South Carolina Episcopalians
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      2013 Archives (partly still under construction) 
                                        

Scroll down for posts since January 2013

December 30, 2013 (rev. 1/1)
Goodstein Denies Motion to Add Individual "Conspirators" to Lawsuit

Affidavit:  Bishop's Search Committee leaders tried to recruit me to take the Diocese of South Carolina and its property out of the Episcopal Church


Fuener:  Witness' account "seriously in error, if not worse"

ST. GEORGE -- Dorchester County Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein ruled today that she would not grant a motion by Episcopal Church lawyers to add individual allegations of conspiracy to its defense in ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence's lawsuit laying claim to millions of dollars in Church assets and property.

Goodstein seemed to feel that the conspiracy issues raised by the Church's motion (described in the story below this one) are already part of the substance of the lawsuit
Read the full story hereGoodstein also turned down two other motions by the Church asking that she revisit earlier pre-trial rulings.

At today's hearing, Church lawyers argued that a conspiracy to defraud the Church of its rightful property and financial assets was well underway in 2005 when the Diocese was looking for a successor to retiring Bishop Edward Salmon. Much of the development of that conspiracy, they argue, had to do with bad acts by Lawrence and three confederates.  

Today's hearing focused on an affidavit by a retired clergyman who said he'd been approached in 2005 by Greg Kronz, Chairman of the Search Committee, and Paul Fuener, a member of the committee, about becoming a candidate for bishop in the Diocese of South Carolina. 

Both Kronz and Fuener are former priests in the Episcopal Church and have been instrumental in orchestrating the current attempt by pro-Lawrence parishes to breakaway from the Church with its assets and property. 

According to the Rev. Thomas Rickenbaker, the two asked him directly if, as bishop, he would "help us leave The Episcopal Church and take our property with us."  Rickenbaker said in his affidavit that he was subsequently dropped from consideration after refusing to go along with the scheme. 

Fuener subsequently told the Post & Courier that "I am confident that his [Rickenbaker's] recollection of our interview is seriously in error, if not worse."

During the subsequent election process that resulted in Lawrence becoming bishop in 2008, traditional parishes and their leaders were repeatedly frustrated by Lawrence allies, who appeared to have rigged the search process in favor of candidates who shared their secessionist views.  Dozens of well-qualified candidates, loyal to the Church, appeared to have been rejected by the search committee.

The search process eventually yielded three nominees, all of whom vowed to take the Diocese out of the Episcopal Church.  A handwritten note on Mark Lawrence's candidate questionnaire suggests that someone in the search process - possibly Kronz - appeared to have been coaching him on his responses to the search committee.

Church lawyers maintain that individual actions by Lawrence, Fuener, former Standing Committee President Jeffrey Miller, and Lawrence deputy Jim Lewis, amounted to a conspiracy to defraud the Church.   

Goodstein's ruling does not appear to bar Church attorneys from introducing evidence of a conspiracy when the lawsuit goes to trial next July. Tom Tisdale, lead attorney and Chancellor to the Diocese of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, has promised as much.

November 25, 2013

Courtroom  Shocker! 

Continuing Diocese:  Evidence shows Lawrence and three cohorts repeatedly broke the law in conspiracy to defraud the Episcopal Church


Multiple causes of action against Lawrence, his top lieutenant, and two Standing Committee chairmen allege breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and civil conspiracy; New documents may be shedding light on secretive Lawrence episcopate


ST. GEORGE -- In a stunning and unexpected move in court today, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina ("The continuing Diocese") formally accused ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence and three of his top lieutenants of engaging in a widespread, illegal conspiracy to defraud the Church of its financial assets and property.

Attorneys for the continuing Diocese told SC Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein that the plot was likely underway before Lawrence’s 2008 consecration and even as he was telling bishops and standing committees that he intended to remain in the Church and loyal to his ordination vow to conform to the “doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.”

The allegations were contained in a motion today by the continuing Diocese, asking that the four men be added individually as parties in the lawsuit brought by Lawrence, his allies, and 34 parishes last January.  In that lawsuit they claim they are entitled to the financial assets and property of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, even though they say they are no longer Episcopalians
.

The allegations include 18 causes of action against Lawrence, former Canon to the Ordinary Jim Lewis, and Paul Feuner and Jeffrey Miller, former chairmen of the Diocesan Standing Committee under Lawrence and signers of quitclaim deeds that purported to relinquish the Church’s property interest in millions of dollars in parish properties.  See the entire filing

Specifically, the allegations against various combinations of the four include breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, conversion, trademark infringement and civil conspiracy.  The lead attorney for the continuing Diocese and its bishop, Charles vonRosenberg, is a former Chancellor of the Diocese of South Carolina.

It is important to remember that these allegations are as yet unproven.  Attorneys for the Episcopal Church in South Carolina will need to do that when they go to trial.  As yet, Goodstein has not ruled on whether they can even be considered during the trial of Lawrence's lawsuit.

Fear of allegations may have prompted frantic $2 million fundraising effort. 

The new allegations were likely generated by documents requested by the continuing Diocese as part of its defense in the lawsuit.  The documents included minutes of Standing Committee meetings which were not available to communicants of the breakaway Lawrence "diocese."  (The documents have only been available to the lawyers for the continuing Diocese and not available for public viewing.  SC Episcopalians has not seen them.)

As part of a pretrial process known as "discovery", Goodstein ordered that the documents be handed over to the lawyers for the continuing Diocese last summer, about the time that Lawrence and his team began a new round of pressuring parishes for more funds

If the allegations against them are proven, the four men could be held personally liable for any civil or criminal activity in which they engaged as leaders in the Diocese. 
 
Earlier this month, they and their supporters launched yet another fundraising effort aimed at securing $2 million for an ill-defined "Legal Defense Fund."  The name of the Fund was peculiar since the breakaway "diocese" was suing the Episcopal Church and not defending itself from anything.

The legal team supporting Lawrence and the other plaintiffs includes 40 lawyers.  The legal team defending the continuing Diocese is currently comprised of two lawyers.

Parishes jeopardized their properties and buildings by joining the lawsuit.

SC Episcopalians has long maintained that the 34 pro-Lawrence parishes that joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs with Lawrence were duped into believing that they were about to lose their parishes properties.  In fact, none of the parishes was ever in such danger until they joined the lawsuit, an action that now puts the future of their properties in the hands of judges.

Today's motion by the continuing Diocese makes no mention of wrongdoing by the 34 parishes, only further demonstrating that their role in the lawsuit is to create a distraction from alleged misconduct by Lawrence and his lieutenants.

More detailed summary of this story is available on the website of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.


November 22, 2013

Lawrence Lawsuit goes to Trial in State Court in Early 2014

he trial of the lawsuit brought by ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence and 34 breakaway parishes against the Episcopal Church will go forward in early 2014, according to ongoing pretrial hearings before South Carolina Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein.

This fall lawyers have appeared before the Dorchester County judge in a series of such hearings, that have included a discovery period in which all sides were allowed to gather additional information to support their positions.  Another hearing finalizing the schedule is set for next week.

SC Episcopalians expects that the trial's outcome in the state court will not be particularly favorable to the Episcopal Church.  State courts in similar cases have generally been more sympathetic to the breakaway groups, and less respectful of the Constitutional status accorded "hierarchical" churches like the Episcopal Church. 

So far, in our opinion, Goodstein's rulings have been more favorable to the cause of the Lawrencians.  Outcomes will likely get better as the case is appealed and moves to higher courts.


November 18, 2013

Show Me da'Money:  Lawrence Launches $2 Million Fundraising
Blitz to Sue Imagined Foes


Ex-Bishop likens defendants in his lawsuit to the 'Devil' and 'Spiritual Forces of Evil'

Faltering support for his legal adventures prompts need for more cash in the bank


Who will dole out the money? Who will get the money?  What’s happened to the money already raised?  Why $2 million?


Even the most naïve of Mark Lawrence’s followers are finally beginning to comprehend the full costs and consequences of leadership that lives in an alternate universe.

Last week they got another bizarre fundraising missive from the deposed Bishop and his “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc.” -- pressing for more money for lawyers in their shadowbox “war” against the Episcopal Church and local Episcopalians who refuse to abandon the Church with them.
 

This past summer they were asking for $1 million.  Now, only a few months later, they want $2 million.

All of that is on top of another nearly $1 million of Diocesan funds Lawrence spent on lawyers during his five years as the legitimate Bishop of South Carolina... even though the Diocese was not facing any significant legal problems. 

There is no available public documentation of who received any of these funds.


Christians v. Christians.  Lawrence needs millions now to keep the lawsuit alive down the road, even  if laypeople don't support it.

The $2 million Lawrence wants now is for a “Legal Defense Fund”, whose sole purpose is to underwrite lawsuits against Lawrence’s imagined foes in the Church.  It has nothing to do with defending anything.  It's about suing other Christians, and it certainly has nothing to do with serving God.

Dressed up as a special edition of the Jubilate Deo, last week's passing-of-the-hat is solely for legal bills over the next 24 months. The PECDSC Inc. is not being sued, but Lawrence claims he needs the money anyway because the PECDSC Inc. is "under attack from the Episcopal Church."

According to its account of the first meeting of the fundraising committee of the PECDSC Inc., "He (Lawrence) urged the group to acknowledge that our legal suit is a tempestuous battle against “the spiritual forces of evil” and advised the members to “put on the full armor of God” trusting in His righteousness and believing in His justice and judgment.

Last January Lawrence’s lawyers convinced him to file a lawsuit, apparently in part to embarrass his perceived archnemesis, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and prevent his successor, the newly elected Bishop of South Carolina, from ministering to those who did not join him in abandoning the Church. 

Lawrence and his lieutenants say that Jesus would be okay with this. On the other hand, they have said repeatedly that the lawsuit makes them "sad." 
 
In that lawsuit Lawrence asks the courts to allow him to take the Diocese out of the Episcopal Church along with millions of dollars in accumulated property and financial assets given for the work of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.  Most likely, this would make he and his colleagues less "sad." 

Lawrence -- whose rhetoric is often a peculiar mix of narcissism, paranoia, and military bluster -- claimed in last week’s fundraising foray that his lawsuit is all about getting the jump on ill-defined legal actions yet to be initiated by the “spiritual forces of evil”.  

No kidding.  He did say that.

Then, in what has to be one of the most disgusting perversions of the Gospel in South Carolina since Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Lawrence actually equated raising money for his high-priced lawyers with “putting on the full armor of God".  

Now that really is "sad."

Lawrence v. Satan:  Extreme rhetoric is all PECDSC Inc. has left, as the continuing Episcopal Diocese moves ahead  in spite of Lawrence's continued legal attacks.  

Among these dark "spiritual forces" appear to be 22 parishes and missions that elected Lawrence Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina and actually supported his ministry for five years.  They chose to remain loyal to the Episcopal Church and thus, in the world according to the Lawrencians, “evil”. 

The PECDSC Inc, of course, is not happy that eight new Episcopal parishes-in-formation have sprung up to replace those that are trying to leave to join Lawrence.  The established parishes remaining loyal to the Church have experienced as much as 20-30% growth in their congregations.  Not so "evil."

Also among Lawrence's perceived enemies is the Episcopal Church itself, whose "unbiblical" House of Bishops and diocesan standing committees consented to his election as Bishop of South Carolina in 2007


And, of course, there’s the truly wicked Presiding Bishop who, according to former Bishop Edward Salmon, “bent over backwards” to help Lawrence gain necessary consents in his controversial election to become Bishop of South Carolina.  Pure "evil," for sure. She probably even wears her "armor" 24/7.

Parishes were duped 

Over the long haul, it’s the 34 incredibly naive parishes that were stampeded into joining Lawrence’s lawsuit that stand to lose the most.  By stupidly signing on as plaintiffs last winter, they needlessly put the ownership of their parish properties in play in the courts. 

If they had done nothing, they could have continued on with the work of Jesus Christ just as they believe they’ve been called to do.  If Lawrence prevailed in court, they then could have simply left the Church at no charge.

Many of these parishes since have lost loyal members and had to cut back on their ministries.  In addition to underwriting Lawrence’s quixotic legal adventures, they could also be on the hook for legal fees incurred by the Episcopal Church in defending itself against their frivolous lawsuit.

Lawrence knows the course he has chosen will take much longer than two years, which means his followers need to keep their wallets open.  Prior to becoming Bishop of South Carolina, he was rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bakersfield, California ... which only this summer began to recover from nearly six years of legal proceedings in which parishioners tried to leave the Episcopal Church with the parish property.  

Fortunately, the California courts refused to sanction greed and larceny disguised as the Gospel, and affirmed that the parish property belonged to the Episcopal Church.  The congregation at St. Paul’s will be remembered as only one of many victims of Lawrence’s strange and destructive brand of churchmanship
.

Support for legal adventures wanes

The ongoing challenge facing Lawrence and the PECDSC Inc. is to convince people with deep pockets that his legal attacks against the Church are more than arrogant gestures of an egotistical ex-Bishop with authority issues. 

This summer's fundraising got lots of pushback from the parishes and raised concerns about the willingness of laypeople to provide endless financial resources for a lawsuit that will probably go down the tubes once it hits the Federal Courts. The tone of the latest appeal for money is markedly more shrill and less substantive than in previous times.

The leadership of the PECDSC Inc. is largely comprised of angry, old white men who are used to running their own show.  They seem unconcerned that there has been no public accounting of how money they raised this summer was spent.  They appear to have made no commitment to publicly disclosing precisely where and how the next $2 million will be spent.

At this point it seems that the PECDSC Inc. is trying to raise far more money than it needs, so that it will be able to continue its lawsuits even when most of its parishes and followers have no interest in seeing it continue. 

As evidenced by last week's faux-Jubilate Deo, there is also no apparent logic for how the $2 million figure was arrived at -- as opposed to $1 million or $3 million.  No one has given any reason why the PECDSC Inc. feels it needs this amount of money or why it feels it will be adequate for 24 months. 

And, why 24 months?  The PECDSC Inc. knows that this case will go on for years until it gets to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Sad. Sad. Sad.


November 3, 2013
Lawrence "Diocese" Stokes Imaginary Fears to Raise Funds for Quixotic Lawsuit
St. Michael's is asked for $150,000 for lawyers in addition to $50,000 it just kicked in


Former Bishop Lawrence's chief legal strategist told communicants of St. Michael's in Charleston that they need to come up with another $150,000 to help with the legal fees the Lawrence "diocese" is racking up in its quixotic lawsuit against the Episcopal Church. 

The parish has already coughed up $50,000 this year to help pay a phalanx of lawyers who have latched onto a major cash cow that shows no signs of going away.

SC Episcopalians believes that the Lawrence "Diocese" is pressuring parishes aligned with him to pony up as much as $2 million dollars to cover anticipated legal bills over the next two years.

In his remarks at St. Michael's on Sunday, Beaufort attorney Alan Runyon suggested that the Episcopal Church will evict the congregation from its historic building if he and about two dozen other lawyers are not successful in their current lawsuit against the Episcopal Church.  In that lawsuit, Lawrence and 34 parishes of the Diocese claim that they are no longer part of the Episcopal Church but believe they are entitled to walk away with millions of dollars in parish properties and financial assets belonging to the Church.

There is absolutely no evidence that anyone wants to toss the thriving congregation at St. Michael's out of its buildings. This is purely the invention of lawyers and the manipulative leadership of the "diocese."

Unfortunately, the parish has made no attempt to have any conversation with SC Bishop Charles vonRosenberg to explore ways that their concerns with the Church can be resolved without going to court or without paying outrageous legal fees.  The Presiding Bishop, whom they view as their sworn enemy, has twice visited the Diocese and on neither occasion did anyone from St. Michael's ask to meet with her.

VonRosenberg has said repeatedly that his goal is reconciliation with the pro-Lawrence parishes, but clergy in those parishes -- and now their lawyers -- have prevented that.  In August vonRosenberg chose not to formally depose those clergy who have followed Lawrence, but rather "released" them from their ministry in the Episcopal Church.  In doing so, he allowed these clergy to avoid the stigma that accompanies deposition, and left open the possibility that they could return if they so chose.

In the view of SC Episcopalians, parishes like St. Michael's were hood-winked into joining the lawsuit last January before vonRosenberg was elected.  Such a move prevented them from working with vonRosenberg to figure out how they could amicably resolve their concerns before turning everything over to lawyers. 

October 12, 2013

Finances of Breakaway "Diocese" Troubled even before Attempted Split

Declining income, legal fees, and uncontrolled costs overwhelmed  PECDSC Inc. in 2012

During the five-year episcopate of Mark Lawrence, members of his inner circle carefully studied the failed legal strategies of four dioceses, whose renegade leadership had attempted to take down the Episcopal Church only a few years earlier. 

They were determined not make the same mistakes when South Carolina's opportunity came.

However, they were far less studious in planning for the nuts-and-bolts of operating a fairly awkward corporate entity in rebellion against its parent company, especially if it takes years to resolve. 

According to an independent audit of 2012 financials, the breakaway “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc. (PECDSC Inc.)” seemed to be on very thin ice, even before it took steps to leave the Episcopal Church.

Last year PECDSC Inc. expenses exceeded revenues by $562,980 in what appears to be the largest deficit in Diocesan history.  Income from parishes and missions was nearly $230,000 short of that which was pledged.
 
Financial trouble began long before secession try.
 

Even before former Bishop Mark Lawrence and his followers launched their scheme to secede last October, there was trouble on the horizon.  Five years of declining income and membership, budget-busting legal expenses, and costly management policies were coming home to roost. 

Much of the problem was the nature of the Diocese of South Carolina.  Its' polity has always been an uneasy marriage of evangelicals and mainstream Episcopalians, and its bishops have had to gingerly walk a fine line to keep both groups under the same tent… and writing checks. 

However, when he was consecrated, Lawrence showed little interest in keeping the marriage going.   He was clear that God called him to lead conservative evangelicals – which he re-branded as “orthodox” – in what he described as a “war” against the Episcopal Church. 

Mainstream Episcopalians, who had generously supported his predecessors, appeared to have no place in his vision for the future.
   Full story


October 11, 2013
Judge Goodstein says She'll keep Controversial Injunction in Place
Judge leaves possession of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina in the hands of those who have left the Church   Read more

 


September 28, 2013

Anglican Shmanglican, Part I

Are worried secessionists engaging in deceptive advertising to attract new members?

Alarmed by an exodus of members and declining revenues, secessionist parishes in Mark Lawrence’s Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Incorporated (PECDSC Inc.) have decided that maybe being known as “Anglican” and Episcopal” is not such a bad thing after all. 

Since early summer, many PECDSC Inc. parishes have quietly slipped those two words back into their printed materials, websites, and public signage, along with tag lines in search engines that might be used by people searching for a real Episcopal parish. 

For example, St. Michael's in Charleston is among several pro-Lawrence parishes claiming to be a "constituent member" of the Anglican Communion, even though that would be news to the leadership of the Communion.  Individual parishes cannot independently belong to the worldwide Communion, anyway.

An online search with the words “episcopal” and “Beaufort” brings up "St. Helena’s Episcopal Church", somewhat surprising since it claims it has left the Episcopal Church.

If you are looking for a parish in Georgetown, you'll discover one named “The Episcopal Church of the Parish of Prince George Winyah”, also known on its website as "Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church", even though its corporate board of directors claim they have left the Episcopal Church.

This sudden change of heart seems particularly disingenuous since all of these parishes are currently spending millions of dollars in legal proceedings that, if successful, will permanently sever their ties to the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church.   
  Full story ...


September 17, 2013

Self-Proclaimed “Anglican” Groups in the Carolinas Try to End Rivalries
Meeting at Episcopal Church Center hopes to bolster shared fundamentalist, anti-gay, anti-women agenda


SEABROOK ISLAND - Representatives of five renegade groups claiming to be Anglicans with “overlapping jurisdictions” in North and South Carolina met at an Episcopal Church Center south of Charleston last week to smooth over reported rivalries and internecine sniping to advance their shared theological and political agendas.
 
The groups, all with an axe to grind against the Episcopal Church, are primarily bound by their embrace of Biblical literalism and opposition to gays and lesbians, and women in positions of spiritual authority over men.  Over the past few years, the strong personalities of their leaders has caused bruised egos and schisms-within-schisms.

Participants at the all-male meeting included:

  - Mark Lawrence, deposed Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina

  - Robert Duncan, deposed Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and leader of the erstwhile “Anglican Church of North America” (ACNA); and 

  - Steve Wood, ex-Episcopal priest and current ACNA Bishop of the Carolinas.

Also included were representatives of Forward in Faith, an international movement to keep women out of the priesthood, and a missionary group to the United States from Rwanda. 

None of these groups is actually “Anglican” as in being part of the Anglican Communion.  

However, faced with financial troubles, declining numbers, and confusion about their identities, leaders of these schismatic groups have had no trouble poaching names like “Anglican,” "Orthodox" and “Episcopal” in attempts to legitimize themselves and convince followers that their fundamentalist views are actually mainstream.

In North America there are only two provinces of the Anglican Communion – the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.  Neither individuals, parishes, nor dioceses can be part of the Communion without belonging to one of its provinces. 


The only two bishops in South Carolina recognized by the Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury are named Andrew Waldo and Charles vonRosenberg.  Neither was invited to the meeting. 
 Read statement of the participants 

 

   September 16, 2013

Episcopal Forum of South Carolina Reconstitutes Mission
Ten-year-old via media organization has been an invaluable source of information for Episcopalians during schism

The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, the ten-year-old via media organization in the Diocese of South Carolina, has reconstituted its mission and committed itself to supporting the work of the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina.  The EFSC filled a critical role in holding Diocesan leaders accountable during the episcopates of Edward Salmon and Mark Lawrence, while providing loyal Episcopalians and the public with accurate and reliable information.  full story



September 15, 2013
Charleston Post & Courier Profiles Former Bishop Mark Lawrence

full story


September 11, 2013
Charleston Post & Courier Profiles SC Bishop Charles vonRosenberg

full story



September 10, 2013

Local Judge Rules Against Church's Claim to Property of Breakaway Parishes in the Diocese of Quincy
Decision leaves Lawrence supporters hopeful

After a lengthy trial this summer, an Illinois Circuit Court Judge ruled against the Episcopal Church in its long-standing property dispute with breakaway parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy.  The ruling almost certainly will be appealed, but it has given encouragement to breakaway parishes around the country.

Those in South Carolina were cheered because the judge used a legal concept known as "neutral principles of law" to arrive at his decision. This same approach was taken by the South Carolina Supreme Court in the controversial case of All Saints', Pawleys Island a number of years ago. 

Followers of former Bishop Mark Lawrence hope S.C. Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein will do the same thing next year when she rules on their pending lawsuit against the Episcopal Church.

In certain circumstances, states can use this approach in deciding Church property cases instead of "hierarchical preference," an older approach that generally holds that religious organizations with hierarchical governing structures -- like the Episcopal Church, Presbyterians, Methodists, and many others -- have the Constitutional right to manage their own affairs, including matters of property and leadership, without intrusion by the courts.

Some state courts like the "neutral principles" approach because it allows them to apply their own laws to Church disputes.  In recent years a handful of courts in those states employed the neutral principles approach to justify outcomes that mostly favored breakaway groups. 


In the All Saints' decision, the state Supreme Court used the neutral principles framework but was clear that it final decision was based on historical factors unique to that parish's situation.  The Court's decision was not a free exit pass to congregations that wanted to leave hierarchical Churches and grab up property on the way out.

Beaufort attorney Alan Runyan, a lead attorney for the Lawrence "diocese", appears to have participated in the trial in support of the breakaway parishes.  It is not known if parishes in South Carolina were paying his bills.

For more than four years, the Diocese of Quincy has been led by the Rt. Rev. John Buchanan, retired bishop of Western Missouri and interim bishop of Southern Virginia, who now lives in his native South Carolina.  This summer, the dioceses of Quincy and Chicago voted to merge, and Bishop Buchanan became the Assistant Bishop of Chicago.
 
Read the
 pastoral letter issued by Bishop Jeffrey Lee of the Diocese of Chicago on the judge's ruling.  Read additional comments by affected Episcopalians.

Permalink for this story ...


August 30, 2013
More than 100 Diocesan Clergy Officially Out of the Episcopal Church
VonRosenberg "released and removed" anti-Church priests in a way that might allow future reconciliation

CHARLESTON - South Carolina Bishop Charles vonRosenberg today signed a "Notice of Removal" for more than 100 clergy who've chosen to leave the Episcopal Church with former Bishop Mark Lawrence. 

For nine months vonRosenberg has attempted to keep Diocesan clergy in the Church, even if they were sympathetic to the rightwing schism promoted by Lawrence and others.  Their removal means that they are no longer recognized by an ecclesiastical entity that embraces apostolic succession or the Anglican Communion.

Under the canons (laws) of the Church, vonRosenberg could have "deposed" them.  However, an action of that nature would have made it much more difficult for them to seek reconciliation with the Church.  Reconciliation does not mean that they'd be entitled to resume their previous positions in the Diocese or local parishes. 

VonRosenberg acted with the agreement of the Standing Committee of the Diocese.  The names of the affected clergy were not released but the list most likely is the same as that of clergy whose ministries were "restricted" in June.  Nearly 90 clergy have chosen to stay with the continuing Diocese under vonRosenberg


Read news release by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina


August 23, 2013
Federal Judge Punts
Houck says it is "inefficient" for Feds to take on the case when a state court is already considering it

CHARLESTON - U.S, District Judge Weston Houck this afternoon granted a motion by ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence to dismiss a legal action brought against him by Charles vonRosenberg, the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. VonRosenberg claimed that Lawrence is interfering in the ministry of the Church by falsely representing himself as an Episcopal Bishop and the leader of the Diocese of South Carolina, and asked Houck to enjoin him from doing so. 

The legal issues in the matter will be addressed in a trial in state court, probably early next year.

Generally, state courts are thought to be better for Lawrence's breakaway "diocese" since its lawyers convinced state court Judge Diane Goodstein in January to award him temporary control of the corporate entity known as "the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc."  Along with that went the rights to official names -- like the "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" -- and the official corporate marks of the Diocese.

It may be the first time in history that a judge anywhere has essentially installed an individual as an official of a "hierarchical church" who does not even claim to be a member of that Church.  The ruling prompted SC Episcopalians to refer to the Lawrence "diocese" as the Diocese of Diane, since the "diocese" has no other legal authority to operate. 

Lawrence left the Episcopal Church in October 2012 over its inclusion of gay people and women in the full life of the Church, and Biblical literalism. 

Lawrence's lawyers are also hoping state courts will be a better venue for their cause because of the case of All Saint's, Pawleys Island a number of years ago, when the state's Supreme Court said the parish was free to leave the Episcopal Church.  The Court appeared to limit its ruling to unique factors in that case, but Lawrence's team claims it applies more broadly ... even to an administrative unit of a Church like a diocese.

Lawyers for the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina under vonRosenberg would probably have been happier if Houck kept the case in Federal Court.  Federal law strongly affirms the Constitutional right of hierarchical churches to manage their own affairs including selecting their own leaders, controlling their own property, and hiring their own employees.

The 81-year-old judge held a hearing on vonRosenberg's request for an injunction on Aug. 8th.

See vonRosenberg's response and the Judge's full ruling

August 8, 2013
Federal Judge Promises a Ruling in VonRosenberg v. Lawrence in a Few Days

Judge Houck left little doubt that he'd like to dump the entire case in the state courts

CHARLESTON -- If there was any agreement in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Weston Houck today, it was that the legal duel between the current and former Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is likely drag on for years.

Today's hearing was focused on a lawsuit brought by The Right Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, who wants Lawrence to stop acting like he's still the Bishop of the Diocese.  Lawrence left the Episcopal Church last fall, but continues to claim that he is its Bishop, even though he was formally deposed as a priest of the Church in December 2012. 

VonRosenberg was elected Lawrence's successor in January of this year, but Lawrence acts as if he is still in charge, even paying himself a very generous salary, living in the official Bishop's residence, and occupying the Diocesan headquarters in downtown Charleston.  He also claims that the Diocese's multimillion dollar assets and parish properties belong to him.

VonRosenberg’s lawyers claim in their lawsuit that Lawrence is engaging in "false advertising" in ways that are illegal under Federal law, and that this has led to confusion that prevents vonRosenberg from being a spiritual leader and exercising the ministry to which he was elected.

Lawrence's attorneys responded to them by asking that Houck dismiss vonRosenberg's lawsuit, and allow a state court currently considering Lawrence's lawsuit against the Episcopal Church over property issues to handle the case. 

Unfortunately for vonRosenberg, the nearly 81-year-old Houck appears to have little interest in taking on an extraordinarily complex case, and today he seemed singularly focused on finding justification for granting Lawrence's motion, and not especially clear on the issues raised in the lawsuit.

At the beginning of the hearing, for example, Houck said that he would first listen to oral arguments on Lawrence's motion to dismiss, followed by arguments on the substance of vonRosenberg's lawsuit.  However, that didn't happen.

Lawrence's legal team made its opening presentation for dismissal that included a rambling 25-minute monologue from one of Lawrence's lawyers who repeatedly bungled the pronunciation of vonRosenberg's name, appropriate form of address, and even the name of The Episcopal Church. 

However, when vonRosenberg's lead attorney, Matt McGill, began his response, Houck cut him off and proceeded to badger him with questions about how the issues raised by vonRosenberg could eventually be addressed by the state court.  Houck seemed unconcerned that vonRosenberg is not a party to that case, and that any state court was unlikely to address issues over which only a Federal Court has jurisdiction.


After about an hour of arguments on Lawrence's motion, the judge asked if anyone had anything else to bring up, and left the startled courtroom without ever hearing arguments on the merits of vonRosenberg's lawsuit. 
Not a good sign for the vonRosenberg team.

Houck promised that he would issue a ruling within a week.  The state case is being handled by S.C. Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein.

Houck, who is from Florence, was appointed to the Federal bench in 1979 by President Carter upon the recommendation of Senator Fritz Hollings. His nomination was something of a head-scratcher as the more experienced Florence attorney and former state senator, E.N. "Nick" Zeigler, was widely considered a shoo-in.  The late Mr. Zeigler went on to become the Chancellor of the Diocese of South Carolina.


Click here for more complete coverage from another source ...


August 4, 2014
Church Lawyers Heading Back to Federal Court This Week
Hearing on August 8th will probably include no major rulings, but the judge can be expected to make a decision soon thereafter

CHARLESTON - This week it’s back to court for lawyers for the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina and ex-bishop Mark Lawrence’ breakaway “diocese” in a tug-of-war over who owns Church property and Diocesan resources.

This Thursday they will appear once again before U.S. District Judge Weston Houck in Charleston as part of a lawsuit filed by the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina that is asking that Charles vonRosenberg be legally declared the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

VonRosenberg’s lawyers are saying that he was elected according to the canons of the Church, and is fully recognized by Church authorities as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury as the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. The issue is before a Federal Judge because the U.S. Constitution in general defers to the governing structures of a Church like the Episcopal Church in matters policy and theology especially involving the election of its leaders.

Lawrence left the Episcopal Church last November, but continues to represent himself as the leader of an “Episcopal” diocese.  Along with 34 parishes that support him, Lawrence is hoping a lawsuit they filed in state court in January will eventually substantiate his claim and award him control of millions of dollars’ worth of parish properties, financial resources, and diocesan assets.  He continues to spend Diocesan funds, perform the functions of a legitimate bishop, and even lives in the official residence of the Bishop of South Carolina

Confused?  In essence, the case in Federal Court is about the authority of a Church to control its own affairs.  The state case is about who actually owns he Church’s property.


July 27, 2013
Commentary: Bishop Nazir-Ali Gets It All Wrong
by Lionel Deimel

(Note: Mr. Deimel is a Pittsburgh-based blogger who carefully documented the efforts of an ultra-conservative conspiracy to destroy the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.  Bishop Nazir-Ali has been a quiet but active supporter of a similar effort in South Carolina, as a member of ex-bishop Lawrence 's inner circle.)

I generally find retired Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali quite irritating. The same can be said about David Virtue’s Web site VirtueOnline (“The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism”).

A story about Nazir-Ali on VirtueOnline, therefore, was sure to be a perfect storm of militant traditionalist drivel. And that is exactly what “Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali sees hope for the Anglican Communion: GAFCON II is the saving grace of a conflicted communion” turns out to be. It is the product of an interview of the bishop by VirtueOnline contributor (and Nazir-Ali fan) Mary Ann Mueller
.
 
I have neither the time nor the inclination to offer a general review of the VirtueOnline piece. Suffice it to say that Nazir-Ali “is convinced that GAFCON is the way forward in Anglicanism.” For some, perhaps, but my guess is that the Communion as a whole—and certainly The Episcopal Church— is not going there.

 
What prompted me to comment on the VirtueOnline feature at all (and to stop reading well before the end) was this passage:

“I think it is absolutely scandalous,” he said with measured words, "that people like +Mark Lawrence—who is one of the finest bishops that I have even known and who upholds Catholic truth and Christian teaching and the Gospel in everything that he does—should be deposed for doing so, and not for any other reason.

“I mean, this is a topsy-turvy world that we are looking at,” he continued, “where people are being deposed for being Biblical, for being creedal, for being Catholic by others who, if you read what they write or say, clearly seem to be heretical in their exegesis of the Bible, their doctrine of the Church, and in what they believe about the Person and work of Jesus Christ and so on.”

The Church of England bishop said that he and others had no problem whatsoever in recognizing and continuing to support Bishop Lawrence, Bishop Jack Iker, and Archbishop Robert Duncan and their clergy who have been dismissed by The Episcopal Church for their traditional and orthodox Anglican faith...

Click here to continue reading Mr. Deimel's entire posting


July 14, 2013
More than Half of Diocesan Clergy Giving Up Priesthood in the Church to Follow Lawrence (revised)
According to Church canons, 103 "restricted" priests and deacons could be deposed by the end of next month; 88 continuing on

Nearly 54% of Diocesan clergy have indicated to S.C. Bishop Charles vonRosenberg that they no longer consider themselves priests and deacons in the Episcopal Church.  In accordance with Church canons, he and the Standing Committee have initiated procedures that could make that a reality by the end of the summer.

At its June 21st meeting, the Standing Committee voted unanimously to authorize vonRosenberg to impose a 60-day "restriction" on the ministries of those clergy, who've indicated to him that they have abandoned their ordination vows.  See the list of "restricted" clergy.

Last week these 103 clergy began receiving letters from the bishop informing them of their change status with the Church.  After the restriction period, vonRosenberg will likely move to offically depose them and clergy in the Church, possibility as soon as the last week in August.  

Restricted versus deposed.   "Restricted" means that clergy are still recognized as priests and deacons in the Episcopal Church, but are limited in what they can do by the terms of their restriction.  In the case of these in this diocese, it means they are no longer allowed to perform any sacramental functions, including adminstration of the sacraments.  This can be lifted by the bishop at any point if the clergy persons express regret and agree to stop doing whatever it was that got them in trouble in the first place. 

"Deposed" means that the ordination of a priest is no longer recognized by the Episcopal Church.  Sixty days after a restriction is imposed, affected clergy can be deposed.  Notices of deposition are sent to every bishop and standing committee in The Episcopal Church and they are not allowed act in a sacramental way in an Episcopal service.  This applies throughout the Anglican Communion. 

Deposed clergy continuing to behave as priests and deacons do so under self-imagined authority, and are in open violation of their oath of loyalty to the Church.  Apparently few among the 103 in this Diocese have paid any heed to their changed status, or bothered to explain it to their congregations.

Restricted clergy rejected Bishop's pleas to stay on.  VonRosenberg was elected provisional bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina in January after ex-bishop Mark Lawrence abandoned his ministry in the Church.  Since that time, vonRosenberg has made repeated personal efforts to persuade clergy not to abandon their vows, but finally gave them a deadline of June 14th to tell him of their intentions.

According to the Standing Committee, there are 77 priests and eleven deacons in good standing in the continuing Diocese under vonRosenberg.

Lawrence claims that two-thirds of the parishes and missions in the Diocese have aligned themselves with Lawrence, largely over issues of homosexuality, women in authority, and Biblical literalism.


July 3, 2013
VonRosenberg, Standing Committee Release Names of Diocesan Clergy in Good Standing
More than 100 followers of Mark Lawrence, who've chosen to leave the Church, likely to be deposed by summer's end

CHARLESTON -  S.C. Bishop Charles vonRosenberg today released the names of  of canonically resident in good standing in the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.  The list of 76 clergy and eleven deacons was approved by the Standing Committee Friday and forwarded on to the headquarters of the Church. 

The number of clergy choosing to stay with the Episcopal Church appears to be significantly higher than those in the other four dioceses with breakaway leadership in the past.  See the entire list

Other than the length of the list, the biggest surprise was the wide cross-section of clergy choosing to remain in the Church.  Those included Robert Munday, the former dean of the conservative Nashotah House seminary, and Ladson “Punchy” Mills, a frequent critic of the Episcopal Church and occasional commentator with the archconservative blog, Virtue Online.
 
VonRosenberg, who was elected bishop in January after Mark Lawrence abandoned the Diocese, spent months working to convince Diocesan clergy not to abandon their ordination vows.  He was reported to have agonized over the loss of so many talented priests who now face significantly diminished job prospects, reduced income, and uncertain retirement.

SC Episcopalians estimates that more than 100 priests rejected vonRosenberg’s pleas and decided to stay on with Lawrence and his “diocese.” 

With the encouragement of Lawrence loyalists, many clergy refused to meet with vonRosenberg and a number did not even open letters he sent imploring them not to abandon their vows.  Canon law now requires that their ministries in the Episcopal Church be “restricted” for at least sixty days, before they are formally deposed.


June 24, 2013
Lawrence Concedes "Diocese" in a Twilight Zone
His "Diocese of South Carolina" is neither Episcopal nor Anglican

NASHOTAH, WISCONSIN -- In a fuzzy message to his followers Friday, ex-bishop Mark Lawrence appeared to concede that the erstwhile “diocese” he claims to lead is operating without the authority of any legitimate religious entity, including the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion.
  
"We are presently an “extra-provincial” diocese, not in any formal or officially ecclesial way, but as a fact rooted in our relationship with provinces and dioceses within the Anglican Communion.  So we are a diocese without provincial affiliation—we are so provisionally but not, I believe, precariously," he said in a statement, widely circulated to supportive rightwing bloggers.

In other words: We’re on our own.  Click here for full statement ...
 
While Lawrence abandoned his ministry in the Episcopal Church last fall, the wily ex-bishop claims he is still the head of a corporation created by the Diocese of South Carolina, known as the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc. (PECDSC Inc.)”  In such capacity, he says he controls millions of dollars in parish properties and financial assets of the Diocese that no longer belong to the Episcopal Church.

Friday's statement is a significant change for Lawrence, who has consistently assured supporters that the PECDSC Inc. remains “Episcopal,” “Anglican”, and in a recognized line of apostolic succession.  By implication, Lawrence is also admitting that that ecclesiastical titles, positions, and statements of identity used by the PECDSC Inc. are self-imagined and without external authority or recognition.  

Lawrence issued his statement in Wisconsin, where he was meeting with leaders of the “Anglican Church in North America” (ACNA) -- dissidents who’ve left the Episcopal Church largely over the inclusion of gays and lesbians, women with authority over men, and Biblical literalism.  ACNA is not recognized as part of the Anglican Communion either.

Ex-bishop's rhetoric is manipulative and confusing.  Lawrence’s statement relies on a familiar pattern of seizing on familiar sounding words and phrases, then reinventing their meanings for his own purposes.  In this instance, it’s the word extra-provincial.

As a general rule, the Anglican Communion has 38 self-governing member churches known as “provinces”.  To be part of the Communion a diocese, parish, clergyperson, or a lay person must belong to one of those provinces. 

In North America, there are two provinces, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church.

However, there are a handful of “extra-provincial” churches that are, for a number of reasons, unaffiliated with a province, and under the direct authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Lawrence appears to be saying that even though his “diocese” is not under the authority of the Archbishop, it’s still an extra-provincial member of the Communion because some of the right-wing elements in the Communion say so.

Larwrence and his clergy followers assured most of the parishes that are now suing the Episcopal Church that affiliation with the PECDSC Inc. would not take them out of the Church or the Communion.



June 23, 2013
Episcopal Church Bishops Arriving in Charleston for Provincial Meeting to Celebrate, Encourage New Ministry
Church leaders will also hear stories of struggle and renewal from those abandoned and attacked by their Lawrencian clergy

CHARLESTON - Six months after their bishop abandoned his ministry and launched a legal attack against them, loyal Episcopalians in South Carolina are celebrating a remarkable rebirth with a gathering of nearly 30 bishops in Charleston this week. 

Bishops from the southeastern dioceses of the Episcopal Church will convene Wednesday and Thursday at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston to learn more about how the continuing Diocese has so quickly begun to get back on its feet. 

Among the highlights of the meeting will be reports on the emergence of seven robust “worship communities,” now with average Sunday attendance ranging from 40 to 160.  Each was formed in a part of the Diocese where traditional Episcopalians were made unwelcome in their parishes. All of the worship communities are expected to seek mission status in the Episcopal Church and eventually become parishes within the next few years. 

Meanwhile, episcopal congregations in the greater Charleston area are reporting that average Sunday attendance is up by 30%.  Grace, the largest of the continuing parishes, has reported a nearly 20% increase in revenues over the previous year, and has made signifciant advances in paying off reconstruction loans. 

However, South Carolina Bishop Charles vonRosenberg continues to be concerned about the damage that has been done to smaller congregations, especially those in more rural areas.  VonRosenberg will likely ask his fellow bishops this week for guidance and support in assisting them in recovering from Lawrence's disastrous episcopate.

Nearly one-third of diocesan clergy, and half of its parishes appear to have signed on with Lawrence.

VonRosenberg has invited all lay and clergy members of the Diocese to join the celebration Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. for a special Choral Eucharist at Grace at 75 Wentworth Street.


June 21, 2013
Mark Lawrence Visits ACNA Dissidents, Confers with its Bishops Today

NASHOTAH, WISCONSIN - This week ex-bishop Mark Lawrence joined leaders of the self-styled “Anglican Church of North America” in Wisconsin as an official observer at a meeting of their "provincial council".  At the invitation of ACNA leader Robert Duncan, Lawrence has stayed on to meet with the group’s bishops today.   

After it became clear a few months ago that Lawrence's "Diocese of South Carolina" was not destined to be recognized by the Anglican Communion, he announced he planned to shop around for other opportunities for affiliation for himself and his followers.  That appears to have been what he was doing in Wisconsin.  

ACNA is the largest group of Anglican poseurs in North America. 

Duncan and Lawrence are close allies.  Both have been deposed as bishops in the Episcopal Church.  Lawrence claims that he is still an Episcopal bishop in an Episcopal diocese that has simply "disassociated" from the Episcopal Church.  His actions have tied parishes in the Diocese in knots, and plunged them into costly legal entanglements in an effort to wrestle millions of dollars in assets from the Episcopal Church.

Neither ACNA nor Lawrence's secessionist “diocese” have any status with the Archbishop of Canterbury and are generally regarded as “schismatic” among leaders of the Communion.  Both groups appear to be united around their opposition to gays and lesbians in the Church, women in positions of spiritual leadership, and modern Biblical scholarship.

For nearly a decade dissident Episcopal clergy, and more lately Lawrence, have attempted to alienate the Diocese of South Carolina from the Episcopal Church and realign it with some other entity within the Communion.

Nearly two years ago there was intense speculation among Lawrence supporters that he would leave the Episcopal Church and set up shop as ACNA’s bishop in South Carolina.  However, some within ACNA’s leadership were rumored to be skeptical of his charismatic, but erratic, style and engineered a pre-emptive move to thwart his advancement by naming the youthful rector of St. Andrew’s, Mount Pleasant as their bishop for the Carolinas. 


June 17, 2013
Pro-Lawrence Clergy Could be Deposed in August
Standing Committee meets this month to consider "restrictions" on priests who've abandoned their ordination vows;  Deposition could follow after sixty days

CHARLESTON -- The careers of scores of clergy will come to an end this summer, as the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina moves forward with plans to finalize its roster of clergy in good standing.  

SC Bishop Charles vonRosenberg has spent the last two months trying to determine who will be on that list by contacting all canonically resident priests in the Diocese about their intentions to remain loyal to their ordination vows.

VonRosenberg asked them to respond by June 14th.
 
A number of these clergy have publicly declared their support for ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence and his so-called “diocese,” the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc.  The PECDSC Inc. is not recognized either by the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion as legitimate.  Its primary differences with the Episcopal Church are over Biblical literalism, homosexuality, and the role of women in leadership positions.

The Standing Committee is scheduled to meet with vonRosenberg later this month to approve the list, and very likely will move to “restrict” the ministries of those who've indicated to their intentions to abandon the Church, including those who failed to respond to the Bishop’s inquiries. 

After sixty days, those under restriction can be deposed as priests.

SC Episcopalians has not been given access to the list but is aware that there will be “quite a few surprises."  PECDSC Inc. officials have advised their clergy not to respond to vonRosenberg’s inquiries, but not told them that their silence will result in their no longer being priests. 

PECDSC Inc. officials have been purposely exaggerating how many clergy support Lawrence by including the names of those who've remained loyal to the Church on the PECDSC Inc. clergy roster.  Those include the new Archdeacon of the continuing Diocese, members of its Standing Committee, and the rectors of all the loyal parishes in the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.


June 11, 2013
Mark Lawrence's Former Parish in California is Back in the Episcopal Church

Long, expensive saga of rebellion achieved nothing and squandered a once-thriving ministry;

Seven breakaway parishes in Virginia are forced to relinquish claims to their property last month


BAKERSFIELD -- After years of legal entanglements, "St. Paul's Anglican Church" of Bakersfield, California will once again be known as St. Paul's Episcopal Church at the end of this month.  A years-long attempt by a majority of the congregation to breakaway from the Episcopal Church with its property is finally over. 

After 134 years of ministry in the Episcopal Church, including nearly 14 years under former rector Mark Lawrence, a once proud parish lies in ruin, victimized by its own embittered former bishop and his would-be secessionists.  Sound familiar?  The very same story is being repeated throughout the other four dioceses whose leadership tried to bolt from the Church.

Fortunately, loyal Episcopalians in Bakersfield will now have the opportunity to rebuild, as they reclaim their campus and inaugurate a new beginning.  read full story

Just last month, seven parishes in the Diocese of Virginia, that similarly tried to leave the Church with their property in 2006, surrendered after a similar court ruling.  read full story


June 10, 2013
Federal Judge Allows Lawrence Lawsuit to Proceed in State Courts

No decision yet on vonRosenberg's suit, challenging deposed bishop's claim to be the Bishop of the "Diocese of South Carolina"

CHARLESTON - Prospects for a quick end to the legal quagmire created by ex-bishop Mark Lawrence's claim to be the rightful Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina were dashed today as U.S. District Judge Weston Houck denied a request by the continuing Diocese -- recognized by the Episcopal Church -- to have all legal proceedings in the matter "removed" to Federal courts.

In January, Lawrence's legal team convinced a state court judge that Lawrence and his "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc." were the rightful owners of the corporate seal and other official insignia of the Diocese of South Carolina.  The ruling was highly controversial, particularly since representatives of neither the Episcopal Church nor the continuing Diocese under Bishop Charles vonRosenberg were notified of the hearing.  Read Judge Houck's Order here

Houck's ruling means that Lawrence's lawsuit will continue to slog through the state court system, which is presumed to be more favorable to the PECDSC Inc. 

VonRosenberg has countered Lawrence's lawsuit in Federal Court, asking that the Court declare him the duly elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, as recognized by the Episcopal Church.  Houck has not yet ruled on vonRosenberg's lawsuit, and his ruling today did not preclude the possibility of finding in favor of vonRosenberg in that


June 6, 2013
Federal Court Ready to Decide "Removal " Question

U.S. District Judge says he may rule within a week

CHARLESTON – A Federal Judge today admitted to lawyers for the secessionist “Diocese of South Carolina” and the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina (recognized by the Church as the Diocese of South Carolina) that he has had some difficulty figuring out “who is who” in the ongoing battle over whether a diocese, created by the Episcopal Church, has the legal right to secede.

However, in a crowded courtroom that included both men claiming to be the rightful Bishop of the Diocese, U.S. District Judge Weston Houck appeared to have figured it out, as he confidently engaged attorneys for both sides over whether a lawsuit filed by deposed bishop Mark Lawrence in a state court should be “removed” to a Federal one

Lawrence’s team feels its plan to "dis-affiliate" from the Episcopal Church with Church property and financial resources intact has a better chance if the case remains at the state level.  Lawyers for the continuing Diocese believe they have a better chance in Federal Court where numerous similar cases have been decided in favor of hierarchical denominations, like the Episcopal Church.

Lawrence announced that he had left the Episcopal Church last fall, but has continued to assert that he is an Episcopal bishop of an Episcopal diocese that is not part of the Episcopal Church. Even though he was deposed as a bishop in the Church, Lawrence continues to live in the residence and work in the Diocesan House reserved for the Bishop of South Carolina.

Both Lawrence and his successor, The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, were among the 75 spectators in the audience.   Lawrence arrived in the courtroom after the hearing began and left almost as soon as it was over.  VonRosenberg arrived early and was among the last to leave.  It was not apparent that they engaged in any conversation.

Houck gave few hints how he might rule on the question of removal, but arguments by Matthew McGill, an attorney for the continuing Diocese, seemed to resonate with the judge as McGill repeatedly focused on the Constitutional issue of whether an hierarchical Church has the right to manage its own affairs and determine its own leadership. 

VonRosenberg is recognized by the Episcopal Church as its legitimate bishop in the Diocese of South Carolina.

McGill argued that the case needed to be decided on the basis of the First Amendment, and only a Federal Court had the authority to do that.


June 6, 2013

Church Pension Fund Affirms Safety & Legality of Lay Employees' Retirement Savings

Misleading PECDSC Attack on Pension Fund Disguises Its Failure to Lookout for Lay Employees
 


Running low on headline material, leaders of Mark Lawrence’s so-called “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc. (PECDSC) launched another propaganda broadside against the Episcopal Church Monday, now claiming officials of the  Church’s Pension Group are improperly refusing to rollover retirement savings of more than 80 of its lay employees to its new retirement plan.

The attack is too ridiculous to reprint on this site, but you can see in full by going to the Lawrencian website at www.dioceseofsc.org 

Readers will be able to look down in that posting and see that no one is refusing to rollover the funds, but rather there are significant legal questions associated with the CPG transferring funds to a "corporation" whose official status is in dispute and in litigation with the Episcopal Church.

Most dioceses of the Episcopal Church (and many parishes) create corporations that allow them to do business, hold property, provide employee benefits, etc. in the states in which they are located.

However, ex-bishop Lawrence’s crowd claims that they've left the Episcopal Church, but still retain ownership of the Diocese of South Carolina’s corporation and the millions of dollars it holds in diocesan assets.

SC Episcopalians is unaware of any instances in which the courts have allowed such corporate entities to split from the religious organization for which they were created.  PECDSC lawyers say they can and, in February, filed a lawsuit against Lawrence's successor, The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, in hopes of finding some court to agree with them.

While we are not experts, it is fairly well-established in most Federal and state courts that highly creative schemes like that being promoted by the PECDSC are, in general, bogus.

The most recent decision around this issue was in Oregon in the case of a congregation that wanted to leave the Presbyterian Church with its property and corporation intact.   That state's Supreme Court ruled the congregation could not leave the Presbyteran Church as a single entity nor that its corporation could be split off for a purpose other than the work of the Presbyterian Church.

Attack is nothing more than another smoke bomb tactic by the PECDSC Inc.

As is often the case, propaganda from the PECDSC Inc. is most hostile (and off-base) around those issues in which it has bungled something.  

After five years of planning, would-be secessionists in the Diocese apparently did not think through the impact of their actions on lay employees who lack the kind of secure pension plan that clergy have.
Senior PECDSC clergy are keenly aware of how well they are served by the Episcopal Church’s pension fund, and apparently none currently vested in it have indicated a desire to withdraw their contributions ... even though they claim to have left the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Lawrence is reported to be fully vested in the Pension Fund and in line for a very lucrative retirement, even though the Diocese voted in October 2009 to divest itself of any involvement in Episcopal Church entities that have “sinned.”  The Church Pension Fund makes spousal benefits available to same-gender partners of priests.

It is important to understand that the retirement accounts of lay employees, whose 403(b) plans are held and managed by the CPG, are protected by Federal law, and that none of its officials has ever indicated the CPG regards those savings as belonging to anyone other than those who invested them.

Lay employees can continue draw down their funds just as they have in the past.

Unfortunately the lawsuit that Lawrence and 34 parishes loyal to him initiated against vonRosenberg and the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina will probably tie up these employees' ability to transfer their 403(b) accounts to other entities until the court system makes a final determination of the legal status of the PECDSC.

The good news for these lay employees is that they may be temporarily stuck leaving their retiremnt savings with one of the best retirement managers in the world.

UPDATE

The following statement was issued by the Church Pension Fund in response to a ridiculous and mean-spirited accusation by Mark Lawrence's "diocese,"  A previous, more detailed story can be viewed in the brown column on the right.

"We seek to ensure that all participants in plans sponsored by the Church Pension Fund will have access to their funds, in accordance with Federal regulations.  Due to the complexity of the current situation, we are working through proper channels to make sure this happens for participants in our plans who are employed by parishes and institutions whose leadership has terminated their affiliation with the Episcopal Church.  In doing so, we are following protocols required by the Internal Revenue Code to avoid any adverse consequences for the participants in the plans.  We expect to complete this process shortly.  In the meantime, all funds remain invested in the options selected by these employees, and all accounts are fully viewable on Fidelity’s website."


May 30, 2013
U.S. Judge will Hear Bishop vonRosenberg's Request to Move Legal Issues to Federal Courts on June 6th

Episcopal Church in South Carolina says Lawrence's nuisance lawsuit -- including January's "Diocese of Diane" ruling -- raises issues beyond state courts' jurisdiction


CHARLESTON - U.S. District Judge Weston Houck will hear arguments Thursday on why Mark Lawrence’s lawsuit against the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina should be “removed” from a state court and consolidated with ongoing legal actions at the Federal level. 

Consolidating these cases would probably speed up resolution of Lawrence's legal challenges, including whether an administrative sub-jurisdiction like a diocese has legal standing to secede from a hierarchical church. In the Episcopal Church, dioceses are created by its General Convention under its Constitution and Canons to carry on the work of the Church and administer its programming. 

The relationship is similar to that between a county and the state in which it is located. In recent years Federal Courts have generally agreed that "hierarchical churches" like the Episcopal Church have the Constitutional right to determine their own leadership and manage their own affairs. 

Dioceses have never been found to have legal authority independent of the Church that created them.  However, Mark Lawrence and his supporters do not accept that.  Even though he renounced his ministry in the Church, Lawrence says he's still the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. Last November Lawrence renounced his ministry in the Episcopal Church, but stubbornly inisists he is an Episcopal Bishop of an Episcopal Diocese that is part of the Anglican Communion, but not the Episcopal Church. 

Both the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church recognize Charles vonRosenberg as the Episcopal Bishop of South Carolina. VonRosenberg was unanimously elected as Lawrence's successor on January 26th at a special convention of the Diocese in Charleston.

However, just prior to vonRosenberg's election, Lawrence's legal team convinced S.C. Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein in Dorchester County to issue a bizarre ruling banning the continuing Diocese of South Carolina under vonRosenberg from referring to itself as the “Diocese of South Carolina" or even "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina." According to her ruling, only Lawrence's rogue religious corporation, known as the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina (PECDSC Inc.)" can use that title, its official seal, and other legally protected marks of the Diocese of South Carolina. 

Lawrence appeared to have sought the order to embarrass Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who arrived in South Carolina a few days later to preside over the election and installation of vonRosenberg.   There is no evidence Judge Goodstein tried to inform the Episcopal Church that she was considering the Order, nor was it immediately apparent that she realized Lawrence had renounced his ministry in the Episcopal Church and was no longer recognized as a bishop. Lawrence continues to reside in the residence of the Episcopal Bishop and occupy the Diocesan House, headquarters of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. 

During his departure from the Church last fall, Lawrence quietly hired a North Carolina-based law firm to file applications for Federal trademarks of the various official "marks" of the Diocese, but was exposed by a reader of SC Episcopalians. VonRosenberg responded to the "Diocese of Diane" ruling by Goodstein with a lawsuit of his own in Federal Court. 34 Pro-Lawrence parishes have needlessly put the ownership of their properties in jeopardy.

Nearly half of the parishes and missions of the Diocese signed onto Lawrence's lawsuit under the erroneous belief that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church wants to take over their parish properties and possibly sell them off to Muslims and other non-Christians.  Lawrence claims his lawsuit would protect them from this and, as proof, his PR machine continues to insist that they are being sued by the Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church. 

Ironically, the ownership of parish properties has never been in danger, but by joining Lawrence's lawsuit, leaders of these 34 parishes have now put them in play and in the hands of the Courts.


April 24, 2013
New Bishop wants Court to Stop Lawrence from Claiming to be Bishop of South Carolina
Asks Judge Houck to reject Lawrence's claim that the "Diocese" seceded from the Episcopal Church


CHARLESTON -  SC Episcopal Bishop Charles vonRosenberg today asked a Federal Court to reject Mark Lawrence's hair-brained claim that the "Diocese of South Carolina" has seceded from the Episcopal Church.   He is asking Judge Weston Houck for an injunction preventing Lawrence from continuing to act as if he is a bishop in the Church.

VonRosenberg became the bishop of the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina shortly after Lawrence abandoned his ministry last fall. He is recognized by the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as the Bishop of South Carolina.  However, Lawrence now claims he didn't resign and is still an Episcopal bishop in an Episcopal diocese that has simply left the Episcopal Church.  Lawrence continues to perform official acts of a bishop, and even confirms and ordains people. 

Lawrence and his supporters appear to be freely spending the assets of the Diocese on things that include frivolous legal actions.  For some unknown reason, Lawrence's people have not published audited statements of financial activities in 2012 that would give a better of picture of what they might be up to.

Some critics of the Episcopal Church have encouraged rebellious groups to create messy legal entanglements as a way of buying time to spend down Church assets so when they inevitably lose in court, there is nothing left upon which to sustain ministry.  Chancellor Tom Tisdale says a ruling on the injunction could come sooner than resolution of the larger legal actions in state and Federal courts.  read the full story


April 18, 2013
Politicizing the Cross

Team Lawrence turns visit by African bishops into crass political stunt;  Attacks on Episcopal Church make visitors seem petty and uncaring about ministry with the Episcopal Church in their countries

CHARLESTON -- The heart-rending decline of the Diocese of South Carolina and the continuing casualties of its politics were on full display this past week as Mark Lawrence paraded out four otherwise distinguished African bishops to bolster his claim that he is an Episcopal bishop of an Episcopal Diocese in the Anglican Communion.

A highlight of their visit was a sparsely-attended event at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, where they participated in a panel discussion and press conference where they issued statements of support for ex-Bishop Lawrence and stinging criticisms of the Episcopal Church. 

Sadly, Lawrence's PR team immediately took to the internet to trumpet the bishops' endorsements of the ex-bishop's political agenda, largely ignoring their far more compelling personal stories of mission and ministry in Africa.

Anti-Gay, Anti-Church Bishops:  We love Bishop Mark

The public invitation to the Evening with Four African Bishops read, “We’ll hear first-hand accounts of the vital work God is doing in the Anglican Communion… and how we can pray for their ministries and explore opportunities for further partnerships” 

However, the promise of a spiritually uplifting encounter with devout Christian heroes amounted to little more than an angry attack on the Episcopal Church and Lawrence's successor. 

Analogies equating the present “suffering” of Lawrence and those who follow him to innocent victims of genocide, hunger, and poverty shamelessly trivialized the truth of the very Gospel of which they believe themselves to be the exclusive guardians.“Amidst allegations that Anglicans worldwide do not recognize the Diocese of South Carolina and its Bishop, Anglican Bishops from East Africa strongly announced their support for the "diocese’s" dissociation from The Episcopal Church,” according to Lawrence's spin doctors on his website.
 
“Their comments seemed to dispute the claims of Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, the newly elected Bishop of the recently formed Diocese - The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.”

(NOTE: There are nearly 900 bishops in the Anglican Communion.  Membership is not conferred by individual bishops or even groups of four bishops. The feelings of these four bishops about the legitimacy of Lawrence's claim that he is an Anglican bishop are irrelevant.  The name of the person officially recognized by the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as the Bishop of South Carolina is The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg.)

But here's where it gets bizarre.

In their comments the four bishops – from Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania --seemed oblivious to the extensive partnerships in ministry and remarkable missionary work in which the Episcopal Church is currently engaged ... in Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania.

According to Robert Martin, a bishop in the Anglican Church of Kenya, “The Kenyan Church does not recognize The Episcopal Church any more.  We have no relations. I know that any contact I have with The Episcopal Church may cause me problems in Kenya because we are so shocked and horrified by what is going on and therefore any actions by The Episcopal Church have no validity as far as we’re concerned
.”

Bishop Martin is apparently unaware of the millions of dollars going to important missionary work in his Province through the Episcopal Church and its parishes and dioceses.  Much of this work includes relief efforts to feed and care for 80,000 refugees in that country, protection extended to Kenyan voters after 300 were killed for exercising their right to vote, the construction of clean water systems for entire villages, and the creation of micro-business opportunties that lead to economic self-sufficiency.

The Rt. Rev. Elias Mazi Chakupewa of Tanzania seemed equally unaware or uncaring about the involvement of the Episcopal Church in his country and the extraordinary partnerships in which Episcopalians have become involved.

According to Lawrence's website, Bishop Chakupwa used his visit to Charleston to rip into the Episcopal Church saying, "We are not going to work with people who are denying the authority of the Bible, who deny the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. We are not going to work with them at all."  

Bishop Chakupewa, whose diocese has a companion relationship with a diocese in the Episcopal Church, seems to have been uninformed that other bishops in his country are proud of the very positive relationship they enjoy with Episcopalians.  They are particularly pleased with a partnership between the dioceses of New York and Central Tanganyika, known as the Carpenter's Kids Program, which links parishes in a mutual relationship of prayer, communication, and support on behalf of the more than 2.5 million AIDS orphans in Tanzania.


Rwanda:  Breathtaking or breathtakingly naive?

Easily the most stunning statements came from Bishop Nathan Kamusime Gasatura of the Diocese of Butare in Anglican Church of Rwanda, who was keen to remind listeners that his Province had been the first to take in dissident clergy from the Episcopal Church through its Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). The organization was founded by the former rector of All Saints', Pawleys Island. 

Apparently confusing us with the Catholic Church, Bishop Gasatura claimed that those affiliated with AiMA had been “excommunicated and fired out of the Episcopal Church,” when in fact they all chose to leave like Lawrence. 

Lawrence’s PR team saw no reason to correct the error and posted the mistaken bishop’s remarks online anyway.  They also failed to mention that the AMiA enterprise fell apart last year because of irrational criticisms of the Americans by angry Rwandan bishops.

However, Bishop Gasatura's most outrageous statement was his equating the 1994 genocide in his country with, what he described as, "spiritual genocide" in the Episcopal Church today.  He also lashed out at the Episcopal Church (and the Church of England) for not protesting the evacuation of United Nations troops from his country during the murderous rampage that left nearly 800,000 people dead.

"The whole world stood by not even the church in America or Britain or any part of the world ever came to its rescue to lift a prophetic voice and challenge the international community," said Bishop Gasatura.In fact, the reasons Christians throughout the world were reluctant to advocate intervention were very credible reports that Christian churches, including the Anglican Church of Rwanda, were actually participating in the genocide.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey was highly charitable when he said later: "The Church in Rwanda lost an opportunity to be prophetic during the genocide. The Church should have been calling out for justice but by and large its voice was silent." read more

Actually, the Rwandan Church had been much more than silent.  It appeared to have been in the center of the action. 

The United Nations and other human rights groups were less charitable about this than Archbishop Carey: "Far from condemning the attempt to exterminate the Tutsi, Archbishop Augustin Nshamihigo and Bishop Jonathan Ruhumuliza of the Anglican Church acted as spokesmen for the genocidal government at a press conference in Nairobi. Like many who tried to explain away the slaughter, they placed the blame for the genocide on the RPF because it had attacked Rwanda. Foreign journalists were so disgusted at this presentation that they left the conference." (African Rights, Rwanda, Death, Despair, pp. 900-902.)"

On 7 May 1994 soldiers and militias arrived at Shyogwe Diocese aboard a red pick-up vehicle to transport civilian Tutsi refugees to the killing sites. "On that day Bishop Samuel Musabyimana was present and, addressing the soldiers and militias, publicly stated that he did not oppose the killing of Tutsis, but that he did not want killings at the Diocese and that the Tutsis should be taken to Kabgayi to be killed." (Indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda against former Anglican Bishop Samuel Musabyimana).

In the aftermath, the Anglican Church in Rwanda failed to engage in a full-fledged investigation of its own involvement in the killings, even when one of its senior bishops was indicted.

Bishop Gasatura's remarks demonstrated an astonishing lack of compassion and understanding about the subjects on which he was commenting.

The willingness of Team Lawrence to post these inflamatory statements on its website and dignify his comments is reprehensible. 

Apparently Lawrence has planned an extensive speaking tour for the Africans in parishes around the Diocese over the next few weeks. Good luck with that.


April 18, 2013
Virginia Supreme Court:  The Episcopal Church, Loyal Communicants Own Property of Breakaway Congregations


Ominous sign to followers of Mark Lawrence that those who voted to leave the Church got the bootA decision by the Virginia Supreme Court today serves as another reminder to the followers of Mark Lawrence that the hundreds of thousands of dollars they are spending on lawsuits against the Episcopal Church are likely being wasted. 

Thanks to the ex-bishop and his lawyers, most of the parishes in the "Diocese of South Carolina" may have gambled away the ownership of their property when they voted to leave the Church.


April 4, 2013
Are Jim Lewis’ Pants on Fire, Fire?

SC Episcopalians was oh-so-distracted during the holiest week of the year, responding to various versions of reality Mark Lawrence’s spokespersons were peddling to different audiences.  For some reason, the PECDSC Inc. does not always share them on its website.  

This week we discovered this one on an anti-Church website called Anglican Ink. 

"IN RESPONSE TO TODAY’S LEGAL ACTION BY TEC, BELOW IS A STATEMENT BY JIM LEWIS, CANON TO THE ORDINARY :

"There is little to say about the counterclaims filed in Circuit Court by The Episcopal Church and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. We are saddened they filed their suits on Maundy Thursday in the middle of Holy Week and that they have made the lawsuit personal by suing individuals who make up the leadership of our parishes.  However we are not surprised that TEC’s filing now makes clear its intention to seize all the properties of the Diocese of South Carolina and its parishes. The court filings are consistent with the scores of lawsuits The Episcopal Church has filed against dioceses and parishes across the United States. We pray the denomination’s legal actions do not distract members of the Diocese during the holiest week of the year, when all our thoughts should be on things far more spiritual and far more important."

Whew!  Here are some comments on this from our Truth-or-Dare Department:

--  The PECDSC Inc. was not “saddened” when lawyers for the continuing Diocese filed their responses to Lawrence’s lawsuit on Maundy Thursday nor did they pray that people wouldn’t be distracted during the holiest week of the year.  In fact, even as ex-Canon Lewis was issuing his statement, his legal team was filing its response to the Federal lawsuit that included the disclosure of their enemies list... all on Maundy Thursday!

--  The Episcopal Church has not filed a lawsuit against Lawrence or the PECDSC Inc.  Lawrence has sued the Episcopal Church, but not the other way around.  However, over the past five years, the PECDSC has invested a lot of time and effort in demonizing the Episcopal Church and scaring people about its Presiding Bishop... and you just can't let all that manipulation and nastiness go to waste.  So, why not make this part up?

-- Neither the  Episcopal Church nor the Episcopal Church in South Carolina sued anyone last week as the Canon to the Ordinary suggests.  They did file responses to the lawsuit that Lawrence and his team filed against them in January, as they were required by the Court by a timetable agreed to by the plaintiffs.

--  Neither the continuing Diocese nor the Episcopal Church has ever indicated that it wants to seize any parish’s property.  They do claim that Mark Lawrence is not a bishop in the Episcopal Church and consequently has no authority to spend its resources, or hunker down in the Episcopal residence and the Diocesan House... or give away its property.  BTW ... The Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury don't recognize him as a bishop, either.

--  The PECDSC Inc. under Mark Lawrence appears to have spent close to $1 million on lawyers over the past five years … even though the PECDSC Inc. was not involved in any significant legal actions.  During this same time, the PECDSC Inc. has reduced funds for ministry and done little else.  The idea that its leaders are being distracted against their will from “things far more spiritual and far more important” doesn't pass the giggle test.  Just look what they were up to over Christmas... a bunch of elves didn't write that lawsuit they filed.

--  The continuing diocese was not trying to "personalize" anything when it listed members of the PECDSC Inc. Board of Directors and Trustees in its legal filings.  These are the plaintiffs suing the Episcopal Church so, of course, their names are going to be in any court filings.


April 4, 2013

The Episcopal Church in SC wants "Diocese of Diane" Lawsuit moved to Federal Court

Chancellor Tom Tisdale:  Issues at stake go beyond state courts


Mark Lawrence's lawsuit in state court appears to be more about embarring visiting Presiding Bishop and forcing the Church to waste money on legal fees

S.C. Judge Diane Goodstein issued a bizarre ruling suggesting Lawrence was an Episcopal Bishop of an Episcopal Diocese that is not in the Episcopal Church

From the website of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina... The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has filed to remove the state lawsuit filed against it to the U.S. District Court, citing statutory and constitutional issues that need to be addressed by the federal court. The Episcopal Church is also a defendant in the suit and has consented to the removal to the federal court.The suit, originally filed in South Carolina Circuit Court in Dorchester County by a group that is breaking away from The Episcopal Church, now moves entirely  to the federal court system, according to Thomas S. Tisdale, Jr., Chancellor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, which is remaining part of The Episcopal Church.



March 29, 2013
VonRosenberg Lawyers Rip Lawrence Lawsuit
Lawyers for the Episcopal Church in South Carolina want full accounting of secret real estate and property transactions, bank accounts, investments, & securities


Countersuit tells "Diocese of Diane" Judge the Episcopal Church in South Carolina is "entitled to restitution of property and funds acquired ... through alleged misappropriation, conversion, breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duty"Mark Lawrence and the faction that followed him out of The Episcopal Church have no authority over the assets or property of the Diocese of South Carolina or any of its parishes, and have engaged in a plan to damage the diocese, according to a response and counterclaims filed in S.C. Circuit Court.

The local diocese that is continuing with The Episcopal Church is entitled to restitution of property and funds acquired by Lawrence and his supporters through alleged misappropriation, conversion, breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duty, the counterclaim says. The documents filed Thursday are part of the legal response to a suit filed against The Episcopal Church and local Episcopalians by supporters of former bishop Mark Lawrence along with 34 parishes who say they have disassociated themselves from The Episcopal Church.

A 35th parish, St. Andrews in Mount Pleasant, is also one of the plaintiffs, although it claims to have separated from The Episcopal Church some time ago. The Episcopal Church also filed a separate answer and counterclaims on Thursday
.  Read the full story

Commentary
March 26, 2013
The Not-So-Gentle Art of Hectoring:  Imaginary "Diocese" Launches Charm Offensive with the News Media


In Greek, the name Hector means “steadfast.”  Quite possibly, its origin lies with a noble character by that name in Homer’s Iliad.  Those who suffered through the classics in their youth recall that Hector, brother of gloom-and-doom Cassandra, was known for his consistency and reliability.

However, time has taken a toll on “hector,” and today its connotations are far less honorable or inspiring.  These days "hector" means to intimidate or dominate in a blustering or bullying manner without particular regard to facts. 

You can see how the ancient meaning morphed into the current one.  We all know people who are so steadfast their views or irrationally confident of truth that they make those with different perspectives miserable through harassment, haranguing, and aggressive behavior. In many ways, the efforts of Mark Lawrence and his followers to justify their fantasy Episcopal "diocese" -- the one with an Episcopal bishop that is not part of the Episcopal Church -- has come down to little more than relentless hectoring. 

Last week, for example, SC Episcopalians saw an email signed by a Beaufort woman named Jan Pringle, castigating a local Associated Press reporter for an article he’d recently written for the Charlotte Observer.   Read the full story, the entire email, and our comments



Convention Coverage II: 
March 9, 2013
We're Back! 
Jubilant Convention Approves First Mission, Rolls Back Constitution & Canons to Restore Accession; Choose a Life of "Gratitude," Bishop Urges



Convention Coverage I

March 8, 2013
United Diocese Kicks Off Upbeat Convention in Charleston

Longtime Episcopalians: "This is how it used to be!"

Former Bishop Neil Alexander: "Christ is the vine, we are the branches"

Delegates can't get enough of "Bishop Charlie & Annie"



March 8, 2013
Doubt Growing about Lawrence's Stewardship as PECDSC Inc.
Unexplained quarter-million dollar loss, declining revenue, skyrocketing lawyers' fees, & cuts in ministry raising questions about where this is all going Lay people rumored to be balking at paying for nuisance lawsuits at Pee Dee and Charleston parishes

While he has renounced his ministry in the Episcopal Church, Mark Lawrence and his renegade Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc. (PECDSC Inc.) did not relinquish de facto control over the financial assets of the Diocese of South Carolina.   Lawrence believes himself to be an Episcopal bishop in an Episcopal Diocese that is independent from the Episcopal Church. 

He has suggested on several occasions in his own “nuanced” way that financial resources accumulated over years by the Diocese to support the work of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina are under his control.   The big questions are whether Lawrence is spending these funds to underwrite his current "all out war" against the Church and his former diocese, and the extent to which parishes supporting him will be liable for paying them back.  Will delegates even ask any questions?

Today and tomorrow, the PECDSC Inc. will hold its annual meeting in Florence, where it expects 500 delegates and guests. 

If all goes as usual, delegates will sleepwalk through Lawrence's proposed annual budget, and reports on the 2012 audits of the Diocese and the Trustees of the Diocese, whose primary responsibility is managing millions of dollars in financial assets and property for the work of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.   

Last December SC Episcopalians asked the PECDSC Inc. about declining revenues and troubling spending patterns in last year's budget and the 2011 audits.  Of course, we got no response.  So we will pose them here, for the convenience of delegates who want to ask about what the heck is going on? Could the PECDSC Inc be looting the Diocese of its assets?The most significant concern for the Episcopal Church right now is the extent to which the PECDSC Inc. and the Trustees may be spending down the financial resources of the Diocese and possibly selling off Episcopal Church assets to pay its bills, perhaps even forcing the Diocese to eventually go broke. This is not a far-fetched idea. 

When they realized the Courts would not let them take their dioceses or their assets out of the Episcopal Church, radical leaders of former renegade dioceses are reported to have engaged in schemes to spend down the financial resources of their dioceses to the point that they’d be broke or hopelessly in debt when loyal Episcopalians regained control. 

Speculation was that this was then-Bishop Lawrence's motive in December 2011 when he issued quitclaim deeds to every parish, relinquishing the Diocese’s financial interest in millions of dollars in parish properties. Writing for the uber-nasty Virtue Online, David Anderson, a former Episcopal priest with some breakaway group friendly to Lawrence, suggested that breakaway parishes do much the same thing with their properties by plunging themselves so far into debt that the Episcopal Church would not want them when they got them back. 

SC Episcopalians would not even be raising this issue except for a strange thing that happened in 2011 in addition to the quitclaim debacle. According to the most recently available audit of Diocesan finances (for calendar year 2011) Diocesan Trustees appear to have liquidated nearly 25 percent of stocks and bonds it held in trust for the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. 

The apparent motive was not clear in the audit.  (Good luck trying to find the minutes of Trustee meetings, but maybe the 2012 audit of the work of the Trustees will shed some light on this when it is presented at the PECDSC Inc gathering.) It is not clear what exact assets were sold off or from which trust funds, but they generated cash of approximately $849,163.    

Even more troubling is that the Diocese appears to have sold these assets at a staggering loss of $253,640.   A loss like this is unprecedented in the history of the Diocese. 

For example, in 2010, the Diocesan Trustees gained $378,384 from the sale of assets, and in 2009 they gained $755,403. 

According to one person we consulted, “Looks like somebody was in one heck of a hurry to get their hands on some cash.”  You can see for yourself with these numbers taken directly from the 2011 Auditors’ Report:                                           

                                                                   2011                 2010  

Year-End Value of  Total Investments                      $3,617,214     $4,679,830

Year-End Value of Cash& Equivalents                      $    796,562     $      60,231

Realized & Unrealized gains (losses)                        ($ 232,640)    $   378,384


The Trustees say their management style is "to hold all investments as long-term investments, trading only when prudent.”  This hardly seems prudent under any circumstance, but then again the composition of the eight members of the Trustees does raise some concern: two of the eight trustees are employees of the PECDSC Inc., and Lawrence is himself an ex-officio member. WWJD?  Declining revenues lead to cuts in Christian ministry

Let's be honest:  Lawrence's episcopate has been a financial disaster for anyone who believes in ministry.  Even his most loyal followers have to be troubled by the consistent decline in support for his leadership and token attempts at ministry, even before he rebelled against the Church.

Look at this list of annual revenue to the Diocese from parishes and missions under Lawrence's leadership:
        

    2007          $2,341,741          
     2008          $2,311,833          
     2009          $2,017,768          
     2010          $1,856,940          
     2011          $1,749,492          
     2012          $1,852,032*          
     2013          $1,745,000
(projected)


* Ironically, 2012 was the first year under Lawrence that income from parishes and missions increased over the previous year.  However, more than $100,000 came from parishes and missions that have remained loyal to the Episcopal Church.  Without that income, the PECDSC Inc. would not have been able to show any increase in the revenue over the previous year.

To compensate, over the past few years, Lawrence has cutback on funding for important ministries.  His signature Making Biblical Anglicans theme is a fig leaf to cover his obsession with bring down the Episcopal Church.  It has accomplished almost nothing. Meanwhile, Lawrence's personal charm and fantasy Diocese is reported to be wearing thin among people inthe pews who are being pressed to give more to offset the cost of litigation. 

SC Episcopalians can only report anecdotal evidence of this, but ex-Episcopalians in downtown Charleston parishes and in places like Hartsville and Conway are saying that they protest against gays in the church is fine with them, but their checkbooks are not open ended when it comes to years of litigation.    Lawyers prosper as Christian ministry vanishes.

Under Lawrence, the PECDSC Inc. has become a cash cow for well-heeled lawyers.  Based on Diocesan records and current spending patterns, total legal fees incurred by the PECDSC Inc. under his episcopate will likely exceed $1 million within the next twelve months. 

Take a look at the history of this extravagant spending on lawyers under Lawrence:  

     2008          $   50,000 (est)        
     2009          $   41,029          
     2010          $ 266,967          
     2011          $169,963          
     2012          $ 198,228          
     2013          $147,000 (requested)


According to records of spending patterns during Lawrence's episcopate, funding for Diocesan ministries has declined as the ex-bishop's shadowbox "war" became his almost single-minded obsession. 

This year, for example, Lawrence proposes that College Ministries take a 63% cut over last year. Making things even worse, Lawrence and the PECDSC Inc. filed a lawsuit against the Episcopal Church in January, and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina slammed him with Federal lawsuits this week ... so don't count on the request for $147,000 for lawyers being even close to what will be needed in this line item. 


March 7, 2013

Von Rosenberg Seeks Immediate Injunction to Stop Lawrence from Impersonating a Bishop


Lengthy complaint details deceptive acts intended to confuse communicants of the Diocese after he left the Episcopal Church

Ironically, Lawrence was served papers this afternoon in Charleston at the official residence of the Bishop of South Carolina



March 5, 2013
South Carolina Bishop VonRosenberg Asks Federal Courts to End Ex-Bishop's Foolishness 

Claims Lawrence has no authority to act in the name of the Diocese of South Carolina since he's left the Episcopal Church

In the past, Federal Courts have recognized the authority of "hierarchical churches" to decide who leads them


CHARLESTON – Acting to protect the identity of the diocese he serves, the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg filed suit in U.S. District Court today against Bishop Mark Lawrence, asking the court to declare that only vonRosenberg, as the bishop recognized by The Episcopal Church, has the authority to act in the name of the Diocese of South Carolina.

Having renounced The Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence is no longer authorized to use the diocese’s name and seal. By doing so, he is engaging in false advertising, misleading and confusing worshippers and donors in violation of federal trademark law under the Lanham Act, the complaint says. It asks the court to stop Bishop Lawrence from continuing to falsely claim that he is associated with the Diocese of South Carolina, which is a recognized sub-unit of The Episcopal Church.

The suit does not address property issues directly. But by asking the federal court to recognize Bishop vonRosenberg as the true bishop of the diocese, the suit would effectively resolve the issue of who controls diocesan property and assets, including the Diocesan House and Camp Saint Christopher on Seabrook Island.

The ownership of individual parish properties is not addressed in the complaint. “The intention of this suit is straightforward. We are asking the court to determine who is authorized to serve as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,” Bishop vonRosenberg said.Read entire story from the website of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and view the complaint 


March 4, 2014
Easter Arrives Early for South Carolina Episcopalians


Continuing Diocese booming with influx of new members and emergence of worship communities Popular new bishop inspires communicants to look beyond bitter attacks by ex-Bishop and his followers


Easter is still a few weeks away, but the Episcopal Church in South Carolina is experiencing a whole lot of resurrection these days. 

After a jarring five months during which thirty-four parishes joined ex-bishop Mark Lawrence in suing them, Episcopalians in the eastern half of South Carolina are back on their feet and charging forward.  

This weekend they will descend on Charleston for their Annual Diocesan Convention, buoyed by dramatic increases in membership and the emergence of new "worship communities" in those parts of the Diocese, where renegade parishes are trying to join the ex-bishop in leaving the Church.

Large crowds for Presiding Bishop, vonRosenberg's election energized continuing DioceseLeaders of the "continuing diocese" in South Carolina knew something was up in December when word leaked out that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori would be attending a hastily called a special convention to elect a new provisional bishop at the end of January. 

Suddenly, there were more people signing up than could be seated in Grace Church in Charleston, the convention site that could only seat 350 people.  Tickets for a fundraising reception for the continuing diocese sold out almost overnight when it was rumored Jefferts Schori would be attending, while a last-minute public reception in Grace's parish hall had to be moved when an constant stream of inquiries suggested it would not hold the crowd. 

Organizers estimate that the three events drew nearly 1000 people, almost all of whom spoke personally with Jefferts Schori.  Before leaving town, delegates to the convention cheered the unanimous election of the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg as Lawrence's successor, and loudly echoed approval of his message of reconciliation and mission.

Today, von Rosenberg presides over a Diocese of 18 parishes and missions and as many as eight new "worship communities" hoping to apply for mission status as soon as procedures for admission to the Diocese are finalized. 

VonRosenberg has had a full schedule or meeting with vestries, conducting baptisms and confirmations, and creating from scratch processes for everything from seminary applications to creating a new Diocesan Constitution and canons. 

He has also tried to reach out to congregations still wavering about following Lawrence.  However, Lawrence supporters were waiting for him, dominated his attempts to conduct civil discussions, and treated him with extreme rudeness.

Established missions and parishes in the continuing Diocese report that their numbers are growing so quickly they can’t find enough space or create new programming fast enough. At Grace, attendance at Christmas Eve services broke records, with nearly twice as many communicants showing up for its early family service than the church could seat.  Crowds at subsequent services that night filled the church to capacity.  

By contrast just five blocks away at the Lawrence-affiliated Cathedral of St. Luke & St. Paul, the midnight Eucharist drew between fifty and 100 participants. 

Like other loyalist parishes, Grace has experienced a spike in parish giving.  Income in December was the highest of any month in its history, while the parish officially added nearly 60 new members to its rolls since the first week in January when Lawrence and his new "diocese" filed a nuisance lawsuit against the Episcopal Church. 

According to one of the parish's clergy, “We don’t even know what a ‘low Sunday’ looks like anymore.” 

Worship communities fuel growth under new BishopEven before his election, Bishop vonRosenberg's first visit to St. Mark’s Chapel in Port Royal drew a wildly enthusiastic congregation of nearly 160.  “God is calling you forward to a new day and new ministry,” the Bishop told them. 

Lawrence had refused to allow this "worship community" to become a mission of the Diocese and even refused to confirm its new members in deference to his political allies at nearby St. Helena's in Beaufort. Worship communities report regular average attendance at their Sunday services to be anywhere between 35 and 135. 

They find worship space at local Lutheran and Methodist churches, and chapels like that at Coastal Carolina University.  The most unusual location is on Edisto Island at Bobo's Po' Pigs Barbeque.  With the election of the new bishop, the congregation at "St. Bobo's" now offers baptism, confirmation, Holy Communion, and the best pork barbeque sandwich south of Charleston. 

According to Dan Ennis at St. Anne’s worship community in Conway, the congregation celebrated its first baptism in December and “I doubt any church ever renewed its baptismal vows with as much gusto as we did that morning.”

The congregations themselves are a surprising mix. 

While many have migrated from local parishes that have decided to sue the Episcopal Church with Lawrence, many others are returning to the Church after leaving when the radicals overtook the Diocese. 

The Rt. Rev. Robert Gillies of the Scottish Episcopal Church, a longtime friend of Bishop vonRosenberg, visited the Diocese in February denouncing schism and disunity in the Church.  In a report to his Diocese about the experience he wrote, "Last week I have come away from a truly awesome experience in Charleston with appreciation for having met some truly remarkable people doing some remarkable things."



February 17, 2013
Presiding Bishop Never Threatened to Go After Parish Property in the Diocese of South Carolina


Ridiculous claim is at the center of frivolous lawsuit Lawrence and 30 renegade parishes have filed against the Church

Plantiff parishes unwittingly put their properties at risk when they were never in danger in the first place Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has never threatened legal against any parish in the Diocese of South Carolina because of differences over theology, gays, or loyalty to her leadership, as radical followers of ex-bishop Mark Lawrence have suggested. 

SC Episcopalians is now able to confirm, based on several sources, that such claims have no basis in fact and never have.  That's right.  Not a shred of evidence that any parish’s property was ever in any danger of being taken away.

Tragically, this is the premise on which thirty parishes have been manipulated into joining a massive lawsuit against the Episcopal Church. 

Today, they and these parishes are spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend themselves from imaginary “attacks” that apparently have only ever existed in imaginations of Lawrence and his followers. 

The irony is, having joined him in his legal attack on the Church, these parishes have put their buildings, assets, and properties at risk by declaring themselves outside the Episcopal Church.  They could have done nothing and achieved exactly the identical outcome they are seeking in court without any of the risks or costs.

Lawrence and his allies are always eager to point out that over the past seven years that the Episcopal Church has been engaged in 50-75 legal actions involving the ownership of parish and diocesan properties … and not so vaguely hinting that it was because of their opposition to the liberal-leaning actions of the Church under Bishop Jefferts Schori.  

It is true that the Church has been involved in numerous property-related court battles, but not because of any theological, cultural, or political differences.  It is because rebellious groups have illegally tried to lay claim to the property of the Episcopal Church... a small fact that the Lawrence crowd conveniently ignores.

Moreover, the volume of cases in which the Church is involved at any particular time has nothing to do with the current Presiding Bishop.  Every one of her predecessors did the same thing when someone tried to make off with Church property.

In the Episcopal Church, it's part of every Bishop’s sacred duty to defend the property of the Church.  If Bishop Jefferts Schori discussed property issues with Lawrence – as she most assuredly did – it was to remind him that she has no choice when it comes to legal action against parishes or dioceses trying to leave the Church and claiming ownership of property that rightfully belongs to the Church.  This is not a policy she created but one that has been in effect for most of the life of the Church. 

Bishop Jefferts Schori’s approach to the Diocese of South Carolina under Mark Lawrence apparently was to allow him and parishes under his authority complete freedom to worship and believe as they desired … as long as they did not try to leave the Church with property that rightfully and legally belongs to the Church. Those who were in the Diocese when Ed Salmon was bishop remember that he went to extraordinary lengths to prevent congregations from trying to leave the Church with their property.  Now, we understand why.


February 11, 2013
Lawrence's "Diocese" is not Anglican

Stinging rebuke by Scottish Bishop is harshest yet:  "Nothing in what I saw and heard ... convinced me that the will of God was being heard or listened to [by the PECDSC Inc]."

Source: Leadership at the highest levels of the Communion view actions by Lawrence & company as "schism
"


For weeks it has gradually become apparent that the Anglican Communion is not coming to rescue of Mark Lawrence’s secessionist “diocese”.  Clergy followers of Lawrence learned this weeks ago at a clergy conference, but few have shared it with their congregations.

This week’s rebuke by a senior cleric in the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church that consecrated the first American bishop, seemed to put an end to the charade that the worldwide Communion is about to absorb the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc. (PECDSC Inc.)

In a report to his Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, Bishop Robert Gillies told his communicants: "I have come away from a truly awesome experience in Charleston with appreciation for having met some truly remarkable people doing some remarkable things. I have also come away having encountered at first hand the awfulness of a modern day schism in the church. Nothing in what I saw and heard of in the decision taken by the Diocese of South Carolina to split from The Episcopal Church (of the USA) convinced me that the will of God was being heard or listened to."

For the past few years, Lawrence and PECDSC Inc. were confident they were true Anglicans and would re-affiliate with the Communion should they secede from the Episcopal Church.  In fact parishioners at historic parishes like St. Michael’s and St, Philip’s in Charleston, and St. Helena’s in Beaufort said that, before they voted to leave the Church, they’d been assured they absolutely would remain Anglican and part of the Anglican Communion. 

According to an older female member of St. Philip's last summer, "There's a plan for us to remain Anglican.  It's all been worked out, we've been told not to talk about it."

However, as of last week, anyone looking for the Anglican tradition in eastern South Carolina by way of the Communion’s website was directed to the “Episcopal Church in South Carolina” under the leadership of its new bishop, Charles vonRosenberg. Parishes in the PECDSC Inc. who call themselves "Anglican" do so without any authorization or agreement of the Anglican Communion.

SC Episcopalians has also learned from very well-placed sources that Bishop Gillies' view of the recent actions of Lawrence and the PECDSC Inc. as “schismatic” is fully shared by the leadership of the Communion.  Former Bishop Lawrence's claim that the “vast majority" of the Anglican Communion recognizes him as an Anglican bishop is hooey.

The Anglican Communion is a loose affiliation of 39 Churches or “provinces” whose worship and theology is descended from the Church of England going all the way back to King Henry VIII.  To belong to the Communion or legitimately claim to be “Anglican,” bishops, priests, lay people, and parishes must belong to one of those provinces. 

In the United States, the only “province” recognized by the Communion is The Episcopal Church. There are two dioceses within the Episcopal Church recognized in South Carolina:  The Diocese of Upper South Carolina led by the Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo, and the Diocese known as “The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,” led by Bishop vonRosenberg.  Both bishops continue to believe in reconciliation with the 30 secessionist parishes and missions that are trying to leave the Episcopal Church with ex-bishop Lawrence.


February 9, 2013
Scottish Bishop Affirms Anglican Ties with the Episcopal Church in South Carolina; Uplifting Kirkin o' the Tartan draws bagpipes, flags, 'Amazing Grace' and standing room only congregations

Senior bishop in the Church that consecrated Samuel Seabury urges unity saying, "Jesus shed his blood to wash away our sin and make us whole… not to waste his precious resources in litigation.”


CHARLESTON - The week Episcopalians in South Carolina continued to affirm ties to the Anglican Communion and, in particular, the Scottish Episcopal Church through which the apostolic succession was passed to the American Church after the Revolutionary War. 

The Rt. Rev. Robert Gillies, Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, and his wife spent the better part of last week in Charleston affirming shared history, and celebrating a boisterous Kirkin ‘o the Tartan at Grace Episcopal Church on Sunday morning.  There were standing room only congregations at the parish's two major services as bagpipes, tartans, church flags, and the melodies of Amazing Grace and Loch Lomond filled the air, even spilling out onto historic Wentworth Street.

Bishop Gillies, a personal friend of newly-elected Bishop vonRosenberg and Mrs. vonRosenberg, delighted congregations throughout the morning, culminating in a rousing sermon urging unity within the Body of Christ. “You cannot, one cannot, say in the Creed ‘I believe in the one holy, catholic , and apostolic church’ in one breath and then pronounce in the next that one is not in communion with others down the road, or across the sea, or wherever it might be … One contradicts what one says and the already fractured body of Christ suffers yet another blow.”

Bishop Gillies declared that Jesus “shed his blood to wash away our sin and make us whole… Yes indeed, to make us whole, not to fragment ourselves, not to waste his precious resources in litigation.” 

However, Bishop Gillies urged Episcopalians to look forward with hopefulness and “live up to the name and the higher calling by which we are inextricably bound together as Servants of Jesus.”



February 6, 2013 
Letter to the Editor Response to Critics of January 26th Sermon by the Presiding Bishop


A recent letter (P & C, 2/1/13) excoriated Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori for a host of supposed transgressions, beginning with her “vindictive and mean-spirited language” in a sermon given January 26 to a convention of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

I want to assure your readers that I and the hundreds of loyal, God-fearing Episcopalians in attendance at that event heard no such language.

We heard a profound, loving, inspirational call from the leader of our church for unity and comity in the face of a very painful rift. We heard a reasoned, nuanced warning from a Primate whose every action has been with the approval and blessing of the Constitution, Canons and duly sanctioned authority of the Episcopal Church to all those with whom we both agree and disagree on the perils of acting alone without consultation and, yes, inclusiveness of ideas and feelings from many sincere but differing perspectives.

We did not hear any personal reference to former SC diocesan bishop Mark Lawrence. The “allusion” the letter writer refers to is his own.

The other attacks leveled at Bishop Jefferts Schori are ones those of us most closely following the current schism have heard repeated many times from the followers of Mr. Lawrence.

In a manner reminiscent of absurd secular “birther” attacks on another leader pilloried for what are clearly suspicious motives pursuing a hidden agenda, supposed facts, figures, and half-truths are offered without any proof as indisputable. This is a common practice of demagoguery - repeat it loudly and often enough and people who should know better will believe it. I

n any arena such behavior is offensive; it is especially unseemly in people claiming to be acting in the name of the love of Christ. I would challenge the letter writer and everyone else following Mr. Lawrence to come and attend the worship of the many congregations who have remained loyal to the Episcopal Church.

Despite the painful cost thrust upon many of us for doing so, you will find no hostility, no disparagement, and no lies or partial truths directed towards those who have left. You will find earnest attempts to know and serve our Lord, and I believe you will know we are Christians by our love.  -- The Rev. John C. Fisher, Edisto Island, SC


February 4, 2013
When Church Politics Rises to the Level of Pure Pettiness
By Andy Brack, Publisher, The Statehouse Report brack@statehousereport.com


If you think politics rocks and rolls only at the Statehouse, take a look at church politics.

Episcopalians, known around the country for acceptance and tolerance, are facing mighty frustration and confusion in the lower part of the state following a schism late last year that has pitted parish against parish, priest against priest, and a bishop against the national church.

The headline-grabbing schism in what until recently was a united body known as the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, today is fueled by a spiritual and historical stream of secession, a menacing aquifer of greed, disdain, money, power and sanctimony. It has spilled from the pulpit into state courts.

It has caused churches and parishioners to pick between church leaders who have left the national Episcopal Church and those who remain with it.

Some see it as a bunch of ecclesiastical nonsense because they don’t really care which governing organization they’re aligned with. But others see the split as a hurtful squabble brought on by conservative clerics who are negatively impacting the worship lives of church members.

And some are even gloomier, viewing the break as sinful lust by those leaving to grab as much as they can by using rhetoric, strategies and tactics worthy of the best negative political campaign that Lee Atwater ever ran.

Over the last 10 years, some champions of Biblical literalism in the Episcopal Church in the lower part of the state got hot and bothered by gender politics. They went ballistic when the Rev. Gene Robinson, a gay man, was named Bishop of New Hampshire, even though the likelihood of anyone from South Carolina worshipping in the Granite State was next to nil.

More recently, the same zealots got bent out of shape over the blessings of same-sex relationships in other parts of the country, just as they surely got bent out of shape in the 1970s with the ordination of women and as their ancestors did over race during and after the Civil War.

Led by S.C. Bishop Mark Lawrence, many churches broke away from the national church and formed a new entity -- “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina” -- with rhetoric that sounds much like what happened when conservative Democrats jumped to the Republican Party -- “I didn’t leave the party; the party left me.”

It came as no surprise that since the end of last year, breakaway churches and the “new diocese” filed  lawsuits to keep property and even the seal of the national church diocese they abandoned. In what was the pot calling the kettle black, the breakaway diocese had the gall to spin that the national church abandoned them -- even though Lawrence and his minions voted to leave the national church as it appealed to them to stay inside the tent.

Although they departed with much bluster of cutting all ties, they really want (you should see this coming) to keep all of the formerly united diocese’s money, property and land, including a popular church camp. Seems to me that when you abandon something, you leave and start anew --and that means without all of the stuff that you signed over to the national church years ago.

But that, I guess, is logic. To rub salt into all of these self-inflicted wounds of the past months, S.C. Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein issued a temporary restraining order Jan. 23 to keep any individual, organization or parishes that are continuing to worship with the national church from using names and the seal historically associated with the Episcopal Church in the lower part of South Carolina for 300 years.

Hmmm, surely seeking the order wasn’t a disruptive coincidence as it came the same week the continuing parishes were preparing to elect a new bishop. Churches are supposed to be places of sanctuary, not places for negativism and pettiness.

Who knows what will happen with the Episcopal parishes in the lower part of the state? About the only thing for sure is that it looks like a lot of lawyers will get richer. And that’s not the kind of Christian charity that motivates people to give to churches.


February 1, 2013
Bishop vonRosenberg names the Reverend Callie Walpole Archdeacon of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina


CHARLESTON - The Rev. Calhoun Walpole, a Sewanee graduate and native of Johns Island, has been named Archdeacon of the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina by newly elected Bishop Charles vonRosenberg.  Her appointment makes her the highest ranking woman ever to serve in a leadership role in the Church in South Carolina, and marks a dramatic reversal of longstanding hostility toward female clergy under ex-bishop Lawrence.

The new Archdeacon will serve as secretary to the diocesan convention, oversee clergy transitions, and have oversight responsibility for diocesan programs.  She will step down as Priest-in-Charge of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Charleston at the end of February, but continue on in a parttime capacity as Vicar of Grace Church. 



January 31, 2013
'Diocese of Diane' Hearing Postponed

Both sides agree to a temporary extension of Goodstein's controversial restraining order


ST. GEORGE - A full hearing on a restraining order issued last week by a controversial Dorchester County Judge has been postponed by mutual agreement between the Episcopal Church and the renegade group headed by ex-bishop Mark Lawrence. 

No reason was given. S.C. Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein had scheduled the hearing for tomorrow in Columbia, but both parties agreed to an indefinite delay.  A new date has not been set for the hearing, but either party may request it at any time.

Goodstein issued the order ten days ago at the request of the embittered Lawrence and his breakaway "diocese" as way of disrupting last Saturday's election of his successor, and embarrassing the Presiding Bishop who participated in the weekend of celebration in Charleston. 

Lawrence and his followers convinced Goodstein that they own the names "Diocese of South Carolina," "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, and "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc," and its corporate seal even though they claim they are no longer in the Episcopal Church.

Lawrence renounced his ministry in the Episcopal Church and, by association, the worldwide Anglican Communion last October. However, he still believes himself to be an Episcopal Bishop in an Episcopal Diocese, just not one in the Episcopal Church.  No ecclesiastical (church) or judicial authority (court) in the world has bought into this fantasy except Goodstein, who issued the restraining order without even allowing the Episcopal Church to be heard on the matter.



January 27, 2013
Praise God! Episcopalians in South Carolina have a New Bishop!

Cheers, tears, & applause mark election of Charles vonRosenberg as new bishop

Overflow crowds enthusiastically embrace Presiding Bishop, as they set about to rebuild a Diocese torn apart by dissenters


CHARLESTON - During a joyous, celebratory weekend in Charleston, South Carolina Episcopalians confidently charted a new course for themselves and the future of the Episcopal Church in the eastern half of the state with wild enthusiasm for a new bishop and the full support of the Episcopal Church around the world. 

Without any hesitation, they swiftly reversed years of angry and hostile actions by secessionist leaders who tried to drive a wedge between them, the Church & worldwide Anglican Communion, and took aim at the long journey ahead to rebuild one of the most important and influential dioceses in the Episcopal Church.

According to the Rev. Canon Michael Wright of Grace Church in downtown Charleston, “We knew this weekend would be good.  We had no idea that it would be great.  No one could have foreseen the sheer joy and enthusiasm in what happened.”



January 25, 2013
Election for XV Bishop of South Carolina Moves Forward Despite Attempted Disruption by Lawrence and PECDSC Inc.

Enthusiasm builds, registrations jump after ex-bishop and his "diocese" got a restraining order to embarrass the Presiding Bishop


CHARLESTON --  Organizers of Saturday's Special Convention of the Diocese were swamped this afternoon as last-minute registrations surged following news that ex-Bishop Lawrence and his PECDSC Inc. (Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc.) convinced a judge to issue a restraining order against her and the continuing Diocese.

Enthusiasm for the election of Charles vonRosenberg as a successor to the embittered Lawrence was high Thursday, as final preparations got underway.  A public reception welcoming the Presiding Bishop to South Carolina will be held at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.  A celebratory choral Eucharist at Grace for all communicants of the Diocese will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, followed by the Special Convention at which vonRosenberg is expected to be elected.

Most people attending will be non-delegates, many of whom say they just want to experience the joy of the Episcopal Church once again and Christian fellowship devoid of angry rhetoric, negativity, and attacks on gays.
 


January 24, 2013
Ex-Bishop, Renegade "Diocese" Get Temporary Restraining Order, Disrupting Election of His Successor & Visit by Presiding Bishop

Injunction claims Lawrence and his "diocese" are being harmed when the continuing Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx refers to itself as "The Diocese of South Carolina."

Mean spirit, lawsuits against loyal Episcopalians by ex-bishop unprecedented in the history of the Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx


ST. GEORGE - Former SC Bishop Mark Lawrence, thirty dissident parishes, and their legal teams asked for and received a temporary injunction against the Episcopal Church and by association the continuing Episcopal Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx that appears to have been carefully timed to disrupt the election of Lawrence’s successor, the XV Bishop of the Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxx on Saturday.

Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein in St. George ruled late Wednesday that the Episcopal Church, its continuing Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx, an even individuals cannot use names like the “The Diocese of South Carolina,” “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina”, or the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina” for at least ten days. 

She also ruled that they cannot use the official seal.  The judge's order did not seem to reflect an understanding that Lawrence renounced his ministry in the Episcopal Church, or that the continuing Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx and the Diocese of Upper South Carolina are the only official entities recognized by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. 

Last November, after Lawrence announced his departure from the Episcopal Church, his legal team apparently scrambled to trademark these names with the U.S. Office of Patents and Trademarks so he could claim undisputed ownership of them. 


However, the applications were withdrawn earlier this month, when an investigation by a reader of this website discovered that they had never been acted on by the agency.

The bizarre ruling will likely not affect the election of The Right Rev. Charles vonRosenberg as the new Bishop of South Carolina at a Special Convention in Charleston, though Goodstein’s ruling may mean delegates or the Presiding Bishop will have to mumble or otherwise not speak the name of the Diocese, which he will lead. 

The Episcopal Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx is the only Episcopal diocese recognized by the Episcopal Church in eastern South Carolina.  The restraining order is only in place for ten days.Judge did not even listen to arguments of the Episcopal Church. 

Judge Goodstein considered the injunction ex parte, meaning that attorneys for the Episcopal Church or the continuing Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx were not allowed to argue their side of the issues.

Andrew Platte, an attorney for several of the plaintiff congregations and the PECDSC Incorporated, is a recent law clerk for Judge Goodstein and has taken a important role in the recent legal attacks on Episcopalians in the Diocese.  He is an associate in the firm of Speights and Runyon, which played a significant role in convincing parishes in the Diocese that the Episcopal Church might be preparing to take their property away.  

Lawrence and parishes associated with him want to leave the Episcopal Church, and want take with them millions of dollars in Church property and financial resources they estimate to be worth $500 million.  

Only 30 of the Diocese’s 74 parishes and missions appear to have signed on to support Lawrence's aggressive attack on his former flock.  Less than one-third of the Diocese’s canonically resident clergy have taken steps to leave the Episcopal Church with him.

Since his departure from the Church, Lawrence and his allies appear to have done little but obsess over those among his former communicants who chose to remain in the Episcopal Church.  Lawrence is the first bishop of the Diocese to launch such a bitter assault on the very people who elected him their chief pastor and spiritual leader.

Last week Episcopalians in South Carolina learned that their children would not be allowed to register early for summer camp at the Diocese’ Camp & Conference Center unless they attended a parish that recognized Mark Lawrence as a bishop, even though he is not formally recognized as such by any denomination.  According to one staff member, they are “getting what they deserve.”


Only 31 of 74 parishes and missions in the Diocese have joined Lawrence's crusade against loyal Episcopalians


All Saints, Florence
Christ Our King, Waccamaw
Christ St. Pauls, Yonges Island C
hurch of the Redeemer, Orangeburg G
ood Shepherd, Charleston
Holy Comforter, Sumter
Holy Trinity, Charleston
Prince George’s, Winyah
St, Bartholomew’s, Hartsville
St. Andrew’s, Mount Pleasant
St. David’s, Cheraw
St. Helena’s, Beaufort
St. James’, James Island
St. John’s, Florence
St. John’s, Johns Island
St. Luke’s, Hilton Head
St. Matthew’s, Fort Motte S
t. Matthews, Darlington
St. Michael’s, Charleston
St. Paul’s, Bennettsville
St. Paul’s, Conway
St. Paul’s, Summerville
St. Philip's, Charleston
The Church of Our Savior, Johns Island
The Cathedral Church of St. Luke & St. Paul, Charleston
The Church of the Cross, Bluffton
The Church of the Epiphany, Eutawville
The Church of the Resurrection, Surfside Beach
Trinity, Edisto Trinity, Myrtle Beach



January 22, 2013
Bad News for Renegade "Diocese": Don't Pack Your Bags for London

Church of England Bishop reportedly tells dissident clergy Lawrence's "diocese" is not destined for the Anglican Communion


Mark Lawrence’s new “diocese” will not be joining the Anglican Communion any time soon.  Neither will any of the South Carolina parishes that have chosen to leave Episcopal Church.

That was the grim news delivered to clergy who have recently aligned themselves with Lawrence's Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc. (PECDSC Inc.) at a clergy conference two weeks ago.   

For several years, clergy followers of Lawrence have quietly assured their parishioners that they would continue to be Anglicans, even if they split from the Episcopal Church.  However, it is now clear that there never was a basis for such a claim.

According to reports, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, retired Bishop of Rochester, said individual dioceses or parishes cannot be members of the Anglican Communion, except through one of its provinces. 

In the United States, the only province recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Communion, is the Episcopal Church. Membership in the Communion has always been limited to churches that are descended from the Anglican tradition that traces its roots back to the time of King Henry VIII. 

Currently, there are 39 such churches, or “provinces”, in the Communion.

Nazir-Ali was only confirming what has been standard practice for centuries.  Lawrence’s followers were well aware of it, but a number of communicants of the Diocese were hesitant to leave the Episcopal Church without the assurance that they would continue as Anglicans.

While the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is considered an evangelical and conservative, he has made it clear he hopes to strengthen ties to the more progressive Episcopal Church, and is open to a dialogue with gays and lesbians on their role in the Church of England. 

Welby’s political patron, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, favors gay marriage, a position even more liberal than that of the Episcopal Church. Nazir-Ali also reportedly suggested that it was unlikely the dissident Anglican Church of North America, led by Lawrence’s friend and mentor, Robert Duncan, would make the cut either.



January 18, 2013 (rev. 1/22/13)
Children not Spared in Ex-Bishop’s “All Out War” Against the Church


Applications from pro-Lawrence parishes "preferred" at St. Christopher summer camp over those from Episcopalians

Staffer to parent: Episcopal Church kids "get what they deserve"


SEABROOK ISLAND -- Loyal Episcopalians, whose families have for generations sent their children to Camp St. Christopher, got a rude awakening this week when they discovered their children are no longer eligible for early registration for summer camp because their parishes do not acknowledge Mark Lawrence to be their bishop.

According to the Rev. Bob Lawrence, the Director of the Diocese’s Camp & Conference Center, “Preferential registration is open to all parishes of the Diocese of South Carolina.  There is a pull down menu of parishes on the registration website.  It includes all of those parishes that remain under the apostolic authority of Bishop Mark Lawrence in the Diocese of South Carolina. 

Open registration for all others will begin February 1st.”[When the Director refers to the “Diocese of South Carolina,” he is actually referring to those parishes claiming allegiance to Lawrence’s “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc. (PECDSC Inc).” ]

Parents who worship in loyal Episcopal parishes have reported that their attempts to register their children for summer camp have been met with hostility and rudeness they've never experienced at St. Christopher. 

One parent was told by a staff member that kids from their parishes "get what they deserve" and they needed to learn they were going to "suffer" because of their parents' choices. The PECDSC Inc. is not recognized as a diocese of the Episcopal Church by the Episcopal Church or by any legal authority. 

Mark Lawrence is not a priest or a bishop in any church since his renunciation of ministry last fall, and describes his relationship with the Episcopal Church as "all out war." About half of the parishes and missions in the Diocese have taken steps to leave the Episcopal Church with Lawrence.

The idea that the PECDSC Inc. would even consider segregating children, according to where their parents chose to live out their commitment to Jesus Christ, is completely alien to the spirit of St. Christopher and the generations of Episcopalians, who have sustained it though the years.  

SC Episcopalians has asked the Camp if there are any other official policies or practices that would make non-preferred campers feel less welcome or valued this summer.  No response so far.



January 10, 2013

Charles vonRosenberg to become Bishop of South Carolina

Popular Former Bishop of East Tennessee is a consensus choice Extensive ties to South Carolina will help him restore vitality, get to work immediately Praise for selection rolls in

CHARLESTON - Charles Glenn vonRosenberg, retired Bishop of East Tennessee with longtime ties to South Carolina, will be formally elected Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina at a special convention January 26th at Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston. 

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Shori will preside over what is expected to be a brief, but joyous gathering of loyal Episcopalians.

Bishop vonRosenberg will serve as a "provisional" bishop, meaning that he has all the authority of a diocesan bishop except tenure.  Once the Diocese is back on its feet, vonRosenberg will probably step down to clear the way for a permanent successor. 

The 65-year-old vonRosenberg and his wife, Annie, are so well-known and popular in the Diocese that the Steering Committee for the convention decided to make him its only nominee.  

His extensive knowledge of the Diocese means that he can get started on the enormous task of restoring the vitality of what was one of the most important dioceses in the Episcopal Church.

The new bishop formerly served in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, as rector of the Church of the Resurrection in Greenwood and later as Canon to the Ordinary from
1989-1994.   He and his wife moved to the Charleston area a few years ago to be near their six grandchildren, after he retired as Bishop of East Tennessee in 2011.

VonRosenberg has much the same personality and leadership style as former Bishop Gray Temple, who was bishop from 1961 to 1982. 

VonRosenberg was acquainted with  Bishop Temple and his wife, Maria, when they retired in Columbia and he was serving in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. The Diocese of South Carolina was left without a functioning ecclesiastical authority after ex-bishop Mark Lawrence, and other diocesan leaders renounced their ministries in mid-October. 

The Presiding Bishop accepted Lawrence’s renunciation on December 5th, after he showed little interest in refuting charges that he'd "abandoned communion" with the Church through his actions as a bishop. 

Fortunately, the vonRosenbergs already have a home on Daniel Island. He may have to work out of his house for a while as well  Lawrence continues to believe himself to be an Episcopal bishop in an Episcopal diocese, and continues  to live in the official episcopal residence, show up for work at the Bishop's office in the Diocesan House, and freely spend Diocesan funds pursuing his fantasy "diocese" and, of course, the lawsuit he filed last week against the Episcopal Church.

VonRosenberg will be installed immediately after his election. Currently, at least 19 of the Diocese's 74 parishes and missions have affirmed their continuing participation in the Episcopal Church, while another 18 have taken no action to leave with Lawrence. 

About one-third of the canonically resident clergy in the Diocese have indicated they are leaving with Lawrence, though it is not clear how many have actually done anything about it. 

As in other dioceses with breakaway leadership, vonRosenberg will likely move swiftly to determine which clergy are jumping ship with Lawrence so he can depose them. 

VonRosenberg graduated from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1969.  He earned his master of divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1974.  Early in his episcopate, Sewanee's School of Theology awarded him an honorary doctor of divinity.



January 8, 2013
Debut of PECDSC Lawsuit Bungled

Sneaky end-run to trademark official seal and official names embarrasses Lawrence supporters 


After our story, status of applications changed from "pending" to "DEAD"

On November 7th last year, then-Bishop Mark Lawrence was enraged when he heard the officially-recognized Diocese of South Carolina had used its corporate seal and legal names in organizing a clergy conference to discuss his recent departure from the Episcopal Church. 

Lawrence demanded that the Diocese discontinue use of these official designations because they belonged to him and the religious corporation he calls, "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Incorporated (PECDSC Inc.)".  

Lawrence renounced his ministry in the Episcopal Church in October, and his renuncation was accepted by the Presiding Bishop in December when he showed no interest in responding to a Church board that had determined his actions as a bishop constituted abandonment of the Church.

Despite the very public disavowal of his ministry in the Episcopal Church, Lawrence continues to believe himself to be an Episcopal bishop in an Episcopal diocese that is not part of the Episcopal Church.   He continues to live in the episcopal residence of the Diocese, pay himself and his staff with Diocesan funds, and work in his office in the Diocesan House.  He also thinks he is a bishop in the Anglican Communion, even though the Anglican Communion doesn't think he is.  It doesn't offer individual memberships anyway.

Last week Lawrence filed a lawsuit, demanding the Episcopal Church through its continuing Diocese of South Carolina stop using his trademarks and seal.

According to Jim Lewis, Lawrence's second in command, “The Diocese [the PECDSC Inc.] has established its registered trademarks, seals, buildings and other property through over 200 years of ministry in South Carolina – beginning before The Episcopal Church even existed.” Well, not really 200 years ago.  In fact, not even two months ago.

According to the U.S. Office of Patents & Trademarks, the PECDSC Inc. filed an application to trademark "Diocese of South Carolina,"  "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,"  "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina," and its corporate seal on November 8th ... one day after Lawrence went ballistic over the Clergy Day business.

A review of the Federal agency's public records by one of our readers revealed that the PECDSC Inc applications had not even been assigned to a staff person to begin the approval process.   The day after SC Episcopalians broke this story, the applications were withdrawn, and their official status changed from "pending" to "DEAD."     
     


January 5, 2013

Lawrence's Renegade "Diocese" Files Suit Against the Episcopal Church

Ex-Bishop claims millions in Episcopal Church assets and property belong with him & his PECDSC Inc.

Only half of the parishes and missions & one-third of the clergy of the Diocese have formally signed on with Lawrence and his corporation

ST. GEORGE - After years of belittling Christians who attempt to resolve ecclesiastical matters in the courts, former Bishop Mark Lawrence filed a whopper of a lawsuit today against the Episcopal Church, claiming that he and his renegade "diocese" own all Episcopal Church property in the Diocese, including the seal and the names of the Diocese.

Lawrence's spokesman says the purpose of the suit is to protect parishes from a "blatant land grab," presumably by the Episcopal Church.  No one in the Episcopal Church or the continuing Diocese of South Carolina has indicated that it wants to take anybody's property away from them. 

However, Lawrence correctly states that the Episcopal Church has filed lawsuits in the past when rebellious leaders in other dioceses tried to make off with Church property that didn't belong to them.  The courts eventually have sided with the Episcopal Church except in cases with exceptional circumstances.

However, Lawrence's pre-emptive strike has now put the property of every parish in the Diocese in play.  Most of them had no idea he was going to do that.  It's a high-risk play, for sure.  If he loses, every one of the parishes affiliated with his PECDSC Inc. loses as well, and likely will not only have to pay everyone's lawyers' fees but pay back the continuing Diocese of South Carolina money Lawrence has been freely spending since he announced his departure from the Episcopal Church.

Lawrence likely knows his claim is shaky, but with a lawsuit of this magnitude, he may be hoping to force the Church to negotiate a settlement with him before the lawsuit would go to trial.  It would be the same kind of financial and property deal he was hoping to convince the Presiding Bishop to support shortly before he renounced his ministry in October.  However, she has apparently told him neither she nor any Church leader is empowered to give away Church property, even to avoid a trial.

The best thing about the lawsuit is that it has finally made one thing clear:  It's all about money and property, and always has been.

Lawrence says that the assets and property he's protecting in the lawsuit are worth $500 million.  However, the ex-bishop actually signed away any legal interest in about $486 million of that amount when he secretly issued quitclaim deeds to every parish in 2011.

Lawrence's stake in this lawsuit is probably about $14 million in assets and property owned by the Episcopal Church and the legitimate Diocese of South Carolina. 

Over the years, Lawrence has repeatedly castigated those who would use the legal system in resolving matters of faith.  You can read his ten-page spiritual and Biblical justification -- with a major serving of crow -- on why he now thinks the Courts should give him the $14 million, and his followers the $486 million in Church assets and property they want here.

Meanwhile, the ex-bishop continues to pay lavishly for legal help.  He has spent nearly $500,000 on legal fees since he became bishop five years ago (not including this lawsuit), even though there were no active court cases involving the Diocese during that time. 

In 2010, Lawrence went ballistic when the Episcopal Church retained a former Chancellor of the Diocese to monitor actions being taken by Lawrence that might affect Church property.  He criticized the Presiding Bishop and denounced the Church for relying on a lawyer instead of more pastoral approaches to congregations blatantly trying to grab property they did not own.

According to the lawsuit filed today, nearly twenty high-priced lawyers appear to have been hired by Lawrence and the PECDSC Inc. to serve on their legal team.

Fact or Fiction?

The PECDSC Inc. makes a number of wild claims as part of the lawsuit.  Here are a few of them mentioned in a bizarre news release it issued today:

On forcing us to like homosexuals.  The ex-bishop says "Like our colonial forefathers, we are pursuing the freedom to practice our faith as we see fit, not as it is dictated to us by a self-proclaimed religious authority who threatens to take our property unless we relinquish our beliefs."

In Lawrence-speak, "our beliefs" is code for treating homosexuals differently than heterosexuals.  Lawrence believes the Kingdom of God is available only to heterosexuals or homosexuals trying to turn themselves into heterosexuals.  Lawrence describes this peculiar way of expressing himself as "my nuanced manner of speaking".

In the lawsuit, Lawrence offers no evidence that the Episcopal Church is trying to force its "beliefs" on anyone in South Carolina, much less take their property away because of them. 

Actually, the Episcopal Church has no power to force anyone in South Carolina to care about anyone they fear because of their "beliefs".  The Diocese learned that lesson in the 1950s and 60s, when racists parishes threatened to leave the Episcopal Church if its leaders tried to force them to accept African Americans.  The Church was powerless to impose its liberal views on racial equality on any congregation anywhere, and those parishes were able to continue as whites-only congregations.  Several of those same parishes signed on to the lawsuit Lawrence filed today.

One of the many ironies of this part of the press release is that Lawrence has always been critical of the Episcopal Church for not being more aggressive in requiring greater uniformity in its theology by its bishops and priests.  Consistency in the world of the PECDSC Inc is not always particularly prized.

Presumably, the "religious authority" Lawrence is talking about in this part of the release is the Episcopal Church, the same authority that ordained him a priest and made him a bishop.  Oddly then, the only authority by which Lawrence claims to be a bishop is that which he ridicules in his lawsuit and claims to be non-existent in South Carolina.

The authority of the Episcopal Church is hardly "self-proclaimed," as the PECDSC Inc. news release suggests.  Lawrence's lawsuit goes to great lengths describing how its authority was originally created by representatives of Episcopal parishes in various states.  In the consecration vows he made only five years ago, Lawrence seemed very comfortable acknowledging that authority, and publicly committing to uphold it as a bishop.

On the strength of the PECDSC Inc.  The PECDSC Inc. contends that 22,244 of approximately 30,000 communicants of the Diocese have decided to leave the Episcopal Church and go with Lawrence, and that 1,900 are still "discerning" the path they plan to take. The remainder, it claims, has decided to stay with the Episcopal Church. 

In filing the lawsuit, Lawrence and the PECDSC Inc. claim to represent the "vast majority" of baptized Episcopalians in the Diocese, when in reality the vast majority of these people has never been asked if they support Lawrence, much less want to be a part of a lawsuit.  PECDSC Inc. head counters assume that if a rector of a parish supports Lawrence, all lay people in the congregation are on board. 

No survey, vote, or head count on this issue has ever taken place in the Diocese.

Records show that only half of the parishes and missions in the Diocese have formally taken steps to join Lawrence.  About one-third of the canonically resident clergy have publicly declared their intent to leave the Episcopal Church, but very few have actually felt strongly enough to resign as Episcopal priests.

On protected trademarks.  Lawrence says in the lawsuit that the Episcopal Church and the officially-recognized Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is infringing on his legally-protected trademarks, including the seal and its historical names of the Diocese of South Carolina, which he says belong to the PECDSC Inc.

If the nose of the PECDSC Inc. was not already long enough, it really gets a real stretching when it suggests it owns the official names of the Diocese, like "The Diocese of South Carolina", "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" and the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina."

An independent inquiry of this claim by one of our readers discovered that only in November did lawyers for the PECDSC Inc. even file applications with the Federal Office of Patents and Trademarks for the rights to these titles, including trademark protection for the official seal of the Diocese of South Carolina.  SC Episcopalians is still looking for a state-issued registration.
 
While the applications have been filed withteh Feds, there is no evidence that they were approved, at least according to the agency that has to approve them.  You can see for yourself that they have not even been assigned to anyone to process them and are considered "pending."  Click here to see them for yourself. (Oops! for some reason after publishing our story on the trademark applications Wednesday, their official status with the US Office of Patents & Trademarks changed from "pending" to "DEAD".  Apparently they were withdrawn.)

In the Court of Common Sense, the seal, names, and anything else official that belongs to the Diocese of South Carolina belongs to the offically-recognized Diocese of South Carolina.  That would not be the PECDSC Inc.  However, Lawrence and the PECDSC Inc. need these titles to lay claim to the millions of dollars in Diocesan assets that are registered in the name of the Diocese of South Carolina, including those held by the Trustees of the Diocese.

On the "right" to secede.  "The Diocese of South Carolina was established in 1785 as an independent, voluntary association that grew from the missionary work of the Church of England. It was one of nine dioceses that voluntarily joined together to form The Episcopal Church in October 1789, which eventually became an American province in the worldwide Anglican Communion, also a voluntary association."

Since October, the PECDSC Inc. has been engaged in amateurish effort to rewrite the history of the Diocese of South Carolina and its parishes as if the Episcopal Church had nothing to do with it. 

The website Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul presents a tortured attempt at such revisionism as it tries to explain its history as a cathedral without reference to the Episcopal Church.  One of the PECDSC Inc. followers has even gone on the Wikipedia website and revised the history of the Diocese that is painfully at odds with the truth, but quite consistent with the PECDSC Inc's alternate reality.

Lawrence's lawyers try to argue in their lawsuit that the "Diocese of South Carolina" existed prior to the formation of the Episcopal Church, joined it voluntarily, and has always had the right to secede. ("Disaffiliate" is the word preferred by the PECDSC Inc. since most South Carolinians remember that the secession bit didn't really work out well before.)

This is pure fantasy.  The few individuals who promote this spin on history are not Church historians and are on the payroll of the PECDSC Inc.

The remarkable history of the early days of the Episcopal Church after the Revolutionary War was carefully documented by the Rev. Frederick Dalcho in his classic, “An Historical Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina”. 

The Rev. Mr. Dalcho makes no mention of any "diocese" existing prior to the creation of the Episcopal Church, nor did the parishes in post-colonial South Carolina think of themselves as such.  There was thinking that the parishes should also be quasi-governmental entities like they were under the British, and hence they met in official government buildings.

Collectively, these congregations were called the “Protestant Episcopal Churches in the State of South Carolina," not the "Diocese of South Carolina", and the principal reason they would gather was to work toward membership in a unified national Protestant Episcopal Church.

A diocese is an administrative unit created by a Church or, if you want to go back to the days of the Roman Empire, civil authorities.  The purpose of a diocese in the Episcopal Church is to further its work through its parishes.  By definition, dioceses do not exist independently, nor by does a diocese form without the involvement of the higher authority.

Dioceses are creatures of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.  They did not exist prior to the founding of the Episcopal Church.  The same is true of other “hierarchical churches” like the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Church of Christ. 

In many ways the relationship between a diocese and the Episcopal Church is like a state to the Federal government.  Once you are in, you are in.  There is no exit clause or right of secession.  The representatives of the Protestant Episcopal Churches in the State of South Carolina signed the Constitution of the Episcopal Church fully aware that there was no "out clause".  The geographic area of a diocese was and is established by the Episcopal Church, not the Diocese, as the lawsuit suggests. 

Unlike the Federal-state relationship, there are no special “rights” reserved for diocese as they are for states in the U.S. Constitution. 

For example, governors of states are elected by the states in much the same way as dioceses elect their own bishops.  However, people who are elected bishops cannot be consecrated or hold authority without the additional “consent” of a majority of dioceses and diocesan bishops. 

In the Episcopal Church, geographic boundaries are established by the Church's General Convention, not by the individual dioceses.  The Episcopal Church also has full authority to remove any bishop it feels has acted outside his or her consecration vow to conform to “the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church” without the agreement of his or her diocese.
 
On "disassociation". "Dioceses in four other states have disassociated over theological differences with the Episcopal Church in recent years.

This is completely bogus.  In recent years, rebellious Church leaders like Mark Lawrence attempted to take four dioceses out of the Episcopal Church.  Those leaders have long since been deposed, and are no longer in the Church.  The Dioceses are still in the Church, and fully functioning, enthusiastically proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On being in the Anglican Communion. 

Neither Mark Lawrence or the PECDSC corporation are in the Anglican Communion.  His self-proclaimed membership in the Communion has no basis in reality.  The only members of the Anglican Communion are 34 Churches descended from the Anglican tradition and recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

If one is an American, one can only be considered Anglican if one belongs to the American province of the Communion .. also called, The Episcopal Church. The only way one can belong to the Episcopal Church is to belong to one of its officially-recognized dioceses.

Lawrence is well aware that individual dioceses can not belong to the Communion separately from their province.  Deposed bishops cannot belong to the Communion simply because they proclaim themselves to be in it, or generate letters from political allies claiming them to be in the Communion.

The press release announcing the suit can be found here


January 2, 2013
Investigation Discovers Renegades Trying to Make Off with the Official Names of the Diocese
Former bishop apparently having difficulty accepting that he's out of the Church


SC Episcopalians has discovered that Mark Lawrence’s renegade "diocese" is trying to trademark official names of the Diocese of South Carolina, according to the Office of Patents & Trademarks at the U.S. Department of Commerce.  Its online application fails to include an admission that it is not recognized by the Episcopal Church as the Diocese of South Carolina.

Lawrence continues to claim that he is an Episcopal Bishop in an Episcopal Diocese, even though he was formally deposed weeks ago after announcing that he'd left the Episcopal Church. 

He still uses "The Right Reverend" before his name, occupies the bishop's office at the Diocesan House, and lives in the bishop's official residence.  He also insists he's a bishop in good standing in the Anglican Communion, a claim not actually supported by the Anglican Communion. 

The continuing Diocese of South Carolina, under the leadership of Charleston civic leader and businessman Hillery Douglas, is officially recognized by the Episcopal Church as the Diocese of South Carolina, and will meet to elect Lawrence's successor January 26th.


Status of Requests:  Pending    
Filed:  November 8, 2012 
Class:  045   

[Please excuse our construction from here to the end of the page]

May 30, 2013
U.S. Judge will Hear Bishop vonRosenberg's Request to Move Legal Issues to Federal Courts on June 6th


Episcopal Church in South Carolina says Lawrence's nuisance lawsuit -- including January's "Diocese of Diane" ruling -- raises issues beyond state courts' jurisdiction

CHARLESTON - U.S. District Judge Weston Houck will hear arguments Thursday on why Mark Lawrence’s lawsuit against the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina should be “removed” from a state court and consolidated with ongoing legal actions at the Federal level.

Consolidating these cases would probably speed up resolution of Lawrence's legal challenges, including whether an administrative sub-jurisdiction like a diocese has legal standing to secede from a hierarchical church. In the Episcopal Church, dioceses are created by its General Convention under its Constitution and Canons to carry on the work of the Church and administer its programming.  The relationship is similar to that between a county and the state in which it is located.

In recent years Federal Courts have generally agreed that "hierarchical churches" like the Episcopal Church have the Constitutional right to determine their own leadership and manage their own affairs.  Dioceses have never been found to have legal authority independent of the Church that created them. 

However, Mark Lawrence and his supporters do not accept that.

Even though he renounced his ministry in the Church, Lawrence says he's still the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. Last November Lawrence renounced his ministry in the Episcopal Church, but stubbornly insists he is an Episcopal Bishop of an Episcopal Diocese that is part of the Anglican Communion, but not the Episcopal Church. 

Both the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church recognize Charles vonRosenberg as the Episcopal Bishop of South Carolina. VonRosenberg was unanimously elected as Lawrence's successor on January 26th at a special convention of the Diocese in Charleston
.

However, just prior to vonRosenberg's election, Lawrence's legal team convinced S.C. Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein in Dorchester County to issue a bizarre ruling banning the continuing Diocese of South Carolina under vonRosenberg from referring to itself as the “Diocese of South Carolina" or even "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina."


According to her ruling, only Lawrence's rogue religious corporation, known as the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina (PECDSC Inc.)" can use that title, its official seal, and other legally protected marks of the Diocese of South Carolina.  Lawrence appeared to have sought the order to embarrass Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who arrived in South Carolina a few days later to preside over the election and installation of vonRosenberg.  

There is no evidence Judge Goodstein tried to inform the Episcopal Church that she was considering the Order, nor was it immediately apparent that she realized Lawrence had renounced his ministry in the Episcopal Church and was no longer recognized as a bishop. Lawrence continues to reside in the residence of the Episcopal Bishop and occupy the Diocesan House, headquarters of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.  During his departure from the Church last fall, Lawrence quietly hired a North Carolina-based law firm to file applications for Federal trademarks of the various official "marks" of the Diocese, but was exposed by a reader of SC Episcopalians.

VonRosenberg responded to the "Diocese of Diane" ruling by Goodstein with a lawsuit of his own in Federal Court. 34 Pro-Lawrence parishes have needlessly put the ownership of their properties in jeopardy Nearly half of the parishes and missions of the Diocese signed onto Lawrence's lawsuit under the erroneous belief that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church wants to take over their parish properties and possibly sell them off to Muslims and other non-Christians. 

Lawrence claims his lawsuit would protect them from this and, as proof, his PR machine continues to insist that they are being sued by the Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church.  Ironically, the ownership of parish properties has never been in danger, but by joining Lawrence's lawsuit, leaders of these 34 parishes have now put them in play and in the hands of the Courts.



April 28, 2013
VonRosenberg to Clergy: Do You Intend to Remain Faithful to Your Ordination Vows?

Scores of clergy face possible deposition from the Episcopal priesthood Clergy, under pressure to back Lawrence, likely to lose their careers in the Church without a conversation with Bishop vonRosenberg at 843-259-2016


Now it’s the clergy who are under the gun. When Mark Lawrence announced last fall that he had “moved on” from the Episcopal Church, he told his clergy that they had left the Church with him.  That was one of only many lies they would be told.  Clergy who are ordained in the Episcopal Church remain in the Episcopal Church unless and until they resign, die, or are found, by their actions, to have abandoned the Church. 

Unlike other “provisional” bishops in dioceses with rebellious leadership, Lawrence’s successor, Charles vonRosenberg, has been slow to act against clergy nominally aligned with Lawrence.  He is aware many were deceived about Lawrence’s real intentions and only now realizing the full magnitude of the potential loss of their priesthood in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.

From the first moment of his episcopate in South Carolina, vonRosenberg has been clear that he is all about reconciliation, but since then he has made little headway with clergy who are facing strong-arm tactics and a deluge of misinformation orchestrated by the Lawrencians. 

Blind loyalty to Lawrence is paramount, as clergy face the loss of their priesthoods.  In the world of Lawrence, clergy have merely become pawns in a numbers game.  Their public profession of loyalty to him is deemed a vital shred of legitimacy around one of the fastest fizzling schisms in the history of Christianity.

The pressure is intense.  Many clergy have been told they will lose their jobs if they even attempt to communicate with vonRosenberg.  Others report that it has been made clear to them that financial support from the Diocese for their parishes and missions will be taken away, if they do not go along with Lawrence’s delusion that he is an Episcopal bishop of an Episcopal diocese that is recognized as part of the Anglican Communion.

Many will be forced to give up their priesthood and will forever be stigmatized as having "abandoned" the Church.  In general, it is very difficult for these ex-clergy to ever find their way back to the priesthood. In addition, these clergy will be forfeiting their right to participate in the Church Pension Fund, regarded as one of the most generous in the country.  The continuity of the fund allows clergy to build retirement security throughout their careers and flexibility in the kind of ministry to which they feel called within the Church.   

This is particularly devastating to younger clergy.

However, Mark Lawrence is reported to be fully vested in the Pension Fund and does not lose financially by leaving.   In fact, most of the clergy most active on his behalf are similarly financially secure, if not fully vested. 

As much as they believe the Episcopal Church to be evil, it is obviously not so evil that they are willing to surrender the monetary security it offers them even as they continue to rebel against it. However, the most significant loss for those clergy leaving with Lawrence is that they will no longer have authority to administer the sacraments of the Church, nor have any claim to be part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Lawrencian clergy must decide if they will remain loyal to their vows. SC Episcopalians has learned that over the past three weeks, vonRosenberg has begun to insist that clergy in the Diocese declare their intentions with respect to their continuing loyalty to the vows they have taken in the Episcopal Church.  At first, his communications were pastoral in tone, but this week he insisted, as their bishop, they respond. The failure to respond in the affirmative almost certainly means that individual priests will be deposed as priests of the Church, from their ministries.  

SC Episcopalians has learned that the list of those informing vonRosenberg of their intentions to remain loyal to the Church may contain many surprises.  A number who agree with Lawrence's Biblical literalism and have supported him openly have reportedly told vonRosenberg that they intend to remain in the Episcopal Church.  While they sympathize with Lawrence's theology, and hostility to gays and women in positions of authority, they do not support his decision turn his back on the Church and create mischief.

In fact, only one-third of canonically resident clergy of the Diocese have actually publicly indicated their intentions to leave the Episcopal Church with Lawrence.  Even less have had the courage to personally inform vonRosenberg or representatives of the Episcopal Church of their plans.

Reaction has varied.  However, SC Episcopalians found the comments of retired clergyman Ladson "Punchy" Mills, hardline critic of vonRosenberg and frequent loquacious right-wing blogger, among the most ridiculous.  Mills has suggested in his writings that vonRosenberg is a bully and hypocrite, and hinted that aspects of his leadership are reflective of McCarthyism and even the Holocaust. 

Even so, Mills reports that he was offended and became "physically ill" when he received the standard letter from vonRosenberg asking him about his commitment to the Episcopal Church.


April 24, 2013
SC Episcopal Bishop wants Federal Court to Stop Lawrence from Claiming to be the Bishop of South Carolina
Asks Judge Houck to reject Lawrence's claim that the "Diocese" seceded from the Episcopal Church


CHARLESTON -  SC Episcopal Bishop Charles vonRosenberg today asked a Federal Court to reject Mark Lawrence's hair-brained claim that the "Diocese of South Carolina" has seceded from the Episcopal Church.   He is asking Judge Weston Houck for an injunction preventing Lawrence from continuing to act as if he is a bishop in the Church.

VonRosenberg became the bishop of the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina shortly after Lawrence abandoned his ministry last fall. He is recognized by the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as the Bishop of South Carolina. 

However, Lawrence now claims he didn't resign and is still an Episcopal bishop in an Episcopal diocese that has simply left the Episcopal Church. 

Lawrence continues to perform official acts of a bishop, and even confirms and ordains people.  Lawrence and his supporters appear to be freely spending the assets of the Diocese on things that include frivolous legal actions. 

For some unknown reason, Lawrence's people have not published audited statements of financial activities in 2012 that would give a better of picture of what they might be up to.

Some critics of the Episcopal Church have encouraged rebellious groups to create messy legal entanglements as a way of buying time to spend down Church assets so when they inevitably lose in court, there is nothing left upon which to sustain ministry. 

Chancellor Tom Tisdale says a ruling on the injunction could come sooner than resolution of the larger legal actions in state and Federal courts. 



April 18, 2013

Politicizing the Cross of Christ
Team Lawrence turns visit by African bishops into crass political stunt Attacks on Episcopal Church make visitors seem petty and uncaring about their ministries with the Episcopal Church


CHARLESTON -- The heart-rending decline of the Diocese of South Carolina and the continuing casualties of its politics were on full display this past week as Mark Lawrence paraded out four otherwise distinguished African bishops to bolster his claim that he is an Episcopal bishop of an Episcopal Diocese in the Anglican Communion.

A highlight of their visit was a sparsely-attended event at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, where they participated in a panel discussion and press conference where they issued statements of support for ex-Bishop Lawrence and stinging criticisms of the Episcopal Church. 

Sadly, Lawrence's PR team immediately took to the internet to trumpet the bishops' endorsements of the ex-bishop's political agenda, largely ignoring their far more compelling personal stories of mission and ministry in Africa.

Anti-Gay, Anti-Church Bishops:  We love Bishop Mark The public invitation to the Evening with Four African Bishops read, “We’ll hear first-hand accounts of the vital work God is doing in the Anglican Communion… and how we can pray for their ministries and explore opportunities for further partnerships” 

However, the promise of a spiritually uplifting encounter with devout Christian heroes amounted to little more than an angry attack on the Episcopal Church and Lawrence's successor.  Analogies equating the present “suffering” of Lawrence and those who follow him to innocent victims of genocide, hunger, and poverty shamelessly trivialized the truth of the very Gospel of which they believe themselves to be the exclusive guardians.

"Amidst allegations that Anglicans worldwide do not recognize the Diocese of South Carolina and its Bishop, Anglican Bishops from East Africa strongly announced their support for the "diocese’s" dissociation from The Episcopal Church,” according to Lawrence's spin doctors on his website.

“Their comments seemed to dispute the claims of Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, the newly elected Bishop of the recently formed Diocese - The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.” (NOTE: There are nearly 900 bishops in the Anglican Communion.  Membership is not conferred by individual bishops or even groups of four bishops. 

The feelings of these four bishops about the legitimacy of Lawrence's claim that he is an Anglican bishop are irrelevant.  (The name of the person officially recognized by the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as the Bishop of South Carolina is The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg.)

But here's where it gets bizarre.

In their comments the four bishops – from Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania --seemed oblivious to the extensive partnerships in ministry and remarkable missionary work in which the Episcopal Church is currently engaged ... in Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Kenya.  According to Robert Martin, a bishop in the Anglican Church of Kenya, “The Kenyan Church does not recognize The Episcopal Church any more.  We have no relations. I know that any contact I have with The Episcopal Church may cause me problems in Kenya because we are so shocked and horrified by what is going on and therefore any actions by The Episcopal Church have no validity as far as we’re concerned.”

Bishop Martin is apparently unaware of the millions of dollars going to important missionary work in his Province through the Episcopal Church and its parishes and dioceses.  Much of this work includes relief efforts to feed and care for 80,000 refugees in that country, protection extended to Kenyan voters after 300 were killed for exercising their right to vote, the construction of clean water systems for entire villages, and the creation of micro-business opportunities that lead to economic self-sufficiency.


Tanzania.  The Rt. Rev. Elias Mazi Chakupewa of Tanzania seemed equally unaware or uncaring about the involvement of the Episcopal Church in his country and the extraordinary partnerships in which Episcopalians have become involved.

According to Lawrence's website, Bishop Chakupwa used his visit to Charleston to rip into the Episcopal Church saying, "We are not going to work with people who are denying the authority of the Bible, who deny the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. We are not going to work with them at all."   Bishop Chakupewa, whose diocese has a companion relationship with a diocese in the Episcopal Church, seems to have been uninformed that other bishops in his country are proud of the very positive relationship they enjoy with Episcopalians. 

They are particularly pleased with a partnership between the dioceses of New York and Central Tanganyika, known as the Carpenter's Kids Program, which links parishes in a mutual relationship of prayer, communication, and support on behalf of the more than 2.5 million AIDS orphans in Tanzania.

Rwanda.  Breathtaking or breathtakingly naive?Easily the most stunning statements came from Bishop Nathan Kamusime Gasatura of the Diocese of Butare in Anglican Church of Rwanda, who was keen to remind listeners that his Province had been the first to take in dissident clergy from the Episcopal Church through its Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). The organization was founded by the former rector of All Saints', Pawleys Island. 

Apparently confusing us with the Catholic Church, Bishop Gasatura claimed that those affiliated with AiMA had been “excommunicated and fired out of the Episcopal Church,” when in fact they all chose to leave like Lawrence.  Lawrence’s PR team saw no reason to correct the error and posted the mistaken bishop’s remarks online anyway. 

They also failed to mention that the AMiA enterprise fell apart last year because of irrational criticisms of the Americans by angry Rwandan bishops. However, Bishop Gasatura's most outrageous statement was his equating the 1994 genocide in his country with, what he described as, "spiritual genocide" in the Episcopal Church today. 

He also lashed out at the Episcopal Church (and the Church of England) for not protesting the evacuation of United Nations troops from his country during the murderous rampage that left nearly 800,000 people dead. "The whole world stood by not even the church in America or Britain or any part of the world ever came to its rescue to lift a prophetic voice and challenge the international community," said Bishop Gasatura.

In fact, the reasons Christians throughout the world were reluctant to advocate intervention were very credible reports that Christian churches, including the Anglican Church of Rwanda, were actually participating in the genocide. Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey was highly charitable when he said later: "The Church in Rwanda lost an opportunity to be prophetic during the genocide.

The Church should have been calling out for justice but by and large its voice was silent." read more Actually, the Rwandan Church had been much more than silent.  It appeared to have been in the center of the action. 

The United Nations and other human rights groups were less charitable about this than Archbishop Carey: "Far from condemning the attempt to exterminate the Tutsi, Archbishop Augustin Nshamihigo and Bishop Jonathan Ruhumuliza of the Anglican Church acted as spokesmen for the genocidal government at a press conference in Nairobi. Like many who tried to explain away the slaughter, they placed the blame for the genocide on the RPF because it had attacked Rwanda. Foreign journalists were so disgusted at this presentation that they left the conference." (African Rights, Rwanda, Death, Despair, pp. 900-902.)"

On 7 May 1994 soldiers and militias arrived at Shyogwe Diocese aboard a red pick-up vehicle to transport civilian Tutsi refugees to the killing sites.

"On that day Bishop Samuel Musabyimana was present and, addressing the soldiers and militias, publicly stated that he did not oppose the killing of Tutsis, but that he did not want killings at the Diocese and that the Tutsis should be taken to Kabgayi to be killed." (Indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda against former Anglican Bishop Samuel Musabyimana).

In the aftermath, the Anglican Church in Rwanda failed to engage in a full-fledged investigation of its own involvment in the killings, even when one of its senior bishops was indicted.Bishop Gasatura's remarks demonstrated an astonishing lack of compassion and understanding about the subjects on which he was commenting.

The willingness of Team Lawrence to post these inflamatory statements on its website and dignify his comments is reprehensible. 

Apparently Lawrence has planned an extensive speaking tour for the Africans in parishes around the Diocese over the next few weeks. Good luck with that.

[Please excuse our construction from here to the end of the page]







March 29, 2013
VonRosenberg Lawyers Rip Lawrence Lawsuit

Continuing SC Episcopalians want full accounting of secret real estate and property transactions, bank accounts, investments, & securities

Countersuit tells "Diocese of Diane" Judge the Episcopal Church in South Carolina is "entitled to restitution of property and funds acquired ... through alleged misappropriation, conversion, breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duty"

Mark Lawrence and the faction that followed him out of The Episcopal Church have no authority over the assets or property of the Diocese of South Carolina or any of its parishes, and have engaged in a plan to damage the diocese, according to a response and counterclaims filed in S.C. Circuit Court.

The local diocese that is continuing with The Episcopal Church is entitled to restitution of property and funds acquired by Lawrence and his supporters through alleged misappropriation, conversion, breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duty, the counterclaim says.

The documents filed Thursday are part of the legal response to a suit filed against The Episcopal Church and local Episcopalians by supporters of former bishop Mark Lawrence along with 34 parishes who say they have disassociated themselves from The Episcopal Church. A 35th parish, St. Andrews in Mount Pleasant, is also one of the plaintiffs, although it claims to have separated from The Episcopal Church some time ago. The Episcopal Church also filed a separate answer and counterclaims on Thursday



Commentary
March 26, 2013

The Not-So-Gentle Art of Hectoring:  Imaginary "Diocese" Launches Charm Offensive with the News Media

Lawrence's New PR Director pushes same misleading story line with news media

In Greek, the name Hector means “steadfast.” 

Quite possibly, its origin lies with a noble character by that name in Homer’s Iliad.  Those who suffered through the classics in their youth recall that Hector, brother of gloom-and-doom Cassandra, was known for his consistency and reliability. 

However, time has taken a toll on “hector,” and today its connotations are far less honorable or inspiring.  These days "hector" means to intimidate or dominate in a blustering or bullying manner without particular regard to facts. 

You can see how the ancient meaning morphed into the current one.  We all know people who are so steadfast their views or irrationally confident of truth that they make those with different perspectives miserable through harassment, haranguing, and aggressive behavior.

In many ways, the efforts of Mark Lawrence and his followers to justify their fantasy Episcopal "diocese" -- the one with an Episcopal bishop that is not part of the Episcopal Church -- has come down to little more than relentless hectoring.  Last week, for example, SC Episcopalians saw an email signed by a Beaufort woman named Jan Pringle, castigating a local Associated Press reporter for an article he’d recently written for the Charlotte Observer.


March 9, 2013
Convention Coverage II:  We're Back! 

Jubilant Convention approves first mission, rolls back Constitution & Canons to restore full accession

Choose a life of "Gratitude," new bishop urges


After years of opposition from Lawrence and his Beaufort allies, Saint Mark's, Port Royal is Finally a Mission of the Diocese; Five "worship communities" may apply in the coming year as numbers grow 

Cheers, flags, tears greet long-suffering congregation as it processes into the Convention  see photos  visit Diocesan website for full converage of this morning's events"To Love & Serve the Lord": New Bishop Urges Diocese to look forward; No mention made of Lawrence or fantasy diocese



Convention Coverage I
March 8, 2013
United Diocese Kicks Off Upbeat Convention in Charleston

Longtime Episcopalians: "This is how it used to be!"

Former Bishop Neil Alexander: "Christ is the vine, we are the branches" Delegates can't get enough of "Bishop Charlie & Annie"See photos of opening Eucharist & reception    

 
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