Not only that, but it will apparently repeat itself with no lessons having been learned. This is all so unnecessary -- and the facts demonstrate, more than anything I could say or write, how severe is the crisis that engulfs the leadership of the Episcopal Church.
Let me first stick to just the facts, since as you will see, the essence of 815's rationale for taking the actions they have taken -- and apparently are further planning to take -- is that "facts are being distorted, and Episcopalians in South Carolina are not getting the truth." Here is a verbatim quote from the press conference:
Doug LeBlanc, The Living Church: The Episcopal News Service reported on Friday that the Presiding bishop spoke about tensions in the Diocese of South Carolina. She asked members of Executive Council to pray for the people of the Diocese. I would like to ask both presiding officers what sort of breakthroughs do you hope for as people pray about the conflict.And just in case you did not receive the message loud and clear, here is another exchange:
PB [the Presiding Bishop]: I would certainly hope that Episcopalians in South Carolina have a clear understanding of the realities of the Episcopal Church and they don't depend on erroneous information.
ANDERSON [President, House of Deputies]: I would agree with that. I am also in contact with some of the deputies from the Diocese of South Carolina, and the continued struggle for clear and accurate information for prayerful decision making for support all across the church is needed and asked for on a continuing basis.
George Conger, reporter at large [and Church of England Newspaper] to the PB and President: Both of you spoke about erroneous information at work in South Carolina. Could you speak to what exactly this erroneous information is? Are you speaking of the work of the Anglican Communion Institute or of other parties? What is this erroneous information?Now, just what is this misinformation and ill-informed opinion that is being broadcast to Episcopalians in South Carolina? Here is a third exchange from the conference, which provides a clue:
PB: Episcopalians, like many others who use the Internet, often seek information in places where information is not peer reviewed. They rely on opinions rather than factual information. I think there is a lot of fear and anxiety at work within the Diocese of South Carolina. There are representations of the theology of the Church was a whole that I think are inaccurate. There are representations of processes within the Church that are often inaccurate. And I would simply encourage people who have questions to look more broadly, to ask the bodies of the Episcopal Church for more information if they are uncertain.
ANDERSON: Yes, I would agree with that. As you know there have been situations in which information across dioceses where there are been disagreement there have been an influx of information coming from sources one way or the other and I think it is really important, as Bishop Katharine has stated, for people who are going to be voting on something make sure they have accurate information on anything that is before them. Anything as simple as -- and this is just an example and I am not saying this will come up in particular instance -- can a diocese leave The Episcopal Church? What is the process for those kinds of concerns and making sure that we know and everyone knows what we have agreed to in terms of General Convention over the years when we were all carefully walking this path together. And I hopefully we can continue to do that.
Mary Ann Mueller for VirtueOnline: The Episcopal Church has gone after traditionalists with a vengeance and now you are zeroing in on South Carolina, the same God-fearing Episcopalians who have been the backbone of the Church since the its colonial foundation in 1706, more than 300 years ago. Apparently, Presiding Bishop, you have retained an attorney to deal with local matters. What are those local matters and how are you going to deal with them?"Those who have departed"?? The fact is that the only parish to have left the Diocese of South Carolina to date is All Saints Waccamaw, on Pawley's Island -- and it did so in 2003 -- some seven years ago. Its right to do so was recently affirmed by South Carolina's highest court (although certain vestry and parish members who disagree with that decision have asked the United States Supreme Court to review it). This is hardly -- how shall this Westerner put it? -- a stampede.
PB: My understanding is that Episcopalians in South Carolina have expressed concern about some who have departed The Episcopal Church and attempted to maintain control of Episcopal Church assets. They have asked for some assistance because the Church as whole has some responsibility.
And how can the Presiding Bishop describe Waccamaw's victory in the South Carolina Supreme Court as an attempt to maintain "control over Episcopal assets"? My goodness and sakes alive, as my sainted grandmother was fond of saying. To think that there would be current Episcopalians in South Carolina who might actually choose to accept and follow the ruling by the highest Court of that State -- which held, just so that we stick to the facts, now -- that the Dennis Canon was legally insufficient to create on its own any beneficial interest in a parish's property and in favor of the Diocese or the national Church.
Do I have this right?? The Presiding Bishop of the House of Bishops and the President of the House of Deputies are concerned that Episcopalians in South Carolina are not being told "the truth" about the South Carolina Supreme Court's decision? That despite what the Supreme Court ruled, Episcopalians in South Carolina are entitled to retain control over the assets of those who elect to leave the Diocese? And that the President of the House of Deputies believes "that is [w]hat we have agreed to in the General Convention over the years"??
Were I not absolutely convinced of the faithfulness with which Cherie Wetzel transcribed these words, I would find myself doubting my own sanity. For -- let it now be said -- this is unsound; this makes no sense whatsoever. If the current leadership of the Episcopal Church believes so strongly that they are right and the Supreme Court of South Carolina is wrong, then why did not ECUSA itself ask the Supreme Court to review the case? Why did it expect a few dissident Waccamaw parishioners to carry that burden?
What we see happening right now in South Carolina is the kind of craziness that began in the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 2003 -- long before the terms of either of the current presiding officers of the Church began. As I have recounted in a series of posts dealing with the litigation in that Diocese, everything began with a suspicion on the part of certain clergy and parishioners associated with Calvary Church that Bishop Duncan was preparing to allow other parishes who disagreed with the impending consecration of V. Gene Robinson to leave the Diocese and to keep their parish property. So they filed suit against Bishop Duncan to prevent him from doing just that.
And the result, five years later, was not that any individual parishes left the Church, but that the entire Diocese voted to leave the Church -- after the (current) leadership at 815 had broken the canons multiple times to "depose" the Right Rev. Robert Duncan, its bishop.
But Bishop Duncan did not have any binding precedent of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on his side -- in fact, what precedent there was had held in favor of the Dennis Canon. Here we have the exact opposite.
"[Mis]information", my eye. This is not about misinformation at all, but about power -- absolute and unchecked power (because the House of Bishops is too cowardly to insist as a group that the canons of the Church be strictly followed when it comes to deposition of their colleagues), which corrupts absolutely, as Lord Acton famously reminded us.
If the leadership at 815 embarks on a Calvary-inspired harassment of the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence and the Standing Committee, then I repeat what I said in my earlier post:
This is a watershed moment for both those at 815 Second Avenue and their supporters, as well as for all those who are trying to hold on to a presence in the Episcopal Church despite its current tyrannical ways. Fortunately, their very arguments based on a "trust" in favor of the national Church may be turned against them -- if each parish owes perpetual allegiance to the national Church, then the leadership of that Church owes fiduciary duties to each and every diocese and parish. Those fiduciary duties are very clear, and do not admit of any waffling or tergiversation. Depending on how this all plays out, there will either be a very clear case for breach of fiduciary duties, or not.If ECUSA did not learn from the current debacle in Pittsburgh -- where the law ostensibly was in its favor -- then it is doomed to repeat in South Carolina the mistakes it made there. And if no other dioceses will stand behind South Carolina in its travails, then I miss my guess, and the Episcopal Church is truly not worth the paper its constitution was written on. All that will then remain will be a metropolitical Church under an arbitrary figurehead. After some 220 years, judgment will then fall on the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
Ah, well -- someday, it will all make a great book. Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.