Sunday, September 7, 2014

The trial... was it worth it??

Once the injunction was put in place, it was inevitable that litigation would ensue... which it did. The nearly two week trial ended in late July (25th). AS we have come to expect, Ronald Caldwell, revisionist blogger associated with TEC-SC has his own view of how the trial went that he has posted at his own blog under the title: Is it worth it? You may go to his own blog (The Episcopal Church Schism in SC) to read it as we will no longer link to his blog. Otherwise, read on to get our (my hubby and mine) viewpoint and sometimes humorous *fisk* of his comments.

Now that the three-week trial of the Diocese of South Carolina vs. The Episcopal Church (TEC) and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) ended on July 25th, the distinct and very different reactions of both sides could not be clearer. From the Diocese of South Carolina comes this very nice and balanced summary of the events of the trial

While it can be read in its entirety at the link above, here are few of the more important statements from the Diocese of SC.

1) Judge Diane Goodstein’s last words reiterated what she said throughout the trial: “The case will be decided on neutral principles of law", which means that the judge must apply the law to this case as it would any other – making no adjustments because it involves a religious organization. TEC and TECSC have opposed the application of neutral principles; essentially arguing that the judge [Judge Goodstein] should defer to their view on the issues since they are a religious organization.

2) “Attorneys for the Diocese, led by Alan Runyan and Henrietta Golding, meticulously presented evidence showing the Diocese and its congregations, many of whom predated and helped to form TEC, existed and operated independently from the denomination and took the proper legal steps as independent corporations to separate from the denomination, an unincorporated New York association.”

3) The matter of money: “When Nancy Armstrong, Diocesan assistant treasurer, replied to Duffy’s testimony, it was revealed that during the 200+ years of their association with TEC, the Diocese and the parishes voluntarily had given TEC $117 for every dollar received from them in grants of loans AND of that dollar, 70 cents had gone to support institutions and causes separate from the Diocese or its parishes.” Summary: The Diocese gave much, much more to TEC than it (or its parishes) ever received from TEC. 

4) The matter of TEC’s own canons: 

Part 1- “One of the most memorable moments in the trial came on the ninth day when Diocesan    attorney Alan Runyan placed copies of the 2009 and 2006 Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church on the witness stand and asked Bishop Clifton Daniel, who’d been called as a witness for TEC, to “turn to the page in those documents where it says a diocese cannot withdraw from the Episcopal Church and read it to us.” ” Bishop Daniel could not and made a remark about how long it would take to find such a page and Runyan rephrased the question. “Is there a page or a phrase, or a sentence, in either of those that says, ‘a diocese may not leave The Episcopal Church without the consent of the General Convention?’” Bishop Daniel answered, “I don’t believe so, but I may be wrong.” “I’m sure it will be pointed out if you are!,” replied Runyan.

Part 2-“Runyan asked Bishop von Rosenberg if his asking a court to interpret this [Dennis] canon to make it apply to the property at issue in the case was not, in itself, a violation of the very same canons. Bishop von Rosenburg said, “I do not have that knowledge, no sir. Runyan then showed him a canon from the same document, which stated: 

“No member of the Church, whether lay or ordained, may seek to have the Constitution and Canons of the Church interpreted by a secular court, or resort to a secular court to address a dispute arising under the Constitution and Canons.”  Runyan then asked him, “Bishop, before today did you know about this paragraph?” The Bishop replied, “No, sir.”

Overall the trial experience can be summed up in Bishop Lawrence’s own words from his letter to the diocese:
“But I need to say, and can hardly say it enough, undergirding it all—felt at times in palpable ways—the prayers and intercessions from tens of thousands of the saints within the diocese and around the world upholding us in prayer. Some of these intercessors came to the courtroom to pray while testimonies and cross-examinations were taking place. Others of you prayed from home, perhaps on a lunch break, or while driving to and from your work place.  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” “My prayer is that our Lord will use this season to prepare us for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as we seek to reach our communities for Jesus Christ— Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age here in South Carolina and around the world.” 

Contrast this with the account penned by Ronald Caldwell, a blogger associated with TECSC.
“We have just gone through fourteen 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 and broken 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:”
OK ...... but before we get to these so-called “factors”, lets consider the tone of these questions. I would say that these questions come from someone who is more concerned with the institutional history of TEC than the actual truth of the Christian Gospel. 
  1. I don’t see how the old “establishment church” in South Carolina “lies shattered and broken” since the Episcopal Church has not been an “establishment” church since the days after the Revolutionary War over 200+ years ago. The idea of an “established” church was destroyed by the war fought for  our independence from England. SO any “shattering” was done loooong, looong time ago. This trial has nothing to do with that. The first red herring from Ronald Caldwell. 
2. Will it recover? recover from what? Will TEC recover from the recent heresies passed by General     Convention? Possibly but it depends on what the faithful will do to recover the ancient Anglican faith as received from the Apostles.

3. Will the wounds ever heal? Yes but again it will depend if the faithful repent of their heresies from being part of TEC, a heretical denomination that does not seem willing to stray from their heretical ways. 

4.  Was it worth it? Yes, ABSOLUTELY  it is worth it to protect our name, trademarks, assets and properties from being stolen as has TEC has tried to do in other dioceses via long drawn out law suits.

NOW, on to these so-called “factors” mentioned by Mr. Caldwell.  Quotes from his blog are in red.
Our comments in blue.

1- The causes of the “split”: 
     Caldwell: “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.”

     Actually with these statements, Caldwell is partially correct. The Diocese of SC did indeed fact leave over theology and polity.  1) In 2006, TEC’s General Convention could not pass a resolution that affirmed the uniqueness of Christ. To many in the diocese, that is indeed a change in its theology from the long held position of TEC which had followed in the tradition of its founders and a long-held and foundational belief of  many Anglicans worldwide.  2) As was pointed out in the trial, bringing a lawsuit in a secular court to force them to interpret the Dennis Canon in a way favorable to TEC is indeed a violation of its own canons.  From TEC’s own canons: 
    “No member of the Church, whether lay or ordained, may seek to have the Constitution and Canons of the Church interpreted by a secular court, or resort to a secular court to address a dispute arising under the Constitution and Canons.” 

    However, if we had wanted to leave over the homosexuality issue, the diocese could have left in 2003 when Gene Robinson was made a bishop but the diocese did not. So Caldwell is wrong- we did NOT leave over sexuality. We did leave because of changes to TEC’s theology and polity.

    Caldwell: On theology, they said TEC had abandoned the belief in the uniqueness of Christ. 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”

   Too late, Ronnie.  The General Convention could not affirm the uniqueness of Christ back in     2006.  You are so last week…. so behind the times! 

   “On sexuality, TEC has allowed diocesan bishops to choose whether or not to have the blessing of same-sex unions. That is not marriage.”

    If it’s not marriage, what is it?  If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, swims like a duck                      and quacks like a duck…. Come on, you know the answer to this.

 “As for transgendered clergy, all ordinations are at the discretion of the local bishop. He or              she cannot be forced to ordain anyone.

    Perhaps not, but the bishop will get his or her ass sued for discrimination, and will be deposed as      fast as the PB can engineer it. The Canons be damned! 

2-  Caldwell: “The leaders also said that DSC was forced to leave TEC because Bishop Lawrence was mistreated.” 

    That is indeed true and the immediate reason the diocese left in 2012. If TEC had not tried to remove our duly elected bishop, we would not have left. However, the standing committee was prepared for such an eventually as that is indeed TEC’s game plan- illegally depose the bishop then get rid of the standing committee and freeze all the bank accounts so they can not be used by the actual diocese. That has been the game plan in all the other lawsuits against the dioceses that have left TEC. 
    Caldwell: “Moreover, the leaders said they had to go to court first because they were about to be attacked by TEC.” 

Yes, exactly correct. Ronnie, we know you have selective memory, but really..... have you forgotten abut your TEC loyal group calling for a clergy day using the name and seal of the Diocese and misidentifying itself to clergy that it was the diocese?  Remember that? Ronnie, what are you reading and/or drinking? We all know TECs litigation game plan. Seize the bank accounts first and then plan the litigation strategy! In other cases against dioceses where TEC has deposed the bishop and then sued to obtain all properties (both parish and diocesan),  I can write with reasonable certainty that these dioceses did indeed feel attacked by TEC’s leadership. It was TEC who decided to enlarge the lawsuit by trying to sue individual parishes and vestry members. 

     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.

Never mind that the Disciplinary Board for Bishops met and certified Bishop Lawrence’s “abandonment” on September 18th using two of the three charges that he was accused of and cleared of back in 2011, and that he and Bishop Waldo met with Jefferts-Schori on October 3rd to negotiate a peaceful way forward.  Bishop Lawrence was informed on October 15th, nearly a month after the certification.  So who was negotiating in good faith and who was  not?? That doesn’t bother  Ronnie, NOPE..... not one bit! 

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.” 

Actually not true. TEC loyal group already had plans in place for a standing committee long before January. I gather you must have not gotten that information but it was *published* on St. Stephen’s (Charleston) website. 

3- 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.

Ronnie, you can barely manage history. Obviously, you slept through math. 2014-1785= 229             years. We were considered part of TEC even during the Civil War (ie the Late Unpleasantness) when SC joined the Confederate States of America. However, it needs to be pointed out that the Diocese of SC has existed for 229 years. Let us do the math once again for you ...... 2014 -1785 = 229 not 225.

4- Caldwell: 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.

Ronnie… Ronnie…Ronnie… Sigh… We all know you want to think that power rests with General Convention.  However, the hierarchy stops at the diocesan level. Have you forgotten that dioceses have their own constitutions and canons?  Oh, yeah. You’re from Alabama. How does your diocese there take care of these matters?  Do they ask General Convention permission to do everything or do they have their own canons? You’d like to think that it’s all handled by General Convention. How many times do you have to be told this? Please take the time to read the actual Diocesan canons instead of imagining what you want them to say. Many committees of the diocese are elected by the diocesan convention delegates who are in turn elected by their parishes. So the elected representatives of every parish and mission in the diocese are “like-minded people”. Is that necessarily a bad thing? If they are all committed Christians, I don’t see that as a problem. Also, I gather you do not consider them representative of the diocese even though those who voted for those currently in “power” were from every mission and parish in the diocese. The delegates of the diocese have acted in a very democratic way with each and every convention. 

Caldwell: “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 (or 26,000), a figure that is certainly exaggerated. Two-thirds is more realistic.”  

     In January 2013, the diocese numbered around 30,000 communicants. Actual numbers are not difficult to obtain as accurate records are kept at the diocesan office from records sent in by every mission and parish in the diocese (including those who are no longer in union with the diocese). Official records show that 52 parishes (which account for about 80% of the active communicants in the diocese) remain in union with each other and Bishop Lawrence forming the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. Only 20 parishes remained with TEC. Given that 80% of 30,000 is 24,000 that means only about 6000  (20%) remained with TEC. There have been a few new congregations planted on both sides by those who wanted to either remain in the diocese or TEC. So, I would say that exaggeration is  exactly what TECSC’s numbers are. They are claiming about 20% more communicants that is possible even with some growth, there is no way they could claim 7000 communicants! I gather Mr. Caldwell is about as good at math as he is as a historian- in other words….. not particularly reliable. 

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.

    We are not sure where Caldwell gets his numbers for revenue but that is certainly not the depiction given by the latest budget passed by Diocesan Council. Revenues are steady and not declining. Yes, a trial costs a great deal of money but don’t let Caldwell fool you. TECSC has borrowed considerable amounts of money (tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands) from TEC simply so it can exist and pay its bills. They, too, have lawyers that need to be paid- not to mention their costly “expert witnesses” which cost them millions of dollars! I wonder how TECSC is going to pay all these legal costs when they lose the trial.  Also, lets not forget about all the sanctions that could be imposed on them for repeatedly ignoring the injunction against them. Sanctions alone could be in the thousands of dollars.

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.

     Such is true if you believe Skardon’s diatribes.  TECSC was so *genteel* in renouncing the ordination of and deposing 103 diocesan clergy. Along with the several hundred clergy  already deposed by TEC. Quite true.... memories do indeed last for a very long time which is why Bishop Lawrence said that he does not see a reconciliation with TEC in the near future. Many in the diocese do not want reconciliation with a heretical national church. While Caldwell may describe Runyan’s behavior as “hard-hitting aggression", here is how our bishop described the behavior of the lawyers during the trial. 

    “I’m glad to say our legal team led by Mr. Alan Runyan and Ms. Henrietta Golding, supported by a stellar cast of attorneys from the various congregations across the diocese, presented a strong case and did so in a professional, forthright, and convincing manner.  The teamwork was marvelous to observe and was only exceeded by what seemed to be the outstretched arm and the mighty hand of God moving again and again in a most timely manner.”

     Also, only attorney Mary Kostel (representing TEC) was reprimanded by Judge Goodstein for her demanding and unrelenting behavior towards the judge who excused her from the courtroom so local attorneys could explain privately to her about appropriate behavior for attorneys in a courtroom.

    So, in summary, despite what Ronnie thinks. We are genteel and, YES, We still believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  We still use the right fork…. and the right rite! 

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.

    Yes, this situation is very sad that these people thought they had to leave their parishes when in reality they did not. They left voluntarily. No one was forced to leave! One must not forget the sadness expressed by many in the Diocese when it was made known the identities of those who had charged Bishop Lawrence the first two times.  The realization that a dozen of  communicants along with two clergy had brought charges was indeed a very sad day and the memory of which will last for a very long time. However, from what I have seen and heard from around the diocese- from people in small missions to large parishes- is that they are getting on with their work and are continuing programs with incredible zeal and much happiness now that they are free from TEC’s reach. There is an air of liberty and freedom in Christ now that we are free from TEC’s heretical leadership. 

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.

    Granted the split has done some damage to some missions and parishes but many people, even in those damaged parishes, are still involved in proclaiming the Gospel and reaching new believers. Are they attracting new members? The diocese of South Carolina has attracted new members since 2012 and continues to do so.  Here’s an idea for you. Why don’t y’all start a new diocese? Would not that be a better way to spend your time and attention rather then suing several dioceses into oblivion. (PSST: Have you heard? The results of the lawsuits against the dioceses are not going your way).

9- a)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.

     Where has the diocese drifted? We are not quite sure what Caldwell means with this statement. Perhaps he does not realize that their retired “bishop” Charles von Rosenberg is not recognized by the majority of the Anglican Communion as the bishop of South Carolina. That title belongs to +Mark J. Lawrence who was elected and remains the XIVth  bishop of South Carolina.

From the diocesan website: 
The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, received a letter of support, dated December 14, 2012, from the Steering Committee of the Primates of the Global South of the Anglican Communion. The show of support, signed by The Most Revd Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis, Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East; The Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, Primate of All Nigeria; The Most Revd Ian Ernest, Primate of the Indian Ocean; The Most Revd Datuk Bolly Lapok, Primate of South East Asia; The Most Revd Stephen Than Myint Oo, Primate of Myanmar; The Most Revd Dr. Eluid Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and The Most Revd Hector “Tito” Zavala, Primate of the Southern Cone recognizes Bishop Lawrence's Episcopal orders and his legitimate Episcopal oversight of the Diocese of South Carolina within the Anglican Communion.  

Part of the text of the letter follows:

“Our Dear Bishop Mark, 

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ! 

We, the Steering Committee of the Primates of the Global South of the Anglican Communion, were very sad to hear that the Presiding Bishop of TEC has interpreted your address to the Diocesan Convention on 17 November 2012 as a renunciation of your ordained ministry.

We want to assure you that we recognize your Episcopal orders and your legitimate Episcopal oversight of the Diocese of South Carolina within the Anglican Communion.”

[Bold is mine].

This one letter recognizes our legitimacy as part of the Anglican Communion by the largest group of primates in the Anglican Communion representing a majority of Anglicans in the world today.  Notice they did not give their recognition to Charles von Rosenberg and his group of parishes that go by the name TECin SC.

b) 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.

    Actually, the idea of Primatial Oversight comes from an idea proposed at the Primates Meeting at Dar es Salaam, 2007  where a “robust scheme of pastoral oversight” was called to “provide individuals and congregations alienated from The Episcopal Church with adequate space to flourish within the life of that church in the period leading up to the conclusion of the Covenant Process.” So you can see that the origin of the idea lies within the Anglican Communion. It is not something *cooked up* by Bishop Lawrence or the Diocese of South Carolina to give us *credibility* as Anglicans. The idea of primatial oversight was put forth at the most recent steering committee meeting of the Global South Primates. Here is the quote from their Feb. 2014 statement: “We decided to establish a Primatial Oversight Council, in following-through the recommendations taken at Dromantine in 2005 and Dar es Salam in 2007, to provide pastoral and primatial oversight to dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses in order to keep them within the Communion.” 

    On Aug 21st, 2014, The Diocese received this announcement about our acceptance of their offer of Primatial Oversight.  Here is part of that announcement:
     “Recognizing the faithfulness of Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina, and in appreciation for their contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, the Global South welcomes them as an active and faithful member within the Global South of the Anglican Communion, until such time as a permanent primatial affiliation can be found.”
Yours in Christ,
The Most Revd Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Primate of Jerusalem & the Middle East
Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
Chairman, Global South Primates Steering Committee

The Most Revd Ian Ernest
Primate of the Indian Ocean Bishop of Mauritius
Hon. General Secretary, Global South Primates Steering Committee
    As we just explained, the diocese of South Carolina and our bishop Mark J. Lawrence is now recognized by the largest group of Anglicans in the world wide Anglican Communion and is considered a member of that group (the Global South) within the Anglican Communion. 

    Where is the document from the Archbishop of Canterbury saying that he no longer recognizes the Diocese of South Carolina? There is no such document to which Caldwell can refer to because it does not exist. It is TEC-SC that is not recognized by the majority in the world wide Anglican Communion. 

    So what if no other bishop joined him in leaving the House of Bishops at General Convention? Was that his point? No. Where does Caldwell get his information?? So far, no other diocese has left but given that trial results in South Carolina and other states like Texas and Illinois are looking very favorable for the dioceses that have left, other dioceses might very well leave. Only time will tell. 

     c) 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, 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?

   The answer is simple. YES, ABSOLUTELY YES!! We will continue to make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age!! 

1 comment:

  1. What you write must be true or the author of the "Is it Worth It?" post on his blog would have responded. Good job!