Thinking Anglicans

Texas Supreme Court rules on church property cases

The Supreme Court of Texas today handed down its decisions in two cases relating to the property of The Episcopal Church. In both cases the ruling was against a diocese of The Episcopal Church.

The actual texts of the decisions are here:

Statements were issued by the two Fort Worth diocesan organisations:

Pastoral Letter from Bishop High

Pastoral Letter from Bishop Iker

A S Haley writes:

Today the Texas Supreme Court handed down decisions in the two ECUSA cases pending before it: No. 11-0265, Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, et al. v. The Episcopal Church, et al.; and No. 11-0332, Masterson v. Diocese of Northwest Texas. In the first case, the Court sided with Bishop Iker’s Diocese by a closely split vote of 5-4, reversed the summary judgment of Circuit Judge John Chupp which had awarded all of the property and assets of Bishop Iker’s Diocese to the Episcopal Church and its rump diocese, and sent the case back to the trial court. The majority held that the trial court had improperly failed to apply a “neutral principles of law” analysis to the issues. The four dissenters did not disagree with that result, but instead believed that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear a direct appeal from the trial court’s judgment in the case.

In the second case, the Court by a vote of 7-2 reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision requiring the Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo to turn over its building and all other assets to the Diocese of Northwest Texas. The Court definitively ruled that all Texas courts must follow “neutral principles of law” (rather than deferring to an ecclesiastical hierarchy), and that based on such an analysis, the Dennis Canon was not effective under Texas law (or that if it were effective to create a trust, the trust was not expressly irrevocable, and so could be revoked by the parish in question)…

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American church responses to Supreme Court decisions

Updated

The Supreme Court of the United States today issued two decisions relating to the marriage of same sex couples. The Guardian summarised it this way:

A landmark supreme court ruling struck down a controversial federal law that discriminated against gay couples in the US, delivering a stunning victory on Wednesday to campaigners who fought for years to overturn it.

The court also dismissed a separate appeal against same-sex marriage laws in California, restoring the right to gay marriage in the largest US state and nearly doubling the number of Americans living in states where gay marriage would be legal.

Together, the two rulings mark the biggest advance in civil liberties for gay people in a generation, and come amid growing political and international recognition that same-sex couples deserve equal legal treatment…

The Federal DOMA opinion is here. The California Proposition 8 opinion is here.

Numerous statements in response were made by bishops of The Episcopal Church and other senior church officials. Here are some links:

Update

Church leaders outside The Episcopal Church expressed contrary views:

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Los Angeles court rules against Newport Beach church

Episcopal News Service reports: Court orders return of Newport Beach property to Los Angeles diocese

Orange County Superior Court Judge Kim G. Dunning today reaffirmed her May 1 final orders that property occupied by St. James Church, Newport Beach, is held in trust for the current and future ministry of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the wider Episcopal Church.

“All the church property acquired by and held in the name of St. James Parish is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the diocese, which have the exclusive right to possession and dominion and control,” Judge Dunning ordered. “The diocese is entitled to enforce the trust in its favor and eject the current occupants.”

This is the fourth and final case involving congregations in which a majority of members, having voted to disaffiliate from the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church, sought to retain church property for themselves. In each instance, however, courts have ruled that the property rightfully belongs to the diocese and Episcopal Church…

The congregation issued this press release and a prominent conservative lawyer issued this analysis of the decision.

Anglican Mainstream issued this Letter of support to St James Newport Beach:

The following letter was sent to the rector and congregation of St James’ Newport Beach and read out at the three main services on Sunday May 5.

To the Rev Richard Crocker and people of St James, Newport Beach

Dear Friends and Fellow Christians

We were very disturbed and saddened to read the news that legal proceedings against you by other Anglicans mean that you may soon be deprived of your property at St James and have to find alternative accommodation.

We wish first to assure you of our fellowship with you as you continue to take your stand on biblical and orthodox Anglican teaching. We share with you a passion to proclaim the gospel of our risen Lord Jesus Christ and affirm you in your faithful discipleship.

Although we have not experienced the depth of hostility that has led some people with responsibility in the Church of Christ to act in this way against you, we do want to assure you of our love, our prayers and our support. You are not alone: anyone who touches you, touches us.

This further evidence of continuing litigious acts against those whose only “wrongdoing” is to stand firm on biblical and orthodox Anglican teaching should convince all those in authority in the Churches of the Anglican Communion that your stance is the mark of authentic Christian discipleship and fellowship. For this reason we are copying our letter to Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Eliud Wabukala.

With warmest greetings in our risen victorious Lord

Dr Philip Giddings (Convenor, Anglican Mainstream)
Bishop John Ellison (Chairman, Anglican Mission in England Panel of Bishops)
Rev Paul Perkin, (Chairman, Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (UK and Ireland))
Canon Dr Chris Sugden (Executive Secretary, Anglican Mainstream)

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Virginia Supreme Court rules in favour of TEC

It has been a full year since we last reported on the long-running property disputes between CANA and the Diocese of Virginia. (Previous reports here, and also here.)

This week the Supreme Court of Virginia made a ruling. Here is the Diocese of Virginia press release: Supreme Court of Virginia rules in favor of diocese.

In a dispute over the ownership of The Falls Church, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled today in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church. The decision affirms an earlier ruling returning Episcopalians to their church home at The Falls Church in Falls Church, Va. The Falls Church Anglican had sought to overturn the lower court’s ruling in favor of the Diocese. The court also remanded a portion of the case back to the Fairfax Circuit Court for a decision to determine a minor fractional difference in funds owed to the Diocese of Virginia.

“We are grateful that the Supreme Court of Virginia has once again affirmed the right of Episcopalians to worship in their spiritual home at The Falls Church Episcopal,” said the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of Virginia. “This decision ensures that Episcopalians will have a home for years to come in Falls Church, and frees all of us, on both sides of this issue, to preach the Gospel and teach the faith unencumbered by this dispute.”

The court also held that the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church have a trust interest in the property, in addition to the contractual and proprietary interests already found by the lower court. This provides greater certainty regarding church property ownership.

“The Falls Church Episcopal has continued to grow and thrive throughout this difficult time,” said Edward W. Jones, secretary of the Diocese and chief of staff. “This ruling brings closure to a long but worthwhile struggle, and will allow the members of the Episcopal congregation to put the issue behind them and to focus their full energies on the ministries of the Church. We hope that The Falls Church Anglican will join us in recognizing this decision as a final chapter in the property dispute.”

Bishop Johnston added, “We pray that all those who have found spiritual sustenance at The Falls Church Episcopal and our other churches will continue to move forward in a spirit of reconciliation and love.”

Nearly a year ago, the Diocese settled the conflict over property with six other congregations. The Falls Church Episcopal and the other continuing and newly formed congregations, including Church of the Epiphany, Herndon; St. Margaret’s, Woodbridge; St. Paul’s, Haymarket; and St. Stephen’s, Heathsville, spent the past year growing their membership, supporting outreach and strengthening their church communities. Members of the Diocese have joined them in these efforts through Dayspring, a diocesan-wide initiative that is bringing a spirit of vision and rebirth to our shared ministries as a church.

Read the full opinion of the Supreme Court of Virginia online.

Some press reports:

Washington Post Episcopal Church wins Virginia Supreme Court ruling

Falls Church News-Press Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Decision Conveying Falls Church Property to Diocese

Update
There is a letter from The Reverend John Yates to the CANA congregation: The Falls Church statement on VA Supreme Court decision.

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More developments in South Carolina

Previous report on this subject here.

Now, further legal action has been taken, as ENS reports: Lawsuit seeks to recognize vonRosenberg as bishop of South Carolina.

Acting to protect the identity of the diocese he serves, the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg filed suit in U.S. District Court today against Bishop Mark Lawrence, asking the court to declare that only vonRosenberg, as the bishop recognized by The Episcopal Church, has the authority to act in the name of Diocese of South Carolina.

Having renounced The Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence is no longer authorized to use the diocese’s name and seal. By doing so, he is engaging in false advertising, misleading and confusing worshippers and donors in violation of federal trademark law under the Lanham Act, the complaint says. It asks the court to stop Bishop Lawrence from continuing to falsely claim that he is associated with the Diocese of South Carolina, which is a recognized sub-unit of The Episcopal Church.

The suit does not address property issues directly. But by asking the federal court to recognize Bishop vonRosenberg as the true bishop of the diocese, the suit would effectively resolve the issue of who controls diocesan property and assets, including the Diocesan House and Camp Saint Christopher on Seabrook Island. The ownership of individual parish properties is not addressed in the complaint…

The full text of the complaint can be found here (PDF).

And the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction is here.

At the time of writing, this action has not been reported on the website of the “Lawrence” diocese. The latest news item there is 222nd Annual Diocesan Convention to be Held in Florence, March 8-9 and also Three More Parishes Join in Suit to Prevent TEC from Seizing Property.

The latter press release summarises the situation thus:

…47 of the Diocese’s 71 parishes and missions have voted to support the Diocese; 18 support TEC and 7 remain undecided. The parishes and missions supporting the Diocese represent 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members.

The TEC diocese website reports that the Annual Convention of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, will be held March 8-9, 2013, at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston.

And it has this press release: Diocese added as defendant in lawsuit.

…Remaining with The Episcopal Church are 19 parishes and missions so far, along with at least 10 more “continuing parishes,” where members are maintaining official ties to The Episcopal Church even though their parish leadership has left the church. In addition, at least seven active and growing worshiping communities have organized across the diocese to allow displaced Episcopalians to continue to worship together…

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Developments in South Carolina

Updated again Friday

TEC Agrees to Injunction that Prohibits Them From Using Diocese of SC Identity
South Carolina lawsuit parties agree to temporary injunction

I last reported on South Carolina on 8 January. Since then there have been significant developments.

A South Carolina Circuit Court judge Jan. 23 issued a temporary restraining order preventing any “individual, organization, association or entity” from using registered names and marks that are claimed by Mark Lawrence and other leaders who led some Episcopalians in that state out of the Episcopal Church.

Judge Diane S. Goodstein’s order is in effect until Feb. 1 when a hearing is scheduled.

See ENS report South Carolina court temporarily restrains use of diocesan names, seal and also this diocesan press release
Circuit Court Blocks the Use of Diocese of South Carolina Identity By Anyone Outside of the Diocese.

And on 26 January a provisional bishop for those remaining in The Episcopal Church was elected, see this ENS report South Carolina continuing Episcopalians meet to plan their future.

See also:

Presiding bishop preaches to Episcopalians in South Carolin

House of Deputies president supports South Carolina Episcopalians

New bishop provisional addresses South Carolina Episcopalians

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Lawsuit filed in South Carolina against The Episcopal Church

See this press release: Diocese Seeks Declaratory Judgment to Prevent Episcopal Church from Seizing Local Parishes and “Hijacking” their Identities.

St. George, SC, January 4, 2013 –The Diocese of South Carolina, the Trustees of the Diocese and congregations representing the vast majority of its baptized members today filed suit in South Carolina Circuit Court against The Episcopal Church to protect the Diocese’s real and personal property and that of its parishes.

The suit also asks the court to prevent The Episcopal Church from infringing on the protected marks of the Diocese, including its seal and its historical names, and to prevent the church from assuming the Diocese’s identity, which was established long before The Episcopal Church’s creation.

“We seek to protect more than $500 million in real property, including churches, rectories and other buildings that South Carolinians built, paid for, maintained and expanded – and in some cases died to protect – without any support from The Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary. “Many of our parishes are among the oldest operating churches in the nation. They and this Diocese predate the establishment of The Episcopal Church. We want to protect these properties from a blatant land grab.”

The Diocese of South Carolina was established in 1785 as an independent, voluntary association that grew from the missionary work of the Church of England. It was one of nine dioceses that voluntarily joined together to form The Episcopal Church in October 1789, which eventually became an American province in the worldwide Anglican Communion, also a voluntary association.

“When the Diocese disassociated from The Episcopal Church we didn’t become a new entity,” Canon Lewis explained. “We have existed as an association since 1785. We incorporated in 1973; adopted our current legal name, ‘The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina,’ in 1987; and we disassociated from the Episcopal Church in October of 2012. The Episcopal Church has every right to have a presence in the area served by our Diocese – but it does not have a right to use our identity. The Episcopal Church must create a new entity.”

The Diocese of South Carolina is made up of 71 parishes with approximately 30,000 members. Of those, 22,244 members have decided to remain with the Diocese and 1900 are undecided. Fifty Three Hundred say they want to be with The Episcopal Church with nearly half of those from one church in Charleston. While the Diocese has disassociated from The Episcopal Church, it remains a part of the Anglican Communion.

Though theologically more conservative than the leadership of the national Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence has for five years struggled to keep the Diocese intact and in The Episcopal Church, even as some 200 parishes and four other dioceses nationwide disassociated. The parishes and dioceses have disagreed with The Episcopal Church’s recent interpretation of scripture, which is widely considered to be unorthodox by most of the world’s 80 million Anglicans…

And there is this letter from Bishop Mark Lawrence.

There is a long version and also a short version of a document entitled Stewardship of the Gospel – Stewardship of the Diocese.

And there are other materials and letters of support from elsewhere in the Anglican Communion and beyond over here.

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A TEC statement about Bishop Mark Lawrence

Updated again Friday

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs has issued a statement titled Presiding Bishop accepts Lawrence’s renunciation.

Citing Title III, Canon 12, Section 7 of the Constitutions and Canons of The Episcopal Church, and following thorough discussion with the Council of Advice, with their advice and consent, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has accepted the renunciation of the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church of Mark Lawrence as made in his public address on November 17 and she has released him from his orders in this Church.

The Presiding Bishop made the announcement December 5. The Presiding Bishop informed Lawrence by phone, email and mail on December 5. Following that, the House of Bishops was notified.

According to the documents, Lawrence “is therefore removed from the Ordained Ministry of this Church and released from the obligations of all Ministerial offices, and is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God’s Word and Sacraments conferred on him in Ordinations. This action is taken for causes that do not affect his moral character.”

The renunciation is effective immediately on December 5.

The renunciation was consented to by the members of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice, who are the presidents or vice presidents of the nine Provinces of the Episcopal Church: Bishops Stephen Lane of Maine (Province I), Lawrence Provenzano of Long Island (Province II), Neff Powell of Southwestern Virginia (Province III), Dabney Smith of Southwest Florida (Province IV); Wayne Smith of Missouri (Province V), Rob O’Neill of Colorado (Province VI), Larry Benfield of Arkansas (Province VII), James Mathes of San Diego (Province VIII) and Francisco Duque of Colombia (Province IX). Also members of the Council of Advice are Bishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas, vice president of the House of Bishops and Bishop Clay Matthews of the Office of Pastoral Development. Note: Bishop Dabney Smith was not present at the meeting because of illness…

The public address on 17 November referred to above is this one. Also available as a PDF here. The events surrounding this were previously reported here.

There is additional background material in the announcement linked above, and also on this page. An earlier letter from the Presiding Bishop is available here.

Update
Bishop Lawrence has issued this letter: Bishop Lawrence Writes Regarding Renunciation.

The Presiding Bishop called me this afternoon to inform me that she and her council of advice have accepted my renunciation of ordained ministry. I listened quietly, asked a question or two and then told her it was good to hear her voice. I did not feel any need to argue or rebut. It is the Presiding Bishop’s crossing of the T and doting of the I—for their paper work, not my life. I could bring up the canonical problems with what they have done contrary to the canons of The Episcopal Church but to what avail? They will do what they will do regardless of canonical limitations. That is already well documented by others and hardly needs further documentation by me. She and her advisers will say I have said what I have not said in ways that I have not said them even while they cite words from my Bishop’s Address of November 17, 2012.

Quite simply I have not renounced my orders as a deacon, priest or bishop any more than I have abandoned the Church of Jesus Christ—But as I am sure you are aware, the Diocese of South Carolina has canonically and legally disassociated from The Episcopal Church. We took this action long before today’s attempt at renunciation of orders, therein making it superfluous…

There is a lot of useful background information on earlier comparable cases, and how they were dealt with, towards the end of this ENS news report.

A further statement from the diocese: Diocesan Statement Regarding Claimed Renunciation

…This action by the Presiding Bishop will come as no surprise to most, though it should be a disappointment to all. It has been done before. Just as the Episcopal Church has been increasingly characterized by ignoring the plain meaning of biblical texts, that same behavior has now come to characterize the application of their own governing canons as well. Those canons are quite explicit about the renunciation of ministry. It is to be a request, made in writing, to the Presiding Bishop, that the bishop in question wishes to be released from the ministry of the Episcopal Church. None of those qualifications have been complied with. Bishop Lawrence has never renounced his orders or expressed the desire to do so.

It is also clear in the canons that a release from ministry is not possible when another disciplinary process is in force. With the previous certification of abandonment by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, it should not have been possible, without violating the canons, for there to be a declaration of the renunciation of ministry. As surely as these same interpretive habits have created theological chaos within the Episcopal Church, these latest actions are further evidence of increasing canonical chaos and a leadership that has slipped all restraints in pursuit of its agenda and goals. For those remaining within the Episcopal Church, these developments should be cause for serious concern. For the Diocese of South Carolina, which has already departed, they are viewed with a certain amazement, but also with gratitude that we have disassociated ourselves from the increasing dysfunction.

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General Synod Questions about ACNA and South Carolina

Two questions were asked at General Synod on Monday which were answered by the Bishop of Guildford. The full list of all Questions is available here (PDF).

53. Miss Prudence Dailey (Oxford) to ask the Chairman of the Council for Christian Unity:

Q. Has consideration been given to whether the Church of England is in full and unimpaired communion with Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina?

54. Mrs Lorna Ashworth (Chichester) to ask the Chairman of the Council for Christian Unity:

Q. Following the recent issue of a Certificate of Abandonment of the Episcopal Church in relation to the Rt Revd Mark J Lawrence, Bishop of South Carolina, and recognising that Bishop Lawrence has been one of the declining number of theologically conservative bishops who has sought to remain and to keep his people within TEC, in the light of paragraph 6 in the statement offered to the Synod in GS Misc 2011 by the Archbishops, are there any plans to consider proposing to the Synod fuller recognition of the Anglican Church in North America than has been considered to be appropriate up to this point.

The Bishop of Guildford’s answer (transcribed from audio recording available here)

With your permission sir, I will answer this and Mrs Ashworth’s question together.

The withdrawal from The Episcopal Church of most of the clergy and people of several dioceses, led by their bishops, after diocesan convention decisions, is a development novel in kind as well as in scale. Our North American sisters and brothers have been often involved in a litigious and sometimes acrimonious debate. We should try to remain on good terms with all parties and avoid inflaming matters further. Our response should be deliberate, and not hasty.

As the Archbishops noted in GS Misc 1011, the creation of the Anglican Church in North America raises questions of recognition of orders – ministry – as well as a relationship of communion. The former question is in some respects simpler, because the considerations are more objective, and it is also the more pressing, by reason of requests for transfer. Nevertheless there are some matters that require clarification before any decisions can be taken.

Clergy ordained in several churches with which we are not, or not yet, in communion are seeking permission to minister in the Church of England. The Council for Christian Unity has therefore established a small group to offer advice to the Archbishops through the Faith and Order Commission on the relevant issues. The question about the Anglican Church in North America’s orders (whether it is a church and whether its orders are such, whether they such that we can recognize) will be addressed in that context. This will necessarily involve direct ‘engagement with the Anglican Church in North America’ which was envisaged in the Archbishops General Synod miscellaneous paper that I have referred to, GS Misc 1011, and that will be the context for subsequent exploration of relationships between our churches.

On Saturday, a Special Diocesan Convention endorsed the South Carolina withdrawal from The Episcopal Church. The Bishop has stated that their position would be to remain within the Anglican Communion as an extra-provincial Diocese. The Episcopal Church on the other hand maintains that General Convention consent is necessary for any withdrawal. So the legal and indeed theological and ecclesiological position is extremely complicated. And it is absolutely not certain.

It has therefore not been possible to consider the consequences for our relationships at this immediate stage. And, in my view, any statement just at this point would be premature.

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South Carolina: withdrawal from Episcopal Church confirmed

Updated Sunday morning

Episcopal News Service reports: South Carolina convention affirms decision to leave Episcopal Church

The majority of South Carolina Episcopalians who attended a special convention at St. Philip’s Church here Nov. 17 affirmed actions by Bishop Mark Lawrence and the diocesan Standing Committee a month ago to disaffiliate the diocese from the Episcopal Church.

Those actions took place after Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori restricted Lawrence’s ministry on Oct. 17 after the church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops certified to her that he had abandoned the Episcopal Church “by an open renunciation of the discipline of the church.”

On that same day, the Standing Committee announced that the action of the Disciplinary Board “triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions of the diocese, which simultaneously disaffiliated the diocese from the Episcopal Church and called a special convention.”

The bishop referred to the special convention as “the Valley of Decision” during his address and asserted, “It is time to turn the page.” He referred to attempts to prevent separation of the diocese, and his oft-mentioned issues of theology, morality and disagreement with church canons…

The full text of Bishop Lawrence’s address to the convention can be found here. It is worth reading in full.

The ENS report notes that:

..While the bishop referred to numerous letters of support from church leaders, he did not announce any open offers of affiliation with the Anglican Communion, and he confirmed that for now the separatist diocese will affiliate with no one. In a conference call following the convention, he confirmed that alignment is not on the table at present.

However, during his address, he claimed that “for now and the foreseeable future, having withdrawn from our association with TEC, we remain an extra-provincial diocese within the larger Anglican Communion.”

Such a designation requires action by the Anglican Consultative Council, which concluded a 12-day meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, on Nov. 7. No action on South Carolina was taken during that meeting and the council will not meet again until May 2016…

Updates

Diocese of South Carolina Turns the Page; Looks Forward

Special Convention Approves Canonical and Constitutional Amendments Regarding Disassociation

Today, Saturday, November 17, 2012, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina met in Special Convention at the “mother church of the Diocese,” historic St. Philip’s Church in Charleston. There, an overwhelming majority passed three resolutions…

Full details of the three resolutions can be found here (PDF).

Video of Bishop Lawrence’s address here.

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Diocese of South Carolina: confusing developments

Updated twice Thursday evening

Earlier reports were here, and also here.

Updates
Bishop Mark Lawrence has issued
A Message from Bishop Lawrence to the People of the Diocese of South Carolina which is also available as a PDF here.

…On Thursday, November 15, 2012, the following message to the people of the Diocese of South Carolina from Bishop Mark Lawrence was placed in the Charleston Post and Courier. The Bishop’s message reminds us that we are still here, where we always have been: a historic diocese remaining faithful to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ and recognized as such by the vast majority of the Anglican Communion in spite of recent attempts to assume our identity by the new TEC Steering Committee…

ENS has published Presiding bishop’s pastoral letter to Episcopalians in South Carolina

Katharine, a servant of Christ, to the saints in South Carolina.
May the grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus our Savior be with you all.
You and the challenges you are facing in South Carolina remain in my own prayers and in those of many, many Episcopalians. As the confusion increases, I would like to clarify a number of issues which I understand are being discussed…

——

The Episcopal Church has issued this Fact sheet: The Diocese of South Carolina dated 9 November.

The Diocese of South Carolina (i.e. the body headed by Bishop Mark Lawrence) has issued

And a rival diocesan website has appeared here. Its contents include:

The group South Carolina Episcopalians has issued numerous further documents, including

There are even more documents from other sources available here.

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GAFCON supports South Carolina

Following on from here,

GAFCON Primates Write in Support of Bishop Lawrence

…During our meeting last week in Dar es Salaam we took time to pray for you and the clergy and people of the Diocese of South Carolina. We are encouraged by your faithfulness to the Bible and rejoice in your clear stand for the Gospel.

We are grieved, however, by the attitude and actions of the leadership of The Episcopal Church and their efforts to demand canonical obedience through unjust means to their ungodly agenda. As we have made clear in the Jerusalem Declaration we reject their authority and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.

Please know that we continue to recognize you as a faithful Anglican bishop and the Diocese of South Carolina as part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church….

and in this October Pastoral Letter there was an express mention of South Carolina:

…As a result of the increased aggressiveness of the revisionists there are now those in every province and beyond who wish to stand with us and who need our help to stand for Christ: in Recife (Brazil), in South Carolina, in the Church of Scotland, in Ireland, in England, in Australia and many more. We received reports from various FCA affiliates and rejoice in their faithful witness in the face of tremendous pressure and were delighted to receive an application for the establishment of an FCA affiliate in Australia.

We were also reminded of the need for prayer for those who will gather in Auckland, New Zealand, for the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. In particular we prayed that they will avoid compromise and have the courage to declare boldly the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is good news for all people at all times and in all cultures…

And there was this letter from the UK.

A group called South Carolina Episcopalians has a different take on events. See for example, this Frequently Asked Questions page.

The Living Church has just published this article by Mark McCall titled Dumbing Abandonment Down. This needs to be read in full, but here’s an excerpt:

…To step back from the canonical fine print, the larger question is whether South Carolina intended to leave the Episcopal Church by these acts. The answer quite obviously is no. It is obvious for three reasons. First, even the disciplinary board never claims that the diocese either withdrew or attempted to withdraw from the Episcopal Church by these actions. It claims only that the modification of the accession clause violated the Episcopal Church’s Constitution. But South Carolina’s legal counsel correctly advised the convention before it voted on these resolutions that seven dioceses have no accession clause at all and another 15, like South Carolina after the 2010 vote, accede only to the Constitution.

Second, the advocates of the resolutions, including Bishop Lawrence, said explicitly on the floor of the convention that “we are not deciding to leave the national church by passing these; in no way are we deciding that” (the Very Rev. John B. Burwell) and “we are called to resist what many of us believe is a self-destructive trajectory within the Episcopal Church; and to resist until it is no longer possible” (Bishop Lawrence).

Third, South Carolina has continued to participate in the life of the Episcopal Church since these resolutions were passed two years ago, including participating in the House of Bishops and General Convention. It is puzzling how bishops who sat next to Bishop Lawrence at General Convention in July could then vote in September that he had abandoned the church back in 2010…

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Conciliation sought for bishops involved in property disputes

There is an article for Episcopal News Service which reports a development for which there is as yet no official statement at all from The Episcopal Church: Reference panel recommends conciliation with 9 bishops.

An Episcopal Church reference panel has apparently recommended seeking “conciliation” with nine bishops (five active and four retired) after two complaints were filed earlier this year about their involvement in property litigation in two dioceses.

According to information circulating on some blogs, the reference panel unanimously decided that the complaints would proceed with conciliation pursuant to Canon IV.10 of the Episcopal Church’s Constitution and Canons.

Conciliation, according to the canon, calls for seeking a resolution “which promotes healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among the complainant, respondent, affected community, other persons and the church.”

An earlier ENS report in July by Mary Frances Schjonberg was headlined Disciplinary process set to begin on complaints against nine bishops.

The more recent article summarises the complaints thus:

In one instance, the complaint concerns the fact that seven bishops endorsed an amicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief prepared by the Anglican Communion Institute, Inc. in the pending appeal of a court ruling involving the Diocese of Fort Worth and the bishop, clergy and laity who broke away from that diocese in November 2008.

The brief objects to the trial court’s ruling that told the dissidents to return “all property, as well as control of the diocesan corporation” to the Episcopal leaders of the diocese.

Those named in the Fort Worth complaint are retired Diocese of Texas Bishop Maurice M. Benitez, retired Diocese of Central Florida Bishop John W. Howe, Diocese of Dallas Bishop Suffragan Paul E. Lambert, Diocese of Albany Bishop William H. Love, Diocese of Western Louisiana Bishop D. Bruce MacPherson, Diocese of Springfield Bishop Daniel H. Martins, and Diocese of Dallas Bishop James M. Stanton.

MacPherson is also named in the other complaint, along with retired Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Edward L. Salmon, Jr. and retired Diocese of Springfield Bishop Peter H. Beckwith. Matthews e-mailed them to say that a complaint has been received against them because they signed affidavits opposing to a motion for summary judgment made by representatives of the Diocese of Quincy and the Episcopal Church in the fall of 2011 to secure diocesan financial assets from a group that broke from the diocese in November 2008.

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More about the Diocese of South Carolina

See our recent reports, here, here, and here.

In the past week, there have been these developments:

The diocese has published this FAQs About the Assault on the Diocese of South Carolina, also available as a PDF.

GlobalSouthAnglican published a Letter from the Global South Primates Steering Committeee to Bishop Mark Lawrence.

This is also reported by ENS as Two primates write letter in support of South Carolina bishop.

ACNA published An Open Word of Encouragement to the Bishops, Clergy and People of the Diocese of South Carolina.

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South Carolina: the diocese responds again to TEC

The Diocese of South Carolina has published several further statements on its website:

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The Diocese of South Carolina responds

The Diocese of South Carolina has published in addition to the announcement reported previously, the following documents:

The Board of Directors and Standing Committee unanimously vote to call a Special Convention the first Saturday that is 30 days after any “Action” by The Episcopal Church (“TEC”) against Bishop Lawrence.

September 20, 2012: Standing Committee asks Bishop Lawrence to interpret provisions of the Constitution & Canons of the Diocese. October 2, 2012: Bishop Lawrence issues his interpretation of the Constitution & Canons.

Standing Committee and Board of Directors vote unanimously to disaffiliate with, and withdraw membership from, TEC effective upon the taking of any “action” as specified in the motion

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Presiding Bishop restricts ministry of Bishop of South Carolina

Updated again twice on Thursday evening

The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church has issued this notice:

Office of the Presiding Bishop

On October 10, 2012, I received from the Disciplinary Board for Bishops a certification pursuant to Canon IV.16(A)(1) that The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, had abandoned the Episcopal Church within the meaning of that canon.
Accordingly, I have this 15th day of October, 2012, at noon EDT, placed a restriction on the exercise of ministry of Bishop Lawrence “until such time as the House of Bishops shall investigate the matter and act thereon.” During the period of such restriction, “the Bishop shall not perform any Episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts.”

Dated: October 15, 2012
(The Most Rev.) Katharine Jefferts Schori XXVI Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

The certification mentioned above can be found here. Three “events” are referred to:

  • Resolutions passed by the Diocesan Convention of October 2010, which the bishop approved
  • Documents filed with the State of South Carolina in November 2011 which the bishop had signed
  • Quitclaim deeds issued by the diocesan chancellor to numerous parishes around November 2011, which the bishop had instructed him to do.

The Diocese of South Carolina has issued the following statement:

On Monday, October 15, 2012, Bishop Mark J. Lawrence, the 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina was notified by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, that on September 18, 2012 the Disciplinary Board for Bishops had certified his abandonment of The Episcopal Church. This action by The Episcopal Church triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions of the Diocese, which simultaneously disaffiliated the Diocese from The Episcopal Church and called a Special Convention. That Convention will be held at St. Philip’s Church, Charleston, on Saturday, November 17, 2012.

Bishop Lawrence was notified of these actions taken by the Episcopal Church between two meetings, one held on October 3 and one to be held on October 22, which Bishop Andrew Waldo of the Upper Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Lawrence had set up with the Presiding Bishop to find a peaceful alternative to the growing issues between The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina. The meetings were to explore “creative solutions” for resolving these issues to avoid further turmoil in the Diocese and in The Episcopal Church. A timeline of these events and their associated documents may be found below.

Two of the three charges had previously been determined by a majority vote of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops in November 2011 not to constitute abandonment. The Diocese has not received a signed copy of the certification and also remains uninformed of the identity of those making these charges.

We feel a deep sense of sadness but a renewed sense of God’s providence that The Episcopal Church has chosen to act against this Diocese and its Bishop during a good faith attempt peacefully to resolve our differences. These actions make it clear The Episcopal Church no longer desires to be affiliated with the Diocese of South Carolina.

Updates

Episcopal News Service has published Disciplinary Board for Bishops certifies that South Carolina bishop has abandoned the church.

The Disciplinary Board for Bishops has advised Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori that the majority of the 18-member panel has determined that Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina has abandoned the Episcopal Church “by an open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church.”

Following complaints of 12 adult members and two priests of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, the determination was made under Canon IV.16(A).
The 18 member board – composed of 10 bishops, four clergy, four laity – issued a letter dated September 18. Following the assembly of numerous documents, the Presiding Bishop received the letter in her Church Center office on October 10; the letter was received via U.S. Mail.

On Monday October 15, the Presiding Bishop called Lawrence and, speaking directly with him, informed him of the action of the Disciplinary Board. She also informed him that, effective noon of that day, the exercise of his ministry was restricted. Therefore, under the canon, he is not permitted to perform any acts as an ordained person.

From here, Lawrence has 60 days to respond to the allegations in the certification…

And ENS has a lot of historical background to this in a further report: Disciplinary Board says South Carolina bishop has abandoned church.

Episcopal News Service has a further report: South Carolina Episcopalians explain complaint against bishop.

A South Carolina attorney involved in the complaints filed with the Episcopal Church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops that resulted in the board certifying that Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence had abandoned the Episcopal Church issued the following release Oct. 18.

With much deliberation, Melinda A. Lucka, an attorney in the Charleston, S.C. area and an active communicant in the Diocese of South Carolina, requested that the Disciplinary Board for Bishops review various actions of Bishop Lawrence that have taken place over the past two years. Ms. Lucka asked the Board if it could make a determination as to whether or not the actions were consistent with the mission and polity of The Episcopal Church…

And there is yet another ENS report: South Carolinians say diocesan actions were ‘too far out of bounds’.

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Following the Money: funding the Anglican Right

In April 2006, we published Funding the Anglican Right linking to a major report entitled Following the Money: Donors and Activists on the Anglican Right.

Due to a subsequent rebuild of the website on which it originally appeared, the links to the full text of the report became broken.

A PDF version of the entire report is now available at this location.

In September 2006, we also published Has any Ahmanson money reached the UK?

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General Convention declines to take a position on the Anglican Covenant

ENS reports Convention ‘declines to take a position’ on Anglican Covenant.

The House of Bishops concurred with the deputies July 10 to affirm their commitment to building relationships across the Anglican Communion, especially through the Continuing Indaba program, and to decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant.

After considering eight resolutions, the General Convention’s committee on world mission recommended adoption of two resolutions on Anglican Communion relationships and the Anglican Covenant, a document that initially had been intended as a way to bind Anglicans globally across cultural and theological differences.

Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, chair of the world mission committee, told ENS following the vote that the resolutions are “a genuine pastoral response because we are not of one mind, and to push a decision at this time would cause hurt and alienation in our church on both sides and instead we chose to stay in the conversation.”

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition issued this statement:

The wind has clearly gone out of the sails of the Anglican Covenant. There was not even a single dissenting vote when the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia declared itself unable to adopt the Covenant. While our Coalition would have preferred a clearer “no” from the Episcopal Church, the resolution passed in Indianapolis is scarcely more than an abstention – and the commitment to “monitor the ongoing developments” rings hollow when we consider that the same General Convention phased out funding for the Episcopal Church staff position for Anglican Communion affairs. Perhaps they will monitor the situation by following #noanglicancovenant on Twitter.

The next major step in the Covenant process will be at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, this fall. We understand that there will be an attempt to introduce a ratification threshold and a sunset date to the Covenant process. Depending on the details, our Coalition is likely to be broadly supportive of both initiatives.

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General Convention approves Same Sex Blessings

Updated again Sunday morning
Episcopal News Service reports: Blessing rite authorized for provisional use from First Advent

Same-gender couples soon can have their lifelong relationships blessed using a rite approved by General Convention July 10.

In a vote by orders, the House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops to pass Resolution A049, which authorizes provisional use of the rite “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” starting Dec. 2 (the first Sunday of Advent). Clergy will need the permission of their bishop under the terms of the resolution.

The motion in the House of Deputies carried by 78 percent in the clergy order, with the clergy in 85 deputations voting yes, 22 no and four divided; and 76 percent in the lay order, with laity in 86 deputations voting yes, 19 no and five divided. The bishops had approved the resolution on July 9 with a roll call vote of 111 to 41 with three abstentions…

The text of the resolution, as amended, is here as a PDF.

The Diocese of South Carolina released a statement in opposition to this action.

Some other statements in reaction to this, and some press coverage can be found here.

Updates

Anglican Ink reports
12 bishops say no to gay blessings

A coalition of conservative and moderate bishops attending the 77th General Convention has released a statement denouncing the passage of Resolution A059: “Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Sex Relationships.”

The “Indianapolis Statement” joins declarations by the bishops and deputations of South Carolina and Central Florida in rejecting the authorization of provisional local rites for gay blessings as being contrary to Scripture, the Prayer Book, the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and the undivided theological, pastoral and moral witness of the universal church for the past 2000 years…

and South Carolina walks out of General Convention

“Due to the actions of General Convention, the South Carolina Deputation has concluded that we cannot continue with business as usual. We all agree that we cannot and will not remain on the floor of the House and act as if all is normal. John Burwell and Lonnie Hamilton have agreed to remain at Convention to monitor further developments and by their presence demonstrate that our action is not to be construed as a departure from the Episcopal Church. Please pray for those of us who will be traveling early and for those who remain.”

and South Carolina not seceding from the Episcopal Church

Sunday Updates
Statement from Diocese of Central Florida
Statement from Diocese of Albany (PDF)

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