South Carolina Episcopalians

The Dennis Canon


Canon I.7.4 of the Episcopal Church (USA) is referred to commonly as "the Dennis Canon", after the name of its draftsman, the Rt. Rev. Walter D. Dennis, former Suffragan Bishop of New York, who proposed its adoption as a canon at General Convention 1979. Together with its companion section (Canon I.7.5), it reads as follows:

Sec. 4. All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located. The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons.

Sec. 5. The several Dioceses may, at their election, further confirm the trust declared under the foregoing Section 4 by appropriate action, but no such action shall be necessary for the existence and validity of the trust.

 

And the people stayed home.


Those among us, who've had the opportunity to ride out these weeks of quarantine at home with our families, have probably had time to consider what life will be like post-pandemic.


The following is a poem by Kitty O'Meara, a retired chaplain in Wisconsin, whose hopeful words have made her an internet celebrity in this time of confusion and anxiety.

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And the people stayed home.

And they read books, and listened, and rested,

and exercised, and made art, and played games,

and learned new ways of being,

and were still.

And they listened more deeply.

Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.

Some met their shadows.


And the people began to think differently. 

And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways,

the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live
and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

Scroll down for earlier postings

February 24, 2021

ACNA Goes Wobbly Trying to Love Gay Christians While Condemning Them

Archbishop Beach turns on younger clergy and lay loyalists trying to nudge anti-gay breakaway organization into the 21st Century

Last month leaders of the dissident “Anglican Church of North America” (ACNA) inflicted yet another existential crisis on itself, reminding its members that, eleven years after its founding, its leadership is still held together by its fear of homosexuals. 

This time ACNA’s House of Bishops needlessly decided to issue a Pastoral Statement on the burning question of  whether terms “gay” and “same-sex attracted” are appropriate adjectives to use with “Christian.”   Click here to read it


According to the Statement, “To insist on the adjective gay, with all of its cultural attachments, is problematic to the point that we cannot affirm its usage in relation to the word Christian... Designations such as “gay Christian,” or “same-sex attracted Christian” are simply not what the spirit of the New Testament offers as a way of defining a Christian or his/her community. 

In what the bishops treat as a kind of concession to gays, they go on to say that homosexual activities unfairly receive disproportionate condemnation as compared to other, more popular sins:  “While same-sex attraction is one manifest type of disordered affection, there are many other types of disordered affections. Indeed, we recognize that same-sex sexual relationships have been an oft-targeted sin while other sinful manifestations of our common fallen nature, such as pornography, adultery, divorce, greed, and disregard for the poor have sometimes been tragically discounted or even ignored.”

The problem with ACNA’s bishops and this particular pontification is that they can’t accept that God might have knowingly created gays and lesbians and put them in the world.  ACNA’s understanding of homosexuals is that they are, in essence, heterosexual people afflicted with a mental or emotional disorder that occasionally compels them to want to jump in bed with people of their same gender for momentary gratification.  

The Bishops suggest their knowledge of human sexuality is consistent with that of  people in the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago, two unnamed "evangelical" psychologists, and a one-time gay man widely promoted by Pat Robertson and James Dobson.

"Dear Gay Anglicans..."


To the credit of ACNA’s younger generation, a delicately-phrased letter to “Gay Anglicans” signed by 19 lay and clergy, surfaced on social media Feb. 22, reflecting a less judgmental, and more welcoming tone toward homosexuals in ACNA. 
Read it here

In a key passage of the letter, the 19 signers said, “We commit to take practical steps to become churches where gay Anglicans can share all of their story, find community, and seek support. We affirm the Provincial Statement’s call to lead conversation about God’s love and wisdom for same-sex attracted people...”

The letter was not directed at the ACNA bishops nor did it imply disagreement with the organization's views on human sexuality.  However, it also did not embrace the view that gays were "disordered", and even went so far as to repudiate dangerous Pray-the-Gay-Away conversion therapies that many in ACNA embrace.

ACNA's African puppeteers weigh in, and Foley jumps


The signers' initial optimism at what they perceived as an invitation to thoughtful public conversation on the Bishops' Pastoral Statement was quickly squashed.


According to ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach, his initial reaction to the letter was that it was benign and no threat to ACNA's teachings.  However, after highly animated conversations with leaders of two of the ACNA's African allies, he took a very different view.


Peevish and imperious, Beach cranked out a response in which he pounced on the “Gay Anglicans” letter as an “in your face” insult, while whining that the upstarts had infuriated hardline homophobic supporters, and apparently forced him to stay up after his bedtime to work on his response.  Read it here

Foley’s message, circulated to the ACNA's 100,000 members the next day, seemed to alternate between conciliatory and threatening:  “... as Christians, we need to learn again how to discuss issues with those we disagree with — and then be able to continue to love and care for them.  However, if you are one of the clergy who signed on to this, I expect you to send me an email explaining why you signed a letter and beginning a private, non-punitive, conversation with me about your concerns.”  (emphasis added)

In spite of his stated openness to listening to “those we disagree with”, Foley made it clear that whatever he heard would not make any difference:  “The bishops are not going to back down on our conclusions which we worked on, received input from all over the province, edited, reviewed, edited, reviewed, and edited.”


One brave South Carolinian among 19 signers


Among the signers of the Gay Anglican's letter was only one South Carolinian:  The Very Rev. Peet Dickinson, Dean of the former Episcopal Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul that currently serves a similar function for the Mark Lawrence ACNA Diocese. 


Today his congregation sits in the heart of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in downtown Charleston, trying to attract new members from among the many new young families there. 


Unfortunately, ACNA's retro-theology and archaic views on social issues drives them away in spite of  Dean Dickinson's outreach and appeal.  Within walking distance are three bustling Episcopal parishes -- including Grace Church Cathedral with over 3,000 members -- who do not have the same kind of judgmental attitude and condemnation of others.   


It's too early to evaluate the fallout from the "Gay Anglicans" letter, but the whole business is a reminder that the leadership of ACNA has failed to move beyond its original foundation of hostility to gays and lesbians, women in positions of authority, and understandings of Scripture inconsistent with the most narrow and literal interpretations. 


As long as leaders like Beach feel they have to pander to oppressive Anglican leaders in Africa, they have no hope of creating a viable presence in the U.S. and Canada.


They also should listen to clergy like Dickinson.  A recent profile of ACNA communicants in South Carolina suggests that 72% of lay people favor welcoming non-celibate gays into their parishes, with 70% favor allowing women to serve as rectors. 


February 22, 2021

U.S. Supreme Court Deals Stunning Blow to the Church in Fort Worth Secession Case
Episcopalians will have to leave their parish buildings as ACNA group takes over  


High court's failure to overturn Texas ruling allows unprecedented meddling by secular courts in governance of  hierarchical denominations  protected by separation of Church and State doctrine


For the second time in three years, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a state supreme court ruling on the questions of naming rights and property ownership.

Readers will recall that the first time this happened was in 2018 when the challenge came from South Carolina.  In that case, the state's Supreme Court had found that 29 of 36 parishes loyal to ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence could not leave the Church without the consent of the Church.  It also found that the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina belonged to the Episcopal Church.  The Lawrence crowd appealed to the high court, but the justices refused to hear the case and the decision of the state's Supreme Court was effectively affirmed.

This time the challenge came from the Episcopal Church and Diocese of Fort Worth in Texas.  Unlike South Carolina, the Texas Supreme Court sided with the breakaway group.

The ruling in Texas awarded the Episcopal Church’s entire Diocese of Fort Worth and its 70 parishes and missions to disaffected Episcopalians who left the Church in 2008 and joined with the self-described “Anglican Church of North America” (which ironically is neither part of the Episcopal Church nor the Anglican Communion.)

Approximately 15 parishes in the Diocese chose to stay with the Episcopal Church but, according to the Texas Supreme Court, their buildings must be surrendered to the ACNA group and their congregations dispersed.


The case is a significant victory for a group of right-wing billionaires who have been financing years-long efforts to break up hierarchical denominations like the Episcopal, Methodist, and Presbyterian Churches which, until now, have been protected by the separation of church and state provision of the U.S. Constitution.

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For further insights into the Fort Worth case, click here to read Dr. Ron Caldwell's status report on these rightwing attacks on the Church

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January 30, 2021

Diocese of SC Unveils Diverse Slate of Nominees for Bishop; Archdeacon Walpole, The Rev. Terence Alexander Lee are Hometown Favorites

Five candidates are long on parish experience, Church leadership, conflict resolution 


Click here to see who is in the running


It has been more than thirty years since the Diocese of South Carolina has held a truly competitive election for Diocesan Bishop, and that is exactly what its Standing Committee created today in proposing five excellent candidates to chart its future.

According Standing Committee Chairman Caleb Lee, the election of the new bishop will take place at a special Diocesan Convention May 1st at Grace Church Cathedral in Charleston.  Delegates will have a chance to meet the candidates at special events that include a “walk-about” (or perhaps a “zoom-about”) April 12-14.

The Standing Committee announced the nominees after an extensive search overseen by a committee of clergy and lay people, led by the Rev. Dr. Philip Linder of St. Mark’s Charleston.  The Committee has been working for nearly a year, that included a COVID-imposed hiatus last spring and summer. 


Initially, many communicants in the Diocese worried that the beleaguered state of diocese’s finances and infrastructure, along with ongoing legal harassment by ex-bishop Mark Lawrence and his followers would discourage top-tier candidates.

However, while Committee members are not permitted to share specifics of their deliberations, one member did tell us that the committee was encouraged by the number of strong applicants who were “not just interested, but excited at the prospect of coming here.”

1. Home Field Advantage

Until recently, delegates to Diocesan electing conventions have generally preferred candidates with some level of personal or professional ties to South Carolina.  The Diocese moved away from that practice with the two most recently elected Diocesan bishops, Edward Salmon in 1989 and and Mark Lawrence in 2007.  Both were both won on the first ballot.

While all of the nominees proposed today have ties to either South Carolina or neighboring North Carolina, the two nominees with the most substantial attachments are current Archdeacon and Johns Island native
Calhoun Walpole, and The Rev. Terence Lee, who grew up in Charleston, attended Calvary Episcopal Church, and graduated from the College of Charleston. 

Both Walpole and Lee were ordained as priests in the Diocese and served parishes here.

According to one person familiar with the search process, Walpole probably has an early advantage in that she “knows every person in every parish,” thanks to her eight years as the Diocese's popular Archdeacon.  Appointed by provisional bishop Charles vonRosenberg in 2013, Walpole continued in her position under his successor Skip Adams and, during the past year, has served as the spiritual leader of the Diocese in the absence of a bishop. 


In addition to her Diocesan duties, Walpole is the vicar at Grace Church Cathedral.  She grew up in St. John’s Episcopal Church on Johns Island and is formerly the priest-in-charge at St. Mark's, Charleston, Assistant Rector at Holy Cross Faith Memorial in Pawleys Island, and Diocesan Missioner for Hispanic/Latino Ministries and Lay Vicar, Iglesia de San Juan.

The Rev. Mr. Lee has a rising profile as a leader in the Church and successful rector, that includes his tenure as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bennettsville.  His ministry has taken him to dioceses in New Mexico, Long Island, and New York City, where today he leads the historic St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Harlem.  He was ordained by the late Bishop Salmon and mentored in mission work by former Suffragan Bishop Bill Skilton.  (Skilton is currently "inhibited" from acting as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.)

The election of Lee, who is African American, would be a stunning chapter in the life of a Diocese that – more than any other in the Church – has been defined by a 300-year struggle over race.

2.  Age

More than in most elections, the candidates' ages are likely to play an important role this year as the delegates mull the future of the Diocese.  The four of the five candidates appear to be in their late forties or early fifties, with another very significant standout in his mid-sixties.

The age question will become increasingly relevant as the delegates wrestle with whether the Diocese would be best served by an older. more experienced leader who’d restore the kind of normalcy that pre-dated the last chaotic 30 years, or a younger person who may have less of a track record but could serve as long as 25 to thirty years.

At age 64, The Rev. Geoffrey Hoare
is by far the strongest choice for those who believe the Diocese would be best served by more experience candidate with high-quality parish experience, with established fundraising and executive skills.  The Rev. Mr. Hoare fits the profile of the late Bishop Gray Temple (1961 - 1980) and the Edward Lloyd Salmon during the first 12 years of his tenure.

Hoare is perhaps one of the most effective and prolific parish rectors in the Church today, and maintains a high profile in the wider Church.  He was ordained in North Carolina, and served parishes there, in Atlanta, Alexandria VA, and Washington DC, where he is currently rector of St. Alban’s.  Members of his current and former parishes are effusive in their praise for his leadership skills and generous spirit.

Hoare also has professional training as an executive coach, which could be an important asset in mentoring diocesan clergy and parish leaders.  He would be the first former Englishman to lead the Diocese of South Carolina since its first bishop in 1785.


The mandatory age in the Church for the retirement of active bishops is 72, meaning that Hoare's episcopate might be limited to eight years or less. 


However, in nominating him, search committee members appear to have been setting up the option of electing a strong and experienced leader who would eventually be succeeded by a younger Bishop Coadjutor who might serve a much longer term as Diocesan bishop.  It isn't a scenario that is all that unusual, and often has provided for continuity and new growth when a diocese has experienced the kind of turbulence ours has.

3.  Schism

The Search Committee has not shared its rationale for nominating any of the five candidates, but it is clear that it had in mind the needs of a diocese wounded by 13 years of Trump-like tyranny by a former leader who had arrived with such promise. 

Two candidates that stand out in this regard are
The Rev. Ruth Woodlift-Stanley, currently serving in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York, and The Rev. Kevin Johnson, currently in the Diocese of Fort Worth. 


In our estimation, the search committee was offering nominees who bring significant first-hand experience in reconciliation and rebuilding, while continuing a growing commitment to social justice and proclaiming the Gospel anew. 


Please take time to study responses and messages from each of the five candidates.

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November 20, 2020

2020 Diocesan Convention Looking Forward Despite COVID, the Courts, and Long Wait for a New Bishop


The 2020 Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina gets underway today via Zoom with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry headlining activities that begin this afternoon and run through midday tomorrow (Saturday).  He knows the Diocese well and has played a significant role in encouraging its leadership forward during the last eight years. 


Bishop Curry will most certainly set a positive tone for delegates who mostly have been worshiping in their home parishes via the internet since last winter and eager for a boost in morale and a reminder that 2021 may be the year of getting back to a kind of new normal.   


Bishop Curry's initial appearance will be at 3 p.m. as a participant in a discussion of the Diocese's new Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation.


A transitional convention


Delegates and guests will discover a Diocese very much in a transition.

In addition to the new Commission,  they can look forward to a progress report on
the election of a new diocesan bishop from Search Committee chairman, the Rev. Philip Linder from St. Mark’s, Charleston.  Nominations have been received and the Committee is engaged in winnowing the field with plans for a special convention sometime next spring or summer. 


Linder will say that he expects the Committee to make its report on nominees in January, and that he and Committee members are pleased with the level of interest and the many promising candidates they have to work with. 


Delegates are also looking for encouraging words on progress in the Diocese’s eight-year legal fight with ex-bishop Mark Lawrence and his followers from Chancellor Tom Tisdale. 


Church attorneys recently filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court asking that it overturn an irregular ruling by an Orangeburg County judge overturning the high court's 2017 landmark ruling rejecting Lawrence's lawsuit in which he claimed he and his group owned all diocesan and parish properties.


The Convention schedule can be found here.   This will be the first virtual convention for the Diocese.  It is available for viewing at https://www.youtube.com/c/DioceseofSC.   It is also available through the Diocese's Facebook page.


November 12, 2020

Church Takes Aim at Irregular Ruling by Rogue Judge; Files Appeal with State's High Court

Attorneys:  Lower court judge essentially overrode August 2017 Supreme Court decision in favor of the Church and its Diocese of South Carolina


The Episcopal Church and its Diocese of South Carolina today asked the state’s Supreme Court to throw out a recent ruling by a lower court judge that effectively reversed the high court’s August 2017 decision that the assets of 28 of 36 parishes aligned with ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence belong the Church. 

The ruling grew out of a lawsuit brought by Lawrence in January 2013 in which he argued that the Episcopal Church had no legal claim to the property and assets of the parishes of the Diocese, or even the Diocese itself and its property and corporate identity. 

After a two-week trial in 2015, Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein agreed with Lawrence and gave him the whole shooting match.  The Church appealed to the state Supreme Court which overturned Goodstein’s ruling two years later.

In November 2017, the justices handed off their ruling to Orangeburg Circuit Judge Edgar Dickson for the purpose of overseeing its implementation.  After more than two years of cat-and-mouse, Dickson in effect decided that Goodstein had been right in the first place about the ownership of the parish properties and reversed the result of the higher court.

In today’s appeal, Church attorneys are asking the justices to rule on whether Dickson exceeded his authority by essentially reinstating Goodstein’s ruling, and failing to follow the explicit result of the high court’s August 2017 ruling.  
Church lawyers also questioned whether Dickson denied the Church due process of law by using his implementation assignment to retry the original Lawrence lawsuit .

Read initial appeal filed with Supreme Court today



October 27, 2020

Federal Court Finds Lawrence "Diocese" in Contempt Over False Advertising and Deceit Allegation

Gergel:  Renegade State Court Judge Edgar Dickson has no authority to overturn a Federal ruling


The followers of ex-Episcopal Bishop Mark Lawrence once again are in hot water with U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel. 


Today Gergel agreed that the Lawrence crowd had violated his September 2019 injunction that prohibited it from intentionally and falsely advertising themselves as the legitimate historic Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.  As part of today's ruling, he found that the organization had wrongly used the name of the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina" in applying for a Federal loan earlier this year.

In September, the Episcopal Church and its Diocese of South Carolina complained to Gergel that the Lawrence group was up to its old tricks, brashly ignoring his earlier injunction and masquerading as the historic Episcopal Diocese that was created after the Revolutionary War.   


They alleged 27 violations of the injunction.  At issue were references to things like the "Episcopal Shield" and the "Diocese of South Carolina" and Lawrence's own claim of currently being the 14th bishop of the Diocese (that ended in 2012). 


Fortunately, for the Lawrence organization, someone convinced its leadership to fix 25 of the 27 violations before Gergel got them in Court.  Today, Gergel said they had been rectified to the point of being legally "moot".


However, Gergel did find the Lawrence crowd in “civil contempt” for its use of  the Diocese's historic name when it applied for and obtained a Federal loan from the Small Business Administration earlier this year.  Gergel had specifically denied them the use of that name (aka "corporate mark") in his ruling last year.


The second issue that Gergel said was not moot was the Lawrence organization's claim that Lawrence was consecrated as the bishop of the "Anglican Diocese of South Carolina" in 2008.  Church attorneys had complained about that, as well as its' use of the terms "2009 Convention" and "2008 Consecration." 


Gergel disagreed, and allowed the Lawrence group to continue with their usage.  However, the "Anglican Diocese of South Carolina" did not really exist until more than ten years after the putative consecration of Lawrence as its leader.


Curiously, if Lawrence is claiming that he was not consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church in 208, then he cannot legitimately claim credit for 2008 - 2012 in calculating his retirement income from the Episcopal Church's Pension Fund.  

Read more about the ruling here


Dickson Ruling 


Very importantly, Gergel punched a hole in the dissidents’ insistence that a ruling last June by a rogue lower court judge in Orangeburg effectively negated a landmark decision by the state Supreme Court in 2017.  That decision found that the Federal courts had jurisdiction over the status of the diocese's corporate identity and corporate marks.  


Gergel – a Federal judge –  subsequently ruled in favor of the Church on those issues and today pounced on the idea that a state circuit court judge had any authority to overrule any part of  a Federal ruling.


Identity Crisis


Gergel's rulings in this case have highlighted the Lawrence organization's struggle to create an identity that credibly explains its existence and appeal to potential converts.


Plagued by budget deficits, empty pews, and a string of costly legal defeats, the Lawrence organization has yet to find a viable path forward.   Visitors and newcomers looking for an Episcopal Church long ago stopped showing up at Lawrence parishes on Sundays as lifelong Episcopalians, displeased with the high-handed manner in which they were yanked out of their denomination and the Anglican Communion, found other spiritual homes.  


The Lawrence crowd responded to these challenges by promoting a widespread illusion that they are still part of the Church, just not subject to its Constitution and Canons.  Lawrence even encouraged parishes to use the word 'Episcopal' in describing themselves since "it just means that you have a bishop."


Making their work even more challenging was the Lawrencians' continued embrace of homophobia, thinly-veiled misogyny, and intolerance of those whose understanding of Scripture is at odds of their own narrow literalism.  Once it was on its own, the organization voted to embrace an ancient version of Anglican theology, darker and more relevant to the times of Henry VIII than 21st Century America.  


Even worse, they voted to surrender much of their authority to control their leadership to a perpetually all-male House of Bishops with very limited transparency and little tolerance for dissent.


Anglican Diocese


For now, the Lawrence organization calls itself the "Anglican Diocese of South Carolina" and claims affiliation with the self-styled "Anglican Church of North America," an association of dissident groups unhappy with the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church. 


However, one of the challenges facing the "Anglican Diocese of South Carolina" is that it is not really a "diocese" or "Anglican".   


"Diocese" is a term going back to the Roman Empire.  Originally it described an administrative unit of government with jurisdiction over a clearly-defined geographic area and whose leadership was subservient to the hierarchy of a larger governmental structure. 


As the Empire crumbled, Church leaders assumed the reins of "diocesan" leadership and consequently the term "diocese" became part of the structure of hierarchical denominations like the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church... well, you get the idea. 


In South Carolina, it appears the ACNA has four separate jurisdictions whose lines of authority and geography are blurred.  Contrary to Anglican ethos, the Lawrencians' governing structure is concentrated in the hands of an autocratic bishop with unprecedented control over clergy and parish self-governance, with no real oversight from anyone. 


"Anglican" means being part of a worldwide Christian tradition, rooted in the worship and theology of the Church of England.   Its structure and leadership is dispersed among 39 provinces, each led by a Primate.  The Primate of the Episcopal Church is the Most Rev. Michael Curry, who is recognized by the other Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury as the leader of the American branch of Anglicanism.


Rather than being a hierarchical "Church," ACNA is more of an association of independent diverse religious denominations and organizations, essentially bound together by a shared fear of modern society.  


Not surprisingly the leadership of the Communion has repeatedly rejected any association with ACNA or its various subdivisions.  The Archbishop of Canterbury has been very clear that he views the group as "a separate church."


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