Tuesday, June 30, 2020


On Monday, June 29, the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina released the news that the diocesan lawyers petitioned Judge Edgar Dickson to change his decision of June 19 in which he nullified the SC Supreme Court majority decisions and granted all of the properties in question to the disassociated organization. Find the diocesan press release about this here . This provides a link to today's petition.

The EDSC paper to Dickson was entitled "Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration and to Alter or Amend." It concluded:

Defendants respectfully submit that the Court should reconsider the Order and alter or amend it to conform to the Supreme Court's holding that the property of the twenty-nine churches is held in trust for Defendants and that the Defendant diocese [EDSC] is the beneficiary of the trust that owns legal title to the Diocesan Property.

Yesterday's Motion was precise and concise. This is appropriate considering the stark issues at stake. The EDSC lawyers divided their arguments in five enumerated, clear points. Let's review them one at a time.

1. This Court lacked the authority to issue the Order. (p.4)

Simply put, a supreme court decision is the law of the land. A lower court does not have the authority to change this.

An appellate court's decision in an appeal is the law of the case. (p. 5)

The SCSC issued a Remittitur to the circuit court. It did not issue a Remand. A remittitur is a direction to implement a higher court decision.

By treating this case as having been remanded for further analysis of the facts and law on issues on which the Supreme Court already ruled, this Court exceeded its authority on remittitur. (p.6)

The judicial system operates on hierarchy.

Litigation must end at some point and lower courts must adhere to the express rulings of appellate courts. The Order [of Dickson] has the effect of undermining the authority, respect, and confidence necessary for the integrity of our judiciary. (p. 6)

2. Even if this Court had the authority to construe the Supreme Court's decision, the Order misinterprets and contradicts that decision. (p. 7)

This was the longest, most detailed, and, next to # 1, the most persuasive part of the paper. The lawyers showed very clearly the majority decisions in the SCSC Opinion of Aug. 2, 2017.

The error in Dickson's Order was to take an interpretation of the process of making the majority opinions over the opinions themselves. In fact, it is only the majority opinion that matters in any supreme court ruling.

the [Circuit] Court's analysis strays from this directive when it begins to focus on the reasoning of the Supreme Court justices---particularly the dissenting opinions---while ignoring the result mandated by the Supreme Court (reversal). (p. 7)

The fact that there were five separate opinions in the SCSC Opinion is irrelevant. Justices often write separate opinions. The fact remained that the decisions were by majority.

Neither is "neutral principles" an issue. All five justices followed neutral principles of law. 

Moreover, four of the five justices agreed that the Dennis Canon was enough to impose a trust if the parishes acceded to it. The four declared that 28 [actually 29] parishes acceded to the Canon. One of the four, Kittredge, held that the 28 had the right to revoke their accessions, and they did. This left a 3-2 decision that 28 parishes remained under the Dennis Canon; and under the terms of the Canon, the Episcopal Church became the owner of the property. 

in applying neutral principles of law, four justices concluded the combination of the Dennis Canon and the Plaintiff parishes' accessions imposed a trust on the Plaintiff parishes' property. (p. 11)

This was the key majority decision of the state supreme court. The lower court had no right to reconsider this issue:

It was therefore a mistake for this Court to commence its own review of the evidence and to issue a ruling at odds with the Supreme Court's holding and the findings of four justices. (p. 12)

Likewise, with Camp St. Christopher. The majority of the SCSC ruled that the Camp belonged to the Episcopal diocese. Therefore, Dickson had no right to overrule this majority decision.

3. Even if the Court somehow had the authority to relitigate the issues upon which the Supreme Court previously ruled, the Order incorrectly analyzes the facts and improperly applies the law. (p. 13)

Here, the EDSC lawyers simply pointed out that both the majority of SCSC justices and the federal court declared the Episcopal Church diocese to be the one and only legal and legitimate heir of the historic diocese. In fact, the United States District Judge Richard Gergel, ruled the Episcopal Church to be an hierarchical institution. That means the government must defer to the Church to govern itself. 

Federal law takes precedence over state law. Although Gergel's decision is on appeal, it remains the law. The Episcopal Church is hierarchical. This means the circuit court had no right to rule on the internal affairs of this Church.

In fact, Dickson himself declared the dispute in the church case to arise from theological issues. 

the Court erred in failing to defer to the church's hierarchical determination, as the First Amendment requires. (p. 14)

4. The Order incorrectly finds Plaintiffs were denied due process. (p. 15)

The Plaintiffs (the breakaways) had full due process in the courts from start to finish.

Plaintiffs have not and cannot show a denial of substantive due process in this case. By contrast, the Order deprives Defendants [EDSC] of due process because it purports to take away their vested property rights recognized by the Supreme Court's final decision. (p. 18)

6. The Order fails to rule on all issues raised by Defendants [EDSC]. (p. 18).

Dickson failed to rule on property other than parishes and the Camp.

Thus, the EDSC lawyers laid out clearly six powerful and irrefutable arguments for why Judge Dickson should take his Order of 19 June back and re-write it to conform to the state supreme court decision.

Will he do that? Highly unlikely. In general, judges are loath to revisit their decisions. Changing a published opinion would be an admission that the original was wrong in some way.

I suspect yesterday's paper was the prelude to an appeal. The lawyers are preparing a strong appeal of Dickson's outrageous Order of 19 June 2020. The court above Dickson is the South Carolina Court of Appeals. 

The issue today is really simple and easy to understand. The heart of the matter is the rule of law under a final decision of a state supreme court. On Aug. 2, 2017, the SCSC issued three majority decisions. Judge Dickson ordered a reversal of two of these. The question, then, is whether a final supreme court decision is in fact law, or is subject to change by a lower court.

It is unimaginable that a higher court would uphold Dickson. The whole judicial system is now, and has always been, a strict hierarchy of authority. A supreme court decision is final. If a lower court is allowed to discard and replace a supreme court decision, anarchy and chaos will follow in the courts. If the upper court upholds Dickson, they will be setting a precedent that a lower court can overrule and replace supreme court decision. It is unbelievable that the court of appeals would do this. No doubt that higher court will defend the established system of jurisprudence. Certainly it will affirm the SCSC decision and direct Dickson to follow it.

Yesterday's Motion has set the stage for eventual resolution of this very long, arduous, and costly legal war initiated by the schismatics. In fact, the basic issues have been settled. The state supreme court ruled the Episcopal Church owns 29 parishes and the Camp. The federal court ruled the Episcopal Church, because it is hierarchical, owns the historic diocese. What we are seeing now is the desperate rear guard action of warriors who will go down fighting to the last man. They will not give up easily. The destruction that has occurred and will occur is beyond tragic. This is the darkest hour in the long history of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. It is a scandal; and that is the way history will remember it.

Friday, June 26, 2020


On Nov. 12, 2017, I posted a blog piece entitled, "It's Human Rights Stupid." Find it here . It is time to revisit this concept. In the crisis of societal relationships swirling around us these days, the fundamental issue is still the same---human rights. Racism is one aspect of this.

We have to have empathy for our brothers over in the Anglican Church in North America. They are going through gyrations  trying to match vertical religion with a horizontal problem, like a round peg into a square hole. At best this is interesting theater, at worse downright cringe-worthy. Let's see how they have done.

The underlying issue of the schism is now and has always been human rights. The schismatics often denied this and tried to disguise it in many different fashions, but this did not work. The problem in dispute was how religion should interface with God's creation. Seventy years ago, the Episcopal Church adopted the attitude that all human beings were created equally in the eyes of God and it was the job of the church to right the wrongs that had been done to God's children in the world. TEC developed a horizontally-oriented religion. The church actively championed, both within the church and out in the secular world, the human rights of African Americans, the disabled, women, Indians, homosexuals, and the transgendered. 

However, not everyone wanted to go along with this social gospel turn. Some church people wanted to have a vertical religion. In this, the job of the church would be to save lost souls in a one-to-one relationship with a God who was an all-powerful being upwards in space somewhere, like us only greater. Since he controls the universe, he would bring blessings on those who worshiped him and damnation on those who did not. In short, one approach saw God as transactional in human relationships, the other saw God as a separate body somewhere above. The Verticalists tended to be like the Pharisees who were conspicuously self-righteous and in their sense of law-abiding superiority, judgmental of others. When the Horizontalists in the Episcopal Church prevailed and confirmed an open homosexual as a bishop, many Verticalists bolted. In five dioceses, the majorities voted to leave the Episcopal Church. South Carolina was the fifth.

Make no mistake about it. The schism of 2012 was directly caused by the church's treatment of open homosexuals and women. This was confirmed by acts the schismatics carried out after the schism. The leaders of the schism, and probably the majority of their followers, wanted to preserve a conservative order of society.  

The Anglican Church in North America is a vertical-oriented religion which, in my view, shares a lot with the Pharisees. In fact, its very raison d'être was to stand in judgment on homosexuals and women. From its creation in 2009, it condemned non-celibate homosexuals as sinful people and women as innately inferior to men. It insisted the only way to salvation was individual surrender to the all-powerful being vertically positioned above.

Now the ACNA is encountering a horizontal problem, systemic racism in American society and it does not quite know what to do about it. The ACNA archbishop, Foley Beach, an ACNA bishop in Charleston, Mark Lawrence, and other ACNA bishops have published several missives recently seeking to deal with the problem of racism. Their efforts are illustrative of the current Verticalist dilemma. 

To begin with, four ACNA bishops (where were the other 46 or so?) published an open letter on May 29, 2020, admirably stating the problem. They identified the issue as denial of human rights:    "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27). What happened to George is an affront to God because George's status as an image bearer was not respected. He was treated in a way that denied his basic humanity...We mourn alongside the wider Black community for whom this tragedy awakens memories of their own traumas and the larger history of systemic oppression that still plagues this country. [Note. This implied that "the wider Black community" was different than ACNA. In fact, there are many "Black" people in ACNA.]

Beach published an address on June 23, 2020, echoing the four bishops:  We each bear the image of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Any hostility between brothers and sisters in Christ, especially because of skin color, is an affront to God and damages our souls and the "blessed community" so many of us seek.

So, now we have the problem identified, racism is a failure to respect God-given human rights. Now, what to do about it. How should we as Christians individually and the church collectively respond to this? Beach started off with some lofty if vague platitudes such as:

We need the people of the Anglican Church in North America to display the kind of tenderness and compassion that is needed in this time. We need listening ears. We need thoughtfulness. We need preaching. We need humility. We need grace...
We need to look within ourselves. And it starts with me. What the Lord has shown me about me in the past few weeks is this---I have failed to understand the incredible burden and pain that many of my black brothers and sisters live with every day...

OK, so good so far, but back to the question of what to do about it. This is where vertical failed to connect to horizontal. Beach and his fellow bishops offered no specifics. Instead, they fell back on the vertical posture of appealing to God to solve the problem, as Beach wrote:

They may have some impact, but the deep change we all need will be through revival that comes from repentance---turning away from our sin and toward God and his righteous ways in Jesus Christ.

On June 2, Beach had issued a Call for a Week of Prayer and Fasting in which he gave a long list of suggested petitions to God. Missing from the list was any mention of systemic racism or human rights. The Call was a vertical response to a horizontal problem. It called on God to deal with the problem. It offered nothing specific in the way in which Christians could end racism in America.

Bishop Lawrence has written two essays which also reflected this vertical approach. In the first , he said racism is the problem, then declared: Frankly, I do not know what I think. I am still struggling to know what I feel. Really? I assume this is just a poor choice of words. Racism is not a morally ambiguous issue. People who claim morality should know what they think and how they feel about racism. It is right or wrong. Anyway, Lawrence went on to call everyone to prayer and to "action" although he did not identify any actions.

So, maybe we would get more direction in Lawrence's second essay . This time he said we should stand in the breach. This one, I am sorry to say, went over my head. What breach? Where is the breach; and why should we be standing in it? Again, we get the vertical approach:  We pray for the light of Christ to come into our darkened world, and after this week of prayer and fasting to show each of us what the next step is, so we might fulfill the promise of our Lord. "You are the light of the world...let your light shine before others that they may see your good world and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

Putting all of this together, we can see that the bishops of ACNA identified a problem, the failure of society to respect the God-given rights of certain people. This is an admirable start. But that is about as far as it went. There were two subsequent problems: 1-they failed to recognize that other elements of society have also been denied human rights, and 2-they failed to offer any specific solutions to the problem they identified. They called on God to guide them to any possible action to solve the problem. So, we wait to see what, if anything, the ACNA bishops actually do to end racism in America. So far we have seen nothing, but it is early yet. We should give them the benefit of time. Of course, meanwhile the people of horizontal religion are very busy directly acting today in all sorts of ways to end racism.

The bishops of ACNA have made a good start. No one should criticize that. These good men are struggling to reconcile a very difficult issue by matching their understanding of God with a terrible problem all around them. They have opened their hearts, or at least said they had, to the great truth that all people are made in the image of God. For that, they should be applauded and supported. This is what the Episcopal Church was saying all along. 

Now, while they are waiting on messages from God about what to do with racism, they should look inside their own institution and see what they done regarding the human rights of others such as the gays, the transgendered, and women. These people were made in the image of God too. They deserve the same dignity and respect. These children of God certainly do not deserve the condemnation of people who claim to respect God's creation. 

Our faith holds that all human beings were made by God in the image of God. Religion always has to begin with a vertical moment, a personal connection of a person and God. Then, it should develop into a mature horizontal religion because faith without works is dead. Vertical is a starting place but it should not be the ending place. Human beings were made by God for a reason, to be his representatives in the world. He did not have to make them. In order truly to be God's representatives, human beings must practice horizontal religion. It is the mature development of our relationship with the divine. This is a lesson ACNA should learn. It has made a start.      

To ACNA, and to everyone else, the message of the day is, to paraphrase James Carville:  It's still human rights, stupid.

(Note. No blog entries for the next few days. May you find courage and strength for the living of this hour. Peace.)

Thursday, June 25, 2020


John C. Calhoun's statue presided over Marion Square in Charleston for nearly 124 years. No more. The city council voted to displace him. He was removed yesterday. One cannot overestimate the importance of this in southern culture. Even a few months ago, such a thing would have been unthinkable.

See this Post and Courier article for a description of the event.

Youtube has several videos of the removal. The above is one of them.

So many dramatic events are happening so quickly, my neck is sore from whiplash. It will take me awhile to absorb all of this. 

Nevertheless, this is a landmark event in our lives.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

NOTES, 24 JUNE 2020

It is time for our weekly review of the COVID-19 pandemic. The big news of the day is the alarming spread of the disease in South Carolina. The state is rapidly becoming one of the hottest spots in the United States. Cases and deaths in SC are escalating far above the national average. It is time for the authorities in SC to take drastic measures to contain the spread of this highly contagious and deadly plague. If they do not, we can expect only more of the same and soon the people of the Palmetto State will be paying a very high price.

First, let us look at the statistics in Worldometer for the world. In the past week (June 17-24), there were 1,093,387 new cases reported, a rise of 13%. This is roughly the same percentage rise for each of the past four weeks. Thus, there is no mitigation in the spread of the disease in the world as a whole although different places have different results. 

As for deaths in the world, there were 33,727 reported in the last week, for an increasing rate of 8%. This is the same rate as the week before and roughly the same for the past four weeks. Again, there is no relief in the mortality rate in the world. The disease is killing app. 5,000 people a day.

The United States continues to be the epicenter of the pandemic with no sign of this changing. The U.S. has by far the largest number of cases and deaths in the world. In the last week, the U.S;. reported 216,007 new cases, for a rising rate of 10%. The week before it was 8%, and the two weeks before that, 9%. Thus, figures show the disease is increasing its spread in the U.S. although this is uneven. The northeastern states are declining while the southeastern and western states are increasing. 

As for deaths in the U.S., there were 4,343 in the last week, for a rise of 4%. The total deaths in the U.S. now stands at 123,476. The week before, the death rate was also 4%. This is actually a decline from the rate of 7% from four weeks ago. On the whole, for the past four weeks, there was a steady decline in both the numbers of deaths and the rates for the whole country.

South Carolina was a different story. The state saw a huge spike in new cases in the last week, up from 19,990 to 26,613, for a whopping 33% rise (in one week!). Four weeks ago (June 3), SC reported 12,415 cases. The state has more than doubled its cases in just the last four weeks. The rate of spread for the past four weeks was:  19%, 23%, 31%, 33%. If this trend continues for the next few weeks, the state will be soon arrive at a medical emergency. 

As for reported deaths in SC, there were 66 in the last week for a total of 673. This was an 11% rise. The deaths in the past four weeks were: 55, 67, 39, 66. If there is any "good" news it is that the death rate is not spiking as is the case rate.

Alabama is faring only slightly better. In the past week, it saw 4,185 cases, a rising rate of 16%, for a total of 31,097. This is a decrease from the week before (5,470, 26%). In the past four weeks AL has jumped from 18,771 cases to 31,097. As with SC, this alarming climb calls for some serious action to contain this virus. Unfortunately for both states, the public policies and procedures are the exact opposite. Authorities are "opening" practically all public places; and my observation is that most people are oblivious to the health danger all around them.

The conclusion we should draw from all these numbers is that COVID-19 is spreading rapidly, at least in our local states, and there is no sign of pubic measures to prevent this. There is no political will to take restrictive action. Therefore, there is no reason to think this plague will do anything but get progressively worse for the foreseeable future. Dr. Fauci said just yesterday that the earliest we could have a vaccine is seven months off. Bottom line---things are going to get much worse and at Christmas we will look back wistfully on the low numbers of June.

Now, changing subjects, I am still dumbfounded at Judge Dickson's outrageous order of last Friday. I am struggling mightily to rationalize it but I am not getting anywhere. The more I study the Order, and the remarks coming from the breakaway side, the more I am confounded by it all. Alice in Wonderland comes to mind.

When I was a graduate student, my professors demanded any work be based on original documents. I spent four months in Paris buried in les Archives nationales pouring over countless original documents of the French Revolution. I was privileged to be allowed to handle priceless papers as those of the trial and execution of Marie Antoinette. When I defended my dissertation, the main challenges were on my sources. The greatest thrill of that day was when one of the panel declared my work "dazzling." But I digress. The point is, the truest understanding of the past must come from the original documents.

So, I keep going back to the original documents in the church case. From the South Carolina Supreme Court, the two key documents were the court's decision of August 2, 2017, and its order of Remittitur of November 17, 2017. 

The last two of the seventy-seven pages of the Aug. 2 decision (click on image for enlargement):

This was written by Jean Toal. She was Chief Justice when the case reached the SCSC; and assigned herself to be the lead. On page 76, she is finishing her 30-page "Opinion." She explained her reasons for dissenting from the majority. Finally, on pages 76 and 77 she summarized the court's decisions. Her words are perfectly clear. She lists 1, 2, 3 the majority decisions. They could not be plainer or clearer. The court found that 28 parishes were property of the Episcopal Church and the Camp was property of the Episcopal Church diocese.

The next key document is the Remittitur:

Note that the word "Remittitur" is in large, bold, underlined caps. As I understand it, the SCSC had two choices at that point. It could have issued a Remittitur or a Remand to the court of origin. An order of Remand would be a direction to the lower court to retry or reconsider all or parts of the case. The SCSC did not send a remand. They sent a remit. Surely this was a clear direction from the SCSC to the circuit court to implement the majority decisions clearly listed on the last page.

So, even a cursory study of the documents brings us to only one reasonable conclusion about the intent of the state supreme court and the task of the circuit court.

The breakaway side is now making two assertions that conflict with the original documents. One charge is that the SCSC did not resolve the case but made five separate opinions; and this required the circuit judge to discern the resolution by deciphering the "Collective Opinion" of the whole Aug. 2 Opinion as an aggregate of the five. It is true the justices wrote five separate opinions. It is not true they drew five separate conclusions. In fact, the document states clearly three majority decisions. The other misinterpretation is that he SCSC remanded the case to the circuit court. The Remittitur speaks for itself. The SCSC did not direct the circuit court to retry the issues in the case because the issues had been resolved.

So, if we go back to the original documents, we have to conclude that Judge Dickson's order cannot be sustained. It fails to recognize the plain reality of the documents he had been given.

As a side point, I am researching the structure of the South Carolina state courts. So far, what I have found is, well, unsettling. Two words stand out about the state courts: politics and secrecy. This may help us understand why we have the decisions we have coming from the state judges. I will report back when I have finished my investigation.

Keep in mind, friend, we are where we are for the living of this hour, as mind-boggling as it may be. Peace.


UPDATE. The governor of New York announced this morning that travelers entering NY, Connecticut, and New Jersey from South Carolina and Alabama are required to quarantine for fourteen days. 


Tuesday, June 23, 2020


Need a boost today, and who doesn't? Watch this video. 

NASCAR has returned car racing after the shut down. Last weekend there was a big event at the Talladega Super Speedway, at Talladega, Alabama, the daunting racetrack famous for its length and steep banks. It is a short distance from my house. There was a lot of nervous anticipation about this because just a few weeks earlier NASCAR had banned the Confederate flag from its venues. 

It was hard for a lot of people to grasp the significance of the ban. It was far more important than most people realized. After the Second World War when the great democratic revolution was sweeping America, white people in the south tended to flock to two cultural events as their own separate from other races, country music and car racing. One would find few to no faces of color at the Grand Ole Opry or the racetrack. Race events at tracks as Talladega and Darlington became more than just car races. They became week-long cultural events of white people, a sort of redneck Mardi Gras. At every race in the south, the Confederate flag became the universal symbol of this separatist culture. So, NASCAR's banning the Confederate flag is a stake in the heart of one of the last bastions of institutionalized white racism in our lives. One should not underestimate the significance of this.

The races at Talladega last weekend were a kind of trial to see how the change would work. There was heightened interest because a lone African American racer, Bubba Wallace, was to participate. The atmosphere was tense. On Saturday, there were no Confederate flags inside the track but an airplane circulated overhead with a giant Confederate flag and the words "DEFUND NASCAR" trailing behind. Outside the gates there were more Confederate flags than usual, as in-your-face protests. Then, Wallace found a noose hanging in his garage, a space that had been highly restricted. Everyone froze. Then everyone responded by rallying around him on the track in a remarkable display of support. This is what the video is about. This spontaneous outpouring of white support for the one black driver will warm your heart.

There is a sea change going on right now in race relations across America, including the heart of Dixie. Believe me, if Alabama can move away from its racist past, any state can. It was only a few miles from the present race track that, in 1961, Klansmen fire bombed a Greyhound bus full of Freedom Riders. 

We have not ended racism. I doubt that we ever will. What we have done is to make it culturally unacceptable for average citizens. That in itself is a monumental change for the better.

UPDATE. 5:00 p.m.   Federal law officers determined today that the noose was not intended for Wallace. It had been in this garage stall since late 2019. He had been assigned the stall by chance just recently.  

Monday, June 22, 2020


Everyone expects Judge Dickson's Order of June 19 to be appealed to the South Carolina Court of Appeals, even Judge Dickson. I heard him say, more than once, in the hearings that he knew whatever he decided would be appealed. In fact, Dickson wrote in his Order, page 4, footnote 2, "This motion [on Betterments] remains outstanding pending a final decision in this case." He knew his decision of last Friday would not be final. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I think it's a safe bet the Episcopal Church lawyers are busy today preparing an appeal. What will be appealed is Judge Dickson's Order of June 19, 2020. Therefore, it is timely now to revisit this Order and get some perspective on its chances before the appeals court. The Order itself will be the matter before the court.

The fundamental question before the appeals court will be whether the circuit court properly interpreted the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017. The circuit court was under a Remittitur from the SCSC.

Find a copy of the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017 here .

Find a copy of the circuit court decision of June 19, 2020 here .

The basic issue at stake was, and is, the ownership of the properties, particularly the 28 parishes and Camp St. Christopher. The Church lawyers said they belonged to the Episcopal Church and its diocese. The disassociated lawyers said they belonged to themselves and their diocese. This is the essential issue at stake in the state court proceedings.

The two sides regarded the SCSC Opinion entirely differently. The Episcopal Church side maintained that the SCSC clearly recognized Episcopal Church ownership of the 28 and the Camp and that it ordered the circuit court to implement the transfer of possession. The other side (they call themselves the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina, so we will refer to them as ADSC) argued that the SCSC decision did not make a clear order and that the circuit court had to decide the outcome by determining the "Collective Opinion" which would appear in the "intent" of the five justices since they all wrote separate opinions. Therefore, ADSC called on Dickson to resolve for himself the Collective Opinion which he would then implement. In short, EDSC said Dickson had to implement the three majority decisions while ADSC said Dickson had to decide himself what the SCSC ordered.

The three SCSC majority rulings were listed on page 77 of the Aug. 2 Opinion. They clearly stated the majority conclusions recognizing Episcopal Church ownership of the 28 parishes and the Camp. The ADSC argued that these were not authoritative, but only opinions of former Chief Justice Jean Toal and were only given in a footnote at the end of her lengthy part of the paper. So, whether these three were actually orders of the court remained controversial. 

However, on closer examination, there can be little doubt about authority. Toal was Chief Justice when this case appeared before the SC Supreme Court in 2015. She assigned herself to be in charge of the case. She was very much in charge in the hearing before the SCSC on Sept. 23, 2015, she dominated to room from start to finish, talking more than anyone, asking the most questions. Clearly, she saw this as her hour. Apparently, she was hoping this case would validate her All Saints ruling (it did not) of 2009. This would be the icing on the cake of her long and distinguished career on the bench. She wrote the longest, most detailed of the five separate opinions. At the last sentence of her part, on page 76, she gave a footnote that summarized the work of the SCSC in this case. This is where she clearly described the court's majority decisions:

However, we [Kittredge and Toal] are in the minority, because a different majority of the Court---consisting of Chief Justice Beatty, Justice Hearn, and Acting Justice Pleicones---would reverse the trial court and transfer title of all but eight of the plaintiffs' properties to the defendants...Chief Justice Beatty would do so because he believes all but eight of the plaintiffs acceded to the Dennis Canon in a manner recognizable under South Carolina trust law."

The idea that this is only Toal's personal opinion is not borne out by the wording and the context. As overseer of this case, she was clearly summarizing the work of the court. Her listing of the three majority decision on page 77 could not be plainer. It is perfectly clear she meant this to be definitive.

However, ADSC refused to accept the three decisions as definitive. They said the meaning of the decision had to be worked out by examining the Collective Opinion, that is the whole body of the 77-page Opinion. They said this could only be done by determining the intent of the justices. Intent raised two problems. Intent is often entirely subjective. How could anyone really discern intent unless it was expressly spelled out which it rarely is? Intent would almost always be debatable. Moreover, supreme court decisions rest on their conclusions, not the intent of the justices. It is only the final order than matters, not how the justices reached that point. So, intent is always difficult to prove under the law.

Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, we will assume that the SCSC decision must be resolved by discerning the Collective Opinion of the five justices. To determine this, one would have to look at each one of the five opinions and decide what the collective would be. Since property is the core issue, let us look at each of the five opinions in the SCSC paper on ownership of the properties:

1. PLEICONES. Wrote the majority opinion. Upheld TEC across the board. I would overrule All Saints to the extent it held the Dennis Canon and the diocesan equivalent did not create effective trusts in South Carolina... (p. 19). He said TEC owned the parishes and the Camp without question.

2. HEARN. Agreed with Pleicones. I would find South Carolina's doctrine of constructive trusts would operate to impose a trust in favor of the National Church. (p. 31). She too found TEC owned the parishes and the Camp without question.

3. BEATTY. Agreed with Pleicones and Hearn that 28 parishes acceded to the Dennis Canon:  I agree with the majority as to the disposition of the [28] remaining parishes because their express accession to the Dennis Canon was sufficient to create an irrevocable trust. (p. 37-38).
As for the Camp, Beatty said it belonged to the Episcopal Church diocese because In my view, the disassociated diocese can make no claim to being the successor to the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina. (p. 38).

4. KITTREDGE. Agreed with Pleicones, Hearn, and Beatty that the Dennis Canon created a trust:  I would join with Chief Justice Beatty and hold that the local churches' accession to the 1979 Dennis Canon was sufficient to create a trust in favor of the national church. (p. 39).
However, he went on to say the diocese legally disassociated from the Episcopal Church and the parishes had the right to revoke their accessions to the Dennis Canon. He held they did end their accessions and therefore owned their own properties clear of trust.
Kittredge made no mention of the Camp.

5. TOAL. Disagreed with everyone. She held that the Dennis Canon had no automatic validity in the state and the parishes did not accede to the Canon under the terms of state law. She also declared the diocese and parishes legally disassociated from TEC. She tried mightily, but failed, to sustain her All Saints decision. 

In summary, four of five justices recognized the validity of the Dennis Canon in South Carolina. The four agreed that 28 of the 36 parishes in question did in fact accede to the Dennis Canon. One of the three (Kittredge) said the parishes had the right to revoke their accessions; and they did. The other three held the parishes remained bound by the Canon. Three formed a majority of the five to find in favor of TEC.

On the question of Camp St. Christopher, three of the five recognized it as property of the Episcopal Church diocese. Three makes a majority of five in favor of TEC.

Moreover, three of five recognized the Episcopal Church diocese as the legal and legitimate heir of the historic diocese (something that was confirmed by the federal court in September of 2019).

Thus, the collective opinion of the SCSC is clear in the examination of each of the five separate opinions. The majority of the justices recognized the Episcopal Church and its diocese as owners of 28 parishes and the Camp.

Not so to Judge Dickson. He looked at the same evidence the justices had seen and reached an entirely different view of the collective opinion. In his discussion, Dickson zeroed in on the "swing vote," the present chief justice, Beatty (pp. 20-21). Dickson ignored Beatty's final conclusion in support of the Episcopal Church, instead quoting Beatty's preceding remarks in support of strict construction of SC trust law (express accession, in writing). It seemed that to Dickson this proved Beatty actually opposed the claim that the parishes acceded to the Dennis Canon. Using this to move Beatty over from Pleicones and Hearn to Kittredge and Toal on the issue of the Dennis Canon would make a majority in favor of the the parishes owning their own properties outright. However, to put Beatty on the anti-TEC side was to ignore both Beatty's own conclusion and Toal's statement of Beatty's opinion. In fact, Beatty very clearly wound up siding with the majority on the issue of the property. Apparently, Dickson believed Beatty gave greater weight to defending the All Saints view of strict construction even though he ended by voting with the pro-TEC side. At least, that is the way it seemed to me.

Looking at the evidence on hand about accession to the Dennis Canon, Dickson concluded that no parish actually acceded to the Dennis Canon. He looked at the same evidence that had led four of the five justices to conclude that 28 parishes had in fact acceded to the Dennis Canon. This was the central difference between Dickson's view and that of the majority of the state supreme court. The majority said the parishes acceded; Dickson said they did not. The question before the appeals court is which view should take priority, that of the supreme court or that of the circuit court.

There is another apparent discrepancy in Dickson's Order. It concerns the 8 local parishes that did not accede to the Dennis Canon. The question is about the inclusion of Old St. Andrews in this list. Dickson wrote on p. 24:

The Defendants concede that the eight Parishes that do not hold their property in trust for TEC and TECSC are:

1. Christ the King, Waccamaw
2. St. Matthews Church, Darlington
3. Parish of St. Andrews, Mount Pleasant (and its Land Trust, a separate corporation)
4. The Vestries and Churchwardens of the Parish of St. Paul's Episcopal Church of Conway
5. The Episcopal Church of the Parish of Prince George Winyah, Georgetown
6. St. John's Episcopal Church of Florence
7. St. Matthias Episcopal Church, Summerton
8. The Vestries and Churchwardens of the Parish of St. Andrews (aka Old St. Andrew's).

This was not the list that was included in the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017. Here is the original (pp. 52-53):

The defendants do not reference any documentation of accession (and I have found none in the record) for the following plaintiff parishes: Christ the King, Waccamaw; St. Matthews Church, Darlington; St. Andrews Church-Mt. Pleasant Land Trust; St. Paul's Episcopal Church of Conway; The Episcopal Church of the Parish of Prince George Winyah, Georgetown; the Parish of St. Andrew, Mt. Pleasant; St. John's Episcopal Church of Florence; and St. Matthias Episcopal Church, Summerton.

This original list did not include Old St. Andrew's. The St. Andrew's listed here was the one in Mt. Pleasant. The parish and the land trust were two different corporations and listed separately. Why Dickson would insert Old St. Andrew's into this list remains unclear. Anyway, if Dickson was declaring that all parishes own their own properties, there was no apparent reason to list the eight at all. This would be redundant.

In conclusion, a review of the Collective Opinion in the SCSC decision clearly shows a decision in favor of the Episcopal Church and its diocese. It is only by applying an interpretation of "intent" that one can construe a different meaning and that involves pretzel logic and blind omission. Since discernment of intent is almost always subjective, it is almost always debatable. It seems highly dubious to me to try to interpret Beatty's opinion in any other way than with his own conclusion. Surely we have to take his own final words as his intent and meaning. To me, this is the potential fatal flaw of Dickson's Order. In my view, he did not prove that the majority of the justices of the SCSC intended to give the properties to the local parishes. He certainly did not prove that the Collective Opinion was different than the three majority decisions of the SCSC.

In my opinion, Dickson's decision is not substantial. It is wrong on the face of it because it contradicts both the stated majority decisions and the collective opinion of the SCSC. If it is trying to use "intent" as the avenue to final resolution, it does not work. It is not convincing. I would not be surprised if Dickson's Order does not meet the same fate as Judge Goodstein's order when it reaches the Court of Appeals. We shall see.


My usual disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or legal expert. I am not an officer in any religious institution. My remarks are meant only as opinion.

Sunday, June 21, 2020


Emotions are running high these days in lower South Carolina. The schismatics are ecstatic, popping champagne corks everywhere and crowing about their tremendous supposed final victory in their long running legal war against the Episcopal Church. The Episcopalians are bewildered and saddened. All of this is perfectly understandable. This is the schismatics' first significant legal win in five years. In those five years both the South Carolina Supreme Court and the federal court ruled against them. They lost the war. In reality, Judge Dickson's ruling of last Friday changed nothing. They have still lost the war. Let me explain.

There were two big issues in the legal war. Before the schism, diocesan leaders convinced a majority of communicants in the diocese that they could leave the Episcopal Church and take two things with them, the diocese and the local properties. They went to court and lost both. As for the diocese, federal judge Richard Gergel ruled last September that the Episcopal Church is hierarchical and the church diocese is the one and only legal heir of the historic diocese. The breakaway contingent is a new association that has no right whatsoever to the names, marks, and identities of the Episcopal diocese of South Carolina. The new organization appealed Gergel's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals where it is now pending a decision. Odds are very strong that the appeals court will uphold Gergel. For all intents and purposes, the issue of the ownership of the diocese has been settled. That theater of operations in the old legal war has been all but closed.

The second issue was always the more important one, the ownership of the local properties. Under Episcopal Church law, all local church property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and its local diocese. If the congregation leaves the Episcopal Church, the Church becomes the legal owner of the property. The old diocesan leaders told their people this law did not apply to them. On Jan. 4, 2013, the schismatic leaders filed suit in court for a judgment declaring their ownership of the local properties. On Feb. 5, 2015, the circuit court of Judge Diane Goodstein ruled entirely in favor of the breakaways. Her decision was so over-the-top it was ridiculed to death in the hearing before the South Carolina Supreme Court in September of 2015. Not a single justice arose to defend any part of Goodstein's trial or decision. Her judicial reputation was, to put it kindly, not enhanced by this debacle. She failed to get her seat on the state supreme court for which she had longed. 

Four of the five justices of the SCSC ruled that the Dennis Canon was valid in the state and that 28 of the 36 parishes in the lawsuit had acceded to the Canon. They reversed Goodstein and gave three majority decisions on the last page of their ruling. There was no question about what the justices ordered. They were clearly listed one, two, three.

The SC decision of Aug. 2, 2017 became the law of the land. The court refused a rehearing and issued a Remittitur to the circuit court to implement the decision. The breakaways applied to the U.S. Supreme Court for cert but the court refused to take the case. With this, the breakaway lawyers made a major shift in tactics. Instead of challenging the majority decisions themselves, they shifted to challenging the way in which the decisions had been made. They asked the circuit judge, Dickson, to discard the final decisions of the SCSC and decide on his own the issues that had been settled in them. In other words, he could reinterpret the conclusion by reinterpreting the process the justices had used in reaching their conclusion. This was an outlandish tactic, but it worked! Dickson went along. Whereas the SCSC decision said that the 28 had acceded to the Dennis Canon, Dickson declared this to be wrong, that they had not acceded. He directly contradicted the core substance declared by the state supreme court. In effect, he nullified a state supreme court decision and published a result opposite of the decision. He presumed to replace the law of the land with a different order.

Can a circuit judge discard a law of the land and substitute his own order? The judicial system we have is now and has always been a strict hierarchy. Courts are tiered from lowest to highest, in the state the state supreme court, in the country, the United States Supreme Court. Under our system, a lower court is subservient to a higher court. It does not have the right to substitute its own law for an established higher law from a superior court. 

The Church side will certainly appeal Dickson's decision and ask for a stay in the process. It will go to the South Carolina Court of Appeals. Basically, the appeals court can uphold or overturn Dickson's order. They have three choices of actions:

1-refuse to accept the case. This would essentially leave the Dickson order as final. 

2-accept the appeal and rule to uphold Dickson. This would also essentially leave the Dickson order as final (except this could be appealed to the SCSC). 

3-accept the appeal and rule to overturn Dickson and uphold the state supreme court decision. With this, they would issue an order explicitly directing Dickson to implement the SCSC decision. Of course, the breakaways could appeal this to the SCSC. 

In my view, there is virtually no question that the appeals court will choose door number three. If they choose one or two they will be setting an incredibly dangerous precedent--that a circuit court can overturn a supreme court decision. This would create nothing but chaos in the whole judicial system. Thus, the integrity of the entire court system is at stake.

At any rate, the goals of the two sides are opposite. The church side wants to implement the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017 and regain physical possession of the 29 parishes in question and the Camp. The breakaway side wants to replace the SCSC decision with Dickson's new order and keep possession of the local churches.

So, Dickson's decision of last Friday changed nothing. The schismatic side is still in possession of the parish properties in question as they have been for seven and a half years. The question of the day is whether they will remain in possession or hand the properties over to the Episcopal Church.

All of this is ironic because five years ago this month, the Episcopal Church offered the breakaways this very settlement. They proposed to give all the local properties to the parishes in return for ownership of the historic diocese. The new association flatly refused this offer. Since then, both sides have spent millions of dollars and a lot of agony going nowhere. They are in the same place now they were five years ago. The Church has possession of the historic diocese and the breakaways are in possession of the local properties. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

I cannot imagine any scenario in which Dickson's order of last Friday will stand. Surely a circuit judge under a Remittitur does not have the right to discard this and retry a case on his or her own. That is not the way our judicial system works. As Goodstein's decision five years ago, Dickson's effort is so out of line, the courts cannot allow it to stand. It jeopardizes the whole structure of the judicial system. I expect Dickson will meet the same fate as Goodstein when his decision gets to the higher tribunal. I imagine it will be ridiculed out of the room right away.

So, here we are seven and a half years into the schism with the two sides still at total war with each other. All of this is a shocking scandal. The wounds that church people have inflicted on each other are beyond shameful. And, all this because some people refused to accept that all human beings are children of God, made in the image of God. The people who made this disaster will be remembered for what they did. A century from now, people will shake their heads in dismay at the all this, the way we now hold our heads down in shame at the way the diocese of South Carolina treated blacks in the past. So, nothing has really changed. The issue is the same. It is to respect the equal worth and dignity of all people notwithstanding race and sexual orientation. 

In reality, Dickson's decision has changed nothing. All it means is that this disaster will be dragged out for years to come before the law of the land is finally obeyed. Meanwhile, we are called to follow the way of love. Sometimes this is hard. Sometimes it calls for weeping. Sometimes it calls for great sacrifice. But, we do it because it is the right thing to do. Our guiding faith is that love will win out in the end.

Remember friend, we are called to the living of this hour in the way of love. Peace.   

Saturday, June 20, 2020


After yesterday's body blow to justice, you may be asking, Whatever next? Has the world devolved into complete chaos? COVID-19 is running rampant sickening and killing people all around us. Countless thousands of Americans are out in the streets everywhere marching for an end to racism. Confederate monuments are literally falling all over the place. (Even the Confederate flag has been banned by NASCAR. There is a race at Talladega this weekend, thirty minutes from my house. We will see how that works out.) Forty-four million Americans are out of work. Food pantries are running low. And now, on top of all of that, a lowly circuit judge has dared to nullify a state supreme court decision. This is a perfect storm of disorder. So, how can we make sense of all of this seeming anarchy? Let us return to the big picture to help us put things into perspective. For this, we need to return to the themes I developed in my history of the schism and in this blog over the years.

The big picture in America is a clash between the forces of democracy and anti-democracy. For the past seventy years, the U.S. has experienced a great democratic revolution bringing reforms favoring blacks, women, gays, the transgendered, and others long excluded by society. However, a counter-revolutionary backlash formed in social elements that felt threatened by the reforms, particularly white working class men, evangelical Christians, and southern whites. The clash between these two competing tectonic plates in American life has been going on since 1968. What we are seeing now in the street demonstrations and Confederate demolitions is a new impetus in the drive for racial justice and equality. It is a direct outgrowth of the great democratic revolution. 

The big picture in the Episcopal Church is the church's interaction with the national democratic revolution. When the revolution began, around 1950, the Episcopal Church committed itself to the revolutionary reforms. It became a horizontal religion, that is, one that emphasized the social gospel. Within the church, blacks, women, open gays, and the transgendered all found freedom, justice, equality, and inclusion. However, a minority of the church objected to this horizontal shift, and demanded vertical religion, that is, one that emphasized individual salvation, one person to one God. By 1996, it was clear that the horizontal side has secured a sweeping victory over the whole field when it embraced open homosexuals. Many verticalists then decided the Episcopal Church was beyond hope. In 1996, a movement formed to destroy or greatly diminish the Episcopal Church as an institution in American life. When the effects of the pro-homosexual reforms were enacted, five dioceses voted to leave the Episcopal Church (2007-2012). They formed a shadow denomination devoted to vertical religion and one explicitly against equality and inclusion of open gays and women. This is the Anglican Church in North America.

South Carolina was the fifth and last of the counter-revolutionary groups to leave the Episcopal Church. Diocesan leaders organized a staged schism to ensure a majority of the people would go along. They did. Upon leaving TEC, the reactionaries declared legal war on the Episcopal Church. The war has been going on for seven and a half years. The cost has been staggering, in more ways than one. Yesterday's event was just the latest in a long list of bruising wartime incidents. 

So, there were two motivations in the schismatic movement. One was the do as much damage to the Episcopal Church as possible. On this, the schismatics have scored remarkable success. The other was to replace TEC as the legal and legitimate Anglican province in America. On this they have utterly failed. However, the first aim was the primary goal, the second was only an afterthought. The present scorecard in the legal war is TEC-3, ACNA-2. This is not bad for the rebels considering everything involved.

Going back to the big picture, we see two distinct sides in the Episcopal Church dispute, a majority for a communally-oriented religion and a minority for an individually-oriented religion. The Episcopal Church has resolved that all human beings are made in the image of God and are entitled to the dignity, respect, equality, and inclusion that this entails. The ACNA has resolved that even though humans are made in the image of God they are not entitled to equality. Women must remain submissive to male authority and open gays and the transgendered must be condemned as sinful. That is the difference in a nutshell.

The Episcopal Church is fighting for the good cause---the promotion of all of God's children without conditions. That is why the Church must keep up the fight. This is for a cause greater than ourselves. It is for all of humanity.

Unfortunately, the struggle for human rights is not easy and not even. Goodness knows, blacks have been struggling against racism in this country for four hundred years. Ask your black friends about how to endure in the face of misguided opposition. Yet, the arc of history does bend, and it bends toward justice. It does not get there on its own. It gets there only because good people, like the Episcopalians, sacrificed to make it happen. This is the good fight. We will see it out. This is our calling. 

Do not let temporary setbacks as yesterday's blur your vision. The Episcopal Church is committed to a righteous cause. Keep the big picture in  mind.

Always remember, friend, we are here for a reason, to live this hour as God's representatives on earth. Peace.

Friday, June 19, 2020


In a stunning turn of events today, Circuit Judge Edgar Dickson issued an "Opinion" on the church case nullifying the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017. This is not surprising but it is shocking that a low level state judge would assume the authority to overrule the state Supreme Court. Dickson's outrageous decision cries out for appeal, and it will certainly be appealed to the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

First a brief summary of the background.

On August 2, 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued an opinion on the church case that had been appealed to it from the circuit court which had ruled in favor of the disassociated contingent. On the last page, the justice overseeing the case, Jean Toal, summarized the three majority decisions of the Court (click image for enlargement):

The majority decisions were entirely clear. The first said that the 8 churches that had not acceded to the Dennis Canon were the owners of their properties, The second said the 28 that acceded to the Dennis Canon were property of the Episcopal Church. The third said that Camp St. Christopher belonged to the Episcopal Church diocese.

The SCSC denied a rehearing and sent a Remittitur to the circuit court on Nov. 19, 2017. A Remittitur is an order to implement a court decision. The Anglican diocese applied for cert with the U.S. Supreme Court which denied it.

Judge Dickson was assigned the case in January of 2018, nearly two and a half years ago. He held four hearings and collected several dozen papers from both sides. The Episcopal diocese tried twice to get the state supreme court to intervene and prod Dickson on to implement the SCSC decision but the court refused.

Meanwhile, last September, a United States District Judge in Charleston, Richard Gergel, ruled that the Episcopal Church is hierarchical and that the church diocese is the only legal heir of the pre-schism diocese. He placed a permanent injunction on the new diocese from making any claim to being the historic diocese. Gergel's decision is now on appeal.

Dickson's "Order" of today.

This is a 46-page sweeping denial of the state supreme court majority decisions but it lacks little to no substantial backing. 

In the first place, Dickson declares the church dispute to be theological. On page 3, he wrote:

On January 3, 2013, the Diocese, the Trustees, and the individual church parishes organized as South Carolina non-profit corporations filed this action against TEC and TECSC to determine the ownership of church property due to disagreements on the theological direction of the Episcopal Church.

That should have stopped him right there because the federal court has declared the Episcopal Church to be hierarchical. That means the church alone has the right to govern its dioceses. 

Then, Dickson went on, on page 5, to declare the duty of the circuit court to "enforce" the state supreme court decision. He immediately proceeds to do just the opposite.

Dickson said he had the right to discern the "intent" of the SCSC justices even though they had explicitly listed their majority decisions. He zeroed in on Chief Justice Beatty's opinion:

Chief Justice Beatty did not identify the parishes that expressly acceded to the Dennis Canon nor did he state a number of parishes that did or did not expressly accede.

In fact, Chief Justice Beatty explicitly joined with the majority that the 28 parishes acceded to the Dennis Canon. Beatty wrote on pages 37 and 38 of the Aug. 2, 2017 decision:

I agree with the majority as to the disposition of the remaining [28] parishes because their express accession to the Dennis Canon was sufficient to create an irrevocable trust.

The majority of justices of the SCSC clearly and explicitly ruled that the 28 parishes had acceded to the Dennis Canon. Yet, Judge Dickson purports to nullify this, as he wrote on page 23:

There is no evidence of written accession to the Dennis Canon in the Record. Defendants' representation to the South Carolina Supreme Court that there was an express accession to the Dennis Canon by the parishes is thus unsupported by any evidence in the Record on Appeal. This Court cannot carry out the required determination mandated by looking only to the Record on Appeal.

Thus, Judge Dickson directly contradiced the majority of the SCSC justices. Three of the five SCSC justices said that 28 parishes acceded to the Dennis Canon. Dickson said they did not. Therefore, the second order on page 77 of the SCSC decision was invalid. This sounds as if Dickson said the intent of the justices was not the same as the final decision of the judges, and we have to follow the intention rather than the conclusion.

Dickson went on to rule that the Episcopal Church and its diocese were not the owners of the parishes in question and the camp. This contradicts majority decisions number two and three on page 77 of the SCSC decision.

Judge Dickson was given a Remittitur to implement the SCSC decision. He has not done that. Instead, he has re-litigated the issues in the case on his own and has reversed the SCSC decision in favor of the disassociated association. He took it upon himself to say the SCSC decision does not mean what it says.

As I understand the judicial system, a supreme court is just that "supreme." It's word is final. The state supreme court closed the case and sent an order to the lower court to implement the decision. I do not see what right a circuit court judge has to change the majority decisions made by the state supreme court. He was tasked with implementing the decision, not to retry the case. If the SCSC had wanted that, it would have issued a Remand order to the circuit court.

If I read this Order right, Dickson seems to be saying the process of making the decision is more important than the final decision. He cites five different opinions. In fact, there were five separate opinions, but they were not all different. There was a majority on the three key issues. Besides, the only thing that counts in any supreme court decision is the conclusion. How the justices arrived at their conclusions is irrelevant to the law. Only the final, majority opinion counts. How the justices got there may be interesting, but it does not matter in the final analysis. 

It seems to me that if a circuit court judge is allowed to nullify a state supreme court decision, the whole judicial system will be upended. Supreme Court decisions will not be final, but can be rehashed and changed by the lower judges. This would produce only chaos in the whole judicial system which rests on a rigid order of hierarchy.

I cannot speak for the church lawyers, but I am confident they will appeal Dickson's outrageous decision to the South Carolina Court of Appeals. I cannot imagine any scenario in which the appeals court would agree with Dickson to nullify the SCSC decision. Surely, they will defend the judicial system if nothing else. If the Appeals Court rules for the Episcopal Church, which I believe they would, I suppose the breakaways could appeal that to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Since the SCSC has already ruled definitively on this case, I do not see how they could rehear it. They have already denied a rehearing. 

In conclusion, Dickson's ruling today was not surprising but it was still shocking in its defiance of the state supreme court decision. I am confident it will not stand. In the end, the Episcopal Church will recover its properties but by then the hard feelings from the breakaways will be harder than ever and any thought of reconciliation will be a far-off dream if possible at all. The tragedy of today is the prolongation of the division and hostility between two sets of former friends.

People of the Episcopal Church should not give up on this. In fact, both the SC Supreme Court and the federal court have ruled in favor of the Church. Dickson's strange diversion of today is only an abberation. I am confident it will not stand. Odds are strong the SC appeals court will uphold the state supreme court decision. 

In my view, justice was not served today. It will be tomorrow. 


Find Judge Dickson's Order here .

Find the news release from the Episcopal diocese here .

Find commentary of scepiscopalians here .

[NOTE, my usual disclaimer. I am not a lawyer or legal expert. The above is only opinion. I am not an officer in any religious institution.]