South Carolina Episcopalians
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        2009 - 2010  Reports


 
Scroll down for earlier postings

October 15, 2010
"Reconvened" 2010 Convention Approves Changes Allowing Secession Try next Spring


Presiding Bishop "grieves" that Lawrence &  his supporters misinterpreted her "concern... as aggression"

Traditional Episcopalians Challenge Bishop's Authority to Call  a "Re-convention"


The re-convened 2010 Annual Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina, convinced that the leadership of the Episcopal Church is out to get its separatist Bishop, easily approved six controversial resolutions altering the Diocese's Constitution and Canons as a prelude to a potential departure from the national Church next spring.


Delegates left the convention unsure about exactly what they had done, but convinced that whatever they did was the right thing.  Some thought they'd voted to leave the national Church.  Others said they'd voted to leave the Church next February, while still others insisted they did nothing that would change the relationship of the Diocese to the Episcopal Church.

Most delegates accepted the claims of Diocesan leaders that the national Church is looking to depose Bishop Lawrence.  Many suggested that proposed revisions to Article IV of the national Church's Constitution are aimed at him, even though they have been in the works since long before he became a bishop.   


One delegate representing a traditional Episcopal parish described as "fantasy" Diocesan leaders' depiction of the attitude of national Church toward the Diocese.  Since 2003 the Diocese has been engaged in an imagined culture "war' with Church leaders, when a majority of dioceses & bishops consented to the election of a gay man as a bishop. 

Charleston attorney and delegate Rob Wendt said after the convention, "It's clear that these resolutions are an implicit intent to separate from the Episcopal Church, although the diocesan leadership all state that they have no such intention."  

Wendt is senior warden of Grace Episcopal  Church in Charleston.
  Traditional Episcopalians at the convention were in agreement with his characterization of the convention as taking all necessary steps to leave the national Church while saying that it wasn't.

Presiding Bishop responds.  

When she was informed of the convention's actions, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said
"I grieve these actions, but I especially grieve Bishop Lawrence's perception of my heartfelt concern for him and for the people of South Carolina as aggression. I don't seek to change his faithfully held positions on human sexuality, nor do I seek to control the inner workings of the diocese. I do seek to repair damaged relationships and ensure that this church is broad enough to include many different sorts and conditions of people. South Carolina and its bishop continue in my prayers."

Lawrence reported to the delegates that the Presiding Bishop had encouraged other bishops to talk with him, that he had spoken directly with her months ago, and that those conversations "did not bode well" for his continued episcopate.

SC Episcopalians has spoken with bishops and others close to the House of Bishops who report that bishops have been trying to determinate what he wants.  One source said that when Lawrence has spoken with fellow bishops about his intentions they say "he is evasive, vague, and resists giving direct answers." 

Delegates were unclear about legal implications of their actions. 

T
he most troubling part of the convention was the lack of understandable legal guidance on the consequences of approving the six resolutions.  Explanations of the resolutions provided the delegates were overly simplistic, often failing to convey the full import of legal problems down the road.

During the convention, Lawrence and other Diocesan leaders frequently referred to a recent ruling by the SC Supreme Court, explaining that these resolution were all about conforming to the ruling.  They did not mention that the SC ruling runs counter to a string of current Federal Court rulings, and likely will not withstand a future legal challenge.  In fact, the Supreme Court in Georgia only last spring rejected unanimously the reasoning of the SC Court.

One delegate asked if "they" would be able to take the diocesan camp and conference center on Seabrook Island when they left.
  Lawrence responded with an assurance that the national Church's legal claim to Diocesan property only extended to parishes and missions.

The Diocesan Chancellor Wade Logan was not in attendance, but in comments to SC Episcopalians after the convention Bishop Lawrence emphatically rejected rumors that he had lost confidence in him in favor of Alan Runyon, a Beaufort attorney who is legal counsel to the Standing Committee.  The Bishop dismissed such speculation as "sheer nonsense," professing full confidence in Mr. Logan, a well-respected attorney from Charleston
.  

Visitors, including the news media, were not allowed in the convention hall and were relegated to viewing the proceedings via closed circuit television.  Audio was so bad that no one could hear any of the roll call votes, or most speakers.  

Read story on Episcopal Cafe.



October 2010
Commentary: Four Reasons Why Bishop Lawrence's "Re-Convention" is Illegal
Ignoring its Constitution & Canons, Diocese seems determined to create a crisis where there isn't one.

Earlier this month Bishop Lawrence and the Standing Committee called for a re-convening of last March’s Annual Diocesan Convention on October 15th. However, neither of them appears to have any authority to do thisEven if they did, their proposed changes to the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese would be out of order.

As if this isn't confusing enough, it has recently come to light that several members of the Standing Committee have been serving and voting illegally since January with the blessing of the Bishop.

Read SC Episcopalians letter to Bishop Lawrence



September 25, 2010

Loyal S.C. Episcopalians Call for Investigation of 
the Diocese of South Carolina;  Bishop Lawrence Responds
 

Episcopal Forum charges renegade Bishop has violated his vows: Diocesan leadership presses on with plans for unauthorized convention to illegally consider secession

Loyal Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina this week pleaded with Church leaders to formally investigate current efforts of Bishop Mark Lawrence and his Standing Committee to effectively sever ties between the Diocese and the Episcopal Church. 

In a dramatic letter to the Church's Executive Council and House of Bishops, the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina claimed that Lawrence has abdicated his obligations as bishop in the Church by failing to act against parishes in rebellion and defend the diocese from those trying to walk away with its property. 

The organization claims Lawrence's goal is the “alienation and disassociation of the Diocese of South Carolina from the Episcopal Church."
 


Earlier this month Lawrence, who maintains the Diocese is “sovereign," asked delegates to last spring's Annual Convention to reconvene on October 15th and ratify six resolutions that effectively repeal a critical “accession” clause in the Diocesan Constitution required for membership in the Episcopal Church. 
Without such a clause, a diocese forfeits it right to own Episcopal Church property and leaves the status of its clergy as Episcopal priests in limbo.

Read the letter from the Episcopal Forum to Episcopal Church leaders

On Friday Lawrence issued a response to the Forum’s accusations.  

His comments were more evasive than specific, except that he made clear that he is putting all his marbles on a recent oddball ruling by the S.C. Supreme Court that seemed to deny the legal status of the Episcopal Church as “hierarchical.” Without such status, it is arguable that the national Church can not lay claim to the assets of a diocese of parishes that choose to leave the Church. 

Read Bishop Lawrence's response to allegations raised in the Forum's letter
 
The ruling, which runs counter to recent Federal rulings and precedents in nearly every other state, essentially says that the Diocese is much like a non-profit association whose member parishes are free to join or withdraw as they’d like. 

At some point the matter will be resolved by the Federal Courts, which are unlikely to sustain the reasoning of the state’s Supreme Court.  Just last spring  the Supreme Court in neighboring Georgia unanimously rejected the approach taken by the South Carolina Court.

The 2010 Diocesan Re-Convention is only the latest in a series of meaningless gestures by the Diocese. 

Leaders of the Diocese have spent years railing against the "unBiblical" leadership of the Episcopal Church, grandstanding for right-wing allies in the Anglican Communion and basking in media attention
. 

The proposed "re-convention" and the six resolutions proposed by the Standing Committee are the latest in a succession of reckless behaviors concocted by Lawrence to provoke a confrontation with the national Church
.  As with other Conventions, wavering clergy have been told their votes on the resolutions and those of their parishes are a test of loyalty to the Bishop. Failing the test will have consequences.

In those conventions delegates were seldom given anything anything but the Standing Committee's perspective on issues and often voted blindly following whatever instructions they were given.


Lawrence's pretext for this current outburst is a revision of an Article in the Episcopal Church's Constitution regarding the disciplining of bishops and clergy.  Each diocese has been asked to approve it, and most have without much  comment. 

While the Diocese offered no objection when it was considered at last year's General Convention, it now claims the revised language is now an attack targeted at our leadership.  The six resolutions, according to Lawrence and the Standing Committee, will offer us some kind of "protection" against some lurking evil.

The is a standard approach taken by Lawrence and the Standing Committee when they want Diocesan conventions to walk the plank with them  It is usually accompanied with a not so subtle they're-out-to-get-us kicker.

Last year, for example, the national church retained a S.C. attorney to monitor the behavior of the Diocese, when Diocesan leaders refused to keep the  Church informed of secret negotiations to give away Church property to a rebellious parish.  When he found out, Bishop Lawrence went postal, claiming the action was some sort of an "incursion" into the "sovereign authority" of the Diocese, whatever that is.  

Title IV:  Learn more about the pretext that Lawrence is using

The proposed resolutions have set off a firestorm in local parishes who were not warned in advance that Lawrence would try to pull out of the Episcopal Church in a matter of a few weeks.  Many have not had time to consider implications, including the effect on the title to their property and the status of their clergy as Episcopal priests. 


There are also many unanswered questions about the legitimacy of the Diocese calling such a "re-convention", and whether it can even consider changes to the Diocesan Constitution.  Similarly, it is not clear that people on the Standing Committee who produced the resolutions even have any authority to be voting since their terms expired last March.

What will the Episcopal Church do? 

So far, the national Church has let the leaders of the Diocese make a fools of themselves on their own with the hope that the lay people would eventually wake up and reclaim what is left of the Diocese.  If they even think about the Diocese of South Carolina, most Church leaders dismiss its antics as misguided and largely inspired by homophobia.

However, that may soon come to an end.  Approval of the resolutions would leave the national Church with no choice but to do something it really doesn't want to do.

By ending its relationship with the national Church, the Diocese forces the question of who owns the assets of the Episcopal Church in what would become the former diocese.  That will most likely have to be resolved in a Court.
However, the decision by a bishop or priest to openly reject his or her sacred vows upholding the "doctrine, discipline, and worship" of the Episcopal Church would be a matter for the wider Church.  The current Presiding Bishop and House of Bishops take matters of sacred oaths seriously, and they do have the authority to depose any bishop or defrock any priest who violates such an oath. 
Fortunately for the Diocese, national Church leaders see that as a last, and least desirable outcome.  However, recent precedents in other rebellious dioceses like Quincy and San Joaquin suggest the national Church can move pretty fact once the bishop and his priests decide they want out.

Lawrence's credibility with fellow Bishops sinks as one-time supporters say he misled them to get
their consent to his election
.
 

In Lawrence's case, his support of the six resolutions is a clear violation of personal assurances he made at the time of his election to dozens of bishops to remain in the Episcopal Church.  Without that pledge, he would not have gained the support of the required majority of bishops and standing committees he needed to be consecrated. 

Doubtless, he will continue to argue with his famous pretzel-like logic that he is not advocating he Diocese leave the national Church.  However, that is not likely to compensate for the personal sense of betrayal felt by many mainstream bishops who told their standing committees that Lawrence had given them a commitment of loyalty to the Church.
One liberal priest who was personally assured that Lawrence would not try to take the Diocese out of the Church told SC Episcopalians:

"Most of us remember the protestations of Bishop Lawrence when questioned about his continued loyalty to the Episcopal Church -- and the efforts of several of us in his behalf, having been assured in private conversations that he would remain loyal to the discipline, doctrine, and worship of the Episcopal Church.  Apparently those protestations are not remembered by him.

"If Bishop Lawrence does not publicly denounce these resolutions at the convention, then he should offer a public apology to me and others who supported his consecration as well as to all the standing committees which voted in favor of his consecration ... Then he should resign as bishop"


March 26, 2010
Convention Backs Bishop's Shadowbox "War"
with Imagined Enemies in the Church

Ignoring financial crisis and historic challenge to the Diocesan Constitution & Canons, delegates feast on righteous indignation

Convention hands unprecedented power to Lawrence, relegating laity & future conventions to rubber stamps


Delegates to Friday's Diocesan Convention rallied behind Bishop Mark Lawrence in his ongoing “war” against the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and its long-time lawyer, Chancellor David Beers by giving overwhelming approval to  a series of controversial resolutions that would appear to strengthen Lawrence's hand
.    


In an extraordinary move, delegates also voted to give the Bishop unprecedented authority as the final word on the interpretation of Diocesan Constitution and Canons, reducing the role of the laity and future conventions to little more than rubber stamps.  In the absence of the bishop, such authority would fall to the Standing Committee.

During the entire six-hour convention, not a single question was raised about the Diocese's deepening financial crisis or how it will address the most serious legal assault on its Constitution in its 350-year history.

Bishop Lawrence left the national Church no choice. 

Instead, the convention feasted on righteous indignation over a decision by Beers to retain an attorney to monitor the Church's legal interests in the matter of four parishes that have taken steps to leave.
 

Earlier this year, he hired Charleston attorney and lifelong Episcopalian Thomas Tisdale after he became concerned that Lawrence and the Standing Committee were not committed to looking out for the interests of the  wider Church in dealing with the discontented parishes.

Tisdale’s hiring and subsequent requests for information inflamed Lawrence and the Standing Committee, who on Friday repeatedly denounced the move as an unlawful “incursion” into the Diocese


The Bishop's address to the convention made it clear that Beers had correctly read his intentions.   He insisted that the Diocese was “sovereign” and that the wider Church has no say in how he decides to deal with rebel parishes and dispose of their property

Lawrence's closed and sometimes secretive leadership style has left many key players and lay leaders from knowing how he plans to handle what is surely the most serious challenge to the unity of the Diocese in its history.  His insistence that he alone has the right to decide on a "generous pastoral response" to rebel parishes sounds like bishop-speak for "I can do what I want."

On Friday Lawrence seemed untroubled that the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, which he has taken a vow to uphold, suggests just the opposite.  In the cases of breakaway parishes, it is assumed that a Diocesan bishop will act in the best interest of both entities.

A series of recent Federal Court rulings has found that the nature of the Episcopal Church is such that it has an undisputed and legitimate interest in the way its dioceses handle property matters.  Lawrence disclosed Friday that he had met face-to-face with the Presiding Bishop last week for 90 minutes to discuss the matter, but gave no details.

Several delegates during a lunch break complained that Lawrence seemed to be using to the Tisdale affair as a "smokescreen" to divert attention away from his closed-door dealings with the rebel parishes. 

In recent weeks Lawrence, Canon Kendall Harmon, and the Standing Committee have tried to spin the Tisdale matter as a first step by the national Church to go after the Diocese, its clergy, and parishes for its past criticism of the majority  in the Church.  There has been no action to national Church to justify this concern.  In fact Lawrence described the Presiding Bishop as "gracious" and "generous" in her discussions with him.

In response to this shameful posturing, the convention passed a pathetic resolution at the end of the day stating that it was ready to engage in “battle”.  

“This is our time to stand,” exclaimed the proponent of one of the final resolutions to blow through the convention. 

Four resolutions approved, but leave many scratching their heads. 

The reaction of the convention was to pass four resolutions revising and reinterpreting the relationship of the Diocese to the other 110 dioceses.  There was never any serious doubt about their passing.


Two of the resolutions seem to be a reversal of earlier positions taken by the Diocese. 

For example, in declaring itself to be "sovereign" the convention was saying that  dioceses have the authority to act on their own in providing a "generous pastoral response" to dissident parishes in their  jurisdictions.   Since 2003, the Diocese has been critical of independent liberal dioceses who  it claims, have acted on their own in providing what could be seen as a generous pastoral response in ministering to same gender couples.

Of the resolutions that actually matter was one in which the Convention gave the bishop absolute authority to interpret the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese.  Lawrence has never been a fan of the democratic nature of Church governance, and Friday's delegates agreed by reducing the authority of all future diocesan conventions to that of rubber stamps. 

A number of speakers, including those for the Standing Committee, complained that through her support of the actions of the Chancellor, the Presiding Bishop was acting as if she were the sole authority in interpreting the national canons.

During its lunch break, several dissenting delegates complained that Lawrence’s rhetoric was a “smokescreen” for his real agenda of eventually pulling the Diocese out of the Episcopal Church with all its property.


This is exactly why Beers felt he had to retain Tisdale.  The withdrawal of four parishes from the diocese is likely to be the biggest crisis of Lawrence’s episcopate.  Not only has he not been clear with the wider Church about how he will proceed, he hasn’t even told the Diocese.

Continuing financial crisis ignored 

Astonishingly, during the day there hardly any references to the continuing financial crisis in the Diocese.  Delegates breezed through approval of the 2010 Diocesan budget that reflects a dramatic and continuing decline of Diocesan revenues since Lawrence first became bishop.


In 2009 alone, income from parishes and missions was ten percent below that which had been anticipated, while anticipated income for 2010 reflects an even further drop based on lower contributions from parishes. 

Overall, the 2010 budget assumes that Diocesan income this year will be $2.33 million, nearly $700,000 less than that which was anticipated in 2008 when Lawrence was consecrated.

The budget shows a significant decline in resources for various diocesan activities, including congregational development, youth, and social ministries. 


Under Lawrence, expenditures by the Bishop’s office have leveled out after significant growth under his predecessor.  Clearly the Diocese cannot afford to hire another bishop to assist him, so Lawrence will have his hands full in carrying out the pastoral and “episcopal” functions of his office for the next few years.

Among the least clearly defined and most controversial components of the budget is Lawrence’s new Office on Anglican Communion Development, formerly the Department of World Missions now headed by Canon Kendall Harmon.  

The mission of this office appears be keeping alive the Bishop’s vision of a new age of "Biblical Anglicanism".  To most of the world today the Anglican Communion is a deeply fractured, largely impotent, vestige of British colonialism.  In the Diocese of South Carolina, we see it as the future, so  this year we are giving it a raise.

The Bishop's address to the convention made it clear that Beers had correctly read his intentions.   He insisted that the Diocese was “sovereign” and that the wider Church has no say in how he decides to deal with rebel parishes and dispose of their property

Lawrence's closed and sometimes secretive leadership style has left many key players and lay leaders from knowing how he plans to handle what is surely the most serious challenge to the unity of the Diocese in its history.  His insistence that he alone has the right to decide on a "generous pastoral response" to rebel parishes sounds like bishop-speak for "I can do what I want."

On Friday Lawrence seemed untroubled that the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, which he has taken a vow to uphold, suggests just the opposite.  In the cases of breakaway parishes, it is assumed that a Diocesan bishop will act in the best interest of both entities.

A series of recent Federal Court rulings has found that the nature of the Episcopal Church is such that it has an undisputed and legitimate interest in the way its dioceses handle property matters.  Lawrence disclosed Friday that he had met face-to-face with the Presiding Bishop last week for 90 minutes to discuss the matter, but gave no details.

Several delegates during a lunch break complained that Lawrence seemed to be using to the Tisdale affair as a "smokescreen" to divert attention away from his closed-door dealings with the rebel parishes. 

In recent weeks Lawrence, Canon Kendall Harmon, and the Standing Committee have tried to spin the Tisdale matter as a first step by the national Church to go after the Diocese, its clergy, and parishes for its past criticism of the majority  in the Church.  There has been no action to national Church to justify this concern.  In fact Lawrence described the Presiding Bishop as "gracious" and "generous" in her discussions with him.

In response to this shameful posturing, the convention passed a pathetic resolution at the end of the day stating that it was ready to engage in “battle”.  

“This is our time to stand,” exclaimed the proponent of one of the final resolutions to blow through the convention. 
 
March 26, 2010
St. Andrew's, Mt. Pleasant Votes to Leave The Episcopal Church, testing Bishop's Loyalties

Legal moves last summer made it easier for congregation to take Episcopal Church property

To no one's surprise, St. Andrew's in Mount Pleasant formally voted on Palm Sunday to sever its ties with the Episcopal Church. 

The decision by the parish to try to leave the Episcopal Church puts a spotlight on SC Bishop Mark Lawrence and his Standing Committee.  It is their job to represent the best interests of, not only the Diocese, but that of the wider church as well. 

Lawrence has given every indication that he doesn't feel the wider Church has a stake in the matter, and proposes instead to provide rebel parishes with "generous pastoral response."

Over the  past few years, St. Andrew's has become much less "Episcopal" and much more generic in its theology and  forms of worship.  The parish calls itself  "Anglican" but it is not clear what that means other than the opposition to homosexuals it shares with right-wing elements in worldwide Anglicanism
.

The only real issue is the parish property.  The congregation has long since outgrown its small historic church building, and moved most of its activities into an elegant, modern worship center on adjacent property.
 

February 25, 2010

Lawrence Sandbags Church Leaders over Rebel Parishes; Postpones 2010 Diocesan Convention
Lawrence, steamed over retention of former Diocesan Chancellor by Church leaders, postpones 2010 Convention

The shadow box “war” by the Diocese of South Carolina against the Episcopal Church entered a new phase of absurdity this month as Bishop Lawrence and the Standing Committee essentially refused to tell Church leaders what the Diocese is doing in response to maneuvers by four parishes to distance themselves from the Church. 

In a series of muddled communications among lawyers, the Bishop and Standing Committee sandbagged requests from the national Church for legal documents related to  the Diocese's response to efforts by Trinity in Myrtle Beach, St. Luke’s on Hilton Head, and St. John’s on Johns Island to delete references to the Episcopal Church in their corporate charters, and St. Andrew’s in Mt. Pleasant to leave the Episcopal Church entirely.

Church leaders are
specifically asking for parishes'  bylaws, founding documents, charters, deeds, and mortgages, along with Standing Committee minutes since Bishop Salmon's retirement.   All of the documents are related to the legitimate legal interests of the Episcopal Church

I
n an overly dramatic letter to the people of the Diocese, Lawrence claimed the diocese is “sovereign” and questioned why the leadership of the Episcopal Church was trying to find out what he is doing.   He suggested that “perhaps the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor, if not the Presiding Bishop herself, is trying to build a case against the Ecclesiastical Authorities of the Diocese (the Bishop and Standing Committee) and some parishes.”


Lawrence said he is especially steamed by the news that the Chancellor of the Episcopal Church (its lawyer) had retained Charleston attorney Tom Tisdale to represent the national Church in “local matters”.

Lawrence claimed that Tisdale’s retention and subsequent requests for information from the Diocese was a violation of authority granted the Presiding Bishop in the Church’s Constitution and Canons.
 
Tisdale is a lifelong Episcopalian, the former Chancellor of the Diocese, and the son of a longtime, much-beloved priest in the Diocese of South Carolina.

To heighten the drama, the Bishop announced for no obvious reason that he and the Standing Committee were postponing the 2010 Diocesan convention slated for the first week of March. 

Included among these red herrings was a complaint by Lawrence that the Presiding Bishop had not personally called and asked him what he was doing about the undisciplined parishes.   The current tempest was apparently ignited by a conversation between the lawyer for the Presiding Bishop, who was trying to find out what the Diocese was doing about the rebellious parishes, and the lawyer for Bishop Lawrence.

L
awrence has apparently made no effort to communicate with the House of Bishops or the Presiding Bishop about his dealing with the four parishes since they disclosed their plans in December.  In fact, he and his lawyers are claiming that none of the parishes are planning to leave the Episcopal Church.


December 21, 2009
Three SC Parishes Prepare to Distance Themselves from the Episcopal Church


Three large congregations in the Diocese of South Carolina are lurching forward with plans to either leave or otherwise legally distance themselves from the Episcopal Church.   Their actions are forcing the hand of Bishop Mark Lawrence, who sympathizes with their motivations, but has taken an oath to defend the interests of the Diocese and the wider Church.
 
St. Andrew’s in Mount Pleasant announced this week it had completed a “discernment process” it claims supports a decision to abandon the Episcopal Church and join the so-called Anglican Church of North America, a loose affiliation of dissident parishes not recognized by the Anglican Communion or the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The other parishes, Trinity in Myrtle Beach and St. Luke's in Hilton Head, are reported to have taken steps to remove references to the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of SC from their charters

According to the Charleston Post & Courier, Lawrence says he has been aware of the situations at Trinity and St. Luke's and "they are not seeking to leave the Diocese."  He offered no further explanation, but went on to say, "We will keep the lines of communication open and clear."   (Read P&C full story)

The actions of all three parishes will be a challenge to Lawrence's leadership and a test of his commitment to the Episcopal Church.

The challenge for Lawrence is that he is the head of the Diocese and the representative of the Episcopal Church.  As such he is morally and legally bound to take all necessary action to defend the interests of the Church and act as a faithful steward of Diocesan assets. 


Should he fail to do so, he would risk being deposed.

Any legal action against the parishes would also constitute a first test of the state's Supreme Court's recent decision in the Pawleys Island case in which it denied the hierarchical nature of the Episcopal Church, and therefore appeared to make such departures by individual parishes more likely. 

Over the past three years, Federal courts have been ruling fairly consistently that Episcopal congregations who vote to leave the Church can’t take their property with them.   They have upheld long-standing precedent that  Christian denominations like the Episcopal Church are "hierarchical" in their governing structures, and therefore own local church property, which they hold in trust for local parishes. 

In the next few years, these cases are likely to make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Of course in South Carolina, our state courts pay little heed to the direction of the Federal courts and, at least, for a while the state's Supreme Court decision in the case of All Saints, Pawleys Island is going to allow this kind of mischief.

However, another option is negotiation in which the dissenting parishes work out an arrangement with their bishops and standing committees in acquiring their properties.
  In a diocese like South Carolina, where the bishop is generally sympathetic to the dissenters, unhappy parishes might have a chance at  cutting a deal and picking up their former properties on the cheap.

The Anglican Church is North America is not particularly Anglican nor is it clear who is bankrolling it.

ACNA is  an unlikely coalition of  mostly small congregations bound together by their more literal interpretation of the Bible, fear of gay people and, to a lesser extent, opposition to women in leadership roles in the Church.  Their link to Anglicanism is a tradition of worship and an apostolic lineage, currently being passed along mostly by anti-gay Anglican Primates in Africa. 


ACNA's claim that its brand of 21st century fundamentalism is an "orthodox" version of Anglican theology is more rhetoric than reality, scholars claim.

The leader of the ACNA is the controversial Robert Duncan, who was deposed last year by the Episcopal Church and is not recognized by the Anglican Communion.  

Duncan, who is described by the ACNA as an "archbishop", used his position as Episcopal bishop of Pittsburgh to attack the Episcopal Church using funds from extremely wealthy right-wing philanthropists.  It is also rumored that he is taking money from arch-conservative African primates like Henri Luke Orombi of Uganda. 

Duncan was widely discredited in an incident in 2006 when a secret memorandum to meddling African primates revealed that he was essentially talking out of both sides of his mouth, telling his Diocese that he did not intend to leave the Episcopal Church while plotting with the Africans to do just that.

ACNA's finances are mostly secret and not available to the public.

Duncan coincidentally will be attending a conference in Charleston in January while the St. Andrew's vestry is considering its next move.


St, Andrew's has not been much of player in the Diocese in recent years such that its departure is not likely to have much a material impact.

In recent years, St. Andrew's has not been part of the mainstream of the Diocese.  It has generally taken its own course, and not been particularly supportive of Diocesan work.  It does, however, maintain an active social outreach, youth program, and Christian education program that attract many non-Episcopalians.


The parish's charismatic and hyperbolic rector, The Rev. Steve Wood, is  considered by his clergy colleagues as a loose cannon.  He was a unsuccessful candidate for Bishop of South Carolina at the same convention that elected Mark Lawrence.

Wood's approach to national Church issues has never been subtle, or particularly effective outside his own congregation.  Two years ago, after the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church made a personal visit to his parish, he suggested in his online blog that she is "the Anti-Christ." 

Last summer he likened the Episcopal Church to a "whore".  

After the "whore" business, he made an internet name for himself when he actually castigated the leaders of the Episcopal Church for employing extreme and hostile rhetoric.

Claiming nearly 3,000 members, St. Andrew’s is the largest parish in the Diocese and at one time claimed to be one of the fastest growing in the Episcopal Church.  If true, less than one-third of this membership participated in the parish-wide survey this month and, of that number, 93% are said to have indicated they wanted to leave the Episcopal Church.

Anticipating the outcome of its "discernment" process, last summer the  parish quietly transferred property worth $3-plus million to a land trust for the purpose of establishing an "orthodox Anglican ministry center."   It is not clear that transfer was  legal or approved by the bishop and standing committee. 

However, it raises doubts about whether the discernment process was unbiased or its outcome unanticipated.


December 9, 2009
"Orthodox" Episcopalians, Diocese of SC silent on African ally's support of gay genocide, as they denounce election of new Bishop in California
 

While Anglicans around the world are urging the Province of Uganda to back away from its support of the dictatorial regime of President Yoweri Museveni, right-wing critics of the Episcopal Church, including the Diocese of South Carolina, are lying low.

The most recent evidence of moral corruption in the Church in Uganda is its support of Museveni's legislation to impose capital punishment on gays while while requiring the imprisonment of parents and priests who fail to report a child's homosexual tendencies to the government.

Henri Luke Orombi, Anglican Primate of Uganda and outspoken opponent of homosexuals, appears to be supportive of the draconian measures that Museveni is promoting. 
While Orombi is notoriously homophobic, there is no question that he has allowed the Anglican Church to be corrupted by the Ugandan dictator.  

Museveni has used public money to finance Orombi's crusade to lure unhappy "orthodox" Episcopalians in the US away from their parishes and into his Province.  At his installation as Primate, Museveni bought Orombi a new car to drive around in.

Orombi's spokesman advocates life-in-prison option "if the (gay) person is still alive," while his leading theologian likens gays to "cockroaches."
 

This week Orombi seemed to soften his stance, as his senior spokesman said that said the death penalty clause in the legislation should be scrapped... and life imprisonment or concentration camps substituted.


 "If you kill the (gay) people, to whom will the message go?  We need to have imprisonment for life if the person is still alive," said Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye, the provincial secretary of the Anglican Church of Uganda.
Rev. Michael Esakan Okwi, another senior cleric in the Anglican Church in Uganda and professor at the Christian seminary, said on Friday that not even “cockroaches” who are in the “lower animal kingdom” engaged in homosexual relations.  Adolph Hilter made the same analogy to "vermin" in describing Jews.

To "orthodox" critics of the Episcopal Church, Orombi is a "godly" man. 

Orombi is a close ally of American critics of the Episcopal Church, including those in leadership positions in the Anglican Communion Network and dioceses like South Carolina.  Orombi claims that 33 "orthodox" American parishes, including one in Savannah, are now under his authority. 
The Diocese of South Carolina fully supports the creation of an Anglican Covenant through which Primates like Orombi will have direct authority over the Episcopal Church.  

Even before he became bishop, Mark Lawrence felt the Episcopal Church would be well-advised to put itself under the control of the Primates for a while.

Over the years the Diocese of South Carolina has repeatedly cited Orombi as an example of an "orthodox" Anglican and praised him as one of the leaders of the Global South.

If the Diocese of South Carolina has used its substantial influence with Orombi to dissuade him from supporting a genocide of gays, it has not made it public.

Diocese of SC says election of lesbian bishop in Los Angeles will offend "orthodox" Primates like Orombi.  

However, the Diocese's Canon Theologian on Sunday wasted no time denouncing the election of a 55-year-old female priest as a Suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles.  The Very Rev. Mary Glasspool has been in a committed domestic partnership with another woman for twenty years.


According to Canon Kendall Harmon, Glasspool's election will further damage the Episcopal Church's relationships with "orthodox" Anglican leaders (like Orombi).

"This decision represents an intransigent embrace of a pattern of life Christians throughout history and the world have rejected as against biblical teaching," said Harmon.


October 29, 2009

Did the Special Convention Nix John Burwell's Chances to be Elected Bishop?

Younger hot-headed clergy, spoiling for a fight with the National Church, unexpectedly forced a roll call vote at October's Special Convention that may have doomed John Burwell's chances to be elected Bishop in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. 


Burwell is the long-time rector of Holy Cross, Sullivan's Island, which has been a model of new growth and successful parish ministry under his leadership.  He was named earlier this month as one of five nominees for Bishop in our sister diocese.


However, Burwell voted YES on Resolution #2 that called for the Diocese to withdraw from the governing bodies of the national Church and inject an unauthorized cross-your-fingers caveat into future ordinations. 
The twenty-something rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach demanded the vote many felt was an attempt to ferret out clergy who aren't  on board with the Diocese's crusade against the National Church.

This news, according to SC Episcopalians in the "upper" Diocese, has cast a cloud over Burwell's chances, which had been considered pretty good.

Even if delegates to the electing convention are not bothered by Burwell's vote, it almost certainly would be a challenge for Bishops and Standing Committees in the wider Church when they are asked to consent to his election.


October 29, 2009
Will Lawrence "Sacrifice" Clergy Pensions?
Among the big questions left unanswered by October’s Special Convention is whether Bishop Lawrence really intends to withdraw from all the bodies of the Episcopal Church he believes are acting in un-Biblical ways.

Resolution #2 passed by the Convention authorized the Bishop and Standing Committee to withdraw from any elements of the Church that have assented to actions contrary to Scripture and other standards of the Faith. 

When asked by delegates which "bodies" he had in mind, Lawrence named the General Convention and the House of Bishops, but said that others that have “sinned” could be added in the future.
No organization in the Episcopal Church has a bigger bull’s eye on it than the Church Pension Fund, which sponsors one of the best retirement programs for clergy of any denomination.  Most, if not all, clergy in the diocese are counting on a pension from this organization in their retirement.

Unfortunately for them, the Church Pension Fund provides spousal benefits to the “spouse” of its retirees regardless of the spouse’s gender.  This is a clear and important economic benefit for clergy and other retirees in same-gender relationships, and not likely something from which the Pension Fund is likely to “repent,” as the Bishop demands

In August the Bishop told the clergy that they would be expected to make “sacrifices” on a much greater scale than they have been called on to make in the past.  He has been careful to avoid saying what those sacrifices might look like, but it is hard to imagine this isn't one of them

By nearly four-to-one, clergy at the convention supported the Resolution.


October 28, 2009

Georgia Court rules that Christ Church, Savannah belongs to the Diocese of Georgia

In another blow to congregations attempting to leave the Episcopal Church, a Georgia Court ruled that historic Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Savannah belongs to the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.
  In a 22-page decision, the Court ruled that the Episcopal Church is "hierarchical" and that its "Dennis Canon" establishes the Diocese's claim to the property.


October 24, 2009

Special Convention Backs Politics of "Protest"; We are not leaving the Church, Bishop Insists

Mount Pleasant -- A somber Special Convention, convened today behind closed doors, and wasted little time approving by nearly four-to-one margins four controversial resolutions aimed at a national Church the Diocese says has "sinned."  A fifth resolution expressing compassion for gays and lesbians was tabled 182-117, after delegates struggled over amendments balancing expressions of love, compassion, and condemnation. 
 
Bishop Mark Lawrence said the actions of the Convention constitute a "protest" in response to the Church's General Convention last July, and a restructuring of future "engagement" between the Diocese and the wider Church.
"When someone is deaf, sometimes you have to shout at them,"  explained Lawrence, when delegates asked if the resolutions meant the Diocese was leaving the Episcopal Church.
Essentially the Convention was saying that its National Church has taken Jesus' love-one-another commandment too far by including gays and lesbians in the full life of the Church, distancing itself from ancient Anglican traditions and theology, and abandoning Biblical literalism as a central tenant of Faith.
Resolutions passed Saturday mean the Diocese will gradually withdraw from governing bodies of the Episcopal Church, and move closer to dissent groups, some of which hope to replace the Episcopal Church as the sole Anglican presence in North America. 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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