Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Disciplinary Board Clears Charges Against Bishop Lawrence

The Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, has released a statement announcing that the eighteen-person Board could not muster a majority to charge the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence of South Carolina with "abandonment of the Communion of this Church." Thus ends a clumsy attempt to take seriously the allegations of "abandonment" lodged by dissidents from Bishop Lawrence's own Diocese, who tried to turn his steadfast insistence on the central importance of Holy Scripture to the life of the Church into a case for his abandonment of it.

Bishop Henderson, stung by the vehemence with which his initial announcement of "serious charges" against Bishop Lawrence was greeted, appears to have been unable to refrain from letting loose a parting shot, even as he retreated from the fray in ignominy (my italics added):
It is also significant that Bishop Lawrence has repeatedly stated that he does not intend to lead the diocese out of The Episcopal Church—that he only seeks a safe place within the Church to live the Christian faith as that diocese perceives it. I speak for myself only at this point, that I presently take the Bishop at his word, and hope that the safety he seeks for the apparent majority in his diocese within the larger Church will become the model for safety—a “safe place”— for those under his episcopal care who do not agree with the actions of South Carolina’s convention and/or his position on some of the issues of the Church.
"Apparent majority", Bishop Henderson? Did your investigations uncover that the dissident Episcopal Forum (some of whose members must have anonymously filed the childish charges) has at best about a thousand members? (There are even fewer, if we count just those who are willing to have their names publicly associated with the group.) And did you learn that Bishop Lawrence's Diocese has more than twenty-five times that number of Episcopalians, who are choosing to remain under his pastoral care?

Just what is this talk of a "safe" place for those dissidents, Bishop Henderson? Did you intend to add to their already neurotic fears and anxieties? I will wager that they are far safer in the Diocese of South Carolina, which is led by an actual Christian bishop who believes in Jesus' command to "love one another as I have loved you", than they would be under a bishop who believes instead in the Old Testament adage of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." (I refer to certain bishops who shall go unnamed, but who have signaled their vengeful intentions with words such as: "There's a new sheriff in town.")

The real question is just this: is Bishop Lawrence truly "safe" now, Bishop Henderson -- or will you be shortly sending him notification of new charges brought against him on account of his having authorized quitclaim deeds to be delivered to every parish in his Diocese? Those deeds renounce any and all claims (such as claims of any trust interest pursuant to the Dennis Canon) to that parish's property on behalf of the Diocese, and hence all claims on behalf of the Episcopal Church itself, since the latter entity can act locally only through one of its dioceses.

There persists, among the dissidents in South Carolina, and among similar canonical ignorami scattered throughout other dioceses and the Episcopal blogosphere, a notion that the South Carolina Supreme Court did not mean what it said in its decision in the All Saints Waccamaw case. Here is one such view, chosen at random from many such offered on the Web for public consumption:
Three years ago {Ed. note: Actually, it was two years ago, but who cares about being accurate here?}, the state's Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of All Saints, Pawleys Island that seemed to suggest that the Episcopal Church -- and any other similarly structured church organization like the Presbyterians and Methodists -- does not have a legal interest in parish property held in trust by the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina. {Ed. note: How screwed up can you make things? The parish property was "held in trust by the Episcopal Church"? Didn't you mean to say that in your view, it was "held in trust for the Episcopal Church in the DSC?}

All Saint's was trying to break away from the Episcopal Church and join the Anglican Province of Rwanda, which it eventually was allowed to do. {Ed. note: I'm sure the congregation of All Saints Pawley's Island must be eternally grateful that some unspecified person or body "allowed" them to join the Province of Rwanda, but that implies they had to ask someone for permission, when the Court held precisely that they did not. Their amendments to their own articles and bylaws were fully sufficient, under South Carolina law, to accomplish that result -- without anyone else's "permission."}

Legal authorities and those familiar with the Court's thinking {Ed. note: You mean that the Court thought other things than what it so plainly said in its opinion, and that one has to be "familiar with its thinking" in order to understand what it really meant? Good grief.} say that the ruling was specific to the unique nature of All Saint's case. However, the Diocese of South Carolina, under Bishop Lawrence, disagrees.

Critical to the Court's ruling in the All Saints' case was a "quitclaim" deed executed by the Diocese in 1903 relinquishing any legal interest it might have to All Saints' property.

The existence of that deed tipped the Court's view of property ownership in favor of All Saints' over that of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese.
Not so fast. That 1903 Quitclaim Deed was certainly cited in the Court's decision as one factor in the ruling confirming that the Diocese of South Carolina had released all claims to All Saints Waccamaw's property at that time, but what about the 106 years following? The only hook on which the Episcopal Church and the Diocese (then under Bishop Lawrence's predecessor, Bishop Salmon) could try to hang their claims of a trust interest was the enactment of the Dennis Canon by the national Church in 1979, and of a counterpart by the Diocese two years later.

Thus, regardless of the 1903 Quitclaim Deed, if the Dennis Canon or its diocesan counterpart had been sufficient to create a new trust interest in All Saints' property from 1979-1981 and forward, then it would have not mattered what the South Carolina Supreme Court found with regard to the 1903 Deed. Instead, however, the Court made short shrift of the national Church's and the Diocese's attempts to declare a trust interest in property which they never owned:
Furthermore, we hold that neither the 2000 Notice [of claim to a trust interest in the property, recorded by the Diocese] nor the Dennis Canon has any legal effect on title to the All Saints congregation’s property. A trust “may be created by either declaration of trust or by transfer of property….” Dreher v. Dreher, 370 S.C. 75, 80, 634 S.E.2d 646, 648 (2006). 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. The Diocese did not, at the time it recorded the 2000 Notice, have any interest in the congregation’s property. Therefore, the recordation of the 2000 Notice could not have created a trust over the property.

For the aforementioned reasons, we hold that title to the property at issue is held by All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, Inc., the Dennis Canons had no legal effect on the title to the congregation’s property, and the 2000 Notice should be removed from the Georgetown County records.
(Emphasis added. The Court speaks of the "Dennis Canons" in the plural, because both the Diocese and the national Church had enacted similar provisions in an attempt to create a trust interest.)

What is so hard to understand here? The 1903 Quitclaim Deed was not at all the "tipping point" which decided the case in the parish's favor; nor was it a "unique" factor which would enable a later court to distinguish the All Saints case from any other attempt to invoke the Dennis Canon (or its former diocesan equivalent). The Court's language could not have been more plain: "The Dennis Canons had no legal effect on the title to the congregation’s property . . .". "No legal effect" means "no legal effect." The two Dennis Canons, whether singly or together, were incapable of creating a legal trust interest which could be recognized by any South Carolina court, because they did not satisfy the basic requirement of having the consent of the property's owner to the creation of such a trust, evidenced by its signature on a written trust instrument spelling out its terms.

One of the things I have noticed in writing this blog is that left-leaning, liberal Episcopalians simply will not accept a rule, decision, canon or other pronouncement of law which they do not like. They will invent all sorts of reasons or rationales for evading the plain effect and language of the rule, decision, canon or other pronouncement of law, or for treating it as only a "special case," with no precedential value whatsoever.

Thus the Presiding Bishop found it "inconvenient" to allow the three senior bishops in the Church to have a "veto" over her ability to inhibit a bishop charged with "abandonment of communion", and so she simply ignored that limitation and went ahead and inhibited Bishops Cox and Duncan anyway. Or again, she found it "inconvenient" to require a written renunciation of his orders to get rid of Bishop Iker, so she treated one of his public statements as such a renunciation, and had him deposed on that basis. Likewise, it was most inconvenient to have to muster up a majority vote of "the whole number of bishops entitled to vote in the House of Bishops", since that language included retired ("resigned") bishops who also constitutionally have a vote in the House, and retired bishops hardly ever attend its meetings. So she simply declared that the inconvenient language meant something else, and got her wholly neutral and unbiased Chancellor to issue a ruling backing her up: from now on, a "majority of the whole number" meant only a majority of those who bothered to show up and vote.

The All Saints decision was most certainly a setback for the Dennis Canon in South Carolina. But Episcopalians everywhere must now face the fact: the Dennis Canon was completely ineffective to work its usual magic in that State, because that State has a Court which actually could apply the law of trusts, and of how one is properly created. Just because courts in other States have given the Episcopal Church a pass on its Dennis Canon is no reason to expect such special treatment everywhere. South Carolina, Louisiana, and (soon, I hope) Indiana are States which respect the traditional law of trust creation, and hence in which the Dennis Canon or its equivalents will have "no legal effect."

The dissident Episcopalians are thus blowing smoke when they claim that Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese did something un-Episcopalian in issuing quit-claim deeds to each and every parish. What Bishop Lawrence and his Diocese did was simply following the law as declared by South Carolina's highest State court -- and if to follow the law is un-Episcopalian, well -- there you have it, don't you? To be Episcopalian (at least, to be a member of the South Carolina Episcopalians group) is to ignore what the law plainly says, and to fault and try to drag down others for actually following it (and thereby disagreeing with you).

Accordingly, Bishop Henderson, your warning to Bishop Lawrence is utterly misguided. No one in South Carolina has anything to fear from a Diocese or its Bishop who scrupulously follows the law -- both civil and scriptural. It is precisely the ones who will not follow the law who make the place unsafe for law-abiders.


  1. Here, Here, Mr. Haley *raises hand for a high five* Yep, me too. I am getting tired of the "loyal Episcopalians" telling me that I am NOT loyal because i believe in the primacy of scripture like our bishop does. Sigh.. when will they learn? Give it up forum members and learn that South Carolina is the BEST place to be.

    Sc Blu Cat Lady

  2. Mr. Haley,

    Were I not convinced both of your intellectual and linguistic competence, and of your complete soundness of mind, I would have been somewhat alarmed at reading the following:

    "What is so hard to understand here?"


    "One of the things I have noticed in writing this blog is that left-leaning, liberal Episcopalians simply will not accept a rule, decision, canon or other pronouncement of law which they do not like."

    and, lastly,

    "The dissident Episcopalians are thus blowing smoke…"

    It seemed to me as I read the above that you were searching for a word. A word to describe those to whom you refer collectively as "left-leaning, liberal Episcopalians." And that word, it was clear to me is delusional.

    It is clear to me in what is now my 67th year, and has been clear to me for some decades, that most left-leaning liberals (although I would suggest that what we now call liberals are, for the most part, actually progressives) are, in fact delusional.

    They delude themselves as to the causes of observed phenomena, as a result of which they delude themselves as to the expected outcomes of contentious encounters, and they delude themselves about the actual constitutions of the Rule of Law, justice, and myriad other topics which involve the rational analysis of the consequences of prescribing specific policies to solve specific problems.

    I offer as a brief summary of the evidence supporting my analysis, the following:

    • Episcopalians of the ilk that you quoted and of the author of Praeludium whom he quotes;

    • Paul Krugman, who continually offers as the solutions to excessive government indebtedness the creation of still more government indebtedness;

    • Ben Bernanke, who also offered Mr. Krugman's suggestion and implemented it three times before reluctantly, and only tacitly, acknowledging that it hadn't worked—despite ample evidence from the FDR administration which would have led him to that correct conclusion without doing his own experiments;

    • Obamacare and the left's ringing endorsement thereof, despite the manifest failure of any government healthcare financing system (Medicare, Tricare, or Medicaid) to both improve the quality and constrain the cost thereof.

    There are numerous other examples, but I promised a brief listing.

    Ergo, I believe that we can safely conclude that, for the left to draw conclusions from their examination of "reality" through the lens of their own narcissistic leftist perspective, is an exercise in intellectual onanism.

    Thus it has always been, and thus, I would expect, it will always remain. If my analysis rings true, perhaps you can save yourself future aggravation in detailing their delusional writings by reference to this comment's use of the word delusional.

    Tne question then becomes how those of us who are not similarly delusional might best protect ourselves, our loved ones and our mutual rights as a free people from the rampant delusions of those on the left (Episcopal and non-Episcopal). If we can arrive at some reasonably efficacious answer to that question, we may save ourselves a very great deal of work in the foreseeable future—not to mention saving our own sanity and patience in the process.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  3. Sorry, I just needed a point of clarification. "No legal effect" means what, again? Thanks for the help.

  4. Right, Jeff Gill -- perhaps you could suggest a way to get the gist of the Court's holding on the Dennis Canon across to those who cannot get it even after being told three times. Heaven knows I've tried, and nothing seems to have worked thus far.

  5. LOL! All of you are exactly correct about those on the left being delusional. I certainly understand your frustration!! I have tried having intelligent discussions with some of the more delusional Forum folks and it is impossible. As for a solution to that state, I can only offer prayer as away to protect ourselves from that same sort of delusional mind set and the only way to open their hearts and mind to the real truth.