Friday, October 19, 2012


The Destruction of South Carolina?

 The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

It has happened. The South Carolingian quitclaims issued a while ago (i.e. enabling parishes to hold their property against Assyrian-like takeover) along with other actions have led to the Episcopal can(n)ons firing upon +Mark Lawrence and his Diocese in an action which has led to the Diocese of SC issuing a "quitclaim" in respect of TEC, i.e. "We quit you." Read here, here, here, here and here. +Mark's episcopal ministry is now restricted by ++Katharine.

Alongside this action there is a somewhat similar action (re the property side of things) unfolding in the Church of Scotland, as you can read here.

It strikes me that a lot of ink is going to be spilled on these kinds of matters without careful thought about where both sides are going wrong on these matters. (I acknowledge that the specific situation of South Carolina, where certain claims re South Carolina's existence prior to the formation of TEC and concerning South Carolina property law, is not straightforwardly akin to many disputes of the kind unfolding in Glasgow).

On one side is the matter of people obeying and respecting the laws of the church to which they belong (not least in the case of clergy, by virtue of vows made, declarations signed and what have you). For biblical, conservative Christians,  a simple respect for due and proper authority is required of us. I find it strange that evangelical brothers and sisters  who have come to the conclusion that they can no longer be part of a larger body which has lost its way, do not withdraw completely from that body, including leaving the building (at least until such time as in a lawful manner they might re-enter it legally, e.g. by purchasing the property or leasing it long-term from its rightful owners).

On the other side of the matter of the church seeking to be a living expression of the body of Christ on earth,  a simple respect for due and proper church life in parishes by higher ecclesial authorities is required by leaders who seek to live as those appointed to their roles by Christ. Having recourse to the law (including civil law) in order to deal with, even to deal to fellow Christians going about their gospel business of ministering the Word and Sacrament seems a deeply unChristian way to act, indeed has all the hallmarks of the ways of the Scribes and the Pharisees in the gospels as they sought to restrict the ministry of Jesus. I find it strange that church authorities around the world cannot find it in their institutional hearts to offer grace to those in disagreement with them. Why do buildings filled with active Christian worshippers have to be taken off them in order to be available to a much much smaller congregation, or locked up and mothballed, or sold to anyone but the existing congregation?

I encourage +Mark Lawrence to go about his normal business as a bishop.

If the actions of TEC against +Mark and the Diocese of South Carolina continue in such a way that attempts are made to wrest the the church properties in SC from the Diocese, I predict some very destructive consequences. One lesson from the Assyrian conquest of Israel is that the Assyrians and the northern kingdom both suffered future ignominy.


Father Ron Smith said...

I'm sure TEC is quaking at your prediction of the demise of its influence in North America, Peter - especially at your graphic and fanciful description of the sad circumstances on those words: "The Assyrian leaps down like a wolf on the fold". It is pretty obvious where your affections lie. And they are not with TEC or its Presiding Bishop, who is shortly to visit us.

However. Bp.Mark Lawrence has only himself to blame, and has got what was coming to him - through his deceitful alienation of the property of TEC in his bid to schismatically remove himself and the TEC Diocese of South Carolina from family of The Episcopal Church - into which he was ordained as a Bishop not so long ago - promising to abide by the polity of TEC and its General convention.

I have sadness in my heart for TEC, but little sympathy for Bishop Lawrence.

Father Ron Smith said...

" I find it strange that church authorities around the world cannot find it in their institutional hearts to offer grace to those in disagreement with them." - Peter C.

I couldn't agree with you more, Peter. If only those conservatives of the Church who are at odds with any movement towards justice for LGBT people and Women had agreed to live with difference in the social and cultural advances that have benefited the disenfranchised of the Church and the world; there would have been no place for ACNA, FiF, Gafcon, AMIA, AMIE, and other assorted sodalities that have come out of the intentional schismatic bodies that have arisen within the world-wide Anglican Communion.

It seems that the former 'Unity in diversity' that was once a hallmark of traditional; Anglicanism, has been lost in a surge for iconic tribalism.

We should have been able to look forward to this upcoming ACC Meeting in N.Z. with filial expectation, instead of wondering how we are going to stay together as a Communion of churches.

I share your sadness, Peter - but not the reasons for it.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I stand by my imagery: it is pretty amazing for a whole (national plus) church to come down on a diocese: we are not talking about a rogue bishop here, +Mark is walking in lockstep with his diocese. Only harm to both sides can come from this move.

I agree with you, funnily enough, all institutions need to have grace in their institutional hearts - that includes (say) the Diocese of Sydney ... and the Diocese of South Carolina re those in its midst who disagree with its stances.

carl jacobs said...


I'm sure TEC is quaking at your prediction of the demise of its influence in North America

Prediction of demise? TECs influence in North America 'demised' a long time ago. It hardly even casts a shadow anymore. TEC is launching lawsuits in a futile attempt to destroy its competition by stripping the competition of assets. It will use any confiscated money not consumed by the lawyers to keep its bureaucracy around a few more years. But the laity is dying off, and there is no evangelism. Its got .. what .. twenty years remaining at the outside? At which point it will be reduced to a church of 100,000 people in the NE United States. Maybe a few scattered churches in the odd leftist college town.

Of course, KJS will be retired by then. She will be living off a fat pension funded by the proceeds of lawsuits. They will write books about her, you know. "Suicide by Lawyer: How to Murder your own church."


Kurt said...

There is an old Southern saying about South Carolina that I’ve mentioned elsewhere: “It’s too small to be its own country, and too large to be an insane asylum.” Which I think sums it up pretty well.

Look, Peter, TEC went the “extra mile” with Bishop Lawrence. He only received sufficient consents the second time around because he promised, with hand on heart, that he would not do what he has, in fact, done. He has no one to blame but himself.

He now has 60 days to respond to the allegations in the certification.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Bryden Black said...

I think Peter and Ron you are both missing a rather important point here. For starters:

There are of course other "opinions" in the legal sense, but these are themselves open to the charge of rewriting history ...

Bryden Black said...

The significance of this additional link and opinion below is that this Haley fellah is a legal boffin!

Father Ron Smith said...

re Bryden's recommendation to take into consideration the opinions of both ACI and 'Curmudgeon'; to my mind both of these sources are completely antithetical to any understanding of the culpability of Bishop Lawrence.

ACI is a self-appointed 'think-tank' of '3 theologians and a web-site', and Curmudgeon is an upset american lawyer who has been found, before, to be wrong about the legal implications for ACNA churches of their intentional schism. Not altogether disinterested parties in the present disputes.

Bryden Black said...

Two wee things by way of response to Ron's last rant:

1. I'm not sure he knows who exactly constitutes ACI, given his description ... Nor the ABC's own commendation of the same.

2. Of course, his own stance is manifestly impartial, objective and all the rest ...

Enough said!

Edward Prebble said...

If I can find a way through various ‘rants’ by others, i would like to get back to your original comments, and say I totally and unreservedly agree with you. This is the latest in a series of disputes where both sides have acted in unseemly and unchristian fashion.
If +Mark, his standing committee, and most (but definitely not all) of his diocese have come to the view that TEC has departed disastrously from the gospel, then their appropriate action is to resign, taking with them nothing except what TEC freely allows them to take. This is what dissenters worthy of respect have done in the past. They have then either joined another denomination, like Newman, or formed their own, like the early Methodists.
Conversely the TEC leadership, and their counterparts in Canada, have tended to take a very legalistic approach, with an excessive readiness to resort to the courts. In this particular case, I am not sure what +Katharine’s critics think she should have done, other than follow different policies on the sexuality and related controversies; all she has done so far is to recognise the reality of +Mark’s actions – the real question will be what happens now, and i hope she finds a more grace-filled approach than taking the diocese to court.
When I made a similar comment a year or so ago about the Diocese of New Westminster, I was accused of encouraging schism. I most certainly am not; the schism is happening without any encouragement from me. I realise that there are some historical peculiarities in the Sth Carolina case, but the law from most other jurisdictions seems to be strongly on +Katharine’s side. Given that power, would it not be preferable for Her and the TEC leadership to find an accommodation that allows the dissenters to leave peaceably, even at the cost of letting them take some of the property with them?
Divorce courts the world around have shown innumerable times that while the law can be an indispensable backstop when agreement is impossible, it is nearly always better for a negotiated settlement to take place. This normally brings a better outcome for the children, or to the ill-used laypeople of South Carolina.

Edward Prebble said...

As i re=read my posting, I see that I have capitalised 'Her' when referring to Presiding Bishop Katharine. Before other commentators hasten to correct me, let me acknowledge that the Episcopal church does not even accord her Archiepiscopal status, let alone divine.
That was a typo.
Edward Prebble

MichaelA said...

FRS wrote,

"his deceitful alienation of the property of TEC"

On the contrary. The Supreme Court of South Carolina has ruled on this, decisively in favour of +Lawrence. TEC owns no property in South Carolina.

"in his bid to schismatically remove himself and the TEC Diocese of South Carolina from family of The Episcopal Church"

He is hardly being schismatic - It is TEC that has schismatically removed itself from fellowship with most of the Anglican Communion. +Lawrence is keeping his diocese united with the rest of the Anglican world.

MichaelA said...

Kurt Hill,

TEC has never in any sense gone "the extra mile" with +Lawrence or his diocese. Rather, TEC tried to block his election on spurious technicalities, because it feared his obedience to Christian values. In this, TEC failed because there was no objective doubt that his election was the will of the diocese.

TEC has won very few final legal decisions in the USA. Mostly it has succeeded in its numerous law suits against orthodox congregations and dioceses by spending huge amounts of money on lawyers until its opponents can't continue. In the process, it has driven itself close to bankruptcy and is haemorrhaging members at a great rate.

Not only that, but on those occasions when it has managed to legally gain possession of the property of dissenting congregations, it has proved quite unable to utilise those properties - it cannot gain new members to put in them, and they are usually boarded up and left vacant. Some former TEC church buildings have been sold to Muslims or other non-Christian groups.

Anonymous said...

Modern Liberals are just Cutlural Marxists. Thus they behave like Marxists always have. Creating totalitarian structures that are contrary to the Gospel and purging any opposition.

TEC is little more than a version of Stalinist Russia, complete with purges and show trials to scare people into obediance, but thankfully without the guns.

Bryden Black said...

In the light of this kind of support -

perhaps those who staunchly support TEC might just permit the sowing of a wee seed of doubt ...?!