12/05/2011

Matters in the Diocese of South Carolina just go on and on and on.

Just when it appeared that things were quieting down, what with charges of abandonment against Bishop Lawrence of South Carolina having been dropped for lack of sufficient cause, new concerns have been lifted  up from other quarters.

The Bishops of the Fourth Province (most of the South) have written a letter to ask for a meeting with Bishop Lawrence to ask him to explain just what is going on with this business of quitclaim deeds being given to parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina..  They write:

 We also considered, with some concern, recent publicly reported actions regarding quitclaim deeds given to parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina. Since we have had no direct communication from you regarding these reported actions, we determined that it is our duty as bishops of this province to address these concerns in direct communication with you, as Jesus exhorts his followers in Matthew's Gospel (18:15-20), and in accord with our ordination vows regarding the unity and governance of the church. What we seek in the coming weeks is a face-to-face meeting with you and and a representative group of your fellow Bishops Diocesan of Province4 in order to have a clarifying conversation and to address the concerns raised among us: 

A. We have heard and read reports that you have given a quitclaim deed to each congregation in yourdiocese. Is this true? If this report is true, under what canonical authority did you proceed? Did you involve theStanding Committee and are the members of the Standing Committee in accord? Who signed the deeds?Would you provide a sample copy of a deed and the letter of explanation that accompanied it?

 B. In order to better understand your action, the Bishops of Province 4 gathered in Memphis respectfully request that you meet with several of your fellow Provincial Bishops Diocesan in Charleston, orelsewhere if you desire, to discuss what has been noted above. We make this request in a spirit of collegialityand fellowship as well as out of concern for the people of the Diocese of South Carolina and concern for thewell-being of The Episcopal Church.

Unlike the charges for abandonment this letter addresses a concern that might have greater weight precisely because the quitclaim deeds directly come from him (although they may have Standing Committee or other approval) and because as a wholesale lump they are not directed at any particular parish and its desire to quit The Episcopal Church or sell their buildings, but rather as a direct test and confrontation with what the Bishop believes is a rotten canon.  The Bishop believes that he is bound to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church but not its canons if they are deemed bad law. This is sort of like saying you uphold the Constitution of The United States, but are free to disregard laws that don't meet your standards re conformance to the Constitution.

I am glad the bishops in Province IV have raised questions and done so in a friendly way. But things will get increasingly unfriendly if Bishop Lawrence can't do better than argue that the oath and vows don't mean paying attention to both Constitution and Canons until such time as you change them by due process.

The Bishop is quite right to argue that we don't have a parallel to the Supreme Court to try and test the validity of particular laws and so they must be tested in some other way.  

He has chosen the way of distancing himself and his diocese from supposedly bad canons - the Dennis Canon (Title I 7.4) and the whole of Title IV.  But that is by far the least helpful way to go, since it leads to yet another round of charges, trials and mess.  A much better way, actually a democratically useful way, is to take the matter back to General Convention and push back against canons that are believed to be unconstitutional. But the Bishop of South Carolina seems distant from any such action.

One could bring forward a resolution, "resolved that Title i 7.4 be rescinded because judged by this General Convention to be unconstitutional."  See how far that goes.  General Convention passed the thing. Give General Convention the option to reconsider.

Good luck with that!  But about Title IV there might be a better chance.  But the way to get these things out of the way is to challenge the constitutionality in Convention and see what the bishops and deputies do then.

This way, the way of the victim suffering for the worthy cause of ridding the church of unconstitutional canons, is awful.
 

39 comments:

  1. Make no mistake—Mark Lawrence is a rogue bishop leading a rogue diocese. He unquestionably is subject to charges and deposition, but one can raise legitimate questions as to whether that would be a good idea. I applaud the action of the provincial bishops, which has as much hope of improving the situation as anything. (I am not hopeful, however.)

    The complaint that The Episcopal Church has no analogue of the Supreme Court is nonsense. The Supreme Court is the General Convention.

    Also a disingenuous complaint is that the Dennis Canon represents an innovation. The canon merely made explicit what was the universal understanding of the status of parish property prior to its adoption. Its adoption was a response to the courts’ insisting on there being an explicit trust, not simply an implicit trust, in parish property in favor of the general church.

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  2. From +David:

    The concept that the Dennis Canon simply codifies that which was fully accepted previously is hotly debated and contested.

    The Diocesan and TEC claims on parish property in South Carolina are based on the Dennis Canon, General Convention and Diocesan versions, and if valid, might raise questions about the issuance of Quitclaims by the Diocese to the parishes. However the Supreme Court of South Carolina has ruled, and it was not appealed, that the Dennis Canon is null and void in the state of South Carolina, which encompasses two TEC dioceses. If the Dennis Canon in SC is null and void, diocesan and TEC claims on parish property that are based on the Dennis Canon are likewise null and void, so the granting of a Quitclaim does nothing more than clean up the paperwork, and since the value of the claim that is Quitclaimed is null, there is no loss of value to the diocese or TEC, thus there are no fiduciary responsibility implications.

    Since this situation rests upon the ruling of the SC Supreme Court, TEC would be wise to just move on.
    +David

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  3. Thank you for the factual reality, +David.

    A meeting like this could be an opportunity to explain the reality to those in neighboring states. Also, we could get a spread sheet re: accession clauses or lack thereof across TEC, some dioceses of which properly ONLY recognize the Constitution.

    No, a Supreme Court would determine when a legislating branch had created canons which are unconstitutional. Just as in the USA and in the Church of England.

    That's not complicated.

    I'd invite some of the unhappy Bishops to Charleston as is proposed. Be sure to have some other Bishops present. Maybe this can be an opportunity for Indaba or 'living in the tensions.'

    Msgr

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  4. I wonder which Bishop David this is.

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  5. PS--explicit trust. Was it not Justice Blackmun who said that the Dennis Canon did not actually succeed at that?

    Hence, the Supreme Court decision in SC. If it were all so crystal clear, these cases would just be dismissed.

    BTW, I find it intriguing that, at the time so many are asking for greater hierarchy, Sauls and Anderson are calling for local leadership. They like the idea and also the coffers cannot support the other trend.

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  6. Bishop David,

    What is your diocese?

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  7. It's mischief, is what it is. All of it. And ego. A Very Large male ego which really doesn't like it when a female get to tell him what - and what not - to do.

    This will go on and on and on - until - the bishop of SC will grow weary of it all and shoot himself in the foot and blame The Episcopal Church because he's limping.

    The problem with the Very Large male ego is that it always over-reaches. We've seen this with Chuck Murphy, Bob Duncan, et al. And, those, like David Anderson who have 'left' - but not really because, as, he so infamously said, he loves a good fight.

    I'm glad the bishops of Province IV are on the case with their brother but I do think the best course of action is to give him enough rope to hang himself.

    Never mind. I think he already has. It's just a matter of time.

    For the record, when I was President of the Standing Committee, I did not vote to consent to his election. Neither did my bishop or the Standing Committee of my diocese.

    WV = "micate". I suppose that could mean what one does when one vacates one's mitre.

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  8. No big ego here:

    "When I was President of the Standing Committee, I did not vote to consent to his election."

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  9. When does stating a fact, as Elizabeth did, require a snide response? I wish people who find that kind of thing fun would just have that fun elsewhere.

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  10. You are so right. Males have Very Big Egos. It is not a female problem.

    wv: jelly

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  11. Something tells me that Bishop David is acquainted with Lieutenant Kije.

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  12. When people speak of big male egos, are they referring to the male Bishops in Province 5 who want to call another Bishop to account for tidying up the legal situation in his diocese after the SC Supreme Court ruling?

    Or, are they referring to the stentorial pronouncements of Mr Deimel?

    Or, do they mean the machinations of Chancellor David Both Beers?

    Msgr

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  13. Msgr,

    I'll deflate your huge male ego by saying that you're a fake.

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  14. Elizabeth hit it right on the mark, and Lionel knows exactly what he is talking about. And my ego is in great shape.

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  15. Can't even get the province number right, can we?

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  16. Counterlight--I am indeed impressed by your Big Male Ego.

    Thanks for the Big Male Ego put-down.

    Msgr

    (see where this juvenile logic gets us?)

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  17. What a silly group of people you all are!

    Come Lord Jesus.

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  18. A very mature statement has now been issued by the Episcopal Diocese of SC. All may consult it as a reprieve from the Big Ego discussion.

    grace and peace

    Msgr

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  19. Msgr.

    I'll go further.

    You're a coward and a fraud.

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  20. Folks, if you feed the trolls, they will keep coming back for more.

    Really, they are sad people (if there is more than one...which I doubt). They remind me of angry monkeys flinging poo. Why do you give them any attention?

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  21. SC Episcopalians announces, without details, that a meeting between a Province IV delegation and Mark Lawrence is scheduled for 14th December.

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  22. There is another way to deal with trolls and it's the spam button. Maybe if we weren't all so nice-at-all-costs we would use it more and stop letting confidence men attach themselves to our blogs like lampreys on a trout.

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  23. 'Nice-at-all-costs' -- yes, that would be Mr Counterlight!

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  24. I'm not nice at all. If this was my blog, you'd have been spammed a long time ago, confidence man.

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  25. I would remind all of us that we are guests here. Fr. Mark has allowed us to comment on his blog and demands - explicit or implicit - to be allowed to post whatever we want are simply inappropriate.

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  26. BTW, why don't the Province 4 Bishops simply read the Supreme Court decision? It is available.
    The quitclaim business changes not a fact on the ground. If they have a beef, it sounds like it is with the legal ruling itself. There is no title to transfer. The property belongs to each parish by law. All a quitclaim would do would be to clean up the books.

    This seems more like wanting to know something that can be pretty efficiently learned or explained.

    I see that SC has now agreed to meet. The meeting shouldn't take too long. Just get a competent attorney to explain the situation and everyone can go back home.

    Msgr

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  27. The SC Supreme Court decision is not the final word. There is always an appeal to the US Supreme Court. Whether such an appeal is likely to succeed, I would think that the Diocese of SC would want to defend the property rights established in the canons. The path that Bp Lawrence has chosen is consistent with a congregational polity and not with the polity of the Episcopal Church.

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  28. Fr Weir

    TEC did not decide to challenge the SC ruling and one might wonder why they let the clock run out on that one?

    You are factually correct that in time the US Supreme Court might decide to hear these cases. Within five years? Hard to say. How would they find? Harder to say. Many wondered if that was why TEC did not challenge the SC decision.

    I wonder if anyone has done the research to determine the status of the entirety of the dioceses vis-a-vis accession clause? I have only seen snippets. I think VA has nothing. SVA maybe only Constitution and not Canons.

    It would be helpful to see this list. (And the very fact that there is a) no 'national' file, and b) varied relationships on accession) is another sign that your handy 'congregational' tag is an oversimplification. The polity of TEC is one of diocesan not congregational hierarchy. Since its inception. Unlike the CofE, TEC's dioceses have constitutions and canons, there is no oath to anyone above the Diocesan, there is no mandatory tariff, and so on and so on.

    This has been a bit of a learning curve for the judicial system, but we are seeing signs of real progress. The older 'hierarchical' and 'congregational' boxes to check have now had too much erasing and puzzlement. We may soon see in TX (the FW case) another judge have to decide whether the Diocesan hierarchy extends any further than that.

    grace and peace

    Msgr

    PS--if anyone can produce a diocesan chart re: accession, that would be most welcome

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  29. BTW, how would you have Bishop Lawrence take action against the ruling of the courts in his state?

    And why no similar reaction to +NJ negotiating with a parish? Was he acting 'congregationally'? You have yet to articulate why the quitclaim release changes anything at all, after the SC Supreme Court ruling. Quitclaim is not property conveyance or the transfer of title deed. The SCSC ruled that the parishes own their property and there is no Dennis effect re: trust.

    Or are you saying that TEC will sue the State of SC for property?

    They did that. They failed. And they decided to let the matter stand.

    Is +ML simply to plug his ears and decide they did not so rule? I confess I cannot follow this kind of logic.

    Msgr

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  30. As far as I can tell the quitclaim decision means that diocese has no intention of negotiating with congregations. The issue, which has little to do with accession clauses, is whether or not issuing these deeds is a violation of the Bishop's ordination promise to uphold the discipline of this Church.

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  31. Of course he can negotiate, Fr Weir.

    As he is doing with doubtless many anxious to leave. As he has been doing, and will continue so to do. He tried valiently to keep St Andrews in the diocese and grieved when they left.

    He is doing so on the basis of moral persuasion and an account of the Church that enables leavers to understand they have a vocation to stay and bear witness.

    This is the difficult vocation of Bishop Lawrence.

    A quitclaim adds nothing nor detracts anything from this. A quitclaim is simply an acknowledgment that the Courts have so ruled. It is not now nor has been previously a way for Bishop Lawrence to bid adieu to parishes. Why would he want to do that? He is staying.

    Why would an acknowledgment that the laws of the state now govern property in the TEC diocese of SC amount to some kind of 'breaking of vows'?

    Again I ask, what would you have him do in the light of the ruling of Supreme Court of SC decisions? Struggle to keep parishes from leaving -- he has done that and will continue to do so, within his legal remit.

    He benefits nothing from having parishes leaving. He has the example of AMiA staring him in the face.

    I do not believe you have put your mind and prayerful will on this difficult situation. I confess I believe you just see things within some abstract context of fixed categories -- which frankly do not obtain in the case of +ML.

    Msgr

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  32. I agree that I have given this situation as much thought as others, but then I have no role in resolving it. I think it likely that congregations that want to leave will, with deed in hand, may not be st all inclined to negotiate with the diocese. What would they gain by negotiating?

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  33. Not in the obvious place in my last post.

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  34. 1. They don't have to negotiate anything as it stands. The Supreme Court of SC has ruled. They are free to go. No action by +Lawrence alters, augments, or otherwise affects what has happened in the legal realm and which now obtains in SC. A Quitclaim is not a property or title conveyance.
    2. Actually, precisely because +ML is acting so pastorally toward his clergy -- in the same way that +CFL, +Dallas, and now +NJ have acted -- the odds are VERY good that parishes that want to leave will not do so, will stand by him, and would negotiate in good faith if it came to that. The best example we have of that is St Andrews Mt Pleasant. No one has followed suit, either.

    I continue to be puzzled as to what you think +ML ought to have done? To repeat, a quitclaim accomplishes nothing that was not already in affect.

    Msgr

    PS--I also suspect this is precisely why The Diocese is going to meet with Province 4 visitors. To inform them of matters that they apparently do not understand. Though one wonders why their chancellors could not explain the ruling to them.

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  35. The SC Supreme Court has ruled on Pawleys Island and on Pawleys Island only. As you very well know.

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  36. Read the ruling or forward it to someone competent. Quitclaim effects nothing. A good lawyer can explain that to you. Grace and peace.sgr

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  37. "Affects". Consider soliciting the assistance of a literate proofreader. Anglican "Bought-And-Paid-For" Curmugeon is hardly a reliable source.

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  38. How sad, not to know such basic grammar (or, law).

    Grammar 101:

    Effect (v.t.) -- to produce as an effect; bring about; accomplish; make happen: "The new machines finally effected the transition to computerized accounting last spring." Or, "Quitclaim effects [accomplishes] nothing."

    Legal 101:

    The court (rather broadly I might add) said “It is an axiomatic principle of law that a person or entity must hold title to property in order to declare that it is held in trust for the benefit of another or transfer legal title to one person for the benefit of another.” In other words you must place it into a trust, you cannot just declare one.

    Let's hope the Province 4 Bishops spend a little time reading the SCSC decision. The meeting is a gracious gesture and shouldn't last long and may *effect* some reconciliation.

    Grace and peace,

    Msgr

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