South Carolina Episcopalians
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Archives 2011

(Continued from Home Page.  Most recent articles are at the top of this column)

December 15, 2011
"Clarifying Conversation" between Southern Bishops and Lawrence Yields Nothing
  
Bishops from North Carolina, Georgia, and Upper SC getting it that Bishop Lawrence is not trying to stay in the Episcopal Church

CHARLESTON -- No one really expected anything to come from Wednesday’s meeting between South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence and six of his colleagues from neighboring dioceses ... and the meeting lived up to expectations.

However, if there was any lingering confidence among his colleagues that Lawrence was “keeping his word” about staying in the Episcopal Church, it evaporated.   At least two of the bishops at the meeting had publicly expressed sympathy for Lawrence prior to the meeting, but as nearly as SC Episcopalians can surmise from their reported reactions to the meeting, they got a wake-up call.

SC Parishes move forward with plans to leave the Church. 

Even as the bishops’ meeting was going on, a number of parishes, with the encouragement of the Diocese, were moving on with plans to amend their corporate charters in ways that would take them out of the Episcopal Church and likely plunge them into costly and prolonged litigation. 

One such parish went forward with a planned parish meeting in Summerville only hours after the bishops’ conference.  The featured speaker was Jim Lewis, Lawrence’s Canon to the Ordinary, who continued to beat a very one-sided drum, while rector Mike Lumpkin told the parish that it was going to have to choose between the Episcopal Church and the Diocese. 

Lewis' us-versus-them message was exactly the same as the one Diocesan spokesmen had been giving before the bishops met.

Did Lawrence ever in tend to keep his promise to stay in the Church? 

Within the House of Bishops, Lawrence’s colleagues have been slow to accept that he would so openly betray those who, only four years ago, believed his assurances that he would not try to lead the Diocese of South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church.  

At that time, his election was lacking consents from a majority of the Church’s 110 dioceses to be consecrated. 

However, a number of both liberal and conservative bishops intervened on then-Father Lawrence's behalf with their standing committees, based on public and private commitments they felt he'd given them. 

According to former SC Bishop Edward Salmon, even the Presiding Bishop “bent over backwards” to help salvage his election.

Diocese responds with its familiar Good-Cop Bad-Cop routine. 

Wednesday’s meeting came about after the Bishop of East Carolina asked Lawrence last week to meet with him and other bishops in neighboring dioceses.   That request grew out of a conference of southern bishops last month, where a number of Lawrence’s colleagues said they wanted to have a face-to-face meeting with Lawrence before discussing what to do about his behavior.

The meeting never had a chance of producing anything positive.  The day the Province IV bishops asked for a meeting with Lawrence, the Diocese spokesman and Anglican Communion Development Coordinator, the Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon, dismissed the bishops' request for a  meeting as "pastorally destructive" and "dripping with hypocrisy."

The Standing Committee couldn't resist the opportunity to insert itself either, and issued a sarcastic letter, demanding that the visiting bishops abide by the Constitution & Canons of the Episcopal Church while they were in the Diocese (even though the Diocese refuses to do so itself).

The following statement was issued by the participants in Wednesday's meeting and was posted on the Diocesan website:

"On Wednesday, December 14, Province IV bishops diocesan were invited to attend a meeting in Charleston, South Carolina with Bishop Mark Lawrence to discuss the recent issuing of quitclaim deeds by Bishop Lawrence and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina to parishes of the diocese. A representative group who were available at the appointed time and date attended the meeting.

"Gracious hospitality and collegiality characterized the gathering during which we prayed and participated in open, honest, and forthright conversation. Probing questions were asked by all, and it is fair to say that we did not agree on all matters discussed. For the visiting bishops, the gathering particularly helped to clarify the context of the Diocese of South Carolina’s quitclaims decision. Where we go in the future is a matter of prayer and ongoing engagement of concerns before us, an engagement we embrace out of our love for Christ and his Church.

The Right Reverend Scott Anson Benhase
The Episcopal Diocese of Georgia

The Right Reverend Michael B. Curry
The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina

The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III
The Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina

The Rt. Rev. Don E. Johnson
The Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee

The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence
The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina

The Rt. Rev. G. Porter Taylor
The Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina

The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo
The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina"

++++

December 9, 2011

Standing Committee, Canon Harmon  Inject Themselves into Bishops' Meeting

Hostile tone in letter to Bishop Daniel reflects delusional nature of Diocesan leadership
   Canon Harmon claims Bishops' meeting request was "pastorally destructive" and "dripping with hypocrisy"

The Diocese of South Carolina continued a sputtering defense of itself from imagined attacks by the Episcopal Church over the weekend.  This time it's the Standing Committee attempting to disrupt yet another responsible attempt by the Episcopal Church to figure out what the Diocese wants.  Read this letter


December 6, 2011
AMiA Bishops, Anglican Province of Rwanda Split


The Anglican Mission in America, one of the original dissident groups to separate from the Episcopal Church over a decade ago, has in effect severed its ties to the Anglican Province of Rwanda following the resignations of most of its American bishops. 

Last week Rwandan Primate Archbishop Onesphore Rwaj gave an ultimatum to AMiA leader, Bishop Chuck Murphy, to either resign or recant for statements and actions the Province's House of Bishops perceived to be offensive.

Murphy and almost all of the other American missionary bishops consecrated by the Rwandans effectively resigned their positions today by failing to renew their commitment to the Province.  Murphy was the rector of All Saints', Pawleys Island when the parish initially attempted to leave the Episcopal Church with its property.  AMiA is still headquartered in Pawleys Island. 
read more


December 6, 2011
Lawrence will meet with Fellow Bishops for "Clarifying Conversation" on Property Issues


"We have had no direct communication with you," East Carolina Bishop complains;  Previous attempts to engage Lawrence have largely been met with frustration

SC Bishop Mark Lawrence has agreed to meet with a representation of his fellow bishops from Province IV who requested a "clarifying conversation" about his recent execution of legal documents relinquishing the Diocese's interest in millions of dollars in Episcopal Church property.

The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel of the Diocese of East Carolina made the request to Bishop Lawrence Monday on behalf of their colleagues in dioceses as far west as Louisiana, as far north as Kentucky and as far south as Florida.


Read the letter from Bishop Daniel


Bishop Daniel's request grew our of a meeting of the Province's bishops last week, which Lawrence had apparently skipped out on. 


Daniel's letter said that the Province's bishops had “determined that it is our duty as bishops of this province to address these concerns in direct communication with you, as Jesus exhorts his followers in Matthew’s Gospel (18:15-20), and in accord with our ordination vows regarding the unity and governance of the church.”

He noted that “we have had no direct communication from you regarding these reported actions."

Daniel and his colleagues will hardly be the first group to try to get Lawrence to explain his views.  Bishop Lawrence has never had a particularly warm relationship with his fellow bishops.

Since 2008 when he first became bishop, members of the House of Bishops have made numerous attempts engage him in meaningful dialogue about his self-described "war" with the Episcopal Church, but little came from those opportunities. 


Shortly after her election, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori made a personal visit to South Carolina to "listen" to the concerns of the Bishop and Diocesan clergy, but was famously treated with public rudeness and disrespect, all apparently with Lawrence's assent
Read the Episcopal News Service story

December 1, 2011
Lawrence Matter Far from Settled


Disciplinary Board needed documents the Diocese wouldn't provide, while critics say disciplinary process needs to be strengthened to rein in rebellious bishops

The failure of the Episcopal Church's Disciplinary Board for Bishops to certify that SC Bishop Mark Lawrence has not "abandoned communion" was not exactly a ringing endorsement of his leadership, SC Episcopalians has determined. 

In his statement announcing the Board's decision last week, retired Bishop Dorsey Henderson stressed that the decision was made solely based on 63-pages of documents provided by communicants of the Diocese.  Without the benefit of further investigation and documents withheld by the Diocese, a majority of the Board members felt they did not have enough to go on to certify "abandonment".

"Based on the information before it, the Board was unable to make the conclusions essential to a certification that Bishop Lawrence had abandoned the communion of the Church," Henderson said. 

Two years ago, the Diocese reacted vociferously when a lawyer for the Episcopal Church's asked for Standing Committee minutes and other documents related the status of properties owned by certain parishes.  A few months ago, an attorney for the Board similarly requested standing committee minutes, and was attacked by right-bloggers and others supportive of Bishop Lawrence.  She eventually was forced to resign her position.

The Church's Disciplinary canon does not prohibit the DBB from revisiting any of the original complaints should additional material surface in the future.  However, the Board does not have investigatory authority and it can not force the Diocese to cooperate.

The Church's disciplinary process also doesn't prohibit the consideration of new allegations, particularly those that might be associated with Lawrence's recent showering of parishes with legal documents relinquishing the Diocese's trust interest in their property.  The DBB's recently concluded review did not include that issue. 
Reaction to the DBB decision in other dioceses


November 29, 2011
Disciplinary Board: Evidence Against Lawrence is Insufficient


Members wanted more documentation of Bishop's support of rebellious actions; Recent action relinquishing Diocese's interests in parish property was not included in complaints reviewed

Recent complaints against SC Bishop Mark Lawrence do not rise to the level of "abandonment of communion" with the Episcopal Church, according to its Disciplinary Board for Bishops (DBB).   The astonishing finding, announced today by the Board's President Bishop Dorsey Henderson, left many in and out of the Diocese scratching their heads, as to its implications.

Among the complaints against Bishop Lawrence was his refusal to acknowledge the authority of the Episcopal Church, including its Constitution and Canons, and his open support for rebellious parishes leaving the Church with their properties.  

According to a statement issued by Henderson, none of these actions rises to the level of "abandonment" nor apparently is a barrier to Lawrence's serving as a bishop in good standing in the Church.
  After Henderson's announcement, Bishop Lawrence took the occasion to remind the Diocese that he considered the Board to be illegally constituted and therefore had no real interest in whether it found his actions to be abandonment or not.

According to the Church’s newly revised disciplinary canon, “abandonment” means that a bishop has renounced its "doctrine, discipline, and worship” either by open expression, or by the performance of episcopal acts and/or unauthorized participation in religious entities not in communion with the Episcopal Church
. 

Unnamed communicants in the Diocese complained to the Board last summer that Lawrence’s actions were tantamount to “abandonment”.

However, a majority of those on the Disciplinary Board apparently were not willing to go that far.  The case against Lawrence is the first time the newly revised canon has been tested. 

Unfortunately, the Board failed to provide any insight as to its reasons for rejecting any of the twelve concerns cited in the complaint from the communicants. 

Such an omission seems to be a green light to Lawrence and his supporters to move forward with his plans.  About a dozen parishes have indicated over the past two years that they might want to leave the Episcopal Church in the same way as St. Andrew's in Mount Pleasant did.  

Read excellent Episcopal News Service report on Disciplinary Committee's decision

Lawrence anticipated the Board would charge him
.
  For nearly a year, Lawrence has predicted that the Church, and the Presiding Bishop, in particular, would use the revised canon to give him the boot.
  The Bishop and his supporters repeatedly suggested the revisions were designed to go after him. 

It is not clear that Lawrence ever responded directly to the DBB about the complaints against him.  He only defended himself briefly in a closed meeting with clergy, and then through surrogates who attacked the integrity and faith of the Presiding Bishop.  There is no evidence that she had any involvement either with the complaints against him or the DBB's deliberations.

Henderson takes Lawrence at his word.  Bishop Henderson's statement hinted that Bishop Lawrence's integrity and willingness to keep his word was a critical part of the DBB's discussions.  He personally expressed his expectation that those in the Diocese who disagree with Lawrence would not be marginalized: 

"It is ... significant that Bishop Lawrence has repeatedly stated that he does not intend to lead the diocese out of The Episcopal Church—that he only seeks a safe place within the Church to live the Christian faith as that diocese perceives it.  I speak for myself only at this point, that I presently take the Bishop at his word, and hope that the safety he seeks for the apparent majority in his diocese within the larger Church will become the model for safety—a “safe place”—for those under his Episcopal care who do not agree with the actions of South Carolina’s convention and/or his position on some of the issues of the Church."

What about the Quitclaim deed business?  The DBB apparently did not consider Lawrence's recent mass relinquishing of all Diocesan interests in parish properties.  The unprecedented move, revealed only a few days before the DBB made its decision, makes it easier for individual parishes to leave the Episcopal Church.  Bishop Henderson's full statement 

Episcopal News Service on complaints against Bishop Lawrence




November 21, 2011

Ga. Supreme Court Rejects Pawleys Island Decision, 6-1; Shoots Down Ugandans' Claim to Savannah's Christ Church

Read ENS Report


November 21, 2011

"SC Diocese Releases Property Claim"
The Post & Courier, Charleston SC
by Adam Parker  full story

November 20, 2011

Lawrence Allies Scramble to Record Deeds;  Prudent Parishes Wary of Implications


Prudent vestries should review full implications of quitclaim deeds before accepting them

"For God will bring every deed into judgment, even those done in secret …”
 
 
Ecclesiastes

CHARLESTON -- Several parishes aligned with Bishop Mark Lawrence scrambled to record quitclaim deeds they received from the Diocese last week, even as questions swirled about their legality and the impact they could have on parishes who accept them.  

Once the deeds are accepted by the parish or recorded publicly, they can’t be taken back.


Among those reportedly going forward last week were St. James Episcopal Church on James Island, Christ Episcopal Church in Mount Pleasant, The Church of the Good Shepherd and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Ashley, The Cathedral of St. Luke & St. Paul, St. John’s Episcopal Church on Johns Island, St. Helena's in Beaufort, Trinity Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach, The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Surfside Beach, and the Church of the Cross in Bluffton
.

While
SC Episcopalians is not a source of legal advice, we are hearing that more prudent vestries are planning to inform the Diocese that they are not accepting the quitclaim deed... until their lawyers, bankers, and insurance brokers have had a chance to assess its implications. 

Every parish is different, and apparently every quitclaim deed issued by the Diocese is not the same.  One size does not fit all. 

The deeds, mailed out to the parishes last week, would relinquish any claim the Diocese might have on parish property should they be found to be valid.  They could be seen by a parish as removing a potential obstacle to leaving the Episcopal Church, or they could lead to expensive and protracted litigation.
 


November 18, 2011

Lawrence Quietly Initiated Plan to Give Away Diocesan Property Claims Two Years Ago


2010 Deal with Bluffton parish was kept under wraps until Wednesday
;  Attacks on the Episcopal Church and Presiding Bishop were a smokescreen

BLUFFTON -- All the while claiming he was being loyal the Episcopal Church, SC Bishop Mark Lawrence was facilitating a possible departure from the Episcopal Church by a large parish in Bluffton nearly two years ago.

Apparently Lawrence and Standing Committee Chairman Jeffrey Miller quietly executed a "quitclaim deed" in February 2010, relinquishing the Diocese's legal interest in property belonging to the Church of the Cross.
 
The deed wasn't recorded until Wednesday of this week.

Public disclosure of the deed's existence would have tipped off the rest of the Diocese and the Episcopal Church to Lawrence's plan to issue similar deeds to every parish in the Diocese this week
.  The Diocese's interest in the Bluffton property could be worth several million dollars.

During the same period the deed was being executed, Lawrence was publicly indignant over protests by traditional Episcopalians in the Diocese, who claimed he had violated his  consecration oath to remain loyal to the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.
 

Also at that same time, Bishop Lawrence and the Rev. Mr. Miller were actually denouncing Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori because the Episcopal Church was asking to see minutes of Standing Committee meetings and other legal documents that would have exposed their dealings with the Bluffton parish and others.


SC Episcopalians
has been unable to find any evidence that the Bishop or the Standing Committee ever disclosed his generous gift to the Bluffton parish at either Diocesan convention held since that time. 


November 18, 2011

Anti-Episcopal Church Group Releases Letter It Claims is from SC Chancellor
  

The American Anglican Council, one of several factions attacking the Episcopal Church, released a letter it claims has been sent to parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina from its Chancellor explaining Bishop Lawrence's recent actions relinquishing Diocesan interest in parish property. 

If the letter is authentic, it is the first communication Bishop Lawrence has attempted with lay people in the matter.  The group claims it went to every parish.
  Read it here 


November 16, 2011
Diocese of SC Relinquishes Claim to Parishes' Properties


Attacks on the Episcopal Church and Presiding Bishop have largely been a smokescreen;  Bishop's latest move might make it easier for parishes to leave the Episcopal Church

SEABROOK ISLAND -- Relying on a questionable and untested state Supreme Court ruling, Bishop Mark Lawrence announced Tuesday night that he is providing every parish in the Diocese a legal deed, permanently relinquishing any interest the Diocese may hold in its parish property. 

This action could remove a potential stumbling block to parishes wanting to leave the Episcopal Church with their church property.  It could also create chaos in the Diocese and among parishes, since the legality of the deeds may be in question. 

The secret scheme has been in the works for at least two years, while Lawrence and others created public distractions with attacks on the Episcopal Church and the Presiding Bishop.

Lawrence's most recent outrage will almost certainly
force the hand of Episcopal Church leaders, who have largely ignored his erratic, anti-Church behavior since becoming bishop in early 2008.

In the past Lawrence has insisted that the Diocese of South Carolina is “sovereign,” and argued that the wider Episcopal Church has no legal interest in parish property in the Diocese.  

In the view of anti-Church secessionists, the way is now clear for parishes to leave the Episcopal Church in much the same way as St. Andrew's in Mount Pleasant did last year with Lawrence's apparent blessing.

Lawrence announced this latest provocation at a three-day clergy conference at the Diocese's conference center on Seabrook Island.   As is his style, Lawrence’s carefully-scripted presentation was delivered in a closed-door setting surrounded by clergy and others who are least likely to challenge him.  

The mood at the conference was "militant", according to one participant.  Many clergy described themselves as being “at war" with the Episcopal Church, which they see as "the enemy." 

Other more level-headed participants said they felt a great deal of pressure not to object to what was clearly an event orchestrated to create support for the Bishop's decision.  Most the more traditional parishes in the Diocese were not represented at the conference.

Lawrence's legal thinking appeared to be the work of a Beaufort attorney, not especially well-known for his expertise in Church law.  The Diocese's lawyer, Chancellor Wade Logan, was absent as he has been at other Diocesan events in which the attorney from Beaufort seemed to be in charge.

How important is this? 
It could be very important. 

In the Episcopal Church, all property is held in trust for the use of its parishes by the Church and the dioceses.  It can be a fuzzy arrangement, but it brings legal protections, better management and maintenance, enhanced borrowing capacity, and continuity from one generation to the next, among other things.


However, in the past, Lawrence has taken the position that the Episcopal Church does not have any interest in parish property in the Diocese, a position that directly contradicts dozens of state and Federal decisions on this question. The action the Bishop announced Tuesday evening means that he is renouncing any legal interest the Diocese might have in that property as well.

In short he is saying, that parishes own their own property and can do whatever they'd like with it, including taking it with them if they want to leave the Episcopal Church. 

In his way of thinking, the Episcopal Church has no say in what happens to the property.

What difference will this make?   Initially, parish life will continue as it always has, but an impact eventually could be felt when it comes to parishes borrowing money, securing insurance, inheriting property, recruiting clergy, providing pensions and employee benefits, and attracting new members.   


In addition, many parishes receive annual income to maintain their buildings from endowments left to them to further the work of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.  It is not clear if parishes could continue to use this money to maintain buildings in which the Diocese no longer has a legal interest.
 

Is this legal?  For the moment, the Bishop's position may be uniquely valid in South Carolina.  However, it is doubtful that it will withstand a legal challenge.

Here's why:  Three years ago, the state's Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of All Saints, Pawleys Island that seemed to suggest that the Episcopal Church -- and any other similarly structured church organization like the Presbyterians and Methodists -- does not have a legal interest in parish property held in trust by the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.  


All Saint's was trying to break away from the Episcopal Church and join the Anglican Province of Rwanda, which it eventually was allowed to do. 

Legal authorities and those familiar with the Court's thinking say that the ruling was specific to the unique nature of All Saint's case.  However, the Diocese of South Carolina, under Bishop Lawrence, disagrees.


Critical to the Court's ruling in the All Saints' case was a "quitclaim" deed  executed by the Diocese in 1903 relinquishing any legal interest it might have to All Saints' property. 

The existence of that deed tipped the Court's view of property ownership in favor of All Saints' over that of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese. 

Bishop Lawrence told the clergy Tuesday that he has quietly executed similar "quitclaim" deeds for each parish in the Diocese.

Unfortunately, Lawrence’s action almost guarantees protracted legal battles. 
The SC Court's ruling, under which Lawrence is acting, appears to have no authority beyond South Carolina.  However, to have it declared invalid will likely require a Court challenge and appeal. 

Last night's announcement will almost certainly accelerate an ongoing review of Lawrence's conduct by the Church's Disciplinary Board for Bishops.  That review was initiated by communicants in the Diocese who believe that the cumulative effect of Lawrence’s four turbulent years as our bishop amounts to a renunciation of his oath of loyalty to the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.  


Bishop Lawrence's supporters expect that the quitclaim deeds will make it easier for parishes in the Diocese to leave the Episcopal Church.  Many are hoping they will choose to affiliate with the anti-Episcopal Church organization known as "The Anglican Church of North America."  

ACNA operates under the leadership of Lawrence's mentor, deposed Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan and his "Vicar General" in the Carolinas, former Episcopal priest Steve Wood.
   ACNA is not affiliated with the Episcopal Church and not part of the Anglican Communion.


November 10, 2011

Diocese Still Stoking Fears of Episcopal Church Plot

Standing Committee Chair promotes imaginary threat in Myrtle Beach; Lawrence readies big announcement for clergy conference

MYRTLE BEACH - On Thursday the Chairman of the Diocese's Standing Committee continued to suggest that the Episcopal Church is planning a move against our bishop, clergy, and parishes even though there is no evidence supporting such a claim.

The Rev. Paul Fuener told clergy from the Myrtle Beach area that all vestries need to begin studying their options, while the Diocese arranges for clergy to meet with representatives of the Church Pension Fund to learn about the status of their retirement savings.
  Fuener said he believes the Episcopal Church has no choice but to go after the Diocese if it fails to repudiate all anti-Church resolutions passed at recent Diocesan conventions, especially those denying "accession" to the Church's Constitution and Canons.

In fact, no one in any position of authority in the Episcopal Church has ever suggested that such a course of action is contemplated.  A spokesman for the Church's Executive Council said in September that its Constitution automatically deems rebellious actions like those taken by these conventions to be "null and void" and require no response.

Bishop planning a big announcement Wednesday. During his remarks Fuener hinted that Bishop Lawrence would have an important announcement on Wednesday morning toward the end of a scheduled Diocesan clergy conference. 

Speculation is that the Bishop will say that he does not plan to contest charges that may or may not be made against him by the Church Disciplinary Board of Bishops.  The Board is investigating complaints by communicants in the Diocese that Lawrence's actions as a bishop appear to violate his commitment to uphold the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church."


Under this scenario, Bishop Lawrence would argue that the Episcopal Church's newly-modified disciplinary canon is "unconstitutional" and thus he will refuse to be judged by the procedures established under it
.

According to our information, Thursday's meeting was respectful and somber, except for a couple of anti-Church tirades by young right-wing clergy from Myrtle Beach. 

Fortunately, an increasing number of Diocesan clergy are resisting the hysteria being generated by the Diocese and right-wing bloggers, and realize that they are in no danger of being thrown out of the Episcopal Church, nor are their parishes in any jeopardy.



November 10, 2011

Myrtle Beach Rector Jumps Ship for ACNA

MYRTLE BEACH - The Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach announced this week that he will join the controversial "Anglican Church of North America" in January as a church planter and theologian under the direction of former Episcopal priest, Steve Wood.   

On Friday Bishop Lawrence expressed his sadness at losing The Reverend Rob Sturdy but said his move was "an exciting opportunity".
  Sturdy is one of the youngest rectors in the Diocese, and among the more outspoken right-wing critics of traditional Episcopalians.

ACNA is neither part of the Episcopal Church nor the Anglican Communion. 
It is not clear by what authority Lawrence is allowing Sturdy to continue to serve as a rector in the Diocese since he has, in effect, renounced the ordination vows he took less than four years ago.


In 2008 Sturdy became rector of Trinity in his mid-twenties just after his ordination, only slightly more than a year earlier. 
His surprising promotion was encouraged by former Bishop Edward Salmon, and was controversial because he lacked experience and, in the view of some, the maturity to lead such a large congregation .  He had served briefly as parish's Curate even though he was just a deacon right out of seminary. 

A number of traditional Episcopalians left the parish shortly thereafter.  According to Sturdy, they were not comfortable with his focus on the Gospel and the Bible. 

Sturdy will work under the direction of Mr. Wood at St. Andrew's in Mount Pleasant.  Bishop Lawrence allowed the parish to leave the Episcopal Church last year and join the ACNA operation.  The full financial arrangement between the Diocese and the parish over property were never made public.

In 2008 Mr. Wood told his congregation that the Presiding Bishop is the Anti-Christ, and he considers the Episcopal Church to be a "whore."  He holds the title of "Vicar General" in the ACN
A
organization and oversees its presence in the Carolinas.    Read more of this story


All Saint's was trying to break away from the Episcopal Church and join the Anglican Province of Rwanda, which it eventually was allowed to do. 

Legal authorities and those familiar with the Court's thinking say that the ruling was specific to the unique nature of All Saint's case.  However, the Diocese of South Carolina, under Bishop Lawrence, disagrees.


Critical to the Court's ruling in the All Saints' case was a
"quitclaim" deed  executed by the Diocese in 1903 relinquishing any legal interest it might have to All Saints' property. 

The existence of that deed tipped the Court's view of property ownership in favor of All Saints' over that of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese. 

Bishop Lawrence told the clergy Tuesday that he has quietly executed similar "quitclaim" deeds for each parish in the Diocese.

Unfortunately, Lawrence’s action almost guarantees protracted legal battles. 
The SC Court's ruling, under which Lawrence is acting, appears to have no authority beyond South Carolina.  However, to have it declared invalid will likely require a Court challenge and appeal. 

Last night's announcement will almost certainly accelerate an ongoing review of Lawrence's conduct by the Church's Disciplinary Board for Bishops.  That review was initiated by communicants in the Diocese who believe that the cumulative effect of Lawrence’s four turbulent years as our bishop amounts to a renunciation of his oath of loyalty to the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.  


Bishop Lawrence's supporters expect that the quitclaim deeds will make it easier for parishes in the Diocese to leave the Episcopal Church.  Many are hoping they will choose to affiliate with the anti-Episcopal Church organization known as "The Anglican Church of North America."  

ACNA operates under the leadership of Lawrence's mentor, deposed Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan and his "Vicar General" in the Carolinas, former Episcopal priest Steve Wood.
   ACNA is not affiliated with the Episcopal Church and not part of the Anglican Communion.


October 18, 2011
Deposed Bishop Duncan, "Anglican Diocese" Lose in Court Again
Breakaway Parishes must Negotiate with Continuing Diocese for use of Parish Property

PITTSBURGH -- Deposed Bishop Robert Duncan admitted defeat today as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in essence refused to allow parishes in the Diocese of Pittsburgh seeking to join Duncan’s ad-hoc "Anglican Diocese" to walk off with parish properties.  

Instead, they will have to negotiate with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, if they want to continue to use them.   The decision today, which conforms to others in breakaway dioceses, effectively ends a struggle for the property.   Duncan issued a statement accepting the ruling.  Read Duncan's statement



September 28, 2011
SC Diocese Rejects Church's View that its Actions are "Null and Void"


Diocese sticks to dubious claim that its rejection of "accession" to the National Church's Constitution is legal

The Diocese of South Carolina reasserted today that its Constitution is not subject to that of the Episcopal Church because of its status as a founding diocese of the Church. 

In a letter to the Secretary of the Church's Executive Council, Bishop Lawrence and Standing Committee Chairman Paul Fuener disputed a determination this summer by the Council's Joint Standing Committee on Governance and Administration that the Diocese's recent actions, removing accession to the Church's Constitution, are "null and void."  (See article below)
.

The back-and-forth between the Diocese and Church officials was generated by an inquiry last spring from Charleston Attorney Melinda Lucka and other SC Episcopalians, questioning the legitimacy of the Diocese's actions
.

Click here to see the Diocese's entire response.


September 21, 2011
Episcopal Church tells Diocese that Recent Changes to its Constitution are Meaningless


Removal of Access Clause is "null and void"

An official of the Episcopal Church informed Bishop Mark Lawrence this month that recent changes made to the Constitution of the Diocese of South Carolina are “null and void” in the eyes of the Episcopal Church. 

Last February delegates to the 2011 Diocesan Convention gave final approval to amendments to the Diocese’s governing document eliminating “accession” to the Episcopal Church's Constitution.  

Accession means that a Diocese agrees that the national Church’s Constitution supersedes that of the Diocese when they are in conflict.  The actions of the Convention, approved and supported by the Bishop and Standing Committee, would have reversed that relationship.


According to the Secretary of the Church’s Executive Council, members of its Joint Standing Committee on Governance and Administration determined over the summer that the actions of the Diocesan Convention are sufficiently similar to those taken by rebellious Dioceses of Quincy, San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Fort Worth in previous years as to be covered by the same 2007 Executive Council Resolution (NAC023) that declared them meaningless.

The Resolution specifically states that “any diocesan amendment that purports in any way to limit or lessen an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church are null and void, as if such amendments had not been passed.” 


It goes further to say that this determination is applicable, not just to those four dioceses, but any other dioceses that take “steps or have adopted amendments that purport in any way to limit or lessen unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church”.


In short, once a diocese commits to join the Episcopal Church, it has no authority to leave.  Individual clergy and lay people can leave, but a diocese as a corporate entity can’t.


Bishop Lawrence, who claims the Diocese of South Carolina is “sovereign”, has argued that the Diocese wasn’t “intending” to leave the Church, even though he and the Standing Committee were fully aware that accession to the Church’s Constitution is essential to membership.


The underlying issue here is the ownership of Episcopal Church property in the Diocese, specifically the property of parishes that might want to leave the Episcopal Church.  The Bishop and the Standing Committee of the Diocese argue that they alone have the authority to decide what happens to it.


(These controversial amendments are probably also meaningless since the Diocese appears to have violated its own Constitution and Canons to re-convene the 2010 Diocesan Convention to adopt them.
  Read more)


March 17, 2011
Texas Secessionists Out of Options as Another Court backs the Episcopal Church

Legal victories for the Episcopal Church add up, as the position of Diocese of SC becomes increasingly untenable


The Texas Court of Appeals in Austin has sustained a lower court order awarding the property belonging to an Episcopal Church in San Angelo to the Diocese and the continuing vestry and parishioners.   The Court rejected the claims of secessionist members of the congregation.

Although there may yet be an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, this is a big win for the Diocese of NW Texas.  It bolsters the legal theory that Episcopal Church property belongs to the Episcopal Church and those duly constituted dioceses governed by its Constitution and Canons.

The opinion also approves the trial court's application of "Neutral Principals of Law" by including the canons of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese among the governing documents applicable to property ownership
Read the opinion
 


November 4, 2011
Church Membership Report Inspires Cheers & Worries in
the Diocese of SC

Growth from 2000 to 2007 led all dioceses; Decline after 2007 led all dioceses  as Sunday attendance dropped as well

Important new statistics on Episcopal Church membership and attendance from 2000 to 2010 provide news for the Diocese of South Carolina that is both encouraging and worrisome.

The best news is that the number of our baptized members grew by 9.5% between 2000 and 2010, making us one of only three dioceses to experience positive growth during the past decade.  North Carolina was second behind us at 4.6%. 

That means that as of 2010, there were 29,196 baptized Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina, compared to 26,661 in 2000.  During that same period, membership in the Episcopal Church declined by more than 16%.  As of 2010, there were 2.1 million Episcopalians in the world, compared to 2.4 million in 2000, a troubling decline that is comparable to that experienced by other mainline denominations.

However, an ominous concern for the Diocese of South Carolina is that it has been losing members since a high point in 2007.  In fact, from 2009 to 2010, the Diocese of South Carolina lost seven percent of its membership, making it the leader among dioceses in declining membership.

One more curious bit of information ... While there may be more of us in the Diocese since 2000, we are not going to church as often.  Over the past ten years, our average Sunday attendance (ASA) dropped five percent in spite of our substantial growth in membership.   From 2009-10, ASA in the Diocese declined by nearly 14%. 
Read entire report



November 4, 2011

Bishop will not Confirm New Members of St. Mark's Chapel

Bishop reportedly cites "canonical, pastoral, & political dimensions
"

PORT ROYAL -- Bishop Lawrence abruptly canceled a scheduled Confirmation at St. Mark's Chapel near Beaufort this Sunday.  SC Episcopalians has no idea why this has happened.
  Learn about St. Mark's

St. Mark's is a group of former parishioners from St. Helena’s Episcopal Church in Beaufort who have attempted to establish a traditional Episcopal Church congregation in Port Royal near Beaufort.  Critics of Bishop Lawrence have complained that he will not recognize them because of their loyalty to the Episcopal Church.

The Bishop's surprising decision was relayed to members of St. Mark's by way of an electronic communication from their clergy Friday.  This is the relevant text from their message.

"Dear members and friends of St. Mark's Chapel,
 
"For reasons that go beyond the capabilities of email and to make a long story short, Confirmation of St. Mark's' confirmands is being postponed. 

The Bishop will be with us for the 4 pm service which will include an opportunity for us to 'reaffirm our baptismal vows,' but no confirmations will take
place.   He says that there are canonical, pastoral and political dimensions to his decision and that we need to respect his thoughts on the subject. We look forward to seeing you at St. Mark's on Sunday.

"Please keep our confirmands in your prayers... May God bless us all!  Thanks be to God.  -- Jack Nietert and Scott Shafferormer"


October 18, 2011
Deposed Bishop Duncan, "Anglican Diocese" Lose in Court Again
Breakaway Parishes must Negotiate with Continuing Diocese for use of Parish Property

PITTSBURGH -- Deposed Bishop Robert Duncan admitted defeat today as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in essence refused to allow parishes in the Diocese of Pittsburgh seeking to join Duncan’s ad-hoc "Anglican Diocese" to walk off with parish properties.  

Instead, they will have to negotiate with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, if they want to continue to use them.   The decision today, which conforms to others in breakaway dioceses, effectively ends a struggle for the property.   Duncan issued a statement accepting the ruling.  Read Duncan's statement



October 15, 2011

Diocese's Tactics Backfiring?

Most parishes still supporting Bishop Lawrence, but not planning on leaving the Church


This week's hyperbolic response by the Diocese of South Carolina to a request for Standing Committee minutes by a Church lawyer may be a sign of the jitters among Diocesan leaders about a pending review of Bishop Mark Lawrence’s leadership.

While most clergy and lay people in the Diocese appear to support Bishop Lawrence, many are cautioning that there are limits to their support for the Bishop's ongoing "war" with Episcopal Church leaders.  Bishop Lawrence's decision to make his case in the news media rather than responding to the Church's Disciplinary Board for Bishops does not appear to be winning him many converts either.

  
During the summer, several communicants of the Diocese submitted 63 pages of public records detailing Lawrence’s more controversial actions as Bishop to the Church’s Disciplinary Board and suggested they contain evidence of “abandonment of communion.” 

Abandonment is a serious charge that could lead to a Bishop or priest being deposed. 


Josephine Hicks, a Church attorney assisting the 18-member Board contacted the Diocese this week, requesting the minutes to assess the accuracy of the materials.  In response, Diocesan leaders publicly challenged her authority, anti-Church bloggers attacked her character and motives, and others reportedly put pressure on her law firm.  (Over the weekend Bishop Henderson announced that Ms. Hicks had withdrawn from matter because of conflicts in her law practice.)
   Bishop Henderson's letter regarding Ms. Hicks

The commotion is similar to that created less than two years ago when the Diocese's former Chancellor was retained by the Episcopal Church and made a similar requests for documents.  At that time, Lawrence famously described the request as an “incursion” by Church leaders into the “sovereign” Diocese of South Carolina and refused to hand over anything.


However, there may be a lot more than symbolic protest involved in the Diocese's refusal to allow the Disciplinary Board to see the minutes. 


SC Episcopalians
believes they will portray a Standing Committee acting largely as a rubber stamp for Lawrence and his advisers by approving schemes to provoke Church leaders and further alienate the Diocese from the Episcopal Church.  They are also likely to give insight into the peculiar ease with which St. Andrew’s in Mount Pleasant was allowed leave the Episcopal Church last year with most of its property.

The minutes would also answer questions about Lawrence loyalists on the Standing Committee who reportedly served nearly nine months beyond the expiration of their terms in 2010.  They also would contain recorded votes of clergy members on key actions that could be considered violations of their ordination oaths of loyalty to the "doctrine, discipline, and worship" of the Episcopal Church.

Meanwhile, over the past two days, SC Episcopalians has heard randomly from parishes around the Diocese, suggesting that they will continue to support the Bishop at this point, but that support does not necessarily include leaving the Episcopal Church. 

Courts throughout the country are continuing to side with the Episcopal Church in cases where parishioners have tried to the leave the Church with their property.  Clergy as well have their own issues to address, should they leave the Episcopal Church for one that may not have the same employment opportunities or benefits.



October 13, 2011

Bishop Henderson Cools Diocese's Media Blitz


The former Bishop of Upper South Carolina and current chairman of the Disciplinary Board reviewing complaints against Bishop Mark Lawrence sounded a calming tone Tuesday after spokesmen for the Diocese launched a frenzied blitz of the news media.

In brief written statement, retired Bishop Dorsey Henderson outlined his Board's review process as prescribed by the Church's Constitution, and stressed that none of its members had formed any opinions about the complaints against Bishop Lawrence.  He also said that Lawrence was welcome to respond to the complaints as extensively as he would like.

Henderson's statement read:  "The Disciplinary Board is only in the earliest stages of its work and has not reached any decision regarding the credibility of the information received or whether the actions and conduct reported actually constitute abandonment.  It has made no 'charges' of any kind; neither has any other part or structure of The Episcopal Church.

"The Disciplinary Board will, by the grace of God and with diligence, proceed methodically, carefully, prayerfully—and confidentially—to meet its canonical responsibility, including a request for, and consideration of, any and all input that Bishop Lawrence wishes to be considered. 

"The President of the Disciplinary Board has provided Bishop Lawrence with all of the information it has received and is under consideration, and will continue to do so."

Henderson issued his statement after the Diocese's spin machine went into overdrive accusing the Church of plotting to depose Lawrence and "attack" the diocese and its parishes.  Click here for Bishop Henderson's comments.


October 12, 2011
Lawrence's Defense Does Little to Inspire Worried Clergy
 


Diocesan Leadership seemed "detached and delusional" at closed-door meeting of clergy;  Diocese uses meeting to launch frenzied media blitz

JAMES ISLAND -- Mark Lawrence headed to the site of his election as Bishop of South Carolina more than four years ago to defend himself against complaints that he has failed to adhere to his consecration oath to conform to the “doctrine, discipline, and, worship of the Episcopal Church.”

In a three-hour, private meeting with Diocesan clergy on Tuesday, Bishop Lawrence sometimes angrily responded to each of twelve complaints about his leadership currently under review by a disciplinary board of fellow bishops, clergy, and lay people from throughout the Church.

The Bishop told the gathering that he was staying with the Episcopal Church “for now,” but could not “tell what the future would bring,” according to a participant
in the audience. The gathering was held at St. James' Episcopal Church on James Island.

Most of the meeting was reportedly a rambling monologue by the Bishop, followed by a carefully-orchestrated series of speakers determined to put an hysterical spin on the inquiry.

Beaufort Lawyer Alan Runyan followed Lawrence, suggesting, without any evidence, that the Church was proceeding on a "fast track" to depose Lawrence as a prelude to "attacks" on the diocese and its parishes. According to the Diocese's news release, the "picture painted was an ugly one of expensive litigation, confrontation and acrimony in which all involved significantly lost."

The Reverend Jeffrey Miller, past president of the Standing Committee stated during the gathering, “The question is not whether we can stay; it is whether they will let us stay and follow what we believe.”


In fact, there is nothing to suggest that the Episcopal Church will not allow churchmen like Bishop Lawrence and Mr. Miller to remain Episcopalians and follow what they believe.  None of the complaints being considered by the disciplinary board have anything to do with Lawrence's beliefs or those of Mr. Miller. 

Some who were present described at Tuesday's meeting described the overall content of the presentations Tuesday as "paranoid" and "delusional". 

They also observed that the Bishop's comments "were not remotely pastoral", and seemed devoid of concern for the impact of his actions on younger clergy or the parishes.  Bishop Lawrence is fully vested in the Church's retirement fund, and likely would have little trouble finding employment, if he wanted to continue working.


Former SC Bishop Fitz Allison spoke toward the end of the meeting to rally the spirits of group. According to one clergyman who had sat through the session, "It was definitely needed."


Since Lawrence's consecration, the Presiding Bishop and other bishops have tried to reach out to Lawrence and the Diocese repeatedly, even as their rhetoric and hostility toward the Church became more pronounced. 

In 2008, former SC Bishop Ed Salmon told the House of Bishops that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori "bent over backwards" to help Lawrence when his election as Bishop of South Carolina was in trouble. 

However, the Diocese took little note of her support.

Shortly after her installation, the Presiding Bishop made a three-day trip to the Diocese expressly to listen to the concerns of Lawrence and the clergy. 

On that visit, she was famously treated with disrespect, including being publicly labeled "The Anti-Christ" by the rector of one of her host parishes.  The same rector later referred to the Episcopal Church as a "whore".

Not only did the Bishop make no apparent effort to discipline the rector in question, but he later provided what he calls "a generous pastoral response" in facilitating the departure of the rector, his parish, and most of its property from the Episcopal Church.

Since that visit, the rantings of the Diocese have largely been ignored over the years, even though Diocesan leaders claimed the Church leaders were at "war" with them.

However, over the past two years, the Bishop and Standing Committee continued to bait Church leaders in ways that can not be ignored. 

Over the past year, they urged successive Diocesan conventions to rewrite the Diocese's governing documents in ways that would place conditions on the Diocese's "accession" to the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons.  A diocese can not place "qualifications" on accession and remain a member of the Episcopal Church.


The Diocesan Constitution was successfully amended in February by the 2011 Diocesan Convention and that was significant enough to trigger complaints from within the Diocese that include eleven other instances where the Bishop's conduct may have violated his oath of loyalty to the Church.


Read the Diocese's version of this story by clicking here.

 


October 5, 2011

The Episcopal Church Reviewing Complaints about SC Bishop's Leadership


Do Bishop Lawrence's acts of rebellion constitute "abandonment of Communion"?

Inquiry generated by complaints from within the Diocese, Bishop Lawrence calls for a closed-door meeting to rally the clerg
y


A disciplinary committee of bishops has begun a formal inquiry into the rocky leadership of SC Bishop Mark Lawrence, including his engineering a revision of that part of the Diocese's Constitution essential for membership in the Episcopal Church. 

The review could lead to formal charges against the Bishop, if there is sufficient evidence to show that his actions are a violation his consecration oath and authority as a bishop in the Church
.


Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese's Standing Committee have repeatedly challenged the authority of the Episcopal Church over the past four years, but have largely been ignored in that their actions were meaningless. 

However, over the past year, the Bishop has encouraged the Standing Committee and delegates to successive Diocesan conventions to rewrite the Diocese's governing documents in ways that would place conditions on the Diocese's "accession" to the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons. 


That was achieved in February at the 2011 Diocesan Convention and was significant enough to trigger complaints from within the Diocese that include eleven other instances where the Bishop's conduct may have violated his oath of loyalty to the Church.


Bishop Lawrence was informed of the inquiry first in a phone call and then in a letter from The Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, former Bishop of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina and current President of the Episcopal Church’s 19-member Disciplinary Committee.

According to Henderson, communicants in the Diocese have complained about Lawrence's actions, and asked that they be reviewed to determine if they constituted “abandonment of communion."   He stressed that his Committee's inquiry was not initiated by Church leaders or the Presiding Bishop.

Every bishop and priest in the Episcopal Church takes an oath to “uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.” Abandonment occurs when a bishop or priest violates that oath.

Accession means that a Diocese agrees that the authority of its Constitution is superseded by that of the Episcopal Church when the two are in conflict.  Last February's Diocesan convention reversed that relationship, claiming that the Diocese has the final word. 

"Unqualified accession" is essential for a Diocese to belong to the Episcopal Church, in much the same way as states belong to the United States.  Lawrence claims that the "accession" requirement only applies to dioceses created after the Church was founded.  As a founding member of the Episcopal Church, he says that the Diocese of South Carolina is exempt.


Other issues related to abandonment include the Bishop’s ordination of his son as an Episcopal priest even though he had been ordained as a deacon in another denomination, his insistence that the Diocese is “sovereign”, and his insistence that the Episcopal Church has no legal claim to Episcopal Church property in the Diocese.


Click here to read the 63-page complaint.


Bishop Lawrence also received a separate letter from Church Attorney Josephine Hicks from Charlotte requesting copies of minutes from Standing Committee meetings and records of the ordination of the Bishop’s son. 

Click here to read Ms. Hicks' letter


Instead of simply providing the documents that might disprove the "abandonment" charge, the Bishop has called for a closed-door meeting of Diocesan clergy to rally them to his cause.  

Click here for specific complaints against Bishop Lawrence


September 28, 2011
SC Diocese Rejects Church's View that its Actions are "Null and Void"


Diocese sticks to dubious claim that its rejection of "accession" to the National Church's Constitution is legal

The Diocese of South Carolina reasserted today that its Constitution is not subject to that of the Episcopal Church because of its status as a founding diocese of the Church. 

In a letter to the Secretary of the Church's Executive Council, Bishop Lawrence and Standing Committee Chairman Paul Fuener disputed a determination this summer by the Council's Joint Standing Committee on Governance and Administration that the Diocese's recent actions, removing accession to the Church's Constitution, are "null and void."  (See article below)
.

The back-and-forth between the Diocese and Church officials was generated by an inquiry last spring from Charleston Attorney Melinda Lucka and other SC Episcopalians, questioning the legitimacy of the Diocese's actions
.

Click here to see the Diocese's entire response.


September 21, 2011
Episcopal Church tells Diocese that Recent Changes to its Constitution are Meaningless


Removal of Access Clause is "null and void"

An official of the Episcopal Church informed Bishop Mark Lawrence this month that recent changes made to the Constitution of the Diocese of South Carolina are “null and void” in the eyes of the Episcopal Church. 

Last February delegates to the 2011 Diocesan Convention gave final approval to amendments to the Diocese’s governing document eliminating “accession” to the Episcopal Church's Constitution.  

Accession means that a Diocese agrees that the national Church’s Constitution supersedes that of the Diocese when they are in conflict.  The actions of the Convention, approved and supported by the Bishop and Standing Committee, would have reversed that relationship.


According to the Secretary of the Church’s Executive Council, members of its Joint Standing Committee on Governance and Administration determined over the summer that the actions of the Diocesan Convention are sufficiently similar to those taken by rebellious Dioceses of Quincy, San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Fort Worth in previous years as to be covered by the same 2007 Executive Council Resolution (NAC023) that declared them meaningless.

The Resolution specifically states that “any diocesan amendment that purports in any way to limit or lessen an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church are null and void, as if such amendments had not been passed.” 


It goes further to say that this determination is applicable, not just to those four dioceses, but any other dioceses that take “steps or have adopted amendments that purport in any way to limit or lessen unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church”.


In short, once a diocese commits to join the Episcopal Church, it has no authority to leave.  Individual clergy and lay people can leave, but a diocese as a corporate entity can’t.


Bishop Lawrence, who claims the Diocese of South Carolina is “sovereign”, has argued that the Diocese wasn’t “intending” to leave the Church, even though he and the Standing Committee were fully aware that accession to the Church’s Constitution is essential to membership.


The underlying issue here is the ownership of Episcopal Church property in the Diocese, specifically the property of parishes that might want to leave the Episcopal Church.  The Bishop and the Standing Committee of the Diocese argue that they alone have the authority to decide what happens to it.


(These controversial amendments are probably also meaningless since the Diocese appears to have violated its own Constitution and Canons to re-convene the 2010 Diocesan Convention to adopt them.
  Read more)


September 19, 2011
ABC likely to Announce Early Retirement Next Year

Right-wing Anglicans want new ABC to replace the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion;  Early money is on the Archbishop of York and maybe the Bishop of London

Numerous news sources in London confirm that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is ready to call it quits next year.  Williams is widely considered scholarly, brilliant, and hugely inept in the face of right-wing attempts to split the worldwide Anglican Communion apart.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, is considered the likely choice to succeed Williams, who is reported to be considering a teaching position at Cambridge. 

Sentamu is a native of Uganda, considered slightly more conservative than Williams, and proven particularly adept at navigating the tricky politics of the Anglican Communion.
   The drawback to Sentamu is that he is older than Rowan Williams.

Click here to learn more about Archbishop Sentamu.


However, Sentamu is not universally popular, leading some to speculate that a dark horse candidate, like Richard Chartes, Bishop of London since 1995, might get the nod.  Chartes is a close friend of Prince Charles. (He also has white hair and a beard, so he may already looks the part.)

Right-wing Primates and their American allies are hoping that the appointment of a new, more conservative ABC would result in the expulsion of the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion. 

When Williams retires, the Prime Minister will propose two names to the Queen, and she will select one.  The British Monarch is actually the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.  In selecting ABCs in the past Queen Elizabeth generally has veered more toward the choice favored by the Prime Minister.   



March 23, 2011
House of Bishops Still Trying to Get Answers from Lawrence, SC Diocese


FLAT ROCK, NC -- This month the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops is scheduled to meet at Kanuga, where SC Bishop Mark Lawrence will most likely be asked again by his colleagues to explain what the heck the Diocese of South Carolina is doing.  SC Episcopalians has learned that many, if not most, bishops are exasperated with Lawrence, who they say has been evasive and vague about what the Diocese wants.

Last month the Diocesan Convention, at Lawrence’s instigation, voted to abolish its legal ties to the Episcopal Church.  Last fall Lawrence and another convention proclaimed themselves to be “sovereign,” whatever that means. 
 
Lawrence has burned bridges with a number of the most senior bishops who voted to consent to his election in 2007, after he promised them he would not try to lead the Diocese out of the Episcopal Church.   Several of them even pressured their Standing Committees to consent when some of their members doubted Lawrence's sincerity. 



March 17, 2011
Texas Secessionists Out of Options as Another Court backs the Episcopal Church

Legal victories for the Episcopal Church add up, as the position of Diocese of SC becomes increasingly untenable


The Texas Court of Appeals in Austin has sustained a lower court order awarding the property belonging to an Episcopal Church in San Angelo to the Diocese and the continuing vestry and parishioners.   The Court rejected the claims of secessionist members of the congregation.

Although there may yet be an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, this is a big win for the Diocese of NW Texas.  It bolsters the legal theory that Episcopal Church property belongs to the Episcopal Church and those duly constituted dioceses governed by its Constitution and Canons.

The opinion also approves the trial court's application of "Neutral Principals of Law" by including the canons of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese among the governing documents applicable to property ownership
Read the opinion


March 12, 2011
"Enthusiastic" Episcopalians
Celebrate Traditions and the Future of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina


NORTH CHARLESTON --Traditional Episcopalians rallied Saturday in North Charleston at an all-day conference that had the upbeat look and feel of Diocesan conventions of years ago.  Nearly 300 people attended the event that included an illustrious panel of speakers including Bonnie Anderson, the President of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies.

The Episcopal Forum of SC, organizer of the “Enthusiastically Episcopalian” conference, intentionally structured the event such that it did not appear to be a reaction to the recent annual convention of the Diocese at which delegates voted to sever legal ties with the Episcopal Church. 

The Forum sees its role as promoting the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. 
Barbara Mann, president of the Forum said that Saturday's event was an opportunity for SC Episcopalians to remain connected to the mainstream of life in the Church.

Indeed, participants on Saturday seemed to represent all parts of the Diocese. 
Many said that the trip to North Charleston was worth it if only to experience the traditional worship of the Episcopal Church, and hear encouraging news of the work of the Church around the world. 

The Rev. Canon Michael Wright, rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston, led the morning Eucharist that included a full choir and a congregation filled with more bishops, clergy, and lay leaders than have ever participated in such an event
Click here to visit Forum website


February 19, 2011

Diocesan Convention Finalizes Attempt to Secede from National Church,
as Enthusiasm for Bishop's Agenda Cools  (rev. March 4)

Lawrence says we're not leaving, but urges actions that dissolve our legal ties anyway


Deepening financial crisis shows support for the Diocese has eroded; Revenues from parishes declines 21% over two years

BEAUFORT -- The quixotic journey of the Diocese of South Carolina to distance itself from the Episcopal Church reached another dubious milestone Saturday as delegates to its 2011 Convention finalized their putative rejection of the national Church's Constitution and Canons.

The move puts into play the legal status of the Diocese's parishes and their claim to own Episcopal Church property without actually being Episcopalians. 
In order to belong to the Episcopal Church, accession to its governing instruments is essential in the same way as state laws are subject to those of the Federal government. 

The Convention's action's are also an invitation to the national Church to depose Lawrence and those clergy who support him.  All have taken a sacred oath to uphold  the  "doctrine, discipline, and worship" of the Episcopal Church, which they have now apparently repudiated.


Episcopal Church leaders are reluctant to throw anyone out, but the Diocese has left them few options.  Past attempts to mediate the situation have been met with a cold shoulder from the Bishop and Standing Committee.

On Saturday the equivalent of 44 parishes appeared to support the attempt to secede, while ten opposed it.
  There are 47 parishes and 26 missions in the Diocese (missions get a half-vote).  This means there are enough loyalist parishes and missions to allow the Diocese to be reorganized under new leadership if it comes to that.

With a straight face Saturday, Bishop Lawrence told the convention delegates that he hoped that the Diocese now “would be free from constitutional and canonical challenges from the ‘national’ leadership of the Episcopal Church … Only time will tell if we will be permitted to do our work unencumbered by intrusions.”

The statement struck some as ironic in that it been Bishop Lawrence who has generated the numerous constitutional and canonical challenges since he was consecrated.

Last year, for example, the Bishop and Standing Committee let national Church leaders know that they did not recognize the well-established legal interest of the Episcopal Church in property owned by Episcopal parishes within its borders.  With pretzel-like logic, they claimed that the Diocese is "sovereign" and that it had no intention of protecting a legal interest they feel does not exist.

When the Episcopal Church then retained Charleston attorney Tom Tisdale to gather information, Diocesan leaders went postal, denouncing the move as an "incursion" into their sovereign territory.  Tisdale is a former Chancellor of the Diocese, member of a distinguished Episcopal Church family, and son of a greatly beloved priest in the Diocese.  He is also a friend of the Bishop.


Delegates channel John C. Calhoun in rewriting Diocesan Constitution, while jeopardizing parishes' legal claim to property.


After Saturday's convention, the Diocese believes it is no longer obligated to follow any of the canons (laws) of the Episcopal Church and that it will abide by the Church's Constitution only in instances in which it does not conflict with the Constitution of the Diocese. 

In such cases, conflicts will be defined by Bishop Lawrence or the Standing Committee, and their interpretation of the Diocesan Constitution will be the final word. 

Essentially the newly revised Article I of the Diocesan Constitution says we will follow the Constitution of the Episcopal Church except when we don't want to.

"ARTICLE I.  The Church in the Diocese of South Carolina accedes to the Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. In the event that any provision of the Constitution of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America is inconsistent with, or contradictory to, the Constitution and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, the Constitution and Canons of this Diocese shall prevail.
"

In many ways, the Diocese is hanging its hat on John C. Calhoun's theory of nullification.  Unlike Calhoun, no one seems to be able to cite a single instance in which the two constitutions have been in conflict.

Unfortunately, beyond the chest-pounding by their clergy, there's a very sobering message for the lay people of the Diocese:  You may not own your parish property anymore.


Here's why:  Title I.7.4 of the Canons of the Episcopal Church reads...


"All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission, or Congregation is held in trust for this Church [i.e., the Episcopal Church in the United States] and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located.

"The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canon."

Yikes!  Rebellious former dioceses like San Joaquin, Quincy, and Fort Worth have already found out the hard way that state and Federal courts are not going to allow dissidents to just walk off with Church property. 

No one at Saturday's convention seemed to be able to explain why the Diocese of South Carolina thinks its fate will be any different.  In fact, many delegates to Saturday's convention were not entirely clear why Lawrence is even pursuing this course, though many said they felt they could not take a public stand against him.

Complicating the ability of lay people to understand the crisis is the Diocese's years of failing to provide them with balanced communications from the Episcopal Church. In the past the Presiding Bishop has expressed bafflement at how Diocesan leaders have twisted
her comments.   She has said that her words -- as reported to the laity by Diocesan leaders -- are often unrecognizable.


In his Convention address, Bishop Lawrence recognized the deepening financial crisis facing the Diocese and urged parishes to give more.  Aside from the shadowboxing, the most significant development at the Convention was recognition by the Bishop that annual revenues to the Diocese have been in a serious decline for years. 

    -- Diocesan spending in 2010 exceeded revenues by $172,510. 

    -- Diocesan revenue from parishes in 2010 declined by 21% from 2008 levels.

    -- 2011 revenue is expected to decline by $117,583 over 2010 revenue.


Conventions in recent years have largely ignored Diocesan finances, preferring instead the more godly call to political posturing.  Now it's taking a toll.


Clergy in traditional Episcopal parishes say their people don't want parish funds going to the Diocese to underwrite erratic attacks on the Episcopal Church. 

Secessionist parishes are not only failing to step up to the plate, but appear to be reducing their giving.   Many are facing declining revenues after losing loyalist members, who once could be counted on to anchor parish giving.  Newcomers, attracted to the more evangelical nature of these parishes, bring a lot of initial enthusiasm but no history of significant giving or family ties that might ensure financial stability. 

Least among their priorities is giving to a Diocese bent on engaging a well-financed adversary in an expensive and protracted legal battle.

Also, many of these parishes, in the final years of the episcopate of Edward Salmon, were pressured to take on sizable debt to finance new building projects in anticipation of a yet-to-materialize influx of new people moving to the state.  Keeping an unpredictable Diocese afloat while servicing that debt is a financial management philosophy that parishes are just not buying.

Complicating the revenue picture even further is the reality that anti-gay rhetoric that once fueled hostility toward the Presiding Bishop -- and giving to the Diocese -- does not generate the kind of juice it once did.  During Saturday's convention there were even comments about how the actions of the Diocese had hurt homosexuals.


Lawrence is also not as deft at pleasing (or strong-arming) multiple constituencies as his immediate predecessor, so there appear to be few repercussions for parishes that fail to adequately support the Diocese. 
 

Lawrence used his convention address Saturday to urge the parishes to return to the traditional 10-10-10 giving formula, pursued by his predecessor.  Under this formula, individuals are expected to pledge ten percent of their income to their parish which, in turn, pledges ten percent of its income to the Diocese. 

Ten percent of the Diocese’s income is then pledged to the Episcopal Church, which Lawrence has reinterpreted as the “larger Church” and
those parts of the worldwide Anglican Communion that share his political and cultural views. 

Of course, the Anglican Communion is neither a "church" nor does it have any authority over or within the Episcopal Church


The Anglican Communion is an association of 38 provinces that share a theological tradition and style of worship is descended from the Church of England.  "Membership" in the Communion is determined by the a receipt of an invitation from the Archbishop of Canterbury to an every-ten-years conference at his palace.  Interestingly though, most of the funding for the Communion's limited administrative operation comes from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Of all the Diocesan ministries and departments that have been painfully cut, the budget of the Department of Anglican Communion Development (formerly Department of World Missions), headed by The Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, has largely been protected
.

In spite of genuine affection for Bishop Lawrence, doubts are growing about his stewardship of the Diocese.  The mood at Saturday's convention appeared to many to lack the confidence of previous conventions.  It was the first time in years that the Bishop of the Diocese did not receive the customary standing ovation, even though there is probably more personal affection for him than his predecessors.

It certainly was not the convention of a Diocese that still believes itself to be the fastest growing in the Episcopal Church.  If anything, it's the traditional Episcopal parishes that are growing. 

The boasting and fist-pumping of earlier conventions has long since subsided along with the all-important interest of the news media.  If national Church leaders are paying attention, they are not showing it.

Lawrence's reserved leadership style leaves even his supporters guessing at where he is going next.  No one is really clear who is giving him advice.  While he insists that he is relying on the Diocese's Chancellor for legal direction, a relatively unknown Beaufort attorney with little apparent expertise in Church law seems to have an exceptional degree of influence on Diocesan decision-making.

Even Lawrence supporters agree that their congregations have become weary during eight years of barnyard-dog hostility toward the Episcopal Church.
  Noticeably absent from the Bishop's address Saturday was his routine warnings about how much sacrifice its going to be required in the future to continue his war against the Episcopal Church.


After eight years, many parishioners are not even sure what the fuss is about anymore, while others are confused by the zigzagging that has become a hallmark of the Diocese under Lawrence's tenure.

In October 2009, for instance, there was lots of towel-snapping at a Diocesan Convention that voted to withdraw from those entities of the Episcopal Church we consider "unrepentant" of their "un-Biblical" actions (meaning treating gay people the same as everyone else). 

After a day of media coverage and no response from the Episcopal Church, the Diocese did exactly nothing.  For instance ...

-- The last General Convention passed a resolution saying gay people were welcome in the Episcopal Church.  However, on Saturday the Diocese elected a full slate of delegates to attend the 2012 General Convention of the national Church... right after voting to secede from it!

-- The Church Pension Fund continues to provide "spouse" benefits for clergy in same-gender relationships, yet none of the clergy in our Diocese have withdrawn from it.  Interestingly, Bishop Lawrence is fully vested in it, and
is counting on it to provide him a substantial annual income in retirement.

There is some quiet grumbling by lay leaders who worry their congregations have neither the backbone nor resources for a legal fight over parish property, especially when similar efforts everywhere else are failing.  Last month the former secessionist bishop of Fort Worth and those parishes that supported him were shown the door by a Texas court that said they had no right to any of the Church property they claimed belong to them
.





January 24, 2011
Legal Case for Secessionists in Fort Worth Implodes


A Texas Judge has ruled that would-be secessionists in the Diocese of Fort Worth, who say they have realigned themselves with another Anglican province, have no claim to Episcopal Church property.  The ruling against former Bishop Jack Iker and his anti-Episcopal Church supporters is in line with decisions being reached in almost every similar case in the country.

The ruling against Iker, an ally of former SC Bishop Edward Salmon and Bishop Lawrence, does not directly affect the current peculiar efforts of the Diocese of South Carolina to distance itself from the National Church.

However, it is a further reminder that judges around the country are not buying the argument that there is a legal justification for a diocese to consider itself "sovereign."  Such a claim effectively denies that the Episcopal Church has any legal interest in Church property within the borders of the Diocese. 

Lawrence and his Standing Committee convinced delegates to a gathering of parish leaders last fall to approve a resolution making such a claim. 

SC Episcopalians continues to believe that the gathering, which the Diocese claims was a legitimate extension of its 2010 Diocesan Convention last April, was not authorized by its Constitution and Canons.  We further maintain that as many as one-third of the members of the Standing Committee at the time were serving illegally. 
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