Wednesday, August 1, 2018

SPIN CYCLE, 3rd edition

August 2, 10:00 a.m. Report on July 31 gathering with Bishop Mark Lawrence in Sumter:

About 200 people attended with perhaps a dozen from TEC churches. The attendees found Lawrence looking much older but still with a lot of fight left. 

The pattern that Lawrence used was to answer a question or two then go into sermon mode and repeat. This went on for an hour and a half.

The session turned out much as we had anticipated. Apparently Lawrence repeated the well-known DSC talking points, the same ones they have used for years. They are enumerated in DSC's FAQs posted on its website. There was nothing new.

Also, the "ministry" idea that Lawrence had promoted in the run-up to his whirlwind tour turns out to be, as we imagined, only a call for laity and clergy to stick together against TEC and prepare to leave the buildings. Nothing new there either.

I have received two first-hand accounts of Lawrence's talk. Here is what seems to me to be the main points of the evening:

---The legal issues are not settled. The South Carolina Supreme Court decision was five different opinions. Issues are now in the circuit court and far from settled.
(Actually, this is not true. The SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017, recognized definitively that TEC holds control over 29 parishes and Camp St. Christopher. This was the clear-cut majority opinion. The circuit court judge has shown he is anxious to get this enacted and over. In fact, today is the one-year anniversary of the SCSC decision. According to the SC Code of Laws, if a party believes there was a mistake in a state supreme court decision, that party has one year to correct the mistake. To my knowledge there has been no correction. By the SC Code there can be no change after today. In the SCSC decision, former chief justice Jean Toal listed eight entities not under TEC control. However, two of these were of one parish, St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant. That means seven parishes are on the list not under TEC. Six of these are in DSC (the 7th is St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant). Old St. Andrew's of West Ashley is one of the 29 parishes now under TEC control.)

---Lawrence talked mostly about the past, particularly the run-up to the schism and events since then. This was reiteration of old talking points. There was little focus on the future. When asked if DSC parishes should cut their losses and move on, he was vague and did not answer directly. However, his attitude was evident.

---Lawrence talked about church people being in four categories: pro-TEC, do not care, care but do not know where to turn, and pro-DSC. 
(I suspect categorization as this is a cover for when people stay with the buildings and return to TEC. It is more accurate to identify three groups: return to TEC, however grudgingly, neutral, and leave building for DSC churches in exile.)

---victimization. Lawrence returned to an old theme, that he was a target of TEC from the start: "target on my back." This is to emphasize the us v. them paradigm.
(Actually, the historical record shows the opposite. TEC went out of its way to appease him. As we all know appeasement does not work, but only emboldens the aggressor.)

---As for no compromise, he said once again that the famous June 2015 offer was not legitimate. Nothing in writing.

---Lawrence did not denounce TEC directly, but had plenty of negative comments. At one time he went on at length about the Church insurance company paying $5m for TEC's legal fees. He implied this money came from retired priests and TEC was dishonorable for taking the money. (I am no sure what this was all about.)
At another time, he said parish priests in returning churches could not continue in their posts and would be on probation and would be unable to serve in a parish for five years, at least this was what the reporters heard him say.

---Lawrence made it plain that reconciliation was out of the question. The theme of the night was us v. them. In the fundamentalist world view, everything is in dual opposition. So, if DSC is good, that means its opponent, TEC, is bad. 

Through the whole event, Lawrence was verbose and obtuse. There was much vagueness and little direct clarity. There was no hint of reconciliation, just the opposite.

Questioners seemed to show schism fatigue. Their remarks showed desire for closure. Lawrence promised no such thing.

The road show continues on with four more stops: Aug. 2, St. Jude's, Walterboro, 7 p.m.; Aug. 7, St. Luke and St. Paul, Charleston, 6:30 p.m.; Trinity, Myrtle Beach, 6:30 p.m.; Aug. 9, St. James, James Island, 7 p.m. I think we can expect more of the same all along the way.

CONCLUSION. The purpose of this Last Hurrah is to strengthen the bond between the DSC faithful and their bishop and diocese. I see no other logical reason for it. On that level it succeeded to some degree. However, there is a mixed message: the litigation settlement on the properties is not over v. we will vacate the buildings if we have to in order to keep true religion. Lawrence avoided direct comments but made his thoughts and feelings clear to his people. It was the emotional bonding that was the core of the event, not what was actually said.