Monday, January 28, 2019


It is with sadness that I report the death of Dolores Miller, of Florence SC. Along with our sorrow, however, is our love, gratitude, and admiration for a life well lived. I expect every Episcopalian in Florence would agree she was the mainstay of the church there. She will be greatly missed.

Before the schism, Miller was active for years in the life of the parish of St. John's, of Florence, and the diocese of South Carolina. At St. John's, she served as senior warden and vestryperson. Her goal was to do what she could to keep the parish and the diocese in the Episcopal Church; and on this she had to struggle against the rising tide sweeping the diocese out to sea. She remained undeterred. She refused to give in or to give up. In the wake of the Bishop Robinson controversy that greatly boosted the schismatic movement in the diocese, the church loyalists in the diocese formed the Episcopal Forum. Miller was right there as an early officer. At about the same time, in 2004, Bishop Salmon set up a diocesan "Reconciliation Commission" under the chairmanship of the Rev. Dow Sanderson. Miller was right there, as one of one of the twelve members of the committee. Unfortunately, that Commission failed. It was washed away in the rising tide of secession. Miller remained undeterred. In early 2012, when attorney Melinda Lucka brought together her coalition of 24 signatories to present their complaint against Bishop Lawrence to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, Miller was there to sign her name. This presentment did in fact lead to the official charge that Lawrence had abandoned the communion.

Many people probably remember Miller best as the little white-haired lady who gave the "roasts" of the bishop in the annual diocesan conventions when she presented the official response to the bishop's address. Her sharp but good-natured ribbing of the bishop left everyone in stitches. Miller's absence in the convention session this year was noticeable.

My first, and lasting, impression of Dolores Miller came in another context. I happened to be visiting my daughter in Florence when Bishop Lawrence appeared in St. John's church for a "forum" on October 28, 2012, just thirteen days after he had been "restricted" by the presiding bishop and ordered to refrain from all functions of ministry pending the resolution of the charge of abandonment. Lawrence had ignored the restriction; and the diocesan authorities had announced the diocese had "disaffiliated" from the Episcopal Church. Here was Lawrence at St. John's ready to administer the sacrament of confirmation to a new class. I went to the forum and sat a couple of seats over from Miller. Here is how I describe the forum in my book A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina (p. 378-79):

"This author attended Lawrence's forum at St. John's on October 28. While he cannot say for sure, he can only imagine this was typical of Lawrence's bishop's forums around the diocese at the time. Lawrence spoke briefly in a somber, serious tone appearing rather sad and tired. His speech was replete with military metaphors: e.g., the Episcopal Church had fired a "missile" that had led to "all out war." It was clear that he saw this as the war of a lifetime, a life-and-death struggle between good and evil. He remarked that Nick Zeigler's funeral, which had been in St. John's, was "providential" because it kept him from having to meet with the presiding bishop. The following question-and-answer period went off on many different topics. At one point, Lawrence declared, "I am no longer an Episcopalian" to the murmuring approval of the audience. He spent a great deal of time on sexuality and seemed most concerned that he had met two transsexual priests at the Convention. Referring to the blessing of same-sex unions and equal rights for transsexual persons, Lawrence said "the canons of the Episcopal Church have gone where no civilization in history has ever gone." On one question about keeping the property, he said anyone could follow the buildings if they wanted. He did not guarantee them they could keep the property. When asked about ongoing negotiations with the Episcopal Church, Lawrence seemed evasive. He did not say that talks had broken off for good. It was clear from the audience reaction that this was a mostly supportive crowd, but not entirely. One person, Dolores Miller, arose to confront Lawrence. She asked him on what authority he was acting since he had been inhibited. He corrected her that he had been "restricted" [a distinction without a difference] and added that he was there as a bishop in the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church which no restriction could affect. When Miller remained standing and continued asking pointed questions, Lawrence grew annoyed and became short and testy. After the audience began to grow restless and murmur disapproval of Miller's persistent line, Haigh Porter arose to make a tearful appeal that they should love one another above all. It was clear that this group was in a good deal of emotional pain and anguish as longtime friends were about to part from one another. Lawrence looked on impassively. Finally, a man arose to ask of Lawrence the question on everyone's mind, "Shepherd, where will you lead us from here?" It was the best question of the day. The crowd fell hushed in eager anticipation. Lawrence made a vague, rambling response, maybe here, maybe there. His lack of clear vision did not matter. Most of the crowd stood and clapped loudly in approval. It was clear that Lawrence did not have to worry about the loyalty of this parish. Lawrence proceeded on to preside over confirmation for a large class without telling them they were not being confirmed in the Episcopal Church."

On that day, Dolores Miller was the only one in that audience of one hundred people to confront the bishop to his face, the only one to speak truth to power. She knew that her beloved church, St. John's, was about to vote to leave the Episcopal Church (it did soon thereafter by some 80%). She was not there to change the impending vote. She was there to speak the truth. She felt it important to make Lawrence explain himself. She stood up to him and refused to sit down until he answered her questions which went on and on. It was obvious that he was not used to being challenged like this and he did not take it happily. At one when she was particularly persistent, Lawrence shot back at her testily, "Do you want an answer?! Do you want an answer?!" Their contretemps ended as Lawrence remarked that God's will would be done. To that, Miller responded confidently, "Yes it will," as some listeners audibly gasped. If we can take the state supreme court to be God's will, it was Miller and not Lawrence who won in the end.

St. John's has struggled in the Lawrence years. In 2008, when Bishop Lawrence arrived, it had 503 communicants, in 2011, 453, and in 2013, 375. Thus, from 2008 to 2013 it lost 25% of its communicants. Looking at the year of the schism, the communicant number went down from 453 in 2011 to 375 in 2013, a loss of 17% as a direct result of the schism. St. John's budget has also struggled even though it may be drawing from the Douglas Trust that was set up to provide money to the parish as long as it remained in communion with Canterbury which it is not now. St. John's of Florence is one of the six local churches that the state supreme court has recognized as being independent of the Episcopal Church. What will happen after the courts finally settle all in favor of the Church and its diocese, only time will tell. The decline of a parish, the decline of a diocese, is no comfort to anyone.

In December of 2012, shortly after the parishioners of St. John's voted to leave the Episcopal Church, Miller was there again, resolutely leading a dozen intrepid Episcopalians to meet in a living room and reorganize. She worked tirelessly to serve the fledgling congregation. No job was too big or too little for her to do. In no small part because of her work, the faithful few soon grew into a vibrant and sizable community and chose a new name, St. Catherine's in honor of St. Catherine of Alexandria. They were admitted as a mission of the Episcopal Church diocese in 2014. 

Today I am lost in admiration and gratitude for the life of Dolores Miller. She fought the good fight. She refused to be vanquished. She kept the faith. And so, she has joined the great cloud of witnesses. She has been enveloped in the arms of the church to live on forever among the faithful in Florence and in South Carolina.

Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servant Dolores, may persevere in running that race that is set before us, until at last we may with her attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


Eleven years ago today, on January 26, 2008, Mark Joseph Lawrence was consecrated and installed bishop of the Episcopal Church diocese of South Carolina at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul in Charleston. This was when he made a solemn oath before God and the world that he would respect the discipline of the Episcopal Church. Four years later, he abandoned that vow and the schism occurred. Has it been only eleven years? It seems a lifetime ago. My, what has happened since 2008!

There is far too much material to go over now in this blog piece about these eleven years. I will refer you to my book A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina which will give you all the detail you could ever want. Incidentally, not one person has publicly refuted anything in this book of 300,000 words. It has been out a year and a half now. All of the criticisms have been about style (too long, too detailed, too many footnotes, not enough interpretation) rather than substance.

Today is an appropriate moment to look at Lawrence's legacy in South Carolina. What difference has Bishop Lawrence made to the life of the church in South Carolina?

It is too early to make a full assessment of Lawrence's years. There are still too many important events ahead. However, outlines have emerged that may well indicate future events and lead to a clear picture of his legacy in South Carolina. I predict that years from now Lawrence will be seen as a polar figure, very good or very bad. Those who love what he has done will hold him in high regard while those who do not love what he has done will see him in the opposite light. In the long run, I think history will look on this schism as a disastrous folly.

For now, we may use statistics to start to get a picture of what has happened in the Lawrence years. First, on membership. When Lawrence was consecrated, in 2008, the whole Diocese of South Carolina counted 27,670 communicants (people who attend church at least once a year). The last figures for DSC, in 2016 listed 14,694 communicants. This is a drop of 12,976 communicants, or 47% of the 2008 number. This means that today, the diocese that Lawrence heads has about one-half the membership it had when he took office.

In the schism, 50 of the 71 parishes and missions of the old diocese adhered to Lawrence. If one looks at just these 50, one sees that they held 19,338 communicants when Lawrence arrived in 2008, and counted 13,877 in the last listing, 2016. This means that the local churches loyal to Lawrence lost 5,461 communicants, or a decline of 28% in the first 8 years of his episcopacy (2008-2016). This belies the myth that the schism was highly popular in the diocese, or even in the local churches that went along with Lawrence.  

One should recall that the old diocese has split into four divisions, three of these under Lawrence. When he came in, the All Saints, Waccamaw, case was pending in the SC supreme court. The previous bishop, Ed Salmon, had doggedly pursued the diocesan claim against All Saints parish which had declared its independence and seized the property. In September of 2009, the SC supreme court ruled unanimously that All Saints parish had legally separated from the diocese and was entitled to the local property. Lawrence did nothing to contest this ruling which could have been appealed to the US Supreme Court. A local group of loyalists from All Saints did begin an appeal but the diocese refused to give any aid and the group settled out of court in early 2010. 

The three divisions under Lawrence were 1-St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant, 2-the majority of the diocese which declared its independence from the Episcopal Church, and 3-the minority of the diocese which remained loyal to the national church. As mentioned, the part he continues to lead, is about one-half of the diocese he inherited in 2008.

The diocesan budget has also seen a dramatic drop. In 2008, when Lawrence arrived, the budget was $2,995,289. The last diocesan published budget was for the year 2018, at $1,998,483. This is a fall of 33% in the decade after Lawrence's consecration. Accounting for inflation, the drop would be over 40%. 

Even though the budget has been published, there is still a great deal unknown. The legal costs are hidden even from the communicants. We do not know how much has been spent on lawyers and other costs of the six years of litigation (which DSC initiated in Jan. of 2013). A couple of years in, the diocese announced it had already spent $2m and expected to spend a great deal more. It is safe to say the DSC has already spent several millions of dollars on legal costs. This expensive legal war has been largely a disaster. As of the moment, DSC legally holds six parishes counting fewer than 3,000 communicants. 29 of the 36 parishes in question have been legally recognized by the high court of SC as Episcopal Church property. It is just a matter of time before the judges Dickson and Gergel wrap this up.

So, here is the broad picture so far of the Lawrence years: loss of half of about half of the diocesan membership, severe reduction in the diocesan budget, and millions of dollars spent on a futile effort to beat the Episcopal Church in court. In the near future, the "diocese" under Lawrence will lose possession of the vast majority of the local properties as well as the legal entity of the old diocese. The remnant "diocese" of Lawrence will be a handful of local churches. It will either reorganize from scratch or be absorbed into the ACNA Diocese of the Carolinas, under Bishop Steve Wood, ironically the breakaway rector of St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant.  

It is not difficult to begin to see where the legacy of Bishop Lawrence is going. Now, to be sure, his devoted followers will say this is all worth it because, they would say, he saved a chunk of the old diocese from the heretical Episcopal Church. The diocesan leadership has indeed redefined the diocese theologically to move it toward Anglican fundamentalism.  Obviously, a great deal of Lawrence's admirers will stick with him through thick and thin, as they revealed in the Last Hurrah tour of last summer. Lawrence remains popular in his diocese. Of course, it is their right to regard their bishop as they wish, but they do not have the right to pretend the raw statistics of the decline and fall of the pre-schism diocese are not real and to pretend that the state supreme court did not say what it said.

Whether the anniversary today is a happy one or a sad one depends on where one stands. However, I think everyone can agree the last eleven years have been enormously important in the life of the church in South Carolina. Whether this is good or bad depends on one's perspective. From mine, the last eleven years have been a disaster. The once grand old diocese of South Carolina lies broken and bleeding. It will survive but not in its former glory, at least not for years to come. The damage has been done. This catastrophe was entirely man-made and avoidable. So, I for one will not be celebrating today.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


The universally esteemed non-partisan Pew Research Center recently released its "Religious Landscape Study" in which it surveyed 35,000 Americans about their religious beliefs (find it here ). The study considered general factors then broke down respondents by denomination. "Episcopalians" and "Anglicans" were treated as separate denominations in the study. This new study gives us the first scientific survey of the differences of Americans who identify with these two entities.

The meaning of "Episcopalian" is obvious, a member of the Episcopal Church. However, Pew did not define "Anglican." Presumably they meant members of the various independent churches in America that use the word "Anglican" in heir titles even though they are not officially Anglican. To be an Anglican, one has to be in communion withe the Archbishop of Canterbury. As we all know the Archbishop has said he is not in communion with the Anglican Church in North America. Thus, the ACNA and the several dozen other small churches that call themselves Anglican, are not Anglican. Nevertheless, for the sake of the survey, Pew considered these respondents as Anglicans.

The study divided its questions into four broad areas: demography, religion, politics, and society.

Thus, how do the two groups, "Episcopalians" (TEC) and "Anglicans" (A) compare in these four categories? (find Episcopalians here ; find Anglicans here .)


On demographics, the two are quite similar. Both are aging populations. TEC is 35% over the age of 65; A is 33%. The largest group in each was "Baby Boomers." On gender, they are about the same, 55% women in TEC, 56% in A. In education, about the same, both mostly college educated. As for young families, A had a slight edge over TEC, 29% to 21%. There is no significant difference between TEC and A in the make-up of the populations.


There are noticeable, but not great differences on issues concerning personal beliefs and practices. Anglican respondents tended to attend church more often (29% weekly in TEC) (41% weekly in A) and to see the Bible as more important. As for sources of guidance in life, "common sense" came in first place on both sides (54% in TEC) (44% in A).
On what they believe about "absolute standards of right and wrong," both said it is mostly situational (70% in TEC) (52% in A). Both groups put a lot of faith in Heaven (72% in TEC) (77% in A), but not in Hell (42% in TEC) (55% in A). Thus, Episcopalians and Anglicans are not far apart on religious understandings and practices.


While demographics and religion did not show great differences, political views did.

In terms of party membership, TEC tends to be more Democratic while A is Republican. In TEC, 49% are Democrats and 39% Republicans. In A, 58% are Republicans and 37% Democrats.

On "political ideology," the split was also clear. In TEC, 37% are moderates, 31% conservative, and 29% liberal [note, more conservatives than liberals in TEC] while in A, 50% identify as conservative, 29% as moderate, and 19% as liberal. TEC is roughly divided into thirds on liberal/moderate/conservative while A is conservative. This is a key difference.

On size of the government, both agreed it should be smaller, 56% in TEC, and 64% in A.

A big split comes on the issue of government aid to the poor. In TEC, 55% said it does more good than harm. In A, 64% said it did more harm than good. Clearly, TEC favors government programs to help the poor while A opposes them.

Thus, in politics, there is a significant difference between Episcopalians and Anglicans. Episcopalians are diverse, Anglicans distinctly conservative. Episcopalians support programs for the poor, Anglicans oppose them.


Episcopalians and Anglicans are surprisingly agreeable on social/cultural issues.

On abortion, both agree it should be legal (79% in TEC) (56% in A).

On homosexuality, both agreed it should be "accepted" (83% in TEC) (67% in A).

On same-sex marriage, both agreed it should be legal (74% in TEC strongly favor/favor) (60% in A strongly favor/favor). These are the most stunning data in the survey. In the entire survey, 53% of all denominations favored s-s marriage. This means the people of ACNA have an above average support for s-s marriage.

The two groups also agreed on regulation of the environment (67% in TEC favor) (54% in A favor).

So, what can we take away from this Pew study in terms of the schisms in the Episcopal Church? Here are my conclusions:

1---The division between Episcopalians and independent Anglicans is basically political. Anglicans tend to be conservative Republicans supporting a conservative economic agenda while Episcopalians tend to be moderate and liberal Democrats who support continued governmental democratization of economics. Politics forms the distinct difference between Episcopalians and independent Anglicans.

2---There is broad agreement between Episcopalians and independent Anglicans on social issues. Both favor rights for women and homosexuals. Most importantly, both clearly favor same-sex marriage.

3---There are significant but not great differences on the way the two groups see religious beliefs, values, and practices with A tending toward more evangelical/fundamentalist stands than TEC.

4---There is no real difference between the two groups on demographics.

Admittedly, this is only one study and we should not make too much of it. However, until we get scientific evidence that shows otherwise, we may assume the Pew study reveals the fundamental differences between the two adversarial groups.

It is true that the Anglican Realignment movement swelling up in the 1990s originated as a political event. The right-wing Institute on Religion and Democracy was devoted to advancing conservative causes and diminishing the Episcopal Church as a significant institution in American society because of its perceived liberal policies. The IRD set up the American Anglican Council in 1996 explicitly to diminish or destroy the Episcopal Church as a national institution. Since the roots of the schismatic movement in the Episcopal Church were political, it should come then as no surprise that "Anglicans" tend to be politically conservative while Episcopalians remain evenly divided.

Under the evolving circumstances in the 1990s and 2000s, the AAC used homosexuality as the wedge issue to push its conservative stance. The Robinson affair in 2003 presented the AAC with a rich opportunity to work on splitting off conservatives from TEC. This trend linked up with Third World Anglican fundamentalism largely coming out of equatorial Africa with its traditionally anti-homosexual-rights cultures. GAFCON emerged in 2008 explicitly to oppose pro-homosexual moves in parts of the Anglican Communion. In 2009, the coalition of GAFCON and American schismatics formed the Anglican Church in North America specifically to be the replacement church for the Untied States in the Anglican Communion. Its charter explicitly opposed rights for homosexuals. 

Thus, there is a split in the "Anglican" community of America over social issues. The leadership adamantly opposes equality for women (women cannot be bishops in ACNA) and equality for and inclusion of homosexual and transgendered people. The Pew study shows that Anglican communicants do not support their leadership's positions on these social issues. Bishop Iker, of Fort Worth, has made a major point of blocking any new bishop in ACNA who supports the ordination of women. The ACNA has already divided up on the issue of women's ordination. There is more division to come. 

The Pew study suggests there is a major internal division in the Anglican community in America. The people-in-the-pews favor rights for women and gays. The leadership opposes this, in fact, has made this the raison d'ĂȘtre of ACNA. In South Carolina, the clergy-leadership imposed on the diocese in 2015 a strict and harsh policy banning same-sex marriage in the diocese and requiring oaths of allegiance.

The Pew study may help us understand what is happening now in South Carolina. The DSC leadership is working hard to identify the schism as a religious event ("It's about God not Gays"). They have conducted numerous high-profile campaigns in the last year in an attempt to frame the schism as a counter revolution to save true religion from the corrupt Episcopal Church. To identify themselves as the religious good guys, they have slammed the TEC side as the religious bad guys. The obvious aim is to keep as many people from returning to TEC as possible. The Church diocese, meanwhile, is framing the schism more as an administrative event, not fundamentally religious in nature. To the Church side, it is a matter of getting back the "returning congregations." The same buildings will have the same liturgies. Only time will tell which side has the greater effect on the communicants. 

In conclusion, the new Pew study suggests a stunning point about the schisms in the Episcopal Church. They were not motivated primarily by religion. The ordinary people saw the breaks as political statements against the great democratic revolution that occurred in America beginning in the 1950s in which the Episcopal Church played a highly visible role. Conservative Republicans began fleeing from the Church in this counter-revolution. The clergy-leaders of the schisms, however, had more than political aims. They wanted to keep traditional understandings of society and so promoted a reactionary stance on women, homosexuals, and the transgendered. The laity and the clergy were not altogether on the same page. This internal division portends trouble down the road for the schismatic movement in America. Schism leads to schism. 

This internal contradiction in ACNA is the great takeaway from the new Pew study.


It would be interesting to have some responses from people on both sides. How do the results of the Pew study correspond to your experiences in the schism? Do you see the schism in SC as mostly political, religious, social, or something else? I would like to hear from you. Email me the thoughts you want to share with the cyberworld.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


On yesterday, 11 January, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry announced partial restrictions on the Rt. Rev. William Love, bishop of Albany and referred him for possible discipline (see the blog posting here ).

Love responded to this and sent a letter yesterday to his diocese explaining his response. Find a link to the letter here . Love wrote, "I will abide by the restrictions placed on me by the Presiding Bishop during the appeal process." 

Love also declared, "...I do plan to appeal the above disciplinary action taken against me by the Presiding Bishop and in so doing, I will also be challenging the authority and legality of Resolution B012 passed at the 79th General Convention. I have already verbally informed the Presiding Bishop's Office of my plans. This will soon be followed by an official written appeal as required by the Canons."

Thus, Love made two points: accept the partial restriction, and appeal of the restriction (the action and the Resolution). Love said he would challenge the "authority" and "legality" of Resolution B012. He did not explain what this meant. In fact, the Resolution was duly and legally enacted by the General Convention, the governing body of the Episcopal Church. It is legal. It has authority. Therefore, what Love means by his "challenge" to the resolution remains to be seen.

There is a crucial point here that must not be missed. It is that the diocese of Albany is showing no overt sign of moving to schism. Quite the opposite, the bishop is adhering to Church discipline. This is the opposite of what happened in South Carolina in 2012. Of course, this does not necessarily mean Albany might not move to schism in the future. However, in the first five cases, by the point of the discipline where Love is now, the schisms had already occurred for all practical purposes. The big question now is exactly where Love intends to go in his appeal of the disciplinary action and the "challenge" to a resolution that is legal and authoritative. Perhaps he will inform us of what he has in mind along this line.

Friday, January 11, 2019


News broke today that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has placed a partial restriction on the Bishop of Albany, the Rt. Rev. William Love, and has referred him for possible disciplinary action. Last month Love informed his diocese that he was keeping in place his ban on same-sex marriage rites in the diocese of Albany in defiance of the 2018 General Convention's Resolution B012.

Curry announced today that he has taken three actions concerning Love (find Curry's document here ):

1-[Love] "is forbidden from participating in any manner in the Church's disciplinary process in the Diocese of Albany in any manner regarding any member of the clergy that involves the issue of same-sex marriage."

2-"Nor shall he [Love] participate in any other matter that has or may have the effect of penalizing in any way any member of the clergy or laity or worshipping congregation of his Diocese for their participation in the arrangements for or participation in a same-sex marriage in his Diocese or elsewhere."

3-"Bishop Love's conduct in this regard may constitute a canonical offense" (under the canons of the church) "and that conduct has been referred to the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, Bishop for Pastoral Development and Intake Officer for disciplinary matters involving bishops."

What this means in a nutshell is that Curry has trumped Love's rejection of B012 in the diocese of Albany, has opened up Albany to B012, and has referred Love to the proper officer for possible discipline.

Mary Frances Schjonberg of Episcopal News Service issued today a detailed and informative article about all of this, so I will not repeat what she says. Read her excellent report here .

The big question now is how the diocesan authorities in the diocese of Albany will react to Curry's actions of today. In the schism of South Carolina, the diocesan authorities (bishop, chancellor, standing committee) prepared ahead of time a secret plan to "disassociate" the diocese from the Episcopal Church if the national church took any action of any kind against Bishop Lawrence (who had recently flagrantly disregarded the Dennis Canon). Thus, when Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori telephoned Lawrence at noon on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, and told him she was placing a restriction on him as per the canons of the church, Lawrence did not protest. He knew what this meant. Jefferts Schori did not know. As soon as he hung up the phone, he called the chancellor and standing committee and all agreed their secret plan of schism had been triggered. Two days later, on Oct. 17, the diocesan spokespersons announced to the world that the diocese had "disassociated" from the Episcopal Church.

Thus, the next few days will be crucial in the affairs of the diocese of Albany. If there is a secret plan there, as in SC, it will appear. Of course, they may be some other variety of work going on in preparation of a schism; or, there could be no preparation at all. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, this is a stunning development in Episcopal Church history. Times have changed since the case of SC in 2012. One may ask, what did not the national church take stronger action against Lawrence before the schism? I do not know of any documentary evidence that addresses this issue specifically. The reluctance, though, was, and remains, entirely obvious. We can only surmise from the events that the church gave the diocese of South Carolina great leeway in a vain attempt to prevent a fifth schism. It was appeasement; and like all appeasements was bound to fail. Appeasement only emboldens the aggressor. The SC diocesan authorities set a trap for the presiding bishop who blindly walked right into it. By the time she knew what hit her, the schism was an accomplished fact. So, perhaps Curry has learned a lesson. Instead of appeasing Love, he is snapping the trap on him first.

Stay tuned. It will be interesting, to say the least, to see what happens next in the diocese of Albany. Will Love submit to the discipline of the church, or will he lead a march out of the church?


In case anyone missed it, I am reprinting this Letter to the Editor that appeared recently in The State newspaper. Find it on the newspaper's website here . 


To the Editor

In 2012, many in the Diocese of South Carolina broke away from The Episcopal Church, taking the property and filing a lawsuit to that end.

In August 2017, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled that all church property belonged to The Episcopal Church and its local diocese. The Episcopal Church is hierarchical; property is held in trust for the national church---unlike churches in a congregational structure, which hold their property free and clear. Members of hierarchical churches are free to leave, but not with the property. The First Amendment grants religious bodies freedom to govern themselves as they see fit.

The court denied the breakaway group's petition for a rehearing. The U.S. Supreme Court also declined to hear the matter.

A confusing hearing took place in Orangeburg on Nov. 19. If the state Supreme Court decision is discarded, the status of other hierarchical churches across the state will be in grave jeopardy---e.g., Presbyterian Church USA, United Methodist, AME and others.

Eve Pinckney, 


Thanks to Eve Pinckney for this. It summarizes well the present legal situation in the schism. It is important to remind ourselves of the essentials at hand as we await the courts' imminent actions.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


The bishop of Albany, the Rt. Rev. William Love, has advised his flock that he may well be examined by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops because of his defiance of the 2018 General Convention's Resolution B012. 

On December 10, 2018, Love posted "A Christmas Message..." to the diocese (find it here ). It included this paragraph:

As I write to you, I don't know what the future holds. There is a strong possibility that I may be facing Title IV disciplinary proceedings for my unwillingness to abide by General Convention Resolution B012. As I stated in the Pastoral Letter, it was "not out of mean-spiritedness, hatred, bigotry, judgmentalism, or homophobia" that I have taken the actions that I have, "but rather out of love---love for God and His Word; love for the Episcopal Church and wider Anglican Communion; love for each of you my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, especially love for those who are struggling with same-sex attractions." Whatever the outcome, I trust and believe that God will use it for His purposes and the benefit of His Church and people.

As one will recall, Resolution B012 moved from the diocesan bishop to the parish rector the discretion over whether to allow same-sex weddings in a parish. The resolution called for alternative ecclesiastical authority in dioceses where the bishops opposed s-s marriage rites. This removed the power of a bishop to prevent s-s weddings in his or her diocese. It went into effect in the Episcopal Church on the first Sunday in Advent, 2018. 

Before the enactment date, Love sent a pastoral letter to his diocese rejecting Resolution B012 and ordering the continuation of his standing policy, a blanket ban on s-s marriage rites in the diocese of Albany. Love was one of eight diocesan bishops, out of 109 who refused to allow s-s weddings in his or her diocese. To my knowledge, he is the only one to refuse the enactment of B012.

There are two problems with Love's paragraph given above. In the first place, it is homophobic to say people struggle with same-sex attractions. Homosexuality is not a disease that people struggle against, as cancer, diabetes, or a host of other disorders. It is a God-given state of nature. Secondly, it is not affirmation for the Episcopal Church that drives a bishop to deny his or her ordination vows of loyalty to the church. It is a judgment that the church is wrong and this one bishop alone knows the will of the Holy Spirit.

Under the canons of the Episcopal Church, communicants of the diocese of Albany may make a presentment against Love claiming he has abandoned the Church by refusing to accept a resolution of the Church's governing parliament, the General Convention. A bishop does not have the right to nullify a decision of the Church in his or her diocese any more than a state has a right to overrule a law of Congress in that state. The Disciplinary Board for Bishops would then be required to consider the evidence the presenters offered and vote on whether the bishop had abandoned the Episcopal Church. If no, the bishop is cleared. If yes, the presiding bishop is required to restrict the bishop under charge. This removes him or her from ministry pending a resolution of the issue. The resolution may come in two ways, a letter of the bishop to the presiding bishop offering an explanatory defense, or a decision by the House of Bishops. If it is the first case, the presiding bishop has the discretion of accepting the letter, removing the restriction and restoring the bishop to his full authority. If it is the second case, the House of Bishops would vote to acquit or to convict and remove the individual as a bishop.

The situation in Albany today is quite a contrast to what happened in South Carolina. While one may disagree with Love's policy, one must respect his procedures. He is up front saying what he is doing and why he is doing it. He is taking personal responsibility for the whole issue. He is acknowledging the issue at stake. I for one have considerable appreciation and admiration for Love in his approach. None of this was true in South Carolina where the bishop tried to pretend the schism was necessary because of theology and only recently publicly admitted he left the Church because of sexuality. Also in SC, the diocesan leadership promoted a long-term scenario of victimization, that the bishop was the innocent victim of malevolent forces from off. It was "us" against "them." In his recent speaking tour, the bishop repeated the "target on the back" theme. The diocesan leaders promoted the fantastic claim that it was the Church that caused the schism in SC. Too, the bishop hid behind the standing committee, advising them they had the right to disassociate the diocese from the Church. When the committee unanimously passed a secret resolution of conditional disaffiliation, the bishop could claim it was the work of the constituted authorities rather than himself. The preponderance of evidence shows the schism in South Carolina was the secretly premeditated work of the diocesan leadership including the bishop.  Therefore, I find what Love is doing now in Albany strikingly different that what we saw in South Carolina.

In my opinion, Love is making the wrong policy but following the right procedures. In contrast, the leadership of SC followed the wrong policy under the wrong procedures. The colossal mistake of this came home to roost in the South Carolina supreme court decision that demolished both the wrong-headed policy and the procedure. The schism in SC has been a huge and tragic failure. Certainly, Bishop Love in Albany is well-aware of this. If not, I will be glad to send him a copy of my history of the schism in SC.

Where all this goes in Albany is open to question now. My guess is that communicants will present a case to the DBB against Love on the charge of abandonment of the communion. The DBB will then have to decide if nullification rises to the level of abandonment. In the second case of Bishop Lawrence (he was examined by the DBB twice), the DBB voted that the bishop had indeed abandoned the communion because of his willful, sweeping disregard of the Dennis Canon. No doubt, presiding bishop Michael Curry will try to settle all of this by quiet compromise. Good luck with that. PB Jefferts Schori bent over backwards to appease Bishop Lawrence and got absolutely nowhere. But then, these two situations are markedly different. Maybe Curry will have a better outcome with an openly frank renegade bishop.

You may be asking if the Diocese of Albany is heading for schism. Will it be the sixth diocese to vote to secede from the Episcopal Church? I am not familiar enough with the internal matters of the diocese to comment on that, but on the surface, I do not see the overt signs of impending schism I saw in South Carolina. From the limited amount I know, it appears this is primarily a personal protest of a bishop against his church. If there are indeed hidden institutional movements within the diocese to prepare for a schism, perhaps the members of the diocese could inform us of them. 

Getting back to basics, people like Love and Lawrence need to understand that the Episcopal Church worked out over a half-century equality for and inclusion of homosexual and transgendered persons. I for one see this as the work of the Holy Spirit. I for one see this as a tremendous success for human rights. I understand that others may not agree and that is fine. What is not fine is that they want to change the rules of the game after they have lost. If one vows to adhere to an institution, one is honor bound to support that institution or to resign from it.

NOTE. For more information on the effects of B012, see the excellent article in Episcopal News Service here . 

Monday, January 7, 2019


Epiphany has passed. The holidays are over. The kids are back in school. My granddaughter has gone back to California. Life is getting back to "normal" in the new calendar year. 

So, where do we stand in view of the schism? As far as I know, there is nothing new to report. We are waiting on the two courts to act. Judge Dickson, of the circuit court, is supposedly considering the DSC motion for judgment on the state supreme court decision. When he will make a decision about anything is anyone's guess. Judge Gergel, in the federal court, has not announced a change of his schedule for trial in March. My prediction is that both of these judges will come down on the side of the Episcopal Church, Dickson because he has no choice but to implement the SCSC decision, and Gergel because of hierarchy and the Constitution. Right now, it is just a waiting game. Waiting, waiting. But then, this schism has been going on longer than any of us wants to recall. Waiting is not new.

While waiting, at least we can walk around the garden and see that all is well in God's wondrous creation, even in the "dead of winter," that really is not dead at all, just the opposite. 

Camellias. Life would be so much duller in the winter without this plant, the queen of the southern garden, my all time number one favorite shrub. There are countless varieties. Plant any one in some shade, provide acidic fertilizer and she will reward you in immeasurable wonder and beauty for very many years, even decades, to come. Every southern yard should have camellias, the winter roses. These pictures were made today, sunny and 70 degrees.

"Professor Sargent" camellia. One of the best choices, blooms prolifically for months with flower clusters.

"Winter's Fire Ice Angels" camellia, reliable in mid-winter.

"Governor Mouton" camellia is another southern favorite, for good reason.

 Loropetalum (Chinese Fringe Bush) is an excellent garden shrub. We have had a relatively mild winter so far. This one usually blooms from frost to frost.

Overlooking much of the garden. In this space is an eclectic collection of 700 plants of all sorts, some evergreen some not. This is my favorite spot for meditation. Behind the picture is a flow of water around the back of the lot offering the sound of a waterfall.

Even though winter is here, there is life all around us. It is there, waiting to be found. Even though the schism is the winter of our discontent, it too is not without grace and life. Moreover, we must not be dismayed by the darkness. As the season of winter will end in the garden, the season of winter will end in the terrible tragedy of the schism. The universe is, after all, the work of a force infinitely greater than ourselves. When you doubt that, go sit in a garden for a few minutes.