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January 25, 2013


An Open Letter to My Fellow Episcopalians in South Carolina

Dear Committed Episcopalians in South Carolina,

As a lifelong Episcopalian myself, and as an attorney of 42 years’ experience who in 1980 began to be conversant in the canon law of my Church, I write to you on the eve of your special convention in Charleston tomorrow, which will be convened by our Presiding Bishop. (Full disclosure: I am currently co-counsel to the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, and am actively opposing my own Church’s litigation against their former bishop, because I so strongly believe that what it is doing in that regard is just plain un-Scriptural, and wrong.)

I do not write with the purpose of sowing discord or confusion. There are those already in the leadership of our Church who have done more than enough of that.

I write instead because I perceive clearly that you are about to be sold a bill of goods, and the goods in the bill are not genuine. Therefore, my principal message to you is: caveat emptor! Look carefully at the motives of those who want to sell the goods to you.

This particular bill of goods was first written only in 2008. I repeat: these goods did not exist in our Church before 2008, when they were invented out of whole cloth by our Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor, Mr. David Booth Beers. (He may or may not be present at your gathering tomorrow; I have no information on that point. But his presence is not necessary, because Bishop Jefferts Schori herself has become so conversant with the goods in question that she is fully capable of offering them to you as the real thing.)

And just what are these particular goods? I shall do my best to list and describe them for you, as follows:

First, that the thing called “The Episcopal Church” is greater than the sum of its parts.

This is demonstrably untrue. “The Episcopal Church”, conceived in that way, is an abstraction: it does not exist as such. “The Episcopal Church” is simply a collection of individual Dioceses, united for a common religious purpose. There is no way on earth for something called “The Episcopal Church” to be “greater” than the sum of those entities—the individual dioceses—that make it up. Instead, “The Episcopal Church” is no more, and no less, than what its member dioceses choose to make of it.

Second, that since “The Episcopal Church” is greater than any of its parts, it follows that “The Episcopal Church” can lord it over any individual one of those parts—and in this case, over the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, headed by the Rt. Rev. (still!—just not within “TEC”) Mark Lawrence.

Again, this is demonstrably untrue, because the first premise on which it is based is demonstrably untrue (see above). The individual dioceses are equal and autonomous partners in the association of dioceses which calls itself “The Episcopal Church.” No one diocese has pre-eminence over any other, and ninety-nine dioceses acting together have no power over the hundredth diocese. In the particular area of defining a diocese’s relationship with all the rest, all must act together, or else there is no agreement with respect to the affected diocese. No diocese, in consequence, may be forced to accept something which the others all want, just because they want it.

Would you like proof? Consider the example of offering Holy Communion to the unbaptized. Today there are a number of Dioceses that allow just that, despite its prohibition by Canon I.17.7, which could not be more plain in its language: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.” (Emphasis added.)

Or consider those dioceses that are offering not just same-sex blessings, but same-sex “marriage ceremonies” in their churches. The Book of Common Prayer explicitly says that Christian marriage (the kind celebrated by our Church) is only between “a man and a woman.” So how do these dioceses get away with offering same-sex marriages? Simple. They say the Book of Common Prayer does not apply to them in these circumstances.

Need a third example? It is often told to you that every diocese must make an “unqualified accession” to the Church’s Constitution and Canons, as a condition of joining the Church, and that act of “accession” may not be revoked, ever. Well, please look through this earlier post on my site, which shows some 28 dioceses, always treated as members of the Church since their inception, who have never included any accession clause in their constitutions. So how can they be members, even though they never complied with ECUSA’s Constitution? Perhaps you should consider that point in looking over the bill of goods you are being sold.

Third, that the thing called “The Episcopal Church” must “preserve and protect the properties which have historically been a part of it for future generations of Episcopalians.” Hence, the thing called “The Episcopal Church” must file lawsuits against those who would try to take “its property” when they “try” to leave it (something which they “cannot” do).

This is an entire passel of untruths and outright lies, given our Church’s history. The entity called “The Episcopal Church” never laid any claim in law to any parish’s individual property before 2006, which is when our current Presiding Bishop assumed office. Before that, a few individual dioceses claimed that the individual parishes held their properties in trust for the dioceses. Some were successful, but an equal number (approximately) were not.

The thing we call “The Episcopal Church” has scarcely preserved any property for any future generations. Instead, it is spending down its trust funds, which were donated to it long ago for purposes of its church “mission”, to support the myriad of lawsuits which it initiated on the current Presiding Bishop’s watch. It mortgaged its own headquarters, for heavens’ sake. How is that an act of “preservation”?

The litigation which “The Episcopal Church” is using its trust funds to support is all being conducted by the law firm of the Presiding Bishop’s chancellor. Thus far, I have estimated (based on the Church’s audited financial statements) that it has spent approximately $24 million dollars on such litigation, of which the Chancellor’s law firm has earned the lion’s share. The value of the properties thus far “recovered,” however, has been only a small fraction of that amount.

What does that tell you about whether this is all an undertaking in good faith “to preserve properties for future Episcopalians”? And what does that tell you about the motives of those who are urging you to act so that yet another lawsuit may be brought against Bishop Lawrence in the coming weeks?

In sum, I earnestly ask you, in the name of the Church which we both love and hold dear, to search deeply into the motives of those who are asking you to take certain actions, and approve certain resolutions, this weekend in South Carolina. Ask whether they are “of the Church” which we have known and served for so long. No, do not stop there: ask whether they are “of God and of His only Son, who pleaded with us that ‘we all may be one’.”

In His Holy Name, I remain your humble Episcopalian servant,

Allan Haley


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20 comments

Allan,  I fear we are living in a time where, unfortunately, truth is not seen as the outcome of rational discourse, but merely sympathetic identification with a point of view.  Sadly, many of those who are in the pro-TEC faction are so enamored with the liberal theology and social agenda of the current TEC leadership that they will vote for anything that is put before them at Saturday’s meeting.

But they need to be clear: it is not Mark Lawrence they are rejecting; it is the teaching of the Bible, the message of salvation through Jesus Christ alone—it is in fact Jesus himself on whom they are turning their backs.

It is reminiscent of the parable in which Jesus teaches: “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’  But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’”

The nobleman of whom Jesus speaks in the parable is Jesus himself.  Later when the nobleman returns, he judges his servants as to what they did with the money he left them; and he punishes those who rejected him as king.

When Jesus returns, what will he do to those who have, as you say, spent $24 million on litigation to drive Christians out of the buildings in which they have worshiped for generations—buildings that those who remain in TEC don’t need and cannot use?  What will he do to those who have emptied endowment funds, shut down numerous programs and offices at the Episcopal Church Center, and even mortgaged the headquarters building in an effort to go after those whose only “crime” is seeking to distance themselves from a church leadership that has distanced itself from the teaching of Holy Scripture and the proclamation of the authentic, apostolic Gospel?

If those who are pursuing this course believe in an eternal destiny and an eternal Judge, they need to know that He cannot view their actions kindly—that judgement awaits them as well; and I pray, for their sakes, that they will turn back before it is too late.

[1] Posted by ToAllTheWorld on 1-26-2013 at 01:32 AM · [top]

That’s a mighty big “if” you’ve got there, Fr Munday.

[2] Posted by Fidela on 1-26-2013 at 02:18 AM · [top]

I really do understand the issues about legal representation, but it is still refreshing to hear an attorney talking about right and wrong.  Sadly in today’s society, and especially TEC, that is all to rare.

[3] Posted by APB on 1-26-2013 at 08:30 AM · [top]

An excellent warning from a wise source.  The ECUSA members at that meeting today should organize themselves to form a new diocese in ECUSA to replace the one which left, to include the sixteen or so parishes and missions who wish to remain affiliated with the General Convention, and leave it at that.

[4] Posted by Katherine on 1-26-2013 at 08:36 AM · [top]

There is a reason why Schori is only the “Presiding Bishop” of TEC rather than the “Archbishop” of TEC.  This is because the American Church, unlike the Church of England, rejected the notion there would be a titular head over the entire church.  The American Church was set up as an association of co-equal dioceses, as the article says, not as a national denomination with a mini-pope at its head.  That was rejected.  The fact that the national TEC is not a national hierarchical church with a presiding bishop at its head is also reflected in its still legal name:  “The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.”  It’s a “society” not a hierarchical Catholic Church wannabe.

Of course, over time, and most notably with Schori, the “national church” has been trying to claim that authority.

[5] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 1-26-2013 at 03:17 PM · [top]

Puritan Jim,

TEC kind of screwed up the argument you made when it made the office of Presiding Bishop a church-wide office in its own right, without also being the bishop of a diocese.  Even in churches (Anglican and otherwise) which have archbishops, the archbishop is first the bishop of his diocese, and also has responsibility for oversight of others.  Taking away the Presiding Bishop’s diocese (long before Jefferts-Shori) made it almost certain that the PB would eventually become a titular head of TEC.  The idea of the PB being on the same level with all the other bishops except for being the one who presides when they meet together makes little sense when the only function the bishop holds is for all of TEC and to preside at such episcopal gatherings.  Such an arrangement certainly implies responsibility for running the whole church.  It certainly could have happened sooner.  Jefferts-Shori is just the first PB with enough ambition to carry through with taking the power that the organization of the office implies (although the canons do not).

[6] Posted by Warren M on 1-26-2013 at 05:48 PM · [top]

#4. Katherine,
“The ECUSA members at that meeting today should organize themselves to form a new diocese in ECUSA to replace the one which left, to include the sixteen or so parishes and missions who wish to remain affiliated with the General Convention, and leave it at that.”
If only.

[7] Posted by Fr. Dale on 1-26-2013 at 06:24 PM · [top]

Maybe those who have been through these wars can fill me in.  Have any bishops/dioceses that have left TEo ever wanted to take every parish who didn’t want to follow them by force or did they let those who wanted to remain TEo affiliate with TEo if they wanted and not with the diocese?

[8] Posted by Bill2 on 1-26-2013 at 08:48 PM · [top]

Allan, you are doing the right thing by trying to inform our fellow Episcopalians of this side of the story. I pray that your words will be accepted with open minds and hearts by those whose opinions differ at this time.

[9] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 1-26-2013 at 09:05 PM · [top]

Biil2, #8, so far as I know all the Anglican departing bishops offered parishes the choice to affiliate with TEC if they chose.

[10] Posted by Katherine on 1-26-2013 at 09:32 PM · [top]

It looks like they bought the bill of goods anyway. Here are articles from local newspapers.

http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20130127/PC16/130129355/1165/continuing-sc-episcopalians-install-new-bishop-welcome-leader-of-church-look-to-rebuild

http://www.thestate.com/2013/01/27/2606630/lowcountry-sc-episcopalians-rally.html#.UQUOcOhydLY

They are now, “The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,”

I’ve heard that Bp. Waldo attended. As the upper diocese heads towards implementing SSBs, I wonder whether it would make sense (administratively and financially) for the conservatives in that diocese to affiliate with the Diocese of South Carolina, and for the liberals in TECSC to merge with DioUSC.

[11] Posted by Ralph on 1-27-2013 at 06:28 AM · [top]

Allan and Pewster,
I am afraid that for some of those at yesterday’s convention, it is far too late they made up their minds years ago. However, there are still some parishes and individuals who have not decided to either remain with The Diocese of South Carolina or remain with TEC. That would be a great audience for Allan’s letter. 

Ralph, You are correct. We saw Bishop Waldo at Grace Episcopal Church yesterday when we were leaving Mere Anglicanism. Your ideas make sense but alas I am afraid too many are so caught up in the name game that sensible ideas are not sought.

[12] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 1-27-2013 at 07:45 AM · [top]

It will take a short time to see how much of the bill of goods they’ve bought.  Presumably they will attend the hearing on Friday to try to argue that they are the Diocese.

[13] Posted by Katherine on 1-27-2013 at 11:52 AM · [top]

Attendance for the newly formed <i>Episcopal Church in South Carolina<i>: Lay and clergy delegates from nine parishes, 10 missions and eight “continuing parishes” were seated for the meeting. So around 100? Look pretty empty in this pic: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/files/2013/01/1-26_SC_boys.jpg

[14] Posted by Festivus on 1-27-2013 at 02:21 PM · [top]

Were the “delegates” from the eight “continuing parishes” elected by their parishes in an ordinary sort of election?  What are “continuing parishes?”  I wonder if this means dissidents from parishes which have decided to stay with the Diocese of SC.  If so, their participation had no meaning.

[15] Posted by Katherine on 1-27-2013 at 03:18 PM · [top]

If they relied on the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of South Carolina to determine what constitutes a quorum (I am betting they did—how else would they know the required number of parishes?) and to govern the rest of their business that day, then they are purporting to be the Diocese of South Carolina, which is in violation of the court order. 

Then, as Katherine (#15) has noted, if representatives from the eight “continuing parishes” were not chosen in a legal and canonical manner (as in, elected by the parish—which they weren’t), then there was not legally a quorum.

[16] Posted by ToAllTheWorld on 1-27-2013 at 07:24 PM · [top]

I wasn’t at the TEC-SC meeting. I would guess that in calling the meeting to order, the PB declared that a quorum was present. If so, or if there was no declaration at all, and if there wasn’t a challenge from the floor, then I suppose the meeting could continue.

I’ve noted elsewhere that if I were rector of a DioSC parish and learned that parishioners illegally represented the parish at the TEC-SC meeting, I would call them in to my office to have them explain why they should not be excommunicated. I would certainly ask my parish chancellor to help write a letter to TEC-SC explaining that these ‘delegates’ were not official. I wonder what a SC judge would think about that.

I would guess that they had an electronic copy of the DioSC C&C, and edited it. Unless the C&C are under copyright, then I’d guess that wouldn’t be claiming to be DioSC.

This Friday, and beyond, will be most interesting.

[17] Posted by Ralph on 1-27-2013 at 07:54 PM · [top]

Yes, if a rector finds that people purported to represent the parish without parish approval, he should write to TEC-SC to disavow their participation, with copies to the Court or to the Diocesan attorneys for Friday’s hearing.

[18] Posted by Katherine on 1-28-2013 at 08:12 AM · [top]

I suspect that is exactly what happened as the numbers of parishes mentioned at the TEC meeting is too high and does not agree with diocesan numbers. Of course, they are free to gather with the TEC crowd, support them and even worship with them,etc. However, to say that they represent a parish in which the majority have decided to stay with the diocese is definitely lying!

If I were in such a parish, the feelings of betrayal would be huge. I know my parish felt very betrayed by the 4 of our parishioners who were part of the group that brought charges against Bishop Lawrence.  Fortunately, those parishioners have left but have not claimed to represent the parish.  What a horrid situation! To start a new diocese with misrepresentation based on lies.  Bishop vonRosenberg wants us to reconcile with this bunch?

[19] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 1-28-2013 at 12:18 PM · [top]

This is just page 5 from the Shori-Beers playbook.  The only reason they go through this charade is so they can have standing to file a lawsuit against the real DoSC.

Don’t forget this same group has been working with Shori-Beers in secret for a couple of years behind Bp. Lawrences’ back (and stabbing him in the back repeatedly in the process) - they know exactly what they are doing.

Thanks Allen for posting the truth.  Unfortunately some wouldn’t know the truth if it hit them in the face - they PREFER lies.

[20] Posted by B. Hunter on 1-28-2013 at 01:56 PM · [top]

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