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What in the World Is Going on in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina?
February 13, 2010

Some early reactions to The Episcopal Church letters to The Diocese of SC

In This Issue:
Episcopal headquarters fires shots at Lowcountry Episcopalians
What in the World Is Going on in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina?
Bishop Lawrence postpones Diocese of South Carolina Convention
A Brief History of the Ongoing Disassociation of the Diocese of SC from The Episcopal Church
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Episcopal headquarters fires shots at Lowcountry Episcopalians
Beaufort, SC Tribune:

In a volley reminiscent of the firing of cannon at Fort Sumter in reverse, a Charleston lawyer under the direction of the Episcopal Church headquarters in New York City has fired a series of accusations of secession at the Episcopal Bishop of South Carolina and his flock. As a result the bishop has announced a three-week postponement of the 219th annual diocesan convention until March 26 to give him and his allies time to gather their forces.
The shots have come as a series of nine letters in five days from Thomas S. Tisdale, a member of the statewide law firm of Nexsen/Pruet with offices in Charleston, to Wade H. Logan III, chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and member of the Lowcountry law firm of Hagood & Kerr in Mount Pleasant.
Full text of Article

What in the World Is Going on in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina?
February 12th, 2010 Posted in Anglican Mainstream By A S Haley

…[You]should appreciate the following points:

1. There is currently a decision by South Carolina's highest court which holds that the Dennis Canon is not self-executing (i.e., no trust was created on any parish property in South Carolina when it was enacted — if indeed it ever was — in 1979).

2. The Episcopal Church (USA) did not see fit to request a review of that decision by the United States Supreme Court. Instead, its Presiding Bishop and her chancellor have left that function to the dissident parish members who lost their claim in that case to be the true vestry of All Saints Waccamaw.

3. Notwithstanding its failure to seek review of the adverse
South Carolina decision, the Episcopal Church (USA) is apparently asking the Diocese for proof that it intends to enforce the Dennis Canon against certain parishes in the event that they try to leave.

4. The unspoken threat — which has caused Bishop Lawrence to postpone his diocesan convention while he plans a response to ECUSA's provocations — is that if Bishop Lawrence fails to sue any departing parish under the Dennis Canon, he could be charged with "abandonment" in the same manner as was Bishop Duncan.

If this is a correct representation of what is going on in South Carolina, then I have to say that it boggles the mind….

(Anglican Mainstream is a community within the Anglican Communion committed to promote, teach and maintain the Scriptural truths on which the Anglican Church was founded and which guarantee its catholicity.)
Full text of Article

Bishop Lawrence postpones Diocese of South Carolina Convention
POSTED BY MARK HARRIS AT 2/11/2010 02:45:00 PM

The New Orleans Saints, there being precisely one football team load of them, all the rest of NOLA folk being sinners, won the Super Bowl. They are sovereign - that is they RULE.

Over in South Carolina Bishop Lawrence has written his clergy and people a letter, dated February 9, 2010, in which states that the retaining of a lawyer in South Carolina by the Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop to represent The Episcopal Church in "some local matters" constitutes an action that is "an unjust intrusion into the spiritual and jurisdictional affairs of this sovereign diocese of The Episcopal Church."

Got to love this sovereignty business. The diocese is sovereign, just as one supposes the NO Saints are sovereign. They RULE. I suppose in a monarchical turn of the head the Bishop could say he rules in the Diocese of South Carolina, and not the Presiding Bishop, but I doubt he would go there. South Carolina may wish of for the good old days at times, what some of my relatives used to call "anti-bedlam" times, but the good citizens of South Carolina are as dubious of monarchical rule as any of us. No, let's take him at his word: it is the local organization that is sovereign, not an individual. The NO Saints rule: The Diocese of South Carolina rules.

Except of course that is just not true. The bishop has jurisdiction just as the local manager and owners of the NO Saints have jurisdiction, but they exercise their rule in accord with the wider context of NFL or TEC law, and within those as they even further involved the organization with State and Federal law. And, contrary to the sense we are sometimes given by the Communion Partner bishops, episcopal sovereignty is limited by license and vows of obedience to canons beyond those of the diocese.

I am sure Bishop Lawrence, by saying that the diocese is sovereign that it exists apart from TEC, but only that it exists apart from interference by the Presiding Bishop and her chancellor.

Well, he knows what is going on. For The Episcopal Church to have a lawyer in town, mucking through the papers and flashing a card that states that he is the "South Carolina counsel for The Episcopal Church," is for TEC to be something more than a second level abstraction from the real context for sovereignty, namely the diocese. For there to be a TEC counsel in South Carolina is for the long tendrils of the dreaded synodical hierarchy so present in England but surely, surely not here in the land of the free. No, the Bishop of South Carolina knows what is going on here: for there to be a local branch officer of the national chancellor cannot go unnoticed. It is the beginning of the end of autonomy for the Diocese.

Something like this must be what is going on here. If so, I kind of admire the spirit of it all.

Bishop Lawrence has hung his hat with the Communion Partner bishops who among other things are again' the idea that The Episcopal Church is anything other than a voluntary association of dioceses. The argument, mentioned in the letter, that the Diocese and several of its parishes predate the beginning of The Episcopal Church is of limited value, although it is regularly brought up. Several of the parishes do indeed predate the establishment of TEC. The Diocese of South Carolina, however, was formed from the hearth that forged TEC, not before it. And, not to put a fine point on the matter, when the Diocese of Upper South Carolina was formed in 1922 from it, the Diocese of South Carolina had to receive permission from TEC, by way of General Convention, to do so. The limits on diocesan sovereignty included the fact that it could not split into two or otherwise change its jurisdictional boundaries without General Convention approval.

So, the challenge Bishop Lawrence sees in the presence of a lawyer for TEC in South Carlina is being met by postponing the Diocesan Convention from March 4th to March 26th so that the "Bishop and Standing Committee and Diocese" have a chance to "adequately consider a response to this unprecedented incursion into the affairs of the Diocese of South Carolina."

What that response might be is an interesting question.

The Bishop's letter, as well as letters from the TEC Lawyer and the Diocese of South Carolina lawyer, can be found as PDF files HERE.

The DSC lawyer, you will notice, makes use of the sovereignty issue several times in his letters to TEC's lawyer.

Two things: (i) Sovereignty sounds an awful lot like States rights, an idea that backfires sometimes. (ii) TEC was, I believe, involved with the legal battle in DSC over a previous property battle. The door has been opened to inviting the hierarchy in. How do you close it? Some of the correspondence suggests that the Presiding Bishop and the Bishop of South Carolina ought to speak to each other. OK. That would be useful, I am sure, but it does not address the issue of this being a hierarchical church, and if so what sort of hierarchy it has.

My, my, my. Interesting stuff. Still, I must agree with Bishop Lawrence. We ought not get too riled up. "Proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit" trumps this stuff every time.

Meanwhile, keep your hand upon the throttle and your eye upon the rail.

Mark Harris is an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of Delaware,
Assistant, St. Peter's Church, Lewes, DE, and he is a Member
the TEC Executive Council House of Deputies
Link to Full Article

A Brief History of the Ongoing Disassociation of the Diocese of SC from The Episcopal Church
By: Barbara Mann: 11/3/09

During the tenure of Bishop Allison, Bishop Salmon and now Bishop Lawrence the Diocese of South Carolina has become increasingly conservative. This is particularly evident in the recruitment and retention of clergy. The preference for a few conservative seminaries as sources of clergy has helped shape the narrow outlook of the Diocese. Consequently it has become more difficult for parishioners in the Diocese to hear balanced and clear information regarding The Episcopal Church (TEC), the General Convention (GC) and the World Wide Anglican Communion..........

The Episcopal Forum of SC (EFSC) was formed following the General Convention of 2003 at a meeting of Episcopalians who were concerned with the direction the Diocese of South Carolina was taking. There was great concern regarding the Diocese’s membership in the Network of Anglican Communion Diocese and Parishes and the trend towards separating the Diocese from TEC. The Episcopalians who formed EFSC and the hundreds of individuals who have joined with them since, value highly the traditional, broad character of TEC and strive to retain and celebrate its unity with diversity...........

Since early 2004 the rhetoric of the leadership of the Diocese of South Carolina has become increasingly strident. Exaggerated and, at times misleading, claims have been made concerning the actions of TEC and General Convention. Diocesan leadership has encouraged an atmosphere that rejects many of the inclusive understandings endorsed by the General Conventions. This leadership has been separating the Diocese from TEC in ways such as:

• All of the 111 dioceses in TEC are asked to give 21% of their income to TEC to support the many programs and missions of TEC. While it is true that some dioceses are unable to pay the total asking and others pay more, the Diocese of South Carolina pays less than 1%. This action indicates a complete disengagement from the programs and outreach of TEC and is a major a step towards separation.

• At General Conventions the deputation from South Carolina has generally worshipped each day at an alternative Eucharist instead of the convention Eucharist.......

• Information concerning TEC and its programs is very difficult to come by in South Carolina. The Jubilate Deo publicizes very little concerning the rest of TEC and has refused to publish views common within TEC but contrary to those of the leadership of the Diocese. Parishioners in the Diocese do not have the information needed to form their own opinions on the issues.......

Diocese of the SC Special Convention held 10/24/09: The agenda for this convention consisted of five resolutions presented by the Standing Committee and the Deans. Four of the five were passed overwhelmingly. The fifth was tabled until the next regular convention of the Diocese..........

The Episcopal Church has a tradition of embracing a broad range of scriptural understandings while worshipping together as a community which reflects the diversity of God’s creation. Jesus Christ included all sorts and conditions as his companions and friends. Following this model is one of the marks of The Episcopal Church.

The threshold questions are:

Are we going to allow one issue to separate us from our beloved Episcopal Church?

Will we continue to worship and reason together as Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina?

We will with God’s help.
Link to full text

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