Thursday, January 30, 2020


This is a time of trial, and a time of trials, for both church and state. Our beliefs, our value systems, our commitments are all being put to the test in both arenas of life. 

As for the Episcopal Church in lower South Carolina, it is enduring its worst crisis in a century and a half. It has been severely wounded by seven plus years of schism. The overall cost to the Church in lower South Carolina has been beyond measure. Now, it faces a new crisis as it is about to go through a year and a half without a seated bishop. The Standing Committee resolved to suspend the search for a provisional bishop and go straight to a search for a diocesan, or regular, bishop. It takes at least eighteen months to put a new bishop on the throne. What is the diocese to do in the meantime? The Standing Committee is the ecclesiastical authority, but this is not the same as a bishop who gives visible leadership and unity to the diocese. I do not want to second guess the Committee, but I think they should reconsider what eighteen months without a bishop will mean for the health and well-being of the diocese. Of course, Bishop Henry Parsley will be visiting to carry out, occasionally, the necessary liturgical and pastoral functions of a bishop but he will not be a seated bishop of the diocese and, at any rate, his services are temporary. Without unifying leadership, there is a temptation of people to break apart under disagreements. That is the danger at hand in the diocese. We are all imperfect human beings, after all.

As far as the litigation goes, the long-suffering Episcopalians of lower South Carolina are beyond exhaustion after more than seven years in court. When will it ever end, people often ask? Frustration is also a common feeling since both the state supreme court and the federal court ruled on the side of the Episcopal Church yet none of that has been implemented. The breakaways are still in possession of the properties and other assets of the historic diocese. On the state court scene, the judge has had the state supreme court decision on his desk for twenty-four months and has done absolutely nothing to implement the decision for the Church. The decision recognized Church ownership of 29 parishes and the Camp yet the judge has consistently refused to implement this. Right now we are awaiting his response to the orders the two lawyers submitted to him last month on the ADSC's motion for clarification of jurisdiction. In short, there is no resolution in sight in the state court. It seems to me that if Judge Dickson does not implement the state supreme court decision in the near future, the Church lawyers should go back to the state supreme court for a writ of mandamus. There is no good reason for a judge to refuse to implement a state supreme court decision in two years.

In the federal court, the ADSC appealed Judge Gergel's decision, that returned the entity of the historic diocese to the Episcopal Church diocese, to the U.S. Court of Appeals. The two sides are now preparing their briefs for the appeals court. I expect that the court will hold a hearing on this by this summer. In my view, it is all but certain the appeals court will uphold Gergel's decision. That will end the federal case. However, the Church side will still be faced with the problem of regaining physical possession of the diocese, that is, the properties, bank accounts, and other assets of the pre-schism diocese. I have no idea what the Church lawyers have in mind for repossessing these. So, just because the federal appeals court upholds Gergel, the issue of physical repossession is not through, far from it.

In short, the Episcopal Church in lower South Carolina faces a trying time in the next couple of years. There is much more to be endured, much more to be settled, and all without a bishop in office.

On the national scene, we have all been watching the impeachment trial in the Senate. The outcome of the trial itself is a foregone conclusion. President Trump will not be removed from office. That would require a two-thirds vote (67) of the Senate. The Republicans have a majority. However, the impeachment investigation and the trial have put the connection between the American people and the Constitution on trial. What the president's lawyers argued on the floor of the Senate just yesterday was shocking and appalling. They discarded all respect for morality and ethics to argue that the president can do whatever he thinks is in the national interest. Virtually nothing would be impeachable. That would be making the president a dictator who could decide on his own what constitutes his power and his own ethical and moral standards. If these lawyers' arguments stand in the public consciousness, it means the end of the democratic republic and the rise of a fascist regime. President Trump has already very publicly declared he can do whatever he wants as president and he is supported by a powerful alliance of the Republican party, Wall Street, the angry white working class man, and evangelicals. Not to exaggerate, this is a critical moment of decision in American history.

On the face of it, the crisis in the church and the state should make us gloomy about the future. It certainly makes us concerned about the short term prospect of each. However, I still see plenty of reason to be optimistic and I think it is helpful to keep looking at the big picture. We are in a counter-revolutionary backlash in both church and state. In both, powerful forces are fighting back against the great tide of democratic revolution that swept America after the Second World War. In the church, the counter-revolutionaries led a rash of departures from the Episcopal Church. The Church has paid a big price for doing the right thing. In the state, the counter-revolutionaries have found a messiah to lead their attacks on democratic reforms. They do not care if the messiah himself is, to say the least, personally imperfect. They have made a Faustian bargain, to give him unlimited power in return for roll backs of the hated political economic, cultural, and social democratic reforms. For instance, the Republican party, once a venerable democratic force, has abandoned its historic principles to follow their messiah.

On the Church front, the Church has won on both state and federal levels. This cannot be undone. The problem is essentially in how to put into effect what has been resolved in the courts. It will happen, maybe not as fast as one would want.

On the national front, we are still a democratic republic and the majority of the American people have consistently opposed President Trump. There are good signs that the people will arise to defend their democratic republic in the upcoming elections. The mid-term elections of 2018 went overwhelmingly to the anti-Trump candidates. There is much reason to have faith that the same will happen this year. I am confident that down deep, most Americans believe in our historic system of rule of, by, and for the people. Most people do not want a dictator even though a strong minority does. However, we must recognize the importance of the upcoming elections. If President Trump wins reelection, nothing will stop him from doing exactly what he wants both for himself and for his Faustian train. American democracy will take a very hard hit. I do not believe that will happen because I think most Americans are good and decent people who are committed to the principles on which our country was founded and has grown and developed all these years. Trump is a threat to the American system and most people recognize that. I look forward to the  national election in November. 

I am keeping the faith for both church and state because I believe that both have developed themselves by doing the right thing. They are not perfect institutions. That is beyond human power. However, they are moving toward a higher place because both are following the better angels of our nature.

Thursday, January 23, 2020


The Diocese of South Carolina is about to start looking for bishop # 15. Today, 23 January, 2020, the diocese issued a news release providing a letter from the diocesan Standing Committee. Find it here .

There are several interesting points in the letter:

---There will be no provisional bishop. "As we began preparations for this effort, we were also tasked with securing a Provisional Bishop for the period of transition between Bishop Adams and our Diocesan Bishop. A few candidates were considered for this position but none of them, in the end, was called by the Standing Committee to become a Provisional Bishop for us." 

This leaves us with a lot of questions about what happened in the search for a provisional bishop none of which the letter addresses, probably rightly so. Nevertheless, this seems to imply that the diocese will skip over having a provisional bishop and go straight to search for a diocesan, that is, regular, or permanent, bishop. Provisional bishops usually serve for a couple of years as "substitute bishops."

---The search for a new bishop is a long and arduous process easily taking between one and two years from start to enthronement of the new bishop. Bishop Henry Parsley, now living in retirement, has agreed to serve as "visiting" bishop to fill in when a bishop is needed. One can only wonder at long long Bishop Parsley might be willing to do this.

---The chair of the search committee is announced. It is the Rev. Dr. Philip C. Linder, priest at St. Mark's of Charleston. He is working with a consultant, the Rev. Richard Callaway. The other members of the search committee will be announced soon, perhaps in a couple of weeks.

---The search will be conducted from February to November of this year, 2020. By November, the search and standing committees will present a slate of candidates to the annual meeting of the diocese which will also sit as the election convention to elect the new bishop. There will be a chance for the public to nominate "petition" candidates.

(In the recent election in Alabama, there were several dozen candidates. The search committee selected three to advance. One was nominated by "petition" giving a final total of four candidates. All four participated in a "Walk About" where they spoke and answered questions before an audience of the diocese. A few weeks later, clergy and lay delegates gathered for the election and one of the four candidates won a majority on the second ballot. After election, there is a 120-day period for the dioceses of the Episcopal Church to give "consent" to the election. A majority is required for the bishop-elect to proceed to ordination and consecration. Alabama expects to have its new bishop in place by June after a year and a half from the start of the search.)

If a bishop is elected for SC in November of 2020, the earliest he or she could be enthroned would be 120 days later, that is April of 2012. So, the earliest a bishop could be in place in SC is fifteen months from now. These will be very busy fifteen or so months.

It is appropriate for the Diocese of South Carolina to be planning for its long term future. The last diocesan bishop, that is, Bishop XIV, Mark Lawrence, was officially Released and Removed as bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina on December 5, 2012. In the seven years since, the diocese has had two provisional bishops, Charles vonRosenberg and Skip Adams. In the meantime, the diocese has won in both state and federal courts. It has regained the legal entity of the historic diocese in the federal court; and the state supreme court has recognized the Church's ownership of 29 of the 36 local parishes involved in the lawsuit. Although these have not been finally put into effect, it is just a matter of time before they are. The federal court is all but certain to deny the disassociated organization's appeal on the ruling about the diocese. In the state court, the diocese is simply waiting on the judge to order an implementation of the supreme court decision. The judge has been tasked with implementing the decision.

To be sure, the next year and a half will be a difficult time for the Diocese of South Carolina, but then, a difficult time would be nothing new for the intrepid Episcopalians of lower South Carolina. They have seen worse, much worse. And yet they survived the darkest days any diocese could see, even thrived. Theirs is is a strong and steadily growing diocese of the Episcopal Church. As this heroic community of God proceeds confidently and faithfully into the future, it is time for it to find bishop number XV. It is time to rejoice. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


On yesterday, 21 January, Bishop William Love, of the Diocese of Albany, issued a letter to his diocese announcing a hearing on charges against him. Find the letter on the diocesan website here under "Announcements."

The hearing is to be on April 21, 2020, in Albany, and will be conducted by a panel of five people under provisions of Title IV Disciplinary proceedings. This action is in response to two reports charging that Love violated his ordination vow to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church. Love has very publicly rejected General Convention Resolution B012, disallowing it in his diocese. This resolution provided for arrangements in which same-sex marriages could be performed in a diocese. 

Love pointed out in his letter that no one was contesting the facts of the case. There will be no witnesses. Instead, lawyers for the Church and for Love will present arguments to the board. The issue at hand is the relationship between a bishop and canon law.

One will recall that, in the case of Bishop Lawrence in South Carolina, there was no hearing. He was charged twice before the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, first in 2011 and second in 2012. In the first, Lawrence was not charged with abandonment of the communion, but in the second he was. The difference between the two was the issue of the quit claim deeds. Bishop Lawrence's issuance of the quit claim deeds, in late 2011, was in direct disregard of the Dennis Canon of the Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons. The Dennis Canon held that all local properties were held in trust for the benefit of the Episcopal Church and its diocese. In the quit claim deeds, the bishop purported to renounce diocesan trust interest in the properties. In 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court rejected Lawrence's claim and ruled that 29 of the 36 local properties in question were owned by the Episcopal Church because of the terms of the Dennis Canon to which these local churches had acceded.

On Oct. 15, 2012, the presiding bishop placed a restriction on Bishop Lawrence who ignored it and, along with the diocesan leadership promptly left the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church administered no discipline to Lawrence after Oct. 15, 2012, because he separated from the Church at the moment of the schism. The presiding bishop issued a Release and Removal to Mark Lawrence on Dec. 5, 2012, formally removing him as bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina.

The cases of bishops Lawrence and Love were similar in that both challenged the notion that Episcopal bishops had to adhere to the canons of the Episcopal Church. In the case of Lawrence, the Church was unable to resolve that issue on its own because the former bishop left the Episcopal Church, but the federal and state courts did resolve it. They ruled that the legal rights of the historic diocese remained in the diocese that adhered to the national church, not in the disassociated organization. In South Carolina, the former Episcopal bishop did not succeed in defying the canons of the national church. After lengthy court battles and millions of dollars spent, the disassociated organization, which Lawrence still heads, lost the legal entity of the historic diocese and the bulk of the local properties. Surely, Bishop Love is well aware of what happened in South Carolina.

Sunday, January 19, 2020


On yesterday, 18 January 2020, the Diocese of Alabama elected a bishop coadjutor. The election was wide open for the four candidates, the Rev. Dr. Glenda Curry, the Rev. Evan Garner, the Rev. Allison Liles, and the Rev. Aaron Raulerson. All four were parish clergy with deep roots in Alabama. None had served in any capacity as a bishop. Likewise, there was no assistant or suffragan bishop of the diocese to advance. All four were attractive and popular candidates with much to offer the diocese and all had performed well in the beauty pageant of the Walk About two weeks earlier. There was no "front runner" going into the election and there was no poll or survey to show how the candidates were faring in popular opinion. The clergy and lay delegates went to the convention with no idea of how the election would go. The bishop confessed in his homily he honestly did not know who would win. Therefore, there was much uncertainty and anticipation at how the balloting would go.

For the first time, there were female candidates on the slate. The two women were quite different in experience and age. One offered a stellar record of experience but at 66 could serve only six years as bishop. The other offered youth (apparently around age 40) but much less parish and administrative experience. The two men candidates were well-regarded and experienced parish rectors.

In order to win election, a candidate had to carry a majority of the vote in both orders on the same ballot.

On the first ballot, the votes were:

                    Clergy          Laity
Curry          60 (43%)     109 (43%)
Garner        23 (16%)     28 (11%)
Liles            39 (28%)     67 (27%)
Raulerson   19 (13%)     47 (18%)

Thus, on the first ballot, no one won a majority in either order although Curry came close and was the clear front-runner. The most startling outcome was the vast male/female split. The two women candidates together carried 71% among the clergy and 70% among the laity, the two men dividing the rest. This made it perfectly clear the assembly wanted a woman to be elected. The dilemma was, which woman to choose? I do not know as a fact, but I surmise the choice between the two women was whether to go with youth or experience. When it was clear that the assembly preferred a woman candidate and one of the women was actually within sight of majority in both orders, voters began to prepare for shifts on the second ballot. Interestingly enough, no candidate dropped out after the first ballot.

On the second ballot, the votes were:

                    Clergy          Laity
Curry          77 (55%)     127 (51%)
Garner        14 (10%)     17 (7%)
Liles            42 (30%)     63 (25%)
Raulerson    8 (6%)        43 (17%)

On the second ballot, Curry won a majority in both orders and the election. The two women candidates combined carried the overwhelming majority of the assembly, 85% of the clergy and 76% of the laity. Half of the clergy who had supported the men candidates in the first round moved to vote for the women. Among the laity, the shift was significant but not quite as dramatic. My best guess is Curry won because 1) everyone could see the will of the people was to have a female bishop, 2) everyone could see that Curry was close to a majority and could easily get there, and 3) voters felt that, in this case, experience should take precedent over youth even if it meant the diocese would have to conduct a new bishop's search in a few years. Obviously, a lot of people thought another search in a few years was worth it for Curry. With this, Curry picked up 17 new clergy votes and 18 new lay votes. This meant the majority in both orders and the victory. This was a clear-cut decision. There was no question or controversy about it. Close to being resolved on the first ballot, it was easily finished on the second go-around. Curry was clearly the choice of the electoral body.

Bishop coadjutor-elect, the Rev. Dr. Glenda Curry

Curry is the first female elected bishop in Alabama and only the third elected in Province IV of the Episcopal Church (Prov. IV=New Orleans, MS, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, TN, KY). In 2013, Anne Hodges-Copple became suffragan bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina where she remains. In 2019, Phoebe Alison Roaf was elected bishop of the Diocese of West Tennessee. After Roaf, Curry will be only the second female diocesan bishop in Province IV.

Province IV is well below average in numbers of women bishops in the Episcopal Church. Nationally, 19% of all bishops in TEC are female. Between 1989 and 2019, 249 men were elected bishops in TEC while 37 women were chosen. This is well below the averages for all clergy in TEC. In 2019, among all the full-time priests in the Episcopal Church, 38% were women and 62% were men. Thus, the percentage of women as bishops runs half of that of priests. Women have been elected bishops in TEC since 1989. For more on women bishops see "Women are Joining the House of Bishops at Unprecedented Rate" here .

In conclusion, the election yesterday tells me several things. Alabama was ready to elect its first woman as bishop. Alabama is one of the deepest red, most conservative states in America. If this state is ready to move to equality for and inclusion of women into every aspect of life in the church including offices of authority, every state is ready. After all this time, at long last, dioceses everywhere, even in the deep south, are waking up to the need to put into action the ideals on the books. In the life of the Episcopal Church, this is the moment of the woman into the episcopacy. It is overdue. 

Going into the election, I noted two strains in the recent history of the diocese of Alabama, go-slow moderation and social activism. I was eager to see which strain would prevail in the convention yesterday. Now we know. Yesterday's election proves the diocese is committed to social activism. This means it is firmly in the mainstream of the Episcopal Church and unquestionably committed to the social reform trajectory the national church has promoted for the last sixty years. Any fear that this diocese would go careening from the mainstream off toward one edge of the church racing toward possible schism is off the table. I am happy to report I see no significant danger of schism in the diocese of Alabama. This is not to say there are no critics of the national church and even the diocesan policies. There certainly are critics, and it is their right to be critical. Indeed, criticism is often constructive and beneficial. However, as I see it, their criticism is in the context of the diocese and the national church, not in seeking to break them up. I think that was probably the greatest take-away from yesterday's electoral convention. 

The Episcopal Church is alive and well in Alabama and yesterday's great event brought that home loudly and clearly.   

Saturday, January 18, 2020


The Diocese of Alabama has elected its first female bishop. This afternoon the election convention gave the Rev. Dr. Glenda Curry majority approval on the second ballot:  77 of 141 clergy and 127 of 250 laity.

With this, the Episcopalians of Alabama make a bold statement in favor of human rights and social justice. In fact, they chose the right thing over the convenient thing. Under mandatory retirement in the canons, Curry will have only six years to serve as bishop. That means the diocese will have to start the arduous two year process of finding a new bishop in just four years or so. To the majority of church people, electing Curry was more important than their own convenience. I am lost in admiration for the people who set aside concern for themselves in order to do this. I cannot help but think how proud the great Alabamians of the past who fought for freedom, equality, and justice would be today. Julia Tutwiler comes to mind first. How thrilled she must be.

I must say too how impressed I was in the selection of the new bishop at the un-importance of partisanship in the diocese. This tells me most of the communicants of the diocese of Alabama are as firmly committed as ever to the mainstream of the Episcopal Church. Division and dissension faded into the background today.

And so, the Episcopal Church in Alabama moves boldly forward committed to human rights and to the national church. For one who has spent a long time studying and writing about schism, I can assure you this is a very welcomed relief. This is a great day for Alabama. This is a great day for the Episcopal Church. 


This is a simultaneous report on the proceedings of the convention for the election of the XII bishop of the Diocese of Alabama as carried on the digital live-stream of the meeting. Entries will appear below as significant events occur in the session. The estimated time range is four hours.

The report will begin today, 18 January, at 1:00 p.m., CST.

Find the bulletin/order of worship/program of today's convention here .

12:58 p.m.---Live stream is on. Poor quality. Feed breaking up. Picture out of focus. Facebook has best quality.

1:15---Bp Sloan starts homily.

1:24---homily ends.

1:34---Bp Sloan called into order the session.
76 parishes.
140 clerical delegates.
236 lay delegates.

1:55---clerical and lay orders move to appropriate places to begin the voting.

2:05---pages collecting ballots. Voting is by paper ballots.

In order to win election, a candidate must have at least 72 votes in clerical order and 119 in lay order on same ballot.

2:39---no winner on first ballot.


Curry  60-clergy   109-laity
Garner  23-clergy  28-laity
Liles  39-clergy  67-laity
Raulerson  19-clergy  47-laity

Apparently no candidate dropped out.

Interesting to note the two women candidates won well more than half the votes.

Going to second ballot.

Appears as if Alabama is set to elect its first female bishop.



Vote on Second Ballot:
Curry  77-clergy  127-laity
Garner  14-clergy  17-laity
Liles  42-clergy  63-laity
Raulerson  8-clergy  43-laity



I Will return shortly with commentary.

3:30---Curry accepted the call of the election.

Service continues.

3:46---hymn "I want to walk as a child of the light"

Proceeding to Communion.

4:14---Processional hymn "Lift high the cross"

Thursday, January 16, 2020


On 15 January 2020, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina announced that the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr. will be visiting bishop in the diocese "during the time of transition as we seek our next bishop." Find the letter here . Presumably, this means while the SC chooses a new provisional bishop. No time frame for this was given. Bishop Skip Adams left at the end of last year.

It is important to note that Parsley will visit part-time and will not be the provisional bishop of the diocese.

All things considered, Bishop Parsley is one of the most outstanding, if not the most outstanding bishop in the recent history of the Episcopal Church. It would take much too long to give you a proper résumé of his long and distinguished life in the church. Just a couple of highlights. He was bishop coadjutor of Alabama from 1996 to 1998 and diocesan bishop from 1999-2012. In these difficult years, he built up the diocese while holding down to a minimum dissensions and defections. At the same time, he kept the diocese firmly in the mainstream of the national church. This was quite a juggling act. In 2006, he was one of the two front-runners in the election of presiding bishop. He lost narrowly from a strange set of circumstances. Any other year he would have been elected; such was the esteem he enjoyed from bishops across the country. 

Parsley is usually considered a "moderate," or non-partisan, in reference to the various parties in the church. I do not like that term. I prefer to call him a "conciliator." His mission was to bring people together, not to push them apart by strident policies. This approach certainly worked well in Alabama where he was overwhelmingly beloved (we were secretly relieved when he lost the election of presiding bishop). If I could point out his best quality, the one which South Carolina needs now more than ever, it would be as pastor. After all, that is what a bishop is all about, being the shepherd of the flock. Bishop Parley will fill that need wonderfully. 

Trust me, people of South Carolina, you are very fortunate that this model bishop and great man has agreed to minister to you. Surely this is the work of the Holy Spirit. I will assure you Bishop Parsley will love you and you will love him. Considering the trials and tribulations of the Episcopalians in lower South Carolina in recent years, this is welcomed news indeed.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2020


The Diocese of South Carolina announced in its newsletter today that the United States Court of Appeal, Fourth Circuit, has denied the disassociated diocese's two motions to the Court. One would put a stay on Judge Gergel's Injunction banning the breakaways from using the names and emblems of the Episcopal diocese. The second was to stay the entire case in the appeals court until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the "" case. 

This means that Gergel's Injunction against "the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina" remains in place. It also means the case will proceed in the appeals court regardless of what SCOTUS does. 

In the next few weeks, both sides will present their briefs, or written arguments, to the appeals court. The Church is asking the court to uphold Gergel's decisions. The breakaway side is asking the court to overturn Gergel's decisions. It is most unlikely the court will overturn Gergel's brilliant and virtually appeal-proof opinion. 

After the two sides submit their briefs, the court will likely schedule a time soon for a hearing before the court, in Richmond. It will be live-streamed by audio.

Monday, January 13, 2020


On Saturday, 18 January 2020, the Diocese of Alabama will elect a bishop coadjutor who will be the presumptive next diocesan bishop. If the dioceses of the Episcopal Church consent to this choice, the new bishop will be ordained and consecrated on June 27, 2020.

The election next Saturday will be from 1:00 p.m. to approximately 5:00 p.m. and will be live-streamed. It will be held in the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham. For the live-stream go here for the link.

For more information on the search and on each of the four candidates, go here .

While the cathedral and diocesan headquarters are in downtown Birmingham, the real heart of the diocese of Alabama is the much beloved Camp McDowell, an exceptional diocesan camp. It is found in the lush, wooded hills of northwestern Alabama. This is St. Francis Chapel.

Alabama has a long tradition of outstanding bishops going back before the Civil War. They have worked hard, and successfully, to develop the diocese and to keep it in the heart of the Episcopal Church. If there is a constant theme that has evolved over the years, it is God's service to the people who need it the most. (e.g. check out this article .)

For the past sixty years, there has been some tension in the diocese between go-slow moderation, and radical reform. Moderation was the traditional attitude. For instance, in the 1960's, when the state of Alabama was ground zero in the civil rights struggle in America, Bishop Charles Carpenter tried to find a middle way between the stridently racist segregationism of Governor George Wallace, and the radical reform of the civil rights movement. He and Bishop Coadjutor George Murray were among eight prominent clergymen in Birmingham who wrote a letter to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. urging a go-slow path. King responded with "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," April 16, 1963, now considered the most eloquent rationale for the civil rights movement. Five months later, klansmen set off a bomb at 16th Street Baptist Church, downtown Birmingham, and killed four girls. The urgency of King's letter moved to the forefront.

The second strain, activist social reform, began in the diocese not internally, but from an outsider. On August 20, 1965, Jonathan Daniels was shot and killed in Hayneville AL when he pushed a sixteen year old African American girl out of the way in order to take the gun blast himself. He had been in the Black Belt of AL helping register African Americans to vote. Little noticed at the time, his martyrdom gradually settled into the consciousness of white Episcopalians who came to understand the rightness and righteousness of his cause. By the 1980's, there was a movement in Alabama to recognize and emulate his work. The Diocese of Alabama cosponsored the resolution that declared Daniels a martyr in 1991. August 14 is now the Episcopal Church's official day of remembrance of Blessed Jonathan Daniels and the Martyrs of Alabama. Every year, the diocese sponsors a memorial march and Eucharist in Hayneville. The diocese came to embrace the social activism that Daniels first personified.

An icon of Blessed Jonathan is carried in the Hayneville procession every year. Blessed Jonathan has come to symbolize the diocese of Alabama's commitment to the struggle for human rights.

Bishop Furman Stough, 1970-1989 led the diocese in institutional growth, as in the "Alabama Plan," making it a model of development among Episcopal Church dioceses. He also started the diocese on the path of racial reconciliation in the 1970's.

Bishop Robert Miller, suffragan 1986-89, and diocesan 1989-1998. He was known for his support for the young, the poor, people with special needs, and AIDS victims. It was he who spearheaded the movement to declare Jonathan Daniels a martyr.

Bishop Henry Parsley, Jr. was bishop coadjutor 1996-1998 and diocesan from 1999-2012. He oversaw a large capital funds campaign and continued developing socially conscious programs but is also remembered as prominent among bishops of the national church. In 2006 he barely lost out to Katharine Jefferts Schori in the election of presiding bishop. From 2014 to 2016, he was provisional bishop of Easton. (Three bishops of Alabama have been nominated for presiding bishop: William McDowell, Furman Stough, and Henry Parsley.)

Bishop John McKee (Kee) Sloan was suffragan bishop 2007-2012 and diocesan since then. He is perhaps best known for Bethany Village, a part of Camp McDowell for physically, emotionally, mentally challenged people.

Meanwhile, the diocese of Alabama has contributed outstanding bishops to other dioceses. Marc Andrus was suffragan from 2002 to 2006. He is now bishop of California (San Francisco). Santosh Marray was assistant bishop from 2012-2016. He is now bishop of Easton (eastern Maryland). He was the first bishop "of color" in the diocese of Alabama (born in Guyana of parents from India).

All of these bishops kept Alabama steadily in the mainstream of the Episcopal Church even as the national church carried out dramatic reforms to promote equality for and inclusion of African Americans, women, homosexual persons and the transgendered in the life of the church. The period of schisms in the Episcopal Church was primarily from the 1990's to 2012. In that time, across the country, dozens of local congregations and the majorities in five dioceses decided to leave the Episcopal Church because of its social activism, particularly for gays, and its "liberal" theology. In Alabama, relatively few local churches saw significant departures of members. However, the Cathedral Church of the Advent, the largest parish, under the leadership of three consecutive, and conservative, deans from South Carolina (Paul Zahl, Frank Limehouse, Andrew Pearson), moved to the "evangelical" edge of the church while criticizing the social reforms of the national church and the diocese.

All the while, baptized membership in the Diocese of Alabama grew dramatically, from 22,859 in 1980, to 32,406 in 2010 even as national church numbers fell. The latest figures, from 2018, show membership at 32,160, making Alabama the third largest diocese in Province IV.

For  more information on the background of the impending election in Alabama see these blog postings:

1) "Alabama's Beauty Pageant," Jan. 6, 2020. Find it here .

2) "The Schismatic Brigade if Alabamy Bound," Sept. 18, 2018. Find it here .

3) "Memo to Dean Pearson: No Schism in Alabama," Jan. 26, 2016. Find it here .

And so, the communicants of the diocese of Alabama are now set to choose a successor to a great line of bishops of the Episcopal Church. He or she will have big shoes to fill. If they are true to their heritage, the electors will choose a person who brings the best of the two strains of the past, institutional development and social reform within the context of the mainstream of the Episcopal Church.

I am unable to attend the election next Saturday, but I plan to watch the live-stream and will report the outcome on this blog as soon as possible.

Let us end with the prayer the diocese has published for us to use in the run-up to the election:

God of wisdom and peace, you have gathered your faithful people, men and women of every nation, age, and color, in this diocese to humbly serve you: Look graciously on your Church and so guide the holy imagination of those who shall choose a bishop for this diocese, that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries by igniting in us creative compassion and inspiring us to a relentless proclamation of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, January 6, 2020


On Saturday, 4 January 2020, the Diocese of Alabama held its "Walk About" of the four candidates for election as bishop coadjutor. Find a video of the four hour marathon here .

This event amounted to a long, very long, beauty pageant. Missing were only the swimsuits, evening gowns, and false tears of joy. The four candidates got soft ball questions and gave mostly same type responses, pleasing generalities. I doubt the audience learned very much from it. Here is my take on what happened in the Walk About:

Each candidate was given 50 minutes to answer canned questions. The first several came from the Standing Committee. The same questions were posed to each of the
candidates. When one candidate was on stage, the other three were sequestered so they could not hear the questions or the responses. The SC questions were trivial:  What is your favorite Bible verse, What is your favorite hymn, What is your favorite part of the liturgy, etc.? There was little in the questions that hit on substantial issues of the diocese now or in the future.

After the SC questions, the emcee drew out of a bowl questions written by members of the audience. They did not have much substance either. There was no chance for the audience to ask questions orally. There was no chance for the audience to speak with the candidates personally. It was all a staged performance. There was an emcee who directed everything. Each candidate got to make an opening and closing statement. They were what one might expect---to give electors reasons to vote for them.

Although most of the talk was not substantial, all four candidates said they were fine with allowing local parishes to decide on whether to allow same-sex marriage. The standing policy of the diocese is that. It is up to the rector and the vestry. However, the candidates varied in their attitudes toward same-sex marriage while none came out opposed to it. 

The selection of a bishop is, after all, a political event akin to a secular political campaign. The electors are the clergy and delegates from each of the 87 local churches. They will choose a bishop coadjutor by majority vote. No doubt there will be a lot of campaigning between now and the day of the election.

The election is set for January 18, 2020, 1:00 p.m., at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham. It will be live-streamed.

Now, back to the beauty pageant. There was one remark that set off alarm bells to me. Only one candidate mentioned this. The other three said not a word about it. The Rev. Raulerson said that the Cathedral of the Advent had held a discussion with all four candidates on the day before the Walk About (Friday the 3rd). That is all he said about it. Why he said this remains a mystery. Why the other three avoided it remains a mystery.

This is bothersome for numerous reasons. First, why was Advent given special access to the four candidates and the other 86 local churches were not? Why was this withheld from the public? Who at Advent interviewed the candidates? Staff, parishioners? Why did the four candidates participate in this? Did Bishop Sloan approve of this in advance? if so, what was his reasoning for it? Most importantly, what did the Advent people say to the candidates and what did the candidates say to the Advent people? The rest of us in the diocese have a right to know what the candidates said before we vote for any one of them. The most unsettling aspect of all of this is why the candidates felt they needed to do this. We, the members of the diocese, need some explanations before the election on the 18th.

Now, about the candidates personally. All of them were attractive, personable, and articulate people. Any one of them would make a good bishop. And, since this was a beauty contest, personality meant a lot. They all "won" on that level. They could all be "Miss Congeniality." 

The Rev. Aaron Raulerson was up first. Interesting person. Imagine your ideal next door neighbor. Born and raised a Southern Baptist he was drawn to the Episcopal Church as a young adult. He never looked back but plunged head long into the ordained ministry of his newfound religion. No one could know Alabama better. This son of doctors is a native of Brewton AL (virtually a suburb of my hometown, Pensacola) he has spent practically his whole life in the state serving churches in the south, Black Belt, and now, north. I doubt that any of the other three candidates have the depth and breadth of experience in this state. Moreover, in his talk, he emphasized "relationships." All in all, Raulerson gave a charming presentation and the audience seemed warm to him.

The Rev. Evan Garner was next up. He was an energetic, ebullient, talkative man, the sort you would love to have coffee and bagels with. I think he could converse well on anything. He emphasized ministries, admirably. He also made a point of his evangelical orientation saying more than once we are about making disciples. It seemed to me he favored a vertical approach to religion.

 One question from the audience for the Rev. Garner did involve an issue of substance, for a change. The question was about his relationship with the Cathedral of the Advent. Everyone knows Advent has had a somewhat strained relationship with the diocese. It is virtually an evangelical island often at odds with the bishop and the rest of the diocese over theology and issues in the national church, particularly on sexuality. In his remarks, Garner had emphasized his life connections to Advent. In response to the question, he said "I don't anticipate it will have much influence [on me]." He did not elaborate on that. On the issue of same-sex marriage, he said it was possible for a parish to disallow it and still remain an important part of the diocese (I took that as a nod to Advent.)

The Rev. Dr. Glenda Curry was the next up. She was by far the most impressive on administration having been the head of a four-year university (Troy University at Montgomery) for years. Having been involved in state universities for many years myself, I can tell you Curry' experience in Alabama academia would make her an excellent diocesan administrator. Her approach, she said, would be "listening," respecting differences of opinion, and working to keep unity in the church, all admirable thoughts. 

The concern about electing Curry really has nothing to do with her personally. Indeed, it is time for Alabama to have its first female bishop, and she would be a good one. The problem is that Episcopal Church canons require a bishop to retire at the end of the year in which he or she turns 72 years old. Curry would be starting at age 66. This means in a few years, Alabama will have to repeat the two-year-long process of selecting a new bishop. This situation is not fair to her. It is not fair to Alabama. I would argue it is not fair at all. Who came up with this mandatory retirement anyway and what were the reasons? Federal judges serve for life. The pope serves for life,  (although most RC bishops have to retire at 75). Anyway, the discussion about mandatory retirement is the subject for another day. Right now, it is an issue in AL that the electors will have to ponder whether they want to or not.

The Rev. Allison Liles was up last. Philosophically, I fell in love with her right away. She has devoted her life to all the right progressive causes. She was director of the Peace Fellowship. She was a great advocate of rights for gays in the church. She talked about efforts of racial reconciliation, and so forth. It was all music to my ears. It seemed to me she had a horizontal approach to religion. Moreover, she was the only candidate who uttered the work "schism." All the others danced all around it. Liles is presently serving a little survivor congregation in the schism ravaged diocese of Ft. Worth. She talked about the terrible human costs of schism. She had a golden opportunity to elaborate on this. I wish she had. Of all the four candidates, she knows the best why Alabama must avoid schism. I just wished she had talked more about that.

So, looking back over these four really good candidates, I wondered how they might fit into the needs of the diocese today and in the near future. In my opinion Alabama needs a continuation of the model leadership we have had for decades, that is, non-partisan moderation and devotion to the national church. No one could live up to the example of the great Henry Parsley, but all should aspire to do that. I do not know, but wonder if some people might see two of them as too partisan, one to the right (vertical) and one to the left (horizontal), that is, too far from the moderate mainstream traditional in this diocese. I wonder too if age might be a factor, however unfairly, with one. These are just some of the factors the communicants of the diocese of Alabama ought to contemplate in the next few days before the election. It's a hard choice.  

At any rate, the Walk About left me feeling as if the people in Alabama do not quite appreciate the reality of schism all across the Episcopal Church. It is as if a couple of doors down in the neighborhood the oldest and grandest house (SC) is ablaze and sending burning embers onto our roof. Yet, all we want to talk about is our favorite Bible verses, our favorite hymn and the like. If our house catches fire, none of that will matter. We will be in survival mode. Now is the time to face the profound issues that could lead to schism. Now is the time to work to keep divisions from worsening. The starting place is the recognition that a reality exists. I did not hear that in the Walk About beyond the few words from Liles. I found this concerning and disappointing. 

Having studied and written about the schism in the Episcopal Church in South Carolina for seven years now, I can assure the people of Alabama, I can assure the four candidates, schism in this diocese is the last thing anyone should ever want. It will devastate the church here as it has in South Carolina, Ft. Worth, and three other places in America. This problem will not be solved by holding beauty pageants. 

Friday, January 3, 2020


All major news outlets are reporting today that the United Methodist Church is moving toward division into two churches on the question of equality for and inclusion of open homosexuals in the life of the church. For instance, see the report on CNN here . A sixteen member commission of the church is proposing the split in order to allow both parts to continue with their different understandings of human sexuality (be sure to read the proposal itself; there is a link in the CNN article). If you Google this topic, you will find a long list of national newspapers with articles today about the impending division. Any proposal would have to be approved by a worldwide conference of the United Methodist Church, in May of this year. 

One will recall that last year the UMC narrowly adopted a conservative proposal including a ban on same-sex marriage, a rejection of open homosexuals in the clergy, and retention of the Book of Discipline's statement: "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."

3 JANUARY 2020

Dr. Caldwell,

Along with most of your other readers, I am wholly vexed by the South Carolina courts system's handling of the EDSC case. I dutifully check your blog daily and feel the same frustration that so little progress is being made. I let my imagination run wild and ponder the various "what ifs"...

What if...all the exiled members of one of the twenty-eight parishes were to show up on a Sunday morning, take to the pews, and refuse to leave? Don't they have the SCSC order to show that the property is by law theirs? What possibly could the squatters do? Call the sheriff and have them arrested? Would that fight lead to a court decision upholding the SCSC ruling?

What if...the Episcopal bishop and his legal team approach the SC Secretary of State who is responsible for all chartered corporations in the state, including the 1973-chartered "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, Inc. (non-profit)" which the courts (SCSC and Federal District) have ruled was improperly modified in 2012 by Lawrence and his followers? What would the Secretary of State's office do with the corporation in light of these rulings?

What if...the marketing team at the Episcopal diocese began a massive media campaign along the lines of "Don't be fooled, be authentic. Join a church as old as your state and in communion with millions of true Anglicans worldwide." Billboards, radio spots, online ads, paid television spots - all clarifying who EDSC really is and calling out the imposters as schismatics worth avoiding?

What if...good old fashioned protesters bearing signs stood outside any of the twenty-eight parishes, raising awareness for folks in passing vehicles and drawing media attention?

What if...with approval and guidance from the EDSC, exiled parishioners reform their vestries by electing new trustees and vestry members loyal to the Episcopal bishop? Being recognized by the bishop as the authentic leaders of the parishes now held by schismatics, couldn't they assert their power over their parish corporations and trusts?

What if...legislators - especially those in the low country facing re-election in such contentious times - compelled by the living witness of displaced Episcopalians exiled from their spiritual homes, were to bring resolutions to the floor of their respective houses addressing the impasse and reasserting through legislation the prior judicial rulings?

What if...loyal Episcopalians displaced by the continuing court battles spoke to their state legislators about the dire need for judicial reform, or even perhaps to state senators about the need to remove judges who fail to carry out the orders of the state Supreme Court?

If any of these ideas or ones like them were viable and authorized, then proactive Episcopalians could make a direct effort to implement and enforce the rulings that we believe have become the law of the land through the various court rulings. Wouldn't they also put the district judge on notice that Episcopalians are tired of waiting?

Peace and joy,

Israel J. Pattison


First, a "thank you" to Mr. Pattison for this thoughtful letter. I am sure everyone will be spurred on to think of ways this sorry mess can be brought to a conclusion. Second, everyone on the Church side is exhausted and frustrated by the glacial pace of the legal war. The Episcopal Church has won a near total victory in the courtroom yet nothing has changed on the street. The schismatics are still in complete occupation of the historic diocesan and local properties with no sign of budging. This is not right. What to do about it is the problem.

There are two avenues of the litigation. On the federal front, the Episcopal Church has won a total victory. Yet, nothing has been done to put this into effect. I do not know what the Church lawyers are going to do about this. Right now, we have to wait for ADSC's appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals to play out. It is reasonable to assume the Court will finally deny the appeal within six months. After that, I see no reason why the Church side cannot take direct action to regain physical possession of the diocesan properties and other assets.

The state front is a bit more complicated. There the circuit court judge who was assigned the Remititur by the SCSC has refused to apply it. He has done nothing for two years and still shows no sign of implementing the decision. At this moment, he is supposed to be reacting to the two proposed orders on ADSC's Motion for Clarification of Jurisdiction. In my opinion, if he does not implement the SCSC decision within the next few months, the EDSC lawyers should go back to the SCSC for a writ of mandamus ordering him to carry out the remit. But once again, as in the federal aspect, we have to wait for several months for this to play out before the Church side should take action.

The original goal of the American Episcopalian reactionaries in the 1990's was to destroy or severely diminish the Episcopal Church in revenge for its radical liberation of women and gays. They have not destroyed the Church. They will not. However, they have done, and continue to do, a great deal of damage in  numerous ways to the Episcopal Church and nowhere is this more evident than in lower South Carolina, arguably, along with Virginia, the ancient heart of Anglicanism in America. The intolerant rebels tried to drive a stake in the heart of the historic Church. They missed, but wounded the body nevertheless. They cannot kill the historic faith but they can do damage to it. This they have done. In a way, they must feel a certain amount of dark success. They lost in court, but, in a way, won on the street, even at great cost to themselves.  

What do you think? Send emails to address above.  

Thursday, January 2, 2020


In the past few days, there have been developments in both the federal and state parts of the ongoing litigation between the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina on one side, and the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina on the other.


On Dec. 23, ADSC filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, asking for two stays: 1) to stay Judge Gergel's injunction against ADSC, and 2) to stay ADSC's appeal of Judge Gergel's decision. (I covered this in an earlier blog piece. Find it here .)

On 30 December, EDSC responded to ADSC's petition and asked the Appeals Court to deny the two requests for stays. For the diocesan news release about this, see here .

It is unlikely the Appeals Court will grant ADSC's requests for the stays. Here is why:

1) Judge Gergel issued his "Order and Opinion" on 19 September 2019. It did two things. One was to recognize the Episcopal Church diocese as the one and only heir of the historic diocese. The second was an injunction against the disassociated diocese from using the names and emblems of the Episcopal diocese.

The breakaways immediately began to comply. This was surprising because in the earlier case, when the state supreme court recognized Episcopal Church ownership of 29 of the 36 parishes in question, the separatists refused to recognize the decision, let alone to comply with it. This time, the dissidents complied with the judge's injunction, or at least they began to obey.

On the day after Gergel's order, the disassociated standing committee met and adopted a new name, Anglican Diocese of South Carolina. The diocesan headquarters took down the names and symbols of the historic diocese from their website and Facebook accounts. 

Thus, the Anglicans did not object to Gergel's ruling at the time.

2) It was six weeks after Gergel's order of 19 September before the ADSC filed a motion for a stay of the order, on 25 November. If a stay had been urgent, the ADSC should have applied sooner.

3) ADSC did not fully comply with Gergel's injunction. Therefore, on 11 November, EDSC filed a petition with Judge Gergel for enforcement of the injunction against ADSC. It was only after this that ADSC asked for a stay.

On 18 December, Judge Gergel issued a second order directing ADSC to comply fully with the injunction.

At the same time, Judge Gergel denied ADSC's motion for a stay.

ADSC began complying with this second order.

Five days after that, on 23 December, ADSC filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for a stay in Gergel's injunction and a stay in the appeal pending the "" case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

4) There are two main reasons for getting a stay. One is if the defendants have a good chance of winning on appeal. The other is that the defendants will suffer harm without a stay. ADSC qualifies for neither of these. In fact, the evidence is strong on the opposite.

As for a stay pending a SCOTUS judgment on "," I for one see no relationship between this case and a stay for ADSC. "" is irrelevant to the church case.

Thus, considering the time elements, Judge Gergel's denial of stay, and the weak case for stay presented by ADSC, my conclusion is the Appeals Court almost certainly will deny both stays requested by ADSC.  Furthermore, it seems to me equally likely that the Appeals Court will deny ADSC's appeal of Judge Gergel's orders. Chances are good that EDSC will win again in the federal court, this for the last time.


In the hearing of 26 November, Judge Edgar Dickson asked the two sets of lawyers to submit proposed orders on ADSC's Motion for Clarification of Jurisdiction. In this motion, ADSC had asked the court to assume jurisdiction over the question of property ownership of the parishes. If so, the court would set aside the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017, which recognized Episcopal Church ownership of 29 parishes. In other words, ADSC sought to reverse the SCSC decision in order to keep the parishes away from the Episcopal Church.

On 23 December, the lawyers for ADSC submitted their proposed order to Judge Dickson. Of course, they said the court should grant the motion. It said the court could discern the "intent" of the justices' opinions and arrive at its own conclusions. "Based on this Court's review of the record, there has been no 'accession' to the Dennis Canon such that the Plaintiffs' agreed that their property should be in trust for the benefit of TEC. TEC's arguments that the unilateral Dennis Canon alone, or the Canon in conjunction with various pledges of allegiance and the like are sufficient to create a trust under South Carolina law are rejected."  

The point is, the Court would recognize that the 29 parishes own their own property outright and now under trust control of the Episcopal Church. This would directly contradict the SCSC decision which said explicitly the 29 had acceded to the Dennis Canon and were now property of the Episcopal Church.

This proposed order was posted on the SC courts website where it remains. It is a public document. It was my understanding that proposed orders were supposed to remain confidential. Why this one was posted on the Internet remains an open question.

The Episcopal diocese's lawyers have also submitted their proposed order on ADSC's motion for clarification. However, at last check it was not posted on the SC courts website. Obviously it would argue to deny ADSC's motion. 

If EDSC's proposed order is posted on the Internet, I will return with commentary on it.

The judgment that Dickson must now make is whether the 29 parishes belong to the Episcopal Church or not. ADSC says they do not because they did not accede to the Dennis Canon. EDSC says they do because the SCSC ruled they did accede and are now property of the Episcopal Church. What this boils down to is whether Judge Dickson will implement the SCSC decision or set it aside on a narrow interpretation and declare the 29 own their own property outright. 

After their decision and denial of rehearing, the SCSC justices sent a Remittutur to the circuit court. A "remit" is an order to implement a decision. Judge Dickson has had this before him for two years. Why he has not carried out the remit is anyone's guess. Only he could tell us why he has not, and he is not talking. The very fact that he is seriously considering discarding the SCSC decision should be concerning to the Church side.

A supreme court decision is the law of the land. If Judge Dickson refuses to implement it, the Court of Appeals certainly will, to the detriment of his judicial reputation. Surely, a judge nearing retirement would not want to leave on such a note. Maybe someday we will know why Judge Dickson has been so reluctant to recognize and enforce a final decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court.

We can expect a declaration of Judge Dickson within the next few months. Either he will enforce the SCSC decision or he will not. Since he has not found a way to enforce the SCSC decision in two years, I can only wonder if he will find one now. If not, the Appeals Court will. It is unimaginable a supreme court decision that is now the law of the land would be discarded.