March 8, 2014
Breaking Up is So Hard to Do
Shmoos arrive to rescue PECDSC Inc. from loss of identity
Nearly eighteen months after announcing they were leaving the Episcopal Church, members of the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc.(PECDSC Inc.)” appear to be wondering if the bad ole times were really as bad as they thought.
Turns out, there wasn't much of a plan for moving forward except to hire some of the most expensive lawyers in South Carolina. The result has been a whole lot of public confusion that appears to be contributing to a decline in attendance and giving at a number of PECDSC parishes.
Today, some in the PECDSC Inc. are finding it difficult even to explain who they are. Why, for example, do they call themselves "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" without actually belonging to the Episcopal Church or having official recognition from the Church as one of its dioceses?
The same question comes up when they claim to be "Anglicans," since the Anglican Communion and its leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, do not consider them to be Anglicans.
Of course, the biggest challenge for the PECDSC Inc. is that it is not actually a Church. According to its lawyers, the PECDSC Inc. is a non-profit corporation, not a Church or any Christian denomination anyone has ever heard of. This makes it really hard to keep dues-paying members and attract new people who want to belong to a real Church.
We've learned that some enterprising PECDSC Inc. parishes are taking the easy way out and just pretending that they are still in the Episcopal Church...
Shrove Shmoos-day on Edisto
Fans of the Lil Abner comic strip will remember shmoos. They are delightful and sometimes mischievous creatures with peculiar abilities to transform themselves into anything they think might be alluring and otherwise pleasing to unsuspecting humans.
Never met a shmoo?
Earlier this week residents of Edisto Island were besieged by shmoos inviting them to a delightful pancake supper the night before Ash Wednesday at “Trinity Episcopal Church”. Flyers for the event even featured the official seal of the Episcopal Church! Loyal Episcopalians recognize the seal as a reminder that a parish belongs to the Episcopal Church and accedes to his Constitution and Canons.
Not mentioned on the flyer is that Trinity Episcopal Church does not consider itself part of the Episcopal Church, does not accede to its Constitution and Canons, and views its leader, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, as a heretic. In fact, "Trinity Episcopal Church" has joined 34 other PECDSC parishes in filing a lawsuit against the real Episcopal Church indignantly claiming that it is trying to steal its historic and legal identity as a parish in the Episcopal Church.
Of course, the flyer doesn't even mention The Episcopal Church on Edisto Island just down the street, which seems to be quite robust these days with real Episcopalians every Sunday... but, hey, how 'bout them pancakes!
The Episcopal Church of Beaufort Welcomes You, Sort of
SC Episcopalians has recently discovered that parishes and missions of the PECDSC Inc. are quietly putting the word “Episcopal” back into their names to reassure longtime communicants that they are still sort of Episcopalians and to lure unsuspecting newcomers searching for an Episcopal parish their way.
One of the clergy at Beaufort's St. Helena’s Episcopal Church (which now calls itself “The Parish Church of St. Helena”) once famously said that the parish had to change its name because the word “Episcopal” was scaring away potential new members who wouldn’t “touch the Episcopal Church with a ten-foot pole.”
Today, an online search for "Episcopal," "Beaufort," and "SC" brings up – you guessed it – “St. Helena’s Episcopal Church!” Welcome back, folks! In fact, there are five separate listings for St. Helena's Episcopal Church before you get to the one for the real Episcopal Church down there, St. Mark's in Port Royal.
We didn't even try searching for "ten foot pole".
A picture's worth a thousand ... Doh!
To promote its upcoming “diocesan” convention, the PECDSC Inc. website prominently features a photograph depicting what appears to be a Cathedral full of happy PECDSC Inc. conventioneers worshipping together.
Strangely, on closer inspection, the only distinguishable faces in the crowd are those of loyal Episcopalians who belong to parishes that have rejected the rebellious PECDSC Inc. and decided to stay put in the Episcopal Church.
That's right. Prominently featured in the photo is the delegation from Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston, the largest parish in the continuing Diocese and now home to many who fled PECDSC parishes in downtown Charleston. In fact, the single, most prominent face in the photo is that of the Ven. Calhoun Walpole, the Archdeacon of the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina and probably its most visible leader next to its Bishop, Charles vonRosenberg (not pictured).
If you wanted to go to a good convention with those folks this year, you missed it three weeks ago in Hilton Head.
Of course, the photo evokes a little nostalgia since the last time the pews of the Cathedral of St. Luke & St. Paul looked like that was when the still-united Diocesan Convention was held there … in 2011, when the photo was taken.
Website, website on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?
Finally, we at SC Episcopalians can’t help but notice that the PECDSC Inc. website has undergone a little sprucing up to give it a more professional and appealing look. PECDSC Inc. webmasters seem to have added a new color (this one) and included short, punchy subheadings to make its reports more engaging and easier for busy people to read.
We instantly liked the new look probably because it makes their website look so much like ... well, this one!
March 5, 2014
Terry Star, 40-year-old Nashotah House Student, Found Dead
Popular Native American member of the Church's Executive Council had promoted the seminary's controversial invitation to the Presiding Bishop
NASHOTAH, WISCONSIN - When Deacon Terry Star failed to show up for classes Tuesday morning, his fellow students at Nashotah House seminary knew something was wrong. When they checked in his room, they were stunned to discover that he had died during the night.
The 40-year-old Star from the Diocese of North Dakota was well-known in the Church as a member of the Executive Council and advocate for the work of the Episcopal Church among Native Americans. His tragic and untimely death from an apparent heart attack was mourned throughout the Church.
When informed of his death, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said, “We give thanks for his life and witness, his prophetic voice, and his reconciling heart. All his relatives are grieving, and we pray that his soul may rest in peace and his spirit continue to prod us all in continuing the ministry of healing we have from Jesus.”
Read more and see tributes to Terry Star
Star's name surfaced in last week's uproar over the seminary's plan to host Jefferts Schori as a guest preacher in May. He was one of three students Dean Edward Salmon said had proposed the invitation to the Presiding Bishop, after she reportedly discouraged them from attending the school a few years ago.
In the ensuing uproar, Star and the two others were among collateral damage from attacks on Salmon by the global Anglican fringe (GAF). Some critics questioned why the 173-year-old school would even admit students who'd seek the advice of a "heretic". See story below.
February 27, 2014
Church Dissidents Pushing for Salmon's Ouster over Invite to the Presiding Bishop
Not content undermining his episcopate then destroying his legacy, Global Anglican Fringe (GAF) now has its sights on his work as President and Dean of Nashotah House seminary
If it is true that “they will know we are Christians by our love,” Nashotah, Wisconsin was ground zero for raging heathens this week as embittered ex-Episcopalians trained their sights on former SC Bishop Edward Salmon, currently the leader of historic Nashotah House seminary.
Apparently at the urging of three students and with the agreement of his Board, Salmon invited Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to preach at the school May 1st. Salmon said the students told him that she had once discouraged them from attending the 173-year-old seminary, known as "The House," and they thought inviting her for a visit would help her see the school in a more positive light.
When word got out last week that she had accepted, a rightwing mau-mau ensued. Bishop Jefferts Schori is regarded by many of the Anglican fringe groups as a heretic and all-around bad person.
Almost immediately two of the seminary’s ultraconservative trustees resigned. Ex-Episcopal bishop Jack Iker of Texas led the parade by reportedly telling the Board that he "could not be associated with an institution that honors her [Jefferts Schori]" and resigned his seat. Check out the ruckus over his resignation.
Similarly, Iker's assistant bishop, ex-Episcopal Bishop William Wantland said he would not "take part in any functions at Nashotah" or “give financial support (to the seminary) as long as the present administration remains.”
Then David Virtue, a prominent rightwing blogger, lashed out at Salmon as well and demanded his resignation. "In this latest debacle, Salmon has revealed himself to be a prevaricator, a fence sitter, and a useful idiot for the episcopal administration.”
The Very Rev. Robert Munday, who many believe was forced out of his job when he became too sympathetic to the Global Anglican Fringe (GAF), wasted no time lashing out at his successor in a five-part series of attacks, posted online by Salmon's former protégé, Kendall Harmon.
At one point Munday even criticized the three students who had reportedly encouraged Salmon to invite the PB: “If you insist on attracting the kind of seminarians who can force you to invite a liberal bishop or presiding bishop to preach in your chapel, what are you leading your seminary to become?” Munday has since said he didn’t mean to criticize the students.
At week’s end, even ex-Episcopal Bishop Robert Duncan, Salmon's friend and a leader among critics of the Church, joined the melee, expressing his "disappointment" over the invitation.
Finally, yesterday, Forward in Faith of North America slammed Salmon and suggested the visit of the Presiding Bishop be turned into an academic lecture "by Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori." FIFNA is a leading proponent of an all-male priesthood and cultural norms more typical of a century other than the one in which we are currently living. .
"The House" has always been identified with Church's Anglo-Catholic tradition and all-male priesthood... but that may be changing, a little.
Nashotah House is an Episcopal seminary that has long been identified with Church's Anglo-Catholic tradition, placing its emphasis more on Anglicanism's Catholic roots than its Protestant heritage.
However, faced with declining numbers and finances a few years back, the school broadened its student body and governing structures to include evangelicals and more traditional, mainstream Episcopalians. It claims a theologically diverse student body with 30-35% of its 100+ students coming from "Episcopal dioceses."
Since taking over the seminary in 2011, Salmon has tried to steer the school clear of rancor and bitter politics of schism. According to Salmon, “Our call, regardless of those circumstances, is to raise up a strong priesthood for the church.”
Nashotah House apparently has female students, even though the school is strongly aligned with proponents of an all-male priesthood. Many of its trustees are actively opposed to female clergy and, not surprisingly, a woman has never celebrated the Eucharist at the seminary (which the Presiding Bishop won't do either). Twenty-four of the 26 voting members of the seminary's board are men.
Church critics like Duncan, who leads an organization of dissidents called the “Anglican Church of North America”, and Mark Lawrence, who claims to lead a non-profit organization called the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Incorporated” are listed as Board members.
Neither bishop nor the organization he represents is recognized by the Anglican Communion. Both Duncan and Lawrence, are ex-bishops in the Episcopal Church..
Salmon explains himself, blames Presiding Bishop for giving bad advice to seminarians
For his part, Salmon took to YouTube to explain the invitation to "Bishop Schori". For a guy who once described the internet as "pure evil", he did a credible job explaining the origins of the controversial invitation and why it would be helpful for the seminary to have the Presiding Bishop see people of different theological stripes living and worshipping together.
In an interview with the VirtueOnline blog, Salmon said, “I invited Katharine Schori [sic] to The House because three students that she told ‘not to come’ wanted her to see a place where people were from ACNA and TEC and all kinds other places and we weren’t suing each other, and we weren’t mad at each other, and we were living in a Christ-centered community… I don’t know how it will affect her. That is the message she needs to hear from us. I want her to see a place where all kinds of people from different ecclesial bodies are living in harmony with each other.”
During the interview Salmon's nose was reported to have grown several inches when he suggested that Nashotah House is a place where people "live in harmony" and don’t sue each other.
Trustee Mark Lawrence is suing loyal Episcopalians in Salmon’s former diocese for property and assets valued in the millions of dollars. Similarly Iker, along with ex-Episcopal Bishops and Board members Robert Duncan and ex-Bishop Keith Ackerman have been involved in a series of multimillion dollar lawsuits with the Church over Church property and Diocesan assets.
Ackerman is the vice-chair of the Board and indicated that the matters would be reviewed at its next meeting. However, he and others left little doubt that their phones had been ringing constantly since the story went public. Salmon is highly influential with the Board, so it is unlikely that his job is in danger. However, the episode once more reminds the public of the ugly, political underbelly of the fringe groups in global Anglicanism.
As the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, Salmon was constantly under pressure to move more to the right and in the direction of secession from the Episcopal Church. He held the Diocese together and kept even its most hotheaded clergy in the Church. After his retirement though, the GAF succeeded in installing Mark Lawrence as Salmon's successor. Under Lawrence's leadership 34 parishes and missions aligned with him are suing the Episcopal Church and the 27 parishes and missions continuing in the Church for properties and Diocesan assets valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
February 22, 2014
Diocesan Convention Sets New Course; Reverses Shenanigans of Lawrence Era
Breakaway 'Diocese of South Carolina' barely mentioned as five new missions open for business
HILTON HEAD ISLAND – In less than a minute this morning, delegates to the 223rd Convention of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina officially reversed five years of rebellion and anger as they unanimously rejected all changes to the Constitution of the Diocese during the disastrous episcopate of former Bishop Mark Lawrence. Lawrence “abandoned” his ministry in the Episcopal Church nearly 17 months ago, and has sued the Episcopal Church for possession of its property and Diocesan assets valued in the millions of dollars.
However, constitutional changes were only a small part of the convention that celebrated the rebirth of the Diocese with the arrival of five new missions, new postulants for the priesthood, and a bare bones Diocesan budget completely funded by its own parishes and missions. While Lawrence's legal team has learned from the mistakes of their comrades in other breakaway dioceses, leaders of the continuing Diocese have learned how to rebuild.
An electrifying address by North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry Friday evening, along with a number of official visitors from other dioceses, reminded conventioneers of the extraordinary support they've received from fellow Episcopalians after Lawrence’s “abandonment” of his ministry.
Enthusiasm for rejoining the mainstream of the Church was evident throughout the convention. Easily the most crowded field of candidates was among those seeking seats on the Diocese’s delegation to the 2015 General Convention, a role that was consistently denied traditional Episcopalians by right-wingers even before the arrival of Lawrence. It was the first convention in years that elected delegates who did not complain about how much of a burden it would be to them to have to attend.
After 14 months as Lawrence's successor, Charles vonRosenberg was clearly in control of a diocese that bears the imprimatur of his leadership.
In his convention address, vonRosenberg told the crowd of nearly 300 that “the Spirit of God moves through history in the direction of unity. To be sailing within the stream of the Spirit necessarily involves us in efforts toward church unity. In faithfulness to our Lord, therefore, we work and pray and live in anticipation that one day we all may be one, in Christ’s name.”
VonRosenberg made frequent references to a report on the potential for closer ties with the Methodist Church along the lines of those currently shared by Episcopalians and Lutherans. However, there was never any doubt that for him the study was a metaphor for his hopes for eventual reconciliation with those who left the Episcopal Church with Lawrence.
Standing Committee Chairman Wilmot Merchant of North Myrtle Beach reminded the delegates that, when pro-Lawrence clergy left the Church, vonRosenberg chose not to depose them, but rather released them from their ministry in the Episcopal Church – an option that leaves open the possibility for reconciliation.
Longtime participants in Diocesan convention noted that delegates left the convention with enthusiasm and good spirits, in contrast to the anger and bitterness they took away from the conventions under Lawrence. Next year's convention will be held at the Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston. Many of those at today's convention said they plan to attend the Episcopal Forum's upcoming event on May 3rd with the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Gay Jennings Clark in Pawleys Island.
February 22, 2014
Pain, Sacrifices Fueling 'Rebirth' of SC Diocese
Episcopal Church in South Carolina adds six new missions over 14 months
HILTON HEAD ISLAND – The only dark cloud over this weekend’s convention was the slow death of Callie Walpole’s car. After logging thousands of miles crisscrossing the Diocese over the past year, the venerable Archdeacon had to borrow a friend’s car to get to the convention as her own car languished in her mechanic’s garage in Charleston.
However, the car was not on her mind Saturday morning, as she, Bishop vonRosenberg, and a robust convention repeatedly joined in standing ovations for each boisterous procession of new mission congregations that have formed since the departure of the Diocese's former bishop.
The processions were comprised of nearly 100 representatives of the Diocese’s five new missions, who marched into All Saints’, Hilton Head singing hymns, bearing banners and hand-held signs, and outfitted in colorful hats and specially-made tee-shirts.
The new missions included St. Catherine's Episcopal Church (Florence), St. Ann's Episcopal Church (Conway), The Episcopal Church on Edisto (Edisto Island), The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd (Summerville), St. Francis' Episcopal Church (Charleston). A sixth new mission, St. Mark's in Port Royal, was similarly celebrated at last year's convention.
The noisy processions were a turning point for many in the Diocese who have experienced the sting of rejection by their former clergy and open hostility from fellow parishioners over their loyalty to their Baptism in the Episcopal Church. Many marchers shed tears of joy as entered the convention with all agreeing that they had found a new spiritual “home”.
Very few, if any, mentioned former Bishop Lawrence or his loyalists among the clergy who turned their backs on them. None complained about the months they had painstaking pulled together their fledging mission congregations, found worship space, recruited clergy, and faced repeated warnings that they were wasting their time.
If Bishop vonRosenberg, “Mrs. Bishop vonRosenberg” or any of the clergy and lay people who'd supported these efforts had any complaints about their sacrifices, it was not obvious.
The Archdeacon never complained about the toll her travels had taken on her car.
In his address, VonRosenberg summed up the feelings of many when he said, "Your sacrifice has provided an inspiration to all of us here ... and to others far beyond South Carolina. Such sacrifice has led to possibilities of liberation and rebirth, and your witness is powerful indeed.”
February 19, 2014
Diocesan Convention to Grapple with Growth, Congregational Development this weekend
Five worship communities seek mission status as vonRosenberg's turbulent first year ends with optimism
HILTON HEAD - A year and a half after their bishop walked out on them, Episcopalians in eastern South Carolina are celebrating a miraculous story of survival and new life this weekend, as their 223rd Diocesan Convention embraces the challenges of growing numbers and a spirit of unity they have not known in years.
The opening Eucharist will begin Friday afternoon at All Saints Episcopal Church with the frequently electrifying preaching of the Rt. Reverend Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina.
The high point of Saturday's business meeting is likely to be the welcoming of five new missions in the Diocese -- The Episcopal Church on Edisto; Good Shepherd (Summerville); St. Anne's (Conway); St. Catherine's (Florence); and St.
Francis' (Charleston). They will join St. Mark's in Beaufort, which finally received mission status at last year's convention after years of opposition from Lawrence supporters at nearby St. Helena's. There are three other worship communities in the Diocese that will likely apply for mission status at a future convention.
Currently there are 22 parishes and missions in the Diocese.
The Right Reverend Charles vonRosenberg was elected to lead the battered diocese 13 months ago at a noisy convention that basked in the attention of visiting Church leaders including the Presiding Bishop and President of the Church's House of Deputies. VonRosenberg used the convention to get the Diocese back on track and focused on the work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While his first year has been rocked by legal challenges from ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence, vonRosenberg's vision seems to have taken hold.
February 9, 2014
Renegade 'Diocese of SC' Tries a Hail Mary to SC Supreme Court to Prevent Disclosure of Lawrence-Runyan Emails
Lawrence legal team says Church's appeal to the S.C. Court of Appeals is a deliberate waste of time... but is there another reason for their anxiety?
COLUMBIA - The extent to which former Bishop Mark Lawrence was involved in an alleged conspiracy to defraud the Episcopal Church of parish property and Diocesan assets may well lie in years of electronic communications between the renegade cleric and a controversial Beaufort attorney.
This could explain why Lawrence and his 40-member legal team have gone into overdrive to keep them secret.
The question of the emails has surfaced in pretrial motions in the lawsuit filed last year by Lawrence and parishes aligned with him against the Episcopal Church and those in his former flock who've chosen to remain loyal to the Church. In the lawsuit the ex-bishop and 34 parishes are seeking ownership of millions of dollars in parish properties and financial assets of the Episcopal Church in eastern South Carolina. They claim they are trying to prevent the Episcopal Church from "seizing" their parish properties, even though there is no evidence that such was even a potential threat.
Last Thursday the Lawrencians asked the SC Supreme Court to prevent the Episcopal Church and continuing Diocese from appealing pretrial rulings, which they consider "primarily for the purpose of delay."
Actually, the only pretrial ruling Church lawyers have appealed is one in which the judge in the case refused them access to what are estimated to be 1,200 emails between Lawrence and attorney Alan Runyan. Church lawyers argue that any communications between the two must be disclosed since they were both employed by the Episcopal Church when the communications took place and such communications are work products. that belong to the Church.
Their appeal to the state's Court of Appeals has had the effect of halting pretrial proceedings in the case. Lawrence's lawyers in the case were apparently frustrated with the trial judge in January when she refused their request to move forward with other aspects of the case until the appeal could be resolved.
Runyan served as legal counsel to the Diocese's Standing Committee when Lawrence was an active Bishop in the Episcopal Church. The Beaufort lawyer is the architect of legal theories which seem to have influenced Lawrence and his rebellious allies in four other dioceses.
Are Lawrence lawyers looking to the Chief Justice to be their ace in the hole?
Lawrence's legal team maybe especially anxious to get the case to the state's highest court because it thinks the Court maybe biased in their favor.
In 2009 the Court overturned a well-reasoned lower court ruling favorable to the Episcopal Church in a lawsuit in which All Saints, Pawleys Island challenged the extent to which the Church and Diocese of South Carolina had a legal property interest in its land and buildings.
A circuit judge found in favor of the Church, but the state Supreme Court, apparently influenced by Chief Justice Jean Toal, overturned the decision.
Lawrence and his team believe that Toal's opinion opened the way for other parishes to leave the Church with their property, but the opinion was vague on whether that was its intent. There were also many circumstances of the case that were unique and specific to that parish.
High courts in other states - like Georgia and Oregon -- have mostly rejected the logic of Toal's opinion. The same is true in most Federal courts in which the issue has been litigated.
Lawrence's legal team filed its appeal with the Supreme Court last week barely 24 hours after Toal was re-elected Chief Justice following a contentious vote in the Legislature. She plans to leave her job in 2015, which may account for their jitters about lengthy appeals in the case.
February 6, 2014
Presiding Bishop, President of House of Deputies to Speak at Pawleys May 3rd
Diocese returning to normal after chaos of the Lawrence years
PAWLEYS ISLAND - Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings will visit the Diocese of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina on May 3rd at a one-day conference sponsored by the S.C. Episcopal Forum, according to conference coordinator Warren Mersereau. Read more about the conference here.
The conference will be held at Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church.
Both Church leaders visited the Diocese last January, when Charles vonRosenberg was elected to succeed Mark Lawrence who abandoned the Church only two months earlier. Both were welcomed by cheering, standing-room-only crowds.
This will be a different visit as the Diocese has re-established itself and moved on beyond the chaos of the Lawrence episcopate. Both women have been exceptionally supportive of South Carolina Episcopalians during the past few years, and have significant personal followings here.
According to vonRosenberg, "The Presiding Bishop’s presentation, Connecting to the Wider Church, will provide an inspiring pathway for each of us to actively participate in God’s work, while President Jennings’ talk, Leadership in Challenging Times, will address practical aspects of church leadership for both clergy and lay people.”
February 6, 2014
Legal Cases Moving at Snail's Pace
The last four weeks have demonstrated that Lawrence's lawsuit set off costly chain of entanglements that will take years to resolve
Any expectation that the lawsuit filed by renegade former bishop Mark Lawrence and his allies would be resolved quickly were dashed over the past four weeks as it became apparent that the Episcopal Church and its continuing Diocese in South Carolina have the means and intention of fighting back regardless of how long it takes to prevail.
State courts. In state court, any movement on the lawsuit came to a halt in January as the Church's lawyers (the defendants) filed an appeal of a critical pretrial ruling by Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein to the state's Court of Appeals.
Goodstein denied a request that some 1200 emails between Lawrence and his controversial lawyer, Alan Runyan of Beaufort, be made available to the Church's lawyers. The Church's defense team argues that the emails were work product by Runyan when he was employed as counsel to the Diocese' Standing Committee when Lawrence was a legitimate bishop in the Episcopal Church.
The appeal effectively shut down every forward-moving aspect of the case in Goodstein's court until the Court of Appeals rules.
Federal Courts. Meanwhile the Church's lawyers appealed to the U.S. Fourth Circuit of Appeals this past week to overturn a decision by U.S. District Judge Weston Houck not to hear its case that Charles vonRosenberg, not Mark Lawrence, is the rightful bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. The Church argues that the Episcopal Church -- not the government -- has the Constitutional right under the First Amendment to name its own spiritual leaders, including diocesan bishops.
Neither appellate court has indicated when it will rule on either appeal. Read the full story.
Insurance coverage. In an important development, last month a Federal Judge in Charleston ruled that the insurance carrier for the continuing Diocese under vonRosenberg would have to cover its legal expenses since it had been sued by Lawrence. This would not have been the case if the continuing Diocese had sued Lawrence. Having access to these funds ensures that the continuing Diocese can withstand years of additional legal attacks by Lawrence and his allies.
January 21, 2014
There They Go Again! Lawrencians Still Using Discredited Propaganda
to Raise Millions for Lawyers
Renegade "Diocese of South Carolina" hoping to fatten its bank account to underwrite future legal attacks on the Church and Episcopalians in South Carolina
CHARLESTON - Last Monday readers of Letters to the Editor in Charleston’s Post & Courier were treated to yet another dose of the Alice-in-Wonderland logic behind ex-Bishop Lawrence's claim to millions of dollars in parish property and financial assets belonging to the Episcopal Church.
This time, it comes from Peter Mitchell of Georgetown. Dr. Mitchell is Lawrence’s point man for raising $2,000,000 to pay an army of lawyers to keep suing the Episcopal Church and those among his former flock who've chosen to remain Episcopalians.
Mitchell: "The Dec. 30 court ruling by Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein... is the fourth victory for the original and continuously functioning Diocese of South Carolina founded in 1785, four years before the founding of the Episcopal Church (TEC)."
SC Episcopalians: Dr. Mitchell is confusing procedural rulings with outcomes based on evidence presented at a trial. The trial in this case is not scheduled until the summer.
Pretrial rulings are seldom indicative of the outcome of a trial, unless Dr. Mitchell is suggesting that such "victories" demonstrate a bias by the judge that might affect the outcome of the trial.
Before he brings out the champagne, Dr. Mitchell should be aware that, in complicated legal cases of this nature, pretrial rulings favoring one side have an unhappy way of becoming "victories" for the opposing side should they provide grounds for successful appeals to higher courts.
In general, most appeals courts been more supportive of the interests of hierarchical denominations over those of breakaway groups. For example, after six years of legal wrangling in which it had many such "victories", Lawrence's former parish in California was just returned to the Episcopal Church by higher courts less than six months ago.
Dr. Mitchell's reference to the founding of the Episcopal Church alludes to the Lawrencians' argument that the Diocese of South Carolina has some vague right to secede from the Episcopal Church because it was an original founder of the Church and an independent, diocesan-like structure existed prior to the adoption of the Church Constitution in 1789.
John C. Calhoun made the same argument about the rights of states in the 1850s ... and it didn't make any more sense then than Dr. Mitchell's does today. It's like saying South Carolina created the United States, and consequently can walk away any time it would like.
There is no right of secession in the Church Constitution any more than there is one in U.S. Constitution. Duly elected representatives of the parishes in South Carolina signed that original Church Constitution knowing full well there was no exit clause. Subsequent diocesan conventions affirmed that understanding.
By definition, a "diocese" is an administrative unit of a larger ecclesiastical entity led by a duly consecrated bishop in the line of apostolic succession. It can also be called a "see" or "bishopric", and it is created by the ecclesiastical entity to carry on its work in a specific geographic area.
In other words, a Church creates a "diocese," not the other way around.
Historically, the concept of dioceses can be traced to the Roman Empire, when they were created by the emperor to
administer activities of local government on his behalf. However, when the
Empire imploded, Church hierarchies stepped in to fill the void, combining the functions of secular government with their traditional
King of England used a similar model in administering local government in colonial South Carolina, utilizing parishes that were part of the Diocese of London in the Church of England.
After the Revolutionary War and a formal break with the English Church, these parishes began to work with similar parishes in eight others states to create a new ecclesiastical authority in their new country. They
were not a diocese in any sense nor did they claim to be.
Since the Episcopal Church was not created until 1789 and the parishes in South Carolina did not get a bishop until 1795, it would have been impossible for the Diocese of South Carolina to have "pre-existed" the Church. It is not clear that the South Carolina parishes even began using the term "diocese" to refer to themselves until the early 1800s.
It's true that prior to 1789 when the Episcopal Church was founded, the government of newly-independent South Carolina fostered an effort to organize these parishes as administrators of local government in much the same way they had done under the British. This included collecting taxes, holding elections, and maintaining public records. In Charleston, St. Philip’s and St. Michael’s were even given the authority to levy taxes.
However, the life of the “The Protestant Episcopal Churches in the State of South Carolina” was short-lived as the U.S. Constitution evolved with a consensus that Church and State should be separate. Ironically, it was the South Carolina representatives to the U.S. Constitutional Convention who were the most ardent advocates of this idea... and they were Episcopalians.
It is also worth noting that the "Protestant Episcopal Churches in South Carolina" did not call themselves a "diocese."
Mitchell: "Yet again, efforts by TEC and TECSC to distort the truth and to harass Episcopalians loyal to the diocese that preceded the national church have been found without merit."
SC Episcopalians: It is hard to raise money when you don't have an enemy, real or imagined. There is no evidence that the Episcopal Church or the continuing Diocese has harassed anyone among the Lawrencian parishes or distorted the truth. Consequently, it is hard to understand that they were found to lack merit.
Mitchell: "How sad that TEC continues to spend millions of dollars trying to attack the legitimate diocese, the one that more than 80 percent of Episcopalians in the diocese chose to remain loyal to."
SC Episcopalians: This is a particularly oddball statement since Lawrence and parishes allied with him are the ones who've filed suit against the Episcopal Church and are costing everyone millions of dollars.
The logic of the statement becomes even more pretzel-like since Dr. Mitchell is the person leading the campaign to raise millions of dollars for Lawrence's army of lawyers to pursue lawsuits against the Church. Dr. Mitchell offers no evidence to support his claim that The
Episcopal Church is spending millions of dollars fighting the
breakaway "Diocese of South Carolina".
(Scroll down to read how the continuing Diocese is relying on its insurance carrier to defray much of the cost of its defense against Lawrence's lawsuit.)
By the way, there has never been a vote among the laypeople of the Diocese about leaving the Episcopal Church. The 80 percent number is pure fiction.
Mitchell: "Now seems to be the time to stop. Leave us to worship in the churches our forefathers built and that we have maintained. Leave us to use that wasted money we’ve had to spend on frivolous court filing so we might continue to provide free medical clinics, community assistance to the poor, Christian education for our children, and to spread the gospel through missions."
SC Episcopalians: This is the heart of the myth that Dr. Mitchell, Lawrence, and their allies are reviving to raise money. There is no evidence that anyone in the Episcopal Church is bothering him or his congregation. The Episcopal Church or its leaders have never threatened him or his parish. No one is trying to prevent him from worshipping God in any way he chooses.
The only "frivolous" lawsuit out there is the one filed by the ex-Bishop and his allies.
With respect to the social outreach activities of the Lawrence "diocese", the most extensive is his current "ministry" to the legal community. For a number of years. Lawrence has steadily cut funding for Diocesan ministry so that he can pay lawyers. (Click to read analysis of Lawrence's spending priorities.)
Dr. Mitchell appears to be from Michigan and only in the past few years has he retired to Georgetown. In fact, it seems he moved there about the time Mark Lawrence moved here from California.
His forefathers did not build the parish to which he belongs. The forefathers at Prince George’s, Winyah were early American colonists who were Anglicans. After the Revolutionary War, they became Episcopalians and their descendants remained full and faithful communicants of the Episcopal Church for nearly two and a half centuries.
If Dr. Mitchell loves his new parish and enjoys worshiping there, he has only Episcopalians and the Episcopal Church to thank.
(The editor's late grandmother would occasionally complain about all the people from "off" who came to live in South Carolina. "They move here, and they think they own everything," she'd say. Given Lawrence's lawsuit and Dr. Mitchell's claims to the parish in Georgetown... it looks like Grandmother was actually on to something. -- SS)
January 17, 2014
Judge says Lawrence Lawyers Can't Go Forward with Depositions
Breakaway "Diocese" wanted to depose SC Episcopalians on MLK Day
ST. GEORGE - South Carolina Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein today denied a request by lawyers for Mark Lawrence's breakaway "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc (PECDSC Inc.)" to move forward with a plan to quickly depose leaders and clergy of the continuing Episcopal Diocese, and critics of the former Bishop.
ST. GEORGE -- In a stunning and unexpected move in court today, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina ("The continuing Diocese") formally accused ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence and three of his top lieutenants of engaging in a widespread, illegal conspiracy to defraud the Church of its financial assets and property.
Earlier in the week, attorneys for the continuing Diocese, known presently as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, appealed a recent pretrial ruling by Goodstein to the state's Court of Appeals. Such an appeal effectively shuts down all proceedings in a case until the higher court rules.
However, the PECDSC Inc's legal team, led by Beaufort Attorney Alan Runyan, petitioned the judge this morning to allow them to proceed with an aggressive schedule of depositions, even though other proceedings in the case had been stayed. Goodstein said no.
The depositions are part of pretrial preparations in the lawsuit brought by the ex-Bishop against the Episcopal Church and those parishes in his former Diocese who are continuing on in the Church.
Runyon's deposition list is extensive and includes the Bishop and Archdeacon of the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina, officials of its Standing Committee and Diocesan Council, and even former leaders of the Episcopal Forum, the via media organization in the Diocese.
Runyan wanted to lead off his parade of depositions with the editor of
this website on Monday morning, Martin Luther King Day. He gave him only a handful of days to prepare, but Goodstein's ruling makes that moot.
The case has stalled over a request by lawyers for the continuing Diocese to gain access to hundreds of emails between Runyan and Lawrence when Runyan was working as a lawyer for the Diocese prior to Lawrence's leaving the Church nearly 15 months ago. They argue that, during that time, Lawrence was a bishop in the Episcopal Church and Runyan was legal counsel to the Standing Committee, and consequently all work products and electronic communications belong to the Church.
However, Goodstein ruled that the continuing Diocese could not have access to the emails to defend itself when Lawrence's lawsuit goes to trial this summer.
There is no indication when the Court of Appeals will rule.
January 13, 2014
Lawrence Lawsuit Stalls as Episcopal Church Appeals Goodstein's Ruling
on Runyan Emails
Appeal to SC Court of Appeals automatically stops all proceedings in the case ... for now
Hundreds of emails between former Bishop Mark Lawrence and Beaufort attorney Alan Runyan are proving to be a critical piece of a conspiracy puzzle lawyers for the Episcopal Church are constructing in response to a lawsuit filed against the Church last January by Lawrence and his supporters.
Runyan, Lawrence's chief legal strategist and architect of his attempt to leave the Episcopal Church with all its financial resources and property, served as legal counsel to the Diocese prior to Lawrence's quitting the Church. The Church is arguing that the emails are the result Runyan's work for the Church and that it is therefore entitled to have them.
Last week Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein ruled that the Church cannot have access to them, but today Church attorneys announced that they are appealing the ruling the South Carolina Court of Appeals.
The appeal automatically stays proceedings in the case. Read the full story here
January 6, 2014
Federal Judge Rules Church Insurance Company Must Cover Legal Expenses
of the Episcopal Church in Lawrence Lawsuit
CHARLESTON - The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina won a small but important victory today when a Federal judge in Charleston ruled that the Church Insurance Company of Vermont is obligated to help pay their legal fees in a lawsuit brought against them by ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence and his “Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina Incorporated (PECDSC Inc.)”.
The insurer had questioned its obligation to pay legal fees, since the PECDSC Inc. is laying claim to being the legal Diocese of South Carolina. The ruling was issued by U.S. District Judge Michael Duffy.
The insurance policy was apparently purchased pre-schism when Lawrence was the legitimate Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina.
December 30, 2013 (rev. 1/1)
Goodstein Denies Motion to Add Individual "Conspirators" to Lawsuit
Affidavit: Bishop's Search Committee leaders tried to recruit me to take the Diocese of South Carolina and its property out of the Episcopal Church
Fuener: Witness' account "seriously in error, if not worse"
ST. GEORGE -- Dorchester County Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein ruled today that she would not grant a motion by Episcopal Church lawyers to add individual allegations of conspiracy to its defense in ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence's lawsuit laying claim to millions of dollars in Church assets and property.
Goodstein seemed to feel that the conspiracy issues raised by the Church's motion (described in the story below this one) are already part of the substance of the lawsuit. Read the full story here. Goodstein also turned down two other motions by the Church asking that she revisit earlier pre-trial rulings.
At today's hearing, Church lawyers argued that a conspiracy to defraud the Church of its rightful property and financial assets was well underway in 2005 when the Diocese was looking for a successor to retiring Bishop Edward Salmon. Much of the development of that conspiracy, they argue, had to do with bad acts by Lawrence and three confederates.
Today's hearing focused on an affidavit by a retired clergyman who said he'd been approached in 2005 by Greg Kronz, Chairman of the Search Committee, and Paul Fuener, a member of the committee, about becoming a candidate for bishop in the Diocese of South Carolina.
Both Kronz and Fuener are former priests in the Episcopal Church and have been instrumental in orchestrating the current attempt by pro-Lawrence parishes to breakaway from the Church with its assets and property.
According to the Rev. Thomas Rickenbaker, the two asked him directly if, as bishop, he would "help us leave The Episcopal Church and take our property with us." Rickenbaker said in his affidavit that he was subsequently dropped from consideration after refusing to go along with the scheme.
Fuener subsequently told the Post & Courier that "I am confident that his [Rickenbaker's] recollection of our interview is seriously in error, if not worse."
During the subsequent election process that resulted in Lawrence becoming bishop in 2008, traditional parishes and their leaders were repeatedly frustrated by Lawrence allies, who appeared to have rigged the search process in favor of candidates who shared their secessionist views. Dozens of well-qualified candidates, loyal to the Church, appeared to have been rejected by the search committee.
The search process eventually yielded three nominees, all of whom vowed to take the Diocese out of the Episcopal Church. A handwritten note on Mark Lawrence's candidate questionnaire suggests that someone in the search process - possibly Kronz - appeared to have been coaching him on his responses to the search committee.
Church lawyers maintain that individual actions by Lawrence, Fuener, former Standing Committee President Jeffrey Miller, and Lawrence deputy Jim Lewis, amounted to a conspiracy to defraud the Church.
Goodstein's ruling does not appear to bar Church attorneys from introducing evidence of a conspiracy when the lawsuit goes to trial next July. Tom Tisdale, lead attorney and Chancellor to the Diocese of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, has promised as much.
November 25, 2013
Continuing Diocese: Evidence shows Lawrence and three cohorts repeatedly broke the law in conspiracy to defraud the Episcopal Church
Multiple causes of action against Lawrence, his top lieutenant, and two Standing Committee chairmen allege breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and civil conspiracy
New documents may be shedding light on secretive Lawrence episcopate
Attorneys for the continuing Diocese told SC Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein that the plot was likely underway before Lawrence’s 2008 consecration and even as he was telling bishops and standing committees that he intended to remain in the Church and loyal to his ordination vow to conform to the “doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.”
The allegations were contained in a motion today by the continuing
Diocese, asking that the four men be added individually as parties in
the lawsuit brought by Lawrence, his allies, and 34 parishes last
January. In that lawsuit they claim they are entitled to the financial
assets and property of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, even
though they say they are no longer Episcopalians.
The allegations include 18 causes of action against Lawrence, former Canon to the Ordinary Jim Lewis, and Paul Feuner and Jeffrey Miller, former chairmen of the Diocesan Standing Committee under Lawrence and signers of quitclaim deeds that purported to relinquish the Church’s property interest in millions of dollars in parish properties. See the entire filing
the allegations against various combinations of the four include breach of fiduciary duty,
fraud, conversion, trademark infringement and civil conspiracy. The
lead attorney for the continuing Diocese and its bishop, Charles
vonRosenberg, is a former Chancellor of the Diocese of South Carolina.
It is important to remember that these allegations are as yet unproven. Attorneys for the Episcopal Church in South Carolina will need to do that when they go to trial. As yet, Goodstein has not ruled on whether they can even be considered during the trial of Lawrence's lawsuit.
Fear of allegations may have prompted frantic $2 million fundraising effort.
The new allegations were likely generated by documents requested by the continuing Diocese as part of its defense in the lawsuit. The documents included minutes of Standing Committee meetings which were not available to communicants of the breakaway Lawrence "diocese." (The documents have only been available to the lawyers for the continuing Diocese and not available for public viewing. SC Episcopalians has not seen them.)
As part of a pretrial process known as "discovery", Goodstein ordered that the documents be handed over to the lawyers for the continuing Diocese last summer, about the time that Lawrence and his team began a new round of pressuring parishes for more funds.
If the allegations against them are proven, the four men could be held personally liable for any civil or criminal activity in which they engaged as leaders in the Diocese.
Earlier this month, they and their supporters launched yet another fundraising effort aimed at securing $2 million for an ill-defined "Legal Defense Fund." The name of the Fund was peculiar since the breakaway "diocese" was suing the Episcopal Church and not defending itself from anything.
The legal team supporting Lawrence and the other plaintiffs includes 40 lawyers. The legal team defending the continuing Diocese is currently comprised of two lawyers.
Parishes jeopardized their properties and buildings by joining the lawsuit.
SC Episcopalians has long maintained that the 34 pro-Lawrence parishes that joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs with Lawrence were duped into believing that they were about to lose their parishes properties. In fact, none of the parishes was ever in such danger until they joined the lawsuit, an action that now puts the future of their properties in the hands of judges.
Today's motion by the continuing Diocese makes no mention of wrongdoing by the 34 parishes, only further demonstrating that their role in the lawsuit is to create a distraction from alleged misconduct by Lawrence and his lieutenants.
More detailed summary of this story is available on the website of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.
November 18, 2013
Show Me da'Money: Lawrence Launches $2 Million Fundraising Blitz
to Sue Imagined Foes
Ex-Bishop likens defendants in his lawsuit to the 'Devil' and 'Spiritual Forces of Evil'
Faltering support for his legal adventures prompts need for more cash in the bank
Who will dole out the money? Who will get the money? What’s happened to the money already raised? Why $2 million?
Even the most naïve of Mark Lawrence’s followers are finally beginning to comprehend the full costs and consequences of leadership that lives in an alternate universe.
Last week they got another bizarre fundraising missive from the deposed Bishop and his “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc.” -- pressing for more money for lawyers in their shadowbox “war” against the Episcopal Church and local Episcopalians who refuse to abandon the Church with them.
This past summer they were asking for $1 million. Now, only a few months later, they want $2 million.
All of that is on top of another nearly $1 million of Diocesan funds Lawrence spent on lawyers during his five years as the legitimate Bishop of South Carolina... even though the Diocese was not facing any significant legal problems.
There is no available public documentation of who received any of these funds.
The $2 million Lawrence wants now is for a “Legal Defense Fund”, whose sole purpose is to underwrite lawsuits against Lawrence’s imagined foes in the Church. It has nothing to do with defending anything. It's about suing other Christians, and it certainly has nothing to do with serving God.
Dressed up as a special edition of the Jubilate Deo, last week's passing-of-the-hat is solely for legal bills over the next 24 months. The PECDSC Inc. is not being sued, but Lawrence claims he needs the money anyway because the PECDSC Inc. is "under attack from the Episcopal Church."
According to its account of the first meeting of the fundraising committee of the PECDSC Inc., "He (Lawrence) urged the group to acknowledge that our legal suit is a tempestuous battle against “the spiritual forces of evil” and advised the members to “put on the full armor of God” trusting in His righteousness and believing in His justice and judgment.
Last January Lawrence’s lawyers convinced him to file a lawsuit, apparently in part to embarrass his perceived archnemesis, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and prevent his successor, the newly elected Bishop of South Carolina, from ministering to those who did not join him in abandoning the Church.
Lawrence and his lieutenants say that Jesus would be okay with this. On the other hand, they have said repeatedly that the lawsuit makes them "sad."
In that lawsuit Lawrence asks the courts to allow him to take the Diocese out of the Episcopal Church along with millions of dollars in accumulated property and financial assets given for the work of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Most likely, this would make he and his colleagues less "sad."
Lawrence -- whose rhetoric is often a peculiar mix of narcissism, paranoia, and military bluster -- claimed in last week’s fundraising foray that his lawsuit is all about getting the jump on ill-defined legal actions yet to be initiated by the “spiritual forces of evil”.
No kidding. He did say that.
Then, in what has to be one of the most disgusting perversions of the Gospel in South Carolina since Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Lawrence actually equated raising money for his high-priced lawyers with “putting on the full armor of God".
Now that really is "sad."
Lawrence v. Satan: Extreme rhetoric is all PECDSC Inc. has left, as the continuing Episcopal Diocese moves ahead in spite of Lawrence's continued legal attacks.
Among these dark "spiritual forces" appear to be 22 parishes and missions that elected Lawrence Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina and actually supported his ministry for five years. They chose to remain loyal to the Episcopal Church and thus, in the world according to the Lawrencians, “evil”.
The PECDSC Inc, of course, is not happy that eight new Episcopal parishes-in-formation have sprung up to replace those that are trying to leave to join Lawrence. The established parishes remaining loyal to the Church have experienced as much as 20-30% growth in their congregations. Not so "evil."
Also among Lawrence's perceived enemies is the Episcopal Church itself, whose "unbiblical" House of Bishops and diocesan standing committees consented to his election as Bishop of South Carolina in 2007.
And, of course, there’s the truly wicked Presiding Bishop who, according to former Bishop Edward Salmon, “bent over backwards” to help Lawrence gain necessary consents in his controversial election to become Bishop of South Carolina. Pure "evil," for sure. She probably even wears her "armor" 24/7.
Parishes were duped.
Over the long haul, it’s the 34 incredibly naive parishes that were stampeded into joining Lawrence’s lawsuit that stand to lose the most. By stupidly signing on as plaintiffs last winter, they needlessly put the ownership of their parish properties in play in the courts.
If they had done nothing, they could have continued on with the work of Jesus Christ just as they believe they’ve been called to do. If Lawrence prevailed in court, they then could have simply left the Church at no charge.
Many of these parishes since have lost loyal members and had to cut back on their ministries. In addition to underwriting Lawrence’s quixotic legal adventures, they could also be on the hook for legal fees incurred by the Episcopal Church in defending itself against their frivolous lawsuit.
Lawrence knows the course he has chosen will take much longer than two years, which means his followers need to keep their wallets open. Prior to becoming Bishop of South Carolina, he was rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bakersfield, California ... which only this summer began to recover from nearly six years of legal proceedings in which parishioners tried to leave the Episcopal Church with the parish property.
Fortunately, the California courts refused to sanction greed and larceny disguised as the Gospel, and affirmed that the parish property belonged to the Episcopal Church. The congregation at St. Paul’s will be remembered as only one of many victims of Lawrence’s strange and destructive brand of churchmanship.
Support for legal adventures wanes.
The ongoing challenge facing Lawrence and the PECDSC Inc. is to convince people with deep pockets that his legal attacks against the Church are more than arrogant gestures of an egotistical ex-Bishop with authority issues.
This summer's fundraising got lots of pushback from the parishes and raised concerns about the willingness of laypeople to provide endless financial resources for a lawsuit that will probably go down the tubes once it hits the Federal Courts. The tone of the latest appeal for money is markedly more shrill and less substantive than in previous times.
The leadership of the PECDSC Inc. is largely comprised of angry, old white men who are used to running their own show. They seem unconcerned that there has been no public accounting of how money they raised this summer was spent. They appear to have made no commitment to publicly disclosing precisely where and how the next $2 million will be spent.
At this point it seems that the PECDSC Inc. is trying to raise far more money than it needs, so that it will be able to continue its lawsuits even when most of its parishes and followers have no interest in seeing it continue.
As evidenced by last week's faux-Jubilate Deo, there is also no apparent logic for how the $2 million figure was arrived at -- as opposed to $1 million or $3 million. No one has given any reason why the PECDSC Inc. feels it needs this amount of money or why it feels it will be adequate for 24 months.
And, why 24 months? The PECDSC Inc. knows that this case will go on for years until it gets to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sad. Sad. Sad.
November 3, 2013
Lawrence "Diocese" Stokes Imaginary Fears to Raise Funds for Quixotic Lawsuit
St. Michael's is asked for $150,000 for lawyers in addition to $50,000 it just kicked in
Former Bishop Lawrence's chief legal strategist told communicants of St. Michael's in Charleston that they need to come up with another $150,000 to help with the legal fees the Lawrence "diocese" is racking up in its quixotic lawsuit against the Episcopal Church.
The parish has already coughed up $50,000 this year to help pay a phalanx of lawyers who have latched onto a major cash cow that shows no signs of going away.
SC Episcopalians believes that the Lawrence "Diocese" is pressuring parishes aligned with him to pony up as much as $2 million dollars to cover anticipated legal bills over the next two years.
In his remarks at St. Michael's on Sunday, Beaufort attorney Alan Runyon suggested that the Episcopal Church will evict the congregation from its historic building if he and about two dozen other lawyers are not successful in their current lawsuit against the Episcopal Church. In that lawsuit, Lawrence and 34 parishes of the Diocese claim that they are no longer part of the Episcopal Church but believe they are entitled to walk away with millions of dollars in parish properties and financial assets belonging to the Church.
There is absolutely no evidence that anyone wants to toss the thriving congregation at St. Michael's out of its buildings. This is purely the invention of lawyers and the manipulative leadership of the "diocese."
Unfortunately, the parish has made no attempt to have any conversation with SC Bishop Charles vonRosenberg to explore ways that their concerns with the Church can be resolved without going to court or without paying outrageous legal fees. The Presiding Bishop, whom they view as their sworn enemy, has twice visited the Diocese and on neither occasion did anyone from St. Michael's ask to meet with her.
VonRosenberg has said repeatedly that his goal is reconciliation with the pro-Lawrence parishes, but clergy in those parishes -- and now their lawyers -- have prevented that. In August vonRosenberg chose not to formally depose those clergy who have followed Lawrence, but rather "released" them from their ministry in the Episcopal Church. In doing so, he allowed these clergy to avoid the stigma that accompanies deposition, and left open the possibility that they could return if they so chose.
In the view of SC Episcopalians, parishes like St. Michael's were hood-winked into joining the lawsuit last January before vonRosenberg was elected. Such a move prevented them from working with vonRosenberg to figure out how they could amicably resolve their concerns before turning everything over to lawyers.
October 12, 2013
Finances of Breakaway "Diocese" Troubled even before Attempted Split
Declining income, legal fees, and uncontrolled costs overwhelmed PECDSC Inc. in 2012
During the five-year episcopate of Mark Lawrence, members of his inner circle carefully studied the failed legal strategies of four dioceses, whose renegade leadership had attempted to take down the Episcopal Church only a few years earlier.
They were determined not make the same mistakes when South Carolina's opportunity came.
However, they were far less studious in planning for the nuts-and-bolts of operating a fairly awkward corporate entity in rebellion against its parent company, especially if it takes years to resolve.
According to an independent audit of 2012 financials, the breakaway “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc. (PECDSC Inc.)” seemed to be on very thin ice, even before it took steps to leave the Episcopal Church.
July 27, 2013
Commentary: Bishop Nazir-Ali Gets It All Wrong
by Lionel Deimel
(Note: Mr. Deimel is a Pittsburgh-based blogger who carefully documented the efforts of an ultra-conservative conspiracy to destroy the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Bishop Nazir-Ali has been a quiet but active supporter of a similar effort in South Carolina, as a member of ex-bishop Lawrence 's inner circle.)
I generally find retired Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali quite irritating. The same can be said about David Virtue’s Web site VirtueOnline (“The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism”).
A story about Nazir-Ali on VirtueOnline, therefore, was sure to be a perfect storm of militant traditionalist drivel. And that is exactly what “Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali sees hope for the Anglican Communion: GAFCON II is the saving grace of a conflicted communion” turns out to be. It is the product of an interview of the bishop by VirtueOnline contributor (and Nazir-Ali fan) Mary Ann Mueller.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to offer a general review of the VirtueOnline piece. Suffice it to say that Nazir-Ali “is convinced that GAFCON is the way forward in Anglicanism.” For some, perhaps, but my guess is that the Communion as a whole—and certainly The Episcopal Church— is not going there.
What prompted me to comment on the VirtueOnline feature at all (and to stop reading well before the end) was this passage:
“I think it is absolutely scandalous,” he said with measured words, "that people like +Mark Lawrence—who is one of the finest bishops that I have even known and who upholds Catholic truth and Christian teaching and the Gospel in everything that he does—should be deposed for doing so, and not for any other reason.
“I mean, this is a topsy-turvy world that we are looking at,” he continued, “where people are being deposed for being Biblical, for being creedal, for being Catholic by others who, if you read what they write or say, clearly seem to be heretical in their exegesis of the Bible, their doctrine of the Church, and in what they believe about the Person and work of Jesus Christ and so on.”
The Church of England bishop said that he and others had no problem whatsoever in recognizing and continuing to support Bishop Lawrence, Bishop Jack Iker, and Archbishop Robert Duncan and their clergy who have been dismissed by The Episcopal Church for their traditional and orthodox Anglican faith...
Click here to continue reading Mr. Deimel's entire posting
July 14, 2013
More than Half of Diocesan Clergy Giving Up Priesthood in the Church to Follow Lawrence (revised)
According to Church canons, 103 "restricted" priests and deacons could be deposed by the end of next month; 88 continuing on
Nearly 54% of Diocesan clergy have indicated to S.C. Bishop Charles vonRosenberg that they no longer consider themselves priests and deacons in the Episcopal Church. In accordance with Church canons, he and the Standing Committee have initiated procedures that could make that a reality by the end of the summer.
At its June 21st meeting, the Standing Committee voted unanimously to authorize vonRosenberg to impose a 60-day "restriction" on the ministries of those clergy, who've indicated to him that they have abandoned their ordination vows. See the list of "restricted" clergy.
Last week these 103 clergy began receiving letters from the bishop informing them of their change status with the Church. After the restriction period, vonRosenberg will likely move to offically depose them and clergy in the Church, possibility as soon as the last week in August.
Restricted versus deposed. "Restricted" means that clergy are still recognized as priests and deacons in the Episcopal Church, but are limited in what they can do by the terms of their restriction. In the case of these in this diocese, it means they are no longer allowed to perform any sacramental functions, including adminstration of the sacraments. This can be lifted by the bishop at any point if the clergy persons express regret and agree to stop doing whatever it was that got them in trouble in the first place.
"Deposed" means that the ordination of a priest is no longer recognized by the Episcopal Church. Sixty days after a restriction is imposed, affected clergy can be deposed. Notices of deposition are sent to every bishop and standing committee in The Episcopal Church and they are not allowed act in a sacramental way in an Episcopal service. This applies throughout the Anglican Communion.
Deposed clergy continuing to behave as priests and deacons do so under self-imagined authority, and are in open violation of their oath of loyalty to the Church. Apparently few among the 103 in this Diocese have paid any heed to their changed status, or bothered to explain it to their congregations.
Restricted clergy rejected Bishop's pleas to stay on. VonRosenberg was elected provisional bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina in January after ex-bishop Mark Lawrence abandoned his ministry in the Church. Since that time, vonRosenberg has made repeated personal efforts to persuade clergy not to abandon their vows, but finally gave them a deadline of June 14th to tell him of their intentions.
According to the Standing Committee, there are 77 priests and eleven deacons in good standing in the continuing Diocese under vonRosenberg.
Lawrence claims that two-thirds of the parishes and missions in the Diocese have aligned themselves with Lawrence, largely over issues of homosexuality, women in authority, and Biblical literalism.
July 3, 2013
VonRosenberg, Standing Committee Release Names of Clergy in Good Standing
More than 100 followers of Mark Lawrence, who've chosen to leave the Church, likely to be deposed by summer's end
CHARLESTON - S.C. Bishop Charles vonRosenberg today released the names of of canonically resident in good standing in the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The list of 76 clergy and eleven deacons was approved by the Standing Committee Friday and forwarded on to the headquarters of the Church.
The number of clergy choosing to stay with the Episcopal Church appears to be significantly higher than those in the other four dioceses with breakaway leadership in the past. See the entire list
Other than the length of the list, the biggest surprise was the wide cross-section of clergy choosing to remain in the Church. Those included Robert Munday, the former dean of the conservative Nashotah House seminary, and Ladson “Punchy” Mills, a frequent critic of the Episcopal Church and occasional commentator with the archconservative blog, Virtue Online.
VonRosenberg, who was elected bishop in January after Mark Lawrence abandoned the Diocese, spent months working to convince Diocesan clergy not to abandon their ordination vows. He was reported to have agonized over the loss of so many talented priests who now face significantly diminished job prospects, reduced income, and uncertain retirement.
SC Episcopalians estimates that more than 100 priests rejected vonRosenberg’s pleas and decided to stay on with Lawrence and his “diocese.”
With the encouragement of Lawrence loyalists, many clergy refused to meet with vonRosenberg and a number did not even open letters he sent imploring them not to abandon their vows. Canon law now requires that their ministries in the Episcopal Church be “restricted” for at least sixty days, before they are formally deposed.
June 24, 2013
Lawrence Concedes "Diocese" in a Twilight Zone
His "Diocese of South Carolina" is neither Episcopal nor Anglican
NASHOTAH, WISCONSIN -- In a fuzzy message to his followers Friday, ex-bishop Mark Lawrence appeared to concede that the erstwhile “diocese” he claims to lead is operating without the authority of any legitimate religious entity, including the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion.
"We are presently an “extra-provincial” diocese, not in any formal or officially ecclesial way, but as a fact rooted in our relationship with provinces and dioceses within the Anglican Communion. So we are a diocese without provincial affiliation—we are so provisionally but not, I believe, precariously," he said in a statement, widely circulated to supportive rightwing bloggers.
In other words: We’re on our own. Click here for full statement ...
While Lawrence abandoned his ministry in the Episcopal Church last fall, the wily ex-bishop claims he is still the head of a corporation created by the Diocese of South Carolina, known as the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc. (PECDSC Inc.)” In such capacity, he says he controls millions of dollars in parish properties and financial assets of the Diocese that no longer belong to the Episcopal Church.
Friday's statement is a significant change for Lawrence, who has consistently assured supporters that the PECDSC Inc. remains “Episcopal,” “Anglican”, and in a recognized line of apostolic succession. By implication, Lawrence is also admitting that that ecclesiastical titles, positions, and statements of identity used by the PECDSC Inc. are self-imagined and without external authority or recognition.
Lawrence issued his statement in Wisconsin, where he was meeting with leaders of the “Anglican Church in North America” (ACNA) -- dissidents who’ve left the Episcopal Church largely over the inclusion of gays and lesbians, women with authority over men, and Biblical literalism. ACNA is not recognized as part of the Anglican Communion either.
Ex-bishop's rhetoric is manipulative and confusing. Lawrence’s statement relies on a familiar pattern of seizing on familiar sounding words and phrases, then reinventing their meanings for his own purposes. In this instance, it’s the word extra-provincial.
As a general rule, the Anglican Communion has 38 self-governing member churches known as “provinces”. To be part of the Communion a diocese, parish, clergyperson, or a lay person must belong to one of those provinces.
In North America, there are two provinces, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church.
However, there are a handful of “extra-provincial” churches that are, for a number of reasons, unaffiliated with a province, and under the direct authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Lawrence appears to be saying that even though his “diocese” is not under the authority of the Archbishop, it’s still an extra-provincial member of the Communion because some of the right-wing elements in the Communion say so.
Larwrence and his clergy followers assured most of the parishes that are now suing the Episcopal Church that affiliation with the PECDSC Inc. would not take them out of the Church or the Communion.
June 23, 2013
Episcopal Church Bishops Arriving in Charleston for Provincial Meeting to Celebrate, Encourage New Ministry
Church leaders will also hear stories of struggle and renewal from those abandoned and attacked by their Lawrencian clergy
CHARLESTON - Six months after their bishop abandoned his ministry and launched a legal attack against them, loyal Episcopalians in South Carolina are celebrating a remarkable rebirth with a gathering of nearly 30 bishops in Charleston this week.
Bishops from the southeastern dioceses of the Episcopal Church will convene Wednesday and Thursday at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston to learn more about how the continuing Diocese has so quickly begun to get back on its feet.
Among the highlights of the meeting will be reports on the emergence of seven robust “worship communities,” now with average Sunday attendance ranging from 40 to 160. Each was formed in a part of the Diocese where traditional Episcopalians were made unwelcome in their parishes. All of the worship communities are expected to seek mission status in the Episcopal Church and eventually become parishes within the next few years.
Meanwhile, episcopal congregations in the greater Charleston area are reporting that average Sunday attendance is up by 30%. Grace, the largest of the continuing parishes, has reported a nearly 20% increase in revenues over the previous year, and has made signifciant advances in paying off reconstruction loans.
However, South Carolina Bishop Charles vonRosenberg continues to be concerned about the damage that has been done to smaller congregations, especially those in more rural areas. VonRosenberg will likely ask his fellow bishops this week for guidance and support in assisting them in recovering from Lawrence's disastrous episcopate.
Nearly one-third of diocesan clergy, and half of its parishes appear to have signed on with Lawrence.
VonRosenberg has invited all lay and clergy members of the Diocese to join the celebration Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. for a special Choral Eucharist at Grace at 75 Wentworth Street.
June 21, 2013
Mark Lawrence Visits ACNA Dissidents, Confers with its Bishops Today
NASHOTAH, WISCONSIN - This week ex-bishop Mark Lawrence joined leaders of the self-styled “Anglican Church of North America” in Wisconsin as an official observer at a meeting of their "provincial council". At the invitation of ACNA leader Robert Duncan, Lawrence has stayed on to meet with the group’s bishops today.
After it became clear a few months ago that Lawrence's "Diocese of South Carolina" was not destined to be recognized by the Anglican Communion, he announced he planned to shop around for other opportunities for affiliation for himself and his followers. That appears to have been what he was doing in Wisconsin.
ACNA is the largest group of Anglican poseurs in North America.
Duncan and Lawrence are close allies. Both have been deposed as bishops in the Episcopal Church. Lawrence claims that he is still an Episcopal bishop in an Episcopal diocese that has simply "disassociated" from the Episcopal Church. His actions have tied parishes in the Diocese in knots, and plunged them into costly legal entanglements in an effort to wrestle millions of dollars in assets from the Episcopal Church.
Neither ACNA nor Lawrence's secessionist “diocese” have any status with the Archbishop of Canterbury and are generally regarded as “schismatic” among leaders of the Communion. Both groups appear to be united around their opposition to gays and lesbians in the Church, women in positions of spiritual leadership, and modern Biblical scholarship.
For nearly a decade dissident Episcopal clergy, and more lately Lawrence, have attempted to alienate the Diocese of South Carolina from the Episcopal Church and realign it with some other entity within the Communion.
Nearly two years ago there was intense speculation among Lawrence supporters that he would leave the Episcopal Church and set up shop as ACNA’s bishop in South Carolina. However, some within ACNA’s leadership were rumored to be skeptical of his charismatic, but erratic, style and engineered a pre-emptive move to thwart his advancement by naming the youthful rector of St. Andrew’s, Mount Pleasant as their bishop for the Carolinas.
June 17, 2013
Pro-Lawrence Clergy Could be Deposed in August
Standing Committee meets this month to consider "restrictions" on priests who've abandoned their ordination vows; Deposition could follow after sixty days
CHARLESTON -- The careers of scores of clergy will come to an end this summer, as the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina moves forward with plans to finalize its roster of clergy in good standing.
SC Bishop Charles vonRosenberg has spent the last two months trying to determine who will be on that list by contacting all canonically resident priests in the Diocese about their intentions to remain loyal to their ordination vows.
VonRosenberg asked them to respond by June 14th.
A number of these clergy have publicly declared their support for ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence and his so-called “diocese,” the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc. The PECDSC Inc. is not recognized either by the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion as legitimate. Its primary differences with the Episcopal Church are over Biblical literalism, homosexuality, and the role of women in leadership positions.
The Standing Committee is scheduled to meet with vonRosenberg later this month to approve the list, and very likely will move to “restrict” the ministries of those who've indicated to their intentions to abandon the Church, including those who failed to respond to the Bishop’s inquiries.
After sixty days, those under restriction can be deposed as priests.
SC Episcopalians has not been given access to the list but is aware that there will be “quite a few surprises." PECDSC Inc. officials have advised their clergy not to respond to vonRosenberg’s inquiries, but not told them that their silence will result in their no longer being priests.
PECDSC Inc. officials have been purposely exaggerating how many clergy support Lawrence by including the names of those who've remained loyal to the Church on the PECDSC Inc. clergy roster. Those include the new Archdeacon of the continuing Diocese, members of its Standing Committee, and the rectors of all the loyal parishes in the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.
June 11, 2013
Mark Lawrence's Former Parish in California is Back in the Episcopal Church
Long, expensive saga of rebellion achieved nothing and squandered a once-thriving ministry; Seven breakaway parishes in Virginia are forced to relinquish claims to their property last month
BAKERSFIELD -- After years of legal entanglements, "St. Paul's Anglican Church" of Bakersfield, California will once again be known as St. Paul's Episcopal Church at the end of this month. A years-long attempt by a majority of the congregation to breakaway from the Episcopal Church with its property is finally over.
After 134 years of ministry in the Episcopal Church, including nearly 14 years under former rector Mark Lawrence, a once proud parish lies in ruin, victimized by its own embittered former bishop and his would-be secessionists. Sound familiar? The very same story is being repeated throughout the other four dioceses whose leadership tried to bolt from the Church.
Fortunately, loyal Episcopalians in Bakersfield will now have the opportunity to rebuild, as they reclaim their campus and inaugurate a new beginning. read full story
Just last month, seven parishes in the Diocese of Virginia, that similarly tried to leave the Church with their property in 2006, surrendered after a similar court ruling. read full story
June 10, 2013
Federal Judge Allows Lawrence Lawsuit to Proceed in State Courts
No decision yet on vonRosenberg's suit, challenging deposed bishop's claim to be the Bishop of the "Diocese of South Carolina"
CHARLESTON - Prospects for a quick end to the legal quagmire created by ex-bishop Mark Lawrence's claim to be the rightful Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina were dashed today as U.S. District Judge Weston Houck denied a request by the continuing Diocese -- recognized by the Episcopal Church -- to have all legal proceedings in the matter "removed" to Federal courts.
In January, Lawrence's legal team convinced a state court judge that Lawrence and his "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc." were the rightful owners of the corporate seal and other official insignia of the Diocese of South Carolina. The ruling was highly controversial, particularly since representatives of neither the Episcopal Church nor the continuing Diocese under Bishop Charles vonRosenberg were notified of the hearing. Read Judge Houck's Order here
Houck's ruling means that Lawrence's lawsuit will continue to slog through the state court system, which is presumed to be more favorable to the PECDSC Inc.
VonRosenberg has countered Lawrence's lawsuit in Federal Court, asking that the Court declare him the duly elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, as recognized by the Episcopal Church. Houck has not yet ruled on vonRosenberg's lawsuit, and his ruling today did not preclude the possibility of finding in favor of vonRosenberg in that
June 6, 2013
Federal Court Ready to Decide "Removal " Question
U.S. District Judge says he may rule within a week
CHARLESTON – A Federal Judge today admitted to lawyers for the secessionist “Diocese of South Carolina” and the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina (recognized by the Church as the Diocese of South Carolina) that he has had some difficulty figuring out “who is who” in the ongoing battle over whether a diocese, created by the Episcopal Church, has the legal right to secede.
However, in a crowded courtroom that included both men claiming to be the rightful Bishop of the Diocese, U.S. District Judge Weston Houck appeared to have figured it out, as he confidently engaged attorneys for both sides over whether a lawsuit filed by deposed bishop Mark Lawrence in a state court should be “removed” to a Federal one.
Lawrence’s team feels its plan to "dis-affiliate" from the Episcopal Church with Church property and financial resources intact has a better chance if the case remains at the state level. Lawyers for the continuing Diocese believe they have a better chance in Federal Court where numerous similar cases have been decided in favor of hierarchical denominations, like the Episcopal Church.
Lawrence announced that he had left the Episcopal Church last fall, but has continued to assert that he is an Episcopal bishop of an Episcopal diocese that is not part of the Episcopal Church. Even though he was deposed as a bishop in the Church, Lawrence continues to live in the residence and work in the Diocesan House reserved for the Bishop of South Carolina.
Both Lawrence and his successor, The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, were among the 75 spectators in the audience. Lawrence arrived in the courtroom after the hearing began and left almost as soon as it was over. VonRosenberg arrived early and was among the last to leave. It was not apparent that they engaged in any conversation.
Houck gave few hints how he might rule on the question of removal, but arguments by Matthew McGill, an attorney for the continuing Diocese, seemed to resonate with the judge as McGill repeatedly focused on the Constitutional issue of whether an hierarchical Church has the right to manage its own affairs and determine its own leadership.
VonRosenberg is recognized by the Episcopal Church as its legitimate bishop in the Diocese of South Carolina.
McGill argued that the case needed to be decided on the basis of the First Amendment, and only a Federal Court had the authority to do that.
Read more about today's hearing