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August 20, 2017
Lawrence Diocese in Chaos 
Aborted attempt at spin control mirrors deeper confusion over future directions

Mark Lawrence's breakaway "Diocese of South Carolina" has been in a circle-the-wagons mode since early this month when the state's Supreme Court resoundingly rejected the premise of his nearly five-year-old lawsuit against the Episcopal Church.  Lawrence himself admitted that he was stunned when he learned that only seven of 36 parishes that joined him in the lawsuit could leave the Church with full title to their property.  

When the ruling came down, Lawrence's lawyers announced almost immediately that they would petition the five justices for a re-hearing.  However, that was clearly more of a knee-jerk response to encourage the faithful than evidence of a coherent legal strategy for moving forward.  

The lawyers had no idea how they would proceed.  They had been so confident of winning that they had not even considered potential next steps if they lost.  Even Lawrence was defensive and uncharacteristically defeatist in his response.  Some close to him say that he is worried that his actions in creating the lawsuit may have also created legal liabilities for himself.

Support for extended legal adventures appears to be waning

Support for further legal appeals among pro-Lawrence parishes is not as unanimous as it once seemed, as far as SC Episcopalians can tell.   

We know some Lawrence clergy are telling their parish leaders that they are skeptical of the various strategies being floated by Lawrencian lawyers, and feel the time will be right for settlement talks with the Church once the rehearing request is laid to rest.  They dismiss as unhelpful the harsh rhetoric of hardline Lawrence clergy who've taken to their pulpits to assure parishioners that their full repatriation in the Episcopal Church is years away because the case will be tied up in appeals.  

Morale among Lawrence supporters appears to be the lowest it has ever been, and Lawrence's leadership team is increasingly under pressure to explain why breakaway parishes were not given the opportunity to vote on a 2015 settlement offer by which the Church would have relinquished any claims it had on parish properties, and allowed them to leave the Church.

"Looks like we are worse off than before Lawrence," said one layperson in a pro-Lawrence parish in an email to SC Episcopalians.

Even if money and support is there to mush forward, an appeal in this case will be very difficult, given the legal corner into which Lawrence's attorneys have painted themselves. 

Appeals are tricky and could backfire

A successful appeal to the United States Supreme Court would require Lawrence's  lawyers to argue that the case raises significant Constitutional issues, which is exactly the opposite of what they have been saying since January 2013 when they filed their lawsuit against the Church.  They have been arguing that the lawsuit is simply a property dispute that can be adjudicated solely by state courts.

Even more discouraging is that the opinions of the two justices that did side with Lawrence are those most likely to be considered by Federal courts as outliers and in error. 

On the other hand, the majority opinion, written by former Chief Justice Costa Pleicones, is more in the legal mainstream and based on existing Federal case law.  It follow the logic of similar cases in other states that have been resolved.  He cited many settled cases that would have to be overturned for a higher court to find in Lawrence's favor.

There is also the question of what an appeal might mean for the seven Lawrence parishes in which the Supreme Court said the Church did not have an interest.  An appeal would risk an outcome that could overrule that part of the decision and deny them and any other similarly situated parishes the chance to leave the Church.

Once ridiculed Federal lawsuit could bring breakaway movement to an end

However, a rehearing or an appeal to the nation's high court is nothing in comparison to an upcoming challenge in Federal Court, which could well deal a death blow to what is left of the breakaway movement in South Carolina, and maybe even the country.  

The case is a lawsuit brought by former South Carolina Bishop Charles vonRosenberg against Lawrence, demanding that he be barred from pretending that he is a bishop in the Episcopal Church.   The case comes under the heading of false advertising, but goes to the legitimacy of Lawrence's claim that he is the leader of the "Diocese of South Carolina" even though he is not recognized as such by the Church and has said repeatedly that he is not an Episcopalian.

Lawyers for the Episcopal Church were not involved in bringing the Federal case, but now could be interested in asking the judge in the case to expand its scope to include larger issues that could even affect how breakaway lawsuits are handled in the future in other states.   

A majority on the state Supreme Court said they would have ruled that the "Diocese of South Carolina" belongs to the Episcopal Church, but left the matter to the Federal Court.

For more than four years, the late U.S. District Judge Weston Houck refused to let vonRosenberg's lawsuit (now Adams') go forward until Lawrence's lawsuit had run its course in the state courts.  Houck took the side of Lawrence's attorneys that the two cases were so similar that it would make sense for one to be decided first as it would very likely influence the outcome of the other. 

Lawrence's attorneys cheered Houck's position at the time, without realizing the potential negative consequence for Lawrence should the state case go south on them.  It was in hearings about this case that breakaway attorneys ridiculed Bishop vonRosenberg by consistently mangling the pronunciation of his name and, at one point, referring to him as "the German bishop."

Attempt to explain case points to confusion within Lawrence team

This morning someone on Lawrence's staff made an awkward attempt to put recent events into perspective for his followers by publishing - and then deleting - a "Frequently Asked Questions" page on its official website.  Most of the piece was a rehashing of five years of anti-Church propaganda.

However, it also it included admissions that seem to undermine critical arguments Lawrence's lawyers will need for their case for rehearing as well as defending Lawrence in Federal Court. 

One of the most significant of these was that the breakaways' motivation for filing the massive lawsuit against the Church was doctrinal and theological differences. 

This point may seem obscure to most of us, but it is hugely important to judges.  

If a dispute involving a Church like the Episcopal Church involves doctrine and interpretation of Scripture, the United States Constitution requires state court judges to defer to the Church's governing authority in making its ruling.  Lawrence has argued that the matter is simply a property dispute that should be decided by the state's property laws.

However, the 3-2 majority in the state's Supreme Court rejected Lawrence's claim and decided that this his beef with the Church is, in fact, a theological dispute masquerading as a property case, and that the position of the Church was relevant in determining the outcome of the case.  

In its FAQs today, under the heading of "why did we disassociate from the Episcopal Church?," the breakaway website cited its "theology, morality, and polity increasingly at odds with the rapidly changing and unprecedented positions" of the Episcopal Church.

The site went on to bitterly attack the theology of the then-Presiding Bishop and her predecessor, while providing a link to an article by Lawrence' lieutenant Jim Lewis that says, "Members of the diocese who voted to leave TEC feel the denomination has moved away from the authority of Scripture and their historic Anglican beliefs."

All of these admissions affirm the opinion of the Court majority that the case was always about doctrine and Scripture.  

The new FAQs page vanished from the breakaway website after only a few hours.


August 9, 2017
Federal Case Reassigned Again
U.S. District Judge who presided over the Dylan Roof trial will preside over Impersonation trial against Lawrence

CHARLESTON -  The lawsuit of vonRosenberg (now Adams) vs Lawrence will be tried in Charleston under the eyes of United States District Judge Richard Gergel, a highly regarded jurist with a history of taking on controversial cases.  

This case alleges that Mark Lawrence is violating the Federal Lanham Act by falsely advertising himself as an Episcopal bishop.  
The lawsuit doesn't directly involve the Church or Lawrence's followers, just Episcopal Bishop Skip Adams and former Bishop Lawrence. 

The lawsuit is a backdoor to having the Federal Court declare that Adams, who is duly recognized and elected by the Episcopal Church, is the rightful bishop and, as such, leads its Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. 

An outlier state circuit court had declared that Lawrence was the rightful leader of the Diocese in 2015.

The case had been languishing for four years in the courtroom of  Federal Judge Weston Houck, who passed away last month.   The case was first reassigned to Judge Michael Duffy, then reassigned to Judge Margaret Seymour. 

Judge Gergel's most recent high profile case was that of Dylan Roof, who murdered nine people at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church in June 2015.


The case is almost certain to return the Diocese of South Carolina and its assets and property to the Episcopal Church.  Last week a majority of justices on the state Supreme Court agreed that that the Church owned its diocese, but deferred to this case in Federal court for a final decision.



August 7, 2017
Lawrencian Leadership Wants to Slog It Out

"Standing Committee" of Lawrence organization tells legal team to press on with legal case in spite of lawsuit fatigue

In spite of losses in income, membership, and in the courts, Mark Lawrence's Standing Committee says it still trusts the legal team that has led them on an expensive and disastrous odyssey to leave the Episcopal Church.

In a statement today, the leadership of the organization authorized its legal team to ask for a rehearing on the Supreme Court's recent decision declaring that 29 of the 36 parishes that tried to leave the Episcopal Church with Lawrence in 2012 belong to the Episcopal Church.  A majority of the Court also said it believed that the Diocese of South Carolina and its millions of dollars in assets -- including Camp St. Christopher -- belong to the Church, but left that decision up to a Federal judge in a related case.

Lawyers for Lawrence, led by Beaufort Attorney Allan Runyon, believe that if they are granted a rehearing, they can exploit sharp disagreements between the justices that were evident in Court's opinion.  The five-member Court that heard the case in 2015 was comprised of the active justices at that time.  However, two of them have retired and the Republican legislature has replaced them with two conservatives. 

The Court has become increasingly politicized in recent years, and Lawrence was careful to hire law firms that are both legally and politically connected.

The news of Lawrence's decision to continue fighting has not been met with complete joy by lay people in pro-Lawrence parishes who say they are done with paying for the legal case, and want to move on.  Some of them want to know if the Church is still willing to settle with them, as it was two years ago.

In 2015, Runyon and his team rejected an offer, approved by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, to remove any claims it has on their parish property, in exchange for the parishes dropping their claims to the Diocesan corporation.  Camp St. Christopher would be governed by a Board of Directors with equal numbers from each side.


A Message from the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina

August 7, 2017

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina, having met together with our bishop, The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, in Charleston this day, sends to all of our brothers and sisters of the diocese our love and our greetings in the name of Jesus Christ. We are so profoundly thankful for all who have fasted and prayed for our diocese and our Standing Committee during the past week from across South Carolina, throughout the Anglican Church in North America, and among all the faithful in global Anglicanism.

We have spent this time together in prayer and discussion regarding the decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court last Wednesday. In light of the conflicting opinions issued by the court, we met with the legal counsel for our diocese and have approved a strategy on how we go forward seeking clarity. We want you to know this: the legal process continues. We will be filing a motion for a rehearing from the Supreme Court, the deadline for which is September 1st. We are convinced there are compelling reasons to make this motion. There will be other avenues along with and following that action.

Finally, while we cannot tell you what tomorrow brings, we want to reiterate three things that you already know. First, again, the legal process continues. Second, we are stronger together. Third, we will continue in all circumstances our God-given mandate of making biblical Anglicans for a global age.

Know that we love you, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and that we remain,

Yours in Christ Jesus,  The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina

________________________________
...

 SC Supreme Court 
August 5, 2017

Bishop Lawrence Responds to State Supreme Court Ruling

He is reviewing options with his legal team this week to determine next steps

Click here to read his comments in full

___________________________________________

August 5, 2017
Where Do We Stand Now?
An excellent summary of the legal status of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and the breakaway "Diocese of South Carolina"

Click here to visit Dr. Ron Caldwell's excellent blog

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 Federal Case 
August 4, 2017  
Federal Impersonation Case Reassigned
U.S. District Judge Margaret Seymour will hear Federal "False Advertising" Case instead of Judge Michael Duffy

____________________________

August 4, 2017

Righteous

I can go for days without thinking about righteousness. 

I know it is a good thing but, seriously, would you want to be married to someone who lists his or her best trait as "righteous," or go to a Super Bowl party to which only righteous people were invited?  Not really.

A few months ago, the Dean of St. Philip’s Cathedral in Atlanta preached a sermon that inspired many in the congregation to rethink our ambivalence toward righteousness.  He challenged us to re-imagine its traditional Biblical context, and think of it as meaning in a right relationship with God and our neighbors.

That was on my mind this week in the wake of the state Supreme Court ruling.  Many Episcopalians and former Episcopalians are taking stock of what their side has gained and lost.  Most of us know all too well what we’ve lost.  We are still struggling to understand what we have gained.  

Most of us are still handicapped by our us-versus-them mindset.

Lawyers are in overdrive combing the 77-page opinion for any speck of opportunity to advance the cause of their clients in appeals or even new litigation.  Lay people are needlessly fretting about the future of their church home or concerned that their children will be denied access to Camp St. Christopher.  


Most regrettable is that once close friends and families have been torn apart by the traumatic events of the past 15 years.  We have put so much energy into accusing each other of un-Christian and un-Biblical behavior, that we have had little left over to feed the hungry, care for the sick, comfort the oppressed… or care for each other.

“Lawsuit fatigue” is what a friend in one of the breakaway parishes calls it.

My suggestion is that all of us make it our mission – our priority, in fact -- to figure out what it will take to get us into right relationships with each other again.  We can’t go back in time, so we might actually have to take some risks and create something new and untested.

Righteousness is understood in parts of the Bible as a state of moral perfection essential for admission into the Kingdom of Heaven.

However, we cannot make ourselves righteous, nor can the courts, nor can a lifetime of good deeds and kind words in a good church. 

Righteousness comes from God and God alone.  It's a gift.


Perhaps then, our calling in this present time is to create those right relationships with each other that in some time of his own choosing, God’s transforming spirit will enter our hearts anew … and make us whole.

______________________

  SC Supreme Court  

August 2, 2017

Breakaways' Lawsuit Implodes

State's Supreme Court issues mixed opinion in Lawrence lawsuit, as lower court decision is mostly shredded 


Seven parishes can leave TEC, while 29 others must remain; St. Christopher to stay with the Church

Lower court's premise that Episcopal Church is not "hierarchical"  is rejected

Federal false advertising case will determine ownership of the "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" but a majority of the justices believe it belongs to the Church


COLUMBIA -- The Episcopal Church and its continuing Diocese in eastern South Carolina won a stunning victory today, as the state's Supreme Court ruled on a 2013 lawsuit filed by former bishop Mark Lawrence and parishes aligned with him. 

In a vigorously engaged opinion, the Court narrowly overturned a 2015 lower court ruling that gave followers of ex-bishop Mark Lawrence control of parish properties and diocesan assets worth an estimated $500 million.   The lower court judge also gave them the corporate entity known as "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" and its Camp St. Christopher on Seabrook Island south of Charleston.

Today the Court determined that 29 of the 36 parishes that had joined Lawrence in his lawsuit were still part of the Episcopal Church, and not free to "disassociate" from the Church because the Church had a property interest in them.  Camp St. Christopher also would go to the Church as it was originally given for the work of the Episcopal Church.

The Court determined that there was no property interest evident with seven of the parishes aligned with Lawrence and they were free to leave the Church with their properties. 
Those parishes are St. John's in Florence, St. Paul's in Conway, St. Matthew's in Darlington, Prince George's in Georgetown, Christ the King in Pawleys Island, St. Matthias in Summerton, and St. Andrew's (and St. Andrew's Land Trust) in Mount Pleasant. 

The justices also said they would leave the decision of corporate ownership up to a Federal judge who is handling a related case in Charleston.

Justices bitterly divide over key issues in the case

The 77-page opinion came after nearly two years of wrangling among the five justices, each of whom wrote a separate opinion in which he or she variously concurred and dissented with each other on key elements of the ruling. 

The All Saints' case, a related ruling by the Court in 2009, enjoyed a cameo appearance in the Court's opinion today with former Chief Justice Jean Toal staunchly defending one of her signature opinions from denigration by long-time rival and successor, former Chief Justice Costa Pleicones.  

At one point, Pleicones needled Toal by blaming her majority opinion in All Saints' for causing the lower court judge in the Lawrence matter to arrive at the wrong outcomes.  According to Pleicones, "the trial court sought to faithfully apply the flawed analytical framework created by All Saints'.  In doing so, she unwittingly violated the constitutional precepts that underlie the "neutral principles of law" approach to the resolution of church disputes."

Pleicones took the lead for the pro-Church side and was consistently supported by Associate Justice Kay Hearn at each major point in the multi-layered opinion.  Hearn managed to get in a few shots at Toal's insistent defense of part of her legacy saying,  "I must part company with Acting Justice Toal in her dogged efforts to impose civil law at any cost... and indeed, elevate(s) the concept of neutral principles to heights heretofore unknown."

"Neutral principles" is the legal framework used by three of the justices to justify allowing the seven parishes to leave the Church.  In essence, it allows state courts to ignore Federal Constitutional protections for hierarchical churches in certain cases in which doctrinal issues do not play a role.  Pleicones and Hearn were clearly outraged that their colleagues did not agree that this case was all about doctrine. 

Toal responded to the barbs by pointing out that there was still a 3-2 majority that supported her position in All Saints'Ironically, Hearn was a member of one of the breakaway parishes that her colleagues on the Court allowed to leave the Church.

Both Toal and Pleicones are retired but were on the Court at the time the Church appealed the lower court ruling, so they remained on the case, even though their successors were elected and are now serving. 

Toal and Associate Justice John Kittredge from Greenville were solidly in the breakaways' corner, while current Chief Justice Don Beatty served as the self-described "swing vote."

Owners of the "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" to be decided by Federal Court

A majority on the Court said that it believed the corporate entity known as "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" belonged to the Church, but deferred to a case pending in Federal Court before U.S. District Judge Margaret Seymour in Charleston. 

Lawrence claims he is an Episcopal bishop because the lower court judge, Diane Goodstein,  awarded him its corporate "marks," indicating the Diocese belonged to him. 

In 2013 the bishop of the Church's continuing Diocese, known as "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina," took issue with that and initiated a lawsuit in Federal court against his predecessor claiming that he was engaged in "false advertising" that was interfering with his work and that of the real Episcopal diocese.

The case before Seymour will likely be heard in the spring, but given today's ruling, it may move forward more rapidly.  It is difficult to imagine that her decision would not be determined in a manner consistent with today's opinion from the state's high court.

Confusion, disappointment, and bravado


There was deep disappointment today among the breakaway congregations who had spent millions promoting Lawrence's lawsuit over the last nearly five years.  Adding to their distraction is second-guessing on whether they should have rejected a 2015 settlement offer in which the Church actually offered to give up its claim to their properties in exchange for their giving up their claims to the "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina".  

The Rt. Rev. Skip Adams, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, sounded a grateful but cautionary tone when he reminded Episcopalians that "kindness and graciousness are in order," and that the journey toward reconciliation and unity will be long. 

Adams, who only became the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina a year ago, will play a pivotal role in reconstituting a Diocese now filled with former Church members who no longer have confidence in its mission.

The. breakaway "diocese" itself appeared to be reeling from the Court ruling, but continued the bravado that has for years characterized its communications on the case.  Its website continues to point to key findings in the lower court ruling that were favorable to Lawrence's position even though that ruling has now been turned on its head.

Lawrence's lead attorney, Alan Runyon of Beaufort, denounced the Court's opinion as "inconsistent with South Carolina and long-standing United States Supreme Court precedent. involving church property disputes.

The premise of Runyon's case is that the Episcopal Church is a congregational rather than hierarchical Church, and therefore the authority for determining the ownership of parish property belongs to congregations.  In his view, the Episcopal Church is little more than a non-profit association with members who are free to come and go as they'd like.  

In a rare moment of unanimity, the high court rejected Runyon's characterization and found that the Episcopal Church is "hierarchical" in a way that requires the United States Constitution to protect its governing authorities from excessive encroachment by the courts. 

Runyon's statement notwithstanding, this view of the Episcopal Church has been consistently upheld by Federal courts for over 200 years.

Breakaways' allies lash out

While many of the pro-Lawrence parishes were subdued today, the right-wing Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), which has aggressively backed the schism in South Carolina, lashed out. 


According to IRD's leader, Jeffrey Walton, "Episcopal Church officials speak regularly about themes of reconciliation, but their actions in the courts indicate that property and exclusivity of their Anglican Communion franchise is paramount. The Episcopal Church has spent millions of dollars to litigate against departing Anglicans.  The Episcopal Church and its liberal Mainline Protestant counterparts refuse to accept what has become obvious: the majority of many congregations across the country do not want to depart their denominations, but will do so if liberal leadership continues down an unfaithful path.  Sadly, the Episcopal Church appears more interested in the recovery of property than in reconciliation."

Walton's comments typify the misleading rhetoric that has surrounded this case since its beginning.  Lawrence is the one who brought the lawsuit against the Episcopal Church, not the other way around.  In fact, the claim Lawrence was making is the largest ever made in any case ever filed in any court by the Church or secessionists within the Church.  

In some ways IRD is partly to blame for today's debacle.  It has been a significant promoter of the flawed and untested legal theory put forward by Lawrence's legal team.  

After years of self-congratulatory chatter among the small circle of breakaway legal types, Lawrence supporters began to buy into IRD's flawed thinking on the case.  In 2015, when the Episcopal Church offered to settle their lawsuit by withdrawing any claim to their properties, they were so confident of success in the courts that they walked away from the offer
."

(Send us your thoughts on the opinion at scepiscopalians@aol.com)

  Read the full opinion here  

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 SC Supreme Court  
August 2, 2017
Continuing Diocese Looks for Reconciliation
Bishop Adams urges gracious response to ruling;  There has been too much hurt on both sides, he says

The South Carolina Supreme Court today issued a ruling in our appeal of the state court decision in Dorchester County, and that decision is generally in favor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. We are grateful for this decision and for the hard work of the court in rendering it. We also give thanks to God for the faithfulness, support, and sacrifices of countless Episcopalians within our diocese and throughout the Church.

 

This is a lengthy and detailed ruling, and our legal team and leadership will be studying it closely in the days ahead. It is important to note that the legal system allows for periods of judicial review and possible appeal, so it will be some time before we can say with certainty what the journey ahead will look like. Please be patient and know that we will keep you updated along the way as information becomes available to us.

 

As clergy and lay leaders, you are likely to have opportunities to respond to the ruling within your congregation, as well as to the wider public. As you consider what to say, please keep in mind that 

 

- This ruling is one step on a longer journey and much is unknown at this point. Speculation will not be helpful.

 

- We can give thanks to God while avoiding excessive celebration. Kindness and graciousness are in order.

 

- Remember that our ultimate goal is reconciliation and unity, joining with our Lord in the desire that we all may be one.

 

- We ask for your ongoing prayer for the life of the Church in the service of Christ.  

 

In the next few days, we will continue to communicate with the clergy and lay leadership about what is taking place. A formal statement from the Bishop’s Office will be issued to the public later today. We anticipate calling a meeting soon for diocesan leadership to review the decision, receive legal advice and consider the next steps.

 

If concerns arise or situations develop that we need to be aware of, or that you would like guidance about, please be in touch with my office by phone or email.


The Rt. Reverend Skip Adams



 Federal Case  
July 28, 2017

New Judge Named in Bishop Impersonation Case
U.S. District Judge Michael Duffy ruled in favor of the continuing Diocese in a related case

CHARLESTON -- With the death of Federal Judge Weston Houck, a lawsuit alleging that ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence has been falsely advertising himself as an Episcopal bishop may finally go to trial.   Lawrence was sued by the legally-recognized Episcopal Bishop in South Carolina in 2013, who claimed Lawrence had left the Church the previous year, but was still running around pretending to be an Episcopal bishop.

The "false advertising" case was assigned to Judge Houck who appeared to have little appetite for seeing it go to trial.  At the time Houck was in his eighties and thought to be in poor health.  He refused to hear the matter until a lawsuit, filed against the Church by Lawrence in state court, was resolved.  

Houck was twice ordered by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to get off the dime and move forward with the case.  At the time of his passing, Houck had ordered pre-trial depositions in the case to proceed. 

The new judge has previously ruled in favor of the Church in a related case by the continuing Diocese

Taking over from Houck will be Federal Judge Patrick Michael Duffy, a gregarious Charleston lawyer named to the Federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1995.  Duffy served for nearly 15 years, until he took senior status in 2009.  He is a Citadel and University of South Carolina law school graduate.

Duffy's name may be familiar to those who have been following Lawrence's exit from the Church.   In a largely unpublicized decision in 2015, Duffy ruled that the Church Insurance Company had to cover the legal costs incurred by the continuing Diocese in defending itself from Lawrence's lawsuit. 

The substance of the case had to do with the coverage requirements of the insurance policy, but among its outcomes was that Duffy effectively recognized the continuing Diocese, known as "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina," as the legitimate representative of the Episcopal Church in the eastern half of the state.


Lawrence's "false advertising" started when he and his followers experienced a dramatic decline in membership and income after announcing they were leaving the Episcopal Church. They justified the charade by claiming that "episcopal" means "bishop", and they had a bishop.  Hence they were "Episcopal."


And then there is the small print...

Ironically, it was Lawrence who acquired the insurance policy pre-exodus when he was trying to convince his followers that former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was preparing to takeover their parishes and fill them with gays and lesbians. 

Among the provisions of the policy was a requirement that the insurance company only had to cover legal expenses in the event the Diocese was sued.  Lawrence failed to cancel the policy when he took off, and consequently the continuing Diocese had coverage for its legal bills when Lawrence sued it.  

Lawrence's lawsuit, claiming that he and his followers are the owners of parish property and financial assets valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, has been awaiting a decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court for nearly two years.

SC Episcopalians
believes that the Lawrencians have also engaged in illegal behavior by referring to themselves as "Anglicans."  The Episcopal Church is the only officially-recognized entity in the United States as being part of the Anglican Communion.  An individual or parish can only claim to be Anglican if its belongs to the Episcopal Church.  The Anglican Church of North America to which Lawrence et al have affiliated themselves is an ad hoc assembly of dissident Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans.

ACNA is not recognized by any of the official governing bodies of the Communion.  The Archbishop of Canterbury who leads the Communion describes it as "a separate Church.... not part of the Communion."


July 20, 2017

Federal Judge in Church Case has Died
Houck was moving forward with the case of ex-Episcopal bishop Mark Lawrence impersonating a real one

U.S. District Judge Weston Houck died this morning. 

A native of Florence, he was appointed to the Federal bench in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and has handled his share of legal hot potatoes. 

Perhaps his most memorable case was that of a lawsuit against The Citadel's male-only admissions policies.  Houck said there was no Constitutional basis for denying women the same opportunities as men.

Houck was well into his eighties and battling poor health in 2013 when he was assigned a lawsuit filed by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina alleging that Mark Lawrence, its former bishop and ex-Episcopalian, was pretending to be an Episcopal bishop. "False advertising," as it is known in law.


Houck allowed the case to languish by refusing to hear it until the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in a lawsuit brought by Lawrence in January 2013 claiming that he and his followers own Church property and assets valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  

SC Episcopalians felt the judge was far from unbiased in the matter.  In his courtroom, Houck seemed openly hostile to the Church's attorneys, while praising Lawrence's even as they mocked Charles vonRosenberg, the legitimate leader of the South Carolina diocese, as "that German bishop."

On two separate occasions, the Church turned to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to force Houck to proceed with the case.   The second time around, it took.  Depositions of key witnesses, including Lawrence, have finally begun moving forward.  The case will likely be reassigned to another judge.

Houck will be buried in Florence, after a graveside service conducted by a former Episcopal priest now affiliated with the so-called "Anglican Church of North America."



June 28, 2017 (revised 7/3)

Lawrence Crowd Welcomed into the ACNA
Merger completes dissidents' exit from the Anglican Communion

The so-called Anglican Church of North America yesterday approved the request of followers of ex-Episcopal Bishop Mark Lawrence to be absorbed into its languishing culture war against the Anglican Communion.  

The merger is yet another giant leap into an ecclesial abyss created by Lawrence in his imaginary "war" with the Episcopal Church.   It is not even clear that the Lawrencians own their own parishes and "diocese", much less have legal authority to transfer them to another religious group.
 

Contrary to its name, the ACNA is actually not part of the 88-million-member, worldwide Anglican Communion.  The ACNA's claim of membership has been repeatedly rejected by its governing structures, including the Archbishop of Canterbury who described it as "another church... separate from the Communion".

The ACNA was founded by disgruntled members of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada seven years ago, with funding and political support from anti-gay elements of the Communion, mostly from Africa and South America.

Still, k
nowing all of this last March, Lawrence's followers voted to request a merger.  Meeting in Illinois yesterday, the ACNA's national assembly resoundingly embraced the Lawrencians as its own.  

The Anglican-ish Church of North America 

When Lawrence led his people out of the Episcopal Church in 2012, he did so with a promise that they would continue to be in the Communion.  Like many of his political promises, this was ever in the cards, but essential in winning the support of those in South Carolina who valued their Anglican heritage.  

While ACNA uses the word "Anglican" in its name, the Communion only recognizes the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada as its legitimate provinces in Canada and the United States.  To be Anglican in these two countries, you must belong to one of these two provinces.
   
ACNA's stock has been on the decline since its outlier status has been confirmed by these rejections over the past three years.  Its membership numbers seem to have stalled, and its leadership has proven largely ineffective in managing the unwieldy group of egos and dissident religious groups that have gravitated to its umbrella.  

Those divisions are likely to persist as ACNA introduces its new re-written Book of Common Prayer next year. 

Prior to yesterday's vote to include the Lawrencians, ACNA claimed to have 112,000 members in its various affiliated groups.

Anti-gay Anglican Primates fueled ACNA's founding

ACNA was founded seven years ago by ultraconservative leaders of Anglican provinces mostly in Africa and parts of Asia and South America, united largely by their loathing of gays and lesbians.  This group of Anglican Primates called themselves GAFCON, and began meeting and carrying on without the blessing or legitimacy of the Communion. 

GAFCON leaders have also been made infamous largely by their questionable alliances with despotic secular leaders in their home countries. 

This came to the attention of the wider world in 1994 when the Anglican Church of Rwanda was implicated in a nationwide genocide that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of that country's citizens.  Some GAFCON primates were also criticized for encouraging deadly fighting between Muslims and Christians in Africa. 

With the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the United States in 2003, GAFCON's leaders found a useful new enemy.  They often gave public support and encouragement to official efforts in their home countries to punish homosexuals with life imprisonment and even the death penalty.  Many were rewarded with expensive gifts and monetary donations from the governing regimes.

They also went to war against, what they saw as, the uber-liberal the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada by underwriting legal challenges to their existence, disrupting their unity, and creating ACNA.

ACNA infrastructure and authority still unclear

Lawrence’s “diocese” is now the fourth or fifth overlapping ACNA jurisdiction in eastern South Carolina, where each group has its own ways of governing and believing.  ACNA's official Bishop of the Carolinas is Steve Wood of Mount Pleasant, who was quietly selected by ACNA hierarchy, some believe, to block Lawrence from jumping from the Episcopal Church into a leadership role ACNA.  

After yesterday's vote, it was still not exactly clear how Lawrence would fit into the ACNA's super-secret hierarchy, or whether the issue has yet been resolved.


Lawrence still the lonely, but very comfortable warrior


Throughout his episcopate Lawrence has often romanticized his culture war against the Episcopal Church as a kind of military crusade. 

In his remarks to the ACNA gathering after yesterday's vote, he shamelessly likened his campaign to the homecoming of “The soldiers in WWII (who) fought for victory, sweated for victory, some bled for victory and some died for victory but they all dreamed of home – that moment when they would return to their home." 

However, Lawrence himself has hardly been struggling. 

Since announcing his departure from the Episcopal Church, he appears to have been making a good living with a full pension from the Church, and a full salary as the leader of what was left of the Episcopal Church's Diocese of South Carolina  His followers also pick up the costs of maintaining his home, his travel, and other expenses. 

During court proceedings several years ago, it was discovered that the trustees of Lawrence's  "diocese" had awarded him a ten year lease on the official residence of the Church-recognized Episcopal Bishop for $1 a year. 


Does Lawrence's move to ACNA mean anything at all?

Of course, there is considerable reason to believe that the move is meaningless, since the courts have not decided if the Lawrencian parishes and their so-called “diocese” even belong to them, much less allow them to be given over to another group.

Lawrence is locked in a bitter court battle in which he claims that he and his followers are the legal owners of property and financial assets belonging to the Episcopal Church valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  That case is still pending in the South Carolina Supreme Court nearly two years after it was first heard by the justices. 


March 27. 2017
Breakaways Vote to Join "Anglican Church of North America"

Lawrencians continue aimless odyssey away from the Anglican Communion

SUMMERVILLE - Episcopal parishes aligned with ex-Episcopal bishop Mark Lawrence voted unanimously today to formally apply for membership in the self-described "Anglican Church of North America". 

The 112,000-member ACNA is a loose affiliation of former Anglicans who've separated themselves from the Anglican Communion and its two provinces in North America.  ACNA's leadership will meet in June to decide on whether to accept the application
.

The ACNA describes itself as "Anglican" and a "province" of the Anglican Communion, but over the past two years its claim has been repeatedly rejected by the Instruments of Unity that govern worldwide Anglicanism.  The North American provinces of the Communion are the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church.  The Anglican Church of Mexico is also recognized.  No parish or individual can legitimately claim to be part of the Communion without belonging to one of its 38 provinces.

Breakaways' momentum has slowed

Lawrence became the Bishop of the Episcopal Church's Diocese of South Carolina in 2008, but within six months of his consecration he was already aligning himself with a handful of ultraconservative bishops committed to using their positions to attack the Church.  They insisted that the Church was unbiblical and "sinful" for its inclusion of gays & lesbians, women in positions of spiritual authority over men, and understandings of the Bible that are inconsistent with their own literal interpretation.


Lawrence bolted from the Church in 2012 along with 38 parishes and missions loyal to him.  In January 2013 they then sued the Church and its continuing Diocese in eastern South Carolina claiming they owned nearly $500 million in Church property and financial assets, including the corporate entity known as the Diocese of South Carolina itself.

Lawrence's lawsuit made it to the state's Supreme Court nearly two years ago, where the Court's five justices heard oral arguments in September 2015 ... and have said nothing further about it.


Today's pro-ACNA vote could be rendered meaningless should the high court ever rule on this case.

Decision on Lawrence lawsuit could render ACNA vote moot

Today's vote comes after nearly two years of discernment and courting that included corralling of parishes that have grown weary of endless legal bills and unanswered questions.  Lawrence has gradually taken authority away from the parishes, such that he is basically the final authority on everything from theology to governance to politics.  

That control was made clear two years ago when the Episcopal Church offered to settle the lawsuit by relinquishing any legal claim to the property and assets of Lawrencian parishes in exchange for their withdrawing their claim to the Diocese of South Carolina corporate entity. Lawrence rejected the offer without appearing to even consult the lay people in those parishes.
 
In casting his vote today, Lawrence told the delegates "I believe a door will be opened, the fresh winds of the Spirit will blow, and a caged eagle will soar.”

Also on hand was ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach and former Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, one of the most vocally homophobic clerics among the ultraconservative founders of ACNA.  Details of Lawrence's deal with ACNA have not been made public.


March 3, 2017

The ACNA Brings in Controversial Allies to Bolster Support for Affiliation Vote Next Saturday
Beleaguered breakaway denomination hopes merger with Lawrence "diocese" will jump start momentum lost after rejection by Anglican Communion
 

Backers of the self-described Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) are desperate for a big win next weekend as supporters of Mark Lawrence’s breakaway “diocese” end two years of discernment and decide whether to join them. 

The controversial eight-year-old denomination was created by ultraconservative elements of the Anglican Communion who aligned themselves with renegade bishops and other dissidents in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada over their acceptance of gays and lesbians, women in positions of spiritual authority, and fellow Christians who do not embrace their literal interpretations of scripture.
  
Today the ACNA claims a membership of 112,000, from among various groups that have affiliated themselves with the organization, headquartered in Pennsylvania. 


Unity and cohesion still elude ACNA

To describe the ACNA as a single, unified ecclesiastical entity is a stretch.  Even Lawrence, who supports the ACNA affiliation, has questioned how much clarity there is among the ACNA’s lines of authority and whether its structure is capable of enforcing churchwide discipline on matters of theology and doctrine.

Over the past few years, the ACNA’s momentum has stagnated as membership and income numbers appear to have slowed.  Along with this has come an identity crisis arising from its embrace of a wide range of theological traditions and repeated rejections of its claim to be “Anglican” by the leadership of the Anglican Communion. 

Because of its deep ties to the most reactionary provinces of the Communion, especially those in Africa, ACNA is also weighted down with the twin albatrosses of homophobia and misogyny.  Among ACNA’s founders are African church leaders who have supported capital punishment for gays and lesbians and accepted funds and expensive gifts from autocratic political leaders in what is arguably an exchange for Church support for their corrupt regimes.

The ACNA’s primary problem is the vagueness of what it is.  In many ways, it is still defined solely by what it is against, not how it is preparing the way for the Kingdom of God.
ACNA is hobbled by an internal governing structure that is highly secretive, deeply political, and clergy controlled.  Bishops (males only) are not elected but selected in a carefully guarded, non-transparent process.

In fact, the only thing that is clear about ACNA is that, in spite of its name, it is not part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.  Over the past two years, it has been rejected by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates Meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council.  It is also on track to be denied an invitation to the 2018 Lambeth Conference, making its rejection by official Anglicanism complete.

However, a victory this week in South Carolina would give the struggling ACNA a huge boost and instant bragging rights to a 13% increase in membership, relevance, and the illusion of having recruited a prominent, well-endowed “diocese” of the Episcopal Church to its cause.

The vote will be held at the Lawrencians’ annual meeting in Summerville next Saturday. (Of course, the whole business could blow up if the state’s Supreme Court decides Mark Lawrence and his followers don’t even have the legal authority to vote themselves out of the Episcopal Church, much less join another religious organization.)


The GAFCON Road Show

The founding group of Anglican Primates that serves as the ACNA's godparents is known as GAFCON, an ad hoc group of ultraconservative elements of the Communion created to challenge its more progressive members on matters of sexuality, gender, a Biblical interpretation.  GAFCON recognizes the ACNA and the Lawrence group as part of the Anglican Communion, even though the Anglican Communion does not recognize any of the three of them as an official or even unofficial part of worldwide Anglicanism.

In what they have dubbed “The GAFCON Road Show,” supporters of the ACNA are putting on display perfect examples of what seems to be keeping the denomination from growing. To help rally the troops in South Carolina this weekend, two of GAFCON's most conservative and controversial superstars will be rolling into Mount Pleasant tonight to help seal the deal. 
 
Retired archbishops Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Peter Jensen of Australia will be holding forth tonight on the wonders of GAFCON and ACNA at St. Andrew’s Church in Mount Pleasant.  Akinola has decreed that gays are ”lower than beasts” and even supported legislation to impose criminal penalties, not just for being gay, but for saying anything positive about gays.  Jensen has likened homosexuality to alcoholism, and suggested that same-gender unions will lead to greater acceptance of polygamy and incest.



February 23, 2017
South Carolinians More Comfortable with Muslims & Refugees than President Trump


The year after an election characterized by religious bigotry, South Carolinians apparently feel more positively disposed toward Muslims and refugees than they do toward President Donald Trump.

On a scale of 0-100 with 100 being the warmest, respondents to a Winthrop University poll last week gave Muslims a score of 59 compared to Trump's 48 when asked how "warmly" they felt about them.  Refugees coming to this country scored a 51.

Here the other scores:

    African Americans                          78
    Whites                                             75
    Law enforcement                            74
    Hispanics                                         71
    President Obama                            61
    Muslims                                           59
    Refugees                                         51
    President Trump                             48
    Black Lives Matter                           48
    Confederate Flag                             41


The survey was based on telephone interviews with 703 South Carolina residents.



February 21, 2017
Federal Appeals Court:  Judge Houck Must Proceed in False Advertising Lawsuit Against Lawrence
Elderly District Judge has consistently refused to even hold a hearing in
the case against ex-bishop


A three-judge panel today again unanimously ordered a lower court in Charleston to move forward with the case of false advertising against ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence, who says he has left the Episcopal Church even though he insists on calling himself an "Episcopal Bishop." 

The decision represents another win in Federal Court for the Episcopal Church.

The case against Lawrence was filed in March 2013 by Charles vonRosenberg, the rightful and recognized Episcopal bishop, who claimed Lawrence was creating confusion by advertising himself as a real bishop of a real diocese in the Episcopal Church. 

VonRosenberg's successor, The Right Reverend Skip Adams, has continued the legal action against Lawrence.

In the fall of 2012, Lawrence and his followers claim they left the Episcopal Church, but in January 2013 they filed a lawsuit in a state circuit court, claiming that they owned the "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" and an estimated $500 million in financial assets and property.  The resolution of that lawsuit is still pending before the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The Federal impersonation case has been stalemated largely because it landed in the courtroom of part-time senior judge, C. Weston Houck, who insists the Federal and state lawsuits are the same and decided he would not hear the Federal case until the state case was resolved.

In 2015, the judges of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond disagreed and ordered Houck to proceed with the case, but he has stubbornly refused.  The Church again appealed to the Fourth Circuit, and it heard oral arguments on the matter last December.  Today's ruling is a result of that second appeal.

Read the full opinion here


January 30, 2017
Pro-Lawrence Judge Drops Out of Supreme Court Contest
Sumter jurist is the sole candidate for Associate Justice seat, as legislative supporters hope to curb Court's perceived activist tendencies

S.C. Circuit Judge Diane Shafer Goodstein of Dorchester County has dropped out of the race for a highly coveted seat on South Carolina's Supreme Court.  Her decision insures the election of her only rival, Circuit Judge George "Buck" James of Sumter. 

James' shoo-in election means that Republican conservatives will complete creation of a three-man bloc on the Court to restrain newly-elected Chief Justice Don Beatty and Associate Justice Kaye Hearn, whom they fear might continue the Court's activist style under former Chief Justices Jean Toal and Costa Pleicones.

"They want someone who won't rock the boat, and Buck seems like that guy," according to one senior legislator.

Toal retired in December 2015, followed by Pleicones who retired in December 2016.  Both were key figures in leading the Court to challenge the Legislature in its failure to provide minimally adequate standards in the state's schools and to green light an ongoing ethics investigation of members of the legislature.

Balloting for judicial vacancies is scheduled to begin in the General Assembly Wednesday.

In July 2015, Goodstein presided over a two-week trial of the lawsuit brought by ex-bishop Mark Lawrence in which he laid claim to nearly $500 million in property and financial assets belonging to the Episcopal Church. 

Many in the courtroom, including SC Episcopalians, described the scene as a "circus."  Her eventual ruling in Lawrence's favor was widely mocked as an extraordinary and unsupportable invasion by a secular court into the governance of churches protected by the United States Constitution. 


Goodstein has powerful friends

Goodstein's strength among legislators was coming mainly from a long-time political alliance anchored in the legal community in Calhoun, Orangeburg, and Dorchester counties.  Lawyers associated with that alliance are among those serving on Mark Lawrence's 40-plus member legal team.

However, neither Goodstein's role in that trial nor the lameness of its outcome appeared to have had much influence on her candidacy for the high court.

None of the changes on the Court will change the make-up of the panel that heard the appeal of Goodstein's decision in September 2015.


Second wind

Meanwhile, the apparent shift in James' fortunes may be a blessing for attorney Blake Hewitt, who is in a tight three-way race for a seat on the state's Court of Appeals. 

Hewitt, who is regarded as one of the best appellate lawyers in the state, famously argued the Church's appeal to the state Supreme Court.  His argument was widely viewed as a near-fatal skewering Goodstein's judicial overreach in the matter.

Prior to today's development, James' supporters were trying to broker a deal with the Legislative Black Caucus to support their candidate in exchange for Republican support for Hewitt's principal opponent, who is African American.

With James now as the sole contender in the high court race, it appears the deal is no longer operative and may be giving Hewitt a significant boost among Republicans who no longer feel pressure to support his opponent.


January 26, 2017
Four-Year Legal Saga an Embarrassment to State and Federal Judiciary
Key issue is the extent to which government can intervene in the governing structure of churches protected by the U.S. Constitution


It took years just to have the case heard in a lower court, and now another 19 months and counting for a ruling by the State Supreme Court.  Another lawsuit in Federal Court has not even had a hearing in four years.

Ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence left the Episcopal Church with his followers in the fall of 2012, then turned around in late January 2013 and filed a lawsuit against the Church laying claim to an estimated $500 million in Church property and financial assets accumulated over the past 250+ years. 

For good measure, Lawrence then announced that he was still an Episcopal Bishop, just not one in the Episcopal Church.

The lawsuit made its way to the state's highest court in the summer of 2015, and has been stuck there ever since.  A hearing in September of that year gave Episcopalians a number of good reasons to believe that the state's five justices would make quick work of the inventive legal theories, concocted by Lawrence's team of over 40 high-paid lawyers.

However, that hasn't happened. 

The key issue before the Court is the extent to which the State of South Carolina can inject itself into the governance of a Church whose autonomy is protected by the Constitution. 

A lower court judge - Diane Goodstein - ruled in Lawrence's favor almost exactly two years ago, and not only gave him all the property and financial assets, but gave him the Church's "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" in its entirety.  Goodstein rejected two centuries of American jurisprudence, and determined that she was empowered to break up the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and give it to a group that was no longer a part of the Church.


Federal case even more puzzling

The continuing Diocese, known as the Episcopal Church, filed suit in Federal court alleging that Mark Lawrence was falsely advertising that he was an Episcopal Bishop, and asked for an injunction to prohibit him from the continuing ruse. 

The case as assigned to an elderly, part-time judge who refused to hear the case on the grounds that its substance was the same as the one in state court. The Church appealed his ruling, and the appeals court, ordered him to move forward.  He refused, and now, the case is once again in limbo.

Fortunately, the continuing Diocese has been able to re-establish itself somewhat, even though the Lawrencians continue to hold onto its assents and spend its funds. 


January 15, 2017
Key Actors in Lawrence's Legal Drama Seeking New Jobs

Erratic circuit judge eyes election to state's Supreme Court

On February 1st, the General Assembly will elect a new Supreme Court justice and a new member of the state's Court of Appeals, and loyal Episcopalians will easily recognize two of the semi-finalists as separately being responsible for the highest and lowest points in the legal struggle over Mark Lawrence's still unresolved four-year-old lawsuit laying claim to an estimated $500 million in Church assets and property.

Dorchester County Judge Diane Shafer Goodstein, who oversaw what was surely one of the most bizarre and biased trials in the history of the state's judiciary, is running for a vacant seat on the Supreme Court against two others. Two years ago, Goodstein ruled that Lawrence and his followers owned the entire Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, including its name, even though they no longer considered themselves members of the Episcopal Church. 

While most members of the Republican General Assembly view her as a Democrat, Goodstein has been on the bench a long time and has strong ties to old political networks that still wield a great deal of behind-the-scenes influence.

Horry County attorney Blake Hewitt is once again seeking a seat on the state's Court of Appeals. The 39-year-old Hewitt was unknown to most Episcopalians until September 2015, when he dazzled the Supreme Court (and its online audience) with a riveting attack on Goodstein's ruling.  In his 20-minute presentation, Hewitt managed to elicit from the justices a general consensus that Goodstein's decision ran counter to over two centuries of established American jurisprudence and that the cornerstone of Lawrence's novel legal theory - the 2009 ruling in case of All Saints', Pawleys Island - was irrelevant to the issues raised in the lawsuit.

Hewitt only joined the Church's legal team months before his presentation to the high court. Following Goodstein's ruling, Diocesan Chancellor Thomas Tisdale hired Hewitt after polling attorneys throughout the state on the identity of "the best appellate attorney in South Carolina."
 

Tisdale said there was little disagreement that Hewitt was the best person for the job.


Oddly, SC Episcopalians ended up in a meeting with both candidates and lawmakers last week at the State House.  We left with the impression that the involvement of the candidates in the Church's schism case could affect the way some of the legislators vote.

The election of a new justice will not change the composition of the panel of five justices who originally heard the appeal of the Lawrence matter.


December 29, 2016
Loyal Episcopalians Have Reasons to Celebrate 2016
Frustration with the Courts distracts from progress on many fronts

 
Four years ago, few imagined that at the end of 2016 so little would have been done to resolve the lawsuit by followers of Mark Lawrence asking the courts to let them leave the Episcopal Church with its property and financial assets valued at more than $500 million.

Loyal Episcopalians in eastern South Carolina have been deeply frustrated by the ongoing failure of both the Federal and State courts to assert themselves against Lawrence’s outrageous legal claims, including that of being an Episcopal Bishop.  It has been 22 months since the State’s Supreme Court held an encouraging hearing on Lawrence’s claims, but there has been no ruling. Meanwhile an elderly, part-time Federal Judge has consistently refused to even hear the impersonation matter.

However, courts aside, 2016 was not a particularly bad year for the Church in South Carolina.

1.  Jeffert Schori's commitment to the Diocese  affirmed by new Presiding Bishop

Outgoing Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori proved to be a hugely important factor in sustaining and empowering the Church's continuing South Carolina diocese after the betrayal by ex-bishop Lawrence. While her successor is a long-time friend of the Diocese, some wondered whether The Most Rev. Michael Curry would maintain the Church's seemingly open-ended commitment to their recovery.

The newly-installed Curry, the former Bishop of North Carolina, quickly dispelled those concerns by accepting an invitation to spend a long weekend visiting the Diocese in April.  His visit proved to be as jubilant  and reassuring as those of his predecessor, and brought with it his personal assurance to stand solidly by the Diocese until it becomes whole again.

2.  New provisional bishop gets five stars

Provisional bishops are sometimes seen as caretakers until a  diocese's "real" bishop is elected.  When Charles vonRosenberg announced that he would be stepping down from that position in the Episcopal Church in South Carolina after three-and-a-half years, there was no certainty about his successor.  The choice remained unresolved well into the early summer and there was concern that the Diocese's forward momentum would stall out.

When the announcement did come, many scratched their heads and took to the internet to learn about a diocese they'd never of called "Central New York."  They were not disappointed.

Gladstone "Skip" Adams wasted little time as a new retiree last fall, and headed to South Carolina where he embarked on a get-to-know-you tour of parishes in the Diocese.  Adams proved to be an excellent choice for a diocese with a few large urban parishes and many smaller ones in rural areas. He does not plan on waiting for the courts before moving forward with a plan and program for a diocese eager to shape its future without the rancor and bitterness it has known for nearly for over 30 years.


3.  Anglican Communion affirms status of the Episcopal Church, rejects breakaways

During 2016 the Anglican Communion finally came down definitively in affirming that the Episcopal Church is the one and only Anglican province in the United States and its dioceses beyond its borders.

Readers will recall that last January’s meeting of all the Primates (leaders of the Communion’s 38 provinces) not only affirmed the continuing membership of the Episcopal Church in the Communion, but turned its back on the efforts of the self-named “Anglican Church of North America” to receive official recognition as a kind of new province. The same message was embraced by the Anglican Consultative Council in its meeting in late spring.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby had dismissed the ACNA’s suggestion that it was part of the Communion in a radio interview in 2015 when he described it as “a separate Church, not in the Communion.”  Last spring he seemed to dodge a reporter’s pointed question about whether ACNA would even be invited to the 2018 Lambeth Conference… a privilege extended only to member provinces in good standing
.

4.  Grace becomes newest cathedral in the Communion

If there was any doubt about the Communion's commitment to The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral resolved it with a special trip to Charleston last summer to extend formal recognition to Grace Church as “the newest Cathedral in the Anglican Communion.”  Dean Robert Willis brought with him a specially-created stone to be encased in the walls of the Cathedral, as is the customary honor for all Anglican cathedrals throughout the world.  Nearly 3,000 people attended the five services at the Cathedral over the Christmas weekend.

5.  The Episcopal Church in South Carolina grew in numbers and revenues

During vonRosenberg's three-and-a-half years, the Diocese known as the Episcopal Church in South Carolina experienced an extraordinary rebirth.  Nearly every congregation has experienced some growth in communicants.  Nine new parishes have been created out the brokenness visited on them by Lawrence's faithless leadership, and diocesan revenues are up by 68%.


December 9, 2016
Federal Court Hears Another Appeal in Lawrence Impersonation Case
Continuing Diocese, Appeals Court trying to motivate part-time, elderly judge to hear case against Lawrence impersonation of an Episcopal bishop

Click here to listen to the entire hearing

RICHMOND -- Charleston-based U.S. District Judge Weston Houck has come to epitomize the failings of the judiciary in a case brought by the bishop of the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina demanding that ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence stop claiming to be an Episcopal bishop.  The case was brought three years ago by the Rt. Reverend Charles vonRosenberg and now by his successor, the Right Reverend Skip Adams.

The continuing Diocese claims that under the Federal Lanham "false advertising" by charlatans claiming to be someone they are not is prohibited.  That is not to say Lawrence is a charlatan, but rather that he is not a bishop in the Episcopal Church as he publicly implies.

Lawrence also claims to be a bishop in the Anglican Communion but he is not recognized by any of the three Instruments of Unity that determine such things.  According to the Archbishop of Canterbury, there are two legitimate diocesan bishops in South Carolina -- Adams and the Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo of Upper South Carolina.

Lawrence and his followers left the Episcopal Church in the fall of 2012, but filed a lawsuit in January 2013 claiming they owned Church property and diocesan assets valued at nearly $500 million.  Months later, facing a significant decline in membership and revenue, pro-Lawrence parishes and Lawrence himself began publically describing themselves as "Episcopal" and "Anglican"... even though they were neither.

When the case was first filed, Houck refused to hear it, claiming that the issues raised in the Federal case were the same that those raised in Lawrence's infamous lawsuit against the Episcopal Church in the state courts.  Houck said he saw no reason to have two ongoing cases in the state and Federal courts litigating the same issues.

However, the Church's lawyers argued in response that the question of Lawrence pretending to be an Episcopal bishop was not at stake in the state case, which was about property issues. Their sole complaint in their Federal case was that his continued misbehavior and misrepresentation were creating confusion that prevented the rightful bishop from doing his work.

When Houck's original decision was handed down, the Church immediately appealed it to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.  A three-judge panel shredded Houck, and ordered him to hear the case.

However, Houck again refused to hear the case, and the Church - again - was in Richmond today arguing that Houck was still wrong not to hear the case.
  Houck is in his mid-eighties, and only works part-time.  An audio version of the entire hearing will be available Monday on this site.


December 6, 2016
Lawrence Parishes Face Troubling Choice over ACNA Membership
Secretive hierarchy, loss of control, overlapping authority, and rejection by Anglican Communion would further isolate breakaway congregations

ACNA is actually rewriting Book of Common Prayer for its members


Parishes trying to follow Mark Lawrence out of the Episcopal Church are facing a potentially disastrous decision to surrender their autonomy to the so-called "Anglican Church of North America."  

Lawrence, his political team, and their clergy have been quietly shepherding their followers toward a vote in favor of casting their lot with the anti-gay ACNA, and plan to call a convention of their parishes to advance the deal once they are sure they have the votes.

The ACNA is a quarrelsome hodgepodge of former Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans, who left the Anglican Communion over issues related to human sexuality.  Beyond their shared fears of homosexuality, they have been able to agree on little including the role of women in the Church and the lines of authority governing their members.

In fact, the ACNA is not even "Anglican" as the Anglican Communion has repeatedly rejected its claim of legitimacy over the past three years.  Its leaders argue that they are related to the Communion because they were founded by a handful of dissident African Primates who oppose homosexuality and support laws in their counties that allow for the imprisonment of gays and lesbians.


The challenges facing pro-Lawrence parishes in this vote are complex, and have left parish leaders questioning whether they should rely on the same crowd that was the source of so much misinformation and misdirection four years ago when they voted to leave the Episcopal Church. 

There is also the question of who will lead the Lawrence "diocese" if it gets in the mix with the existing ACNA parishes.  Rumors suggest that Lawrence will retire after the ACNA deal is consummated and that his inner circle plans to install Jeffrey Miller, the new rector of St. Philip's in Charleston, as his successor. 

The challenge is that The ACNA already has
a Diocese of the Carolinas with its own hand-picked bishop, Steve Wood of Mount Pleasant.  Wood is the same guy who was defeated in 2006 when the Diocese elected Mark Lawrence as its bishop.  It is hard to imagine that Lawrence's successor would have too much authority with the rival ACNA bishop living smack dab in the middle of his diocese.

ACNA's leadership has also announced that it will likely finish up its rewriting of the Book of Common Prayer by 2018.

Dr. Ron Caldwell is a professor of history and leading chronicler of Lawrence's attempt to take the Diocese of South Carolina out of the Church and hand it over to some other group.
 
 Caldwell's  remarkable essay on "The Diocese of South Carolina at a Crossroads" is required reading for lay people trying to make sense of this latest scheme...

Click here for Dr. Caldwell's latest essay and assessment of a pro-ACNA vote


November 27, 2016
Post & Courier Profiles Bishop Adams


After three months, The Right Rev. Skip Adams has decided the Gospel cannot wait on a ruling by the South Carolina Supreme Court.  The recently retired Bishop of Central New York has made it clear that he does not see his new position with the Episcopal Church in South Carolina as a passive observer.  Click here to read the article


November 25, 2016

Lawrence Hustling Support for Joining the (Not-Really) Anglican Church of North America
Some breakaways mistrustful of pro-Lawrence leaders that manipulated them into leaving the Episcopal Church four years ago


Efforts of Mark Lawrence’s illusory “Diocese of South Carolina” to generate support from its members for joining the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) appear to be encountering some reality challenges.  Even Lawrence himself has taken to his bully pulpit to push the idea with parishes that appear to be unconvinced.

A lengthy discernment process seems to be bogged down as some in breakaway parishes question whether they are being led down yet another rabbit hole by Lawrence and his lieutenants. 

Four years ago, they were corralled into an expensive lawsuit that needlessly put the ownership of their financial assets and parish property in the hands of the courts.  There is no end for the legal wrangling that continues to require donations from parishes to pay the bills of Lawrence's army of lawyers. 

Some are still scratching their heads over Lawrence's rejection of a settlement of the case last year through which the Episcopal Church would have released any and all claims on their property.

"A lot of people at our church think they made a mistake leaving the Episcopal Church," said one pro-Lawrence acquaintance of SC Episcopalians. "They worry going with ACNA would limit their options to go back (when the court case is settled)."

SC Episcopalians has learned that, in at least one congregation, communicants have consulted an attorney about forcing Lawrencian leaders and their own clergy to explain why they told them that their parishes were about to be taken over by the Episcopal Church four years ago. 

Others are still miffed that, despite assurances to the contrary, the Lawrence crowd manipulated them into making changes to their parish governing documents in 2011 and 2012 that led to their leaving the Episcopal Church with Lawrence. There was also the complete lie that the Episcopal Church wanted to sell St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center on Seabrook Island.

The strange case for membership in The ACNA.

When the ex-bishop and his followers claim they left the Episcopal Church in 2012, they did so with another whispered promise that their congregations would simply continue doing everything they’d always done, just as “Anglicans.”  Not-to-worry, they were also assured by Lawrence's inner circle, that even clergy would simply be repatriated as Anglican priests.

None of that, of course, happened.

Now Lawrencian leaders are trying to convince these same congregations to trust them one more time by affiliating with Anglican bad boy, The ACNA.

SC Episcopalians sees red flags all over this one.  

The ACNA is a hodgepodge of dissident religious organizations that have formed a loosely-knit alliance over their shared repudiation of gays and lesbians, women in positions of spiritual authority, and the rejection of Biblical literalism.  These groups have some kind of past relationship with the Episcopal Church, and therefore a claim to be somewhat in the Anglican tradition.

However, the ACNA is still as much an association as a real Church.  It is still in the process of figuring out its theology and it has many miles to go before it is able to say what it believes.  For example, one of ACNA's founding organizations is a group devoted solely to the elimination of female clergy and subordinate roles for women in parish governance.  Even in Lawrence congregations, that is not a universally accepted theology and the ACNA has not said what it will do about it.

Here are some of the questions that communicants in pro-Lawrence congregations are asking to which they are not getting straight answers.

1.  Are we currently Anglicans or not?   Not.  

The way the Anglican Communion works is that it divides the globe into 38 geographic “provinces”.  The provinces in North America are called The Anglican Church of Canada, The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Church of Mexico.  If you want to legitimately call yourself an Anglican and live in the United States, you have to belong to the Episcopal Church.  If you claim to be an Anglican priest in the United States, you need to be ordained and in good standing with the Episcopal Church. 

2.  If we joined the ACNA, would we then be Anglicans?  No.  

The ACNA is not recognized by any official leadership body of the Anglican Communion as being “Anglican” or anything else.  In fact, just in the last two years, it has been rejected by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, who referred to it as “a separate Church, not part of the Communion."  His predecessor described it as a “schism.”  Earlier this year, The ACNA was also rejected by the leaders of the Communion’s provinces and the more policy-oriented Anglican Consultative Council. 

In other words, The ACNA has been sent packing by all of the Communion’s governing Instruments of Unity. 

3.  Even if ACNA membership does not technically make us Anglicans, won’t we still be able to worship in the Anglican tradition?  Well, yes… and maybe no. 

Right now, your congregation can continue to worship any way it chooses, provided Lawrence is okay with it.  However, the answer to this question is not exactly clear should The ACNA be in control and require conformity to its practices. 

For example, most pro-Lawrence congregations are adamant about continuing to use the Book of Common Prayer as an expression of their theology and standard for their worship. However, the leader of The ACNA has said that he is working on The ACNA's own version of the Book of Common Prayer that should be ready in 2019.   

4.  What other changes can we expect if we join The ACNA?  Quite a few.

The biggest change is one that will not be immediately apparent:  You won't have much of a voice in how things are run.

The Episcopal Church has a fairly democratic structure and ethos that roughly parallels that of the United States government.  The ACNA is significantly less open to democratic elections of its leaders, especially bishops.  These are done secretly by the ACNA leadership which tends to make its choices based on perpetuating the status quo.  It also is highly secretive about its finances and who is really supporting it.

Mark Lawrence's support for ACNA membership is curious in that he has been so vocal in the past in his concerns about the group.

Among those is the truncated leadership structure of The ACNA and whether there are sufficiently clear lines of authority for it to even be an effective, unified voice for the Gospel.  Many of the affiliated groups are just that, "affiliated."  They continue to be self-governing and have their own theologies and ways of worshipping. 

Lawrence has a very autocratic view of effective Church governance, and has even questioned whether lay people should participate in the election of bishops.  He wants to see a "church" with a single clear and coherent theology, and the authority to remove any one or any groups in that organization who are deemed by the leadership to believe in God in ways that are inconsistent with that theology.  It does not appear that The ACNA is anywhere near agreement on any of that.

5.  How will joining ACNA affect our lawsuit?  It won't help.

Joining The ACNA can only further complicate the legal and financial challenges facing pro-Lawrence parishes.  In the opinion of SC Episcopalians, they are probably in far deeper legal trouble than they realize. 

For example, they are expected to contribute to Lawrence's legal bills as well as their own in a lawsuit that is far from settled.  They also may be liable for costs incurred by the insurance company that has covered many of the legal bills incurred by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina in defending itself against their lawsuit.  There is also the possibility that they might be held liable for any Episcopal Church trust funds that may be been misspent by the Lawrence regime after it left the Episcopal Church.


November 16, 2016
Church's Appellate Attorney in the Running for State Court of Appeals
Youthful Conway attorney turned Lawrencians' case on its head

Last year loyal Episcopalians were startled when a polite, thirty-something attorney confidently walked up to the podium in the state's Supreme Court, and announced that he was there to argue their appeal of a lower court decision that effectively dismembered the historic Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

Twenty minutes later, the soft-spoken Blake Hewitt was their super-hero.  In a precise and devastating attack, Hewitt had ravaged the ruling by Circuit Judge Diane S. Goodstein in which she handed over the Diocese, its parishes, and financial assets to the angry, anti-gay followers of ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence in 2012.

When Hewitt sat down, there was stunned silence.  Even Lawrence's normally-mug legal team appeared pale and flummoxed in the face of Hewitt's easy charm and pointed arguments.  Everyone on both sides wanted to know who the young legal wizard was and why they had never heard of him. 

Church Attorney Tom Tisdale disclosed later that after Goodstein's ruling came down in January 2015, he quietly let it be known in legal circles that he was looking to hire the "best appellate lawyer in South Carolina".  It wasn't long, he said, before Hewitt's came up ... repeatedly.

A one-time Baptist turned Methodist, Hewitt admits he knew practically nothing about the Episcopal Church when he was first approached about taking the case.  He then spent two months immersing himself in learning everything he could about his new client, its history, governance, and theology. 

He said the experience not only provided him with confidence in the substance of his arguments, but with an enduring admiration and respect for the Church.

This week the state's Judicial Merit Selection Commission announced that Hewitt would be a candidate for a seat on the state's Court of Appeals.  He is an attorney with a Columbia-based firm, but lives with his wife and their young child in Conway. 

Under very strange rules, candidates who survive the Commission's screening process are not allowed to campaign or discuss their candidacy with legislators until after the Commission makes its formal report to the General Assembly in January.


November 15, 2016
Pro-Lawrence Judge among Three Finalists for SC Supreme Court
Goodstein's erratic management of breakaways' lawsuit in 2014 raised huge questions of competence and bias

Dorchester County Judge Diane S. Goodstein is among three candidates cleared by the state's Judicial Merit Selection Commission today to run for a vacant seat on the state's five-member Supreme Court.  The election will be held in the state Legislature next spring.

Goodstein famously presided over the trial of ex-Bishop Lawrence's mega-lawsuit in 2014, claiming that he and his followers constituted the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and owned more than $500 million in Church assets and property.

Approval of Goodstein's candidacy was apparently not assured until today's meeting of the Commission, given numerous negative comments it received about her work on the bench.  However, Goodstein is very well-connected politically and those ties may have likely worked to her advantage in finally getting the panel to sign off on her eligibility to run.

Crazy Trial

During the trial of Lawrence's lawsuit, the most consistent thing about the proceedings was Goodstein erratic behavior and abrupt mood swings that often created a circus-like atmosphere in the courtroom. 

On several occasions without warning, the judge would lash out at people in the courtroom, including a mild-mannered Church attorney and even a member of the audience who didn't scramble fast enough in finding a seat.  At other times she seemed flirtatious and even coquettish, sometimes offering coffee and water to witnesses as they took the stand.  

In one of the most bizarre moments in the trial, she forbid attorneys on both sides from using the name, "The Episcopal Church," even though it was the defendant in the case.  She said the term was confusing her.

Six months after the trial, Goodstein finally ruled in Lawrence's favor, issuing a highly controversial decision that was little more than a rubberstamp of a proposed order submitted by Lawrence's attorneys. The basic premise of her/their ruling was that the Episcopal Church was not a hierarchical Church, even though there is more than 200 years of Constitutional precedents that say it is.

The case has been pending before the State Supreme Court for nearly a year-and-a-half.  Citizens who are concerned about this, should share their thoughts with members of the Legislature.


Read the full story here


September 10, 2016
Gladstone Adams III Succeeds Charles vonRosenberg as Provisional Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina

Special Diocesan convention cheers new Bishop, gives emotional, standing ovation to "Bishop Charlie" and Annie

The Rt. Reverend Gladstone "Skip" Adams, retiring Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York, was confirmed this morning as the new Provisional Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina by a rousing special Diocesan convention at Grace Church Cathedral in Charleston. 

He succeeds Bishop Charles vonRosenberg who has led a three-and-a-half year reorganization of the historic diocese.  The Diocese was betrayed by its former Bishop, Mark Lawrence, who abandoned the Church in the fall of 2012.  Von Rosenberg became its provisional bishop in January 2012, just after he and the Church were sued by Lawrence and his followers claiming ownership of the Diocese and more than $500 million in Church property and financial assets.

Adams was installed in his new role during a festive Choral Eucharist, that included a stirring sermon by Kansas Bishop Dean Wolfe, commending the people of the Diocese for their long struggle to create a renewed Christian witness in the face of overwhelming odds.  "You are not alone.  You have never been alone," he told the congregation.

Adams is not unaware of the challenges he faces, and left no doubt that he and his wife Bonnie were prepared to "fall in love" with the Diocese.  He was ordained to the priesthood 36 years ago, but clearly is embracing his new job with enthusiasm and energy.

Read coverage of the events of the day by clicking here


September 3, 2016
What the Heck's Going on with the South Carolina Supreme Court?
As one year anniversary of oral arguments approaches, the Court's changed chemistry may be delaying a final decision in the Lawrence case

It's been nearly a year since the state's Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the appeal of a lower court ruling awarding ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence and his followers ownership of the "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina," and the properties of nearly forty parishes that want to leave the Episcopal Church with him.

Neither side appears to have heard anything that might give the state's “hierarchical” Christian denominations a clue about their legal standing to hold onto their property and financial assets in the face of schismatic movements like the one Lawrence has led.

Lawrence became Bishop of South Carolina in 2008, but in October 2012 renounced his vows and left the Church along with what turned out to be nearly forty parishes and missions loyal to him.  The following January, they filed a take-no-prisoners lawsuit against the Church laying claim to Church property and financial assets valued at more than $500 million.

The trial of the lawsuit was held in July 2014 with a final ruling issued the following January.  The Church announced its plans to appeal the ruling to the state's Supreme Court almost immediately.


Toal's influence declining?

SC Episcopalians has consistently restrained itself from speculating on what has been going on among the five justices of the Court. 

It's a complicated case with many critical issues to be resolved such that a delay of this length is not unreasonable.  The justices themselves have complicated personal relationships, which could be creating a little stress since three of those five justices are past, current, and future Chief Justices. 

However, we now believe the failure of the Court to rule in the case, nearly a year after it was heard, is a sign of trouble for those who'd hoped Chief Justice Jean Toal would rally the Court to a decision favorable to their side.
 

Justices split?

Toal has always been at the heart of the Lawrence lawsuit.

In 2009 she wrote the Court's opinion in the case allowing All Saints’ Episcopal Church on Pawleys Island to leave the Church... and Lawrence and his followers have been counting on her to do the same for them in their current lawsuit.  Their 40-plus attorneys carefully fashioned their case along the lines of Toal's reasoning in All Saints'.  They even hired one of Toal's closest friends and veteran of the All Saints' case as one of their lead attorneys, while maneuvering the case into the courtroom of a circuit judge believed to be one of Toal's good friends.  

During September's oral arguments, Toal dashed all that manipulation when she announced to a stunned courtroom that the All Saints’ decision had nothing to do with issues raised in the Lawrence lawsuit.  Two entirely different cases, she insisted.  Loyal Episcopalians immediately rejoiced as Lawrence's crest-fallen supporters absorbed the implications of what Toal had said.

However, at that moment, neither side seemed to appreciate that Toal was not dismissing the result of the lower court ruling.  She was just saying that All Saints' was the wrong legal standard to apply in the Lawrence case
.
  

Speculation

SC Episcopalians is breaking its' self-imposed ban on groundless speculation, and suggesting that Toal subsequently found another standard that still works in the breakaways' favor.

There was never any question that she would assign herself the task of writing the Court’s opinion in the Lawrence case.  She had led a unanimous Court in All Saints' and was clearly well-versed in the issues presented in the Lawrence appeal.
 


We believe that Toal probably drafted an opinion whose result was favorable to the Lawrence side and, following normal procedures, circulated it to the other four justices.  We further suspect there was strong resistance among her colleagues to her result -- if not her legal reasoning -- and that a lack of consensus brought progress on the case to a halt.

When justices are unable to come to a consensus, the Chief Justice will reassign the opinion to another justice who appears to speak for a majority.  We think that has occurred.


Toal is no longer the driving force on the Court she was when oral arguments were heard, and certainly not when she was presiding over the All Saints' case. 

Today, she is actually the retired Chief Justice, who is staying on as a special justice to finish up cases that were originally heard while she was in charge.  Her successor, Costa Pleicones, is running the show now.  When he retires at the end of the year, Justice Don Beatty of Spartanburg will succeed him.

This case may well be the most important of Pleicones’ tenure as Chief and he likely does not want it to be one that invites an avalanche of new lawsuits by more breakaway Episcopal congregations, along with those of other “hierarchical” denominations like the Lutherans, Methodists, Greek Orthodox, Presbyterians, AMEs, and Church of Christ. 

There is also the matter of other settled precedents that might have to be overturned because of an outlier decision in this one.  Supreme Court rulings in similar cases in Georgia and Virginia have sided with the Episcopal Church and, in recent cases challenging the authority of "hierarchical" Churches, the current U.S. Supreme Court has come down consistently in favor of those denominations.

Toal’s protest notwithstanding, All Saints’ led directly to the Lawrence lawsuit and is now responsible for millions of dollars in legal fees, broken congregations, and multiple embarrassments to the state’s judiciary. 

It is hard to imagine that Pleicones or Beatty has any desire to make a further mess of this on their watches.


August 2, 2016
Judge Goodstein Running for Seat on the State Supreme Court
Dorchester County jurist presided over wacky trial of Lawrence lawsuit


COLUMBIA - South Carolina's Judicial Merit Selection Commission announced today that Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein is among seven candidates it has found qualified to fill a vacancy on the State's Supreme Court. 

Goodstein was the lower court judge who presided over the trial of the mega-lawsuit brought by ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence and his followers who are trying to leave the Episcopal Church with property and assets valued at more than $500 million.

The election of the new Associate Justice will be held next year by the Legislature.

Zany

The two-week trial took place exactly two years ago and left both loyal and breakaway Episcopalians incredulous at the judge's zany courtroom behavior and odd rulings.  

At different points in the trial she appeared to be giddy and flirtatious, even offering witnesses refreshments when they took the stand.  Then without warning she would fly into a rage over seemingly innocuous events. 

On the first day of the trial she lashed out at a member of the audience who apparently did not move fast enough in taking his seat in the relatively spacious courtroom.  She claimed he distracted her from concentrating on the trial. 

On another occasion she blew up at a mild-mannered Church attorney, threatened to have her disbarred, and even stalked out of her own courtroom.

Too many churches

Goodstein made things particularly difficult for pro-Church attorneys by insisting that that the name of their client - "The Episcopal Church" - not be spoken during the trial because it was confusing her and there were already "too many churches" involved in the case.

Goodstein outraged loyal Episcopalians by allowing repeated objections and interruptions of the testimony of pro-Church witnesses, even though there was no jury involved.  She'd routinely look to Lawrence's attorneys for guidance on how she should rule on procedural matters, and sometimes even prompted them to offer objections when she thought they might be missing an opportunity.

Midway through the trial she stunned the courtroom by seeming to announce how she was going to rule even before the defense was able to present its case.

Goodstein's final ruling finding in favor of the breakaways then was no surprise.  It appeared to be little more than a verbatim repetition of a proposed ruling submitted by the attorney who led Lawrence's 40+ member legal team.  When the appeal of the case was heard by the state's Supreme Court, even the five justices seemed to agree that the trial had been "one-sided" and its outcome illogical.

The State Supreme Court heard the case in September 2015, and has yet to rule.


July 13, 2016
California Breakaways Clobbered by State's Highest Court
Judge: "It makes no sense that a diocese can leave the Church"

The California Supreme Court tonight rejected an appeal by a breakaway group that has spent the past seven years laying claim to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin including its property and financial assets. 

The secessionists had asked the high court to overturn a 2014 lower court decision, and a supportive decision by an appeals court, that determined the entire shooting match belonged to the Episcopal Church.  Among their conclusions, the lower courts found that bishops in the Episcopal Church are at all times required to be faithful to the Church's Constitution, canons, and Book of Common Prayer.  They are not free agents who can do whatever the heck they want.

According to historian Dr. Ron Caldwell, the decision will "end seven years of destructive litigation in San Joaquin, and end it in a complete victory for the Episcopal Church."


Ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence was a priest in the Diocese of San Joaquin before he came to South Carolina.  At the time it was led by the late Bishop John-David Schofield, who initiated the legal proceedings when he tried to leave the Church and take the Diocese with him. 

Lawrence followed in Schofield's footsteps when he became Bishop of South Carolina, and filed a blockbuster lawsuit in early 2013 making nearly identical claims as those made earlier by his mentor.  Lawrence's case is currently pending before the state's Supreme Court, which could issue a ruling at anytime.

Like the San Joaquin group, many of Lawrence's crowd call themselves "Anglican," even though they are not recognized by the Anglican Communion or have any formal affiliation with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Tonight's ruling puts California along side states like Georgia and Virginia whose high courts have completely rejected the claims of breakaways.  Breakaways in the Dioceses of South Carolina, Fort Worth, and no-longer-existing Quincy (Ill.) have made inroads in state courts but their eventual outcomes are far from certain.

The ruling also serves as a reminder to the 38 pro-Lawrence parishes in South Carolina that they made an enormous blunder last summer in rejecting the Church's settlement offer in which they would have gained full ownership of their properties and assets at no cost.


June 30, 2016
VonRosenberg's Successor Named
Gladstone "Skip" Adams, retiring Bishop of Central New York, to lead the Episcopal Church in South Carolina

The Rt. Reverend Gladstone "Skip" Adams, a 63-year-old native of Baltimore and a graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary, will succeed Charles vonRosenberg as the provisional Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, according to its Standing Committee this morning.  Bishop Adams was its unanimous choice to lead the Diocese in what are likely to be among the most challenging years in the history of the Episcopal Church in eastern South Carolina.

Bishop Adams is highly regarded by his fellow bishops, and a friend of vonRosenberg. "His experience, as well as his gifts for ministry, will serve him and the diocese well in the months and years to come," according to vonRosenberg.

Adams, consecrated in 2001, currently leads the Diocese of Central New York, which is comprised of many small parishes in small towns not unlike those in South Carolina.  SC Episcopalians is actually on vacation in the Diocese of Central New York and can attest to the high regard in which he held by communicants there.

The Standing Committee's decision will need to be confirmed by a Diocesan Convention in September, with Adams starting fulltime around the first of October.  He does plan to be in and around the Diocese prior to that time.

Adams will likely be the point person in leading the Diocese in cleaning up the mess created by ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence who left the Church in 2012, and then filed a lawsuit claiming that he and his followers were the rightful owners of Diocesan property and financial assets valued at approximately $500 million.

The extent of that mess will be known when the state's Supreme Court rules on the matter, which was argued last September.

Learn more about the new bishop.


June 29, 2016
Former SC Bishop Edward Salmon has Died
Visionary leader and theologian strengthened the Diocese of South Carolina by building up parishes, growing numbers, and putting its financial house in order

Memorial Eucharist will be held at Grace Church Cathedral Saturday at ll a.m.

The Rt. Reverend Edward L. Salmon loved the priesthood.  He loved being a priest, and nurturing others in that journey.  The grief many Episcopalians are feeling this morning as they hear the news of his death is the loss of a friend, mentor, pastor, and fellow traveler in Christ.

Even though he will be mostly remembered for his work as bishop of South Carolina and later as the president of a seminary
, Bishop Salmon always believed the pastoral relationships between a priest and his or her congregation to be at the heart of Christian ministry... and that belief was a part of who he was throughout his priesthood. 

Bishop Salmon, 82, died during the night after battling cancer.  He died in St. Louis, where he had served as rector of the Episcopal Church of St. Michael and St. George for ten years prior to his election as Bishop of South Carolina.  He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Sewannee and later received an M. Div. degree from Virginia Theological Seminary.  He became a priest in 1961.

Salmon served as the 13th Bishop of South Carolina from 1990-2008, succeeding the Rt. Rev. C. Fitzsimmons  Allison, who left the job after only eighht years.  More recently, he was president and dean of Nashotah House seminary in Wisconsin.  

The late Nick Zeigler who, as Chancellor of the Diocese, worked with both Salmon and Allison described the two this way:

"It is hard to imagine two men of more contrasting personalities than Bishop Allison and Bishop Salmon.  Whereas Fitz is mercurical, energetic, and combative, Salmon is deliberate, contemplative, and conciliatory.  Fitz has the jocular manner of an extrovert; Salmon's bearing has an aspect of old-fashioned gravitas reinforced by the presence of sideburns that would have done a 19th century prelate proud."

Election suprise

Salmon once told SC Episcopalians that he only half-heartedly allowed his name to placed in nomination for bishop in South Carolina.  "There was a very strong field of candidates and I really didn't feel I knew enough people.  However, when I was elected on the first ballot, I had to think the Holy Spirit was telling me something," he said.

Salmon's 18 years at the helm focused on channeling resources to parishes in an effort to prepare them for an anticipated population boom along the coast.  He expanded the Builders for Christ program to encourage congregations to hire youth directors and supported building renovations and expansions to accomodate larger numbers." 

During Salmon's tenure the number of communicants in the Diocese exceeded 30,000, while diocesan revenues reached their highest levels ever.

Salmon was a man of tremendous intellect and his preaching and teaching reflected that.  He had a razor-sharp wit, and engaging personality that allowed him to make make friends easily.  He was one of the most popular members of the House of Bishop during his entire episcopate, and was widely consulted by others in the Anglican Communion.

SC Episcopalians is on vacation, but more commentary on the Salmon years will follow.



June 14, 2016

Not Again!

Orlando Massacre comes on the eve of the  first anniversary of the murders of the Emanuel Nine

Still aching for brothers and sisters at Emanuel AME, members of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina joined hundreds of mourners in Charleston Tuesday night at an impromptu vigil for the more than 100 Floridians who were killed and wounded at an Orlando night club. 

Archdeacon Calhoun Walpole and Canon Caleb Lee of Grace Church Cathedral were among the dozens of Episcopalians from nearly every Charleston area parish who joined in praying for those who lost their lives, and their surviving friends and families.

Earlier in the day, South Carolina Bishop Charles vonRosenberg made the following statement:

"As we remember the killings at Mother Emanuel one year ago, we now encounter another indication of the pervasive power of hatred, in Orlando. Because of our experience, we have a window through which to see the Florida tragedy. The view may be different, the landscape may have changed, but the setting of hatred's power is the same.

"In response to this encounter with hate, though, we remember the example of the families of Emanuel's victims, who followed the example of Jesus himself. That example, of course, leads inextricably to love.  And, from the time of the cross, hatred loses its power when confronted by love.

"The families of Emanuel knew this. The families of Orlando will come to know the same, I pray. May we all learn that lesson from our Lord, even in the pain, grief, and anger cultivated by hatred. Love will have the final word, for love is of God... and God is love."

Faithfully,
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg

SC Episcopalians is not aware of any statement from the departed "Diocese of South Carolina," led by ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence, but will report it when and if it is forthcoming.


June 9, 2016

Continuing Diocese Celebrates Bishop Guerry Day
Bishop was murdered 88 years ago by clergy critic of his efforts to include African Americans in the life of the Church


Eighty-eight years ago today, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina died from an assassin's bullet. 

The Right Rev. William Alexander Guerry was shot in his office at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Charleston by an enraged priest, distraught over the bishop's efforts to give African Americans a larger role in the affairs of the diocese.

For decades, the diocese and St. Philip’s kept the story quiet.  Recent efforts by the followers of ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence to expunge the Episcopal Church from their revised histories of the "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" threatened to sink the story for good.

Fortunately, Archdeacon Calhoun Walpole and Chancellor Thomas Tisdale saw the importance of rescuing the story for present and future Episcopalians.  The two conducted extensive research, wrote numerous articles and sermons, and brought Guerry’s story to life again, including the writing and staging of a play at the Dock Street Theatre.

Cathedral Dean Michael Wright has been so moved by the story that he has encouraged leaders of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion to officially recognize Guerry as a martyr.  

Under Dean Wright’s guidance, the Cathedral has created a small chapel in Guerry’s honor in a corner of its nave, and last April the visiting Dean of Canterbury Cathedral asked about its origin. 

Two weeks later after his return to England, the Dean sent word that Bishop Guerry’ name would be permanently included on that Cathedral’s list of martyrs. He also invited members of the Diocese to undertake a pilgrimage to Canterbury in June 2018 to take part in activities honoring the 90th anniversary of Bishop Guerry’s death.

In the view of SC Episcopalians, Bishop Guerry was one of the three most important bishops in the history of the Diocese, along with Theodore Dehon (1812 –1817) and Gray Temple (1962-1981).  Not insignificantly, their episcopates also represented significant transitions in the role of African Americans in the Diocese. 


June 4, 2016
Loyal SC Episcopalians Looking to a Tumultuous Summer
Retiring "German bishop" leaves united Diocese prepared for both victory and defeat

It is rumored that South Carolina Bishop Charles vonRosenberg has two versions of a public statement in his desk in anticipation of the state's Supreme Court ruling on the massive lawsuit against the Episcopal Church by ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence and his followers.

In many ways, vonRosenberg has taken the same approach to restoring his continuing diocese in eastern South Carolina after Lawrence and 38 parishes aligned with him moved forward with a scheme to leave the Church with millions of dollars in financial assets and parish property.

Vision

From the get-go, vonRosenberg's goal has been to prepare Episcopalians and former Episcopalians for eventual reconciliation.  During the past three and a half years, he has carefully orchestrated the rebuilding of the diocese in ways that would not impede realization of that goal down the road. 

He passed up repeated opportunities to go after Lawrence and his crowd, often refusing media interviews and public appearances in which he could have gone on the attack.  He refused to dispose Lawrencian priests from their priesthood, until months after they'd pledged loyalty to the secessionists.  Even then, he simply "released" them from their ministries in the Church.

In an extraordinary move last summer, he convinced Presiding Bishop Catharine Jefferts Schori to change course and offer the breakaway parishes everything they were seeking in court in exchange for abandoning their claims to the corporate identity of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.  VonRosenberg saw it as an opportunity to remove a barrier to wider ministry for both loyalists and rebels.

Patience

He repeatedly endured with great patience the slings and arrows from the breakaways and their lawyers.

Among other insults, anti-Church lawyers consistently mangled the pronunciation of vonRosenberg's name in court to encourage judges to think that he was somehow foreign to South Carolina.  On a few occasions, they referred to him as "the German bishop" (in much the same way as Donald Trump has been referring to his current nemesis as "the Mexican judge.")  

This month, as vonRosenberg's grateful diocese bids him and his wife farewell, he leaves in place a vibrant and unified church structure with a clear sense of mission and direction. 

Should the Supreme Court uphold the lower court's decision favorable to the breakaways, very little of what vonRosenberg has created will change as the continuing diocese moves forward.  If the ruling is favorable, Lawrence parishes can be assured of open hearts on the Church side, and a commitment to reengaging in the work of Jesus Christ.

(Dr. Ron Caldwell has written a very good summary of Bishop vonRosenberg's tenure.  You can access it by clicking on the bright blue link to his blog just underneath the masthead above on this page.)

Successor

Aside from the Court decision, the biggest news will be the naming of a new provisional bishop as successor to vonRosenberg. This process is unlike that of electing a diocesan bishop in that a provisional bishop is selected by the Diocese's Standing Committee in consultation with the Presiding Bishop and the outgoing provisional bishop if there is one. 

Provisional bishops are kind of like contractors.  They are already consecrated, retired or retiring from their positions as diocesan bishops, and looking for a short-term position before they become fully retired.  With five attempts by rightwing dioceses to leave the Church over the past ten years, this has been a fairly brisk job market for retired bishops. 

The selection process has been ongoing for some months, and being kept very much under wraps.  Rumors a few weeks ago that the retiring bishop of western North Carolina might be under consideration was reassurance that there were potential candidates of vonRosenberg's quality and character out there.


May 18, 2016
No Ruling from State's Supreme Court Today
Speculation:  High Court could be holding back on controversial cases until after new Chief Justice is elected next week


Another Wednesday morning has come and gone with no decision from the state’s Supreme Court on the mega-lawsuit brought by former Bishop Mark Lawrence against the Episcopal Church. 

The Court normally publishes its opinions on Wednesday mornings, and for the past 34 Wednesdays current and former South Carolina Episcopalians have watched anxiously for a decision on whether Lawrence and his followers will be allowed to leave the Episcopal Church with property and financial assets valued at more than $500 million.

Lawrence brought the lawsuit in January 2013 and, in January 2015, prevailed in a lower court in which Dorchester County Judge Diane Goodstein gave him and his followers the whole shooting match.  The Episcopal Church appealed, and the following September the five justices of the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case.

Anxiety Running High

There is much speculation on why the Court is taking so long to issue an opinion. 

One reason maybe that it’s a complicated case, and legal precedence unique to South Carolina could influence the Court to take a different path than its counterparts in Virginia and Georgia.  In those states, their highest courts considered similar cases by breakaway groups and ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church. 

Among the challenges for the Church is a related case in 2009, in which the Court found that the Church’s 1979 “Dennis Canon” was not particularly compelling evidence that parishes in South Carolina had consented for all time to be part of the Episcopal Church. 

While Lawrence has laid claim to the nearly 40 parishes that have joined him in the lawsuit, he also claims that he and his followers own the corporate entity known as the “Diocese of South Carolina” and all of its assets.  This claim to the corporate entity is probably the weakest part of Lawrence’s lawsuit, but it is possible that anomalies in the legal status of some of the older parishes backing him might allow them to leave the Church.

Even attorneys for Lawrence have given up on the hope that the Court will uphold Goodstein's ruling.  If the justices were planning on siding with her, they wouldn't be taking over eight months to say so.

Electing a New Chief

A second reason may be the more practical. 

Next week the Legislature is scheduled to elect a new Chief Justice to succeed the incumbent, Costa Pleicones.  Associate Justice Don Beatty, the Court's next most senior judge, is likely to be elected by a unanimous vote. 

However, earlier this year, Tea Party Republicans were rumored to be looking for an alternate candidate, whom they hoped would not be as “liberal” as Beatty.   While few in the legal profession consider Beatty a liberal, he is black and that is enough for some of the state’s rightwing politicians to mistrust him.

The case involving the Episcopal Church is going to ruffle feathers regardless of its outcome, so there is speculation that the Court might just be holding back on making any controversial rulings until Beatty is safely elected.  That could happen on May 25th. 

Fueling this speculation is the Court’s foot-dragging over the past seven weeks on an even more controversial case regarding the powers of a special prosecutor who is investigating members of the Legislature for corruption.  In that case, the issues are relatively straight forward, leading some to wonder about the Court’s motives in waiting to rule.



May 5, 2016
ACNA Hierarchy Headed to Mount Pleasant June 20-24
Self-styled "Anglican Church of North America" will continue its courtship of the followers of ex-Bishop Lawrence at the controversial St. Andrew's Episcopal Church

M
OUNT PLEASANT- The governing bodies of the breakaway "Anglican Church of North America" will convene in Mount Pleasant this summer to figure out a way forward after failing in their attempt to earn a place in the Anglican Communion last January.  
 

ACNA's Executive Committee, Provincial Council, and College of Bishops will all have meetings during the week of June 20th and the public is invited to join them.  The breakaway group, comprised largely of disaffected Episcopalians and members of the Anglican Church of Canada, are led by Foley Beach, who bears the title of "Archbishop."  It is not clear if he is still calling himself a "Primate," which is the title reserved for recognized leaders of the 38 Anglican provinces.

A key factor in the group's choice of South Carolina for this meeting is its ongoing courtship of parishes loyal to ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence.  Should the state's Supreme Court allow them to leave the Episcopal Church with their property, ACNA's prestige and credibility would be greatly enhanced if these parishes chose to join up.  Lawrence's lieutenants have been pushing the parishes to discern a path forward that would produce that outcome. 

The case is currently pending before the Court, where a ruling could come at any time.

ACNA has been insisting for years that it is the true representative of traditional Anglicanism in the United States, but that is not the way the Archbishop of Canterbury saw it in late 2014 when he described ACNA as "a separate Church ... not in the Communion."

The primates similarly sent them packing at their meeting at Canterbury Cathedral last January when they reaffirmed their intention to "walk together" with the Episcopalians in spite of substantial differences over issues related to human sexuality.

Without an Anglican identity, ACNA's leaders must figure out who they are and what they believe in.

The question of joining ACNA is not a simple one for Lawrence parishes.  Historian Dr. Ron Caldwell explores just some of the issues they must address in his thoughtful analysis found here.

Register for the meeting by clicking here



April 28, 2016
Breakaway Diocese of Pittsburgh Rejects Unsuitable Favorite Son to Succeed Retiring Bishop Duncan
In the eyes of ACNA, beloved priest and Duncan loyalist ranks right up there with gays, women priests, and transgendered people


Contrarian clergy and lay people in ACNA’s Diocese of Pittsburgh did not easily surrender their independence to their Church’s hierarchy at last Saturday's special convention, but they finally gave in and abandoned a popular favorite son to succeed retiring Bishop Robert Duncan. 

The controversial Duncan stepped down as the leader of the self-styled “Anglican Church of North America” in late 2014, but stayed on as bishop of what remains of the renegade “diocese” he tried to lead out of the Episcopal Church.

Five months ago Duncan informed the diocese that he wanted to retire.  He and his Standing Committee then commissioned a search for a successor and issued a call for a special convention to elect him last Saturday.

What happened next is a lesson for South Carolina breakaways

As it turned out, the story of the convention was more about the election of the new bishop and what it says about the ACNA than a celebration of Duncan’s turbulent years at the helm. 

Its lessons are particularly relevant to breakaway parishes in South Carolina as they are under a lot of pressure to merge with ACNA, if they win their current legal battle in the State’s Supreme Court.

Here’s the gist of what happened.  

The discernment process that followed Duncan's announcement produced a predictable slate of five candidates (all men, of course).  However, many in the diocese were distressed that the name of The Rev. Jonathan Millard - a popular priest, long-time diocesan leader, and Duncan loyalist - was not on the slate.

A former lawyer in his native England, Millard has an impressive resume that should warm the hearts of any of the remaining breakaway groups  He studied theology at Oxford University and then went on to seminary at Wycliffe Hall.  He served as a long-time rector of two parishes in the Pittsburgh diocese, and rallied the secessionists eight years ago in support of Duncan’s war against the Episcopal Church. 

Millard's parish describes him this way: “Raised in a Christian family, Jonathan cannot remember a time when he did not know God. Through the joys and sorrows of life and ministry, Jonathan is surer today than ever of God’s grace, love and power to do abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine. Jonathan is passionate about people, preaching and seeing lives transformed by God.”

Considered unsuitable, Millard was nominated from the convention floor and became the instant favorite

By the time the delegates convened last weekend, Millard’s friends and supporters announced plans to nominate him from the floor... and he immediately became the frontrunner. 

Millard easily led in the voting among both clergy and lay delegates on the first two ballots.  On the third ballot he was in a virtual tie with the surging candidacy of James Hobby, the eventual winner who is currently a priest serving a breakaway group in Georgia.

On the fourth ballot, Hobby gained a slight edge over Millard, who then saw the handwriting on the wall and withdrew in the interest of unity.

In all likelihood, Millard would have been elected as the successor to Duncan, his long-time friend and mentor, except that he is considered unsuitable to be a bishop in the eyes of God… and the ACNA leadership to whom God speaks. 

He is recently divorced.
 


Authority of ACNA's laity has largely been given over to a handful of very narrow-thinking bishops

That’s right, in the Biblically-literal world of ACNA, The Rev. Mr. Millard ranks right up there with other undesirables like gays, women priests, and transgendered people.

In news reports about the convention, it is clear that Bishop Duncan aggressively campaigned among the delegates against his friend.  He even held a private meeting with delegates to warn them that ACNA’s college of bishops would most likely reject a divorced nominee for bishop. 

According to the Pittsburgh Gazette, “Before balloting on Saturday morning, delegates (sic) held a closed-door discussion about the ramifications of the candidacy of Rev. Millard. While pastor of a large parish and experienced in administration, he had been divorced last year after an extended separation. Bishop Duncan cautioned that, given the bishops’ emphasis on 'the lifelong permanence of holy matrimony,' it would be a challenge for them to confirm such an election.”

In the ACNA, standing committees, where lay people might have some say, have no role in the election process like they do in the Episcopal Church.  Elections like the one last Saturday in Pittsburgh only create an illusion that the ACNA is a democratic entity. 

The reality is that the elections of ACNA's bishops are largely the creatures of dark, closed-door meetings of its College of Bishops, who have the impression that the way to proclaim the life-giving Gospel is to exclude people whom they judge to be unacceptable in the eyes of a loving and forgiving God.

The Rev. Canon Mark Harris writes this about the Pittsburgh election on the weblog, Preludium:

"Now it may take time for the hierarchy of ACNA to get this, because the bishops in ACNA are not as easily informed by the laity - but the handwriting is on the wall, the signs are there.  In spite of all the muttering about truths once delivered of the saints and God's word written, the reality is that divorce is no longer a clear sign of unsuitability.

"Is divorce in the life of a candidate a matter that requires further question? Of course. But (it) is no longer a clear sign of unsuitability.

"In North America regular church citizens are not likely to appreciate being told what to do and who is suitable. As seems to have been true for all Anglican and Anglican-like bodies in North America, ACNA will have to come to terms with being IN North America.

"Good luck with that."

You can read more about the Pittsburgh convention at
Episcopal Café, and Preludium.


April 22, 2016

GAFCON Should Get With the Anglican Communion or Get Out
Renegade primates don't pay their way, attend meetings, or even engage other provinces, while loyal Anglicans under them are prevented from participating in the Communion

GAFCON is an unsanctioned affiliation of ultraconservative Primates who can't seem to decide if they are in the Anglican Communion or not. 

Most of this handful of provincial leaders hail from Africa, but some come from South America and Asia.  They include the largest and smallest of Anglicanism's 38 province, and are bound together by a fear of homosexuality, empowered women, and a smug self-righteous that only they know the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

However, GAFCON's hardcore leadership lies with the Anglican provinces of Rwanda, Uganda, Nigeria, and Kenya. 

For years, these four have repeatedly ignored Communion rules about respecting borders and underwritten legal efforts to poach parishes from the Episcopal Church.  They have often treated follow primates, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, with ridicule and disrespect, staged boycotts of Communion gatherings, and issued self-important "communiques" proclaiming themselves the true voices of Christ in the Anglican Communion..

Their ecclesiastical structures have rotted as they wrapped themselves tightly in the political agendas of autocratic strongmen that rule their countries.  They have often supported outrageous laws that have led to the persecution of gays and oppression of women. They have corrupted their Churches by openly accepting accept cash payments from those political leaders, as well as other gifts like luxury automobiles.  They have been responsible for inciting fear and hostility toward Muslims that have often been linked to violence and death.

Why the followers of Mark Lawrence entrusted their future to this gang in 2014 is beyond the ability of any intelligent person to comprehend.

Add "deadbeat" to their resumes

At the recently concluded meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Zambia, some important revelations about the GAFCON primates raised questions about whether they should even be in the Communion.

The most significant of these was that they haven't been paying their dues. 

- The province of Nigeria, which claims to include millions of followers, last paid anything to the Communion in 2011, when it kicked in the equivalent of $14,200 toward the Communion's nearly $3 million budget. 

- Uganda, The Congo, Sudan, and West Africa have given nothing in the past five years.

- There is also no record of Rwanda or Tanzania, giving anything in the past two years.

GAFCON primates preside over divided houses

However, equally as important, is the emergence of growing opposition to the leadership of these hardliners within their own provinces. 

A nasty spat erupted earlier this month when the ACC delegates from Kenya had to sneak out of their country to attend the meeting in Zambia and avoid the wrath of their Primate, Eliud Wabukala, who is also the leader of GAFCON.  Last year Wabukala found himself and his henchmen in court over what some of his own clergy believe was an attempt to fix an election for bishop for his loyalists.

In Uganda, many Anglicans have been scandalized by the Church's support for anti-homosexual laws that have made even seeming to be a homosexual punishable by lengthy jail terms.  Priests and even bishops who expressed sympathy for gays and lesbians, found themselves denounced and out of work.

Despite year of demonizing of the Episcopal Church by the GAFCON, the three Episcopal Church delegates to the ACC meeting in Zambia said they were treated like "honored guests" and celebrated as foreign dignitaries. 

Far from being boycotted as GAFCON had urged, 5,000 African Anglicans showed up for the ACCs opening Eucharist, with most hanging around afterwards to sing and dance for hours with their Anglican brothers and sisters from around the world.  In fact, the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, the departing leader of the ACC and a retired bishop of southern Malawi, let it be more than a month ago that the Episcopalians had a "right and responsibility" to attend the ACC meeting.


April 19, 2016
Episcopalians Upbeat after ACC Gathering in Zambia
Letter from our three delegates say they were treated as "honored guests" by the Province of Central Africa

If there is bitter hostility toward the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion, it has not been evident at the recently concluded Anglican Consultative Council Meeting in Lusaka, Zambia.  Seventy delegates from across the Communion worshiped, prayed, debated, worked, and even danced together for nearly two weeks in what appeared to be a joyous celebration of worldwide Anglicanism.

The one possibility of dissention came in the form of a resolution "accepting" a report from January's Primates Meeting, but it was eventually withdrawn... apparently with the agreement of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  At that meeting the Primates had voted to apply "consequences" to the Episcopal Church for its approval of marriage rites for same-gender couples.

Delegates from three of the 38 provinces boycotted the ACC meeting because the three Episcopal Church delegates were enthusiastically welcomed by the Council's leadership.  However, the boycott only seemed to underscore the extent to which the hardline anti-gay Provinces have become marginalized.

Read full letter here


April 18, 2016
Anglican Consultative Council Sidesteps Confrontation with Primates over "Consequences" against the Episcopal Church
Episcopalians quietly taking a lower profile, while Primates' action in January languishes


Members of the Anglican Consultative Council, one of four Instruments of Unity that govern the Anglican Communion, refused to respond to a declaration by its 38 Primates (provincial leaders) in January that "consequences" should be imposed on the Episcopal Church for its support of same-gender marriage.

ACC delegates, meeting in Zambia for the past week and a half, generally felt the Primates had overstepped their authority in "requiring" that representatives of the Episcopal Church be excluded from representing the Communion on policy, theological, or ecumenical matters for three years. 

ACC delegates did approve the Primates' call to the Communion's 38 provinces to "walk together,"  but a separate resolution formally "accepting" the Primates statement was quietly withdrawn.

Even ACC delegates, who do not support same-gender marriage, were concerned that the singling out the policies of an individual province - like the Episcopal Church - would set an unwelcomed precedent for the Communion in the future.

The four Instruments of Unity also include the Primates Meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the every-tenth-year Lambeth Conference of all bishops.  All are semi-independent, somewhat autonomous bodies that pledge to respect and cooperate each other, but they do not govern each other.

Generally, it appears that, while the Episcopalians have no plans to withdraw from active participation in the affairs of the Communion, they do seem to be avoiding high profile involvements that might exacerbate tensions.  Earlier this month Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas withdrew his name from consideration as the new leader of the ACC.

Read full story here


April 16, 2016
"Bishop, Reformer, and Martyr":  Canterbury Cathedral to Honor Murdered South Carolina Bishop

The life of William Alexander Guerry will be celebrated annually at the heart of the Anglican Communion and in a service of remembrance in June 2018

CHARLESTON - Canterbury Cathedral, the center of Anglicanism for more than five centuries, is set to honor the life and martyrdom of the late South Carolina Bishop William Alexander Guerry, according to Dean J. Michael A. Wright of Grace Episcopal Cathedral this morning.  Guerry was one of the longest serving bishops in the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, but for years racial politics have kept his part of Episcopal Church history on a back burner. 

A native of Charleston and a graduate of what is now Porter-Gaud School, Guerry was assassinated in 1928 by a fellow clergyman, who believed the Bishop's work to include African Americans in the full life of the Church was undermining God's plan for white supremacy. 

In recent years, a resurgence of interest in Bishop Guerry have been championed by Archdeacon Callie Walpole and Diocesan Chancellor Thomas Tisdale, both of whom have ties to the University of the South, where Guerry was once a professor of homiletics.

Among the few memorials to Guerry is a special chapel in Grace Cathedral, where his story continues to be told.

Canterbury Dean Robert Willis learned about the murdered bishop last week when he visited Grace and expressed interest in the origins of the Chapel.  Upon his return to England, he authorized the inclusion of Bishop Guerry on the Cathedral's roll of Anglican martyrs, and scheduled a special service of remembrance at Canterbury Cathedral in June 2018 on the 90th anniversary of his death. 

Dean Wright said he hoped all those who draw inspiration from Bishop Guerry's life and example will accept Dean Willis' invitation to the special celebration two years from now.  Dean Willis has also offered to have a candlelight service and other special activities for visitors from South Carolina that week.

Guerry was murdered in his office in what is now the parish house at St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Charleston.  He is buried in the parish cemetery.  

St. Philip's is currently suing the Church and its South Carolina diocese, claiming in court that it was never part of the Episcopal Church.

It was more than a small irony last week when the Diocese Bishop Guerry once led hosted a tumultuous three-day celebration welcoming the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry to South Carolina.  Curry is the first African American to serve as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.


April 15, 2016
California Court:  Breakaways Lose Everything
San Joaquin case raises the same issues as South Carolina lawsuit

Breakaways in San Joaquin were dealt yet another blow as a California appeals court upheld a lower court ruling declaring that 28 parishes, financial assets, and a camp and conference center owned by the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin... belong to the Episcopal Church.

The issues in the case are nearly identical to the ones raised by ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence in South Carolina in which he and his followers claim to own diocesan property and financial assets with an estimated value of more than $500 million.

A lower court found that the claims of the breakaways in Lawrence's home diocese amounted to little more than thievery.

Last summer the Episcopal Church offered to settle Lawrence's lawsuit by withdrawing any claim to the breakaways' parish properties and financial assets.  In exchange, the parishes would have given up their claims to the diocesan corporation.  The two groups would have shared ownership of the Diocese's camp and conference center.  The parishes also would not have been held liable of the millions of dollars in Episcopal Church funds that Lawrence has misspent over the past three years.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori signed off on the deal.  Astonishingly, none of the parishes took her up on it. 

Lawrence's lawsuit is currently pending before the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Here's the opinion

Here's the story from Episcopal News Service


April 15, 2016
Newest Episode in GAFFE-CON Melodrama Features  Lawrencians' Pastoral Overseer in Lead Role
Kenyan Primate accuses Bishop of Nairobi of bullying, Anglican Communion of corruption, and unknown bad guy of forging his name and hacking his website


The antics of the American Presidential campaign have been minor league stunts compared to the recent intrigues of the four most prominent anti-gay Primates in Africa.  This week's brouhaha is over the current meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in Zambia and how a delegation from one of their provinces ended up attending. 

Since January, these leaders of the ultraconservative provinces of Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and Rwanda have been stewing over their spectacular failure to convince the most recent Primates' Meeting to kick the Episcopal Church out of the Anglican Communion. 

They've also been stung by criticism for then stalking out of the meeting and abandoning their protégé - the leader of the so-called “Anglican Church of North America” - without even asking for a vote on whether he and his renegade organization had a future in Anglicanism.

The row was significant in that the Primates' Meeting and the ACC are two of the four interdependent Instruments of Anglican Unity that govern the 85-million-member Communion.  The Archbishop of Canterbury and the every-tenth-year Lambeth Conference of bishops are the other two.

Anti-gay primates take aim at ACC Conference in Zambia

The dust had barely settled in February when we and other websites reported that the chairman of the ACC was telling colleagues that delegates from the Episcopal Church had the “right and responsibility” to participate in the organization's meeting in Zambia which actually convened this past week.   

The four African primates were officially steamed.  The Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, their colleague and former Bishop of Southern Malawi, was practically rolling out a red carpet for the gay-loving Episcopalians. 

As expected, they announced they would boycott the ACC meeting but, in a surprise to everyone, the three-person delegation from Kenya was mysteriously present when the roll was called on its opening day.

Meanwhile, back in Nairobi...

No one appeared to be more surprised than The Most Rev. Eliud Wabukala, the leader of the Anglican Church of Kenya, who went ballistic on hearing the news that his three ACC representatives had "defied my authority" and were actually representing him at the ACC meeting. 

Wabukala wasted little time publicly accusing (a) the Rt. Reverend Joel Waweru, Bishop of Nairobi, of bullying the other two delegates into going, (b) the Anglican Communion staff of "corruption" in providing them tickets and accommodations, and (c) an unknown ally of Waweru of forging his name on a fake letter then hacking into his website and posting it.


Add to this volatile mix the reporting of one most irresponsible journalists in the Anglican Communion and you have, well, yet another episode in the long-running melodrama known as GAFFE-CON. 

Facts begin to emerge, but not many answers follow

As nearly as we can determine, the Kenyan delegates received their airline tickets and hotel reservations from the "corrupt" Anglican Communion staff in London long before Wabakala began making noises about not going.  This appears to be a common practice with the ACC, and was not a specific intervention on behalf of the Kenyan delegates.

A few days before the April 8th opening session, Wabukala reportedly told his three ACC representatives that he was not going to the meeting and neither were they. This communication apparently took place over a static-filled cell phone that left everyone on the call hearing what they wanted to hear. 

However, within 24 hours of that conversation, a letter mysteriously appeared on Wabukala's website, saying that he had changed his mind about the three attending the ACC gathering.  The organization had important work to do and Kenya, he felt, should be a part of it.  The letter appeared to bear Wabukala's signature. 

When Wabukala discovered the letter, he denounced it as a forgery, and immediately ordered his staff to take it down.  He claimed that he neither wrote nor posted it.  After a cursory investigation, he determined that the signature was created by a rubberstamp in his office that was sometimes used to affix his signature to letters when he was unavailable. 

However, the question of who wrote the letter, stamped it, and then hacked into the website to post it remained a mystery.

Wabukala was furious and lashed out at what he imagined was a broad conspiracy among his detractors to embarrass him. The rightwing blogosphere happily fanned the flames and eventually word got back to London.

Anglican Communion leader fires back
 
African Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, General Secretary of the Anglican Communion, was incensed by Wabukala's accusations and issued his own public response:

There have been “suggestions of criminal action including forgery and corruption in which the Archbishop of Canterbury and Anglican Communion Office staff have been mentioned.

“It is the practice of the ACO to book the flights and cover the costs for all delegates attending ACC meetings, though some choose to cover their own costs. To imply that on this occasion this established practice is corrupt is disingenuous. Tickets were arranged well before any indications of non-attendance by a small number of Provinces.

“The unsubstantiated public allegations of forgery against the members of the Kenyan delegation are scurrilous and untrue and are made in a manner against all biblical principles of appropriate behaviour.”
 

Read Idowu-Fearon's full response here

Theories of the crime

There are two theories of what happened that seem to be gaining some credibility. 

The first is that Archbishop Wabukala is right that Waweru manipulated the whole business to go to a gathering he knew Wabukala did not want him and his two colleagues to attend.  Wabukala said that, because the cell-phone conversation he had with the ACC delegates repeatedly broke up, he did not understand everything that was being said or what others on the call thought he was agreeing to.

According to this theory, Bishop Waweru then wrote the controversial letter giving himself and the others permission to go the ACC meeting, bullied the other two delegates into agreeing to go, then high-tailed it to Zambia before the Archbishop could discover the treachery.

The challenge with this theory is it would have required an extraordinary level of sophistication and insider assistance to pull off. 

It also doesn't make a lot of sense.

Waweru certainly would have to have been a very effective bully to convince the two other ACC delegates that they somehow heard Wabukala give them permission to attend the meeting when he didn't.  He also somehow had to recruit confederates in Wabukala's employ to cook up a fake letter and get it onto the Province's official website without being detected. 


The letter would have made no difference in whether they could go.  The delegates already had their paid-for tickets and hotel accommodations, so there was nothing forcing them to stay in Kenya.  Surely they would have known that the Archbishop would discover the letter, so the idea that Waweru or someone else in the delegation went to all this trouble needlessly, seems far-fetched at best.

The conspirators would also have had to know Wabukala's password to his computer, and then to his website... to say nothing of locating the rubberstamp and getting a confederate into his office to post the letter when no one was around. 

An alternate theory is that that Wabukala and his allies may have staged the entire business to embarrass Waweru.  Wabukala is retiring this year and Waweru is a strong contender in next month's election to succeed him. 

According to Wabukala, the Nairobi bishop has not been overly supportive of his anti-Episcopal Church stance and his years of boycotting of Anglican Communion activities.  In the past few days, Wabukala has happily reminding bloggers and reporters that Waweru has defied his authority on other occasions as well and "wonders" if he will pay a price for his
disobedience and disloyalty when the election is held.

And this has something to do with South Carolina why?

At this point you may be asking why SC Episcopalians would even be interested in this silliness. 

Well, the main reason is that these four primates - Wabukala in particular - are the spiritual leaders of what is left if the breakaway “diocese” led by ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Two years ago the Lawrence's leadership team steered its flock into an ill-advised relationship of “pastoral oversight” with a group calling itself GAFCON.  The GAFCON is an unauthorized affiliation of dissident conservative primates who have sought to rid their counties and the Anglican Communion of gays and lesbians, and anyone else who thinks they are okay.

Wabukala is actually the Chairman of GAFCON so, in essence, he is the highest spiritual authority for the followers of Mark Lawrence.  We know, hard to believe.

These four primates are the backbone of the GAFCON leadership. They are the same ones who made fools of themselves at the Primates’ meeting in January, and now again, by refusing to attend this week’s meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council because they might have to talk to Episcopalians. 

Their antics have pretty much cost them any relevant role in the Communion.  Their ongoing battle of over homosexuality appears to have become a sideshow, especially with the rising star of Michael Bruce Curry, the new Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church.

However, the damage the GAFCON primates have done to the Communion is nothing compared to the havoc they have reeked on their respective countries through dark alliances with autocratic leaders, who have rewarded them with political influence, monetary gifts, and – as in the case of Uganda – luxury automobiles. 

Among the dubious fruit of those relationships has been the passage of criminal laws that have resulted in the harassment, torture, and incarceration of gays and lesbians.  In some instances, thanks to support from these African Christian leaders – and even Christians in the United States – homosexuality became punishable by death.

The question is: How long will the followers of Mark Lawrence’s “diocese” put up with this perversion of God’s call to love mercy and do justice and get themselves back on track?


April 10, 2016
Grace Church in Charleston Recognized as Anglican Communion's Newest Cathedral
Dean of Canterbury Cathedral affirms historic ties to the Diocese with an ancient stone from Anglicanism's  "Mother Cathedral"

Amid the pomp and pageantry at Grace Church Cathedral this morning, a visitor at first might not have noticed the distinguished priest with the shock of white hair and very distinct British accent. 

However, as the service moved forward, The Very Reverend Robert Willis quickly won the hearts of his American cousins as he spoke movingly of the importance of the Episcopal Church and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina in the "Anglican family."

Willis was at Grace to join Presiding Bishop Michael Bruce Curry in celebrating the life of the "newest Cathedral in the Anglican Communion" and commemorating those ties with the gift of an ancient stone from historic Canterbury Cathedral, which he leads.  According to Dean Willis, the Cathedral at Canterbury presents each cathedral in the Communion with such a stone that includes the imprint of a Canterbury cross as a sign of their solidarity.

Willis also announced that he and his staff were eagerly looking forward to a visit of South Carolina "pilgrims" to Canterbury later this year.  More details on that to come.

Read more on Presiding Bishop Curry's historic visit to the Diocese and see photographs of each event on the website of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.


April 10, 2016
Joyous Visit by Presiding Bishop Draws Thousands 
Michael Curry's three-day stay in the Diocese bolsters spirits, and pride in the Episcopal Church


CHARLESTON - At the end of his three-day visit to Charleston this afternoon, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry clearly had not had enough of South Carolina.  He was craving barbeque. 

Curry was running late for his midafternoon flight and having trouble walking away from the crowds that surrounded him after the 11 a.m. service at Grace Church Cathedral.  However, his host, South Carolina Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, somehow managed to marshal his forces and locate a good take-out restaurant on the way to the airport. 

The image of the former Tennessee Bishop looking for South Carolina barbeque for the former Bishop of North Carolina seemed a perfect symbol of the growing affection between the people of this Diocese and their new leader.

Curry's visit was drenched in both symbolism and purpose.  He deliberately sought out a number of historically black congregations to commemorate their significance in the evolution of the Episcopal Church, while seeking other venues to inspire fellow Episcopalians with his vision of evangelism and justice. 

In less than 48 hours, Curry had managed to visit St. Stephen's, Calvary, St. Mark's, Holy Communion, and Grace Church Cathedral, while squeezing in special encounters with the youth of the Diocese and members of the public. 

An all-day conference Saturday at the Church of the Holy Communion included representatives from parishes throughout both South Carolina dioceses, including Bishop Andrew Waldo.  At that conference, Curry urged participants to "imagine every Episcopalian, every Anglican, committed to living out the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and living in his spirit."  

During his trip, the presiding bishop made few, if any, specific references to the bitter attempt by followers of ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence to leave the Church, but his language was clearly inclusive of any that may choose to return to the Episcopal fold after the courts resolve their lawsuit against the Church and its diocese in eastern South Carolina.

Curry's final appearance was at Grace this morning where he joined the congregation in the receiving of an historic carved stone from the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral to commemorate its becoming the newest cathedral in the Anglican Communion "family." 

In spite of the lengthy service, members of the congregation simply moved outside when it was over and continued to embrace the presiding bishop.  He eagerly greeted the crowd that included Charleston's new Mayor John Tecklenberg and his wife, signed autographs, and happily posed for hundreds of photographs and "selfies". 


April 8, 2016
Presiding Bishop Curry's Historic Visit to Charleston Starts with Extraordinary Ecumenical Prayer Service
Mother Emanuel's new pastor lights up St. Stephen's crowd amid joyous music affirming role of African Americans in the Episcopal Church

From the first words of "In Christ, there is no east or west," Presiding Bishop Michael Curry did not stop smiling. 

The new leader of the Episcopal Church could not have been more obviously delighted by his welcome to Charleston tonight, as St. Stephen's in Ansonborough welcomed the leader of the Episcopal Church with an extraordinary choral service of evening prayer reflecting the city's heritage of blues and spirituals, along with a powerful appeal for Christian unity by the new pastor of Emanuel AME.

The service also provided members of the downtown church community an opportunity to acknowledge a traumatic year of pain and grief over the violent deaths of nine members of an Emanuel AME Bible study.  Many of those who guided the community through that time were present and participated in the service.

Curry's three-day visit, featuring events at five Episcopal parishes on the peninsula, will culminate in a festival Eucharist at Grace Church Cathedral on Sunday morning.  He is visiting The Episcopal Church in South Carolina at the invitation of its bishop and his friend, Charles vonRosenberg.

The Rev. Dr. Betty Deas Clark, the Charleston native who succeeded the late Clementa Pinckney as senior pastor at Mother Emanuel, wasted little time reminding the congregation that, in spite of the diversity of our religious expression, God calls the Church to be one people, "so that others will then know us by our love."  Many in the pews had been affected by last summer's shooting rampage just down the street and were deeply moved by her hopeful and welcoming message.

One of the biggest surprises was the extensive musical program presented by the St. Stephen's choir and its exceptionally talented director, Wayne Helmly.  Curry was clearly affected by the music and one point looked up into the choir loft and asked who had planned it.  Helmly was wildly applauded as he acknowledged Curry and waved a dog-eared copy of the Presiding Bishop's book, "Songs My Grandmother Sang."  

In that book Curry said “I learned what I believed in the songs I heard my family, especially my grandmother, sing. We sang our faith every day.” 

Helmly and members of the choir had studied the book in planning the service.  The Presiding Bishop again showed his enthusiasm for the music when he startled choir members by climbing up into the choir loft at the end of the service to thank them personally.

Members of the congregation, some of whom had never visited an Episcopal Church, were pleased at what they experienced.  One member of a local Missionary Baptist congregation said, "I told my preacher he'd better watch out Sunday 'cause tonight I was getting ole big dose of Anglicanism."

Curry heads to The Church of the Holy Communion tomorrow for a full day of sharing his vision of evangelism and "The Jesus Movement."  Later tomorrow evening he will visit Calvary Episcopal Church.

Sunday's 11 a.m. at the Cathedral will be live-streamed through the Diocesan website.


April 5, 2016
Presiding Bishop's Visit to be Rich in Symbolism and Substance
Curry's arrival on Friday will be his first visit since becoming Presiding Bishop


The Episcopal Church in South Carolina is bracing for a three-day whirlwind visit from the Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, the Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church.  The visit this weekend will be limited to venues in the Charleston area, but include multiple opportunities for loyal Episcopalians in the Diocese to see and hear their new leader, including online Sunday morning at Charleston's Grace Church Cathedral.

The visit will be drenched in both substance and symbolism as the Diocese seeks to use Curry's visit as an affirmation of its heritage among African Americans, as well as among the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion.  His visit will include an evensong at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church with the Rev. Dr. Betty Deas Clark, the Senior Pastor of Emmanuel AME Church, and events at historically black congregations at Calvary and St. Mark's.   Later that evening he will visit with young people of the Diocese at the Cathedral.

Curry's major public appearance in Charleston will be on Saturday at The Church of the Holy Communion, when he gives the keynote address at an all-day educational conference titled "Spirituality, Evangelism, and Justice: Telling the Story, Sharing the Message of The Jesus Movement."  Sign up to attend
 
In 2015, Presiding Bishop Curry was elected by an overwhelming margin to a nine-year term as the 27th Presiding Bishop, becoming the first African American to serve in that position. He often refers to the church as "The Jesus Movement" and is known for his dynamic speaking style and passion for evangelism. He is also a Primate in the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which The Episcopal Church is a province, and in January represented the church at a meeting of the Anglican Primates with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
 
The Presiding Bishop – who at that time was Bishop of North Carolina and already a nationally known speaker and author – has been strongly supportive of the diocese and preached at the Diocesan Convention in February 2014. 
 
At 11:00 a.m. Sunday, April 10, Presiding Bishop Curry will give the sermon at Grace Church Cathedral, the newly-designated cathedral of the diocese. The Very Reverend Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral in the Church of England, is also visiting Grace for the festive Choral Eucharist, which will be webcast live at gracechurchcharleston.org.

More information ...


March 16, 2016
Lawrence Crowd Pumps Up Fake Diocese's Numbers by Laying Claim to Loyal Episcopal Clergy, Parishes, and Missions
Breakaways' Convention Journals say Archdeacon Walpole is one of more than a dozen loyal Episcopal priests "canonically resident" with them, while 22 loyalist congregations, including Grace Church Cathedral, are "in union" with their annual convention

Only days after being busted for assuring his followers that the renegade "Anglican Church of North America" is part of the Anglican Communion, ex-Bishop Lawrence and his lieutenants now have more explaining to do after releasing the Journal of his 2015 "diocesan" Convention that lists nearly a dozen leaders of the continuing (real) Episcopal Diocese as "canonically resident" in his breakaway "diocese."

The Journal also lists 22 loyal parishes and missions of the legitimate Episcopal Diocese, including its Cathedral, as "in union" with the fake "diocese"... but for some reason they haven't been registering their delegates to annual conventions over the past few years. 

The Episcopal Church is subdivided into dioceses, which are led by bishops. All of its active clergy must be "canonically resident" in one of those dioceses.  Parishes in the United States must be "in union" with a diocese (its Annual Convention technically) to be part of the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. 

Among those loyal Episcopal clergy listed as "canonically resident" in the 
Journal of the breakaways' "224th Annual Convention" are The Rev. Donald McPhail, the retired long-time rector of Grace, Charleston; The Rev. Jim Taylor, Diocesan Treasurer and rector of St. Thomas, North Charleston; The Venerable Calhoun Walpole, Archdeacon of the continuing Diocese; The Rev. Wilmot Merchant, immediate past President of the Diocesan Standing Committee; and The Rev. Dow Sanderson, current chair of the Diocesan Commission on Ministry and rector of Holy Communion, Charleston.

Lawrence and 36 parishes supporting him have filed suit against the Episcopal Church, claiming they are free to leave and take millions of dollars in property and financial assets with them.  The group calls itself "The Diocese of South Carolina" and Lawrence insists that he is still an Episcopal bishop of an Episcopal diocese that just doesn't happen to belong to the Episcopal Church.

Fake "Diocese" does well... except when facts get in the way

Lawrence and his lieutenants have spent much of the past three years trying to prop up their failing venture with all kinds of misleading claims, including exactly how many people belong to their "diocese". 

Generally they say that they are booming with 23,000 members. 

It's a puzzling claim in that their own reports show they've been losing membership and financial support ever since Lawrence became bishop in 2008.  Those losses have accelerated annually since he quit the Church in 2012 (see links in the posting below). 

Today Sunday attendance in breakaway parishes average less than 10,000.  When Lawrence became bishop, the diocese had more than 30,000 baptized members.

Legal case in limbo

Nearly three years ago, the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, who leads the continuing (real) Episcopal Church in eastern South Carolina, asked the Federal District Court in Charleston to issue an injunction against Lawrence to prevent him from masquerading as an "Episcopal bishop." 

While the wily ex-bishop quit the Episcopal Church more than three years ago, he continues to occupy the Church's Diocesan House, and elegant Bishop's Residence (at a reported rent of $1 a year.)  Lawrence often attends ultraconservative conferences as a "bishop" on other continents, even though he is not recognized as one by any legitimate Church. Diocesan records show he spent $47,424 on travel in 2013, and $41,178 in 2014. 

VonRosenberg's case against Lawrence has proven to be an embarrassment for the Federal Court in that the very elderly retired judge who was assigned the case has consistently refused to hear it.  It is still pending. 


March 14, 2016
Breakaways Back Off Claim ACNA is in the Anglican Communion
Breakaway movement in North America is farther from real Anglicanism than it has ever been


In a rare moment of clarity over fiction today, ex-Bishop Lawrence's "diocese" seemed to back away from its claim that the so-called "Anglican Church of North America" is part of the Anglican Communion.  The assertion was made on its website Saturday night in an official report from the breakaway group's Annual Convention.

"ACNA is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, whose membership now exceeds 85 million worshipers in more than 165 countries," the website said.  The Lawrence crowd did not allow news media - like SC Episcopalians - to attend the Convention but we have been informed that the claim was made to the delegates during their consideration of plans for future affiliation.

After the story broke on this website, it was picked up by other online news services.
  Magically, the bogus claim disappeared from the breakaways' website Monday morning.


The claim is important to Lawrence and his lieutenants in that they promised their followers in 2012 that they would still be part of the Communion if they left the Episcopal Church.  For three years they have done somersaults trying to make good on their promise.  

In fact, the Episcopal Church is the only Anglican Province recognized by the Communion in the United States. To be Anglican and be an American, one must be an Episcopalian.  The Communion recognizes only Andrew Waldo and Charles vonRosenberg as its bishops in South Carolina. 

The ACNA, founded by anti-gay, anti-women Episcopal Church dissidents, has recently been rejected as a member of the Communion, in one way or another, by all Four Instruments of Anglican Unity.


March 12, 2016
Breakaway “Diocese” Looking to ACNA as its New Home
As discernment begins, Lawrence continues to mislead followers about membership in the Anglican Communion

This morning delegates to the Annual Convention of the breakaway “Diocese of South Carolina” initiated a process of discernment over a move to the so-called “Anglican Church of North America,” after a special task force on affiliation recommended it as a path forward.  The “diocese”, which is led by ex-bishop Mark Lawrence, has been without an ecclesial home for over three years after its members claim they joined him in exiting the Episcopal Church and with their parish properties with them.

The move to ACNA, which would require the agreement of two subsequent conventions, is badly needed as uncertainty over the "diocese's" identity may be contributing to a staggering loss of revenue and membership

Nearly every year since the controversial Lawrence took the helm in 2008, income and attendance have declined.  After declaring war on the Church in 2012, those losses accelerated.  Today less than 10,000 people are in the pews of its parishes on Sundays.

Ironically, if the deal goes through, the ACNA bishop under whom they will be placed is Steve Wood, a former Episcopal priest who was defeated in 2006 when he was nominated for Bishop against Lawrence. Wood joined ACNA shortly after that and became a bishop after famously calling the Presiding Bishop "the anti-Christ" and the Episcopal Church a "whore" (but used much more colorful language we can't repeat here). He has since questioned the accuracy of that allegation.

Of course, consideration of any move other than back to the Episcopal Church may be meaningless, if the South Carolina Supreme Court fails to uphold a decision by a lower court that the breakaway “diocese” can leave the Church with its parish property and financial assets.  That case is currently pending before the Court.

ACNA:  We are Anglican, even if the Communion says we are not
 
As usual, Lawrence and his lieutenants tried to confuse the delegates today by misrepresenting the nature of ACNA.  They say it is part of the Anglican Communion, even though it is not recognized by any of the four Instruments of Anglican Unity that govern the Communion (see story below). 

The Communion lists recognized bishops online and it includes only Andrew Waldo and Charles vonRosenberg as those in South Carolina.  Foley Beach, the head of the ACNA is not listed, nor is Mr. Wood or Mark Lawrence.

In fact, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has made it very clear that ACNA “is a separate Church (that is) not part of the Communion.”

Among the challenges facing the breakaway "diocese" is that ACNA is not really a traditional "Church" as much as it is a very loose affiliation, mostly of denominations like the Reformed Episcopal Church, that are well established and have their own diocesan structures, bishops, and definitions of what it means to be Anglican”. 

A number of independent congregations and networks also have drifted into ACNA’s orbit, but they don’t appear to share a common theology or lines of authority.  They generally seem to be anti-gay and anti-women, and insistent that their way of understanding the Bible is the only way.

SC Episcopalians
did a quick review of a number of ACNA parish websites and found that many make no reference to ACNA membership and are governed by bishops and other leaders who were not consecrated by ACNA nor accountable to its hierarchy.  There also does not seem to be a set of shared standards for ordination, seminary education, or the role of women. 

It will be a big adjustment for the "Diocese of South Carolina," if it cannot elect its own bishops. The election and assignment of bishops in ACNA is done in secret.  Of course, Lawrence runs his “diocese” in secret, so it might not be much of an adjustment.

ACNA Leader:  I was treated like a Primate, so I must be one

The ACNA is headed up by a man named Foley Beach, who was consecrated as its Archbishop two years ago by a handful of rebellious Anglican Primates (provincial leaders) mostly from Africa. They had no authority to do that, and actually violated any number of agreements under which the Communion is governed.

These same Primates forced Archbishop Welby to invite Beach to the recent Primates Meeting in London as a price for their attending.  After the meeting, Beach was asked if he was disappointed that he was not recognized as a Primate himself, and said: 

“I am already recognized as a fellow Primate as declared at my investiture by the Primates of GAFCON and the Global South. The Archbishop of Canterbury treated me with the respect of a Primate throughout the whole meeting… I was treated as a Primate by my fellow Primates,”

That the breakaways in South Carolina would fall yet another hoax by a renegade bishop is shameful.
 
First off, GAFCON is a handful of narrow-minded Primates who have repeatedly threatened to leave the Communion if they don’t get their way.  They only serve as a distraction to the Communion and its worldwide ministry.  When GAFCON is present, nothing gets done.

Second, GAFCON is not even recognized by the Communion as having authority to do anything.  In the eyes of real Anglicans, it does not exist.  Consequently Beach’s suggestion that ACNA’s relationship with GAFCON makes it part of the Communion -- or makes him a Primate -- is ridiculous. 
 
Finally, the Archbishop of Canterbury is a very nice man who treats everyone he meets with respect.  However, this does not mean that everyone he meets is instantly one of the 38 Primates of the Communion.  There are actually real processes in place that make someone an Anglican Primate.  Being "treated" like one - whatever that means -- is not among them.

Beach should try treating the Archbishop with the same respect he claims to have been given and stop misleading people about his relationship to the Anglican Communion.


March 11, 2016
Breakaways' Convention Dodging Unpleasant Realities
This weekend's annual gathering ignores financial and legal challenges

BLUFFTON - The odds are significant that this weekend’s Annual Convention of ex-Bishop Lawrence’s “Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina” will be its last. 

As delegates gather in Bluffton today, they appear to be unaware of the seriousness of the challenges they are facing over the next few months. The published agenda includes no plans to address events since last year’s convention that have effectively stripped them of their Anglican identity and cast them even farther adrift.  

Convention planners also seem to be avoiding painful conversations on the financial liabilities their “diocese” and its parishes will face should they lose their three-year-old lawsuit against the Episcopal Church and its continuing South Carolina diocese. Given the disastrous reception Lawrence’s legal team encountered at the state Supreme Court last September, it seems like a huge mistake not to be talking about what this could mean for them.

 
Adrift

The question of identity is important to any Church, but especially for the Lawrencians, whose uncertain odyssey since 2012 has been grounded in a shared fear of gays and lesbians, women in positions of ecclesiastic authority, and those whose experience of the Bible is different from their own. 

But fear is not a recipe for growth.

These congregations are not growing and not likely to as they continue to embrace a theology more in common with centuries other than the present one.  Their lack of affiliation with a larger ecclesiastical body has led to a loss of accountability, tradition, and connectedness. They don't even have a procedure in place for electing and confirming a successor to Lawrence, or even an idea which denomination he should come from.

Participation has suffered as well.  Pro-Lawrence parishes cumulatively average less than 10,000 people in the pews each Sunday while resources for ministry, at both the “diocesan” and parish levels, have withered under the strain of sustaining a 40-plus member legal team, going on four years.  

Read Dr. Ron Caldwell's report on the loss of members in the breakaway congregations

Nearly one-third of these parishes have not been able to meet their financial obligations to the “diocese” on a timely basis (though a number of them have caught up this last year).  Instead of attracting new clergy, the Lawrence “diocese” has taken to circulating its rectors from one parish to another as outstanding, more experienced clergy see the likelihood of the Lawrence regime going down in flames like their allies in neighboring Georgia and Virginia. 

It's a sign of the times that leading Lawrencian parishes have discreetly begun advertising themselves as “Episcopal”, especially online where transplanted Episcopalians might go to look for a new parish. 

Trinity, Edisto continues to promote itself as an Episcopal Church, even to the point of using the official seal of the Episcopal Church.  The Lawrencian chaplain at The Citadel promotes himself to new students and their parents as “Episcopal,” while neglecting to tell them that he actually abandoned his ministry in the Episcopal Church over three years ago and is only recognized as a priest by Lawrence’s breakaway group.

Lawrence himself is known to be disappointed in the direction his rebellion in South Carolina has taken, and appears to be less engaged in shaping the future of parishes that have followed him into a murky, uncharted waters. Intimates say that he is longing to return to California, but is also aware that he may have personal legal liabilities of his own to deal with in South Carolina if his lawsuit goes down.

Not “Anglican”

Central to the breakaways’ identity is Lawrence’s insistence that his followers are somehow “Anglican,” even though they have severed ties with the only formally-recognized province of the Anglican Communion in the United States.  

He and his lieutenants have persisted in this claim even though the Archbishop of Canterbury made it clear in the fall of 2014 that the breakaway movement in the United States is “a separate church… not part of the Communion.”

GAFFE-CON

Lawrence and his lieutenants insist that they are part of the Communion because they have entered into a cockamamie “oversight” scheme they cooked up a couple of years ago with a handful of anti-gay Anglican primates, who have formed an alliance known as GAFCON. They claim that recognition by GAFCON means they are “Anglican” by association. 

However, GAFCON itself is not recognized by the Communion, much less does it have any authority to recognize any other groups as “Anglican.”
  
The absurdity of this scam became apparent last summer when Lawrence invited the leader of the GAFCON to visit the “diocese” and assure his followers that they are part of the Communion. 

Archbishop Hector “Tito” Zavalas, the hapless primate of the tiny Anglican Province of South America, personally assured the Lawrence faithful and SC Episcopalians that the Archbishop of Canterbury fully supported the efforts of GAFCON and its oversight agreement with the Lawrence “diocese.”

Unfortunately, blogger and historian Ron Caldwell smelled a rat and actually contacted Welby’s people at Lambeth Palace about Zavalas’ claim. 

They were not amused.  With typical British restraint, they told Caldwell that there is no way the Archbishop would give his blessing to such an arrangement. 

The rat he smelled was indeed... a rat.

Primates affirm Episcopal Church in spite of wrist-slap
 
The Zavalas fiasco was a minor embarrassment compared to the Primates meeting in January.  That was when the GAFCON primates had decided to launch a scheme to expel the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion and replace it with Lawrence's breakaway cousin, the so-called "Anglican Church of North America (ACNA)".

But the scheme unraveled and the GAFCON primates gradually hightailed it out of London before the meeting was over, leaving pro-Episcopal Church primates to write the final summary of their week of work together. 

While the remaining primates administered the Episcopalians a slap on the wrist for its endorsement of same-gender marriage, their language reaffirmed the importance of the Episcopal Church to the Communion and the growing influence of its new Presiding Bishop.

At the end of the Primates’ Meeting, a frustrated Archbishop of Canterbury was asked if the American breakaways would be invited to his 2020 Lambeth Conference, which all the primates had agreed to attend. 

He replied sharply, "I don't know".  

Episcopal Church has the "right and responsibility" to participate

So by the end of January the breakaway movement in North America had doors slammed in its face by three of Anglicanism’ four Instruments of Unity that together lead the Communion – the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Primates’ Meeting, and the Lambeth Conference.

All that remained to be heard from was the fourth Instrument, the Anglican Consultative Council.

That happen just last month when its Presiding Officer, the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, the former Anglican Bishop of Southern Malawi, was quoted as saying that the delegates from the Episcopal Church to the ACC’s upcoming meeting in Africa in April would have the “right and responsibility” to vote and participate fully in the deliberations of the Council. 

Tengatenga's comments were a firm rejection of the Primates wrist-slap in which they insisted that the Episcopal representatives be restrained from such involvement for the next three years. 

Legal reversals since last year's convention have changed everything

Reversals in the Anglican Communion paled in comparison to setbacks in the Lawrencians' legal struggle to leave the Episcopal Church with Church property and financial assets valued in excess of $500,000,000.  

Last September the state’s Supreme Court heard the Church’s appeal of a lower court decision favorable to the breakaway “diocese."  The lower court victory had been so favorable that Lawrencian attorneys were excessively confident of a rubberstamp in the high court. 

However, they were greeted almost immediately by outraged justices who could not make sense of the lower court ruling (written mostly by Lawrence’s attorneys) and the circus-like atmosphere in its trial in the courtroom of Dorchester County Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein.

The Chief Justice, on whom the Lawrencians were counting to champion their cause, instead bashed them for misrepresenting her carefully constructed 2009 opinion in the case of All Saints’, Waccamaw.  The breakaways’ entire legal case was based on All Saints’, and their legal team became white-faced when the Chief Justice declared, “All Saints has nothing to do with this case.”

They were also taken aback by a very aggressive assault on their case by Horry County attorney Blake Hewitt, who had not been a part of the Church's legal team until this point.  Hewitt savaged the Lawrencian's case to the point that none of the justices seemed to be either willing or able to argue against him. 

Beaufort attorney Alan Runyon, the chief architect of Lawrence's legal strategy, scrambled to counter Hewitt's blistering presentation, but his arguments fell apart in the face of repeated skepticism from the Court and occasional sniping between him and justices who seemed hostile.

The opinion has not yet been handed down.

Unexpected settlement offer

The Supreme Court hearing had a particularly devastating effect on the 36 parishes that had joined Lawrence’s lawsuit.  Most of them were stampeded into signing on as plaintiffs I 2012 even though there was no advantage to them in doing so.

About three months prior to the Court hearing, many of them were realizing that they were on a sinking ship.  In June, when the Church’s lawyers proposed a settlement offer, approved by the Presiding Bishop herself, more objective parish leaders correctly saw it as a life preserver.

Indeed it was.  The Episcopal Church was willing to give up all its claims on the property of pro-Lawrence parishes in exchange for their giving up their claims on its Diocese.  Particularly appealing was that the Church was willing to release these parishes from having to pay legal costs and financial reimbursements that they would have to pay if they lost the case.

Lawrence's attorneys panicked as they realized that the offer was legitimate.  Without even consulting the affected parishes, they rejected the proposal and created a widening trust gap between Lawrence and his parishes.

The parishes realized just how fateful that rejection of the settlement offer was when they realized that Lawrence's case at the Supreme Court was in very serious trouble.  They had naively joined his lawsuit and foolishly put the ownership of their property in the hands of a legal system that now seemed poised to take it from them. 

They also began to understand Lawrence's hysterical warnings that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church wanted to take over their parishes and fill them with gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, was hooey, and merely a masterful manipulation to get them to join (and pay for) his legal adventures. 

Under pressure from Lawrence's lieutenants, their clergy had left the Episcopal ministry, making them ineligible to continue to serve their congregations, should the Church regain ownership of their parishes.  Even worse they could be on the hook financially for millions in court costs and restoration of four years of misspent funds that rightfully belonged to the Episcopal Church.

Other than that, it looks like the convention delegates are in for a worry-free weekend.



March 10, 2016


Episcopal Church has "Right and Responsibility" to Participate in Upcoming Anglican Consultative Council Meeting

North American breakaways four of four in rejection by Anglican Instruments of Unity

The Chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council – the entity from which January’s Primates Meeting said Episcopalians should be banned - said this month that delegates from the Episcopal Church have the “right and responsibility” to participate and vote in the upcoming ACC meeting in Zambia.

The Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, the former Anglican Bishop of Southern Malawi, was quoted by the Anglican Ink news service as saying to the Dean of the School of Theology at Sewanee that January's Primates Meeting did not have the power to dictate to the ACC which of its members could and could not vote. 

The three ACC representatives from the Episcopal Church have all stated publicly that they will attend the meeting in April.

The Rt. Reverend Stanley Ntagali, Archbishop of Uganda, has said he will not attend the ACC meeting.  He described the support of the ACC leadership for the Episcopal Church to be a ‘betrayal’.

The Anglican Communion is constructed on four so-called “Instruments of Unity” with two of the four being the ACC and the Primates’ Meeting.  The others are the Archbishop of Canterbury and the every-ten-year Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops.


February 15, 2016


Archbishop of Canterbury Delivers Remarkable Address to his General Synod

Upbeat about future of the Anglican Communion, Welby says Primates' Meeting was "spun more than Donald Trump"

On the Episcopal Church:  "You will not find the word ‘sanction’ or ‘punishment’ or anything like it at any point in ... the decision taken

On Consequences: "... no meeting of the Communion has any authority to give instructions to individual provinces."


On ACNA:  "There is no clear process or precedent for a new Province to join, except as an agreed spin-off from a previous Province."

Read and see the entire address here

Read commentary by Dr, Ron Caldwell


February 10, 2016

ACNA Bid for a Seat at the Anglican Table Falters
American breakaways are even farther adrift after Primates' Meeting


After last month’s meeting of Anglican primates, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was asked by a reporter if the self-styled “Anglican Church in North America” would be invited to his worldwide gathering of bishops at Lambeth Palace in 2020. 

With a hint of irritation, Welby said stoutly he didn’t know

That seemingly minor exchange in ever-so-understated Anglican-speak went largely unreported in the mainstream news media.  However, those with ears to hear them realized that the Archbishop’s words hinted at a disaster-in-progress for breakaway groups "across the Pond” hoping for Anglican legitimacy.

By any measure the biggest loser at last month’s Primate’s Meeting was ACNA and its scheme to backstab its way into Communion membership at the expense of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Buried in the Primates’ final communique was a perfunctory statement that ACNA’s quest to join was not a matter for them to address.  Their suggestion was that it belonged with the western-leaning Anglican Consultative Council.  Even then, the communique added, it's probably not an idea worth pursuing:

“The consideration of the required application for admission to membership of the Communion of the Anglican Church in North America was recognized as properly belonging to the Anglican Consultative Council. The Primates recognize that such an application, were it to come forward, would raise significant questions of polity and jurisdiction.”  

A better and more in-depth analysis of ACNA’s bid for provincial status was developed by historian Dr. Ronald Caldwell and is available by clicking here. 

1. GAFCON and ACNA

Eight years ago ACNA was created through a political alliance of dissident Episcopalians and former members of the Anglican Church of Canada to create an alternative anti-gay “province” that could eventually replace their former provinces as the North American representative in the councils of the Communion. 

They created an infrastructure that mimicked the Communion's provincial infrastructure, including calling their leader an “Archbishop and Primate”.  They persist in advertising themselves publicly as “Anglicans” and "constituent members of the Anglican Communion" even though they were not recognized as such by any official Anglican entity.  


However, the driving force behind ACNA was an ascendant minority of ultraconservative primates from Africa, South America, and Asia, who’d aligned themselves with shadowy groups like the Institute for Religion & Democracy and an array of wealthy donors and right-wing bloggers to fight the growing openness of western provinces to gays and lesbians, women in ecclesiastical authority, and believers whose experience of the Bible was different from their own.

The group, known as GAFCON, developed a significant network of dissident bishops in conservative American dioceses that included Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, Quincy, Fort Worth, and South Carolina.  GAFCON's strategy was to channel resources to ACNA and other allied groups to disrupt the Episcopal and Canadian Churches and discredit their leaders, while creating a consensus within the Communion hierarchy that the two gay-loving provinces had to go. 

2.  In the Primates Meeting, GAFCON saw its chance.

Last September when Welby announced a meeting of the Primates in January 2016, GAFCON saw its long-awaited opportunity to pounce.

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention had recently approved rites for same-gender couples, and it appeared the Canadian Church was well on its way to doing the same thing. 

With antipathy toward the Episcopalians running high, and Welby desperately trying to keep ultraconservative provinces from leaving the Communion, the GAFCON primates felt they at last had a shot at gaining a majority of votes among the primates to oust the Episcopal Church from the Communion and install its North American puppet in its place. 

Upping the ante, GAFCON primates told Welby they would attend the conference to discuss greater Anglican unity, only if he invited the leader of ACNA, Foley Beach.  Welby reluctantly agreed.

3.  ABC's bid for unity & a new Presiding Bishop carry the day

From its first day, the overriding question at the Primates Meeting – and for Welby - was huge:  Were provinces of the historic Anglican Communion committed to staying together as a single worldwide Church or were their divisions so broad that the time had come to “walk separately”? 

Divisions between the provinces in the developing world and those that were older and more established had become so bitter that Welby himself had been promoting the idea of a two-tier Communion, loosely conjoined under a mostly symbolic head.

However, as the meeting got underway and the participants engaged in reflection and dialogue, they seemed to rally behind unity.  They moved beyond talk of division and, in Welby’s words, chose to “walk together” as a single, united Church of Jesus Christ in spite of their vast cultural, theological, and political differences.  

As a symbol of their commitment, Welby later reported that all 38 Primates agreed to attend a new Lambeth Conference he'd convene in 2020.

As the meeting progressed, there was also a new, more positive attitude toward the Episcopal Church emerging among some of the more conservative non-GAFCON primates, whose votes for GAFCON's replacement strategy were critical.  

The Episcopal Church’s new Presiding Bishop and Primate, Michael Curry, was proving to be a big hit with his fellow primates. For many of the participants, this was their first encounter with Curry’s evangelical fervor, joyous disposition, and engaging intellect, and they began to see him as someone with whom they work as opposed to one to be punished.

At least one African participant said afterwards that he had never understood the theology behind the Episcopal Church’s embrace of same-gender unions until Curry explained it. 

However, the GAFCON crowd proved to be politically tone-deaf, and on the second day of the Meeting, Ugandan Primate and GAFCON leader Stanley Ntagali offered a proposal to get the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada to voluntarily leave the meeting and the Communion. 

With the two provinces out of the picture, a way might be found to bring ACNA in. 

However, Ntagali's proposal was apparently poorly received.  It is not clear if it was voted on or if it just failed to gain any apparent traction.

The next morning (Wednesday) the GAFCON primates made a second run at the Episcopal Church with a less aggressive punishment, and that failed on a reported 15-20 vote.  Finally, by a 30-6 vote, they succeeded in getting their colleagues to impose a relatively minor time-out on the Episcopal Church because it had failed to consult with the Communion before changing, what the primates described as, the Communion's “theology of marriage.”

Welby went to great lengths to tell the news media that the action taken against the Episcopal Church was merely “consequences” of having failed to consult.  He dismissed terms like “sanctions”, “punishment,” and “suspension” that the GAFCON and ACNA crowd were promoting.  There were no conditions attached to the "consequences" that would force the General Convention to backtrack or repeal its previous actions.

Though momentarily chastised, the Episcopal Church emerged from the gathering as a continuing partner in the Communion... and ACNA was done.

4. ACNA's quest for Communion recognition is essentially over  

Ntagali slipped out of town on the evening of the second day to get home for a pre-arranged victory lap in Kampala, while other disappointed GAFCON primates apparently left the meeting over the next 36 hours.  Whatever effort they planned to make on behalf of ACNA never happened, and their absence meant that the final communique, summing up the essential components of the gathering, would be written without them. 

Even Beach didn’t hang around long, vaguely claiming he had some other pressing engagement. 
In spite of ACNA’s frequent news releases about the important role he played at the meeting, it was clear its hopes for Communion membership was toast.   

Since 2014 ACNA has been on a slow train to Anglican purgatory, when Welby told a radio interviewer, in that same irritated tone, that ACNA was a “separate Church,” that is not part of the Anglican Communion. It could possibly be a partner with the Communion at some point, he speculated, but in no way was it part of the Anglican Communion.

ACNA bishops haven't helped themselves over the years by insisting that the Archbishop of Canterbury - one of four Instruments of Anglican Unity -- doesn't really run the Anglican Communion and wasn't the final word on anything. They also did not endear themselves to the Anglican world when they forced the cancellation of the 2018 Lambeth Conference - another of the Instruments of Anglican Unity - by refusing to attend.

Even the American breakaways' most prominent rebel, Mark Lawrence in South Carolina, has said he has doubts about ACNA’s viability.  

At his 2015 “Diocesan” convention, Lawrence told participants that he was troubled by the group’s lack of a coherent governing structure and failure to clearly articulate a single compelling theology beyond its opposition to the Episcopal Church.  At a prior convention, Lawrence had even backed a resolution making the Book of Common Prayer the standard for all parishes aligned with him instead of a new prayer book by ACNA.

The most demoralizing part of the whole business for ACNA’s leaders last month is that their allies among the primates, dumped them and their cause when they no longer had any political value.  Post-Meeting statements issued by GAFCON primates scarcely even mentioned Beach or ACNA.   

5. Beach's Folly

From the get go, Foley Beach's presence at Canterbury was akin to a skunk at a garden party.

He was not a primate, but was being treated as if he was one.  His presence was made possible through a political deal, not through any established process by which he was chosen by a legitimate province based on his ministry or merits.  He was at war with two provinces of the Communion, in ways that several primates were experiencing with rebels in their own provinces, so he was not seen as much of a team player.

By all accounts he was well received by the primates, but he used his presence at Canterbury to continue is his war against the Episcopal Church and shamelessly manipulate the news media. 

In a television interview during the gathering, Beach pilloried the Episcopal Church with a slew of trumped up accusations that ACNA uses repeatedly to cast itself as a self-righteous victim of a brutal and out-of-control parent Church.

Beach blatantly complained, without any evidence, that the Episcopal Church was short-changing ACNA clergy on pensions they had earned as Episcopal priests. That earned him a sharp rebuke from the Church Pension Fund which by law cannot change the benefit structure under which retirement income for former clergy is calculated.   Beach apparently did not even understand how his own retirement system worked.

Of course, pensions are a luxury for clergy in many if not most Anglican provinces, so Beach's whining that he and his followers are not getting more money from the retirement system of the Church they abandoned most likely did not inspire a great deal of sympathy.

Beach also raised the issue of lawsuits in the U.S-based Church and claimed that he looked Presiding Bishop Michael Curry directly in the eye and demanded that he “stop the lawsuits” and compensate those ACNA congregations that lost their properties when they left the Episcopal Church. 

In fact, the Episcopal Church has never instigated any lawsuits against ACNA parishes except in response to legal steps taken by congregations and dioceses to leave the Church with property that rightfully belonged to the Church.

Of course, the biggest lawsuit that anyone has filed has been in South Carolina by breakaway ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence who claims he and his followers own the entire “Diocese of South Carolina” and its property and financial assets with an estimated value of $500-$800 million.

The value of Lawrence’s claim exceeds the entire combined value of all Church properties across the country currently claimed by breakaway groups.  Far from discouraging Lawrence in his legal quest, Beach has been his biggest cheerleader. 

Beach’s whining about lawsuits must have seemed a little disingenuous since many of the breakaway’s legal actions laying claim to Episcopal Church properties were financed by GAFCON provinces.  One of the most famous in our parts was Christ Episcopal Church in Savannah. 

Beach = Leaker?

Perhaps the final nail in the ACNA coffin, came on the fourth day of conference after “someone” leaked the news of the Primates imposition of “consequences” on the Episcopal Church to a pro-breakaway news site. 

Publication of a highly misinformed version of the decision set off a wave in international news stories variously suggesting that the Episcopal Church had been “sanctioned” "suspended" and even thrown out of the Communion. 

All fingers pointed to Foley as the leaker.  The story was published on Anglican Ink website under the name of George Conger, a notorious biased reporter who has for years been a mouthpiece for ACNA and other breakaway groups in the United States.

Beach has not said whether he was the source of the leak, but there is no question that Welby and most of the primates were enraged over the breach and the attempt to politicize the work going on among them. 

January 30, 2016
Welby's Woes Extend to his Own Church of England
By two-to-one, the English public supports same-gender marriage

month could go down as one of the most miserable for Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.  Aside from managing the current groaning and travail in the worldwide Anglican Communion, the venerable Church of England, which he also leads, appears to be increasingly out of step with the people of England.

The Church's own statistics show that C of E membership has dipped below one million for the first time in modern record-keeping. Church members are dying off and the numbers of new baptisms, new members, and new clergy are not keeping pace.

This month's efforts by the Anglican Communion to punish the Episcopal Church for its embrace of same-gender marriage isn't likely to help

Last week a survey by YouGov, found that by a margin of 45%-37% people in England who claim to be Anglican, Episcopal, or Church of Englanders say they are okay with same-sex marriages.  Nearly three-quarters of young people in that group say it is fine with them. 

By an even wider margin, Englanders in general support same-gender marriage by 56%-27%.  Read the full story here

January 29, 2016
New Revelations Stun Loyal Anglicans
Failing to punish the Episcopal Church, most GAFCON Primates walked out of Canterbury gathering; 
ACNA representative left early as well

At a news conference on the final day of his historic gathering of Anglican primates two weeks ago, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby sounded upbeat about the prospects of a unified Anglican Communion "walking together" in the future. 

As proof, he brandished a final "communique" from the group outlining a global vision for the worldwide denomination that included addressing crises as diverse as hunger, refugees, and religious persecution, including that of gays and lesbians.

Asked why the leaders of the ultraconservative provinces of the Communion - known as GAFCON -  were not present, he explained they had flights to catch. 

Turns out that was not exactly what was happening.
  Read full story from ENS


January 27, 2016
Chaos in the Anglican Communion
by Dr. Ron Caldwell

Dr. Caldwell continues his thoughtful analysis of the issues raised by the recent actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Anglican Communion.  Click here for his full commentary


January 22, 2016 (revised 1/26)
Primates' Meeting Ends After Imposing "Consequences" on the Episcopal Church
Primates dodge debate on homosexuality with focus on Church's failure to consult on same-sex marriage

Post-conference briefing
  provides more questions than answers

CANTERBURY - Last week Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby convened a kind of peace conference at Canterbury Cathedral to engage the fractious leaders of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion in discussions on the global challenges they are facing.  His hope was they'd find a way to move move beyond their bitter 13-year stalemate over human sexuality.

It was not an easy task. 

Over the past two years, Welby has traveled to each of the provinces to press his case for unity, and discourage disaffected “primates,” like those in Africa, from leaving the Communion altogether. 

He cancelled an every-ten-year conference of Anglican primates and bishops at Lambeth Palace when ultraconservative primates threatened to embarrass him by not showing up. They've even gone so far as to organize their own rival version of the Communion, known by the acronym GAFCON, to cultivate sympathizers and sabotage the Communion’s more modern-thinking elements
Click here to read full story

January 20, 2016

GAFFE-CON:  Foley Beach Misleads Primates on Church Pensions

Read full story here


January 18, 2016
Anglican Hypocrisy?
Lambeth 1988:  Marriage is also between one man and a few women

SC Episcopalians hates to bring this up when things are going so swimmingly for our Anglican brethren across the Pond. 

However, we just need to get this off our chests.

In their grand condemnation of the Episcopal Church last week, the Primates of the Anglican Communion affirmed their view that, "
The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union."

Traditionalists rightly applauded.  Unfortunately for them, the actual tradition in the Anglican Communion is only sort of like that
.
 

Resolution 26

At the 1988 Lambeth Conference, the leaders of Communion agreed that marriage between a man and a woman is the "ideal," but in the real world there may be the need for a little flexibility

That's right.  It's called polygamy... and it's all part of that big Anglican family walking together over there.

According to Lambeth 1988, there are circumstances in which it is acceptable for an Anglican in good standing to be married to multiple wives at the same time.


Check it out to see if you qualify.

Back then the leaders of the African provinces believed the one-wife rule was frustrating their efforts to convert Muslim men who were allowed to have multiple wives.  It seems those pesky Muslims were actually posting signs all over the place that read: "Jesus: Three Gods, One Wife.  Allah: One God, Three Wives... Your Choice."

That's pretty much all it took for Anglicanism to broaden its view of the marriage "ideal".

Then there's the small print

Now before any of our readers get too excited, the participants at Lambeth imposed a few limitations on this rule. 

The first is that it only applies to men.  Women can't have multiple husbands as that would be immoral, of course. 

The second is that once you become an Anglican, you can't still go around grabbing up more wives.  You are limited to the wives you have when you join up.  So, plan ahead.

However, the third part of the deal is that when you convert, all your wives automatically convert over as well.  They don't really have a say.  This goes back to that old idea that women are more or less property and, apart from their husbands, not especially unique spiritual beings.

You might be surprised to learn there are many ardent advocates of polygamy in parts of the Anglican Communion and they will tell you that nowhere in the Bible does God condemn polygamy. 

In fact, they will point out that many of God's favorites - like Abraham and Solomon - were practicing polygamists.  Moses even told his male followers that those who were tempted to commit adultery should just find themselves a nice concubine from among their conquered peoples and make the most of a bad situation.

Makes for an interesting time at "family night" down at the local parish.  

Meanwhile, our point is that there is precedent in the Communion for bending the marriage "ideal" a bit to incorporate the political and cultural realities of the Communion's member provinces. 

At least that was the argument put forth by the polygamists' leading advocate in 1988... the Anglican Church of Uganda.
 
 

January 18, 2016
The Selective Outrage of the Anglican Church
by Jonathan Merritt in The Atlantic
Read full story here


January 14, 2016
GAFCON Primates Want Episcopalians Excluded from Anglican Communion Activities for Three Years
African Primates organize surprise attack at unofficial conference even though they lack authority

Presiding Bishop delivers moving defense of the Episcopal Church
Read full story here


January 14, 2016
Bishop vonRosenberg to Retire this Summer
Beloved Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina leaving an extraordinary legacy

South Carolina Bishop Charles vonRosenberg informed his Standing Committee this morning that he will step down as Provisional Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, in mid-to-late summer. 

The retired Bishop of East Tennessee was elected in January 2013 following the sudden departure
of ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence, who quit the Episcopal Church and abandoned the Diocese in late 2012. 

Since that time, vonRosenberg has guided the wounded diocese through seemingly endless legal proceedings in state and Federal courts, fending off legal attacks from Lawrence and his followers and their claim to be owners of "The Diocese of South Carolina."
 

Lawrence and 36 parishes aligned with him filed a lawsuit against the Church and vonRosenberg's diocese just days before his election laying claim to parish property and diocesan assets valued at as much as $500 million.  

The case is now on appeal before the state's Supreme Court
.


Read Bishop vonRosenberg's letter to the Diocese

Diocese will consult with the Presiding Bishop on the way forward

The Diocese will consult with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and his staff on the selection of vonRosenberg's successor, creating a process that likely will lead to the election of another "provisional" bishop to continue to rebuild the Diocese on the foundation vonRosenberg has established.

Provisional bishops normally serve until a diocese is strong enough to stand on its own and elect a "Diocesan" bishop.  Three years is usually considered a good run for a provisional bishop, and most of the breakaway dioceses have had a succession of them until they were ready to elect a "Diocesan" bishop. 

Meanwhile, the Standing Committee of the Diocese assumes the authority of the bishop when there is a vacancy in that office.  That could happen next summer as the next regularly scheduled Diocesan convention won't occur until the fall.  However, the Standing Committee are empowered to call a special convention to elect a new bishop if its members feel it is necessary.

Even so, the way forward will not be easy.


VonRosenberg's legacy  

During his tenure vonRosenberg has endured repeated attacks and humiliation at the hands of the breakaways.  Lawrence's attorneys repeatedly belittled "the foreign bishop" and in open court intentionally mangled the pronunciation of his name. He was variously vilified by Lawrence's lieutenants and spin doctors as a stooge for Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Throughout the ordeal, vonRosenberg never publicly criticized Lawrence or any of the parishes that had chosen to follow him.  He insisted that his Diocese remain committed to the idea of reconciliation, and left the door slightly open for a process by which pro-Lawrence clergy could return to the priesthood even as he was "releasing" them from their ordination vows.

Following his election and installation, vonRosenberg led the wounded diocese for months from an office he shared with a third-grade Sunday School class at one of his Charleston parishes.  Lawrence and his cohorts had laid claim to everything that wasn't nailed down, including vonRosenberg's title as the "Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina."


Even today Lawrence still lives in the official Charleston residence of "the Episcopal Bishop of South Carolina. claiming that he is that person

With extraordinary patience, vonRosenberg rebuilt the Diocese from the ground up.  He recreated a Standing Committee and Diocesan Council, reorganized its deaneries with new leaders, and secured loans and donations to stabilize the Diocese's shaky infrastructure.  He even had to come up with a new name for the Diocese itself.  

VonRosenberg made history with the very popular appointment of the Ven. Calhoun Walpole as his Archdeacon.  She is the first woman to hold a diocesan office at this level in South Carolina.  

He presided over the formation of eight new mission parishes, formed by loyal Episcopalians who'd been run out of their home parishes by the Lawrencians.  He became the first bishop to celebrate the Eucharist at Po Pigs Barbeque on Edisto Island, the initial location of one of his budding mission parishes and home to one of the best BBQ buffets in the Sea Islands.

VonRosenberg reestablished relationships with Episcopal Church seminaries that the Lawrencans once feared as too liberal, and began sending students to them.  Last fall, vonRosenberg received approval from the Diocesan Convention to establish a new cathedral at historic Grace Church in downtown Charleston.  The former cathedral had cast its lot with Lawrence.

Of great significance was vonRosenberg's organization of an effective legal defense against Lawrence's attacks that would not run the Diocese into the red.  Lawrence's legal team at times included nearly 50 of the best and brightest of the state's law firms.

The wisdom of his strategy became apparent in September 2015 when the Chief Justice of the state' Supreme Court blasted a titanic hole in the central premise of Lawrence's lawsuit

Proposed settlement of Lawrence's lawsuit was historic

Much of vonRosenberg's success has been due to the widespread esteem in which he is held in the wider Church.

Last summer he persuaded Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori to sidestep the Church's long-standing refusal to even consider giving away Church property to dissident groups as part of a larger settlement offer to the Lawrencians.

VonRosenberg's plan, which she approved, was for the Church to withdraw any claim to the property and assets of pro-Lawrence parishes in exchange for their dropping their claims to the property and financial assets of the Diocese of South Carolina. 

One of the side benefits of the deal for the breakaway parishes was that they would not be liable for funds misspent by Lawrence, should state's Supreme Court find that he acted illegally in seizing and expending Diocesan assets that rightfully belong to the Episcopal Church. 

It was a win-win for all sides.  Astonishingly, none of the Lawrence parishes took the deal.

Read vonRosenberg's biography


January 12, 2016
Archbishop of Canterbury Seeks to Reel in Dissident Provinces
Breakaways and their allies take aim at Anglican unity with our-way-or-the-highway tactics

LONDON - Leaders of the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces have gathered in London for an unusual five-day gathering, convened after two years of extensive prodding and lobbying by Archbishop Justin Welby.
 
The ABC is trying to restore unity to the Communion after years of bickering by its ultraconservative members, mostly from parts of Africa, Latin America, and Asia.   These provincial leaders, known as “Primates”, have spent years threatening to leave the Communion, if western provinces didn’t change their progressive ways, especially around issues of human sexuality.
 

Read more from the Episcopal New Service

Apparently seven of the Primates refused to attend the session if their brethren from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada were in attendance.  They want them to "repent" for their tolerance of gays and lesbians in their churches.  They are also unhappy over the role of women in the western provinces.

Welby apparently got dissidents to agree to attend by inviting the Rev. Folly Beach, the leader of the self-styled "Anglican Church of North America", to join the conclave for at least part of the time. 

The Most Reverend Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church and The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz of the Canadian Church were apparently willing to put up with the insult in order to help Welby out.

South Carolina breakaways cheer on Welby critics
 
With some hesitancy, SC Episcopalians provides the link above to the website of the breakaway "Diocese of South Carolina" and a posting by former Bishop Lawrence of a letter from Foley Beach.

We hesitate because it is filled with intentional inaccuracies that tend to make difficult situations even more intractable.  For example, Beach is not a "Primate."  That is simply a self-important title he appropriated for himself. In fact, Welby and his predecessor ABC have been very clear that the ACNA is not even part of the Anglican Communion, much less eligible to use its titles.  

He also refers to the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) which is similarly not recognized by the Communion and his no authority to recognize anyone or anything as "Anglican."

His reference to a lack of "order" in the Anglican Communion is wholly disingenuous since it is he and the ultraconservative with whom he is in league who have created the disorder by boycotting Primates' Meetings and underwriting legal attacks on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada (and now the Church of England) by breakaway groups.

January 8, 2016
First Dean of St. Luke & St. Paul Dies
Matt Currin:  "Dear All, I have gone to Glory!"

"The Good News of the Gospel is that God is mindful of us, each and every one of us, and those 'out there." What a glorious future our children have in store for them.  A New Age is dawning, and it staggers the imagination to think what goodness God has in store for His wonderful creation." -  Matt Currin in "Does God Still Speak to Us?"


Friends of The Rev. Beverly "Matt" Currin were only slightly surprised Friday when news of his earthly demise and arrival in Heaven came by way of an email blast … from Matt himself.

“I am no longer on this earth but in my heavenly home.  I look forward to seeing you all again one day.  Thank you for years of Friendship and Love.  Remember to always have Faith.  Continue to have Hope.  Lastly but most important Love one another,” he said.

Matt became the first Dean of the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul in 1963 and one of many intellectual and theological giants drawn to the Diocese of South Carolina under its late Bishop, Gray Temple

Learn more about this remarkable Christian man

He left the Diocese in 1966 for Christ Church in Pensacola, Florida which grew to become the largest parish in the Diocese of the Gulf Coast. Its Episcopal Day School continues to turn out graduates marked with Currin's own brand of Christian hope and commitment.

According to one graduate, "The tales of his life bare an unintentional yet undeniable witness to the inestimable value of his lifelong service to the Episcopal Church, to Pensacola and its communities, to those like myself who ventured beyond armed with the awesome power of his educational convictions."

Matt and his beloved wife, Eleanor, never lost touch with their many friends and admirers in South Carolina.  She is a native of Pawleys Island and can be contacted at Matt's email address, mattcurrin31@gmail.com.

Matt was an avid reader of SC Episcopalians and grieved over the demise of the Diocese.  He was particularly disappointed that St. Luke & St. Paul voted to leave the Episcopal Church in 2012.  At the time of his departure from the Cathedral, there were over 800 active communicants in the congregation.

Read Matt Currin's obituary


December 28, 2015
Lynn Skilton & Martha Horn


Two remarkable women departed this life this week, and it would be a mistake not to note their passing.

The Reverend Martha Horn died today in Charleston.  There was no one more enthusiastic in proclaiming the Gospel than she.  Despite personal tragedy and a long painful struggle with cancer, Martha was tireless in her ministry and only seemed to grow stronger in her faith as challenges mounted.  Hers was a compassionate and encouraging voice to those whose earthly journey has not been easy.  It will be missed by many.  Her husband is the Reverend Robert Horn.

For 52 years Lynn Skilton was widely known as a partner in ministry and mission with her husband, the Rt. Rev. Bill Skilton, formerly the Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina and later Assistant Bishop of the Dominican Republic.  Lynn was a consistent friend and thoughtful mentor to many who knew and loved her. 

She was also a much beloved high school teacher in the Berkeley County school system.  Among the many tributes by former students, one seemed to sum up Lynn's role in their lives saying, "You gave me a fair chance when others wouldn't." 

Her funeral will be held Wednesday afternoon at Old St. Andrews near Charleston.


December 27, 2015
The Gift


It could be that among the next few postings on this site will be a report on the ruling of the South Carolina Supreme Court on ex-Bishop Lawrence's lawsuit laying claim to the "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" and 36 of its breakaway parishes and missions. 

Of course, SC Episcopalians has no inside knowledge that this is about to happen, but the justices have had the case for over three months and they seem to be dispensing with pending cases fairly quickly. 

Meanwhile, here's a very good idea for people on all sides to consider:  It would be very short-sighted to look at this decision in the context of winners and losers.  We have all lost and there is little any court can do now to change that.

Friendships have been broken, ministries have be disrupted, and hearts of once joyful congregations torn apart.  Millions of dollars for ministry have been hijacked to pay legal bills.  Longtime members have walked away from our fellowship, while visitors looking for a spiritual home have been repulsed by the vision of the Body of Christ at war with itself. 

Most sadly, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has lost an eloquent and powerful witness in this part of the world, and it will not be easily reconstructed or revived.

During this season of giving, it might be helpful for all of us to imagine this pending Court decision as a gift. 

Surely, clarity can be understood as a gift.  So can an invitation, beckoning us forward onto paths untraveled or even yet imagined.  To think otherwise would be to ignore all we understand about the nature of God and His Kingdom. 

Of course, the Court's ruling will mean hurt and confusion for many.  It will mean the end of that which is familiar and traditional for others, and inspire frustration with the courts, and disappointment with once trusted leaders and friends. 

However, little of that will matter if we imagine this gift as a kind of roadmap for moving ahead in our spiritual journey, and a framework for refocusing our attention away from property and onto ministry. 

Most importantly, this gift will give us the opportunity to reimagine ourselves in our true calling as a People of God - a uniquely divine Gift far beyond the reach of courtrooms, schisms, and church politics.

 

 

 

 

 

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