KJS: She's head of the Church of England. If she can do it, why can't I?
Bandit Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, known far and wide in ECUSA for her lawlessness and contempt of the canons, has organized a new gang of outlaws in South Carolina. Together they are riding roughshod over the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, violating South Carolina law, and laying plans to steal the good name and corporate seal of the Diocese of South Carolina.
Or is that too plainspoken for some Episcopalians? Perhaps they would prefer an opening paragraph like this:
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA), the Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, has again taken steps without any canonical authority that will ensure future litigation with the Diocese of South Carolina and its Bishop, the Right Reverend Mark Lawrence. The steps involve a refusal to recognize the authority of either Bishop Lawrence or in his stead the Standing Committee of the Diocese, the calling of an unauthorized and unconstitutional "Special Convention" for next March, the misappropriation of the diocesan name and corporate seal, and the recognition and full support of a wholly uncanonical and ad hoc "Steering Committee" to exercise unspecified and unstructured authority pending the gathering of the illegal "Special Convention."
I do not think it is any improvement, frankly, to try to put what is happening into politer terms. All it does is mask the crudeness of the power play that is taking place with ever-increasing rapidity and ruthlessness. Since 815 is being anything but polite, why should the description of what they are doing be polite?
You can read the distasteful details in this article by the Rev. George Conger at Anglican Ink, and you can read even more sordid background (together with some very pointed questions) in this excellent survey of the situation by the concerned folk at the Anglican Communion Institute.
Surely these latest maneuvers mark a new nadir for the Bandit Bishop and her hired guns. What is especially tragic is that the pastoral needs of those who wish to "remain Episcopal" are being subordinated to her future litigation agenda, while the latter has practically zero chance of success. For the first time in her outlaw career, I believe the Bandit Bishop and her gang will have met their match in South Carolina.
The Episcopal Church (USA) may still be politically powerful in some quarters, but not in South Carolina, especially following that State's Supreme Court decision in the All Saints Waccamaw case. It took ten years for the latter litigation to wend its way through the lower courts up to the Supreme Court, and no civil court in the State is going to want to pay attention to any of the Church's defeated arguments again.
The Dennis Canon is as dead as a doornail in South Carolina, and so are any thoughts of an implied trust on diocesan property based on other Church canons and past relations. Only an express trust will be recognized in South Carolina, and such a trust requires the Diocese's written consent to its imposition. No such consent exists, or has ever existed at any time in the past.
Moreover, the Diocese of South Carolina is organized as a corporation under South Carolina law. That fact guarantees its own independent, legal identity in the State's courts and before all of its executive and legislative bodies, officers and agencies. For the Bandit Bishop and her minions to try to appropriate that identity for their own nefarious purposes is fully akin to what would be called "identity theft" in any other context.
Why in the world, then, would the "remain Episcopal" group, consisting of some twelve parishes in the Diocese, want to get off on such a wrong foot under South Carolina law? The answer is plain, no matter how much they may try to disavow it, and play the innocent: they are wholly subservient to their captain, and that captain is Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Chief Outlaw of the Episcopal Church (USA).
It is only with her recognition, aid and support that these others could go down such a lawless path of their own. Inspired by her example, they have impersonated the Diocesan office in two emails, misused the corporate seal, and pretended to be who they are not under South Carolina law. This is, of course, all pursuant to, and in order to further yet again, 815's Grand Strategy for dealing with dissident dioceses, as spelled out by 815 itself and discussed in this earlier post.
As the ACI article carefully explains, the Bandit Bishop's outlaw strategy in South Carolina is not just invented from day to day; it is self-contradictory, and will result in embarrassment in the courts. On the one hand, 815 is acting as though the Diocese has not left, but has only had all of its positions suddenly become vacant -- and it is going about the process of filling them with new people.
But on the other hand, the actions in South Carolina being taken by the Presiding Bishop are canonical only if there is no longer a Diocese there, but only patches of raw territory waiting to be organized as a new diocese. So which is it?
Hint: they don't know, and they are not going to say. They are improvising, as I say, and they will keep on improvising until they have run out of tunes to try. Meanwhile, the object is to cause maximum annoyance and expense to the legitimate Diocese. Under current South Carolina law, this cannot end well.
Within ECUSA, the attitude is mostly "she has to do this -- Bishop Lawrence has given her no choice." But what does that really say? Think about it for a moment.
Has Bishop Lawrence forced the Bandit Bishop to act like a bandit? Has he forced her to violate the Church's own canons, and to encourage others to violate South Carolina law? Is that what Episcopalians are all about? To gain a short-term end by the use of illegal means? Is that the example which Christ set for us to follow?
I scarcely recognize the Church that I am in any more. Its leadership is not Christian, as their repeated lawless actions demonstrate. And the pew-sitters, officers, deacons, priests and bishops who allow them to run amok with impunity are not just enablers, but run the risk of becoming, in the moral sense at least, abetters and unindicted co-conspirators for an unlawful enterprise.
Trying to bring the Chief Outlaw to discipline before her own tribunals at this point would be too little, too late. The time to do that is long past -- it should have been right when she committed five violations of the same canon in putting the first notches in her belt. Just as it failed to discipline Bishops Pike and Spong before her, the Church is now showing its impotence, iniquity and increasing irrelevance by failing to call its current leader to account.
This is the season of stewardship, when all Christians are reminded of their duty to use wisely and well the resources with which God has favored them. It is not just folly anymore, but positively wicked, to continue to support such lawlessness from any level -- including that of the Anglican Communion. (Are you listening, ABCD Welby?)
So where should disgusted Episcopalians turn? First, to Holy Scripture -- Ephesians 6:10-20 would be a good place to start. Next, spread the word about what is happening. The story tells itself -- but it needs to be told. Those in South Carolina and neighboring States should be writing letters to their local papers; those elsewhere can write letters of support to Bishop Lawrence and his Diocese. They need to hear that not all of the Episcopal Church has abandoned them!
Send letters wherever you think they might do some good. ECUSA does not operate in a vacuum; it pretends to be a constituent member of the Anglican Communion. Write the ABC and the new ABCD. ECUSA's corporate operations are under the jurisdiction of New York's Attorney General, who intervened once before, after the scandal of Ellen Cooke. Finally, ECUSA is a 501 (c) (3) organization under the Internal Revenue Code, and must stay within the limits specified for such organizations. Many of its member dioceses use its charitable exemption under an "umbrella" arrangement allowed by the IRS, but that can last only for so long as ECUSA uses its funds and assets for qualified charitable purposes. Without any meaningful oversight of its litigation expenses, it is difficult to see how the amounts it is deploying to punish departing dioceses and parishes could pass muster under applicable standards.
And while you are at it, please include in your prayers the Diocese of South Carolina and her faithful Bishop.