South Carolina Episcopalians
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February 22, 2018
NEW!  Annual Meeting of Former Breakaway Parishes Promises Headaches and Delusion
With budget cuts and loss of income, Lawrence crowd struggles with
realities of its legal defeat

Even though last year's Supreme Court decision says it does not exist, Mark Lawrence's “Diocese of South Carolina” is pushing forward with its planned “227th Annual Convention” at Christ Episcopal Church in Mount Pleasant March 9-10 .  

The gathering promises to be both unhappy and surreal at the same time. 

From a political standpoint, the group is facing the painful reality that its once high-rolling bandwagon to secede from the Episcopal Church is over. 

Of course, delegates will be treated to lots of happy talk from lawyers about prospects for legal challenges and new church plants.  However, after twenty years and millions of dollars, they are realizing the only thing they have accomplished is the pointless destruction of one of the most effective Anglican witnesses for the Gospel in North America.

From a legal perspective, the annual meeting will be awkward since nearly all the delegates come from congregations that are legally part of the Episcopal Church, an entity to which neither Lawrence nor his clergy belong. 

None of the work the delegates plan to do, including resolutions they want to pass, will have any effect on anything.  Courts will decide the future of most of these parishes and Lawrence and his lieutenants.

Apparently, the plan for the annual meeting is to maintain the illusion that Lawrence's "diocese" still exists and is a part of a group of Anglican dissidents, known as the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).  He is even bringing in an ACNA bishop as keynoter to make it seem more real.

The reality is that, while Lawrence's group including many parishes have taken steps to align themselves with ACNA, the state's high court said those actions were invalid since the parishes have no authority to leave the Episcopal Church without its consent. 

Making things even more murky, Lawrence and his ACNA cohorts will continue to confuse his followers by claiming that ACNA is part of the Anglican Communion, even though the Communion itself has said repeatedly that it isn't.

Financial disaster looms

However, the greatest challenge for the delegates is the financial mess in which the Lawrence organization finds itself.   Budget writers have probably done the best they can with their proposed 2018 annual budget, which will be largely irrelevant the moment it is approved.

Delegates to March's annual meeting will be asked to grapple with a painful $250,000 decline in revenue from last year.  The projected reduction stems largely from a decision to stop using money from trust accounts, intended to support the work the legitimate Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, to underwrite the operations of the Lawrence 'diocese.' 

That decision appears to have been made right after the Court decision came down last August.  In that decision, the Court ruled that 29 of the 36 parishes that filed suit against the Church in 2013, along with the Diocese of South Carolina itself and its Trustees, are and have always been part of the Episcopal Church. 

Up until then the Lawrence diocese was utilizing about a quarter-million dollars annually from these sources, over which the Diocesan Trustees have a fiduciary responsibly. 

Some lawyer or auditor (in addition to SC Episcopalians
) must have finally gotten through to the Trustees to cut it out since they could be held personally liable for repayment should the Courts find that the Lawrence crowd did not legally constitute the real Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

Do 2018 parish pledges mean anything?

Lawrence's proposed budget also makes a highly questionable assumption that income to his 'diocese' from its parishes will grow by $30,000 to $1,840,000 this year.  In previous years, this would have made sense.  However now, since all but six of his parishes belong to the Episcopal Church, it is doubtful that their current leadership will remain intact long enough to deliver on those pledges to Lawrence.

Budget losers:  Struggling parishes, ministry, and St. Christopher

The bulk of the budget cuts will be felt in mission and programming, where Lawrence and his lieutenants propose slashing $350,249 in programs like congregational development, youth, faith formation, social ministries, and evangelism

Their proposed 2018 budget for struggling parishes and missions would take a whacking of more than $169,000 to nearly half its 2017 level.  

Finally, Lawrencian budget-cutters are
also proposing to zero out their annual contribution of about $115,000 to Camp St. Christopher, tacit recognition that their legal claim to own the Diocese of South Carolina and its properties has vaporized.

Astonishingly, salaries and very generous benefits for Lawrence and his top lieutenant – the two men most responsible for destroying the Diocese of South Carolina -- will continue at their generous same levels. 

Lawrence continues to receive a compensation package of approximately $175,000.  He and his wife occupy the official Charleston residence of the legitimate Episcopal Bishop of South Carolina for which he may be paying $1 a year, according to court documents in 2015.

spent more than $44,000 on globetrotting last year, so this year his travel budget will be reduced to a mere $35,000
Lawrence also has a pension from the Episcopal Church, based on his 30 years of service.

Budget winners:  Lawyers and ACNA

However, the biggest winners in this year’s budget are Lawrence’s lawyers and the so-called “Anglican Church of North America.” 

Unbelievably, they will actually be getting raises, if the proposed budget is adopted.

Legal fees are consistently the most unpredictable line item in the Diocesan budget since Lawrence was consecrated in 2008.  Last year delegates put $50,000 in their budget for diocesan lawyers, but ended up paying out nearly $300,000.  This has been the pattern for the past seven years.

This year delegates are being asked to approve $200,000 that apparently will underwrite more legal barriers to implementation of the 2017 Supreme Court ruling.  The amount does not reflect the five-year cost of attorneys hired by parishes, nor does it appear to reflect money raised separately from the parishes for Lawrence's Legal Defense Fund.

Easily the most suspicious item in the Lawrencian budget is $196,484 for the ACNA.  This is an increase from $185,640 in 2017, and $174,230 in 2016.

The determination of Lawrence's lieutenants to insure that ACNA gets it money every year amid such uncertainty and budget-cutting raises questions about what its is being used for and whether Lawrence's lieutenants may be feathering a post-schism nest for themselves.

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