SC Episcopal Schism: The Latest

Last year FITS broke the story of “rogue Bishop” Mark Lawrence of Charleston, S.C. – the Episcopal priest who was booted from the national church because he refused to adopt its views on gay marriage and the ordination of gay and female clergy. As a result of the church’s action against…

Last year FITS broke the story of “rogue Bishop” Mark Lawrence of Charleston, S.C. – the Episcopal priest who was booted from the national church because he refused to adopt its views on gay marriage and the ordination of gay and female clergy.

As a result of the church’s action against him, Lawrence announced his intention to disassociate the Lower Diocese from the national church – a threat he made good on.

Now Lawrence and three other leaders of his “breakaway” diocese are engaged in a protracted legal battle – having been accused by the national church of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, trademark infringement and civil conspiracy, among other things. The result of these alleged actions has been to “deprive Episcopalians loyal to the Episcopal Church of their property rights.”

The suit – filed in Dorchester County – is the latest action in South Carolina’s Episcopal Schism, which is ground zero for the battle taking place all across the country between socially liberal and socially conservative congregations in multiple protestant denominations.

As we’ve said from the beginning of this drama, we believe decisions regarding marriage and the ordination of clergy should be left exclusively to individual congregations. We don’t support gay marriage (or the ordination of gay clergy), but government has no right to infringe upon the religious freedom of churches which in engage in these practices.

Similarly we don’t believe government should be in the business of discriminating against churches on the basis of their views of marriage – which is the latest battle ground in this contentious fight.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Government has no business sanctioning or banning marriage, gay or straight.

Nor does it have any business telling churches who they can and cannot ordain – or which denomination, synod or diocese they must join. South Carolina’s Episcopal churches – like its Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian churches – should be permitted to worship as they see fit.

Anything short of that is an unconstitutional infringement on religious freedom …

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TontoBubbaGoldstein November 26, 2013 at 9:45 am

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan…

Mark Lawrence didn’t leave the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal church left him.

shifty henry November 26, 2013 at 10:00 am

“trademark infringement ” —– church/religious related? We need more information on that…..

just another guy November 26, 2013 at 10:31 am

I am confused. What is the update? I thought all of this has been out there for a long time.

Smirks November 26, 2013 at 10:43 am

This story is getting old. Let them do whatever they want and leave them to settle it amongst themselves.

WTF November 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

It’s a vehicle for:
– the absurd claim that Willie broke the story
– the absurd claim that the government instigated the split
– the absurd claim that churches should control marriage, divorce, child custody, property division

nitrat November 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm

” the absurd claim that churches should control marriage, divorce, child custody, property division”
I honestly don’t think that Sic is smart enough to know that is what he is advocating.
Or, is he advocating no entity sanctioning marriage and, if so, how does his wife feel about that?

Bill November 26, 2013 at 10:49 am

First of all you broke this story in your own mind. This struggle has been going on for a couple of years. It was no secret, and there was no story to break. This is an internal church matter. It affects no one except Episcopalians and the followers of Lawrence..

Second, you obviously know nothing about Christian churches. Churches “generally” fall into two types hierarchical (the best example being the Roman Catholic Church) and congregational (the best example being the Baptist Church). Although there are some hybrids. If you are in a hierarchical church, the church leadership (typically Bishops) establishes church dogma, establish who can be a Bishop or Priest, what it takes to be a recognized member of the church, and the assets utilized by each diocese is held for the charitable purposes of the entire church. I.E. if you are a Roman Catholic from California and you move to Charleston, you are still a Roman Catholic and you can attend a Roman Catholic Church in Charleston and be recognized as a baptized, confirmed Roman Catholic.
If you are a congregational church, your congregation sets church dogma, decides who can be a Bishop or Priest, who can be a member, and assets are held for the charitable purposes of the individual congregation.
The legal battle over the property is whether the Episcopal Church is a hierarchal church, as the national church contends or a congregational church as Lawrence and his followers contend. This has both state law and constitutional implications.
The side show here is Lawrence wants to continue to call himself an Episcopal Bishop and his church an Episcopal Church. I personally believe that is because many of his parishioners are members of families who have been in the Episcopal Church since just after the Revolutionary War, and Church of England before that. He is afraid those families are unwilling to give up that designation and will look for Episcopal Churches to attend. He would no doubt deny that.
This is important because if you are baptized by a Lawrence Church, or confirmed by Lawrence, your baptism or confirmation may not be recognized outside of Lawrence’s Church. i.e. you can’t just move from a Lawrence Church in Charleston to an Episcopal Church in New York and expect your baptism and confirmation to be accepted unless that occurred before the split.
Therefore the issue will become is Lawrence misleading parishioners if they do not know he is not recognized as a Bishop by the Episcopal Church. No doubt this is not much of an issue for those who are currently members of Lawrence’s church, but people moving to the area, or what to become Episcopalians may not understand the difference between a Lawrence Church and an Episcopal Church. That is also a major part of the Trademark issue.
I don’t deny the gay issue is a big debate in our church. The national church appears to be slowly moving toward a dogma that gay people are gay from birth. Therefore they are the way god created them and we must love them and accept them as they were created.
The Lawrencians believe gay people in a same sex relationship are living in a state of perpetual sin. Sin that must be recognized and condemned. Many followers of Lawrence believe that gay people should be denied communion unless they acknowledge their sin, agree to end their relationship, and seek absolution. Essentially denial of communion and absolution means the person is condemned to hell under church dogma.
The marriage issue is really only a minor portion of the overall debate, but is the hot button issue.

afmajret December 2, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Being recently accepted into the communion, I found your last statement “Essentially denial of communion and absolution means the person is condemned to hell under church dogma” a bit disturbing, Bob. While it is quite true that the Roman church holds to such dogma, nothing of the sort was ever mentioned during my confirmation class, and, based on my reading, we did cover the essentials. I would appreciate it if you could provide a citation to support your statement. Thanks.

Stop Me If You... November 26, 2013 at 11:24 am

It’s Obama and those damn Muslins I tell ya! Left wing radicals turning my boys gay. The media saying it’s okay to wear white after Labor day. God help us all…I want my country back!

ELCID November 26, 2013 at 11:34 am

Like a Liberal & Conservative Religion with gay & Lesbian pastors then join the Lutherans. No big deal: Live and Let Live. There are much bigger issues than building dams where bridges should be built. Even the Pope agrees with the Lutherans.
Reformation??? Martin Luther must be smiling.

La Gloria Cubana November 26, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Uh, wrong… things are not rosy in liberal Lutheran land. The ELCA – the current largest and gay adopting Lutheran body – is crashing to earth faster than the challenger. In fact, the LCMS (the more Conservative Lutheran denomination) will likely pass the ELCA within the next 5 years. And seriously, Martin Luther wouldn’t be smiling at the ELCA at all (in fact, he’d likely be cursing them). But in reality, he’s probably be cursing all Lutheran denominations as he was a devout Christian and would think the “Lutheran” name blasphemous.

ELCID November 26, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Pardon: Martin Luther founded the Lutheran Church. Which includes the Lutheran Church in America LCA. All others are branches off the Lutheran church. That includes nearly all forms of Protestant Religions: i.e., Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterians, etc., etc. Also: Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic Priest who held extremely Liberal Views. Including, but not limited too, Married Priests with children. Nearly all the Protestant Faiths that have come after the true founding Protestant Reformation Lutheran Church are more conservative. We have the Missouri Synod Lutherans, who branched off the LCA. They are very Conservative, and more akin to Baptist than Lutherans. Although, Baptists, being a Convention based religion, are very diverse and individual pastor founded. Just like John the Baptist. I still think Martin Luther would be smiling at all the different Protestant Religious Groups he founded.

Note: Lutherans are by far the world’s largest Christian (not Catholic – which actually means Christian) Religion. Not any of those that followed, or have created their own branch religions.

Now, if the Pope really wanted to shake things up. He should do the right thing and lift the X-communication of Martin Luther. Then Technically, nearly all the Protestant Religions would then fall back under the Catholic Church Banner. And, if the Pope would go back to his beginning position as the Bishop of Rome. All Catholics would fall back under the one true pope: which is the Orthodox Catholic Church in Istanbul Turkey and followed by Russian, Greek, and etc. Orthodox Christians all over the world.

Of course, you could chase this rabbit further by going back to the other Christian Churches founded before the Orthodox, such as: Egyptian Coptic, and Agnostics. I find it quite a paradox, that the First Christian Bible, which was ordered and created at the Nicene Convention (remember your Nicene Creed?) was actually written by the greatest Christian Scholar at that time, under orders from the first Pope Constantine: was actually a Palestinian Christian. Yet, most Christians in the USA back Israel against the Palestinian Christians.

La Gloria Cubana November 26, 2013 at 8:30 pm

In reading your comments, I can tell you know little to nothing about “Lutheranism”. First of all, Martin Luther would have preferred to stay Catholic and for the Catholic church to have reformed. As such, he would have been dismayed to know that he had “founded the Lutheran church.” Martin Luther wouldn’t have anything to do with that name if he were to come back by miracle.

Also, the Missouri Synod was not an offshoot of the LCA. The (eventual liberal) LCA was established some 100 years before the Missouri Synod by Germans who settled along the Eastern Seaboard. The Missouri Synod, by contrast, was founded separately by German Immigrants (who settled mainly in Missouri) who were leaving their homeland in protest of newly passed legislation in Germany which sought to merge Lutheran and Reformed churches into a unified, though theologically different, church. I myself am a Christian who just happens to attend a “Lutheran” church solely because I like the theological purity of Martin Luther and the method of worship. Make no mistake though, out of honor to Martin Luther, I don’t call myself a Lutheran; instead, I’m a Christian.

Finally, Luther was not a liberal at all. So he sought marriage as part of his reforms… so what?! Marriage was actually allowed by the early Catholic church anyway, and Luther being Luther (whereby if he could find no biblical passage against it) was OK with it. That said, I really wish the brilliant biblical scholar Luther could come back just to listen to the biblical gyrations being made by the ELCA (and others) all for the sake of embracing homosexuality. Make no mistake, he would absolutely, positively think that such modern assertions are heretic.

ELCID November 27, 2013 at 11:47 am

I know quite a bit more than you give me credit.
I’ve studied the Lutheran Church and it’s history for decades.
I’ve also studied Religious History in London, reviewed the old bible texts in the Vatican and researched the very beginnings of mono-Theism in Cairo Egypt, and in the Gaza Strip. I think that qualifies me to speak accurately on the History of Christianity and the Lutheran Church.

You have a mistaken idealized version of history. That just doesn’t fit the actual facts. Lutherans in the LCA are the original Lutheran Church. The formation of the LCA was just a consolidation of the Religion in America. The Missouri Synod is a break away faction from the Lutheran Church. No more, or no less, than all the other break away Protestant Religions.

I think that beyond any historical doubts: Martin Luther was the most Liberal Catholic person in history. Your Definition of “Liberal,” seems to be founded in radical conservative dogma of today and not the historical facts. The entire Reformation and founding of the Lutherans and thus the Protestant Religions are completely based upon Martin Luther’s very Liberal views of what the Catholic Church should be about.

Married Priests are just as radical a Liberal position in the Catholic Church today, as it was in Martin Luther’s time. As a Christian and a Lutheran since birth, I fully support the Liberal interpretations of the LCA. And now, it appears to be the position of the Catholic Pope: Too. That is: “Live and Let LIve.” Focus on what brings us together, and not the few unimportant things that tear us apart.

You are free to call yourself, what you wish: Christian.
Yet, are you really a true Christian? Would Jesus push away Gays, or Lesbians. I seriously doubt it. I think he said: “Love one another.” I would add: if not love, then you must “Respect One Another.”

I Respect your opinion, I just do not agree with it.

La Gloria Cubana November 27, 2013 at 12:19 pm

First of all, there is no LCA anymore (Mr. I’ve been a Lutheran since bIrth); it’s been the ELCA since the late-1980’s. Go to church much?! Second, the Missouri is not a break away faction of the Lutheran church anymore than the Wisconsin Synod, the ELCA, CLMC, etc. Again, you are really showing some major ignorance toward Lutheranism in America. Third, is it Luther’s insistence on biblical interpretation purity (which by the way, condemns homosexuality, the practice, not the person) – vs. Rome’s interpretstion – that makes him a “liberal”? Just curious. Finally, I’ll leave it to Christ – not you – to decide whether I’m being a Christian. Shalom!

ELCID November 27, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Obviously you are more in tune with name calling and insults than facts. So, you and your right wing positions are not worth my time. You may be going to Church, but you are not listening or practicing your faith.

La Gloria Cubana November 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Please explain my above insults toward you? You were wrong and got fact checked by me… does that insult you? Of course, to divert the attention from your inaccuracies, you then play the classic, but tired, old game of throwing “right wing” meat to your base. Must be boring to live in an echo chamber full of lies.

jimlewisowb November 26, 2013 at 11:47 am

Don’t think Bishop Lawrence has done enough to dramatize his plight

Perhaps he could take hint from the scrotum schizoid over in Russia and Martin Luther

Would be willing to bet a Ying Ling or two if the good Bishop nailed his balls to the Church door, he would get his way sooner than later

Jock Stender November 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Will, you miss the point which is that the two factions are fighting over property (real, personal, intangible — the logo, and financial — e.g., pension funds), which unfortunately only a court (“the government”) can adjudicate. There is indeed precedent in the courts adjudicating such disputes, going back over a hundred years in America, and it also involves “ecclesiastical law.”

Things could be worse.

In 587 BC King Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed “down to the last stone” and burned to the ground all of Jerusalem, including the temple and the Royal House (King David’s Palace), and exiled to Babylon every single priest along with the last two Davidic kings (Jehoachin and Zedekiah).

There was a spiritual and religious vacuum in Judah — no temple, no priests!

Nebuchadnezzar simply ordered “those who remained in the land” to be under the control of his hand-chosen “governor,” Gedaliah, who was of royal but not Davidic lineage, and installed him in a new provincial capital, Mizpah, 15 miles north of Jerusalem, largely because Gedaliah was wise, gentle, virtuous and modest. He zealously began encouraging the remaining Judahites to cultivate the fields and vineyards, and thus lay the foundation of their own security.

The reaction of the “elites” to Gedaliah, the man of the people? They murdered him within three months. Gedaliah was a praised by the prophet Jeremiah (whom “the elites” also wanted killed). The attitude of ordinary Jews today to Gedaliah, the man of the ordinary people? He’s honored on Tzom Gedaliah, a fast day observed on the third of Tishrei (the day after Rosh Hashanah).

Read all about it in the Books of Jeremiah and 2 Kings.

Things got worse for the ordinary, non-elite “people of the land” (2 Kings 25:24); when Cyrus the Great of Assyria overthrew the Babylonian empire in 538 BC, he allowed the exiled Judahites, including the priests (now in their “second generation”), to return home.

Furthermore, Cyrus arbitrarily decreed that these returning priests would control the rebuilding of the temple and regain control over all spiritual life in Judah; no “input,” “discussion,” “synod,” etc. with or from “the people left in the land.”

During most of the 65-year Babylonian exile (604-639 BC), Jerusalem was unoccupied, in ruins, deserted, and “rival” or “remaining” factions who were not “elite” or “priestly” — ordinary people — created their own places of worship at the outlying towns (Mizpah, Gibeon, Ramah, etc.) in “synagogues.”

There was much hostility between, and a true schism among the two factions of Judahites following the exile, and it concerned not just control of the temple, but who owned what property. (Can you connect these dots?) The central question became “Who is a true Judahite?” — the exiled or “those who remained”?

The priestly caste regained and maintained control until Jerusalem was sacked once again in 70 AD — this time by Rome — and a diaspora larger than the original Babylonian exile commenced. Jerusalem simply was no longer a center of worship for what then were called “the Jews.” The various denominations (reform, conservative, etc.) developed only relatively recently.

My point is that at least in America when there is a dispute over church assets we have a “government” that can apply laws enacted by all the common people.

This is superior to the fiat of Cyrus and the disenfranchisement or pushing aside of “the people left in the land” — the “non-elite.”

Interestingly the same sixth-century question appears here, except that “Who is a true Judahite?” has become “Who is a true Christian?” or “Who is a true Episcopalian?”

Incidentally, the photo in your blog is the interior of my church, Grace Episcopal, on Wentworth Street, where I, like Gedaliah, consider myself among the ordinary, non-elite “people of the land.”

— Jock Stender, Charleston

God has a sense of humor November 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Just think, there was a time when Christians were so feared by statists that they were fed to lions for entertainment of the mob.

Now various Christian churches are the cozy lapdogs of the biggest state in the world today. How ironic.

In fact, you can almost always guarantee some churchs lofting a US flag over it’s own Christian banners in its preaching hall to some honor of some military or government holiday.

The biggest irony of all though, is watching fighting factions of a church go to the biggest property violator of them all in an efforst to resolve their own property disputes. LOL!

They will get the fleecing they deserve by the government run courts:

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

Jock Stender November 26, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Interesting point. My favorite example of government-sanctioned religious hypocrisy, after the sale of indulgences that precipitated the protestant reformation, is the auto-da-fé.

I also like Voltaire’s Candide and Molière’s Tartuffe the Hypocrite.

— Jock Stender, Charleston

RHood2 November 26, 2013 at 4:51 pm

You didn’t break the story. AP had it a month before your first report.

Jeff Jankowiak November 26, 2013 at 6:57 pm

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Government has no business sanctioning or banning marriage, gay or straight. But you feel your have the right to be in the business of government by encouraging the passing of laws to discriminate against gays and lesbians along with women’s reproductive rights. You cannot have it both ways….well you have for so long… but times are changing. I urge you to go back to you homes and churches before the SCOTUS actually reads our founding documents and they put you there. They did it to cigarette smokers…religious actions just may be next.

9" November 26, 2013 at 7:07 pm

‘God,Gays,Guns’. ‘Lather.Rinse.Repeat.’ How long are you going to continue with your BS ‘logic’ ?

ECUSA November 26, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Sic, you don’t even point out that the Episcopal Church did leave it up to the diocesan bishops to decide whether to permit gay marriage. Even that wasn’t enough for Bishop Lawrence.

Though the fight here ostensibly is over real and intellectual property, the trouble is the disposition of that property is controlled by Episcopal Canon Law, which Bishop Lawrence agreed to follow when he became bishop. A civil court coming in and holding Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina (the breakaway diocese) don’t have to abide by the rules they agreed to adhere to is precisely the type of thing you usually decry–government getting involved in church matters.

The suits at issue here will not involve adjudications over gay marriage or the ordination of gay clergy. But for Bishop Lawrence to prevail, he must convince Judge Goodstein that the government should intervene and decide matters of church governance.


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