Thursday, December 31, 2020


Today is Thursday, December 31, 2020, the last day of the year, and what it year it was. I for one plan to stay up until midnight tonight not so much to see the new year in as the see the old year out. I am sure we can all agree to shout good bye and good riddance to 2020. I can honestly say it was the worst year of the seventy-seven I have been granted so far. Yet, if you are reading this, you survived. I survived. All is not lost, far from it. Our lives have changed, but not all for the worse, not by a long shot.

The opening paragraph of Charles Dickens's classic A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite passages of literature: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." He was referring to the pre-French Revolutionary age. I think we can use that for 2020. It was definitely bad but it was also good. Let's start with the good.

In thinking of the good in the last year, three things jump into my mind right away. First and foremost is the arrival of vaccines against the coronavirus. In record time, several pharmaceutical companies produced vaccines for public use. This was a miracle of modern science and technology. Within the next few months, vaccines will be available to the general population. With this, the pandemic will decline and life can soon get back to "normal" whatever that may be. 

The second good thing may be the most important in the long run. Faced with its greatest challenge to its integrity since the Civil War, the American constitutional democratic republic held the line. Pushed by a president who knew no bounds of law and order, the old institutions of law and order prevailed as record numbers of Americans went to the polls to reaffirm their devotion to our democratic republic. They loudly and decisively rejected a would-be autocrat and defeated his attempted coup d'état

The year also saw a third movement that we should not forget, the re-awakening of racial justice. Following the police killings of several black people, countless thousands of ordinary American citizens in virtually every city and town spontaneously took to the streets to demand justice and equality for all people regardless of race. Along with the election, this was another way the people arose to reaffirm the basic principles of democracy in America.

Now for the bad in 2020. Here, obviously stands first the pandemic of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. This was the worst public health crisis since the great Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19. Then, 600,000 American died along with millions more around the world. In spite of the enormous progress of modern medicine, we are on track to equal this. Accord to Worldometers, as of today, 1,815,389 people in the world have died of covid. Of these, 350,845 were Americans. The U.S. has been since the first the center of this pandemic. While the U.S. has 4% of the world's population, it reported 24% of the world's cases and 19% of the world's deaths. This reflects the lack of national response to the plague. While many others countries successfully quelled the spread, the U.S. did not. In fact, the Trump administration lurched between denial, indifference, and malevolence. Worst of all, they made the pandemic into a political issue in an election year. In my view, President Trump will go down in history for two colossal moral failures, the separation of children from their parents at the border and the handling of the covid pandemic.

With the pandemic, we must consider many after effects of the health emergency. Millions of Americans lost their jobs. Unemployment is twice what it was before the pandemic. Thousands of businesses have closed. Eight million Americans slipped below the poverty line. Millions face hunger and residential evictions. 

While we see that democracy held in America, the other side of that shows us that there was a very strong and residual movement in 2020 to overthrow the democratic republic. President Trump pushed the boundaries of power as far as he could. After the election, which was clear-cut against him, he tried to overturn the legal and legitimate result and keep himself in power. He failed but only because the courts blocked him. Even in view of four years of anti-democratic behavior, nearly half of the American voters (47%) voted for Trump which meant they voted for an overthrow of democracy. This is beyond shocking. And, the most disturbing point of this was the racial element. Some 60% of the whites voted for Trump while over 80% of blacks voted against him. We now have a country that is even more racially divided than it has been, at least since the 1960's. This is the legacy of Donald Trump who ran his whole campaign on racial fear.

Now that we have considered the good and the bad of 2020, we can ask ourselves: Was 2020 the worst year ever? The answer to that depends on our criteria of evaluation. These would have to rest on the measures of death and destruction as well as the trajectories into the future. I see the year 1940 as the worst, at least in modern history. It was in that year that Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy secured control of continental Europe with every hope and expectation of indefinite domination. France fell in June after only six weeks of fighting. This left only Great Britain at war with Hitler. He was planning and preparing an invasion of Britain and the British were getting ready for it. To "soften up" the British, he launched The Battle of Britain, day after day of devastating bombing raids. Britain fell on its knees, literally and figuratively. To save themselves, the British relied on their control of the seas. The Americans were "neutralized" in Neutrality Acts, much to President Roosevelt's chagrin. The Russians were not neutral, they were actually friends of Hitler having agreed in their Non-Aggression Pact of 1939 to divide up Poland. In 1940, the Soviets took over the three Baltic states. Stalin was confident he would live peacefully with Hitler. So, as 1940 came to a close, there was every reason to believe Germany, Italy, and Japan would prevail as the new world dominant powers. If they had, the world would be a profoundly different place than it is now. So, 1940 gets my vote as the worst year in recent history.

Is the COVID-19 pandemic the worst plague in history? Not by a long shot. It is no where near as devastating as the Black Death of the Fourteenth Century when some 25 million people, a third of the population of Europe, died. Survivors at the time commonly considered this to be the end of the world. It was indeed the end of the word that they knew.

Is President Trump the worst president in American history? He gets my vote. There is a long list of wrong doing but we have to look no farther than his behavior after the election to prove the point. He tried to overthrow our democratic institutions. No president had ever tried to do such a thing.

So, who should be our Person(s) of the Year for 2020? Who are our outstanding heroes who helped us get through the nightmare of 2020? My vote goes to Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx. Even under death threats, they never failed to tell us the truth, guide us on best response, and to give us hope for a better day. In my view, they are our national treasures of 2020. They were our guiding lights as we groped our way through the dark tunnel of the pandemic. They are my heroes of the hour.

As a student of history, I like to consider the big picture and try to make sense of where we are in time. Here is my view of this. We Americans are living in a moment of clash between forces of revolutionary change and forces of resistance. The Twentieth Century gave us two big legacies: that the government is responsible for the welfare of the people and that evolving democracy is the best political system. Starting in the 1950's, American began moving toward effectuating these two guiding principles. Blacks, women, homosexuals and many other maginalized/ignored social elements found the benefits of this Great Democratic Revolution. However, the traditional power structure, the white man, arose to resist this revolution which would displace him from control of the various power structures of America. Donald Trump became the pinnacle of the white  man's backlash to the evolving multi-cultural democracy in America. He was more than a dog whistle to white racists. He brought together the elements of anti-democratic resistance. He came close, but ultimately failed to stop the GDR. Democracy won but just barely and there will remain a very strong anti-democratic resistance for the foreseeable future. I expect this resistance actually to strengthen as it becomes clearer and clearer that white people will become a minority of American society. Demographic trends show this happen within a generation whether white people like it or not. White people have shown they will not "surrender" "their" country easily to the non-whites. I suspect there is much more trouble and violence ahead on this front. Trump did not cause racism in America. He was just the most recent politician to capitalize on it and just because he failed we cannot say the problem has gone away. Not at all. Racism is the original sin of America and until we come to terms with it we will continue to be dangerously divided as a nation.

Finally, what about the schism in South Carolina? What did the year 2020 mean for that? The former members of the Diocese of South Carolina who left the Episcopal Church started a legal war almost eight years ago when they sued the Episcopal Church for possession of the property they knew belonged to the Church under church law. Along the way in the last eight years, the state courts have been on both sides. The SC supreme court ruled for the Episcopal Church but before and after that the local circuit courts ruled in favor of the breakaways. We are now awaiting a judgment of the SCSC. The basic issue there is whether the justices will uphold the SCSC decision of 2017 or overturn it. Unlike the state courts, the federal courts have been clear on the side of the Episcopal Church. The federal district judge in Charleston recognized TEC as hierarchical and the Episcopal diocese as the one and only legal heir of the old diocese. His decision is on appeal with the U.S. appeals court. There is little chance the appeals court will change anything. So, after eight years and at least ten million dollars, we still do not have resolution of the legal war. However, we are much closer now than ever and I expect there is a very good chance both state and federal courts will issue final judgments in the year 2021. Even if they do, this may not be the end of the story as the breakaways have proven clearly that they will deny, delay, and sue until there is absolutely no possibility of legal action left. So, alas, even if the courts rule in 2021 that may not be the end of the sad history of the schism.

My best wishes to you and yours as we move into a new year. A new day is coming. It has to be better that what we are leaving behind. I am confident it will be. At any rate, remember we are here for the living of this hour, with whatever that may entail. Peace.

Thursday, December 24, 2020



On yesterday, 23 December 2020, the breakaway contingent going under the name of Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, presented its written arguments to the United States Supreme Court. This was in opposition to the Episcopal Church's petition to SCOTUS, of 19 October 2020, asking the court to grant cert in order to review the ruling of the Texas Supreme Court that found all in favor of the secessionists in Ft. Worth.

Find the breakaway's brief of yesterday here .

The basic argument TEC had made was that the Supreme Court's Jones v. Wolf decision of 1979 was fatally flawed and needed to be clarified or replaced. The evidence was that states all over the country had arrived at widely different, even contradictory, decisions following Jones which had introduced the notion that civic courts could resolve church property disputes within a denomination by strictly adhering to state property laws neutrally. TEC had argued that this approach was a violation of the First Amendment that prohibited the civic state from interfering in the internal matters of a religious entity.

Not surprisingly, the secessionists argued in their brief of 23 December that the Jones decision was perfectly fine and needed no attention. According to them, neutral principles had worked well as evidenced by its wide application in numerous states. So, the basic point of contention between the two sides is whether the Jones decision should be left as is or should be reinterpreted.

Interesting to note that the breakaways' brief undercuts its own assertions in its Appendix which lists four groups of states responding to the Jones decision: those that adopted it, those that rejected it, those that were unclear, and those that had not addressed it. This actually substantiates TEC's case that the decision had led to judicial chaos and needed clarification.

Also interesting to note that the breakaways' brief completely ignored the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of 2017 that followed neutral principle and still found that TEC owned 29 of the 36 parishes in question as well as the Camp. 

In my view, the basic issue facing SCOTUS now is the interpretation of the First Amendment. Does the civic state have the constitutional right to settle property disputes within a denomination? If so, what are the exact parameters under which this may occur while adhering to the First Amendment? Even the breakaways admitted that the Jones decision and its "neutral principles" guide had led to wildly different outcomes in the courts.

TEC asked SCOTUS to grant cert and review the Ft. Worth case. I expect this decision will hinge on whether the justices see this case as one of the First Amendment or of the contemporary culture war. If the former, they will grant cert and side with TEC. If the latter, they will deny cert and allow the Texas Supreme Court decision to stand. 

Traditionally, SCOTUS has shied away from Episcopal Church cases. Time and again it has refused to accept property cases from TEC. However, the new 6-3 conservative majority in SCOTUS has loudly signaled its devotion to the rights of churches against the state. The recent Cuomo case was a prime example of this. In this, the court said the state could not discriminate against churches in imposing attendance limitations even under the health emergency of the covid pandemic. If the court continues this hard swing in favor of the First Amendment rights of churches, it stands to reason it would want to review the Ft. Worth case. This is certainly what TEC wants. On the other hand, if the ultimate goal of the conservative justices is to bolster traditional conservative cultural and social institutions in America, they might see the Ft. Worth case as a chance to strike back against the socially and culturally progressive Episcopal Church. This would work to the breakaways' favor.

Now, we wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether to grant cert. This will be by vote of the justices and will likely occur in the next few months. If they deny cert, the matter is over and the TX SC decision stands in finality. If they grant cert, they will take up the case and issue a decision upholding or overthrowing the TX SC decision and this would probably happen by July of 2021.

Monday, December 21, 2020


Good day to you, blog reader. Here is a wish that all goes well with you and yours on this, the 21st day of December of 2020. It is Monday, and time for the weekly check in on the crises we have been tracking for months, the pandemic, the litigation, and political. So, where do we stand now on these issues?

PANDEMIC. We are now in the worst phase of the year-long COVID-19 pandemic and matters are getting even worse by the hour. All metrics show alarming trajectories of cases and deaths. 

Consulting our usual source, Worldometers, we find that in the last week (December 14-21), there were 4,527,981 new cases in the world for a total of 77,264,853. In just the last two weeks there were over 10,000,000 new cases in the world. As for deaths in the world, there were 80,935 last week, a rising rate of 5%. This brings world deaths to a total of 1,701,599. In just the last two weeks there have been over 150,000 deaths from COVID-19. This represents 10% of the entire mortality of this pandemic. Numbers are skyrocketing. 

The United States continues to be, as it has been since March, the world's epicenter of the plague. America has by far the most cases and deaths in the world. Last week, the U.S. reported 1,530,312 new cases, a rising rate of 9%. This gives a total of cases of 18,267,579. Over 3,000,000 of these new cases were reported in just the last two weeks. As new cases continue to run at around 10% a week, deaths from COVID-19 continue to hover around 6% weekly. Last week, 18,410 Americans died of the plague. In all, 324,869 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S. Of these 36,000 happened in just the last two weeks.

The pandemic continues to sweep South Carolina and Alabama as it has in the last few months. In SC, there were 21,200 new cases last week for a total of 273,406. In the last two weeks, over 41,000 South Carolinians have contracted the virus. As for deaths from the virus, there were 196 in SC last week for a total of 4,935. The death total of the last two weeks was 370. Alabama continues to be hard hit. In AL, there were 26,821 new cases last week for a total of 322,452. There were over 50,000 new cases in the last two weeks. As for deaths in AL, there were 287 last week for a total of 4,389. The coronavirus is spreading out of control in our southeastern states as in much of America. 

Charleston County continues to see surging numbers as well. It reported 920 new cases last week, and nearly 2,000 in the last two weeks. Deaths in the county are up to 313, and rising at a 9% weekly rate. 

While we are in the midst of a terrifying winter surge of the pandemic, there is great news at hand. Two new vaccines are now available and will be offered to the public in the next few months. The light is at the end of the tunnel, as far as the pandemic goes.

LITIGATION. We are still in a holding pattern in the court cases. We are awaiting two briefs in two important cases. The first is the brief of the Anglican Diocese of SC in the South Carolina Supreme Court. The Episcopal diocese appealed to the SCSC to overturn Judge Dickson's outrageous order and submitted its brief (written arguments) to the SCSC last month. The ADSC brief (counter arguments) will be presented in the near future but I am uncertain of the exact date.

On 23 December, the breakaway faction in Ft. Worth is due to submit its brief in the United States Supreme Court. The Episcopal Church has asked SCOTUS to grant cert and accept its appeal of the Texas Supreme Court ruling that found all in favor of the secessionist contingent in Ft. Worth. After the breakaways turn in their brief, the justices of SCOTUS will decide whether to grant cert. This should occur in the new few months. 

POLITICAL. I am preparing an end-of-year review of the political crisis in America and so will skip this for now. I will return with my thoughts on this soon.

Meanwhile, as a gardener, I always look forward to this day, the Winter Solstice. This year it falls on today, Monday, December 21. For nature, the winter solstice is a turning point. This is the darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. From here on, the days will lengthen and the sun will brighten in the sky. Typically, the worst of winter weather is yet to come, but the rising light portends all the great promises of spring and new life. 

In prehistoric and ancient times, people universally marked and celebrated the "rebirth" of the sun after the winter solstice. As they saw the sun declining in the sky, they feared it would die, and its death would extinguish all life. Thus, there was always great rejoining when the sun began to lift on the horizon in what is now late December. Nowadays the Christian world celebrates new birth at Christmas. The four gospels do not provide the time of year in which Jesus of Nazareth was born, so early on it seemed fitting for Christians to put it in late December (in the cult of Mithras, widely popular in the Roman Army, Dec. 25 was the birth day of the mythical saviour-figure Mithras). So, today I am rejoicing at the passing of the Winter Solstice and the impending celebration of birth, this Friday. Welcome new sun, welcome new life.

The Winter Solstice today provides a metaphor of this whole year. This is the darkest day of the darkest year of my lifetime. Yet, in this fearful moment, there are many signs of new life as there is every reason to hope and expect a better day ahead. Things will be better. We have to believe that. Always remember, we are here for the living of this hour. Peace.

Friday, December 18, 2020


Greetings blog reader. It is just a week until Christmas Day. I do not know about you, but I can hardly wait for that day to arrive. I may be reverting to my long-ago childhood, but did we ever need Christmas more? This has been the year from Hell. We need the arrival of the Divine Presence now more than ever, at least in out lifetimes. So, I say, hurry Christmas, hurry the arrival of the new light. 

Many blog readers noticed I did not make a posting last Monday as I usually do. I had just learned that my 81-year-old brother in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, had contracted the coronavirus. That means his wife, along with my sister, probably have gotten the virus, or will get it. Right now, he is at home taking OTC meds. It is a good thing he has a relatively mild case, at least so far, because there is not one ICU bed left in the entire state of Mississippi. That state has been overwhelmed. It seemed that all the heaviness of the year fell in on me at once and I did not have the heart to write anything on the computer last Monday. 

Perhaps you too have family members and friends who have acquired the virus. The plague is spreading rapidly and people are falling sick all around us. It is hard to keep up a good spirit in this seemingly ever darkening night.

We must not, will not, let the night vanquish us. One way we can keep our heads above water is to relish the small acts of kindness that we can do for each other. Let me share with you a few recent examples that will lift your spirits as they did mine.

For 25 years, my local parish has provided a free Thanksgiving Day meal for the community. It started out small and has turned into a major event, especially for a small church. In spite of the pandemic, this year the parish went all out and served a record-breaking 675 meals. And this year, we had only pick-up and home delivered meals. We packed in extra food for people to use for days. 

Another act of kindness. My good friend from childhood lives in downtown Chicago, near Lincoln Park. A few years ago, he was hit by a truck while crossing the street and ever since has struggled to get around. He has to have a walker to go anywhere. Well, on the day before Thanksgiving he was crossing the street and out of the blue a woman he had never seen appeared at his side to help him across. On the other side they struck up a conversation about what they were going to do on the next day, Thanksgiving. He told her he had hoped to go to his favorite restaurant a few blocks away but would not do so this year. The woman immediately said she would go to the restaurant, pick up and pay for his favorite meal, and deliver it to him on tomorrow, Thanksgiving. She did. At noon she appeared at the door, tote bag in hand. My friend was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. A person he had never seen spent her Thanksgiving Day going to great lengths to see to it that he had a good day. Many people would say things like this just do not happen in big cities but they would be wrong.

Another act of kindness. Once a month my local parish has a "Beans and Rice" day to distribute free beans and rice to anyone who wants them, no questions asked. You might be surprised at the number of people who arrive to collect just these basic staples. We have a local food pantry in town but it screens its patrons. Our local Daughters of the King chapter decided to make December's Beans and Rice day a free food day. And so, they found enough money to buy bags and bags of food to hand out to anyone who arrived to collect the beans and rice. My wife, Sandy, was the driving force behind this project, I am proud to say. The Daughters prepared hundreds of bags which they handed out to the surprised and delighted patrons on this months's Beans and Rice Day.

St. Luke's parish house, Jacksonville AL. Sandy Caldwell looks over the room full of bags of food assembled by the DOK for distribution on Beans and Rice Day, Dec. 12.

And finally, I like to go back to my favorite Advent hymn, "Lo he comes with clouds descending." This is one of the most beautiful hymns in the hymnal and I always look forward to it at this time of the year. We need it now more than ever. My favorite rendition is the one by Richard Jensen on Youtube. There are many other versions available on Youtube. Any one will do. I invite you to listen to one of them today.

So, it is with little flickers of light that we banish the darkness of the night in which we find ourselves. We are here for the living of this hour, as hard as it may be. Peace.

Monday, December 7, 2020



Greetings, blog reader, on this Monday, December 7, 2020. Today is a somber day in many ways; and it is time to check in on the crises we have been tracking for months now.

PANDEMIC. It is clear to everyone that we are in the midst of the worst health crisis in our lifetimes. In fact, we are in a once-in-a-century health emergency. People are falling ill and dying by the thousands all around us. Moreover, right now we are in the worst part of this awful plague; and all signs indicate it will only worsen for the new few months as winter sets in. At nearly 300,000 Americans dead, we are looking into twice that number by next February, at least according to the experts. In the great flu epidemic of 1918-19, 600,000 Americans died. We are on track to match that, in spite of the great advances in medicine in the last century.

Looking at our usual source, Worldometers, the data of cases and deaths are soaring in almost every category. There were 4,318,335 new cases last week, December 1-7, for a total of 67,493,569 cases in the world. In just the last two weeks, there were over 8,000,000 new cases in the world, a record. As for deaths in the world, there were 76,475 last week for a total of 1,543,627. This was a rising rate of 5%. In the last two weeks, nearly 150,000 people have died of COVID-19.

The figures for America are even more grim. The U.S. continues to be the world's epicenter of this pandemic. Last week, the U.S. reported 1,408,192 new cases, for a total of 15,159,529. This was a rising rate of 10%, a record. In the last two weeks, some 2.5m Americans have contracted COVID-19, again soaring numbers. As for deaths in the U.S., there were 15,805 reported, for a total of 288,906, a rising rate of 6%. In the last two weeks some 25,000 Americans died of the plague. All the charts show these to be record numbers on a skyrocketing trajectory. Infections and deaths will only get worse in the next few months.

Our local southeastern states continue to be "hot spots" for the virus. Last week, South Carolina reported 15,880 new cases, for a total of 232,009. This was a rising rate of 7%, up from the 5% of the previous week. In the last two weeks, SC reported 25,000 new cases. As for deaths, SC reported 207 last week, for a total of 4,560. According to the New York Times, in the last two weeks, SC saw a 48% rise in new cases, 25% increase in deaths, and 23% jump in hospitalizations. 

As for Charleston County, there were 856 new cases last week, for a total of 20,783. In the last two weeks, the county reported over 1,500 new cases. As for deaths, the county listed 8 last week, for a total of 301. It is clear, the disease is spreading rapidly in Charleston County although at a slightly lesser rate than Richland and Greenville, if this is any consolation.

Alabama's figures are even more alarming. Last week, the state reported 22,648 new cases for a total of 269,877. There were 37,000 new cases in just the last two weeks. As for deaths, the state reported 312 last week, for a total of 3,889. This was a rising rate of 9%, up from the 3% of the earlier week.

In spite of the exploding numbers, virtually nothing new is being done to mitigate the pandemic, at least in our local states. All eyes are on the vaccines that are on the horizon. Two, Pfizer and Moderna, are on the cusp of approval and distribution. However, distributing these will present huge problems. Availability will be prioritized and the lower levels may not have access to them for many months to come. The first to be vaccinated will be the most vulnerable, particularly the medical personnel who have to deal with the virus every day. The second tier will be older people (I am going to be the first in line of this group). Meanwhile, the coronavirus is spreading as wildfire and will continue as such for the time being. The worst is yet to come.

LITIGATION. Nothing new to report here. We are waiting on two court developments. The first is in the South Carolina Supreme Court. TEC and the Diocese of SC are appealing Judge Dickson's outrageous decision of June 19, 2020 purporting to reverse the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017. The Church side submitted its brief to SCSC on Nov. 12. We are now awaiting the new diocese's brief. Then, the SCSC will consider the case and decide whether to hold a hearing or go straight to a written decision. 

The second concerns the U.S. Supreme Court. On Oct. 19, TEC and its diocese of Ft. Worth filed for "cert" in SCOTUS to appeal the Texas Supreme Court decision of May 22, 2020 that found all in favor of the breakaway contingent. The Church side filed its brief; and seven entities have filed "amici curiae" briefs in support of the Church side. We are now awaiting the brief of the breakaway side. It is due on Dec. 23, 2020. After that, the nine justices will decide whether to grant cert. If they do not, the case is over. If they do, they will review the TSC decision and rule on it. In my view, this is a landmark case at the heart of the bedrock principle of the separation of church and state, that is, the First Amendment. If the nine justices see it that way, there is a reasonable chance they will grant cert.

POLITICAL. The American people have spoken loudly and clearly. They rejected Donald Trump as president. Trump has rejected the judgment of the people and continues to assert entirely fictitious claims of election fraud. However, the institutions that he had counted on to help him make a coup d'état  refused to go along with his madness. The legal system, headed by AG Barr, and the federal courts all upheld the law. Although Trump can continue to do a lot of damage to American democracy on his way out, his days are numbered. Sanity and decency are on the way. In both the health and political crises, the cavalry is on the way, thank God.

Finally, we must pause and remember Pearl Harbor Day, the Day of Infamy. All those years ago now, the world changed forever. I was not alive then but my parents told me how they reacted that day. They had chosen that day to move from rural south Alabama to Pensacola where my father had recently landed a good job. A few weeks earlier they had bought a little house on west Cypress Street, a short distance from beautiful Pensacola Bay. As they were moving their household items into their "new" house at mid-day, a paper boy ran up and down the streets shouting "Japs attack Pearl Harbor." Everyone ran out and bought the special (Sunday) edition and turned on their radios. My parents had wildly mixed reactions, happiness at their new home but great fear and foreboding at what would come. My mother sat on the front steps and wept. After all, Pensacola was a major naval point. There would be a great deal of change to come in their immediate world. Little did they know at just how much the world would change locally and globally. 

Today, it will help us to put things into historical perspective.We are in a hard time, no doubt about it. Our hearts break at the sickness and deaths all about us. Sometimes, we may want to sit on the front steps and weep, and maybe we should. However, on the whole, our travails pale in comparison to those of our parents and grandparents, the generation of the Great Depression and Second World War ("the Greatest Generation"). Just as we, they did not know the future, yet they did their best through it all. In the end, the world that developed, that they helped create, after the war was far more wonderful than they could have imagined. I think what sustained them through the darkest of hours was family, community, faith, and nation. After all, it is the basics that count the most in life; and I think we should remember that truism this day. The darkest day in American history since the Civil War may have seemed almost unbearable to the people at the moment, but it was not. This is worth remembering today, Pearl Harbor Day.

Finally, always remember we are here, as our ancestors were here on Pearl Harbor Day, for the living of this hour. Then, as now, the people had no choice of what was forced on them. So today, let us take inspiration from how our forebearers prevailed over adversity, moving on with our lives while facing fearful odds. Peace.  


Friday, December 4, 2020



On October 19, 2020, the Episcopal Church and its diocese of Ft. Worth officially petitioned the United States Supreme Court to take its appeal of the Texas Supreme Court decision of May 22, 2020. That decision found all in favor of the breakaway entity in Ft. Worth. Find my blog post about this here .

Soon thereafter, six religious denominations and one think tank filed "amici curiae" (friends of the court) briefs with SCOTUS in support of the Episcopal Church position. Collectively, these present a strong case for the Church side. TEC is asking the high court to grant "cert," that is, to agree to accept an appeal of the case from Texas Supreme Court. If they agree, the nine justices would review and render a judgment on the TSC decision. If SCOTUS should grant cert, the justices would hold a hearing and then render a written decision in which the majority of the nine would either uphold or overturn the TSC decision.

The basic argument of TEC is that the Jones decision of 1979 has done more harm than good in American jurisprudence. It created an impossible approach called "neutral principles." This has produced only widely contradictory and confusing court decisions, in short, chaos. Moreover, the First Amendment precludes the civic state from interfering with the internal affairs of a religious organization. TEC is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the TSC decision in favor of the principle of the separation of church and state.

Six national religious denominations have filed amici briefs:

---the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, on Nov. 18.

---the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)  Nov. 23, 2020

    the Reformed Church in America

    the United Methodist Church

    the Moravian Church in America

    the United Church of Christ

In addition, the Rutherford Institute, of Charlottesville VA filed an amicus brief on Nov. 23, 2020.

In general, all of the amici briefs support TEC's position on the Jones decision, that is, the "neutral principles" rule that courts have used is unworkable and the First Amendment protects the rights of religious denominations against interference by the courts. The denominations also emphasized that SCOTUS should clarify the enforceability of trust provisions established by the national churches. This has been an enormous problem. 

As we know, the courts in South Carolina issued diametrically opposed decisions on the applicability of the Dennis Canon. The SC supreme court ruled that the Dennis Canon was in effect and that 28 of 36 parishes acceded to it. The circuit court purported to overturn that and declared that none of the 36 had acceded to the Dennis Canon. Thus, while the SCSC recognized TEC ownership of the 29, the circuit court recognized that TEC had no interest in any of the 36.

All of the amici briefs are available on the SCOTUS website. Find them here .

There could be more amici briefs supporting the Church side.

The breakaway side in Ft. Worth has until December 23, 2020, to file a reply brief with SCOTUS. After that, we can expect amici support for that side.

In all likelihood, in early 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to grant cert. If they deny cert, the TSC decision stands as final. If they grant cert, SCOTUS will rule on the issues of the case. If they grant cert, we can expect a ruling from SCOTUS by July of 2021.

Of course, no one can predict whether SCOTUS will grant cert, or if they do, will side with TEC. However, the recent ruling in the Cuomo case was a strong statement on the inviolability of the First Amendment. Since this principle is the heart of the TEC case, it stands to reason the high court would look favorably on the TEC appeal. However, if the justices see the TEC case basically as part of the broad culture war in America, the 6-3 conservative court could seize this as an opportunity to bolster traditional social conventions.

Thursday, November 26, 2020



On yesterday, November 25, 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision regarding the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This could possibly indicate the court's attitude toward the Episcopal Church's petition for the court to consider the appeal of the Ft. Worth case. In the Ft. Worth case, the Texas Supreme Court declared that, even though the Episcopal Church is hierarchical, neutral applications of state laws must leave the secessionist faction with the legal entities and rights of the Episcopal diocese. The breakaway faction says neutral principles gives them the rights to the old diocese. In other words, state law trumps church law. In contrast, the Episcopal Church says the First Amendment precludes civil courts from interfering with internal church affairs. Thus, one side argues state law and other argues the First Amendment.

Find yesterday's Supreme Court decision here .

Find a CNN article about the decision here .

As background, Governor Cuomo, of New York, had place restrictions on numbers of people allowed in public gatherings, including religious ones, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Two groups sued over this, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel, a Jewish entity. They argued that the restrictions violated the First Amendment that guarantees freedom of religion.

The court ruled 5-4 in favor of the plaintiffs, the religious groups. This was the first time the court ruled against such restrictions during the pandemic of this year. As a sign of the importance of the issue at stake, the court took the unusual step of presenting six opinions. To support the majority opinion, Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh presented their own explanations. Gorsuch (who attends an Episcopal church) wrote, "Government is not free to disregard the First Amendment in times of crisis." Kavanaugh, a Roman Catholic, wrote that the government actions violated the First Amendment. 

The four justices in the minority were led by Chief Justice Roberts. They contributed three separate opinions. In general they agreed that the government had the right to impose restrictions as long as they were not discriminatory against churches and that the government had the greater responsibility to protect the welfare of the citizenry. Yet, they too unanimously defended the First Amendment. Justices  Sotomayor and Kagan wrote, "Free religious exercise is one of our most treasured and jealously guarded constitutional rights. States may not discriminate against religious institutions, even when faced with a crisis as deadly as this one."

All nine justices arose to defend the First Amendment. The difference of opinion between the majority and the minority was whether the state had discriminated against religious institutions. The majority said yes. The minority said no. 

The Episcopal Church case will depend on whether the U.S. Supreme Court justices see the Texas Supreme Court decision as a matter of state law or of the First Amendment. The whole argument from the Episcopal Church is violation of the First Amendment, that is, the state unconstitutionally intruded into the affairs of a religious entity. Specifically, the Church lawyers argued in their recent brief to SCOTUS that the 1979 Jones decision had produced vastly different outcomes because it lacked sufficient protection for religious institutions. The lawyers called on the court to redefine Jones.

Yesterday's decision from SCOTUS tells us the court is overwhelmingly concerned about protecting the First Amendment. All nine justices were adamant about this. If this concern carries over to the Episcopal Church case from Texas, it could mean a favorable tilt to the Episcopal Church side. 

First, the Supreme Court has to grant, or deny, "cert." The Episcopal Church is asking for cert. If they deny cert, the matter is over and the Texas Supreme Court decision stands. The breakaway faction will be left as the legal heir of the pre-schism diocese. If SCOTUS grants cert, they will review the Texas SC decision, hold a hearing, and render a decision either upholding or overturning the Texas SC decision. If they do grant cert, we could expect a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court by next summer. If they do grant cert, it will mean the justices see the Texas case as one of the First Amendment and could well foreshadow a ruling favorable to the Episcopal Church.

As of now, it looks as if chances are slightly better for the court to grant cert. It is still a long shot, but less so today than yesterday.

Monday, November 23, 2020


The Episcopal Church and its diocese of Fort Worth have asked the United States Supreme Court to accept their appeal of the decision of the Texas Supreme Court on the Ft. Worth case. On October 19, 2020, TEC filed "Petition for a Writ of Certiorari" with SCOTUS for the Texas Supreme Court decision of May 22, 2020. That decision found all in favor of the breakaway faction that goes under the name of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

The breakaway side has until December 23, 2020 to present a reply brief to SCOTUS. One amicus curiae brief has already been filed in support of TEC, from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, on Nov. 18, 2020. Other amici briefs are likely to be filed.


---The Diocese of Fort Worth was created in 1983, explicitly acceding to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. The Dennis Canon had been adopted by TEC in 1979.

---In 2008, a majority of the clergy and laity left the Episcopal Church retaining the name "The Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth." The Episcopal Church reorganized the Episcopal (loyalist) diocese. Both groups used the same name.

---In 2011, the 141st District Court (state) ruled all in favor of the TEC diocese declaring "The Episcopal a hierarchical church as a matter of law." The breakaways appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

---In 2013, the TSC, in a 5-4 decision, reversed the District Court decision. It declared Texas law overruled the Dennis Canon because the canon did not contain a provision that it could not be revoked. TSC remanded to the District Court with instructions to favor the breakaway side.

---In 2014, TEC and its diocese of Ft. Worth asked the U.S. Supreme Court to accept an appeal of the TSC decision. SCOTUS denied cert.

---In 2015, the District Court implemented the remand from TSC favoring the breakaways. The TEC side appealed to the Texas Second District Court of Appeals.

---On April 5, 2018, the Court of Appeals issued a 178-page judgment finding TEC to be an hierarchical religious institution to which the civic court must defer even under neutral principles. The court found: the breakaways' actions of disaffiliation in 2008 were invalid; the TEC diocese controlled the appointments to the board of the corporation; titles to the properties were held by the TEC diocese; and the Dennis Canon did not impose a trust; however, this was a moot point because under hierarchy, TEC and its diocese maintained control of the property. The breakaway side appealed this to the TSC.

---On May 22, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued a decision reversing the Appeals Court decision. TSC declared that even though TEC is an hierarchical church, neutral principles required very strict construction of state laws. TSC found that the breakaways had followed state laws, had separated legally from TEC, and had retained all rights of the old diocese. In this view, state law trumped hierarchy. This is the decision that TEC is now asking SCOTUS to review.


TEC's October 19 petition to SCOTUS for cert is really a 37-page argument against the 1979 Jones v. Wolf decision. It calls on the Court to reconsider the entire decision which has led to a great deal of confusion and disagreement about how civil courts can address issues from churches.

Find the October 19 petition here .

The basic issue at hand is the First Amendment of the United States Constitution that established the principle of the separation of church and state. The Jones decision, however, allowed courts to rule on church issues of property as long as they followed "neutral principles," that is, only property laws neutrally. The basic problem with this has always been that there was no established boundary between the First Amendment and courts' rights to intervene in church business. And so, since 1979, court decisions have been all over the place, in other words, Jones has produced only chaos across the country. For instance, among the five cases where dioceses voted to leave the Episcopal Church, the Church has won in three instances while the secessionists have won in two although every one claimed to act under "neutral principles." How can the same guiding principle result in diametrically opposed outcomes? There is an inherent contradiction in the Jones decision that the civil court can respect a church's rights while ruling on a church's rights. Either the church and state are separate, or they are not. Jones was trying to have it both ways, an impossibility. This is the issue TEC is asking SCOTUS to take up anew.

The TEC lawyer advanced three primary reasons for SCOTUS to accept this case. 

1-To resolve the issue of the effectiveness of trust provisions for churches. 

As the lawyers pointed out in detail, courts all around the U.S. have varied greatly in how to interpret church-related trusts, roughly dividing on loose construction and strict construction. Loose leans to the church's rights to set up a trust itself. Strict leans to state law regardless of the church's trust. Texas held to a very strict construction holding that the Dennis Canon could be revoked because it did not have a provision preventing it from being revoked. Thus, it had virtually no standing under state law.

2-To resolve the issue of whether courts must defer to a church in determining who represents the church's subordinate bodies.

In Texas, the District Court and the Appeals Court had recognized TEC as hierarchical and therefore entitled to decide its local bodies. However, the Texas Supreme Court had declared that the breakaway side was the legal continuation of the Episcopal Diocese since, under state law, it had separated from the Episcopal Church.

In South Carolina, the state supreme court had ruled that the TEC diocese was the legal heir of the pre-schism diocese. This was reversed by the circuit court whose order is now on appeal with SCSC.

The issue of whether an hierarchical church has the right to determine its own structure goes right to the heart of the First Amendment.

3-To resolve the nature of the "neutral principles" rule established by the Jones decision.

Chaos among court decisions demands that SCOTUS define the exact boundaries between neutral principles and rights of religious institutions. The problem is that there is really no such thing as "neutral" decisions. Once a court moves into a dispute within a church it moves to one side by nature. Resolving a property dispute involves taking sides however one may want to rationalize it. Otherwise, the court would have to be Solomon splitting the baby 50/50. The First Amendment precludes the civic state from interfering in the internal affairs of a church. Yet, under Jones, neutral principles has been allowed to give the civic state a great deal of power over the internal affairs of a church. Only SCOTUS can resolve the meaning of the First Amendment. Given what has happened in the wake of Jones, this is something the nation desperately needs.

In my view, all of this goes back to the freedom of religion. The Episcopal Church must have the freedom to govern itself. This is guaranteed by the First Amendment. The Episcopal Church is an hierarchical institution. In fact, this has been established in federal law. On Sept. 19, 2019, federal judge Richard Gergel, in Charleston, ruled that the Episcopal Church was hierarchical. While his decision is on appeal, it is in effect, stays having been denied by Gergel and the federal appeals court.

It seems to me the Ft. Worth case brings to a point the disputes going on in many churches during the present culture war. The first phrase of the First Amendment is the most fundamental part of our civil liberties. It is time for the highest court in the land to tell us exactly what that Amendment means to us today. Giving cert to TEC would go a long way toward constructing a more perfect union.

Will SCOTUS grant cert? At first glance, probably not. It refused cert in 2014. Time and again it has avoided touching cases from the Episcopal Church. It does not get involved in state law, only in issues that directly affect the U.S. Constitution. On second glance, maybe they will grant cert, if they see that the most fundamental right in the Bill of Rights is in question. I say it is time for SCOTUS to tell us exactly what freedom of religion means. What constitutional issue could be more important than this?

What effect might all of this have on the litigation on SC? I doubt it will have much effect in SC. The issue before the SCSC now is whether to uphold or overturn the Dickson decision. If it upholds, the breakaways keep the 29 parishes and the Camp. If it overturns, TEC keeps the 29 and the Camp. Anyway, if SCOTUS grants cert, a decision would probably not be forthcoming until next summer. Of course, the last time SCSC had the church case, it took two years to issue a decision. So, who knows how long it may take this time?

Tired, exhausted, fatigued with all this? I expect we all are. Yet, it goes on and we must keep up with it. It will be over one day but God only knows when that will be. 

This legal war in SC has been going on for nearly nearly eight years. Think about that. What a shame. What a scandal. And all this to keep some people from enjoying the same human rights as others...  



Welcome, blog reader, on Monday, November 23, 2020. It is time for our weekly check-in on the crises of the day.


There is good news and bad news. First, the good news. We are on the cusp of having vaccines to prevent the infection of the coronavirus. Four pharmaceutical companies are about to deliver vaccines to the public in the next few months. The first, Pfizer, has applied for emergency approval from the FDA and expects to deliver the first doses next month. The deliveries will be prioritized with those most in danger (health care personnel) to be first in line. Most of us will be able to get the vaccine within six months. This is cause for great rejoicing.

The bad news is the pandemic is soaring continually to new high levels. Infections are out of control in many countries, as the United States. The latest numbers are alarming and staggering. According to our usual source, Worldometers, there were 4,155,562 new cases reported in the world last week, November 16-23. This is an 8% increase, the same rate as the earlier week. There were 69,214 deaths, a rising rate of 5%, the same as the previous week. Reported total cases stand at 59,096,027 and deaths at 1,395,528.

America continues to be the epicenter of the pandemic as it has been since the spring. Last week, the U.S. reported 12,590,220 cases, up 1,223,006, or 11%. This is record spread, up from the 10% of the earlier week. Deaths in the U.S. shot up from 8,133 the week before to 10,810 last week. As anyone who pays attention to the news knows, hospitalizations are out of control in many places in America. The health care system is under tremendous strain; and this will only get worse in the next few months as winter sets in. All signs indicate we are approaching the darkest hour of the COVID-19 pandemic. God help us.

The numbers in our local states are equally grim. South Carolina reported 10,788 new cases last week, up 6%. The previous week had seen 9,819 new cases, up 5%. The state also reported 171 deaths last week, up from the 76 of the earlier week. In all, 4,283 deaths have been reported form SC. The New York Times is reporting that cases in SC escalated 41% in the last 14 days while deaths shot up 71% in this period. Clearly, the plague is out of control in SC.

Charleston County is no exception. It reported 654 new cases last week, up from the 628 of the earlier week. The county is now listing 19,235 cases. It is also listing 4 deaths last week, for a total of 292.

The figures for Alabama are equally alarming. This state reported 14,684 new cases last week, up from the 14,135 of the previous week. AL reported 209 deaths last week, up from the 164 of the earlier week. This state has a total of 3,457 deaths from the pandemic.

In sum, the tunnel of the pandemic is ever darkening but there a light at the end of the tunnel. The next few months will be terrible. There will be sickness and death all around us. This will be bearable because we know a vaccine will be on hand soon. The cavalry is on the way. We must do the best we can until it arrives.


In SC, we are awaiting the reply brief of the Anglican diocese of SC in the South Carolina Supreme Court. Once they submit their written arguments, the SCSC will decide whether to hold a hearing, or go straight to a written decision. Both of these should happen in the next couple of months.

There is major news from Texas. The Episcopal Church and its diocese of Fort Worth have applied in the United States Supreme Court for "cert," that is, for SCOTUS to take an appeal of the Texas Supreme Court ruling that went entirely in favor of the breakaway contingent of Ft. Worth. I am now studying the TEC brief and will report back here soon. 


This is one crisis that has improved dramatically. The bottom line is that the American people reaffirmed their devotion to the democratic republic. They repudiated the attempt of a president and his party to subvert the Great Democratic Revolution. In the big picture this is tremendously important. It means the democratic revolution has prevailed over the counter-revolution. 

It does not mean, however, the crushing of the anti-democratic forces. They are still strong. After all, 47% of the voters chose Trump even after 4 years of having him in power. 

In my view, the clash between the revolution and the counter-revolution in contemporary America boils down to race. Just look at the results of the election. Sixty percent of white voters chose Trump while the vast majority of non-white voters opted for Biden. America is dangerously polarized along lines of race. And, we people who live in SC and AL know this better than most Americans. This is one reason why I was encouraged to see the Episcopal diocese of SC set up the Diocesan Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation. The Anglican diocese of SC has also shown signs of working for racial justice, a welcomed turn.

Racism is America's original sin and until we get a grasp on this, we will remain dangerously divided as a nation-state. In my opinion, Trump's basic appeal was to the white people who felt threatened by the rise of the non-whites in society. In another generation, whites will be the minority in America. As evidenced by the Trump phenomenon, white male power structures will not give up easily. I fear we are in for much more strife as reality sets in on those who feel under siege in what used to be the white man's country. But, this is a discussion for another day.

Crises are swirling all around us. In some ways they are getting worse, in some ways better. Among it all, I see tremendously encouraging signs of relief ahead. A vaccine is at hand. America reaffirmed democracy. Good people are working to make a better world. It is happening all around us if we only look. Besides, this is a week to give thanks. We have much for which to be thankful. I will count my blessings as I hope you will too. 

My Thanksgiving Day will be quiet, just with my little family at home, but it will be no less meaningful. Life goes on. For instance, my local church serves a Thanksgiving meal to any and all. This year, parishioners are preparing 700 meals, all take-out and home-delivered. For a quarter of a century, St. Luke's has done this winning for itself the reputation of service to the community.

My best wishes to you and yours at this time of thanksgiving. Remember, we are here for the living of this hour. Peace.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2020




Rakes in $121,000 in taxpayers' money

The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina recently released its 2020 budget. Find it here . It reveals a worsening financial state of the diocese. It also shows the diocese received $121,000 from the federal government under the PPP, earlier this year. Individual parishes of ADSC may have received PPP "loans" too but I have no data about this. The PPP grants were given to businesses (and churches) to keep personnel on the payroll for a specified amount of time. If the recipient adhered to the conditions, the "loan" became a gift---from the American taxpayers. Since churches were allowed to apply under the program, a great many did. Some Episcopal dioceses and parishes applied, and got the loans (I do not have the data on the Episcopal diocese of South Carolina). Media outlets have reported that by far the greatest church recipient of PPP was the Roman Catholic church which raked in a mind-boggling $1.4b under the program.

Even with the $121,000 load of the people's money, the ADSC has budgetary troubles. The fourth iteration of the 2020 Budget shows that from 2019 to 2020 Income/Expenses dropped from $2,551,000 to 2,250,113. This is a decline of $300,887, or -12%. If we remove the $121,000 in income from the federal government, we find a drop of $421,887, or -17%.

The expenses of the ADSC are overwhelmingly the results of the schism and the stipends of the diocesan officers. The estimated legal fees in the 2020 budget are listed as $566,350. This is by far the largest single expense. It amounts to 25% of the budget. And, this is just an estimate. The actual figure could be higher, especially considering active cases in both major federal and state courts. The next highest expense is payment to the Anglican Church in North America. ADSC is handing over $181,151 to ACNA. This is more than three times as much as the pre-schism paid to the Episcopal Church in one year. Thus, a third of the ADSC budget goes to aftereffects of the 2012 schism.

How much has ADSC spent on legal costs? No one knows for sure since the details are never revealed. However, if we estimate a conservative figure of $500,000/yr. this would come to $4m since the schism. The individual parishes are paying their lawyers separately. If they are paying, collectively, the same, this would mean the people of the ADSC have paid $8m in legal fees since the schism of 2012. I expect this is a realistic figure. Whether this is money wisely spent is another issue.

Next to the costs of the schism, the budget is top-heavy with salaries for the administrators: the bishop, the canon to the ordinary, the communications director, and the part-time "Canon Theologian." Showing how dire things are, Bishop Lawrence actually took a cut in salary, for the first time ever. His compensation package dropped from $205,023 in 2019 to $180,662 in 2020. This is a cut of 12%. However, if we figure in his free housing, his income remains remarkably high. The bishop's residence, in pricey downtown Charleston, (that legally belongs to the Episcopal diocese) is worth around $2m. This would mean an annual rent of $120,000 ($10,000/mo.). All in all, Lawrence is enjoying nearly a third of a million dollars in income value yearly. Moreover, Lawrence is eligible to receive handsome payments from the Episcopal [!] Church retirement fund and Social Security. You do the math and draw your own conclusions about Lawrence's income.

The next two highest salaries in the diocesan administration did not take cuts. The Rev. Jim Lewis, the Canon to the Ordinary, keeps a nice pay package at $123,056/yr. Joy Hunter, the Director of Communications gets $81,683 in her compensation. Then there is the part-time "Canon Theologian." No one is quite sure what he does for his income, but he took a 17% cut, from $39,027 in 2019 to $32,336 in 2020. The fact that the bishop and the canon theologian would take such significant cuts is clear indication of financial troubles in their institution.

To be sure, this year is not an ordinary one and we should not make too much of budgets right now. Every church I know has troubles in this time of COVID-19. Everyone is struggling to match income and outgo. Nevertheless, it is true that the trajectory of the Anglican diocese since the schism is downward, in both membership and finances. I expect this will only get worse. Chances are it will lose in both state and federal courts and that will mean it will have to turn over the diocesan assets to the Episcopal diocese and the 29 local parishes to the Episcopal bishop. Then, what happens to this experiment in religious differentiation is anyone's guess. I think we can safely assume its future does not look good.


Now, back to my garden that is in its autumnal glory. Here are some of the sights these days:

Dwarf Burford Holly (Ilex cornuta 'Burfordii Nana'). The holly family is one of the best for ornamental horticulture. I have more than a dozen forms of hollies and all are flourishing. This one is loaded with red berries. I share cuttings with my neighbors for holiday decorations.

Paper Bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha). An unusual, and much under-used, garden deciduous shrub. As the leaves drop, the bell shaped flowers remain making it one of the few deciduous shrubs to bloom throughout winter. In ancient China, the bark was used for making paper, hence the name.

Winter's Fire Ice Angels Camellia. This fully mature shrub, at 6', is a prolific bloomer. Since we have not had a killing frost yet, this bush is doing its best to show off its countless pink and white flowers.


Monday, November 16, 2020


Greetings, blog reader, on Monday, November 16, 2020. It is time for our weekly check-in with the crises we have been following for months now.

PANDEMIC. As anyone who pays attention to the news media knows, there is an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 going on now in the fall. Almost all of the data about the pandemic are skyrocketing. We are in the third and most serious phase of spread of this highly contagious and deadly virus. All signs indicate this will only get worse as winter sets in.

According to our usual source, Worldometers, figures are way up in the last week. From Nov. 9 to 16, there were 4,111,478 new cases in the world, for a total of 54,940,465. This is by far the biggest jump in the course of the pandemic. The rising rate is 8%, the same as the earlier week. Deaths in the world are also surging, up 67,712 last week for a total of 1,326,314. This is a rising rate of 5%, up from the 4% of the previous week. Of course, the spread in the world is uneven, much stronger in some places than in others.

The United States continues to be the epicenter of the world's pandemic. For the first time, the U.S. reported more than a million new cases in one week, 1,078,734 to be exact. This is a rising rate of 10%, well above the 8% of the earlier week. The U.S. is reporting a total of 11,367,214 cases of COVID-19, all this year. Deaths in the U.S. are also surging. Last week, 8,133 Americans died of the plague for a total of 251,901. This is a rate of 3%, or more than a thousand deaths a day.

South Carolina is no exception to the rule. New cases in SC jumped dramatically from 6,771 in the earlier week to 9,819 last week. SC is reporting a total of 195,507 cases. As for deaths, SC reported 76 last week for a total of 4,112, a rising rate of 2%, the same as the earlier week.

Charleston County also reported a jump in new cases, 628 last week, up from the 473 of the week earlier. The county is listing a total of 18,581 cases. One hopeful sign is that deaths fell from 6 the earlier week to 3 last week. The county is now listing a total of 288 deaths from COVID-19. 

The same surge is going on in Alabama. There, a whopping 14,135 new cases were reported last week, up from the 8,795 of the previous week. Infections are spreading in AL at a rate of 7%, up from the 5% of the earlier week. Deaths in AL are also up. There were 164 reported last week, for a total of 3,248. This is a 5% increase, up from the 4% of the earlier week.

Clearly, the pandemic is surging in the world, the U.S. , and our local areas. There is no national plan to stop the spread. Here and there, some local governments are enforcing some restrictions but so far these have not stopped the spread of the disease. Experts are telling us this situation this will only get worse in the new few months. A vaccine is about to appear but will not be widely available for months to come. Until then, we are really on our own individually to deal with this health emergency the best way we can.

LITIGATION. In yesterday's blog posting, I discussed the Episcopal Church side's brief to the SC Supreme Court. The church lawyers laid out a detailed, strong argument against the Dickson ruling of June 19. They are asking the court to overturn the Dickson decision and to implement the SCSC ruling of Aug. 2, 2017 that declared the Episcopal Church ownership of the 28 (29) parishes and the Camp. 

Next, we can probably anticipate a response brief from the breakaway side. Those lawyers will certainly argue that the Dickson order must be maintained. Dickson ruled against Episcopal Church ownership of the local properties.

After that, we can expect a response from the SC Supreme Court. They may hold a hearing to listen to the oral arguments of both sides, or they may go straightaway to a written decision. Anyhow, we have probably months more of this before he SCSC issues its judgment on the Dickson order.

POLITICAL CRISIS. This is one crisis that has improved dramatically. President Trump, who had challenged all the norms of our constitutional and democratic republic was soundly rejected by the American people. He lost the clear majority of the people and of the Electoral College. Moreover, his threat to challenge the legitimacy of the election fizzled with barely a spark. His attempt at a coup d'état fell flat. Virtually every challenge in court to the election was frivolous and easily dismissed. The courts will not intervene as he had hoped; the states will abide by the rules of voting in the Electoral College. It is clear now that the Electoral College will vote on December 14 to elect Biden as president thus ending any threat to the legitimacy of the election. Trump will not concede his defeat but that will not matter after Jan. 20, 2021 when he will go down in history as the worse American president ever.

However, a word of caution. The democratic republic survived this time. It dodged the bullet on the most serious threat to it since the Civil War. Even so, 72m people voted for Trump and therefore for his attempt to steer the country toward anti-democratic minority rule by non-traditional means. He won 47% of the vote, shockingly close to half. If Trump had been more competent, focused, and disciplined, he may well have won reelection and a free hand to ramp up his extra-constitutional rule. The next Trump who comes along to subvert the constitution and attempt an autocratic, minority rule may well succeed with a different approach. This red flag is the most serious outcome of the recent election. Nearly half the American voters validated an attempt to veer toward fascism. The democratic republic survived this time but it may not in the future.

So, dear reader, we are in a hard time. We are burdened with crisis on crisis. As a student of history, I find reassurance in going back to the recent periods of greatest crisis to see how people responded to the challenges of the day and how good and great results came from these crises. The Great Depression/Second World War was the greatest challenge to America, at least since the Civil War. They were terrible, awful times of suffering and death. Yet, they were followed by the greatest period of national flowering ever. The second half of the Twentieth Century saw the spectacular fulfillment of the American idea, in my opinion, the greatest democratic republic in human history. So, do not assume this dark hour will last and will bring us down. History tells us it will not. It may be hard to see in the darkness we have now, but I believe we will survive and even thrive. Peace.


Meanwhile, if we take a break and walk about my garden this morning we find: 

Japanese Fatsia (Fatsia japonica). This is the bloom, or the flower, of Fatsia. I have had this plant a dozen years. This is the first year it has bloomed. Fatsia is a tropical plant that will thrive outdoors in the south with some protection. This one is perfectly happy in this spot.

Professor Sargent camellia, one of the best early flowering japonica camellias. Nothing perks up cold weather days as camellia.

Japanese Silver Grass (Miscanthus sinensis) in front of Burning Bush and Grancy Grey Beard. Ornamental grasses are at their showiest in the autumn.