Friday, August 8, 2014

Is It Worth It? A Version Much Closer to the Truth.

Editor's note: I have posted this Open Letter because I was absolutely nonplussed and rendered almost speechless after reading how former colleague after former colleague testified at the recent trial in Dorchester County that they had never considered themselves or their parishes to be a part of the larger Episcopal Church. Stunning. You will want to read Ron's letter in its entirety.
The next post will contain a response from a Breakaway parishioner who, as a result of personal observation of the trial in Dorchester County, as well as his personal research, is re-evaluating the whole matter.  Key: "DSC" - (breakaway) Diocese of South Carolina under Mark Lawrence. "TEC"-The (National) Episcopal Church, represented in South Carolina by The Episcopal Church in South Carolina under The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, and the only officially recognized province of the Anglican Communion in the United States, as well as in South Carolina. 
CH +

Posted with permission from Dr. Caldwell, as found on the link at
The Episcopal Schism in South Carolina (blog)
Dr. Ron Caldwell, Editor

Ron holds a Ph.D. in History from Florida State University, and is a Professor of History Emeritus at Jacksonville State University in Alabama.  He is the former Assistant Head of  the  South  Carolina Room at the Charleston Public Library and author of several books on Episcopal Church history. He is currently working on a history of schism in South Carolina.
--An open letter to the communicants of the independent diocese

By Ronald J. Caldwell, PhD, Professor of History, Emeritus

We have just gone through fourteen agonizing days of a shameful and disastrous scene in what was once known as the most sedate, reasonable, rational, and beautiful of all major denominations. The venerable old establishment church in South Carolina has reached a new low. It lies shattered on the floor of Courtroom D of the Dorchester County Court House in St. George. Will it ever recover? Will its wounds ever heal? Will it ever return to its ancient glory as the premiere religion of the establishment society of South Carolina?

This is an open letter to the majority in that once grand old church, people who have felt the need to leave their ancestral home in the Episcopal Church. Your side will "win" this trial. But when all is said and done, what will you have won? I ask you to consider: Is it worth it? Look at what has happened. Look at the cost and ask yourself, Is it all worth it? I ask you to consider the following factors:

1-On the causes of the split. The old diocesan leaders said the diocese had to leave TEC because of theology, polity, and sexuality. On theology, they said TEC had abandoned the belief in the uniqueness of Christ. On polity they said TEC had acted illegally under its own rules. On sexuality they said TEC was forcing everyone to accept same-sex marriage and transgendered clergy. None of this was true. In fact, TEC has never changed its theology of the uniqueness of Christ. That would take action by the General Convention. It will never happen. On government, TEC operates under a Constitution and Canons which it follows by detailed directions. On sexuality, TEC has allowed diocesan bishops to choose whether or not to have the blessing of same-sex unions. That is not marriage. As for transgendered clergy, all ordinations are at the discretion of the local bishop. He or she cannot be forced to ordain anyone.

The leaders also said that DSC was forced to leave TEC because Bishop Lawrence was mistreated. As I have pointed out in other posts, the public records are very clear that Lawrence was in fact well treated by TEC. Documents show that the Standing Committee planned the schism by unanimous and secret resolution on Oct. 2, 2012 before Lawrence was even informed that he had been certified with abandonment. It was put into effect on Oct. 17, retroactive to Oct. 15. Lawrence refused all efforts of the Presiding Bishop to resolve the crisis after that. In fact, the leaders, and Lawrence, voluntarily left the Episcopal Church. Lawrence was not mistreated. The diocese was not pushed out.

Moreover, the leaders said they had to go to court first because they were about to be attacked by TEC. They did go to court and initiated the first lawsuit, on Jan. 4, 2013 before TEC even had time to reorganize the diocese. There was no sign that TEC was about to attack anyone. The communicants of the old diocese have been misinformed on the causes of the split, on why the diocese left TEC, and on why the diocese went to court. All of this will be clear when the historical record is fully revealed.

2-The old diocesan leaders led the majority to abandon the church of their forbearers and ancestors, a church they had been a part of for 225 years. A great deal of the historic economic, political, and social establishment of South Carolina proudly called themselves Episcopalians. With the possible exception of Virginia, no state in the country was more attached to the Episcopal Church.

3-The old diocesan leaders have developed an institutional structure in the diocese that is far more authoritarian than it has ever been. The bishop has been given the sole power to interpret the constitution and canons of the church, to appoint the deans, and to appoint and dismiss all clergy. The clergy have been given control over local property. For years now, all of the important diocesan councils and committees have been monopolized by like-minded people. For years they have routinely voted unanimously on resolutions. For years they have controlled all public relations in the diocese. Diocesan conventions have become rubber-stamping dumas. Power rests at the top.

4-Since Lawrence became bishop in 2008, the diocese of 29,000 has lost about one-third of itself. 2,000 people left with St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant. About 7,000 people remained with TEC. Forty percent of the clergy remained with TEC. DSC has 52 local churches, TEC has 30. Exact communicant numbers are impossible to know. DSC claims 80% of the old diocese, a figure that is certainly exaggerated. Two-thirds is more realistic.

5-The economic cost has been and continues to be great. The diocese shows declining revenues. Local parishes are challenged to keep up income. Meanwhile, 35 local churches have joined the lawsuit, each with lawyers to pay. There were 40 lawyers attending the trial. The trial lasted 14 days. If each lawyer charges $100/hr (a very conservative figure) and each trial day had 8 hours, that amounts to 112 hours and $11,200 per lawyer. 40 lawyers would cost $448,000. And this is just trial time. It does not count the many hours of lawyers' preparations. A fair estimate for this trial would push a million dollars. Imagine how far that amount would have gone to missionary work and to caring for the poor.

6-The ill will that has been generated goes deep and will likely last quite a while. Before the trial, Lawrence called his opponents "the spiritual forces of evil." Alan Runyan et al went after their courtroom opponents with hard-hitting aggression. Genteel Episcopalianism disappeared in the dust. Memories last.

7-Many local churches have suffered the heartbreak of separation. This is especially true in small cities and towns. Friend has left friend, neighbor has left neighbor as long-term relationships have fallen victim. One has only to speak to the people caught in this to see their pain and anguish.

8-All of this has done great damage to the work of the Kingdom of God in lower South Carolina. Both sides have had to devote so much time, money, attention, and energy into the separation that too much has been lost along the way. This is no way to do Christ's work in the world. Besides, how can a church at war attract new members? People want to go to church for solace and comfort, not for conflict. Most people already have enough of that in their lives.

9-The old diocesan leaders have led the majority off to drift into nowhere. What has happened in South Carolina is unique to South Carolina. When Lawrence staged his dramatic pre-planned walk-out from the House of Bishops in July of 2012, not one other bishop joined him. Not one bishop has followed him since then. Not one other diocese has gone along with South Carolina. Why is South Carolina unique? It's because of the leadership that long ago began deliberately distancing the diocese from the Church. It was a revolution from the top down. Not being a popular revolution, it has not been replicated anywhere else.

The alternate primatial oversight scheme with the Global South is a meaningless sham meant to fool communicants into believing they are in the Anglican Communion. The leaders have not even explained how it works. A discernment committee is at work to decide on new affiliation, but the committee were all hand picked by Bishop Lawrence who has steadfastly refused to join the Anglican Church in North America, the supposed replacement structure to take the place of TEC. The independent diocese has no identity. It is not in the Anglican Communion. It is not recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury or by the official structure of the AC, nor will it ever be.

Thus, the good communicants of the old diocese should ask themselves, Has it been worth it? Is it worth it now? Look at where you have been since you left home, where you are now, and where you are going. Why are you better off now than you were two years ago? Why do you think you will be better off in the future? Again, Is it worth it?

What do you think? I'd like to hear from you. E-mail me

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