Friday, August 24, 2018


News arrived today that St. Helena's church, in Beaufort, has suspended its plan to raise funds for the ongoing litigation. The announcement came in today's issue of the "The Weekly eNewsletter" of St. Helena's:

"From the Vestry

The effort to raise the legal funds that was announced at the 2nd Quarter Vision Meeting is on hold at this time until there is greater clarity about our legal position. We will keep you informed as we are made aware of new developments."

This makes the second parish to make such a public announcement (there could be others of which I am not aware). Church of the Resurrection, Surfside Beach, announced it had suspended its payments to the diocese for the litigation and the diocesan assessment. The rector cited a severe financial crisis in the parish. See the blog posting here of August 19, "Fear and Loathing in the DSC Parishes."

St Helena's did not give a reason for the suspension other than need for "clarity." However, the parish has had a fifty percent fall in communicant numbers since the schism. Here are St. Helena's official figures of communicants:

2005 - 1,200

2008 - 1,541

2011 - 1,737

2016 - 880 [numerals fuzzy; possibly 660 or 550]

Thus, St. Helena's grew significantly before the schism, then lost more than half its communicant number after the schism. It is possibly more than half, as the three numbers in the online copy are difficult to determine. At the most the numbers are 880, at the least 550 (see for yourself here , page 149).

It is curious that St. Helena's, of all parishes, would be suspending funds for lawyers. St. Helena's was one of the original parishes that advocated schism well before 2012. For years it was well-known as a hot bed of anti-TEC words and actions. Moreover, it was, and I suppose still is, the home parish of DSC lead lawyer Alan Runyan. The fact that St. Helena's, of all local church in DSC, is now suspending funding for the diocesan legal actions speaks volumes about the state of the litigation on DSC's side. 

It was also curious to note that St. Helena's was not well-represented at Bishop Lawrence's road show stop in the southwestern area of the diocese. The session at St. Jude's of Walterboro was the smallest of the five appearances with at most 100 in attendance. Half of those were communicants of St. Jude's. That means 50 people came from all of the other local churches, Church of the Cross in Bluffton, St. Luke's of Hilton Head, St. John's of Johns Island, and St. Helena's. Not exactly a big turnout for the bishop.

I have theorized that Lawrence's Last Hurrah had two aims, to keep people believing in the litigation in order to keep up fund raising for lawyers, and to bond the communicants to him and the diocese so they will leave the buildings and form DSC congregations when TEC regains control of the properties. The first aim does not seem to be working out very well. The second remains to be seen. 

I expect it is safe to assume there are other local churches in DSC that have also stopped payments to lawyers. If so, the diocese will be hard pressed to keep up the wide array of litigation it has promised to block the return of the parishes.

It is important to note that both Resurrection of Surfside and St. Helena's of Beaufort are among the twenty-nine parishes to be returned to the Episcopal Church control. It is just a matter of time, and I expect it will be sooner rather than later. All twenty-nine of the parishes would be wise to stop paying lawyers and keep the money. The parish property issue is settled for all intents and purposes.

If we learn other DSC parishes have suspended their contributions for the litigation, that may well indicate a crisis of confidence within the diocese. People vote with their feet and their pocketbooks. We know from DSC's own official statistics that the diocese lost a third of its communicants after the schism. The third that dropped out voted against the diocesan leadership with their feet. Now, if one parish after another stops contributing funds for litigation, they will be voting against the leadership with their money. It is premature to jump to any conclusions about the meaning of all of this but it does seem that signs are beginning to appear that DSC's internal institutional integrity is in peril.

ADDENDUM, 25 August.
Other parishes in DSC may not be doing well either. According to the St. John's of Florence newsletter (find it here ), there was a vast budget shortfall in June. The budgeted pledge giving for June was $57,084. The actual pledge giving was $27,318. The operating expenses of June totaled $73,717 while the actual income was $33,000. Perhaps this is just a summertime aberration. Otherwise, that parish is in financial trouble. How in the world can they function long with twice as much expense as income, let alone pay lawyers? St. John's was one of the seven parishes the state supreme court declared outside of TEC control. In 2011, just before the schism, St. John's counted 453 communicants. In 2016 it listed 423.