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
MOUNT 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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
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.
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.
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, email@example.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
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.