal Church for a very long time and there was no question about that until the schism began to boil up. I see no reason why that cannot be the same again. I think the people of St. Michael's have nothing to fear. Does that answer your question?

Ron, I have a question. Why do not TEC and DSC settle their differences in mediation instead of dragging it all out in court?

Another really good question. Off hand, I can recall two instances when DSC had the opportunity to settle and not disadvantageously. In one, in June of 2015, TEC offered to give the parishes their complete independence and property in return for DSC giving up the possession of the entity of the diocese (rights, lands, property, accounts etc. of the diocese). DSC flatly rejected the offer. In another example, the federal judge ordered mediation last year and the two sides met three times from Oct. of 2017 to Jan. of 2018. Nothing came of this. We know that TEC offered a protocol where Bp Adams would meet with the parishes and discuss settlement. DSC rejected this. Mediation failed, although it is still officially open. It is clear by now that DSC will fight this on to the end, whatever that will be, in the courts.

Sir, I have a question too. We are all exhausted by the schism. When it is all going to be over? We just want it to stop.

My goodness, I wish I knew. No one knows the future (especially historians). However, the major issue of the parish properties has been more or less determined. If SCOTUS denies DSC's petition, in the next couple of months, that will end that. However, there are still two other avenues of litigation going on, DSC's suit in the circuit court of Dorchester County (Betterments), and TEC's suit in federal court which will probably go to trial later this year. Of course, the losing side there can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals, in Richmond. Nevertheless, as far as St. Michael's goes, I see nothing to keep the Episcopal Church from moving to take possession of the property after SCOTUS turns down DSC's request, or even now for that matter. The SCSC decision is not on stay. I am like you. I wish all this would end, but I am afraid it is going to go on for some time yet.

Ron, I have a question. If most of us at St. Michael's leave and only a small congregation remains, how can they keep up the place. Will not TEC sell off our building to Muslims or some other group?

I do not represent the Episcopal Church. I cannot speak for anyone but myself. All I know is the experiences of similar old parishes hit by schism, such as Christ Church of Savannah and Christ Church of Mobile. In those cases, the majority of the members pulled out after the courts returned the properties to the Episcopal Church and formed churches in exile. In both cases, a minority stayed and slowly but surely rebuilt the parishes and now are thriving. I would expect the same sort of thing here and at St. Philip's. However, I think it behooves the Episcopal Church bishop to work closely and generously with the remaining congregation as they go forward; and I expect he or she will.

Well, it looks like we are out of time. I thank you all for being here and I appreciate the invitation. As I leave, I would like to say I wish you well and may God be with you and comfort you as you make the big decisions before you. Peace. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

(with addendum, 24 Apr.)

"Why the Battle? Different God, Different Gospel?" Why, indeed.

This was the title of a recent course at St. Michael's Church, in Charleston, conducted by the Revs. Al Zadig, rector, and Kendall Harmon, Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina. It included six lessons, the first three by Zadig, the last three by Harmon. Find more information and all the links to the materials here . Printed and video versions are provided. 

I have read and studied all of the lessons and the questions and answers provided online. In so doing, I have tried to understand the thinking of the leaders and people of St. Michael's and the DSC. What are their views about religion? Why did they make the schism? Why are they so concerned about homosexuality? Why are they hostile to the Episcopal Church? I think people on the Episcopal Church side need to have as much understanding of these as possible both for their own sakes and for the events to come in the future.

St. Michael's is one of the 29 parishes that almost certainly will be returned to control of the Episcopal Church bishop. The South Carolina supreme court ruled such last August. The federal judge, Richard Gergel, recognized this reality in his recent ruling. In February, DSC appealed the SCSC judgment to the United States Supreme Court. It is now pending. Odds are SCOTUS will deny the appeal. At any rate, we should know by the end of June whether the court will accept or deny DSC's petition.

Meanwhile, last December, DSC issued a secret plan to its parishes on how to move congregations out of the old parish properties. In March and April, the DSC leaders zeroed in on St. Michael's and St. Philip's, hence Zadig and Harmon's course at St. Michael's of a few weeks ago.


The course at St. Michael's really made only five simple points and did so with much repetition:

1---DSC lives "under" the Bible which is the one and only authority.

2---TEC lives "over" the Bible. That is, it follows a "false gospel" that is not biblical. It has turned away from Jesus Christ as the one and only source of salvation and veered into "Universalism."

3---Homosexual activity is sinful. TEC has endorsed sin.

4---Marriage is a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman.

5---DSC is Anglican. TEC departed from true Anglicanism. The Anglican Church in North America is true Anglicanism.

Bottom line:  DSC/ACNA=good; TEC/TECSC=bad.

No one sitting in the course could miss these few big points. The unspoken take-away from all of this obviously was:  The people of St. Michael's should remain with DSC/ACNA and should not return to TEC.

Actually, there was nothing new in the lessons of the course. It was all a reiteration of the well-established assertions that leaders of DSC have been making for many years.  


---Zadig's first three lessons emphasized what is wrong with the Episcopal Church. He used the term Episcopal Church a total of 27 times, more than any other topic. "Anglican" he used 17 times while bringing up references to sex only 10 times. He repeated the term "false gospel" 7 times, all in regards to TEC. 


"remaining with the Episcopal church is choosing a false Gospel." (Mod. 1).

"the conflict we are in is a reality because the leadership of the Episcopal church has taken a stand to be over Scripture, and is therefore immersed in Universalism."(Mod. 2).

"It's Biblical Christianity here, or False Gospel there." (Mod. 2).

"My friends, can you be part of a church actively leading people astray from Scripture?" (Mod. 3).

---Regrettably, much of the evidence Zadig offered was questionable. For instance, he cited the defeat of a 2003 resolution in General Convention as an example of TEC's rejection of the authority of the Bible. (Mod. 1). This is a serious misinterpretation. Actually, that resolution came from conservatives in GC who were attempting to sabotage the vote on bishop-elect Gene Robinson, an openly gay man. The Convention affirmed his election. In fact, the resolution was all about stopping the affirmation of a gay bishop and the Convention saw through it and acted on it. In fact, TEC has never rejected the authority of the scriptures anymore than it has the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

---Zadig offered numerous Biblical quotes to support his opinions. At least one of these is also a misinterpretation taken out of context. He cited Romans 1:26-27 as denunciation of homosexuality. If one reads the verses before and after 26-27, one will see that the text is clearly meant to condemn idolatry; and it is God who causes women and men to behave as described:  26: "Because of this [idolatry], God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27: In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."(NIV). The text is plain that God caused people to turn to homosexuality ("God gave them over") as the consequence of their idolatry. Thus, using Romans 1:26-27 to condemn homosexuality is an insubstantial convolution of the obvious meaning of the text.

---While there were many Bible references given, they were opportunistic, or cherry picked. Many appropriate verses were simply ignored. For instance, St. Paul's admonition of Christians suing other Christians (I Cor. 6: 1-8). Perhaps Zadig forgot it was DSC that first sued TEC and started all of the litigation. So, are we to choose the verses that confirm our preconceived notions and ignore the others? Are we to live "under" only some of the Bible? Who is to choose?

Harmon's last three lessons focused on two main themes, sexuality and the Anglican Communion. I counted 31 separate references to sex, sexuality and the like. This was rivaled only by the word "Anglican" which Harmon repeated 30 times, all in the last lesson.

On sexuality, Harmon reiterated the well-established DSC talking points: people are born male or female and must follow assignment, sex is allowed only in context of lifelong heterosexual marriage, homosexual unions are not marriage in the traditional sense, TEC has deviated from the universal church's definition of marriage.

On Anglicanism, Harmon also saw TEC as deviating from the Anglican Communion which he implied was a worldwide religion governed by a "conciliar" system. His point was that ACNA is truly Anglican while TEC is not. There were two big problems I saw with this view. In the first place, TEC did indeed arrive at its decisions by "conciliar" process through the consensus of the Church, that is, through General Convention. All of the resolutions and canonical changes for women and homosexuals went through the legal and open institutional process of the Church. The second big problem is the structure of the Anglican Communion. It is a collection of 39 independent churches. It lacks a central or unitary system. There is no executive, legislative or judicial branch in the AC. It has Four Instruments of Communion but none has power over the individual churches. Furthermore, to be an Anglican, one must be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The DSC and the ACNA are not in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. They are not Anglican. The Archbishop has said more than once that ACNA is a separate religion. It is not in the Anglican Communion and almost certainly will never will be. So, the idea that TEC is not Anglican and ACNA is, to be charitable, silly.

Now, the question arises, How well did Zadig and Harmon impress the attendees in St. Michael's? We get a glimpse in the posted Questions and Answers of Modules 1-4. These were questions that the audience wrote out after the sessions. The dualism, TEC-bad, DSC-good apparently went over very well. There were 11 mentions of TEC in the Questions, and 6 for Anglican. The most surprising revelation was that the people seemed mostly uninterested in sexuality, a topic Harmon had expounded at length. There were only 4 references to sexuality in the Questions while there were 5 references to salvation, 4 to the scriptures, 4 to the church, and 2 to Hell. Actually, the crowd seemed more interested in the effects of the schism than in the promoted topics of sexuality and the uniqueness of Christ.

One question in particular illustrated the course:  
"Q 4. Is there any chance for reconciliation? 
A. No. Perhaps mediation; but not reconciliation. TEC has 'gone over the waterfall.' You cannot put the water back at the top. Remember this all comes down to worldview and our over-under understanding of scripture." (Q & A, Mod. 3-4).

The answers were illuminating in other ways too. In one question, homosexuality is seen as a disease to be cured: "What we want to do is help those with unwanted same-sex desires to be healed...This may or may not cure them... (Q & A, #10, Mod. 3-4).

Another answer implied that Jesus condemned homosexuality. Actually, the Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. (Q & A, #14, Mod. 1-2).

Another answer was wildly inaccurate:  "At the last world gathering of Anglican bishops in England in 2016, TEC was demoted to observer status withing the Anglican Communion....Archbishop Foley Beach of the ACNA was not only invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but was given full participation. Until the disagreements are settled, TEC is demoted and ACNA is a full ecumenical partner of the Anglican Communion." All of this is untrue. In fact, the TEC was not "demoted" to anything. Beach was not regarded as a primate and not allowed to vote. ACNA may be an "ecumenical partner" as many other churches are, but the implication that it is part of the Anglican Communion is flatly wrong. ACNA is not in the Anglican Communion. TEC is the only branch of the Anglican Communion in the U.S. The assertion that ACNA is truly in the Anglican Communion and TEC is not is an untruth almost on the level of the claim that TEC has abandoned the uniqueness of Christ (the most outrageously false of all of DSC's wild attacks on TEC). 

So, when all is said and done about this course at St. Michael's I am left in profound sadness. I grieve for the good people of St. Michael's who have been put in a terrible position. For many years now they have been given one side of the story. At the moment it is being thrown on them in new urgency. What are they to do? DSC is trying to convince people why they need to abandon their iconic ancestral building, a national and local treasure and all this entails. The people certainly have a right to their religious views. I just wish they could have the other side too before they break up their church family (again). (There's an idea---Rev. Zadig, let me give a "lesson" on this history of the schism at St. Michael's. Judging for the turnout I have had in other places, there would be a big crowd.)

It is useful to stand back and look at the big picture. DSC's schism from the Episcopal Church is part of a culture war now going on in the U.S., and to some extent in the world. DSC is part of a reactionary backlash against the democratic reforms adopted by the Episcopal Church from the 1950's to the present, what I call a turn to horizontal religion: civil rights for racial minorities, democratized prayer book, and equality for and inclusion of women and homosexuals in the life of the church. What is fueling this backlash against this turn is fear, fear of change, fear of loss, fear of the unknown. Christian fundamentalists, with whom I would put the leaders of DSC, fear that the fundamentals of the old religion are under assault by the forces of secular humanism and so are retreating into a defensive posture of the past. The ACNA is the creation of the Anglican fundamentalists in hopes of defeating this humanism and restoring fundamental Anglican religion in America. 

The leaders of DSC, and their followers, certainly have the right to decide their own religion. No one has every questioned that. That is not what is at stake. The issue is whether they can take the property of the pre-schsim diocese with them as they embark on their separate journey of faith. It looks as if the courts will say no they cannot. Hence, the desperation at St. Michael's and St. Philip's. As President Trump might say in a tweet: SAD! 

ADDENDUM (April 24):
Following the course above, Dr. Peter Moore addressed the congregation of St. Michael's church on March 18, and Bishop Lawrence on April 22. They continued the theme of preparing to leave the buildings.

Moore continued the clear-cut differentiation of "us/them" that has worked so well for so many years. Manichean dualism has been an integral part of the theology of the people who made the schism; and it has been very effective in separating the majority of the old diocese from the Episcopal Church. He made disparaging remarks about the Episcopal Church that were, to be charitable, great exaggerations. Finally he got to the ultimate point of his sermon: property. He echoed Jean Toal's words about judicial confiscation (in fact, she was the only one of the 5 justices to say the Dennis Canon had no effect in SC). Moore told his listeners: "Jesus knew that what would sustain his disciples through the stormy days ahead was to be grounded in the Word of God.... He alone will carry us through the storm. If we lose everything, we still have Him.... Buildings or no buildings, we are here, and we are not going away." Well, nothing subtle about that.

It seemed to me Moore signaled loudly and clearly the people of St. Michael's should prepare to vacate the premises.

Lawrence's message of last Sunday to St. Michaelites was more muted but still unmistakable. He preached on the text from the Gospel of Mark about the paralyzed man who was let down through the roof of the building to be healed by Jesus. He said "There are lots of ways to be paralyzed in life." He observed that paralysis is all around us as "fear grips many people's hearts today." However, he said, "people are not made for buildings." Ah, there we are on the unimportance of buildings. He continued, "Some of you this morning are paralyzed by what you do not have power over." Finally, "What will you do?...Do not be paralyzed any longer." His point: Trust in God, God will lead, God will heal, through Him we can overcome our paralysis. I expect everyone got the meaning that I understood: do not be afraid of leaving the building.

It may be easy for people who have little personal or ancestral attachment to St. Michael's church to tell the people of St. Michael's they should abandon the old church structure, but it is far from easy for people whose lives are embedded in that historic treasure at the corner of Meeting and Broad, the very essence of old Charleston. The idea of leaving that ancient building is devastating to people whose very identity is in its walls. Telling them to leave is close to giving them a death sentence. I know from personal testimony there are people in St. Michael's who are heartbroken and who are agonizing between what their leaders are telling them and what their hearts are saying. This is a tragedy; and it is one that did not have to happen. My heart goes out to the people of St. Michael's. What I want to say to you is that one day all of this will be over. St. Michael's has weathered the worst that history and nature can throw at it. It has survived and you will too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Yesterday, April 16, 2018, Judge Richard Mark Gergel, of the U.S. District Court in Charleston issued "Order and Opinion" making judgments on several motions that had been entered by both sides. This is in the case of vonRosenberg v. Lawrence that began in the federal court in March of 2013. In this, the Episcopal Church bishop essentially asked the federal court to recognize him, and not Mark Lawrence, as the rightful bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. This was based on the Lanham Act that protects federally registered trademarks.

Judge Gergel made several major points in his ruling of yesterday as he:

1---rejected DSC's request for a stay pending the U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether to grant cert. 

The losing parties' [DSC] decision to petition for a writ of certiorari does not place the South Carolina Supreme Court's decision into abeyance. Nor does it provide any reason for this Court to abstain from hearing any issue properly before this Court. (p. 6)

Defendants' petition for review of the final judgment of the South Carolina Supreme Court certainly does not create a basis for abstention [of this court. (p. 11)

2---recognized TEC/TECSC's rights to press trademark infringement and false claims against DSC, the parishes of DSC, and the Trustees corporation of DSC.

The Court therefore grants Plaintiffs' [TEC/TECSC] motions insofar as they seek to assert trademark infringement and false advertising claims against the Lawrence Diocese, parishes associated with the Lawrence Diocese, and the Trustees Corporation. (p. 7)

3---backed away from judicial intrusion into religion [the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbids the state from interfering in the internal working of a religious institution]. Therefore, Gergel refused jurisdiction over TEC/TECSC's trust claims. In other words, he shied away from the property issue.

Entry of a judicial order telling 28 congregations whom they may or may not elect to their respective parish vestries would foster excessive judicial entanglement with religion. (p. 8)

declaring whether a vestry holding real property in trust met its fiduciary obligation need not involve any judicial entanglement with religion. (p. 9)

This Court cannot involve itself in determining exactly what religious services are or are not allowable in various parish churches across the Lowcountry. (p. 9)

TEC asks the Court to declare parish vestrymen unfit for lay ministry because they allow schismatics to use church property. The Court cannot do that. (p. 10)

The Court therefore denies Plaintiffs' motions insofar as they seek to assert trust law claims against parishes associated with the Lawrence Diocese. (p. 11)

4---although Gergel denied TEC/TECSC's request for aid in trust enforcement, he took the extraordinary step of strongly suggesting, not once but twice, that TEC/TECSC take legal possession of the properties in question. To me, this was the most surprising and potentially important part of yesterday's ruling. It sounded to me as if Gergel all but told TEC to get possession of the 28 parishes.

TEC could take legal possession of the parish property held in trust for its benefit, rather than asking a federal court to supervise the local congregation's use [of] the property. (p. 9)

He even told TEC/TECSC how to do this:

Again, the better solution to the problem might be for TEC to take possession of the properties, rather than asking a federal court to assist the management of the properties. And the better forum for enforcement of the South Carolina Supreme Court's decision concerning TEC's real property rights is the court that received the remittitur, the Dorchester County Court of Common Pleas...

In summary, on one hand Gergel granted TEC/TECSC's motion for action to press claims on trademark infringement against DSC, its parishes, and its Trustees; and on the other hand, he denied TEC/TECSC's motion for enforcement of their trust interests (property). However he plainly urged TEC/TECSC to pursue enforcement of their property claims in the circuit court pursuant of the state supreme court decision. To Gergel, DSC's appeal to SCOTUS was all but irrelevant in this case.

Altogether, Gergel's order of yesterday is a significant court victory for the Episcopal Church side. Thus, in the view of the federal judge, who owns the properties of the 28 parishes is not an issue. It has been settled and ought to be enforced.

I am wondering if, coming at this time, Gergel might be sending a message to the U.S. Supreme Court. His remarks on governmental intrusion into religion could be taken that way. 

We will have to wait and see how the TEC/TECSC lawyers respond to what appears to me to be this federal judge's virtual urging that they gain possession of the properties. If they do respond, I suppose the next step would be for them to go to the circuit court of Dorchester County with the proper motions to obtain physical possession of the 28 (actually 29) parish properties.

Judging from yesterday's decision, the future looks good for the Church side in the federal court. 

Find Judge Gergel's April 16 decision here .

Monday, April 16, 2018


On April 14, I posted a comment on Samuel Richards's review of my book, A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina, in the quarterly journal, Anglican and Episcopal History. Unfortunately the review itself is not freely available on the Internet. The journal editor has given me permission to quote the review in its entirety. The other review, in the April 6, issue of Church Times is available online. See my posting of April 9.

Here is the entire review in Anglican and Episcopal History, Volume 87, Number 1 (March 2018), pages 83-85:

A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina. By Ronald James Caldwell. (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2017. Pp. xvii, 527. $62.00, paper.)

     A seemingly interminable storm hangs over the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. Ronald James Caldwell sets out to explain why and how this came to be. Eschewing euphemisms of realignment, reorganization, and disassociation, Caldwell calls the 2012 event a schism. He argues this result was far from inevitable. Instead, he describes it as the painful culmination of thirty years of decisions.
     Caldwell's book is indispensable for scholars of church history and social change. It offers a detailed examination of how contemporary ideas of theological purity effect broad church Anglicanism. The author effectively identifies underlying causes, direct causes, and initiating events. At the same time, he raises questions regarding the perils of ideological purity, authoritarian diocesan power structures, conspiracy, church property, and the quality of South Carolina circuit courts.
     The author describes his three-part methodology of gathering all available information, constructing a chronological narrative, and drawing conclusions. His book includes several hundred sources, including many interviews, gathered during four years of research. Records from diocesan conventions and a state court trial in 2014 are especially prominent. However, Wikipedia also disappointingly appears among the footnotes. Lack of access to records from the bishop's search committee of 2005-2007 and email exchanges between Bishop Mark J. Lawrence and his lawyer render aspects of Caldwell's question more difficult to answer. In instances with only circumstantial evidence, Caldwell withholds judgment letting his reader decide.
     The approach allows partisans of all stripes to find succor in the author's chronicle. Supporters of schism might criticize his sympathy with the Episcopal Church as demonstrated by his tribute to former Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori. This assessment would be unfairly incomplete. Despite his tribute, Caldwell describes the national church's initially slow and ineffective responses. He is also critical of Lawrence's penchant for military metaphors and rambling speeches while also praising his ability to build effective networks while retaining a highly capable lawyer. As a professor emeritus of history and former Charleston-based research librarian, Caldwell is true to the ideals of his academic discipline. He meticulously recounts the facts and relays his conclusions. However, recent events form only part of Caldwell's narrative.
     Caldwell begins with Huguenots and the Church of England's establishment in colonial Carolina. He narrates relevant historical points leading to 2003 describing a colony that embodied "competing threads of tradition and separateness" (2). This is a theme he revisits frequently as he details multiple struggles including two previous schisms and a bishop's assassination. Yet, He pinpoints post-World War II as the beginning of significant divergence between the church and diocese because the Episcopal Church transformed from being "aloof, stodgy, conservative [and] socially indifferent" into a church that was "ready to right the wrongs of the community" (26). Caldwell credits Bishop Gray Temple with helping the diocese navigate its disagreements with the national church regarding race, women's ordination, prayer book revision, and initially homosexuality. However, he describes a more confrontational approach after 1982 under the leadership of bishops Christopher FitzSimons Allison, Edward L. Salmon Jr., and Lawrence. Lawrence's two elections and episcopate dominate four of the book's six chapters.
     This book can be read cover-to-cover or as a reference volume. The table of contents and index make it useful without reading the entire narrative. When reading cover-to-cover, parts of the narrative repeat. Including a bibliography and illustrations, such as maps and photographs, would enhance the volume. The second edition can correct these shortcomings. After all, Caldwell's work remains incomplete. Events in the Low Country are the subject of ongoing legal proceedings. Caldwell seems well aware of this and remains hopeful that South Carolinians will one day look at this sad chapter with regret while stepping forward together to create a better world for all of God's children.

Samuel J. Richards                               Zurich, Switzerland

Saturday, April 14, 2018




A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina, has received its second professional book review, this time in Anglican and Episcopal History, the quarterly journal of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church. The reviewer was Samuel J. Richards. His remarks appeared in the March 2018 issue, Volume 87, Number 1, pp. 83-85. Unfortunately for us, this review is not available freely online (as the first one was). One has to be a subscriber to the journal or find it in a library.

Richards wrote:

Caldwell's book is indispensable for scholars of church history and social change. It offers a detailed examination of how contemporary ideas of theological purity effect broad church Anglicanism.

He continued:

The author effectively identifies underlying causes, direct causes, and initiating events. At the same time, he raises questions regarding the perils of ideological purity, authoritarian diocesan power structures, conspiracy, church property, and the quality of South Carolina's circuit courts.

As for the question of bias, Richards does not see this as an issue in the book:

In instances with only circumstantial evidence, Caldwell withholds judgment letting the reader decide.
     This approach allows partisans of all stripes to find succor in the author's chronicle. Supporters of schism might criticize his sympathy with ... former Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori. This assessment would be unfairly incomplete.

He added:

Caldwell is true to the ideals of his academic discipline. He meticulously recounts the facts and relays his conclusions.

As I have said from the start, this is not an easy book of light reading. It is daunting in its breadth, depth, and length. It is a mountain of information thoroughly documented in 2,200 footnotes citing 900 sources (of the 2,500 I consulted). I stand gratified, perhaps even vindicated, that Richards was able to absorb it all, to see the forest and the trees, and make such perceptive judgments. I do not disagree with a word he says. Indeed, I am honored by his generous comments and valuations and most grateful for his attention to this work.

It is interesting to compare the two present reviews of the book. The first was by Jeremy Morris in Church Times (Apr. 6, 2018). See my blog post of April 9, "Church Times Reviews..."

The most important point is that both reviewers raised no question about the interpretations, explanations, or conclusions made in the book. If they disagreed with any of this, they did not say so.

Morris seemed to emphasize two main drawbacks in the book, too much information and inadequate theological context. He also indicated it was biased toward the Church. The second reviewer, Richards, did not see any of this. In the first place, I would question whether any work of history could have too much information. The amount of detail depends on the subject at hand and the evidence involved. The schism of 2012 was a large event that encompassed a great deal. A brief summary book would not have done the subject justice. Morris also implied that I did not offer enough interpretation but left "the hard work to the reader." Richards, on the other hand, seemed to believe there was plenty of interpretation. At the same time, he did not see the book as overtly biased. He said both sides would find something to like there.

As for the book's theological explanations, Richards made no mention of this. Apparently, he found my admittedly simplistic paradigm of vertical/horizontal religion not a problem. Morris said it was wholly inadequate, but he did not say it was invalid. In other words, both reviewers failed to take issue with the distinctions made in the vertical/horizontal model. I saw it as a useful tool to help laypeople see the theological issues involved in the schism, simplistic but valid.

Both reviewers mentioned too much repetition in the text. Although I cannot know for sure, I suspect this is from the structure of the chapters. At the beginnings and ends of the chapters I supplied summaries that did repeat information in the text. I did this for two reasons, to help the reader see the forest and the trees and to keep the long and detailed narrative flowing. I also offered judgments and interpretations along as I though appropriate and helpful to the reader.

As for the size of the book, the rough draft was a hundred pages longer than the final copy. Rather than go to two volumes with a prohibitive price tag, I decided to cut and condense the narrative as much as I thought prudent for one volume. Hence, a hundred pages fell by the wayside. I can only imagine what the reviewers would be saying if they had had to wade through the original version. I also cut out the bibliography which would have added another fifty pages and omitted pictures, maps, graphs and other illustrations. Even so, the published book is 300,000 words, a massive work.

Back to the issue of bias. Some people see my history of the schism as pro-Church propaganda to be dismissed offhand. Well, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. I only hope that opinion is based on having read the book first. Perhaps some people are confusing my blog with my book. They are far from the same thing. The blog definitely takes a pro Episcopal Church stand. The book does not. Actually, I found much to admire about Bishop Lawrence and said so. He especially impressed me with two great qualities. He is a man of resolve and strength with an amazing endurance. Moreover, I also saw him as very human with emotional distress at the understandable times. The second major point was his great social skill, his ability to bond quickly and well with the majority of people in the diocese and the conservative elements beyond the diocese. In 2008 he arrived in the diocese virtually unknown. With amazing speed, he formed a strong union with the diocesan power structure, most of the clergy, and most of the laity. Soon it was "we." Within two years, the diocese declared virtual independence from the Episcopal Church. Within five years, the solid majority of clergy and laity followed him out of the Church with unquestioning loyalty. It was a tour de force of leadership. Moreover, whatever one might think of Lawrence, we have to admire much about his life story, the frail baby who overcame serious obstacles to "rise to the top" so to speak. That the book ultimately criticizes the schismatics and defends the Episcopal Church speaks to the documents at hand.

While on the subject of blame, I sometimes wonder what the Episcopal Church might have done to prevent the five schisms of 2007-12. The weight of the schisms comes from the people who actually made the schisms, but I think it is useful to ask, was the Episcopal Church at fault at all?

Hindsight is always easy of course, but looking back I see several events that the Church might have handled differently, if not better. Whether these could have prevented the schisms one cannot know. The first was the way the Church handled the issue of homosexuality. By 1990 the Church was divided roughly into thirds, one-third for ordination of non-celibate homosexuals, one-third against this, and one-third neutral. By 1997, the "for" side had won the day and had done so by several mostly quiet or back-door moves:
1---After several bishops ordained openly homosexual persons in 1989 and 1990, the House of Bishops refused to take action against them or the ordinations (the House had condemned the first ordinations of women and declared them illegal). This was tacit recognition of the right of ordination for non-celibate gays.
2---General Convention passed a resolution adding sexual orientation to the list of protections for ordination.
3---The most conservative bishops brought charges against Bp Righter for his ordination of an open homosexual. The ecclesiastical court dismissed the charges in 1996 and declared that there was no impediment in the Constitution and Canons to the ordination of homosexuals.
By 1997 the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals was all but settled. The approval of Gene Robinson as bishop in 2003 was really made in the 1990's.

The problem with the issue of ordination was the moral dimension. The two "wings" had polar views on the issue of the morality of homosexual acts. Conservatives saw these as sin. Liberals saw these as morally neutral. Here is where the Church failed. It never had an open, full discussion let alone debate, on this issue. Hence, there was no possibility of a consensus and the two sides clung to their uncompromising positions. The Church dealt with homosexuality entirely as an institutional issue, that is, ordination. By granting ordination it gave tacit recognition to the liberal view of moral neutrality but did it without the great deliberation it should have had for the sake of unity. It might have been better if the Church had gone through a process to reach a consensus on the heart of the matter, morality and homosexual acts.

I would also fault the Church for its lack of adequate response to the obvious movement toward schism in South Carolina from the time Lawrence arrived in 2008 to 2012. On numerous occasions, pro-Church parties in SC appealed to the national church for intervention, but none came. I am not sure what the Church could have done given its structure, but four years went by in which the Church stood aside while SC moved ever close to secession. Shades of President James Buchanan. In 2009 and 2010, DSC declared virtual independence from TEC. Nothing happened. In 2011, communicants in DSC presented a credible case against Lawrence to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops. The DBB rejected a mound of evidence in order to give forbearance. Appeasement did not work. By the time a cadre of bishops arrived in Charleston to talk with Lawrence about the quit claim deeds, in December of 2011, it was too little, too late.

I think too the Church could have handled the matter of Lawrence differently. I do not mean to stand in judgment on Jefferts Schori whom I admire, but I doubt that she quite appreciated how much the DSC portrayed her personally as the enemy although she should have known their attitude from the abrasive treatment she was made to endure in her visit to Charleston in Feb. of 2008. In time, the DSC leaders increasingly cast her as the villain from off. She came to personify all they disliked about the Episcopal Church and so they portrayed her treatment of Lawrence as deliberate. To be sure, she had no choice but to place a restriction on Lawrence on Oct. 15, 2012. However, she did have a choice about imposing on him a formal Release and Removal on Dec. 5, 2012. In hindsight, it might have been better to wait for the House of Bishops to take up the matter of Lawrence at its next meeting, in March of 2013. Of course that would have left the Episcopal Church in SC in limbo until then. Nevertheless, by turning the matter over to the Bishops, she would have de-personalized the crisis. As it was, one witness after another took the stand in the circuit court trial, in July 2014, to decry the Presiding Bishop's "bad treatment" of their esteemed leader, Bp Lawrence. 

Whatever the Episcopal Church might have done differently, however, the overwhelming truth is that the schismatics themselves made the schisms. And, that is the conclusion I reached in my history of the schism. The documentary evidence of this is as "mammoth" as the book. Still, I am left wondering, what might the church have done...?

I look forward to more reviews of A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina.

Monday, April 9, 2018




Church Times is the leading weekly religious news periodical in England, and arguably the most important in the Anglican world. For over one hundred and fifty years, it has followed events in the Church of England and, to some degree, the Anglican churches beyond. It is an honor to have my book chosen for review in this venerable old publication. This is the first professional review of the book since it was published in August of 2017.

Find the review here .

The reviewer is the Rev. Dr. Jeremy Morris, Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, a prominent scholar on church history. His report appeared in the April 6, 2018, edition of the newspaper.

The sub-title of the article sets the tone of the review: "Unfortunately, it sets the reader a heavy task, says Jeremy Morris." Heavy in more ways than one. "This is a mammoth of a book," he says.

As the reader can see, Morris does not disagree with, or criticize, my thesis, interpretations, or conclusions. He does not take issue with what the book says, but how it says it. To summarize his remarks, he sees the book as too long, too detailed, too biased, simplistic in theology, poorly copy edited, and lacking enough explanation/interpretation. I do not disagree with most of this although I would take a slight exception that the book is too one-sided and lacks adequate interpretation. I methodically included all the documents I could find from every source. If my interpretations of the sources are pro-Church, and they ultimately are, that comes from the body of the evidence.  

To be sure, the book is long, detailed, and heavily ladened with facts. It is 300,000 words. I was trained in the old fashioned school of history called "the scientific school" which demanded discovery and inclusion of every bit of evidence, laid out in a reasonable chronological narrative, providing meticulous documentation, and arriving at logical conclusions based on the evidence presented. My professors of long ago would have accepted nothing less. I admit, the book is daunting: long, a bit dense and slow going. That is because it is thorough and painstakingly documented. 

As for simplistic theology, this is a book of history, not theology, and it was written for the ordinary laypeople, not theologians. I consciously tried to make the theological issues easy to understand. I do not mind if anyone quibbles with that.

As for the copy editing and repetition, I plead no contest.

There is a fine line in historical writing between being too interpretive and not interpretive enough. In the book, I offered summaries of content throughout, typically at the ends and beginnings of chapters to keep the narrative flowing. The last chapter is the conclusion that is drawn from the entire body of the information in the narrative preceding it. 

I hope to publish a second edition of this book (or maybe Vol. II the way things are going) after the litigation is finished. I have a standing invitation to all people on both sides to share with me their experiences in the schism. If anyone has new documents to add, please send them to me. The more evidence the better, even though I went though 2,500 items. Moreover, if anyone knows of erroneous information in the text, let me know for correction. Contact me at my email address above. My fondest desire is that this work becomes the standard history of the schism in South Carolina; and so I want it to stand up well long after I am gone. 

On the whole, Morris has given the book a good review and I appreciate it. The criticisms he made are well-taken.

Meanwhile, I look forward to more critiques in professional periodicals.