(Anglican Communion Institute) Consumed By Litigation: TEC In South Carolina (Part Two)

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the first part of this article we addressed questions of good faith and canonical integrity arising from TEC’s actions in South Carolina. We concluded that those actions raise troubling questions about the good faith of many church leaders in their dealing with Bishop Lawrence, including the Presiding Bishop, the Disciplinary Board, other TEC bishops and some diocesan clergy. We also concluded that TEC’s position is canonically incoherent: either its actions in South Carolina are in open contempt of its own canons or TEC has undermined the legal basis of its position by acknowledging that the Diocese has indeed left.

In Part Two we consider issues of ecclesiology and pastoral care. We are concerned that:

TEC is acting contrary to basic principles of Anglican ecclesiology and ancient norms of the universal church; and
It is sacrificing the genuine pastoral needs of its members to advance doubtful litigation goals.

Read it all.

NOTE: You can read Part 1 and the lively discussion in the comments here.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: AnalysisEpiscopal Church (TEC)Presiding Bishop TEC BishopsTEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: South CarolinaTEC Polity & Canons* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

Posted November 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Milton Finch wrote:

Very good summation of the realities we are now looking at and something which must be answered in finality by the new ABC and fellow primates in short order.  Thank you, ACI, for stating the obvious!

November 14, 7:52 pm | [comment link]
2. SC blu cat lady wrote:

Unfortunately, The TEC loyalists consider themselves THE Diocese of South Carolina. Yes, they really do hence the stealing of the diocesan seal, the use of one of the diocese’s legal names,etc. So they are not starting a new diocese, they are reorganizing the old one as they do not recognize +Lawrence or the standing committee. 

Granted, I think they are all wrong about all this but I truly believe that they are that deluded in their thinking. They are sooooo past understanding any thing except what they want to know.

November 14, 10:14 pm | [comment link]
3. MichaelA wrote:

Delusion is an explanation that makes sense.  It ix difficult to see what TEC expects to accomplish - surely they have had enough examples already to enlighten them that actions like this will not make orthodox congregations in South Carolina change their perspective?

Even if TEC wins a property battle (and in South Carolina the odds of that are not good) they should know by now that orthodox congregations don’t need buildings to survive.  They can worship in gyms, community halls, churches of other denominations, anywhere.  And in due course they will buy new digs for themselves.  But whatever happens, they won’t be going back to TEC.  Without parishioners, the buildings will lie empty (but incurring rates and other overheads) until a buyer can be found.  We have seen this happen many times before.

Equally, recent history suggests that the congregations still aligned with TEC are unlikely to be able to make a viable diocese.

And why on earth would TEC, suffering a steady decline in numbers and income, want to lose flourishing congregations?  I suspect delusion is the only explanation.

November 14, 11:29 pm | [comment link]
4. art wrote:

Michael A; I suspect it is far worse than “delusion”. If I may borrow the language and theology of John’s Gospel: the father of lies (which lies behind your “delusion”) is also the murderer from the beginning. In this case, the ruler of this world is using the only thing he knows, raw power, and is using it in the only way he knows, to kill. And the object of his killing is the Church (naturally!), so that curiously therefore - given the actual tool here, TEC - a part of the Church is actually committing suicide, such is also the evil one’s perversion.

November 15, 12:03 am | [comment link]
5. Dan Ennis wrote:

ACI says “Arrangements for the alternative pastoral care of those congregations in the Diocese of South Carolina that are at odds with Bishop Lawrence, the Standing Committee, and the diocesan convention were easily at hand, and could have been readily resolved in the discussions already underway before actions against Bishop Lawrence were initiated.”

No, they were not easily at hand.  ACI has no idea what is going on on the ground in South Carolina right now.  Look at #4 above—the rhetoric whereby those who are loyal to TEC are not merely practicing a different strain of Anglicanism but are instead participating in an entirely different religion is not just message-board idiocy.  That is a stance promulgated by Bishop Lawrence himself (shall I supply the links?) and repeated by Bishop Lawrence’s handpicked Rectors from pulpits across the Lowcountry.

ACI blythely assumes that Bishop Lawrence could phone Bishop Waldo and make arrangements for pastoral care for those of us in South Carolina loyal to TEC.  But the rhetoric that labels TEC apostate, heretical and non-Christian catches Bishop Lawrence on the horns of his own dilemma.  A bishop who could make a phone call that would imperil the souls of so many—inviting, under the guise of “pastoral oversight” an antithetical gospel to be propagated in his midst…that bishop would be violating his oath. 

ACI posits that TEC’s position is self-contradictory, but it lets Bishop Lawrence off the hook. If Bishop Lawrence means what he has said over the years, over and over, at every diocesan convention and parish visit, that TEC is theologically bankrupt and long ago departed the “doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ,” then handing over pastoral oversight of the TEC remnant in South Carolina cannot be acceptable.  Bishop Waldo, if Bishop Lawrence has the courage of his convictions, is no more fit a spiritual leader than Sun Myung Moon or L. Ron Hubbard.

ACI appears to be made up of smart people who care about Anglicanism, but it doesn’t appear they’ve paid attention to Bishop Lawrence’s actual words.  He could not be any clearer about his view of TEC’s theology.  ACI would have Bishop Lawrence collaborate with a cult just to avoid some lawsuits.

November 15, 9:37 am | [comment link]
6. TomRightmyer wrote:

There is a natural tendency to regard one’s own opinions as morally superior to opinions that disagree with them.  It is difficult to see those with whom we disagree as simply wrong but not evil.  Our culture is going through a period when our political life in the civil society and in the church.  Our language has become corrupt.  Abortion is considered either as baby-killing or women’s right to choice.  Official support of same-sex sex is called marriage equality or sodomy. These are real moral issues, but we’re not going to settle them soon.  Can we remain in spiritual fellowship with those whom we see as wrong? Or must we regard them as evil and separate?

November 15, 10:08 am | [comment link]
7. TomRightmyer wrote:


Our culture is going through a period when our political life in civil society and in the church has succumbed to this natural tendency. Our language has become corrupt.

November 15, 10:10 am | [comment link]
8. sandlapper wrote:

I like the ACI’s final plea for respectful dialogue. The only problem I have with the Standing Committee’s strategy of declaring our dissociation from TEC is that this frames the debate as one of church polity. The real debate is theological, and our strongest case is theological, not canonical. I think we (the orthodox) could have made good use of theology if we had remained in TEC and just refused to obey their orders, on theological grounds.

In any case, we have now taken the dissociation route, but we can and should still put the theological arguments up front, while maintaining polite conversation, as difficult as that may be. To say that TEC leaders have taken heretical positions is not hate speech, but rather the honest admission of deep disagreement. Have they not used strong language about us? Let us engage in the difficult but necessary debate over basic Christian teachings.

November 15, 11:15 am | [comment link]
9. cseitz wrote:

#5. Just for clarification. Are you saying that parishes in SC that do not wish to remain in association with +ML and the Diocese he leads would not wish to come under +Waldo’s oversight, should that be possible?

November 15, 11:16 am | [comment link]
10. Jill Woodliff wrote:

God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s thougts are not our thoughts.  I won’t presume to determine who is going to perdition.  I’m more than happy to leave that to God’s perfect justice and perfect mercy.
Yet, I tremble.  I tremble for those persons who support the GLBT agenda.  Is it blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to claim those things of the Spirit which are not, and to deny those things of the Spirit which are?  I’m not trying to be difficult, but I tremble because I fear these actions may be the ‘unforgivable sin.’  I remain in TEC, because God has so led, but I cannot do so in good conscience without boldly speaking out. 
I also tremble for those on embroiled in the debate over the GLBT agenda, including myself.  It is so easy for cold love to take hold of our hearts.  I believe cold love acts as a defilement, a barrier that blocks the Father’s love.  I confess that I have loved imperfectly and failed to keep myself “unspotted from the world.”
There are lies at work in all corridors.  Would that we all love the truth and be spared ‘the strong delusion’ of 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10.
Bp Lawrence is the shepherd of a flock.  When the shepherd is under attack, the flock is also vulnerable.  After repeated attacks, the standing committee passed a provisional resolution to remove the flock and the bishop from harm’s way by withdrawing. 
God works in mysterious ways.  Perhaps there is a greater purpose for those parishes that have chosen to remain in TEC.  Perhaps there is a greater purpose for me remaining in TEC.  I don’t presume to judge Bp Lawrence for granting them the freedom to leave, rather than take them to court, or to judge the parishes for staying. 
All of us one day will stand before our Maker and give an accounting.  May we guided by the court proceedings of heaven, rather than the court proceedings of earth.

November 15, 11:18 am | [comment link]
11. Kendall Harmon wrote:

Dan Ennis’s post above is full of exaggerations and misstatements, I guess to make a point.  Bishop Lawrence has been very clear that we are willing to let those who wish to go to another bishop without any need to resort to litigation, etc.

The mismanagement of TEC and its inadequacy in theology contain many levels depending which person, parish or body we are talking about. Language such as ‘the whole thing is a cult’, for example, is not what you see from the S.C. leadership.

Dan Ennis is attributing to the diocese positions and attitudes which we do not have.  Sadly, it does not advance the argument.

November 15, 11:21 am | [comment link]
12. Jill Woodliff wrote:

Prayers for South Carolina.

November 15, 11:30 am | [comment link]
13. The_Elves wrote:

May we ask commenters to please keep to the discussion of the thread topic of the ACI article itself - thanks - Elf

November 15, 11:42 am | [comment link]
14. wildfire wrote:


We need not speculate about this topic because Bp. Lawrence and the Diocese have stated publicly what their position is, most recently in the Q & A in the Sunday paper: they will not attempt to block any parish that wishes to remain with TEC.

One can see from the timeline published by the diocese that Bishops Lawrence and Waldo have already met or otherwise discussed this controversy generally on several occasions in recent weeks. Speaking of “what is going on on the ground in South Carolina,” my understanding is that this topic was addressed explicitly by Bishops Lawrence and Waldo at the outset, but the Presiding Bishop vetoed the sensible agreement they were prepared to reach. 

Although Bp. Lawrence undoubtedly believes the spiritual needs of his people would best be met by remaining in the Diocese, he is unwilling to coerce anyone to remain—unlike TEC.

November 15, 11:50 am | [comment link]
15. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Thanks for your clarification Kendall.

November 15, 5:09 pm | [comment link]
16. Sherri2 wrote:

I think the point is that the presiding bishop wants to keep those dissenting parishes in the diocese as her toehold to claim it all. I would be surprised if the parishes themselves were not in ready agreement with that strategy. In one respect, they mirror dissenting parishes in other dioceses - only those other parishes were offered no way out by their bishops. Sam Dargan is right that our differences are theological, but in dissenting dioceses and parishes, the president bishop has waged her war in lawsuits, not theology.

November 15, 5:11 pm | [comment link]
17. Sherri2 wrote:

“A second and more far-reaching consideration of pastoral importance concerns the negative effects a process this morally and canonically dubious has upon the ethos of The Episcopal Church as a whole. An assumption that shapes the pastoral vision of the Book of Common Prayer is that the spiritual health of each person is best served by participation in a shared form of life centered in common worship and given daily expression through devout and holy living. The primary purpose of both the structure and ethos of a church is to foster this form of life.”

Thank you to the ACI for spelling out what should never have needed to be spelled out - but does.

November 15, 6:21 pm | [comment link]
18. MichaelA wrote:

[Comment deleted with regret - please keep the thread on the topic of the ACI article as requested above - thanks - Elf]

November 15, 6:36 pm | [comment link]
19. Sarah wrote:

RE: “the rhetoric whereby those who are loyal to TEC are not merely practicing a different strain of Anglicanism but are instead participating in an entirely different religion is not just message-board idiocy.  That is a stance promulgated by Bishop Lawrence himself (shall I supply the links?) and repeated by Bishop Lawrence’s handpicked Rectors from pulpits across the Lowcountry.”

Not certain what that has to do with allowing those of another faith to move to a representation of that faith.  If the Diocese of SC had Buddhists in its midst, I’m sure it would urge those Buddhists to move to a Buddhist organization.

No, Kendall Harmon is correct. Bishop Lawrence has been crystal clear that he is perfectly fine with parishes moving to the oversight of a bishop more in keeping with that parish’s faith.

November 15, 11:35 pm | [comment link]
20. mlester82 wrote:

Given the statement from the Windsor Report (2004), that “The Anglican Communion upholds the ancient norm of the Church that all the Christians in one place should be united in their prayer, worship and the celebration of the sacraments,” I marvel at how easily we co-opt the term “united” and remain divided over what are essentially personal issues.
The Anglican Communion Institute states “The Christian faith is in large measure about reconciliation. Reconciliation ought to have been the goal all along in the conflicts that have so torn the fabric of our church and our communion.” Really, “all along?” Would that our leaders have had that same thought on this side of the pond in the mid-1840’s, relinquished the authority of self, and submitted to the Authority of the Church, we might have escaped all this un-Christian behavior centered around power and money.
For those who doubt, this is actually possible, it simply requires listening to the Lord and acting in accord to His will.

November 16, 12:22 am | [comment link]
21. art wrote:

I’m sorry #5 you find my “rhetoric” problematic. It is but the language of the Fourth Gospel. Let me try to explain.

Neither you nor I in God’s Providence have any choice over the times or places in which we live, broadly speaking. Where we do have a large degree of choice is in how we (try to) evaluate those times, and then to act upon such evaluations. ACI, in both Parts One and Two, have for example chosen to refer to the “undivided Church” and notably its practices of diocesan intercommunion, where these forms of life are wholesome expressions of ecclesial love. If you’d prefer my stating that, in my own reading of the past two decades, PECUSA/ECUSA/TEC has pretty well engaged in a series of processes of institutional self-destruction, then I’d be happy enough.

But the Christian Gospel depicts cosmic dimensions of reality as well as institutional ones; and the Fourth Gospel is particularly good at capturing both of these elements, IMHO. As a result, it would be a reductionist reading of current events not to allude to such entities as “the father of lies” when evaluating the goings on between 815 and the Diocese of SC. True; while the Johannine writings generally are pitched in black-&-white terms, and ours today are mostly various shades of grey, nonetheless it is not too difficult to translate the various theologies behind current institutional strategies being undertaken by the various parties into forms of Gospel truth - or otherwise. If you consider this not to be the case, then how else might anyone decide/attempt to decide whether their actions are “of the Paraclete” - or not. For finally, in John’s Gospel at least, one of the essential functions of the Paraclete is to determine “the ruler of this world’s judgement” (16:7-11); and behind that is the key reason for Jesus’ mission at all: not only “this world’s judgement, but also the ruler of this world’s being evicted/thrown down/driven out” (so 12:27-32). QED.

November 16, 9:46 pm | [comment link]
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