Saturday, February 27, 2021




THE ANGLICAN DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA AND IDENTITY



The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina is in search of a new bishop, first as coadjutor then as diocesan. For this, the diocesan authorities have compiled and posted a "Diocesan Profile." Find it here . This is an interesting and informative look into the new diocese and well worth the time it takes to read and reflect on it. It tells us much of what the diocesan leaders think their identity is and what the reality may be.

 

Here are the issues that stood out to me in this document:


---The ADSC leaders are still at it. They still want their faithful to believe that theirs is the historic diocese.

In fact, the ADSC is legally barred by the federal court from claiming to be the historic diocese. On September 19, 2019, U.S. district judge Richard Gergel issued an order that the Episcopal diocese of SC is the one and only legal continuation of the old diocese. He issued an Injunction against the breakaway entity from claiming to be in any way the historic diocese. After the new diocese was slow to clean up its false claims, Gergel issued a second order of enforcement against ADSC, on Dec. 18, 2019. Then, failure of compliance led to a third order, a contempt of court, against ADSC on Oct. 27, 2020. Thus, three times the federal judge in Charleston has ordered the breakaways to stop pretending to be the historic diocese. Surely the ADSC leaders do not want to have to go back to court for another contempt of court. Undoubtedly, Gergel would not be amused.

On page 5 we find a "Brief History," that is technically correct but substantially on thin ice. It carefully couches the diocese in terms of the parishes and churches that are currently members of the diocese but the meaning is clear. The ADSC is implying that it contains the historic presence of Anglicanism in South Carolina all the way from the beginning in 1680. Not true.

Then, on the right column comes this: "In the fall of 2012, the Diocese disassociated from the Episcopal Church." On even thinner ice this time. This implies that the diocese was once associated with the Episcopal Church. In fact, he ADSC has never been associated with the Episcopal Church. According to the federal court (whose order and injunction are in effect and not on stay), the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina (aka the Diocese of SC), continued on unbroken after the majority of the members of the old diocese left the Episcopal Church. The clergy and laity who left TEC did not take the old diocese with them as they claimed. The legal entity of the historic diocese remained in the Episcopal Church. Thus, the secessionists actually formed a new diocese that is now known as the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina. It is a brand new entity created after the schism in 2012. The people who formed the new diocese may have been members of the Episcopal Church once but the entity of the Anglican diocese was never a part of the Episcopal Church and any implication of such now is false.


---The Statement of Faith, 2015, is featured prominently in the Diocesan Profile. This statement was created at the time the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and was meant to prevent any church in the diocese from conducting same-sex weddings. It was drawn up by a committee of prominent diocesan officials and forced into conformity on the whole diocese. It condemns homosexual activities:

God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. (p. 7)

Incidentally, it also condemns divorce and remarriage:

marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in...lifelong union.

This part, however, was problematical and at least one parish (St. Philip's) deleted this sentence when it first adopted the Statement. If one starts driving out divorced and remarried people from the church, there might not be many people left in the pews. 


---The most interesting, and important, part of the Profile was the survey of 109 clergy and 211 lay leaders (vestry and wardens) of the ADSC. This provides one with a window into attitudes of the whole diocese since the diocese is authoritarian. These are some of the items that jumped out in the survey:

-----Only 35% of the lay leaders came from Anglican backgrounds. This means that the great majority of the parish and missions leaders in ADSC came from other denominations. The clergy, on the other hand, came largely from Episcopal/Anglican backgrounds. Without knowing when these local lay leaders joined the parishes/missions, this could suggest an absence of attachment to the Episcopal Church once the parish/mission returns to the Episcopal bishop.

----By far the most interesting items in the survey dealt with homosexuals and with women. The direct cause of the schism was the diocesan leadership's opposition to the Episcopal Church's reforms favoring homosexuals (as the blessing of same-sex unions). The ADSC joined the Anglican Church in North America which held women to be unworthy of church authority (no women bishops). With this homophobic and sexist background, one might expect harsh attitudes to women and homosexuals in the survey. This was not the case, at least among the laity.

On the question of the church welcoming "non-celibate" (other euphemisms for sexually active gays are "practicing," "active," "out-of-the-closet," "partnered"), the big majority (clergy, 69%, laity 72%) declared yes. Not much difference there. Gays are welcomed to attend church. Then, when it came to the question of whether non-celibate gays should have "leadership roles in the church" (left undefined), a chasm appeared. Of the clergy, 80% said no. Of the laity only 54% said no. Without specifying what "leadership" would mean, nearly half of the lay leaders believed that non-celibate gays should be allowed into positions of church leadership, or had no opinion. This is remarkable considering the diocese's and the ACNA's condemnation of homosexuality as a "disorder" and homosexual activity as sinful. One would conclude from this that nearly half the ordinary people-in-the-pews of ADSC are not on the same page as their bishops and priests on the issue of homosexuality. This is the most remarkable take-away from the survey and it could portend real trouble ahead within the ADSC and in the ACNA (we saw recently how this issue has led to a brouhaha in ACNA). It would be truly ironic indeed if after all that has happened, the ADSC and ACNA would abandon their formational homophobia, their reason for being in the first place.

The role of women in the church likewise showed a gap between clergy and laity. On the question of whether women should be ordained as priests, 58% of clergy said yes while 76% of laity said yes. The remarkable point here is that nearly half the clergy of ADSC believe that women should not be allowed into the priesthood. Should one be surprised at this sexism? On the question of whether a woman should be allowed to be a rector of a parish, 55% of clergy said yes while 70% of laity agreed, again a gap. And, once again nearly half the clergy in ADSC said women should not be allowed to serve as rectors. The sexism is too obvious here. No wonder no woman has ever chaired a committee of the ADSC, women have never had a majority on any committee of ADSC, and no woman has ever served as the rector of a major parish. Apparently, if the laity have their way this will change. The problem is that ADSC and ACNA both are controlled by old white men who are not inclined to change the status quo. 

----In the conclusion of the survey, the writer boldly declares (p. 23) that the diocese is "very unified" and "strongly orthodox." The reality of unity is in the eye of the beholder. On the two fundamental issues on which ADSC was built, there certainly is not unity in ADSC. In fact, there is a good deal of disagreement between clergy and laity on homosexuality and on women. 

"Orthodox" is another story. The word orthodox means right or true. ADSC and ACNA both claim to be true religion. Both before the schism and ever since, the leaders of ADSC told their followers that the Episcopal Church had turned away from biblical (true) religion. This was the Trumpesque big lie of the schism. And, like Trump's big lie, that he won the election but the Democrats stole it from him, the followers believe what their trusted leaders tell them. Polls show that 3/4 of Republicans still believe Trump's big lie. Obviously, the vast majority of the people of ADSC still believe the big lie that the Episcopal Church abandoned true religion for false gods and that their path away from TEC was right and true. The concept of "orthodox" as differentiated from TEC is firmly embedded in ADSC. This was probably the biggest success of the schism leaders and if there is any reason to think the schism might have long staying power it would be from this factor. In actuality, the Episcopal Church has not changed its religion. It is just as "orthodox" as ever. What it has changed is its interpretation of the interaction of religion and society. The schism of 2012 sprang from social issues, not religious ones in spite of what the schismatic leaders may have declared.

 

There are several lessons for the Episcopal diocesan leaders to learn from the survey. In the first place, the make-up of the parishes and missions that EDSC is likely to regain (SCSC has ordered the return of 29) is not the same as it was before the schism of 2012. Restoration will not be a simple matter of taking up where the diocese left off all those years ago in the returning parishes. Too, there is a long-standing and deep-seated animosity to the Episcopal Church among many of the parishioners of the 29 after years of anti-Episcopal Church propaganda. There is a wide-spread belief in ADSC that TEC is a false religion. This will be hard to overcome. One may expect that many, if not most, of the parishioners of the 29 will leave the parishes to form new congregations beyond (they already have contingency plans). Among those parishioners who remain, there will be a lot of repair work to do to build or restore attachment to TEC. However, the hopeful news is that there is a good deal of positive attitude among the people-in-the-pews toward human rights for homosexuals and for women. There is a lot to work with on building equality and inclusion for these elements that have been pointedly discriminated against by the ADSC leadership. But then, the schism was originally the work of the diocesan leadership (no more than 24 people made the schism of Oct. 15, 2012). It came from the top down, not from the common people up. And, the survey shows this today, at least on the questions about gays and women.

At base, the schism in South Carolina was not about religion itself so much as about how we treat our fellow human beings in the context of religion. It was about whether the old white male power structure should share their privileges and power with women and with homosexual people. There is every reason to believe the Episcopal diocese of SC can be rebuilt strongly by championing human rights. In their hearts ordinary people know right from wrong. They know that discrimination against people different than themselves is wrong. They know that God created all people in His/Her own image and that all human beings are equal children of God. It is this truth that will form the foundation of the successful restoration of the grand old diocese of South Carolina.

So, what is the identity of the ADSC today? Its self-identity is primarily as an "orthodox" faith. As such, it is not strong since it is based on a misconception of the Episcopal Church, one that the old diocesan leaders deliberately stoked to rationalize their goals of preventing open gays and women from equality and inclusion in the life of the church. As for the original purpose of the schism, there is only weak identity. There is a split between clergy and laity on how the church should treat women and gays. Thus, the whole identity of the new diocese is as problematical as its future. 

So, my thanks to the officers of ADSC for posting this Diocesan Profile. It helps us understand the schism that has been so much a part of people's lives in South Carolina and elsewhere. 

Friday, February 26, 2021




A STATUS REPORT ON THE SCHISMS

AND THE COURTS



The settlement of the Fort Worth cases provides a convenient moment to summarize the litigation of the five schisms in the Episcopal Church. From 2007 to 2012, the majorities of the clergy and laity of five dioceses of the Episcopal Church left the Church in opposition to its recent social reforms, particularly equality for and inclusion of open, partnered gay clergy, and equality for and inclusion of women in offices of authority. The affirmation of Bishop Robinson and the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as presiding bishop were specific examples of the reforms that the dissidents refused to accept.

All five schisms went into litigation. Four of them have been settled in court. Only one, South Carolina, is still to be resolved finally. The legal issues boiled down to two main points: whether the local secessionists could take the entity of the diocese with them, and whether the schismatics could retain legal possession of the local church properties. The Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church contained provisions that pertained to both of these issues. Just how strong they were in the view of the law was the question at hand. This was what the courts had to figure out. TEC had incorporated the Dennis Canon in 1979. It declared that all local church properties were held in trust for the Episcopal Church and its local diocese and that if a congregation left TEC the trust would effectuate transfer of the property to the Episcopal Church. So, even if a parish held the deed to the property, TEC had trust control over the property.

Since four of the schisms have been settled in court, what is the score card? Who won? Well,  the answer is a draw. Two cases went to the Episcopal Church and two went to the local secessionists. 

The two that went to the Episcopal Church were Pittsburgh and San Joaquin. However, these were resolved for different reasons. Pittsburgh was a unique case owing to a "Stipulation" that Bishop Duncan made before the schism, in 2005, recognizing that the property held and administered by the diocese would remain under the diocese. In 2010, the judge in the Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County, following the Stipulation, ordered the breakaway side to turn over all assets to the Episcopal Church diocese. The state appeals court upheld the lower court. The Pennsylvania supreme court refused to take the case.

The case of San Joaquin followed a more conventional path of litigation in the courts. The two sides went to trial in 2014 in the Superior Court, Fresno County. The judge rendered a decision that turned out to be the strongest defense of the Episcopal Church position in any of the five schisms. He declared that the C and C of TEC clearly required conformity of clergy and dioceses. Clergy had no right to act contrary to the C and C and dioceses could not leave the church. He ordered the property to be handed over to the Episcopal Church diocese. The appeals court unanimously affirmed the lower court. The breakaways then went to the California supreme court but that court refused to take the case laving the lower court decision as final.

The two that went against the Episcopal Church were Quincy and Fort Worth. The reasonings of the courts there were similar but not exactly the same. In Quincy, the opinion of the court was the exact opposite of the California courts. Following a trial (Alan Runyan was one of the lawyers for the breakaways), the circuit court judge in Adams County, Illinois, ruled that TEC's C and C did not explicitly create a hierarchy, did not have authority over the dioceses, did not prevent a diocese from leaving the Church, and did not create an enforceable trust in the Dennis Canon. The court followed a very narrow and strict interpretation of state law. In short, the judge recognized the full rights and ownership of the secessionist entity. The appeals court affirmed the lower court. The TEC side went to the Illinois supreme court but that court refused to take the case leaving the circuit court decision as final. This was a sweeping victory for the schismatics.

Ironically, of all five schisms, the one where the Episcopal Church had the strongest position was the one where the Church suffered its strongest defeat. Fort Worth should have been an open and shut case in favor of TEC. It did not turn out that way. Why? The peculiar situation of the Texas courts and the peculiar laws of Texas allowed the secessionists to sweep the field.

The Diocese of Fort Worth had been created in 1983 by division. To enter TEC it had to give explicit accession to TEC's C and C. The Dennis Canon had been added to the C and C four years earlier. This meant at its corporate creation, the diocese explicitly adhered to all the C and C of TEC, including the Dennis Canon. This might have given iron-clad power of TEC over the diocese of Ft. Worth.

The history of the litigation in Texas is as peculiar as the final settlement. It started out in the local court, the 141st District Court. There, the judge ruled all in favor of the Episcopal Church on the basis that the Church was hierarchical. He ordered the turn over of all of the assets and properties of the old diocese to the Church side. The breakaway side then appealed directly to the Texas supreme court. That court ruled that the secessionists had followed state law to withdraw from TEC. Moreover, the court declared that the Dennis Canon could not be enforced because under Texas law a trust could be revoked unless the trust has an explicit provision that it could not be revoked. The Dennis Canon had no such provision, never mind that the nature of a trust should be inherent legally. The state supreme court sent the case back to the lower court with direction to find in favor of the breakways. The district court judge did as he was told but included in his order a virtual demand for appeal.

The TEC side did appeal the district court order to the appeals court. The appeals court justices took two years to compose a masterpiece of jurisprudence. Find my commentary on this here . Find the appeals court decision here . The appeals court decision is a 178-page book carefully and thoroughly spelling out the reasons for its conclusions. In essence, the court ruled that the Episcopal Church is hierarchical and therefore entitled to decide the governance of the diocese. Thus, the Church-backed diocese must prevail. The justices went on to say that the Dennis Canon did not impose a trust since state law required the deed holder to set up a trust and this had not happened. However, the Dennis Canon was irrelevant in view of the fact that the diocese remained under Episcopal Church authority. The properties remained under control of the Episcopal Church regardless of the state law on trusts.

Thus, the Episcopal Church won sweeping victories in district and appeals court, even after the state supreme court had intervened to order the district court to reverse itself. The Texas supreme court was not to be pushed aside, however. The secessionists appealed directly to the state high court which issued a thin, 30-page decision on May 22, 2020. Find my commentary on this here . Find the court's decision here . It was this decision that TEC took to the U.S. Supreme Court which denied cert on Feb. 22, 2021. The TX supreme court decision now stands as the final law of the case.

As opposed to the hefty, thorough tome from the appeals court, the thin, 30 page paper from the Texas Supreme Court was anemic with virtually no substantiating jurisprudence to support its assertions. The decision turned out to be a bundle of contradictions but revolved around the essential charge the justices made the first time, that is, the Dennis Canon could not be enforced because it did not include an explicit provision that it could not be revoked. This, of course, was a thin reed, but it was the one the court ultimately clung to in order to justify their awarding all to the breakaways. In spite of the weakness of their explanation, the authority of the state supreme court prevailed and that decision took precedence over the substantial jurisprudence of the lower courts. 

Thus, Fort Worth, where the Episcopal Church had the strongest case, turned out to be the one where the secessionists won their most sweeping victory. This was because one court, the state supreme court, overruled all of the decisions of the lower courts, and did so on a technicality. One should bear in mind that Texas is one of those states where all justices of the state supreme court are elected at large in the state. Hence, conservative Republicans have had a monopoly on the Texas Supreme Court for two decades. That court is known to be a bastion of conservatism. They certainly showed their attitudes in this case.

With the score of 2 to 2, we arrive at the fifth case, the only one yet to be finally settled, South Carolina. In some ways, the case is similar to the Texas experience, but in more important ways it is upside down. In SC, the local court ruled entirely for the breakaways, giving them the entity of the diocese and the local properties. The TEC side appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court that essentially reversed the lower court, and recognized Episcopal Church ownership of 29 of the 36 local properties in question plus Camp St. Christopher. The SCSC then remitted its decision back to the lower court for implementation. In this case, as opposed to what happened in Texas, the lower judge refused the order from the SCSC. Instead, he issued a new order reversing the SCSC decision. In Texas, the lower judge had carried out the state supreme court order; and it was this decision that was overturned by the appeals court. So, in SC the lower courts sided completely with the breakaways while the state supreme court favored the Church side, opposite what happened in Texas. The Church side appealed the lower court order to the SC Supreme Court asking the court to overrule the lower judge and enforce the SCSC decision of 2017. This is where the matter stands today.

As with Texas, the heart of the matter in SC is the ownership of the properties. The SCSC ruled that 29 parishes had acceded to the Dennis Canon. The lower courts ruled that no parish had acceded to the Dennis Canon.

Meanwhile, SC was the only one of the five schisms that moved along two avenues of litigation, state and federal courts. In 2013, a few months after the schism, the Church side went to the federal district court for enforcement of the Lanham Act that protected federally registered trademarks. In essence, it asked the federal court to recognize the Church diocese as the legal heir of the pre-schism diocese. In 2019, the district court did just that. It said the Church diocese was the only legal and legitimate heir of the old diocese and forbade the breakaway side from pretending to be the Episcopal diocese. This decision is now on appeal with the federal appeals court in Richmond. However, the decision is in effect since both district and appeals court denied the breakways' request for a stay. (However, the case itself is on stay in the appeals court, pending a decision of the SCSC.)

No one knows, and no one should predict, what the SCSC will do about the appeal now before it. Common sense says they should defend the SCSC decision of 2017 and overrule the nullification attempt of the lower court. In my view, it will depend on whether the state high court justices interpret the case before them as one of jurisprudence or of the culture war. If strictly jurisprudence, they would have to defend the SCSC decision. If they allowed a lower court to overrule the state supreme court, they would upend the entire state judicial system which is a hierarchy. This would usher in nothing but chaos and never ending litigation in the state courts. This would be a mind-boggling outcome. If, on the other hand, they are driven mostly by the culture war, they may find a way to give the properties to the breakaway side although this would seriously weaken the authority of the SC Supreme Court by overthrowing an earlier decision. The point that might make one think they might go down this path is their repeated refusal to order the lower court to enforce the SCSC decision after they ordered a Remittitur.

Thus, SC remains the wild card in this long legal war. Now that both sides have submitted their initial briefs, the SCSC should be moving soon to a decision. The court may hold a hearing or they may go directly to a written decision. Either way, it is reasonable to hope for resolution in this calendar year. Who will be the winner, 3-2, the Episcopal Church or the schismatics? We shall see.

In sum, the litigation revolves around two main points, first, who owns the properties, and second, who owns the pre-schism diocese. The prevailing factor in these is whether the Episcopal Church is an hierarchical organization. The consensus of opinion is that it is indeed hierarchical. Even the Texas Supreme Court agreed. If it is an hierarchy, then neither the dioceses nor the clergy could be independent of the higher authority. The General Convention governs the Episcopal Church and its decisions are contained in the Constitution and Canons. The Dennis Canon is part and parcel of this.

To put all of this in a more meaningful perspective, we have to go back to the origins of the schisms. They were parts of the greater culture war going on in America. For better or for worse (better, I think) the Episcopal Church threw in its lot early on with the side of evolving democracy, that is, the equality and inclusion of all people. TEC became a champion of human rights. A minority of the Church, however, balked at this and insisted the church not grant equality and inclusion of certain people, namely women and homosexuals. Hence, the five schisms. 

The courts have been the only way we have to resolve the questions of legal rights and property ownership. However, the courts are not perfect and there is really no such thing as completely impartial justice. Judges are human beings, like the rest of us, who have viewpoints and opinions of their own. Even though they may try hard to be fair, they see the law through their own individual lenses. And so, we have polar opposite outcomes in courts across America, 2 for the Church and 2 for the secessionists. Imperfect as they are, the courts are all we have to bring the scandalous war between the two sets of former friends to an end. The justices of the SCSC are subject to the same humanity as the rest of us. One side will win and one side will lose in SC. Whatever the outcome, this destructive madness of Christians suing Christians must come to an end. We must live with what we get. Above all, in the end, we must behave as the Christians we claim to be or else we have no right to the name we bear.  

Monday, February 22, 2021

 



SCOTUS ANNOUNCES DECISION ON CERT IN FT. WORTH CASE



The U.S. Supreme Court announced this morning that it has denied cert in the Fort Worth cases. This means the Texas Supreme Court decision of last year is final. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021




NEW DIOCESE SUBMITS ITS CASE TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT



The South Carolina contingent that broke away from the Episcopal Church in 2012 and is now known as the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina has submitted its arguments to the South Carolina Supreme Court. On 12 February 2021, the ADSC filed "Initial Brief of Respondents" with the SCSC. This was in response to the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina's brief to the Court of November 12, 2020. The EDSC is appealing the June 19, 2020 decision of Judge Edgar Dickson that found all in favor of the breakaway faction.

First, to review the salient facts in background:

---On Aug. 3, 2017, the SCSC issued a decision that listed three majority orders:  1-28 [actually 29] of the 36 parishes in question were property of the Episcopal Church, 2-Camp St. Christopher was property of the Episcopal trustees, and 3-7 parishes remained owners of their properties without trust control.

---ADSC asked for rehearing. The SCSC denied rehearing.

---SCSC sent a Remittitur order to the circuit court, the court of origin.

---ADSC asked the U.S. Supreme Court to grant cert of its appeal of the SCSC decision. SCOTUS denied cert.

---June 19, 2020, the circuit court judge, Edgar Dickson issued an order rejecting Episcopal Church ownership of the properties in question. EDSC sent an appeal to the SCSC to uphold its 2017 decision.

---On Nov. 12, 2020, EDSC submitted its brief in its appeal to the SCSC. They essentially argued that the SCSC decision was final and that the circuit court had no right to reject it. They asked the SCSC to uphold and enforce the Aug. 3, 2017 SCSC decision.

On Nov. 15, 2020, I posted an item on the EDSC brief. Find it here .


Thus, there are two distinct stands here. 

1-EDSC argues that the SCSC decision is final law and cannot be altered. This means the Episcopal Church owns the 29 parishes and the Camp. SCSC must uphold its final decision.

2-ADSC argues that Judges Goodstein and Dickson were correct and that the SCSC decision of Aug. 3, 2017 was incorrectly made. They are now asking the SCSC to set aside its Aug. 3 decision and replace it with a new decision following Goodstein/Dickson.


So, in their brief, ADSC lawyers argue mostly that Goodstein and Dickson properly and correctly reached their conclusions. They also criticized the SCSC for its improper conclusions. The only solution to this, they said, was for the SCSC to issue a new decision correcting the deficiencies of the 2017 decision consistent with the careful jurisprudence of the lower court judges.


The crux of the matter is the ownership of the properties in question. In their 2017 decision, four of the five justices of the SCSC stated that the 29 parishes had acceded to the Dennis Canon (one of the four, Kittredge, went on to say the parishes withdrew their accession while the other three held the accessions to remain valid). Three of the five justices also declared that the Episcopal diocese owned the Camp.

However, Judge Dickson ruled that the 29 parishes had not, in fact, acceded to the Dennis Canon, and could not be held under the terms of the trust. He directly contradicted the majority of the SCSC justices on the property issue. 

The question, then, is who is right, the majority of the SCSC or the circuit judge? ADSC argues the judge is right and EDSC argues the SCSC is right. EDSC essentially argues authority, that is, the SCSC has the authority to issue decisions that become final law and cannot be changed except by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not happened in this instance. 


What all the wordy leaglese of the two briefs boils down to is whether a final decision of the SCSC says what it says and must be upheld or can be changed by the SCSC upon a decision by the lower court. EDSC is asking to uphold the 2017 decision. ADSC is asking SCSC to replace the 2017 decision with a new one following the lower courts.

What the SCSC does about this depends on how the justices interpret the significance of this case. If they see it primarily as a matter of the institutional integrity of the state courts, they will interpret it as a question of the authority of a SCSC decision. On the other hand, if they see it primarily as an issue of the present day culture war, the may interpret it differently. They may want to bolster the side that stands for traditional social mores. The SCSC is quite conservative and has two new justices who were not there for the 2017 decision. If they think the SCSC should use its power to diminish the "radical liberal" Episcopal Church, it  may side with the reactionaries. So, is this case a matter of jurisprudence or of culture? That is the issue before the SCSC. We can have no way of knowing at this point how the high court will tend.


What now? These two briefs were "initial," that is, the first ones. We can expect responding briefs, perhaps several before the two sides are satisfied they have said all they need to say.

Everyone is keeping an eye on the U.S. Supreme Court. It will probably announce next Monday whether it will grant cert to the Episcopal Church appeal of the Texas Supreme Court decision that awarded all to the breakaway contingent of Ft. Worth. If SCOTUS grants cert, it will probably issue a decision by the end of its term, usually June or July. If they deny cert, the TX SC decision will stand as final.

_________________________

My usual disclaimer. I am not a lawyer or legal expert and what I offer here is only opinion.

Monday, February 15, 2021




NOTES,  15 FEBRUARY 2021



Greetings, blog reader, on Monday, February 15, 2021, Presidents' Day. It is time for our weekly check in on the crises we have been following for nearly a year. So, let's take a look at the three we have been focusing on lately, pandemic, schism, and the civic state.


PANDEMIC. Finally, at long last, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic that we have turned the corner on the pandemic, the plague that has been overrunning America, and the world, for a year now. Next month, March, will mark a year since the novel coronavirus hit hard and changed our lives. 

Looking at the statistics in our usual source, Worldometers, we see improvements in almost every category even though the raw numbers continue to be staggering. In the last week (Feb. 8-15) there were 2,689,588 new cases reported in the world, a rising rate of 2.5%. Compared with the earlier week (Feb. 1-8) we see a significant improvement. That week saw over 3m new cases, a 3% rise. Even so, over 100m people in the world have been infected by the covid virus. Deaths in the world also showed a decline in numbers and rates. Last week, there were 83,924 deaths, as opposed to the 89,342 of the previous week. 

In America, there were dramatically fewer new cases last week and slightly fewer deaths. Last week saw 650,067 new cases in the U.S., a big drop from the 844,174 of the preceding week. The rising rate fell from 3 to 2%. Deaths in the U.S. last week were 22,241, down a bit from the 22,654 in the previous week. The death toll now in the U.S. is 497,174. Within a few days, there will be half a million deaths in America from this plague. The daily toll is running around 3k deaths as it has been for many weeks. Vaccinations are slowly but surely spreading. At present, about 15% of the American population has been vaccinated. The process has been uneven, to say the least. Yet, there are signs the distribution is improving even though both SC and AL are near the bottom of the list of states in distribution of the vaccines.

Rates in South Carolina are improving dramatically. Last week, the state reported 20,920 new cases, down from the 22,987 of the earlier week. The state also reported 347 deaths last week, a drop from the 609 of the preceding week. SC is now reporting 487,293 cases, close to 10% of the population, and 7,998 deaths.

Charleston County, however, continues to be a hot spot according to the figures. It listed 2,667 new cases last week, well above the 752 of the earlier week. It also reported 11 deaths last week for a total of 426. 

As SC, Alabama is reporting dramatic improvement. Last week, AL listed 8,508 new cases, down greatly from the 12,874 of the previous week. AL also reported 727 deaths from COVID-19 last week, down from the 827 of the earlier week. As of now, AL is listing 480,931 cases, app. 10% of the population, and 9,242 deaths.


SCHISM. We are still waiting on the brief of the breakaway party in SC which it is due to present it any day now to the South Carolina Supreme Court. The Episcopal diocese submitted its brief over three months ago. I will report on the Anglican side's brief as soon as I get a copy. I have no idea when that will be.

A week from today, on Monday, Feb. 22, we should know whether the U.S. Supreme Court will accept the case from Ft. Worth. The Episcopal Church is asking SCOTUS to grant cert of its appeal of the Texas Supreme Court decision last year that awarded all to the breakaway faction. The Court usually announces its decisions between 9 and 10 a.m., so stay tuned at that time next Monday. 

One interesting item to point out is that the lead attorney for the Episcopal Church at SCOTUS is Neal Katyal, one of the best known litigators in America who has appeared before the Supreme Court on many occasions, in some years more than any other attorney. He is also a well-known commentator on legal issues, on cable TV. TEC could hardly have a better advocate at this moment.


POLITICAL. At least we are over the trauma of the ex-president's trial in the Senate. As everyone knows, the Senate failed to reach the 2/3 threshold to convict. The trial has left the Republican Party badly divided, perhaps the best evidence of which is the behavior of Senator McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate. He voted to acquit and immediately went on TV to declare Trump guilty. The majority of the Republican Party is still strongly tied to Trump which is curious since, under Trump, they lost the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the presidency. Nevertheless, there are prominent Republicans who are repudiating Trump and trying to free their party of his control. It will be very interesting to see how the Republicans sort themselves out in the next few years. If they continue to follow Trump as they have, they will shrink into long term, perhaps permanent, minority political status.

It is also helpful to keep the big picture in mind. The fundamental crisis in America is that the nation is moving away from a majority white man's country to a diverse, multi-ethnic nation-state. From the time the first Europeans settled in America to the present, white people have always considered America their land. Other people were only peripheral. They were the "others." And so, the whites practiced ethic cleansing of the indigenous peoples, kept millions of Africans in slavery, after slavery kept blacks under Jim Crow, tried to keep Irish out in the 1840's, tried to keep Chinese out in the 1880's, sent thousands of west-coast American citizens of Japanese ancestry to concentration camps in the 1940's, and separated children from their parents at the Mexican border in the past few years. All of this was to keep America a white man's country. 

However, demographic shifts are moving the whites to minority status in the U.S. Projections show that by 2045, non-hispanic white people will make up less than 50% of the population of the U.S. After that, the U.S. will be composed of all minority socio-ethnic groups. This means the U.S. will either continue to develop as a democracy or divert to a minority white-controlled state. The Trump mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 was composed of white supremacists who were resolved to use violence to defeat democracy and preserve white rule by any means. 

That is the challenge of our country now and in the near future. Will the U.S. continue to develop as a nation devoted to equality of all people and majority rule, or veer off into white, minority rule? History suggests that democracy will win, but if it does it will be the first time in world history that a diverse, non-majority ethnic society succeeded in building a multi-cultural democratic republic. Thus, America is facing an enormous historic challenge. Only time will tell whether it responds well to this challenge.

Meanwhile, as whites shrink into a minority of the population, we can expect to see more and more violence of the sort we saw on Jan. 6. It appears there are certain segments of the white population who are willing to go to deadly extremes rather than see the non-whites became the majority. They stormed Charlottesville. They stormed Washington. They have not gone away. They will be back. America is now in its most fateful national period since the Civil War. 


Meanwhile, our lives go on as we do our best to deal with the crises none of us sought. If we keep the faith in our religion and in our country, we will be alright because these bring out the best in us. May we find the strength and courage to move on faithfully into the unknown future. Peace.

Sunday, February 14, 2021




FORT WORTH CASE SET FOR SCOTUS CONFERENCE ON 19 FEBRUARY



The Episcopal Church's petition to the United States Supreme Court for cert of its appeal of the Texas Supreme Court decision on the diocese of Ft. Worth has been put on the SCOTUS docket for Conference on Friday, 19 February 2021. If the justices make a decision then on whether to grant cert, it will be announced in the list of decisions released to the public on Monday, 22 February.

The case had been placed on the docket for the Conference of 22 January. However, at that time, the justices deferred a decision. On 12 February, the Court announced that the item is now on the docket for the Conference of the 19th. In a Conference, the justices decide which cases at hand will be granted attention, as cert, and which will be discarded. Over ninety percent of cases are not accepted by the Court.

Stand by for an announcement, which typically appears at 9:00 a.m., on Monday, Feb. 22. We will probably know then whether the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the Episcopal Church case from Ft. Worth.  

Saturday, February 13, 2021




A DARK DAY FOR AMERICA



By a vote of 57 to convict and to 43 to acquit, the United States Senate has failed to find the former president Donald J. Trump guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. A vote of 2/3 of the Senate, or 67 senators, was required to convict the ex-president of the charge against him. The 57 included all 48 Democrats, 2 Independents, and 7 Republicans. The 43 against were all Republicans. 

The charge against the former president was incitement of insurrection against the United States. In other words, he encouraged a violent mob to overthrow the constitutional government. This is the most serious charge ever made against a president of the United States.

In January, the House of Representatives voted an Article of Impeachment by a clear-cut majority (232-197). This week, the Managers of the House presented an overwhelming case in support of the charge against Trump. Polls show that their presentation was effective and that a majority of Americans viewed the ex-president as guilty. 

There can be no reasonable doubt that Trump incited the mob to march on the Capitol at the very moment the houses of Congress were about to meet in order to certify the results of the Electoral College which had elected Joe Biden president. 

The crux of the evidence centered on the relationship between President Trump and the Vice President Pence. Trump had repeatedly called for Pence to block the certification, something he could not do under the Constitution. Pence had told Trump he could not stop the certification, yet Trump continued to demand Pence stop the Electoral College certification and Trump repeated this to his followers on Jan. 6, 2021. 

When the mob swarmed through the halls of the Capitol they sought by name two people, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, and Pence. "Hang Mike Pence" and "Traitor" reverberated through the crazed and violent mob which had already mortally wounded a policeman. It was clear the mob would have assassinated or done bodily harm to both Pelosi and Pence if they had found them. Trump remained in the White House watching the TV coverage of the assault on the Capitol and refusing to take any action or issue any statement for an hour and a half after the assault began. At 2:13 p.m., the Secret Service hustled Pence and his party out of the Senate chamber to a safe room. At 2:24, Trump tweeted a criticism of Pence which the mobsters repeated. At 2:26, the Secret Service moved Pence and his group to a secret hideaway. AL senator Tuberville reported that he told Trump on the phone that Pence had been removed from the Senate. At 2:45 the mob gained control of the Senate chamber. At no time did Trump try to contact Pence or inquire of his safety. In fact, Trump did not talk with Pence for the next five days. 

It is clear from the vast body of evidence from January 6 that Trump incited an insurrection to overthrow the constitutional government of the United States. If this was not grounds for removal, nothing would be. Today's vote sets the precedent that any president in the future can incite, with impunity, a mob to attempt to overthrow the two co-equal branches of the government. An attempt to overthrow the government will not be grounds for removal. The case of February 13, 2021, will forever stand as this standard. In effect, no president of the United States can be removed from office for any offense against the nation.

The 43 senators who voted to acquit ex-president Trump established this dangerous precedent. History will judge them. 

In time, the precedent of the president's limitless power may well lead to the end of our democratic, constitutional republic. It is the Constitution that binds us together as one body of people. By refusing to uphold the Constitution today, the Senate has signed a blank death warrant for the republic we have known since 1789. There is now a bright green light for any new Trump coming down the road to act at will in disregard of the Constitution. 

Why did the 43 vote against the Constitution? It was fear of Trump and the third of Americans who are devoted to him.

It helps to keep all of this in the big picture. To return to my thesis that regular readers of the blog know, we are in a great clash between two forces in American life, the revolutionary and the counter-revolutionary. After the Second World War, American entered into a Great Democratic Revolution that brought equality and inclusion to social elements heretofore marginalized and ignored. The forces that had controlled power arose to resist the social, cultural, economic, and political changes that came with the GDR. These counter-revolutionaries were primarily big money, white working class men, white southerners, and white evangelical Christians. They were, and are, driven by fear. They migrated into the Republican Party and claimed victory in the 1980's under President Reagan. Changes, however began to overwhelm the counter-revolutionary, namely the demographic shifts that would inevitably bring the non-white minorities into majority status in America. Soon, whites will be a minority in the United States. The election of the first black president, Barack Obama, in 2008, shocked the counter-revolutionaries. Many whites gave up on democracy and turned against the very democratic institutions that had produced the changes they saw as so threatening. In Trump, many fearful whites saw a saviour figure who would dismantle or transform the institutions of power that had produced the hated democratic reforms. Trump was quite popular and gained 47% of the vote in 2020. The Trump-led counter-revolutuion arose to a crescendo on January 6, 2021, when the white supremacist crowd assembled by the president stormed the Capitol to prevent the Congress for exercising its constitutional duty of certifying the election. Their goal was to force the Congress to discard the legal and legitimate election and keep Trump in power against the will of the majority of the people. 

The Republican Party is now in crisis. Obviously, from today's vote, the majority of the party remains strongly attached to Trump. They seek the support and votes of his followers. The minority of the party have repudiated Trump in favor of democratic principles. Two leading politicians in South Carolina exemplify this breach: Nikki Haley, who repudiated Trump, and Lindsey Graham, who fiercely defended Trump.

By following Trump, the majority of the Republican Party is following the road of anti-democracy. They are willing to discard democratic principles of equality and majority rule which means they are willing to discard the Constitution, as today's vote proves. If the Trumpistas continue to be the majority of the Republican Party, we will have a pro-democratic and pro-Constitution party in America on one hand and an anti-democratic and anti-Constitution party on the other. Either America or the Republican Party will have to give. History tells us that America will prevail but we can expect a great deal more violence and political chaos and turmoil to come now that the Senate has validated the unlimited power of the president to try to overturn the Constitution. 

This is a dark day in American history. It would be easy to say Trump did this to us, but that would be only a part of the story. Trump would not be where he is without the aiding and abetting of millions of Americans.

As of now, the majority of Americans support democracy and the Constitution. The "antis" are the minority. The majority need not think this is the end of the fight. It is just beginning of something worse, maybe much worse. In fact, history has many examples where minorities seized control of the state. In 1933, the Nazis were a minority party in democratic Germany when President Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor. Hitler immediately called for new national elections to the Reichstag. Even after vicious attacks on their opponents, the Nazis did not win an outright majority in the Spring elections. They gained a majority vote in the Reichstag only after they combined with a small far right-wing party and made a totalitarian state. In relatively free and fair elections, the Nazis never won a majority of the votes of the German electorate. Yet, we all know what happened in Germany and what that meant to the world. So, do not think that a minority cannot gain power even in a democracy.

What happened today is a severe blow to democracy and to the American constitutional republic. There is no point in trying to pretend otherwise. This will embolden the anti-democratic forces in America. We can expect an escalation of violence and political turmoil. The violent anti-democrats will be back. They believe they won the battle of Jan. 6. They won the battle of Feb. 13. God only knows what comes next.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

 



NOTES,  9 FEBRUARY 2021



Welcome, blog reader, on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 and the continuing saga of these challenging days of our lives. For many months now, we have been tracking the crises of the hour. Today, we will check in on three of them, the pandemic, the schism, and the civic state.


PANDEMIC. Finally, we can breathe a slight sign of relief that the fall/winter surge of the COVID-19 pandemic is easing. Most of the metrics we have been following in Worldometers show a slowing in the rates of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. The New York Times charts and maps show a promising trend, except for new deaths in SC and AL. Moreover, the vaccines are slowly but surely making their ways through the population. At present, about 10% of Americans have been vaccinated.

In the world, both the rates and the raw numbers of new cases and deaths have declined. Last week (Feb. 1-8), new cases dropped from 4% of the week earlier to 3%. There were 3,146,892 new cases for a total of 106,748,093. As for deaths in the world, the rate declined from 5% of the prior week to 4%. Between Feb. 1 and 8, 89,342 people died of covid, for a total of 2,328,703 in the world.

In America, there has been a dramatic drop in new cases and slight drop in deaths. Last week (Feb. 1-8), the U.S. reported 844,174 new cases, a rising rate of 3%. In the earlier week, the U.S. had reported 1,065,104 new cases, a rate of 4%. As for deaths, the U.S. reported 22,654 last week, a rising rate of 5%. This was down a bit from the earlier week, but still running at about 3k deaths a day. As of now, the U.S. has seen 474,933 deaths from the effects of COVID-19. At the present rate, there will be 600k deaths by the end of March, putting this pandemic on the same level as the great flu pandemic of 1918-19.

In South Carolina, there are also promising signs of the spread of the disease. Last week, the state listed 22,987 new cases, a rising rate of 5%. In the earlier week, the state had reported 25,061 new cases, a rate of 6%. Deaths, however, showed a more worrisome trend. Last week, SC reported 609 deaths (+9%), its highest weekly number ever, for a total of 7,651.

In Alabama, the trends are finally showing some lessening. Last week, the state listed 12,784 new cases (half as many as SC). This contrasted to the 18,469 (4%) of the earlier week. AL is now reporting 472,423 cases of covid, nearly 10% of the state's population. Death numbers continue to be high although declining slightly. Last week, AL reported 827 deaths (+11%) for a total of 8,515, down from the 1,028 (+15%) of the earlier week. As for vaccinations in AL, the administration has been relatively smooth. Essential workers and persons over age 75 have been given access to the vaccines. This week, the age has been lowered to 65.

If you have not had the vaccine yet, you may be wondering about the aftereffects of the shot. People react differently to it. Even so, here is my experience. I had the Moderna version, two shots, one month apart. The first left my arm sore for two days. The day after the shot, I had what felt like a mild case of the flu, perhaps a low fever, joint achiness, and fatigue. I took several naps. The second day, I felt fine except for a bit of weakness which I got over quickly. The second shot left me with the same but slightly stronger effects. I slept most of the next day and felt back to normal the day after that. I have heard other people say they too felt fatigue on the next day. Even so, the aftereffects were nothing in comparison to a bad case of covid. Now that I have finished my vaccinations, I feel a sense of liberation and freedom. For the first time in a year, I feel comfortable going out in public without the fear of death hanging over me. My age and a mild case of breathing difficulties from allergies left me in the "high risk" category. I may still contract the disease, but it should not be a serious or life-threatening case. So, I say thank God for the miracles of modern science and technology, at least those in medicine.


SCHISM. Still waiting on the two events in court. Any day now, the Anglican diocese of SC should be submitting its brief to the South Carolina Supreme Court. The Episcopal diocese turned in its brief to the court nearly three months ago. As soon as I get a copy of the brief, I will post a report on it here on this blog. The other thing we are awaiting is the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on whether it will grant cert in the Texas case. The Episcopal Church is asking the court to review the TX supreme court decision of last year that rewarded all to the breakaway faction.

Meanwhile, both parts of the schism are proceeding with searches for new bishops. The Episcopal diocese is considering five candidates for the XV diocesan bishop. It has been without a diocesan bishop since Mark Lawrence left in 2012. The Anglican diocese is starting the search process for a bishop coadjutor will will later become the II diocesan bishop (I is Mark Lawrence). The Anglican diocese was created in 2012 and merged with the Anglican Church in North America soon thereafter. I will return soon with more commentary on these search processes. They are quite an interesting contrast and tell us much about the nature of the schism.


POLITICAL. There has been a dramatic shift in the atmosphere of the American political scene in the past few weeks, at least since Biden's inauguration. A feeling of getting back to normality is replacing the destructive chaos of the Trump years. Unity and consensus are replacing division and tribal hostility in the country, at least among a majority of the citizenry. 

However, we are still dealing with the effects of the last administration. Today begins the trial of the former president. He has been impeached by the House of Representatives on the charge of incitement of insurrection against the United States. It is hard to imagine a more serious charge against a sitting president than trying to overthrow the constitutional government. The attack on the Capitol, of 6 January 2021, is one of the best documented events in all of history with countless videos, pictures, and first hand witnesses. It is an open and shut case and in any regular court would be over in a instant. Not now.

Under the constitution, 2/3 of the Senators have to vote to convict in order to remove the president. The voting is in person, not secret. This means 17 Republican Senators would have to join the 50 Democrats to vote against Trump. Everyone knows the chances of this happening is between nil and none. Finding 17 Senators willing to condemn Trump publicly just is a very long stretch. It is possible but extremely unlikely given the circumstances of the hour. Lack of courage, fear of the bully Trump and his devoted voting base will prevent reasonable men and women from doing what they know is right. After all, 45 of the 50 Republican Senators voted to declare the trial unconstitutional even though it is clearly constitutional. This speaks volumes about where the Republican part is nowadays.

This is an open and shut case and I am fascinated to hear the arguments of Trump's lawyers. How can they defend the indefensible? We shall see. So far, all of the arguments are between thin and ridiculous. First, the argument of free speech. Trump could say whatever he wanted under the First Amendment. Oh no, free speech is not unlimited. You cry fire in crowded theater or make slanderous or libelous comments about other people and you will learn the limits of free speech. Trump clearly incited the mob to attack the Capitol in order to disrupt the constitutional government.

The assertion that Trump did not incite the mob is, well, silly. Everyone with common sense who has seen the videos of that day know full well that Trump absolutely incited the mob. They would not have done what they did except for what he said immediately beforehand.  

Another argument is that the trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president. Not so fast. The House of Representatives impeached Trump while he was in power and sent the charge over to the Senate while Trump was still president. It was the Republican majority leader of the Senate who refused to allow the trial to be held during the term of Trump. This is why the trial is now after Trump is now longer in office. Anyway, the idea that a president cannot be impeached in his last weeks or days in office could not be true because this would mean the president could do whatever he wished near the end of this term without fear of indictment and removal. No, a president must be held accountable for his action until the very last minute of his term in office.

Yet another argument is the most serious of all. We should just forget it and move on for the sake of "unity.". Forget that the president of the United States tried to overthrow the constitution? Really? If trying to overthrow the government is not grounds for impeachment and removal nothing is. This is the most serious charge possible against any president and if we "just forget it" we are signing the death warrant for our constitutional democracy. If Trump's incitement to insurrection is left to stand unpunished, it will be a green light to any would be dictator in the future to try it again. With a bit more focus, organization, and drive, the next Trump may actually succeed. Our constitutional, democratic republic derives its existence from the people. If the people do not defend it, it will not last. Trump must be held accountable for what he did to overturn the constitution. Loyalty to the constitution is what unity is all about.

Apparently, the trial will be short, about a week. The Senate will vote to acquit and Trump and his followers will cry vindication as they did after the first trial. Then, another sort of trial will come as the Republican Party processes what all this means for its future. Trump was the Frankenstein monster they have been creating since they chose racism as a political tool in the Southern Strategy of 1968. Trump was just the natural culmination of a long, conscious policy based on appealing at least to covert white racism. Right now, the Party is in a civil war and it remains to be seen whether the Frankenstein monster will in the end destroy the Party or the Party can suppress the threat. At the moment, it looks as if Trump still has the upper hand and we will see the evidence of this when the 50 Republican Senators vote in the coming days. After that, who knows what will happen to the GOP?


So, as many Americans, I will fixed on my television for the next week. Watching the trial will be difficult because we will relive in excruciating detail the events of that shocking day just a month ago when a violent mob tried to overthrow our government in favor of a minority, white supremacist regime. It will be troubling. It will be sad. It will be necessary. It will be historic. 

As always, we are all here together for the living of this hour as much as we may wish none of this had ever happened to us. That was not our choice to make. We are called to do our best in the hour we are given. Peace.   

Saturday, February 6, 2021




WINDOWS OF SHAME



This is one of those news reports that is almost unbelievable. We all should wish it did not exist, but here it is. What a sad story.

The Bishop England High School has just been sued for $300m. When the new school was built in 1998 on Daniel Island, it was designed to have 4 foot windows looking into the boys' and girls' locker rooms from inside the school. This means the architect and the school authorities deliberately placed the windows there. What were they thinking? They claim now it was for "safety." Safety for whom, the students or the voyeurs? Invasion of privacy issue aside, this was an invitation for child abuse. Sure enough, it happened, videos and all.

This shocking news is another item in the record of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston. In 2007, the diocese lost a class-action lawsuit of child abuse and was made to pay $12m to the numerous victims. In 2019, the diocese published a list of 42 priests "credibly accused" of child sexual abuse. 

Designing a school with large windows looking into the locker rooms may have been an innocently foolish blunder. Let us hope so rather than something more nefarious. This issue is certain to come up in court if this suit actually goes to trial. The school could settle out of court.

Unfortunately, child sexual abuse has been a global scandal in the Roman Catholic church. And, it is not just the abuse itself, but the cover-up that magnified the wrong doing. The RC church had two great moral failings in the past century. One was insufficient opposition to Nazism and fascism. Adolf Hitler, arguably the most evil person in modern history, and a nominal Catholic, has never been excommunicated by the church, not even chastised. The other great failing was the world-wide child abuse scandal which included both the abuse and the cover up. 

Thus, the church has a lot of work to do to reestablish its moral and ethical leadership. The new $300m lawsuit in South Carolina may be a step along the way to recovery.

Find news reports of the new lawsuit here and here .

Wednesday, February 3, 2021




NOTES,  3 FEBRUARY 2021



Greetings, blog reader, on Wednesday, February 3, 2021. It is time for our weekly check-in on the crises we have been covering for nearly a year now. 


PANDEMIC. The bad news is that we are still in the worst surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is that we are on the down slope of that surge. Most signs indicate a gradual lessening of the effects of the pandemic. One bit of worrisome news is that three more virulent strains of COVID-19 have invaded America. One of these has been found in South Carolina. Another item of worrisome news is the chaotic application of vaccinations in the U.S. It is uneven to say the least. Dr. Fauci says that we will not have "herd immunity" until 70% of the population gets vaccinated. That is a tall order and will take months at the present rate.

Looking at the data from Worldometers, our usual source, we see that in most respects, there are encouraging signs. We have been looking at the figures from Monday to Monday. For the week of January 25 to February 1, 2021, we see that the disease is spreading at about the same rate, 4%. In this week, there were 3,761,247 new cases in the world, for a total of 103,601,201. January was the worst month for the spread of covid. There were 20m new cases in January, a rising rate of 20%. As for deaths in the world, there were app. 100,000, a rate of 5%, that same rate as the previous week. In the month of January, about 500,000 people in the world died of the disease, a jump of app. 30% (in one month). As of Feb. 1, 2.2m people have died in the pandemic, all within one year. Let us stop for a moment and reflect on that.

In the United States, the rates of infection, hospitalizations, and deaths all declined, if slightly, last week (Jan. 25-Feb. 1). The U.S. reported 1,065,104 new cases, a rising rate of 4%, down from the 5% of the earlier week. Even so, 26,767, 229 Americans have been infected by the virus. In the month of January infections went from app. 18m to 26m, by far the worst month so far. As for deaths, the rate has slowed a bit. Last week, 22,789 Americans died of COVID-19, a rate of 5%. As of now, 452,279 American have died in the pandemic, all in one year. In the month of January, 125,000 Americans died of the disease. This was about a 30% rate. Again, January was by far the worst month of the pandemic, at least so far.

The figures for South Carolina were mixed. New cases were down but deaths were up. Last week, SC reported 25,061 new cases, a rising rate of 6%, down from the 8% of the earlier week. In all, SC has reported 443,386 cases. This is approaching 10% of the state's population. As for deaths, SC listed 495 for last week, for a total of 7,042. This was a rising rate of 8%, well above the 5% of the previous week. Charleston County reported improving rates. Last week, it listed 1,840 new cases for a total of 32,837, a rising rate of 6%. In the month of January, the county added 8,000 new cases, app. a 30% rate.

As SC, Alabama is showing mixed numbers. Last week (Jan. 25-Feb. 1) it reported 18,469 new cases for a total of 459,639. This was a rising rate of 4%, the same as the earlier week. Deaths in AL, however, shot up last week. The state reported by far its worst casualties, 1,028, a 15% jump. In the month of January, AL listed app. 2,700 deaths, app. a third of its 7,688 total.


SCHISM. Nothing new on the litigation front. However, soon, in the month of February, we can expect two important movements in court. In the SC Supreme Court, we can expect the Anglican diocese of SC to present its brief in defense of Judge Dickson's ruling of last year. The Episcopal diocese of SC is appealing that ruling to the SCSC. We can also expect the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court to decide this month whether they will grant cert to the Episcopal Church in its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. TEC is seeking to appeal the Texas Supreme Court decision of last year to SCOTUS. 

The wonderful news coming from the Diocese of South Carolina was the announcement of the slate of five candidates for the office of bishop of the diocese. The Diocese of SC has been without a usual diocesan bishop since Mark Lawrence left the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina in October of 2012. That's eight and a half years if you are counting. This is not to criticize the provisional and visiting bishops the DSC has had. Bps. vonRosenberg, Adams, and Parsley all went beyond the call of duty to help the struggling diocese and everyone should be grateful for their contributions. However, they were all "temporary" bishops. Now, the time has come for the diocese to get back to "regular order" under an established diocesan bishop. Surely, this is the hardest job in the entire Episcopal Church; and I am lost in admiration for the five candidates who have volunteered to take it on. Their résumés are all stellar, and the diocese would be fortunately to have any one of them.


A new day. I was up before dawn a couple of days ago and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise. I took this picture, just before the sun appeared, to remember it. I like to think of it as a God-given sign of the dawning of a beautiful new day for the diocese of South Carolina.


POLITICAL. It is a new day in our political crisis too. And, let us hope and pray that things are getting better on this front too. We have the trial of the former president next week. We also have another sort of trial as the Republican Party is trying to sort out its identity and purpose in the aftermath of the Trump debacle. Right now it is badly split between the Trumpistas and the traditionalists. Trump is trying hard to keep control of the party. It is in the best interest of the nation to have a strong two party system. Let us hope the Republican Party finds its way forward and heals the terrible internal wounds the last president inflicted on it even though he had a lot of help from the aiding and abetting Republicans themselves. Under Trump, the Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House. Why they would want to keep going down that road is beyond reason. So, the real story of the political crisis of the day is not what is going to happen to Trump. It is what is going to happen to the Republican Party. We all need it to be strong. No one should want a one-party nation-state.

And so, friend, we are still enduring a heavy set of crises in our lives as we have been for a long time now. We are all worn with fatigue. Yet, there are clear indications that conditions are improving on every front. There is good reason to believe that things are getting better in the pandemic, the church, and the state. As always, we are here for the living of this hour with whatever it may bring. Peace.