11/26/2012

About the Diocese of South Carolina

Here at Preludium heads are spinning trying to make sense out of the goings on in the Diocese (or is it now dioceses?) of South Carolina.  Actually here in Preludium's traveling office, located in the small library of the Seminary in Port-au-Prince, I have just had a spirited discussion of just why, if God creates all and finds it good, we are clearly a mess.  The Diocese of South Carolina's problems pale by comparison, or perhaps parallel the problems of good creation and messy real world issues.

Still I have to confess what the Diocese of South Carolina (the one led by Bishop Lawrence) does is of less interest to me than what the Diocese of South Carolina (part of The Episcopal Church) does. It seems to me that a trimmed down diocese of people who are willing to be part of The Episcopal Church no matter their complaints of the moment or even their long term problems with EC polity, theology and practice, can be a force for good new work in the vineyard.

So, here we go: A wee small mapping of the Diocese of South Carolina, a best guess of the matter, guaranteed to make some people upset.


1,  The Diocese of South Carolina in its unconfused form, was until just a few weeks ago, this:

DSC
 A jurisdiction that comprises a good bit of the State of South Carolina. No matter its origins before TEC was formed, the boundaries of the Diocese when it separated into South Carolina and upper South Carolina, were subject to the approval of General Convention in 1922. 

People may argue as to whether or not the Diocese of South Carolina is autonomous, may or may not have the option to go as an organization, etc, but it is pretty clear that The Episcopal Church - meaning the General Convention Union - understands the Diocese of South Carolina, whatever its geographical boundaries, to be the presence of the Episcopal Church in that area of the State of SC.   

The long standing, but mostly unspoken object of domestic missionary strategy has been to have an Episcopal Church jurisdiction  for every part of the map of primary territory of the United States.TEC is committed to a jurisdiction in that area.


PECSC
2. The Diocese of South Carolina (DSC) leadership reorganized itself and formed a corporation called The Protestant Episcopal Church in Diocese of South Carolina (PECDSC), the Standing Committee and Bishop becoming the Board and President of the new entity. The claim of the new entity is that it is the same as the old, only with clarity about its distinct organization separate from The Episcopal Church.

3. The PECDSC determined this past weekend at a special convention that it was withdrawing from everything organizationally having to do with The Episcopal Church, and that in doing so the DSC had moved with it, since PECDSC continues to call itself the DSC. So from the PECDSC standpoint there continues to be one diocese, and it is the one by whatever name is needed corporately.

4. The Episcopal Church, to the contrary says the people who formed the PECSC can indeed leave, but when they do the continuing reality of the DSC exists because (i) there continue to be members of the DSC in that jurisdiction, (ii) there are properties and monies held in trust for The Episcopal Church and / or the DSC that is part of The Episcopal Church, and (iii) TEC continues to have a mission imperative to have an area ministry - a diocese- in every part of the United States, and until it otherwise determines, the DSC covering the area of ministry assigned to it, is the expression of that mission. 

5. The Episcopal Church understands that there are now two entities - DSC and PECDSC

DSC is without a bishop, Lawrence having been inhibited and now by his own admission having left TEC, and 

PECDSC which is an organization of people and parishes that consider themselves a diocese without province, with Bishop Lawrence as their bishop. 

TEC is both by right and by law expected to retain those assets of DSC and its parishes as are deemed by law to pertain to the DSC. Unfortunately for it to challenge the PECDSC walking away with assets it has to go to court.

6. The PECDSC claims that it is the full  presence of the DSC and that there are not two dioceses, but rather the diocese and those who chose not to go with the sizable majority of parishes and people into this new place - a diocese that is "outside" the province in which its jurisdiction is located. Its claim to diocesan assets is based on there being one diocese and it is that diocese. It believes parish assets are to be used as parishes determine and that they are not held in trust for any other agency unless explicitly stated.

So there we have it: Of the two claim sets, I go for the TEC propositions, which are:

The Diocese of South Carolina exists as an entity in The Episcopal Church until it, in General Convention, determines otherwise.

People, clergy and bishops can leave the TEC, but when they leave the remaining people, clergy and bishops (if any) constitute the continuing diocese of South Carolina.

The remaining people and congregations must reorganize following the leaving of many in leadership and TEC can provide interim leadership to help them in the process.      

As to the future of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina - The people of PECDSC are every bit as much the beloved of God as are any other body of Christians, so God will provide for them and we ought to keep them in our prayers.  As for the organization PECDSC, I believe it is in for a hard time.  Whatever our emerging Anglican ecclesiology, I don't belive there is are provisions for dioceses that unilaterally claim independence from the Province in which they were previously lodged. Further I will be surprised if the Anglican Consultative Council or any other "instrument of unity" in the Anglican Communion will be moved to allow this. 

As the case of Uruaguay is now proving out, the request to move from one Province to one contiquous to that diocese is difficult to get permission for, but one could imagen that if both Provinces determined to do so and ACC said fine, it could be done.

In this case, however, becoming a free floating diocese without becoming part of another Province, claiming that this diocese continues to be part of the Anglican Communion, and all without the approval of the Province departed and without approval of the ACC is stretching whatever Anglican polity there is to the extream.  If it were allowed by ACC or any other "instrument of unity" it would open the door to the several dioceses that do right now claim such Provincial connection.

The leadership of the departed community, the PECDSC, is living in a fantasy land, where they are whatever they want to be without reference to reality. 

And, no matter past accusations back and forth, the reality of the break and the abandonment of the communion of this church by Bishop Lawrence is now a matter of record - not the record provided by TEC, but the record provided by the group itself. They and their bishop have nothing to do with TEC organizationally. Friends, that is abandonment.

Which of course can be a good thing.  If I abandon my pool playing, beer drinking buddies and give up their evil ways and take up a new life with a more faithful people I have no doubt abandoned the communion of rascals that were my community for something better.  So, perhaps, those who form this thing called PECDSC are about a better thing. But it is not the Diocese of South Carolina, part of The Episcopal Church. And God will judge, I suppose, just what of all that was right and who was righteous.

Meanwhile perhaps the PECDSC might remember.  When you leave, you don't get unilateral rights to determine that you carry forward all that was good about the old DSC, nor do you carry the right automatic right to the intellectual and real properties of the Diocese of South Carolina, or the right to determine whether or not trust responsibilities have been discharged.  Whatever Lawrence proclaims, it stands in the dock for examination and trial.
    


6 comments:

Peter Carrell said...

This is very clear, Mark. One way of expressing the difference at work in the midst of this is whether TEC is a church composed of dioceses choosing to commune with one another, or dioceses are smaller units of TEC which express the life of TEC regionally. I take your point re the 1922 decision to form the DUpperSC, that the then DSC effectively subscribed to the latter rather than the former view of things.

Ed said...

Mark - Your paragraph beginning "TEC and its leadership are required by law and good stewardship to challenge the removal of assets from the DSC to those who..." seems to be missing a line or two.

Mark Harris said...

Ed... got it. Thanks. That sentence was moved but not deleted into a comment earlier in the essay.

SCM said...

Major problem an easy to summarize.

Your # 2 is # 1. Factually and legally.

Nothing 'new' has been created in either realm. You made that up.

Please do your homework. Even at a distance.

SCM

Anonymous said...

One factual point relevant to your analysis: the corporate entity you mention is not new. The Diocese of South Carolina was incorporated as a South Carolina corporation in 1973. An amendment to the corporate charter was made in 2010 and filed with the state, but that did not change the corporate identity. As a matter of corporate law it remains the same corporation it has been since 1973.

Mark McCall

JCF said...

"All those other schismatic ex-bishops which tried this scheme of thievery and the courts said 'No'-La-la-la-la-la, Can't Hear You! Can't!"

Textbook insanity (Repeating behavior/Expecting different results)