Tuesday, October 29, 2019


1:00 p.m.     The Episcopal diocese has just released the news that Judge Edgar Dickson has scheduled a hearing on the church case, on Tuesday, November 26, at 10:00 a.m., in the Orangeburg County Courthouse, Orangeburg, SC.

Read the diocesan news release here . As of this moment, the Anglican diocese has not made an announcement of the hearing.

According to the announcement, the judge contacted the lawyers yesterday afternoon to inform them of the hearing "to hear the motion for reconsideration and any other pending motions that have not been heard."

The release goes on that the church lawyers sent an email to the judge this morning reminding him of the three motions/petitions they have before him:  1-implementation and special master, 2-accounting, 3-reconsideration of judge's denial of church's motion for dismissal of the Betterments suit.

The Anglican side also has three motions/petitions before Judge Dickson: 1-Betterments suit, 2-complex case, 3-clarification of jurisdiction. In the first, the Anglicans are asking for reimbursements on improvements made to the properties in question. In the last they are asking the judge to rule himself on ownership of the 29 parishes at stake.

One should recall that Judge Dickson has implemented the first of the three orders in the South Carolina Supreme Court decision. That one was to recognize that 7 parishes own their own property without trust. Since the judge has enacted the first part of the SCSC decision, there is no reason why he should not move on and enact the second (29 parishes are property of the Episcopal Church) and third (Camp St. Christopher is property of the Episcopal diocese). No doubt, the church lawyers will press this point in the hearing on the 26th.

I expect to attend the hearing and will file a report asap afterwards. Incidentally, I also plan to attend the Episcopal diocesan convention, in North Charleston, on Nov. 15-16.

I must say that I am a bit surprised that Judge Dickson is going to hold a hearing. I, for one, did not expect this. I assumed he would ignore Tisdale's second letter asking for a hearing as he had the first. I have no idea what changed the judge's mind. Could it be the church side made enough noise to catch the judge's attention? Whatever, it should be a good sign that the judge wants to move on with this. As Judge Gergel said in his order of 19 September 2019, in other words, it is time to get this mess over. I think everyone can say "Amen" to that. 

Friday, October 25, 2019


The topic we have been discussing lately in letters to the editor is how the Episcopal Church can regain possession of the parishes and diocesan assets the courts have recognized as belonging to the Church. The secessionist side has steadfastly refused to turn over anything to the Church side even though they did agree to abide by the federal court injunction against using the names and emblems of the historic diocese. There have been numerous suggestions on how to solve this problem from the go slow approach on one end to immediate eviction on the other. The question for TEC remains, What is the best way for the Church to repossess the properties and assets that are legally theirs? 

Today's letter to this editor calls us to consider the people in the 29 parishes:

Good morning, Dr. Caldwell,

I have appreciated the information you have shared about the legal disputes concerning the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and the insights offered by both you and your readers. I am a member of one of the large churches in Charleston, and like many others I eagerly await the return of the property to the church. I am frustrated by delays in achieving this, but I am also concerned that aggressive actions suggested by some of your readers would be counter-productive. We have to remember that church history takes place over hundreds of years. Many families have attended the same churches for generations, and some people have likely remained in breakaway churches for reasons of community and family history more than agreement with the justifications for the split.

I believe that in time the property will be returned to the Episcopal Church. However, we have to remember that without people a church is simply real estate. The way we go about regaining control of the church buildings and property is critically important in terms of how we are perceived by regular members of the churches and the wider community. Winning the peace will require thoughtfulness and compassion for those affected on all sides. We need to be careful not to behave as landlords evicting a tenant, but as a community eager to restore communion with those members who would like to return to the Episcopal church with the buildings where they have always worshiped. We have been waiting for years to bring the Episcopal community back together. We can't let impatience tarnish what we've worked so hard to achieve.

[name withheld]

I say a big "thank you" to the author. This is thoughtful, even eloquent. I agree that church is, at base, a community of people. And, sometimes I wonder if people on the TEC side appreciate the disorientation, and even pain, the people-in-the-pews in the departed congregations may be suffering. If this schism is ever ended it will be by binding the wounds and soothing the distress of those who have suffered on both sides. And too, this is going to take a lot of time. After all, the schism was 30 years in the making and has already lasted 7 years.

If you are a member of one of the 29 parishes, I encourage you to contribute your voice to the conversation. Readers want, need, to hear from you too. Likewise, we need to hear from people who do not want to return to the Episcopal Church. Give us your thoughts too. As I keep saying, everyone has something important to contribute. Do not think you have nothing to say. Everyone has a story and we want to hear yours. Send emails to the address above.

Thursday, October 24, 2019


The discussion about what the Episcopal Church should do now vis à vis the litigation goes on. Here is a new letter to the editor that pulls no punches. 

Dear Ron:

RE: Last ditch. We've been there for a while. The Episcopal Church has two options (1) Turn their backs and walk away from the battle and give the dissidents the property and other assets, thereby sending a signal to other potential breakaways that you can get away with this too, or (2) Begin eviction procedures at once (Yesterday would be past due). The long term damage of continued inaction is much worse than short term ill will from those who have sworn to diminish and replace the Episcopal Church and those influenced by them who are never going to be allies of the Episcopal Church no matter what you give them. I say Evict, Sue, and pressure the state to Prosecute where applicable.

Yours, Steve Price
Myrtle Beach


Thank you Steve Price for that forthright opinion. Let's hear some more thoughts about what the Episcopal Church should do now that it has won the war and is losing the peace.

Your opinion is just as important as anyone's. Send to email address above.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


Two days ago, the Church lawyer sent a second letter to Judge Edgar Dickson asking, once again, for a hearing on the Church's motion for implementation of the South Carolina Supreme Court decision on August 2, 2017. As we await a response, or lack thereof, from the judge, we have a convenient time to stop and assess where the schism stands now and what one might expect in the future.

In sum, the Episcopal Church is winning the war and losing the peace. Let me explain.

The legal war, which started January 4, 2013, was basically about two large issues: the possession of the parishes and the ownership of the entity of the pre-schism diocese. The parishes were in the state court while the diocese was in the federal court. The Episcopal Church won both of these. On August 2, 2017, the SCSC recognized Episcopal Church ownership of the bulk of the parishes (29 of the 36 in question). On September 19, 2019, the federal court in Charleston recognized Episcopal Church ownership of the historic diocese. The Episcopal Church has won the war.

The Episcopal Church has not won the peace. Quite the opposite. The Church has not regained one single item of property or other asset from the court decisions. Concerning the diocesan entity, the breakaways conformed to the judge's injunction against their using the names and emblems of the old diocese, but they refused to hand over any asset of the pre-schism diocese. The Anglican bishop continues to live in the Episcopal Church bishop's residence. The Anglican bishop and his aides continue to inhabit the Episcopal Church diocesan headquarters. The Anglican diocese continues to hold the assets of the old diocese. Nothing has changed in this regard.

As for the 29 parishes, the Anglican side refuses to recognize the SCSC decision. They still claim it is too conflicted and ambiguous to be implemented. They are in court asking the judge to disregard the SCSC decision and decide himself who owns the 29 parishes. So, since they have not even recognized the SCSC orders on the last page of the decision, they certainly have not entertained the idea of turning over any parish to the Episcopal Church. I suspect their ultimate goal is to get the matter back to the SCSC in hopes of overturning the SCSC decision of August 2, 2017. The Anglican strategy is deny and delay. Given the glacial pace of the courts, they can string this out for years.

So, the Anglicans still hold the assets of the old diocese and the 29 parishes. Apparently they intend to keep them as long as possible, which could be for years, perhaps many years. The problem for the Episcopal Church side is how to gain actual possession of the properties of the old diocese and the 29 parishes. This is the situation the Church side is in right now.

If the strategy of the Anglican side is deny and delay, the strategy of the Episcopal side is to use the courts to regain the assets of the old diocese and the 29 parishes. And, there is the hangup.

The SCSC sent the Remittitur of its Aug. 2 decision back to the court of origin, the first circuit court of SC. That court assigned Judge Edgar Dickson to handle the case. He has had this matter before him for 21 months. In that time he has made two decisions of consequence, to implement the first of the three orders of the SCSC (independence of 8 parish entities) and to deny the Episcopal side's motion to dismiss the Betterments suit. He has ignored the second and third orders in the SCSC decision, return of the 29 to TEC and return of Camp St. Christopher to EDSC.

The problem for the Church lawyers is how to get the judge to implement the second and third parts of the SCSC decision. With a strengthened hand of the federal court order (Sept. 19, 2019), that recognized the SCSC decision, the lawyers went back to Dickson on Oct. 4 asking for a hearing on implementation. No response. On Oct. 21, they went back to Dickson and, once again, asked for a hearing. This is where we stand now, waiting on a response from Dickson.

Dickson did not respond to the first letter. There is no reason to think he will respond to the second. If he does not respond, what then?

Judge Dickson does not have to respond. In fact, at age 69, he can simply do nothing until he retires from the bench leaving the whole mess on his successor's desk. That is certainly one choice. In effect, this would be a coup for the Anglican side in that it would buy them a great deal of time.

One choice the Church lawyers have is to go back to the SCSC for a writ of mandamus ordering Dickson to implement the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017. Remember, they have already tried this and the SCSC refused. If they turned it down before, why would not they turn it down again? Things have changed, most notably the federal judge's strong endorsement of the contents of the SCSC decision. Also, there is a documented pattern of the judge refusing to hold hearing on implementing the SCSC decision. Things have changed, but it remains to be seen if they have changed enough to make the SCSC change its mind on a writ. Going back to the SCSC for a writ is a risky maneuver. If the court refuses, Dickson will have a green light to sit on this whole business indefinitely. If the court agrees, it will have to be specific to the judge on how he is to proceed. If they leave it vague, he will still be free to interpret it as he wishes.

I suppose another choice is to evict the occupants from the properties that belong to the Episcopal Church. As one can see in the letters to the editor here, there is quite a support for this. It is tempting to do it, but really it is not desirable. This should be only the last ditch effort after everything else has failed (and one should not rule this out). To get the eviction of an illegal occupant, the Church side would have to go to a magistrate and get an order. This could be a problem if the magistrate believes the issue remains alive in the court. Even if the Church got a magistrate's order, its enactment would be dramatically damaging to the Church's reputation. Public opinion would turn heavily against the Church on this.

So, the strategy and tactics of the Anglican side are clear and effective, at least for the moment. Having lost the war, they are winning the peace. This is quite an accomplishment if one thinks about it. We have to admire the Anglican lawyers' ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

The strategy and tactics of the Episcopal side are not so clear. Apparently they are to get the courts to order the handover of the properties and other assets. Whatever they are, they are not working, at least at the moment. Having won the war, the Episcopal Church side is losing the peace. Moreover, I see nothing on the horizon that promises to alter this in the near term.

This situation is not necessarily the fault of the Church lawyers. They are battling against a prevailing local culture that remains decidedly socially conservative. And, when we get right down to it, this whole fight between the two dioceses is fundamentally about social conventions. It is about whether we give equality and inclusion to all people regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation. If the Church is having a hard time winning the peace in South Carolina, it is because society does not want it to win the peace. Thus, the daunting challenge for the Church lawyers is how to win the peace in this sort of socio-cultural milieu.

Judging from the emails I have received, I would say many church people out there are frustrated, disappointed, even angry at the Church's failure to win the peace. Demoralization is a potential cancer detrimental to the health of the church diocese. While such feelings are understandable, they are really benefiting the side fighting to destroy or diminish the Episcopal Church in lower South Carolina. If the Episcopalians lose heart, their opponents win, again. This would be self-defeating.

I still believe, after all of this, and after all these years, what I have always believed, that the right will prevail and that right is the respect for the dignity and worth of all of God's children. And so the right has to keep on the fight, hard and long as it might be, because it is the right and it will prevail in God's time.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has just announced that the Church lawyer sent a second letter to Judge Dickson on yesterday, 21 October. Find the press release here .

One should recall that on 4 October, Thomas Tisdale, the chancellor of the EDSC, sent a letter to Judge Edgar Dickson asking for a hearing on the Church's motion for implementation of the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of 2 August 2017. Dickson made no response. Therefore, yesterday Tisdale sent another letter to Dickson once again asking for an expeditious hearing on the request for implementation. 

Now, one has to wait and see if Judge Dickson responds to the second letter. This is where the matter stands now. I do not know why anyone should think the second letter will be any more effective than the first. Judge Dickson has had the SCSC decision before him for 21 months and has not implemented it yet. What happens if Dickson ignores the second letter? We shall see.

On another note, I have been informed by certain powers-that-be in the diocese of SC, who shall remain nameless, that people should not write letters to Judge Dickson or make any other demonstration about him under the charge it would do more harm than good to the Church case that is right now on Dickson's desk. I do not see this and I do not agree, but I am not a lawyer or legal expert and I have little experience with courts. The idea that people should not exercise their constitutional rights in the pursuit of justice rubs this old historian the wrong way. 

22 OCTOBER 2019

Thank you, readers, for the numerous emails I have received since last Saturday's letter from Alex S. Jones. The discussion centers around how the Episcopal Church can repossess the properties that the federal and state courts have said belong to the Episcopal Church but remain in the hands of the schismatics. The breakaways have not turned over any property to the Church. In the federal court, they obeyed the court order to cease and desist from pretending to be the Episcopal diocese. However, they continued to occupy the diocesan-owned bishop's residence and diocesan headquarters not to mention controlling the financial assets they took over at the schism. In the state court, the breakaways have not even recognized the South Carolina Supreme Court decision on the 29 parishes and the Camp, let alone agree to turn over the properties.

On the Episcopal church side, many people are frustrated and disappointed that the breakaways have stubbornly refused to honor the court decisions. How can the Church side make the breakaways hand over the keys? Readers of this blog have suggested several avenues to the repossession of the properties that legally belong to the Episcopal Church. 

Most reader responses are in this vein:


Dear Ron,

The latest two emails expressed my frustration perfectly. I, too, am ready to do something more forceful to get our Episcopal owned properties back now. We have been patient long enough. At this point, the patient waiting for justice has become ridiculous! What Judge Dickson is doing is wrong. It is our Christian duty to right wrongs. Maybe there is strength in acting together. Count me in.

Catherine Fellows,
North Myrtle Beach

Mary Murray thought it best to contact Judge Dickson directly:

Honorable E.W. Dickson
P.O. Box 1949
Orangeburg, SC 29116-1949

Your honor,

Please implement the SC Supreme Court decision you were given January 10, 2018 to implement. This involves thousands of people. We have been dealing with this for seven years. Please implement this ruling quickly so we can end this situation.

Mary Murray,

If you would like to contact Judge Dickson directly, the SC Courts website provides his contact information. Find it here .

The Honorable Edgar W. Dickson
P.O. Box 1949
Orangeburg SC 29116-1949
Office 803-535-2187
FAX 803-535-2188
email:  edicksonsc@sccourts.org

Another reader, who requested anonymity, urged caution before playing hardball with the schismatic side:

Dear Ron,

While I fully share the impatience and even outrage of those who have written to you recently concerning the possibility of "direct action," I would also advise caution, perhaps extreme caution.

While we understand that the buildings belong to us, that the SCSC has said so, and that SCOTUS has implied as much by declining to hear the case, others (mistakenly) don't quite get that. It is very important to play a long game here, in terms of public perception, and therefore to be very careful about the "optics" one is creating. Picketing churches and demanding that they be handed over, right now, makes the current occupants look like martyrs. Their martyrdom would be false, of course, but they don't see it that way; perhaps more important, neither would many, many disinterested parties who would see unfortunate images splashed all over the Post and Courier and on local television. In addition to folks entirely outside the fray, these parties might even include some more or less on-the-fence Episcopalians, not all of whom have been following all the ins-and-outs with nearly the kind of attention that we might expect.

Given that the local newspaper is clearly biased toward the Lawrence organization, as is at least one of the local television stations, you can bet your bottom dollar that there would be coverage and that the coverage would lean very heavily in the direction of a message along the lines of: "These poor, God-fearing local people just want to stay in their beloved churches and they are being harassed by these radical monsters...many of whom are from 'off'!" Or something to that effect. The fact that we would know such an interpretation to be utterly erroneous and deeply disingenuous wouldn't change matters. The damage to our reputation would be done, it would be considerable, and it would prove to be both far reaching and long lasting.

Some misunderstandings, distortions, and falsehoods of this sort are going to end up going against us, no matter what we do. And that is not fair. On the other hand, we can and should see to it that we do not add fuel to a public perception dumpster fire that would almost surely leave us more badly burned than it would them.

In short, we have the moral and legal right to take direct action, absolutely. Justice is not being served and we have the right to scream that from the rooftops. But that doesn't mean that it is in our best strategic interest to do so.

[name withheld]

Thank you to Catherine Fellows, Mary Murray and anonymous for contributing so well to our online discussion. 

I want to remind you that Church attorney Thomas Tisdale made a request on Oct. 4 to Judge Dickson for a hearing on the implementation of the SCSC decision. Tisdale is awaiting a response. I think the matter before Judge Dickson should be our focus right now. He needs to have time to respond.

Personally, I like the idea of readers contacting Judge Dickson directly to urge him to implement the SCSC decision. If enough people do this, he cannot help but be impressed. It won't hurt and it could do a lot of good to energize the too-reluctant judge. 

Meanwhile, you can join the conversation here. Send your remarks to the email address above. Your opinion is just as important as anyone's. Besides, everybody needs to vent once in awhile. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

21 OCTOBER 2019

Alex Jones's letter to the editor of 19 October has stirred up quite a response of like-minded support. Considering the numerous emails I have received lately, I would have to say there are lots of people in lower SC who are ready for hardball to get this business over. The 29 parishes belong to the Episcopal Church by law. The clergy and officers illegally occupying the premises refuse to leave. This has been going on for 26 months since the state supreme court handed down its landmark order. Judge Dickson has been sitting on the order for 21 months. Enough already.

The writer below certainly is ready for hardball. This is typical of the messages I have been receiving the last few days:


Dear Ron,

I am pasting below a section from the South Carolina Code of Laws which, it seems to me, could be used by the TEC/TECSC legal teams. This statute covers those situations where there is no landlord-tenant relationship and the occupant of a property is there "without warrant of law." In fact, the exact opposite to "warrant of law" applies in this case. The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that the properties in question belong to the Episcopal Church and the current occupants have, thus far, refused to release the properties to the rightful owner.

A jury trial under this statute is not an option and the issuance of a Writ of Ejectment gives the occupant 5 days to vacate the property. See statute below.

It remains a mystery to me why this statute is not being used to remove the occupants of Church property who have no legal standing to be there. The Church already has the power of the highest court in South Carolina to eject these occupants. Why demonstrate at the circuit court when we already have the power to remove them? If anything, we should picket the law firms that are not using the power already given them by the SCSC to bring this matter to its conclusion.

It would be consistent with the history of this schism that there is a lot we are not being told by those who know everything. There are certainly political motives in play within both sides and among all parties of the controversy and within the courts. Perhaps one day we will have all the facts and then we can understand why this matter has been delayed so unnecessarily. Let's hope so. The truth be known, I think there is plenty of responsibility to go around for the delay.


Summary of Ejectment of Trespassers

SECTION 15-67-610. Duty of magistrate in case of trespass.

If any person shall have gone into or shall hereafter go into possession of any lands or tenements of another without his consent or without warrant of law, the owner of the land so trespassed upon may apply to any magistrate to serve a notice on such trespasser to quit the premises, and if, after the expiration of five days from the personal service of such notice, such trespasser refuses or neglects to quit then such magistrate shall issue his warrant to any sheriff or constable requiring him forthwith to eject such trespasser, using such force as may be necessary.

HISTORY. 1962 Code Section, 10-2441; 1952 Code Section 10-2441; 1942 Code Section 894; 1932 Code Section 894; Civ. P. '22 Section 842; Civ. C '12 Section 4073; Civ. C. '02 Section 2972; R.S. 2432; 1883 (18) 556; 1912 (23) 577.

Sincerely, [name withheld]

My thanks to the writer. This gives us much to think about.

Let us recall that Church lawyer Thomas Tisdale sent a letter to Judge Dickson on 4 October 2019 asking the judge for a hearing on the implementation of the SCSC decision. To my knowledge there has been no response from the judge. Perhaps he should be given a month to respond before any new action is taken. If 4 November arrives and Judge Dickson has not responded, the Church lawyers, and the good church people behind them, should consider more direct action.

Looking at the emails in my in-box, I would say we could get up quite a demonstration. We just have to decide the most effective way, time and place for making a public statement. 

What do you think? Send me your thoughts. If appropriate, I will post with or without name as you choose. 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

19 OCTOBER 2019

Judging from the emails I have received recently, the letter below is a widely-held sentiment among Episcopalians in lower South Carolina. It has been twenty-six months since the South Carolina Supreme Court recognized the 29 parishes as property of the Episcopal Church, yet the properties are still in the hands of non-Episcopal clergy and officers. Just one month ago today, the federal court recognized the Episcopal Church diocese as the legal and legitimate historic diocese. The breakaway authorities complied with the federal court order immediately. So, the secessionists complied with one court decision and not the other. This leaves many people in SC frustrated and disappointed and ready to take more direct action to repossess the 29 parishes that by law belong to the Episcopal Church.

Here is the best expression I have received recently of this sentiment:


Dear Ron:

I have followed your insightful and fair-minded blog about the Episcopal schism ever since the South Carolina Supreme Court decision came down. I am a life-long Episcopalian, as has been my family for generations.

I awoke last night with a thought that may not be a new one, but seemed to me to explain what is happening. There is a military maxim that power is with whomever holds the ground, regardless of the legalities. At this stage the Episcopal Church has recovered the right to be the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and the breakaway diocese controls the 29 physical buildings that make up most of that diocese. This is essentially the deal that the Episcopal Church proposed to the breakaways, which they rejected. And this, I think, is now what they see as a "mediated" resolution to the situation. They want a do-over.

The breakaways gave up title to the Diocese of South Carolina almost instantly, which is not in the pattern of their delay and obfuscate and appeal strategy. They simply gave it up, albeit while launching what they must know is an appeal unlikely to succeed.

They have a Circuit Court Judge in their corner, indeed in their pockets it seems. Judge Dickson appears to be too timid to act or simply favors them. And with that vacuum of power to enforce the Supreme Court decision, they intend to occupy the property indefinitely, law be damned.

It seems to me we have come to a time for more direct confrontation with Judge Dickson---in a form that the bizarrely silent Post and Courier would find it hard to ignore. I would be willing to join a group of fellow fed-ups to go wherever Judge Dickson is sitting and make a public demonstration with signs, etc. Signs like SHAME!!! And alert the media, and explain ourselves (while also demanding to know why the media are ignoring this important story.) The issues are meaty ones. The conflict of interest in the SCSC's unwillingness to issue a writ of mandamus, for instance. This is now becoming as much a direct challenge to the law as were businesses which refused to seat African Americans at their lunch counters, despite the law. There were Episcopalians who demonstrated to shame law enforcement then, and I think there are some now---I among them---who will be willing to do it again. I feel we are being ignored and steamrolled and, to quote the great Peter Finch in the movie Network, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore." Judge Dickson and the South Carolina Supreme Court must learn that pressure doesn't just come from the rich bigots who are financing this defiance of law.

Sorry, but this has gotten me riled!!

Alex S. Jones,
Mt. Pleasant


A picket line sounds good to this old student of the French Revolution. People nowadays have constitutional rights of free speech and free assembly. Thanks to Alex Jones, we ought to be thinking of ways to press the circuit court to do its duty.

Putting together all that has happened and all that is happening, one does have to wonder if there is a collusion or a conspiracy in South Carolina to keep the 29 parish properties away from the Episcopal Church, a coalition of powerful conservative forces in the state, the Charleston Post and Courier, some politicians, and certain state court judges. How else can one explain the 26-month (and counting) failure to implement the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court that is now the final law of the land?

What do you think? Put your feelings and ideas into an email and send to me at address above. If appropriate, I will post with or without name as you choose.

Thursday, October 17, 2019


Judge Edgar Dickson, of the first circuit court in South Carolina, has had the Episcopal church case before him since January 10, 2018. That's a total of 21 months if you are counting. What's happened in those 21 months in Judge Dickson's court? Very little of consequence. Thus, we turn to this fair question: What's the matter with Judge Dickson?

What is Judge Dickson supposed to be doing? He is supposed to be implementing the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017. That decision listed three majority conclusions on its last page:  1-8 local parish entities independent of the Episcopal Church, 2-28 local parishes property of the Episcopal Church, and 3-Camp St. Christopher property of the Episcopal Church diocese. (A clarification on numbers: 8 entities wound up as 7 parishes; 28 parishes really meant 29 because one of the official plaintiff parishes was accidentally omitted from the list on the front page.)

For more info on Judge Dickson, see the SCCourts website. Find it here .

Let us begin with a brief chronology of the case before Judge Dickson:


Nov. 17 --- SCSC denied a rehearing and issued a Remittitur of its 2 August 2017 decision to the SC First Circuit Court (the court of origin).

Nov. 19 --- Diocese of South Carolina (the breakaway diocese) entered its Betterments suit claiming reimbursement for improvements on properties owned by TEC.

Dec. 15 --- TEC/TECSC (the Episcopal Church side) filed a motion to dismiss the Betterments suit.

Dec. 27 --- DSC filed a motion to establish a complex case (to be handled by one judge).


Jan. 10 --- Judge Dickson assigned to handle the church case.

Mar. 23 --- DSC filed motion for clarification of jurisdiction asking the court to decide issues in the SCSC decision.

May 8 --- TEC/TECSC filed motion for implementation of the SCSC decision and the appointment of a special master.

May 14 --- Judge Dickson announced a hearing on May 30. He cancelled this on May 22.

July 11 --- TEC/TECSC filed petition for an accounting.

July 26 --- Judge Dickson held status conference with the lawyers and asked for lists of the issues they wished him to consider.

Aug. 2 --- Both sets of lawyers presented their lists to Judge Dickson.

Sept. 24 --- Each side filed 3 memoranda in support of their positions.

Oct. 5 --- TEC/TECSC filed 3 responses to DSC while DSC filed 2 responses to TEC/TECSC.

Oct. 12 --- TEC/TECSC filed an omnibus reply to DSC while DSC filed one reply to TEC/TECSC.

Nov. 19 --- Judge Dickson held a hearing on DSC's motion (Mar. 23) for clarification. He said he would rule on this first. He set aside the other 5 motions/petitions. He told the lawyers he would gather more information via email.


Jan. 8 --- Judge Dickson sent an email to lawyers asking them to show how the SCSC decision supported their positions.

Jan. 14 --- Judge Dickson sent an email to lawyers asking for documents on how the local churches had voted on the Dennis Canon.

Mar. 19 --- Judge Dickson set a hearing on the Betterments suit for Mar. 27.

Mar. 20 --- TEC filed petition for writ of mandamus with the SCSC asking the justices to order Judge Dickson to implement the SCSC Aug. 2 decision.

Mar. 26 --- Judge Dickson cancelled the hearing he had set for Mar. 27.

June 28 --- SCSC denied TEC's petition for a writ.

July 2 --- Judge Dickson set a hearing on the Betterments suit for July 23.

July 23 --- Judge Dickson held a hearing and issued two decisions: 1-to implement the first ruling of the SCSC decision to recognize 7 parishes as independent owners of their property, and 2-to order mediation. He made no decision on Betterments.

Aug. 28 --- Judge Dickson announced he would deny TEC/TECSC's motion to dismiss the Betterments suit (he did so on 9 Sept.).

Sept. 11 --- TEC/TECSC filed a response to the Betterments suit.

Sept. 19 --- Federal court judge Richard Gergel issued a decision emphasizing the validity and importance of the SCSC decision of Aug. 2. 

Sept. 19 --- TEC/TECSC filed a motion to Judge Dickson for reconsideration of his denial of the motion to dismiss (Sept. 9).

Sept. 26 --- Mediation meeting resulted in declaration of impasse.

Oct. 4 --- Church lawyer Tisdale sent letter to Judge Dickson requesting a hearing on the implementation of the SCSC Aug. 2 decision.


Dickson was assigned the Remittitur of the Aug. 2, 2017 SCSC decision on January 10, 2018. He has had the case before him since then.

His original task was to implement the SCSC decision. Once the SCSC refused rehearing and the U.S. Supreme Court denied cert, the SCSC decision became the final law of the land.

Six motions/petitions were presented to Judge Dickson. DSC: 1-Betterments, 2-Complex case, 3-Clarification of jurisdiction; TEC/TECSC: 1-dismiss Betterments, 2-implement the SCSC decision and appoint a special master, 3-accounting of the breakaway side.

Judge Dickson has ruled on 1 of the 6. He denied TEC's motion to dismiss the Betterments suit. This leaves 5 motions/petitions now before him, 3 from DSC and 2 from TEC.

Judge Dickson has made two rulings in this case: 1-to deny TEC's motion to dismiss Betterments, and 2-to implement the first majority order in the SCSC decision (independence of the 7 parishes).

Judge Dickson has held two hearings, one on the DSC motion for clarification of jurisdiction and one on the Betterments suit. He has made no ruling on either issue (except to dismiss TEC's motion for discarding Betterments).

I have counted 22 separate court filings on Judge Dickson's desk. These run to hundreds of pages. This is not counting the material presented in the two hearings. It is impossible to imagine Judge Dickson needs any more information about this case.

The two rulings that Judge Dickson has made are in the interest of the DSC side. He has made no order supporting the TEC side.


The Episcopal Church side simply wants Judge Dickson to implement the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017. He has enforced the first of the three majority conclusions (for the 7 independent parishes). The Church wants him to implement # 2 (28 [29] parishes property of the Episcopal Church) and # 3 (Camp St. Christopher property of the Church diocese).

The breakaway side wants Judge Dickson to declare the SCSC decision unenforceable and to rule himself on the issue of property ownership of the 28 parishes. This would give the independent diocese a new shot at keeping these parishes away from repossession by the Episcopal Church.

I suspect the fondest hope of the breakaways is to get this case back to the SCSC. Of course this would have to be in the guise of a new case since the old one has been closed. The SCSC now is different than it was in 2017. Two justices have retired (Toal, Pleicones) and two new ones have been added. (Thanks to scepiscopalians we know that one of the new ones, John C. Few, was just married in St. Philip's Church, in Charleston. This raises questions of his impartiality.) Conservatives have a majority on the present SCSC. 

Then, what is all this business on Betterments? This is a curiosity since DSC is claiming that TEC does not own the 28 properties. The Betterments suit is based on the assumption that TEC owns the properties. Betterments says if TEC does own the properties, the parishes are due reimbursements for the improvements they made on the properties. The catch is they want the whole value of the property, all the way back to the start. TEC contends that the parishes have no standing to make this suit because they cannot sue the beneficiaries of their own trusts (sort of like suing oneself).

DSC's Plan A is to keep the 28 away from TEC. Their Plan B is to soak TEC of money to pay for regaining the 28 properties.

In order for the Betterments suit to proceed, the court will have to recognize the Episcopal Church as the owner of the properties. 

DSC is presenting Judge Dickson with a dilemma. They want him to declare the parishes own their properties outright (against the SCSC decision), but if he does not do that, they want him to force TEC to pay, and pay enormously, for the properties. It is no wonder Judge Dickson wished this whole thing would go away when he sent them to mediation. Of all people, he must be the most disappointed that mediation failed. In fact, it was DOA. It is too bad he could not see what I, and many others, knew would happen.


So, what happens now?

First we have to bear in mind that all judges and justices in SC are elected by the state legislature, after a committee clearance process. This makes all of them in a way political appointees. As we have seen in the history of the litigation of this schism, judges and justices can differ vastly on the same issue, same case. The local pressures on the local judges in SC must be heavy and their decisions may bear on their futures one way or the other. And, since we are talking about South Carolina, we are talking about a relatively conservative and traditional social and culture milieu. Judges who dare to challenge the establishment status quo may be subject to harsh treatment indeed (think Judge J. Waites Waring). Remember too the despicable character assassination campaign against Justice Kaye Hearn after the SCSC issued the August 2, 2017 decision that was shattering, even shocking, to the local conservative order. Even the chief justice, Donald Beatty has come under a lot of criticism. So, one can only imagine what pressures from local powerful, conservative forces Judge Dickson must be facing.

It may be revealing to note that Judge Dickson's two decisions so far were both in support of the anti-TEC side. However, this does not necessarily mean he will continue this favoritism.

Second, we have to keep in mind that this church fight in SC is fundamentally about social issues. The Episcopal Church, and its local diocese, have granted equality and inclusion to blacks, women, homosexuals, and transgendered in the church. The secessionists refused equality and inclusion for women, homosexuals, and transgendered. They felt so strongly about this they were willing to tear up the grand old diocese and plunge everyone into years of destructive and expensive legal war. The battle lines are clear. This is a culture war, for and against sweeping social change. Of all the states of the union, historically speaking, SC has been the most resistant to social and cultural reform. It remains overall a relatively conservative state socially and culturally. The prevailing popular attitudes in SC favor the breakaway side. Every judge would know this. 

What are Judge Dickson's options now?

I see three choices:

1-Do nothing. Judge Dickson is 69 years old and has had a distinguished career in the law. He can ignore this case and retire soon leaving the whole matter to his successor. If I were Judge Dickson, I would be tempted to take this road. This church case is highly complex, complicated, contentious and deeply entwined with life in SC. Ruling on all this mess would take a great deal of courage and wisdom, such as Judge Richard Gergel just showed. Gergel, however, as a federal judge, was not subject to the same local pressures and entanglements as a state judge.

2-Order the implementation of # 2 and # 3 majority decisions on the last page of the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017. This would mean the complete judicial victory of the Episcopal Church side having already won the entity of the diocese in the federal court. One could expect the breakaway side to react furiously appealing to the SC Court of Appeals. The appeals court, however, certainly will defend the integrity of the SCSC decision. Nevertheless, Judge Dickson may find himself enduring personal attacks from local conservative forces as Hearn and Beatty did. One big factor to help Judge Dickson is the Sept. 19 order of Judge Gergel that strongly promoted the validity of the SCSC decision.

3-Declare the SCSC decision unenforceable and rule anew on property ownership for the 28 parishes in question. This would satisfy the secessionist side but infuriate the TEC side. There are two immediate problems with this approach. In the first, Judge Dickson would have to discard a final decision of the SCSC. It is impossible to imagine this would hold up under appeal. In the second, Judge Dickson would have to wade through vast quantities of documents from 29 parishes to determine himself if each had acceded to the Dennis Canon. This itself would be in defiance of the SCSC Aug. 2 decision. In that decision, the justices of the SCSC considered the evidence, in the voluminous court record from the circuit court, on accession to the Dennis Canon. After considering the evidence, four of the five justices agreed the 28 (29) had indeed acceded to the Dennis Canon. It is difficult to imagine that a circuit court judge would discard the opinion of the state supreme court and impose an order in opposition to it. The state appeals court would never uphold such.

What about the Betterments suit? If Judge Dickson agrees that TEC owns the 28 properties, he could allow the Betterments suit to continue. This would open up a host of problems which would be very difficult and time-consuming to solve. He would have to rule that the parish had standing to bring suit, in opposition to the TEC position. Then he would have to decide when they started occupying the property they did not own. And then he would have to figure up all of the "improvements" that had been made. I expect he would be retired before all of that enormous amount of work would be finished.

At any rate, it makes no sense for a judge to recognize the Dennis Canon and turn around and discard the Dennis Canon. Under the Canon, a parish owns its property but does in trust for two beneficiaries, the Episcopal Church and its local diocese. It owns the property as long as the parishioners remain in the Episcopal Church. If they leave the church, the property moves to ownership of the Episcopal Church. Thus, parishioners never own the property outside of the confines of the Episcopal Church. Moreover, since the Dennis Canon was well-known, the parishioners could not have believed they owned the property outright. 

Bottom line----#2 is the best choice.

Judge Dickson is in a difficult situation. We can all appreciate that. However, this matter is his responsibility. Often we do not get to choose what lands on our plates. Those in positions of public responsibility have to deal with all of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I should know. My father was the chief of police in Pensacola FL in the civil rights era. He never, ever even considered shirking his duty even under the threat of  harm to himself and his family. Goodness knows, over my years of college teaching I had numerous students, colleagues, and administrators I had rather have lived without. I dealt with them anyway; and I did the best I could even when it was not easy. I am sure in your life you have encountered the same situations.

Judge Dickson has a job to do. He has to face his original assignment, to implement the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017. He has already enforced the first of the three majority orders of the decision. There is no good reason why he should not now move on to enforce the other two. 

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. has two large seated figures majestically presiding over its front steps, "Law" and "Justice" (find them here ) . Judge Dickson can serve both of these by doing his duty to implement the SCSC decision. In the end, I believe he knows it is the right thing to do; and as a good Presbyterian, he knows it is his duty and God-given destiny to do it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


At noon today, I did go out into my garden to spend awhile in quiet and prayerful meditation in remembrance of the seventh anniversary of the schism in South Carolina. I hope you too found a moment at mid-day to pray and reflect on the events of the past seven years.

It is a cool and overcast day here in eastern Alabama, and threatening rain. The cool and the rain are most welcome as relief from a long, hot summer and a drought. Even though I have mostly neglected my garden in the past few weeks, I found beauty all around me and it buoyed my somber spirit greatly.

Since you could not be with me in my garden today, I thought I would walk you around it.

This bench is my favorite place to sit in the garden. From a slight rise, I can see most of the garden. I sat there a long time at noon today reading my prayers and Bible verses as the birds sang, butterflies fluttered and a sweet aroma filled the air. I soon discovered the tea olive shrub was in full bloom a few yards away. I think this is the nearest to heaven I will reach on earth. And of all days, I needed it the most today.

I walked around to get solace from ever present St. Francis, everybody's favorite medieval lover of nature. He is about to be enveloped by this Fall blooming camellia.

It is unusual to see a banana tree bearing fruit in this part of the South because frost always kills the tree to the ground, but here it is. Unfortunately these little bananas will not mature as we are likely to have frost within a month.

This akebia vine has more than devoured its trellis. It is flourishing but some plants are not as the drought has caused many to shed their leaves.

On the walkpath in the smaller part of the garden looking toward the central lawn.

The last rose of summer. "Coral Drift," a shrub rose, will bloom until frost.

The palm tree that thrives best in this part of Alabama is "Windmill Palm." These are on the south side of my little retirement house. The larger one is about full grown at nearly twenty feet. There are several of these in my garden to give it a tropical feel. The shrub is gardenia.

A garden serves to remind us that whatever is happening in our lives, creation goes on, and does so wonderfully and beautifully, even without our attention or interference because it comes from a force infinitely greater than ourselves. Let's take that thought with us as we enter the eighth year of the schism in South Carolina.


15 Oct., 5:30 a.m.     This is a reminder to consider stopping at noon today (12:00 p.m. EDT) for a moment of prayer and reflection on the seventh anniversary of the schism in the Episcopal diocese of South Carolina.

The schism officially occurred at 12:00 p.m. on 15 October 2012.

Here is a suggested prayer (find it here):

God of compassion, you have reconciled us in Jesus Christ who is our peace: Enable us to live as Jesus lived, breaking down walls of hostility and healing enmity. Give us grace to make peace with those from whom we are divided, that, forgiven and forgiving, we may ever be one in Christ; with you and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever, one holy and undivided Trinity. Amen.

Here is a suggested Bible reading:

I Corinthians 12:25-27 (KJV)

"That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."

Perhaps you would like to recall Verse 3 of the great hymn, "The Church's One Foundation":

Tho' with a scornful wonder, 
men see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping, 
their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.

Seven is the sacred number. The Bible and Jewish and Christian traditions are replete with references to and images of seven to represent God, the divine presence, the Divine Will, the sacred mysteries, righteousness, and the like. The Bible gives hundreds of examples of the number seven from the first of Genesis to the end of Revelation.

Seven also represents completion, closure, and finality, as in the seven days of creation and the seven days of the week.

Will seven be a fateful number for the schism in SC, or at least its attendant legal war? Time will tell.

So, I suggest you find your favorite place at noon today and reflect on your life in the last seven years. Weather permitting, I will be in my favorite place in my garden. There, enveloped by the magnificent fruits of the seven days of creation, I will lift up in thanksgiving the heroic saints of South Carolina who, for seven years, have sacrificed of themselves to defend the dignity and worth of all of God's creation.

Sunday, October 13, 2019


Tuesday, October 15, 2019, will mark seven years since the schism in the old Episcopal diocese of South Carolina. To be exact, the split happened at 12 noon on Monday, 15 October 2012. I suggest that everyone pause for a moment at noon on this Tuesday, Oct. 15, to remember this event. Right now, the anniversary is a convenient time to reflect on what happened seven years ago and what has happened since. Where does the schism stand now all these years later? What about the future?


Space here permits only a brief summary of events. See my history of the schism for exhaustive (or exhausting) details. 

At noon, on 15 October 2012, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, telephoned the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. Also on the call were the members of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops and Wade Logan, chancellor of DSC. Jefferts Schori telephoned from the church headquarters in New York. Lawrence was in the diocesan house, on Coming Street, in Charleston.

Jefferts Schori told Lawrence that on Oct. 10 she had received a certificate of abandonment from the DBB finding that Lawrence had abandoned the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. She announced she was placing a restriction on him as of 12 noon of Oct. 15. He was not to perform any ministerial function until the matter was resolved.

The presiding bishop asked Lawrence to keep this confidential as she was to meet him in person seven days later in NYC. She, Lawrence, Bishop Waldo of Upper SC, and the two chancellors were scheduled to talk on October 22. Jefferts Schori wanted a private, and peaceful, end to this problem.

Under the canons, a bishop under restriction remains a bishop, at least for the time being. The DBB is only a sort of grand jury bringing charges that others have to process. A restricted bishop has two ways to remove the restriction. In one, he or she can write a letter of explanation to the presiding bishop who then has the discretion of restoring the bishop. In the other, he or she may plead his or her case to the next meeting of the House of Bishops whereupon the bishops would vote whether to depose or restore the restricted bishop. Lawrence chose neither of these.

Why did Lawrence not choose one of these options? He knew something the presiding bishop did not know. He knew what her action on restriction meant. It meant schism. 

Why did it mean schism? It meant schism because the leaders of the diocese had set a hidden trap. On October 2, the DSC Standing Committee adopted a secret plan to disassociate the diocese from the Episcopal Church if TEC took "any action of any kind" against Bishop Lawrence. Lawrence did not mention this to Bishop Waldo. Lawrence did not mention this to Jefferts Schori when he met with her, and Waldo, the next day in NYC (Oct. 3). Lawrence did not mention this when Jefferts Schori was on the phone on the 15th. In fact, Jefferts Schori tried two times to meet with Lawrence between Oct. 10 and 15 but Lawrence refused. On one occasion she was in Atlanta, a five hour drive from Charleston. Lawrence refused to go.

The evidence suggests Lawrence listened quietly to Jefferts Schori in the call. He did not argue against the charges. Apparently he did not dispute the request for confidentiality. However, as soon as he hung up the phone he sprang into action.

The hidden trap snapped shut. Lawrence immediately called Logan, who had been in on the call. Under the terms of the Standing Committee resolution of Oct. 2, the chancellor had to certify that "any action of any kind" had been taken against Lawrence. Evidently Logan did that and a conference call was set up with the diocesan Standing Committee, at 1:30 p.m. Jeffert Schori's confidentiality lasted less than an hour and a half. Obviously, the Standing Committee and the others in on the 1:30 call agreed to put into effect the Oct. 2 resolution that provided for disaffiliation. Appartently, all agreed that the diocese was now independent of the Episcopal Church. The moment of the break was officially set as 12 noon, October 15, 2012. 

One should bear in mind that Lawrence had made this oath at his ordination as bishop in 2008:  I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.

Now came the task of how to relay the news of the separation to an unsuspecting diocese and the world.


The secret plan of Oct. 2 was a unanimous resolution of the diocesan Standing Committee to remove the diocese from the Episcopal Church if and when the Church took any action against Bishop Lawrence. Since Lawrence had flagrantly and openly disregarded the Dennis Canon of TEC, it was widely suspected that he could well be charged with abandonment of communion (even though he had been cleared of this by the DBB in 2011). The Committee would not have passed such a statement if they had thought Lawrence was safe from charges.

The plan was not a sudden event. It was several months in the making. For the first half of the year 2012, the diocesan leadership had carried on a concerted campaign around the diocese against the expected approval of the blessing of same-sex unions at the General Convention, of July 2012. In the Convention, Lawrence had staged a dramatic walk-out from the House of Bishops in protest of the GC's adoption of the blessing. Back in SC, diocesan leadership began preparing for a separation. 

On August 21, an ultra secret meeting of the diocesan leadership was held. No word of this gathering has ever leaked out. To this day, the discussion remains absolutely sealed. However, circumstantial evidence suggests this was the point at which the leadership finally resolved to break the diocese away from the Episcopal Church. The problem now was the best way to effectuate this. The leaders agreed to go through the Standing Committee rather than having a public discussion as in a diocesan convention or other open venue.

At the next meeting of the Standing Committee, the committee secretly asked the bishop for a statement on how the diocese could disassociate from TEC. A sixteen-page letter was drawn up with all the signs of having been written by lawyers. It was signed by Lawrence. The letter gave permission to the committee to disassociate the diocese from TEC. An earlier diocesan convention had given to the bishop the sole right to interpret the constitution and canons. The letter was delivered to the Standing Committee on Oct. 2. With this, the committee adopted a resolution for conditional separation. Meanwhile, all of this remained secret, known only to the tightly bound leadership of the diocese. No more than two dozen people were in on the plan, the bishop, the chancellor, close associates and advisors, and the standing committee. There was never an open and public discussion in the diocese about whether they should secede from the Episcopal Church. 

The very next day after the committee's vote, Lawrence went to NYC, to meet with Waldo and Jefferts Schori. He failed to mention the resolution. Nothing came of the meeting. Afterwards, Lawrence refused to meet in person with them.


The schism was a pre-meditated event. Even so, it required a great deal of work to effectuate and so the leadership went at it immediately. The separation would have to be announced in the strongest possible way to the diocese and the public.

Two days later, on 17 October, the leadership was ready to move into action. Lawrence called Jefferts Schori and told her the diocese had disaffiliated from the Episcopal Church. That afternoon, the diocesan office posted on its website a slew of documents announcing to the world that the diocese had left the Episcopal Church. They also announced a diocesan convention meeting on 17 November to make the necessary changes in the diocesan canons. At that point, the clergy and laity of the diocese were given a fait accompli and therefore had two choices, go along with it or stay behind with the Episcopal Church. The majority choose to go along. When the convention assembled on 17 November, Lawrence told them the break had already occurred and the purpose of the convention was only to alter the canons to reflect this. This was a revolution from the top down. It did not arise from the pews.


Although the break occurred on 15 October 2012, it was thirty years in the making. The diocesan divergence from the mainstream of the Episcopal Church started in 1982 under the episcopacy of Bishop Fitz Allison, a devoted and outspoken Evangelical theologian and writer. Criticism of the church's social reforms built up after that. More and more the diocese moved to differentiate itself from the Church. This ratcheted up in 2003 with the Church's confirmation of an open and partnered homosexual bishop. In 2006 and 2007, a search committee and standing committee hostile to Church reforms on sexuality chose as the next bishop a man who had written two essays defending diocesan departure from TEC and the submission of TEC to the wider Anglican Communion (his own diocese voted to leave TEC in 2006 and 2007). In 2009 and 2010, the diocesan convention declared the diocese sovereign and self-governing. In 2011, Bishop Lawrence issued quit claim deeds to the local parishes surrendering any claim the diocese might have in the properties. This was in blatant disregard of TEC's Dennis Canon. This gave the national church an offer it could not refuse. 

The trajectory of the diocese from 1982 to 2012 was away from the mainstream of the Episcopal Church. No evidence of a written agreement among the diocesan leadership to make a schism has ever surfaced, but circumstantial evidence suggests an attitude, perhaps an understanding, among them of continued differentiation from TEC the logical outcome of which would be schism. In fact, the schism of 2012 was the third division of the old diocese. The first was the breakaway of All Saints of Pawleys Island, in 2004. The second was the separation of St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant, in 2011. A pattern of schism was well-established before 2012.


The old diocese has split into four parts: All Saints, St. Andrew's, ADSC, and EDSC. 

By federal court order, the Episcopal Church diocese is the legal and legitimate heir of the historic diocese. It is in fact the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina with all the legal rights this entails. The Episcopal diocese was started in 1785.

At the schism, the breakaway group seized (illegally as we now know) the names, emblems, and rights of the historic diocese. In 2019, the federal court ruled they had no right to do so. The breakaway organization is an entity separate from the old diocese. The new diocese chose to name itself the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina. The ADSC is now appealing the federal decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals which almost certainly will uphold the lower court.

The direct cause of the schism was social policy, particularly equality for and inclusion of homosexuals, the transgendered, and women in the life of the church. After the schism, both sides developed policies and procedures along their preferred lines. The Episcopal diocese adopted the blessing of same-sex unions, then same-sex marriage. The Anglican diocese established a Statement of Faith and made it a blanket requirement in the diocese. It banned same-sex marriage in the diocese. The Anglican diocese joined the Anglican Church in North America which discriminates against both homosexuals and women. Women are not allowed to be bishops and are therefore excluded from power. Both dioceses have institutionalized their social policies.

The schism has been fought out for almost seven years in the courts. The Episcopal side won the entity of the historic diocese as well as the bulk of the local parishes. Both the highest state court and the federal court ruled on the side of the Episcopal Church diocese. This has come at a heavy cost to both sides. The total amount we cannot know, probably never will know. However, it appears as if the total legal costs are in excess of ten million dollars.

Was the schism and the subsequent legal war necessary? No. The diocese had the local option to block the blessing of same-sex unions. The diocese could have stayed in TEC and kept its socially conservative attitudes. TEC left participation in its social reforms up to individual conscience. Nor was the legal war necessary. On at least three occasions, the breakaways had opportunities to make compromise settlements and refused. In June of 2015 they could have swapped the parishes for the diocese. Moreover, they had two chances at mediation. Now, after millions of dollars and years in court, which they initiated, they have six parishes and a few missions. 


Having won back the entity of the diocese and 29 parishes, it is just a matter of time before the Episcopal diocese repossesses the assets of the old diocese and the local parishes. The breakaways can stall temporarily but not indefinitely.

The Anglican diocese has adopted a deny and delay strategy in the legal war. This is buying time but will inevitably play out. They have lost the old diocese and the bulk of the local parishes.

The Anglican diocese faces two possible choices: 1-merge what is left into the ACNA Diocese of the Carolinas, under Bishop Wood, of St. Andrew's in Mt. Pleasant; 2-rebuild itself as a separate diocese in ACNA with a dozen or so local churches. The second will depend somewhat on how many people leave the 29 parishes after reunion with the Episcopal Church. The ADSC leadership has been working hard to establish an "Anglican," i.e. anti-Episcopal, identity in the diocese (as the recent African prelates' appearance in Charleston). If they can extract enough parishioners from the 29, they may be able to create enough new Anglican congregations to sustain a viable diocese. This remains to be seen. At this point, no one can know how many communicants will remain in the 29 parishes.

In the near term, as one awaits the wrap-up of the litigation, one may expect the Episcopal side to prepare for an expeditious return of the diocese and parishes. The Anglican side will delay this as long as possible. Eventually, they will exhaust all possibilities. Then, the remaining Anglicans will have to decide where they go from there. 

After seven years, it is not too soon to start thinking about success and failure in the schism. Evaluating this depends on how one looks at various factors. In terms of empirical evidence, the schism has been a failure. The breakaways lost the diocese and most of the parishes. After the schism, they lost a third of their communicants. All quantifiable indicators show relentless decline in ADSC. Meanwhile, the Episcopal diocese has gained members steadily, now at twenty percent growth. 

However, looking at it another way, the schism has been a big success. The original goal of the anti-TEC movement in the 1980's and 1990's was political. Conservative PACs set out to destroy or diminish the Episcopal Church in order to neutralize its "liberal" influence in American life. On that level, the schism has succeeded to some degree. It has certainly done great damage to the old Episcopal Church in South Carolina, arguably the most important religious institution in the Low Country. It will take many years, perhaps generations, before the Episcopal Church returns to its pre-schism place in the life of lower South Carolina. 

The schism, or schisms, in SC have also created a significant parallel, rival "Anglican" presence in the region. All Saints, St. Andrew's, and now the ADSC are all connected to GAFCON which is a shadow government in the Anglican world challenging the traditional structure of the Anglican Communion. Its aim is to coalesce the majority of Anglicans in a new fundamentalist alliance devoted to social conservatism, particularly against the rights of homosexuals and women. One must recognize that this anti-TEC Anglican presence in SC will continue.

The general outlines of the legal resolution have been determined. For both sides now, the really hard work begins. For EDSC, the enormous challenge will be to restore the diocese and rebuild the parishes. Some communicants will stay. Some will leave. Only time will tell how many of each.

For ADSC, the challenge will be to decide whether to join other local Anglican entities or to go it alone. Going it alone will present a host of difficulties.

Thus, the schism has been going on for seven years, after brewing for thirty. All signs indicate a very long process of recovery for both sides in the future. 

Was the schism worth it? I know what I think. You, dear reader, have to decide for yourself. So, I suggest you stop at noon on Tuesday, Oct. 15 and reflect on what the schism has meant to you.

Then, we must turn our eyes to the future.