Friday, February 27, 2015

More good news: Another fading mainline denomination loses in court

Excellent news from The Layman Online:
A judge has ruled in favor of First Presbyterian Church in Houston in its legal battle with New Covenant Presbytery for its property.

On Feb. 20, Judge Wesley R. Ward granted the church’s request for summary judgment, “finding that there is no genuinely disputed issue of material fact and that plaintiff is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”

In his decision, Ward found that there was “no enforceable trust or property interest created by any version of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Order or the Presbyterian Church of the United States Book of Church Order under the neutral principle factors set forth by the Texas Supreme Court in Masterson V. Diocese of NW Texas.”

“Judge Ward’s decision is firmly rooted in Texas law and the facts of this case,” said one of the church’s lawyers, Lloyd J. Lunceford, who is also a member of the board of directors of the Presbyterian Lay Committee. “The court rejected the presbytery’s argument that a valid trust arose under the express trust clauses that were added to the PCUS and PCUSA constitutions in the early 1980s, and the court rejected the presbytery’s novel, fallback argument that a trust or other property right arose under the denomination’s dissolving clause that dated to 1925. Needless to say, the leadership of FPC Houston is gratified and is looking forward to a bright future of Christian ministry without any distracting threat or confusion about the property rights of the local church. The local church’s legal representation was a team effort, involving my Baton Rouge firm, Taylor Porter, the Dallas-based firm of Craddock Davis & Krause, and the Houston-based firm of Susman & Godfrey. It was a privilege to be a part of that team and to help represent such a wonderful client.”

The decision stated that “all property … is held and owned by First Presbyterian Church in Houston … in full, complete, unfettered, fee simple and absolute ownership and title, all in accordance with the laws of the State of Texas.”

It also stated that the “trust and other property interests claims” made by the presbytery are “unenforceable and without legal force and effect.”

The judge’s decision included a permanent injunction that barred the presbytery, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and any people or entities related to it from doing anything that would interfere with or disturb First Presbyterian’s “ownership, use, control or disposition” of the property.

The background

On May 29, 2014, the church filed a civil lawsuit seeking to clear the title of the church property from claims by the denomination that it holds a trust interest in FPC’s property. In a letter to the congregation citing its reasons for filing the lawsuit, the clerk’s of session referred to the congregation’s recent experience in working through New Covenant Presbytery’s “Reconciliation and Dismissal Procedure” and its failed voted to leave the PCUSA.

Earlier in the year, on Feb. 23, the church held a congregational meeting to vote on leaving the PCUSA and joining ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. The vote fell 36 votes short of attaining the required two-thirds majority.

Out of approximately 3,100 members, 1,681 attended the meeting, with 1,085 of them voting in favor of leaving the PCUSA. The congregation needed at least 1,121 votes in favor of the motion for it to pass.

While the church was working through the discernment process, the presbytery “made it clear that it believes that FPC owns its property for the benefit of the PCUSA. The FPC session believes it is necessary to resolve this issue once and for all – does PCUSA have any interest in FPC’s property?” according to a May 29 letter from the session to the congregation. “Clearing up property rights will honor the legacy of our past and provide stability for our future.”

The clerks of session – Jane Costello, Lesley Lilly and David McCarty – wrote that“It’s important to stress what this lawsuit is not.FPC is not seeking to leave the PCUSA through the filing of this legal action. Nor is this lawsuit seeking another vote on whether FPC should leave the PCUSA. All this action seeks is a determination from the court of whether FPC completely controls the use of its property.”

February Pastoral Letter from GAFCON Chairman

To the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends
from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya
and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council

Lent 2015

‘For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.’
​1 Corinthians 2:2

My dear brothers and sisters,

I send you greetings in the precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ who by his suffering and death has destroyed death!

The gospel writers normally portray Jesus’ mission as the unfolding of a clear divine purpose so I find it striking that the only occasions when we find him wrestling with choices are the temptations in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry and in the Garden of Gethsemane as he approaches the cross.

In contrast, we easily become preoccupied with self-centred choices that distract us from the challenges of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. The temptations that Jesus faced remind us that we too are in a lifelong spiritual battle. This is a truth we affirm in the baptism service of the Anglican Church of Kenya which includes the words ‘Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified. Fight bravely under his banner against sin, the world and the devil and continue his faithful soldiers and servants to the end of your lives.’

Attacks on Christians in the Middle East and West Africa show us that for a growing number of Christians, confessing the faith of Christ crucified can lead to extreme suffering and cruel death. Now we have seen Islamic militants extend their barbarity to North Africa and turn the sea red with the blood of twenty-one Egyptian Christians beheaded on a Libyan beach for being ‘people of the cross.’ Let us pledge during this Lenten season to pray continually for those facing such ruthless persecution. In the same week as this atrocity, the Church of Uganda celebrated the courageous leadership of Ugandan Archbishop Janani Luwum who died as a martyr at the hands of Idi Amin thirty-eight years ago and whose witness is a continual inspiration and a reminder that the blood of those who die for the cause of Christ is not be shed in vain.

For many of us testing comes in more ordinary ways through life’s trials, in the face of which there can be the temptation to despair and give up. A person who could have done just that was the first missionary to East Africa, Johann Krapf, who was sent by CMS and arrived in Mombasa in 1844. In the same year his wife and baby daughter died of malaria, but he persevered and wrote ‘The victories of the Church are gained by stepping over the graves of her members’. Today, he is honoured as a founding figure of the Anglican Church of Kenya.

We learn the key to such spiritual strength in the face of temptation from Jesus’ experience in the wilderness. He repels the devil’s assaults by the Word of God and challenges the devil’s prompting to turn stones into bread by saying ‘it is written’ as he quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).

Jesus here affirms that the words of Scripture are words that come from the mouth of God. They are divine words, not merely human words, and it is by every such word that we are to live, not just those words that we find comfortable in our culture.

A Church that is no longer able to say ‘it is written’ has placed itself in great spiritual danger, but that is where the Anglican Communion could be led according to a review just released of ‘Living Reconciliation’, a book written to promote the 'Continuing Indaba' project.

The review by Dr Martin Davie, a respected Church of England theologian who was until recently Theological Consultant to its House of Bishops, shows that ‘Living Reconciliation’ is not faithful to the Bible’s teaching that reconciliation has evangelism at its heart. What the writers are really concerned about is institutional unity and they simply assume that the deeply divisive promotion of same sex relationships by such Churches as the Episcopal Church of the United States is not a barrier to full and continued fellowship.

According to Dr Davie ‘The New Testament’s emphasis is not on people learning to live with what divides them, but learning to live out what unites them’. The New Testament teaches that reconciliation with each other flows from reconciliation with God through repentance and faith in the gospel message. It does not make sense to call for reconciliation in the Church while at the same time accepting behaviour that the Bible says excludes people from the Kingdom of God unless they repent.

He concludes that the path recommended by the authors of ‘Living Reconciliation’ is ‘effectively a blank cheque for the acceptance of any and every possible form of deviation from New Testament Christianity.’ An introduction and link to the review is given on the GAFCON website.

The GAFCON movement is vital for the future. At its heart is a passion to see the Anglican Communion restored and renewed so that it can confess the faith of Christ crucified with integrity and without confusion and division. This is a call to discipleship for each one of us, so let us learn from Jesus to say ‘it is written’ and stand firm in the power and promises of God.

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council

Monday, February 23, 2015

More good news: Judge Goodstein says "NO!" to TEC again

ST. GEORGE, S.C. (Feb. 22, 2015) – For the second time in less than a month, South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein rejected arguments by The Episcopal Church and its subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, that the two groups are rightful owners of the churches, symbols and other assets of the Diocese of South Carolina.

In her Order denying the motion for reconsideration she stated, “Large portions of the motion are simply the proposed orders previously submitted to the Court or reiterations of the Defendants’ positions at trial.”

The motion had also argued that because the Diocese had argued legal positions in the All Saints case contrary to those now being presented, that Judicial Estoppel should apply. In response, Judge Goodstein sharply noted... “The court finds that the Judicial Estoppel argument is without merit....If the Defendants’ argument in the instant action was correct, no party previously adjudicated to be wrong would be able to correct their conduct in compliance with a court’s holding. Such a result would be contrary to all sense of justice and order... With regards all other matters presented in Defendants’ Motion for Reconsideration, they are hereby denied.”

Earlier this month, Judge Goodstein ruled that the Diocese of South Carolina, its trustees and the 50 parishes -- representing 80 percent of the members -- that disassociated with the Diocese successfully withdrew from TEC in 2012, taking all their property, including churches, symbols and other assets. The ruling was the result of a three-week trial last summer in which over 50 witnesses testified.

TEC, dissatisfied with that decision, submitted a 182-page motion criticizing Judge Goodstein’s ruling, challenging her findings, arguing that she ignored evidence and demanding that she reverse her decision.

However, according to attorneys for the Plaintiff in the response they filed this morning, seventy percent of the motion contained TEC's previously submitted proposed orders already rejected by the court. “In many places, the motion still contained the language of the "proposed order" from which it was lifted verbatim,” Jim Lewis, Canon to Bishop Lawrence said. As counsel for the Diocese of South Carolina stated in the response: “The law is intended to be, and in fact is, a highway for litigants to travel …it is not a carousel on which litigants are to ride in never-ending circular journeying.” The response concluded:

“It is time for the Defendants to move on down the road, in pursuit of whatever appellate remedies they seek. …the motion should be expeditiously denied allowing the Defendants to continue on the appellate highway they seem intent on traveling.”

South Carolina rules allow that such motions to reconsider are meant to address questions raised at trial but not answered in the final ruling. An issue may not be raised the first time in a post-trial motion. “Yet 42 pages of the defendants’ motion was devoted to issues that were not raised at trial,” Lewis said.

While TEC Bishop Charles vonRosenberg has repeatedly made public pronouncements insisting that he wants to reconcile with the Diocese, his attorneys have continually filed a stream of appeals and other legal actions designed to delay court decisions. The delaying tactics succeeded in postponing the South Carolina trial by many months – and driving the cost of litigation into the millions of dollars. TEC has a history of using legal action to punish congregations and dioceses that leave the denomination. It has spent up to $40 million in these legal actions during the last decade.

A clear example comes from the Diocese of Quincy. After losing at the trial and appeals court level, the Illinois Supreme Court last November refused to hear an appeal in TEC’s failed case, which allowed the disassociating diocese to keep its property. TEC then attempted to get 18% of the previously requested 100% of Quincy’s assets. On Feb. 20, the Illinois circuit court reaffirmed its October 2013 ruling: "plaintiffs won", and imposed sanctions on TEC for its conduct.

“The court finds based upon this record, that the continued threat made ... even after this case had run its course through the appellate process constitutes bad faith, is not grounded in fact or existing law and has resulted in needless, ongoing and expensive litigation,” the Illinois ruling declared.

The ruling requires that TEC "cease and desist" and that the denomination pay the legal costs of the disassociated Diocese of Quincy.

Judge Goodstein’s decision is the latest legal loss for TEC, which has lost 17.4 percent of its members and experienced a reduction of nearly 24 percent in average Sunday attendance since 2003. Lewis said that TEC’s continued use of litigation to bully dissidents who disagree with their abandonment of historical Anglican theology shows the denomination is desperate to try and stop the decline – even if it must threaten members to discourage their departure.

“Their policy of using legal action to drain the finances of dissident congregations is not working,” Lewis said. “It only deflects denomination resources from projects to promote the faith and speeds the downward spiral of the Episcopal Church.”

In Texas, the denomination failed in its efforts to get its lawsuit against the Diocese of Fort Worth reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case will now resume in a Texas trial court, under findings by the Texas Supreme Court that favor the Anglican diocese.

The martyrdom of Polycarp, 23 February

The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna, Concerning the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp

The Church of God which sojourns at Smyrna, to the Church of God sojourning in Philomelium, and to all the congregations of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place: Mercy, peace, and love from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplied.


We have written to you, brethren, as to what relates to the martyrs, and especially to the blessed Polycarp, who put an end to the persecution, having, as it were, set a seal upon it by his martyrdom. For almost all the events that happened previously [to this one], took place that the Lord might show us from above a martyrdom becoming the Gospel. For he waited to be delivered up, even as the Lord had done, that we also might become his followers, while we look not merely at what concerns ourselves but have regard also to our neighbours. For it is the part of a true and well-founded love, not only to wish one's self to be saved, but also all the brethren.


All the martyrdoms, then, were blessed and noble which took place according to the will of God. For it becomes us who profess greater piety than others, to ascribe the authority over all things to God. And truly, who can fail to admire their nobleness of mind, and their patience, with that love towards their Lord which they displayed?--who, when they were so torn with scourges, that the frame of their bodies, even to the very inward veins and arteries, was laid open, still patiently endured, while even those that stood by pitied and bewailed them. But they reached such a pitch of magnanimity, that not one of them let a sigh or a groan escape them; thus proving to us all that those holy martyrs of Christ, at the very time when they suffered such torments, were absent from the body, or rather, that the Lord then stood by them, and communed with them. And, looking to the grace of Christ, they despised all the torments of this world, redeeming themselves from eternal punishment by [the suffering of] a single hour. For this reason the fire of their savage executioners appeared cool to them. For they kept before their view escape from that fire which is eternal and never shall be quenched, and looked forward with the eyes of their heart to those good things which are laid up for such as endure; things "which ear hath not heard, nor eye seen, neither have entered into the heart of man," but were revealed by the Lord to them, inasmuch as they were no longer men, but had already become angels. And, in like manner, those who were condemned to the wild beasts endured dreadful tortures, being stretched out upon beds full of spikes, and subjected to various other kinds of torments, in order that, if it were possible, the tyrant might, by their lingering tortures, lead them to a denial [of Christ].


For the devil did indeed invent many things against them; but thanks be to God, he could not prevail over all. For the most noble Germanicus strengthened the timidity of others by his own patience, and fought heroically with the wild beasts. For, when the proconsul sought to persuade him, and urged him to take pity upon his age, he attracted the wild beast towards himself, and provoked it, being desirous to escape all the more quickly from an unrighteous and impious world. But upon this the whole multitude, marvelling at the nobility of mind displayed by the devout and godly race of Christians, cried out, "Away with the Atheists; let Polycarp be sought out !"


Now one named Quintus, a Phrygian, who was but lately come from Phrygia, when he saw the wild beasts, became afraid. This was the man who forced himself and some others to come forward voluntarily [for trial]. Him the proconsul, after many entreaties, persuaded to swear and to offer sacrifice. Wherefore, brethren, we do not commend those who give themselves up [to suffering], seeing the Gospel does not teach so to do.


But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard [that he was sought for], was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few [friends], engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom. And while he was praying, a vision presented itself to him three days before he was taken; and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire. Upon this, turning to those that were with him, he said to them prophetically," I must be burnt alive."


And when those who sought for him were at hand, he departed to another dwelling, whither his pursuers immediately came after him. And when they found him not, they seized upon two youths [that were there], one of whom, being subjected to torture, confessed. It was thus impossible that he should continue hid, since those that betrayed him were of his own household. The Irenarch then (whose office is the same as that of the Cleronomus), by name Herod, hastened to bring him into the stadium. [This all happened] that he might fulfil his special lot, being made a partaker of Christ, and that they who betrayed him might undergo the punishment of Judas himself.


His pursuers then, along with horsemen, and taking the youth with them, went forth at supper-time on the day of the preparation? with their usual weapons, as if going out against a robber. And being come about evening [to the place where he was], they found him lying down in the upper room of a certain little house, from which he might have escaped into another place; but he refused, saying, "The will of God be done." So when he heard that they were come, he went down and spake with them. And as those that were present marvelled at his age and constancy, some of them said. "Was so much effort made to capture such a venerable man? Immediately then, in that very hour, he ordered that something to eat and drink should be set before them, as much indeed as they cared for, while he besought them to allow him an hour to pray without disturbance. And on their giving him leave, he stood and prayed, being full of the grace of God, so that he could not cease for two full hours, to the astonishment of them that heard him, insomuch that many began to repent that they had come forth against so godly and venerable an old man.


Now, as soon as he had ceased praying, having made mention of all that had at any time come in contact with him, both small and great, illustrious and obscure, as well as the whole Catholic Church throughout the world, the time of his departure having arrived, they set him upon an ass, and conducted him into the city, the day being that of the great Sabbath. And the Irenarch Herod, accompanied by his father Nicetes (both riding in a chariot), met him, and taking him up into the chariot, they seated themselves beside him, and endeavoured to persuade him, saying, "What harm is there in saying, Lord Caesar, and in sacrificing, with the other ceremonies observed on such occasions, and so make sure of safety?" But he at first gave them no answer; and when they continued to urge him, he said, "I shall not do as you advise me." So they, having no hope of persuading him, began to speak bitter words unto him, and cast him with violence out of the chariot, insomuch that, in getting down from the carriage, he dislocated his leg [by the fall]. But without being disturbed, and as if suffering nothing, he went eagerly forward with all haste, and was conducted to the stadium, where the tumult was so great, that there was no possibility of being heard.


Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, "Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp !" No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, "Have respect to thy old age," and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as]," Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists." But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, "Away with the Atheists." Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, "Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ;" Polycarp declared, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?"


And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, "Swear by the fortune of Caesar," he answered, "Since thou art vainly urgent that, as thou sayest, I should swear by the fortune of Caesar, and pretendest not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and thou shalt hear them." The proconsul replied, "Persuade the people." But Polycarp said, "To thee I have thought it right to offer an account [of my faith]; for we are taught to give all due honour (which entails no injury upon ourselves) to the powers and authorities which are ordained of God. But as for these, I do not deem them worthy of receiving any account from me."


The proconsul then said to him, "I have wild beasts at hand; to these will I cast thee, except thou repent." But he answered, "Call them then, for we are not accustomed to repent of what is good in order to adopt that which is evil; and it is well for me to be changed from what is evil to what is righteous." But again the proconsul said to him, "I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, seeing thou despisest the wild beasts, if thou wilt not repent." But Polycarp said, "Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why tarriest thou? Bring forth what thou wilt."


While he spoke these and many other like things, he was filled with confidence and joy, and his countenance was full of grace, so that not merely did it not fall as if troubled by the things said to him, but, on the contrary, the proconsul was astonished, and sent his herald to proclaim in the midst of the stadium thrice, "Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian." This proclamation having been made by the herald, the whole multitude both of the heathen and Jews, who dwelt at Smyrna, cried out with uncontrollable fury, and in a loud voice, "This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, and the overthrower of our gods, he who has been teaching many not to sacrifice, or to worship the gods." Speaking thus, they cried out, and besought Philip the Asiarch to let loose a lion upon Polycarp. But Philip answered that it was not lawful for him to do so, seeing the shows of wild beasts were already finished. Then it seemed good to them to cry out with one consent, that Polycarp should be burnt alive. For thus it behooved the vision which was revealed to him in regard to his pillow to be fulfilled, when, seeing it on fire as he was praying, he turned about and said prophetically to the faithful that were with him," I must be burnt alive."


This, then, was carried into effect with greater speed than it was spoken, the multitudes immediately gathering together wood and fagots out of the shops and baths; the Jews especially, according to custom, eagerly assisting them in it. And when the funeral pile was ready, Polycarp, laying aside all his garments, and loosing his girdle, sought also to take off his sandals,--a thing he was not accustomed to do, inasmuch as every one of the faithful was always eager who should first touch his skin. For, on account of his holy life, he was, even before his martyrdom, adorned with every kind of good. Immediately then they surrounded him with those substances which had been prepared for the funeral pile. But when they were about also to fix him with nails, he said, "Leave me as I am; for He that giveth me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile."


They did not nail him then, but simply bound him. And he, placing his hands behind him, and being bound like a distinguished ram [taken] out of a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering unto God, looked up to heaven, and said, "O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before thee, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Thy martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost. Among whom may I be accepted this day before Thee as a fat and acceptable sacrifice, according as Thou, the ever-truthful God, hast fore-ordained, hast revealed beforehand to me, and now hast fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise Thee for all things, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen."


When he had pronounced this amen, and so finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled the fire. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury, we, to whom it was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle, and have been preserved that we might report to others what then took place. For the fire, shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odour [coming from the pile], as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking there.


At length, when those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through with a dagger. And on his doing this, there came forth a dove, and a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished; and all the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the Catholic Church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his mouth either has been or shall yet be accomplished.


But when the adversary of the race of the righteous, the envious, malicious, and wicked one, perceived the impressive nature of his martyrdom, and [considered] the blameless life he had led from the beginning, and how he was now crowned with the wreath of immortality, having beyond dispute received his reward, he did his utmost that not the least memorial of him should be taken away by us, although many desired to do this, and to become possessors of his holy flesh. For this end he suggested it to Nicetes, the father of Herod and brother of Alce, to go and entreat the governor not to give up his body to be buried, "lest," said he, "forsaking Him that was crucified, they begin to worship this one." This he said at the suggestion and urgent persuasion of the Jews, who also watched us, as we sought to take him out of the fire, being ignorant of this, that it is neither possible for us ever to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of such as shall be saved throughout the whole world (the blameless one for sinners), nor to worship any other. For Him indeed, as being the Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love on account of their extraordinary affection towards their own King and Master, of whom may we also be made companions and fellow-disciples!


The centurion then, seeing the strife excited by the Jews, placed the body in the midst of the fire, and consumed it. Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.


This, then, is the account of the blessed Polycarp, who, being the twelfth that was martyred in Smyrna (reckoning those also of Philadelphia), yet occupies a place of his own in the memory of all men, insomuch that he is everywhere spoken of by the heathen themselves. He was not merely an illustrious teacher, but also a pre-eminent martyr, whose martyrdom all desire to imitate, as having been altogether consistent with the Gospel of Christ. For, having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquired the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous[in heaven], rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls, the Governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.


Since, then, ye requested that we would at large make you acquainted with what really took place, we have for the present sent you this summary account through our brother Marcus. When, therefore, ye have yourselves read this Epistle, be pleased to send it to the brethren at a greater distance, that they also may glorify the Lord, who makes such choice of His own servants. To Him who is able to bring us all by His grace and goodness into his everlasting kingdom, through His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, to Him be glory, and honour, and power, and majesty, for ever. Amen. Salute all the saints. They that are with us salute you, and Evarestus, who wrote this Epistle, with all his house.


Now, the blessed Polycarp suffered martyrdom on the second day of the month Xanthicus just begun, the seventh day before the Kalends of May, on the great Sabbath, at the eighth hour. He was taken by Herod, Philip the Trallian being high priest, Statius Quadratus being proconsul, but Jesus Christ being King for ever, to whom be glory, honour, majesty, and an everlasting throne, from generation to generation. Amen.


We wish you, brethren, all happiness, while you walk according to the doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; with whom be glory to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of His holy elect, after whose example the blessed Polycarp suffered, following in whose steins may we too be found in the kingdom of Jesus Christ!

These things Caius transcribed from the copy of Irenaeus (who was a disciple of Polycarp), having himself been intimate with Irenaeus. And I Socrates transcribed them at Corinth from the copy of Caius. Grace be with you all.

And I again, Pionius, wrote them from the previously written copy, having carefully searched into them, and the blessed Polycarp having manifested them to me through a revelation, even as I shall show in what follows. I have collected these things, when they had almost faded away through the lapse of time, that the Lord Jesus Christ may also gather me along with His elect into His heavenly kingdom, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who gave to your Venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Saviour, and steadfastness to die for his faith: Give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Illinois court slaps TEC with sanctions for legal shenanigans

Apparently, the sore losers in charge of The Episcopal Church's endless legal antics have a hard time reading court orders. Once again, their inability to understand plain English has cost them a hefty sum.
On Friday, the trial court judge in the Quincy case issued a strongly worded order to TEC and its attorneys that began with these words:
“Although we thought the following conclusion was clear from our [earlier] determination, we will make it clear now: plaintiffs won.” 
It seems that TEC’s attorneys, ever since they lost the case on appeal (and the Illinois Supreme Court rejected their petition for review), have been trying to prevent the plaintiff Anglican Diocese and its Bishop Alberto Morales from enjoying access once again to the bank funds which TEC’s attorneys had caused to be frozen (by writing a threatening letter to the bank) some six years ago. They sent a new letter to the same bank on December 30, claiming that nearly $800,000 of the funds on deposit actually belonged to one of the Quincy parishes, and not to the Diocese itself. They pointed out that there was still a lawsuit pending against that parish (and 14 others) in Peoria.

The bank dutifully froze the funds again, and the Diocese’s attorneys went to the trial court for relief. Yesterday, that court granted their motions—and awarded them sanctions against TEC.

Here are some excerpts from the Order:
This controversy has always been about a single account ... which contained a variety of funds held at PNC Bank. This is how the case was tried at the trial level, this is how the case was presented at the appellate level and this was the posture of the case as presented for the Petition for Leave to Appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Only after losing at the trial and appellate level, and then being turned down by the Supreme Court of Illinois, does TEC now claim that a lesser amount should be carved out of this single account. Moreover, TEC brings an action in Peoria County claiming the same thing and goes further to argue that this court has no “jurisdiction” to decide this issue.

... It appears to this court that this is an “after the fact” attempt to recover some of the funds. They took an “all or nothing” approach at trial and on appeal.

The order of October 9, 2013 expressly denied all of TEC’s claims, awarded the entire account to the Plaintiffs and specifically denied any of TEC’s claims for an “accounting”.

TEC filed no motion to reconsider, no motion to correct the judgment, no motion of any type whatsoever to support the contention it now makes in their Response. It now claims that a portion of the single account was, ” ... never the subject matter of this case nor adjudicated in this court’s October 9, 2013, Final Order and Judgment. .. “

After analyzing the record to find that TEC had waived any right to claim that there were separate funds in the single account, the Court observed:

During the argument on these issues, TEC argued that it did not freeze the account, PNC did. To say this argument lacks merit would be charitable. While TEC, in a very literal sense, is correct on “who” froze the account, the “why” is the more important issue. PNC froze the account because it received a letter from counsel for TEC which threatened to hold PNC liable if funds were disbursed.

The court finds, based upon this record, that the continued threat made to PNC Bank to hold it accountable if funds were disbursed and the continued attempt to collaterally attack the clear order of this court dated October 9, 2013 even after this case had run its course through the appellate process constitutes bad faith, is not grounded in fact or existing law and has resulted in needless, ongoing and expensive litigation.

Accordingly, the court grants the request of the Plaintiffs for fees incurred from December 30, 2014 onward pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 137.
There is much more to savor in the Court’s order. It is gratifying to have a trial judge (not the one who rendered the original Quincy decision) see so clearly through TEC’s bullying tactics, and to deal with them accordingly.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday reflection from Bishop Mark Lawrence

The words in the Ash Wednes­day “Invi­ta­tion” in the 1979 Amer­i­can Book of Com­mon Prayer are often cited: “I invite you, there­fore, in the name of the Church, to the obser­vance of a holy Lent….” I have read them every year of my ordained min­istry which num­bers almost 35 and before then as well. What does a holy Lent look like? Of course the Prayer book goes on to recite a list of spir­i­tual dis­ci­plines to guide us in this obser­vance: self-examination; repen­tance; prayer; fast­ing; self-denial; read­ing and med­i­tat­ing on God’s holy Word. Over the years I have prac­ticed and taught each of these—even preached hom­i­lies on them, hope­fully, ben­e­fit­ting oth­ers as well as myself. I’ve even observed and taught other spir­i­tual dis­ci­plines as well, such as soli­tude, sim­plic­ity and silence, to name but a few. These have all played an instru­men­tal role in my Chris­t­ian life. Yet, frankly, I find Lent very dif­fer­ent for me as a bishop than it was when I was a parish priest who needed to plan, teach and lead—even, God forbid—run Lenten pro­grams. I sus­pect Lent for me is a bit more like what the lay mem­bers of a parish expe­ri­ence. So with this per­spec­tive in mind I offer these per­sonal reflections.

This Ash Wednes­day morn­ing when I was pur­posely let­ting my soul catch up with my body and frankly inwardly trou­bled a bit by var­i­ous pres­sures in my life these words from Pro­fes­sor J. Alec Motyer’s com­men­tary on the prophecy of Isa­iah (I know, the typ­i­cal lay per­son in a parish wouldn’t be read­ing this) leapt off the page and brought my rest­less mind to a sud­den pause.

“The Lord is more con­cerned with the enjoy­ment of his bless­ings through obe­di­ence to His com­mands than in self-imposed deprivations.”

These words came as if they were a prophetic word to my soul as I was prayer­fully con­sid­er­ing what dis­ci­plines to embrace this Lent. It wasn’t lost on me that Pro­fes­sor Motyer’s words were com­men­tary on Isa­iah 58 where the prophet spoke of the fast God chooses for his peo­ple: break­ing the bonds of oppres­sion, shar­ing bread with the hun­gry, car­ing for the home­less, cloth­ing the naked, and nur­tur­ing one’s own fam­ily. How might this apply for us here in South Car­olina? For our broth­ers and sis­ters in Christ in Egypt, Nige­ria, Kenya, Sudan and else­where around the world?

This was not the only word that resounded on this Ash Wednes­day morn­ing on this 2015th year of our Lord. There were oth­ers as well. Another was this open­ing para­graph from a homily by St. John Chrysos­tom expound­ing First Corinthi­ans 1:1–3: ‘See how imme­di­ately, from the very begin­ning, he [Paul] casts down their pride, and dashes to the ground all their fond imag­i­na­tion, in that he speaks of him­self as “called.” For what I have learnt, saith he, I dis­cov­ered not myself, nor acquired by my own wis­dom, but while I was per­se­cut­ing and lay­ing waste the Church I was called. Now here of Him that cal­leth is every­thing; of him that is called, noth­ing (so to speak,) but only to obey.’

Then there was this word, spo­ken orig­i­nally to John Ort­berg by Dal­las Willard, and quoted in his book Soul Keep­ing: “Hurry is the great enemy of spir­i­tual life in our day. You must ruth­lessly elim­i­nate hurry from your life.”

What do all these words read this day and res­onat­ing in my ears have to do with my obser­vance of holy Lent? This I believe:

If grace-filled obe­di­ence not self-imposed depri­va­tion is the path­way to God’s bless­ing shouldn’t one’s Lenten dis­ci­pline focus on this?

If God’s call, not the dri­ven life, is for each of us our apos­tolic mis­sion shouldn’t that be the place out of which we live our lives and do our work and ministry?

If we are dust and to dust we shall return (as the words of the Ash Wednes­day liturgy reminds us) why am I, and so many of us, in such a hurry?

Then there was this word that came like a light­ning bolt across my mind illu­mi­nat­ing my whole being: “… you think you have to be some place else­where or accom­plish some­thing more to find peace. But it is right here. God has yet to bless any­one except where they actu­ally are.” Once again this was a word spo­ken years ago by Dr. Dal­las Willard to John Ortberg’s striv­ing and spir­i­tu­ally dry soul; I noted these words in my jour­nal and then wrote this con­fes­sion: I repent of this, Lord. I renounce the life tape that has played within me for years that makes peace some­thing rel­e­gated to some place “where” or some time “when” and other than here and now in You.

“Behold” writes the St. Paul in today’s epis­tle read­ing, “now is the favor­able time; behold, now is the day of sal­va­tion.” (2 Corinthi­ans 6:2) I sus­pect that for me at least each of these has some­thing to do with get­ting it right for observ­ing a holy Lent. And only by God’s grace would I dare to believe it will happen.

Ash Wednesday message from Archbishop Foley Beach

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent in the Christian Church year. For those of us who will gather in churches around North America and receive the imposition of ashes as a sign of our repentance and mortality, we will be challenged to follow Jesus in our lives, examine ourselves for the sins of which we need to repent, and be encouraged to take on spiritual disciplines which draw us into holiness by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This year as you prayerfully examine your own life during Lent, I want to encourage you to look for your sins of neglect. What are your sins of omission? "What is God asking me to do which I am refusing to do?"

Am I neglecting my time alone with God?
Am I neglecting feeding the poor?
Am I neglecting speaking out against evil?
Am I neglecting teaching my children about my faith in Jesus?
Am I neglecting taking care of my body?
Am I neglecting praying for and loving my enemies?
Am I neglecting returning to the Lord His portion of my earnings?
Am I neglecting caring for those in pain around me?
Am I neglecting time with my spouse?

The list could go on and on. You get the point: What are my sins of neglect of which I need to repent?

In trying to deal with my sins of neglect, I have noticed two issues which seem to arise. Firstly, to repent of these sins costs me time. They usually take time to accomplish, which means that if I am going to follow God's leading and repent, then I am going to have to stop doing something that I am currently doing in order to make time for it. To minister to the needy means I have to give up time doing something else. To spend more time studying the Scriptures means I am going to have to give up time doing something else.

Secondly, I have noticed that, more often than not, I am blinded to my sins of neglect. It takes someone else, a sermon, the Scriptures, a book, or a friend to point them out to me. I am afraid this is a pattern for most of us. We don't think we have an issue, and then the Holy Spirit convicts us and brings it to our attention. Because they are usually blind spots, this means we are used to living with them; they are comfortable in our lives. To repent will make us uneasy and it is often difficult! We have to be intentional, and oftentimes, we need someone to hold us accountable.

Jesus wants us to repent so we can experience the Kingdom of Heaven in our lives on earth. We often pray in the Lord's Prayer: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Our sins of neglect truly get in the way of this.

As you walk through the Season of Lent this year, prayerfully look for your sins of neglect. When the Lord reveals them to you, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church in North America

Ash Wednesday sermon by Lancelot Andrewes

From a sermon preached by Lancelot Andrewes before King James I, Ash Wednesday, 1619. Text: Joel 2:12-13.

For this time the Church has chosen this text. This is the time in which, however we have dispensed with it all the rest of the year, she would have us seriously to intend and make it our time of turning to the Lord; for she holds it unsafe to leave us wholly to ourselves, to take any time, it matters not when, lest we take none at all.

And the reason is that once a year all things turn. And that once is now, at this time, for now at this time is the turning of the year. In heaven the sun is at the equinox; the zodiac and all the constellations in it, do now turn about to their first point. The earth and all her plants, after a dead winter, return to the first and best season of the year. The creatures, the fowls of the air, the swallow and the turtledove, the crane and the stork, know their seasons and make their just return at this time every year. Everything now turning, we also should make it our time in which to turn to God.

Then, because this day is known as the first day of Lent, it fits well as a welcome into this time, a time lent us, as it were, by God, set us by the Church, in which to make our turning.

Repentance itself is nothing else but a kind of circling: to turn to the One by repentance from whom, by sin, we have turned away.

First, then, there is a turn in which we look forward to God and with our whole heart resolve to turn to God. Then there is a turn again in which we look backward to our sins in which we have turned from God; and with beholding them our very heart must break. There is one turn resolving to amend that which is to come; another reflecting and sorrowing for that which is past; one turn declining from evil to be done hereafter, another sentencing itself for evil done before.

To turn is a counsel given to those are out of the right way, for going on still and turning are opposite motions, both of them with reference to a way. It the way is good, we are to hold on; if otherwise, to turn and take another.

From God then, as from the journey's end of our life, our way, we are never to turn our steps or our eyes, but still to walk with God all our life long.

When any danger of death is near, indeed if we but sadly think about it, a certain chilliness takes us and we cannot with any comfort think of our journey's end. We hear a voice crying behind us, "That is not the way; this that you have lost is your way: walk in it." That voice, if we hear it not, is a result of the noise around us. If we would sometimes go aside into some retired place, or in the still of the night listen to it, we might by some chance hear it.

To be turned, I call, when by some cross of body or mind (as it were with a ring in our nose), we are brought around, whether we will it or not, to see how we have gone astray.

To be turned, I call, when the world ministers to us no cause of heaviness; yet even then, the grace of God moving us, we set ourselves around and holding those former conversions before us we work it out, having no  heavy impulse from outside to force us to it. The one who is under no arrest, with no bridle in the jaw, who shall in the time of peace resolve on a time for turning and take it: that person has great cause to rejoice, and to rejoice before God.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Archbishop Beach calls for prayer for families of Egyptian martyrs

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

~ John 12:23-25

In an effort to support their families, 21 Christian men from Egypt left their country to find work rebuilding Libya. Over the last twenty four hours, the story of their kidnapping and martyrdom on the shores of North Africa has now made its way around the world.

My friend and colleague, Archbishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt, who prayed over me at my investiture, has today written to his people about these events. I ask that you to join me in praying with them:

“…for peace in Libya, Egypt, and the entire Middle East. Please pray the international community will act in wisdom, correctly and efficiently, and support Egypt in its war on terror. Please pray the churches of Egypt will comfort their sons and daughters, encouraging them to resist fear and hatred. And please pray for the perpetrators of this terrible crime, that God would be merciful to them and change their hearts.”

I commend to you his whole letter which can be read here.

It was also from the shores of North Africa that Tertullian recognized that, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” As we pray for the persecuted today, we do not need to go far to find a contemporary example of how God has built his Church through suffering. It is 38 years to the day that Archbishop Janani Luwum of Uganda was killed for his faith. His death was not broadcast to the world, and yet today he is being celebrated in Uganda as model of faithfulness in the face of tyranny.

Please join me in mourning with the families of the 21 Egyptian Christians who gave their lives for Christ, and please join me in prayerful expectation for what the Lord may be preparing to do in North Africa.

The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America

Archbishop Anis's statement on martyrdom of Egyptian Christians in Libya

It is with great sadness I write you today about the heinous murder of 21 Egyptian Christians at the hand of the so-called lslamic State branch in Libya. These men from the Upper Egyptian city of Samalout are no different from thousands of other Muslim and Christian Egyptians in Libya, seeking employment to support their families back home.

Except that these 21 were specifically chosen for their Christian faith. The video of their beheading expressed the lslamic State's intention to increasingly target the Copts of Egypt. This morning the Egyptian government launched airstrikes on lslamic State positions. lt has declared a week of mourning, banned further travel to Libya, and will work to facilitate the return of all Egyptian citizens. The foreign minister has been dispatched to the United Nations to discuss the necessary international response.

The Anglican Church in Egypt and the world expresses its deep condolences to the families of these men, and also to his Holiness Pope Tawadros ll, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Please join me in praying for peace in Libya, Egypt, and the entire Middle East. Please pray the international community will act in wisdom, correctly and efficiently, and support Egypt in its war on terror. Please pray the churches of Egypt will comfort their sons and daughters, encouraging them to resist fear and hatred. And please pray for the perpetrators of this terrible crime, that God would be merciful to them and change their hearts.

Jesus tells us in John 16:33, "ln the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

Such cheer may seem impossible, but it is God's promise. Please pray for us, that we may live lives worthy of his name, and hold to the testimony exhibited by the brave Egyptians in Libya.

The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Anis
Archbishop of Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa

Monday, February 9, 2015

Bishop Iker's pastoral letter on South Carolina decision

Dear Friends in Christ,

We were all greatly encouraged by the court ruling that came out of South Carolina last week, where the historic Diocese prevailed in its lawsuit against The Episcopal Church. Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein ruled that Bishop Mark Lawrence and his Diocese, under neutral principles of law, had legitimately withdrawn from TEC in 2012 and were entitled to retain all their buildings, assets, and intellectual property (name, identity, seal, etc.)

South Carolina’s Supreme Court had previously ruled that the Dennis Canon (that claims all church property is held in trust for TEC) was invalid in that State, and the Texas Supreme Court has made the same determination here in Texas. Under neutral principles of law governing property, trusts, and corporations in Texas, we believe we should prevail in the hearing before Judge Chupp on Friday, Feb. 20, here in Fort Worth.

The same conclusion was also reached recently in the appellate court system in Illinois, where the Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that there is nothing in the Constitution and Canons of TEC that prevents a Diocese from withdrawing, with its property and assets. The right to associate includes the right to dissociate. The Illinois Supreme Court denied an appeal from TEC attempting to reverse that ruling. And though TEC will be making a similar appeal in the South Carolina decision, it is expected that they will reach the same result.

In coming months, we expect TEC will once again be taking their losses in Illinois, South Carolina, and Texas to the United States Supreme Court, seeking reversals. We do not believe such efforts will succeed. Needless to say, all of this is a very expensive undertaking, costing both sides millions of dollars in legal fees and court costs that instead should be going for ministry and outreach in the world.

Continue to pray for our legal team as we prepare for the summary judgment hearing on the 20th and for clarity and insight for Judge Chupp in his ruling.

Thank you all for your continued faithfulness and for your witness to the Truth.

Faithfully in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth

John Finnis debunks the priority of Mark, defends historicity of the Gospels

So, are you convinced that Mark was the first Gospel written, and that none of the Gospels were actually written by eyewitnesses? John Finnis begs to differ, and quite strongly.

What it means: Canon Jim Lewis explains Judge Goodstein's ruling

The Reverend Canon Jim Lewis has written a detailed explanation of Judge Diane S. Goodstein's decision granting complete relief to the Diocese of South Carolina against the treacherous interlopers of TEC.
This week, we received the ruling from Judge Diane Goodstein in our litigation with The Episcopal Church. A brief reminder of how we got here: When TEC attempted to wrongly remove Bishop Lawrence as our bishop, this Diocese elected to disassociate from TEC. At that time a small group, who we now know had been meeting and planning for some months, began an intentional campaign of using our Diocesan Seal and other service marks. They in essence began to function as if they were us. To maintain our identity required that we defend that identity.

The manner in which we did so was to ask the South Carolina courts to give us a declaratory judgment. In other words, we asked them to confirm the identity we have held continuously since 1785 as the Diocese of South Carolina, and that we had every right under South Carolina law to leave TEC as freely as we had chosen to help in its founding and to keep our property. The judge at that time (January 2013) imposed a temporary injunction to protect our identity rights.

With this week’s ruling, that has now become a permanent injunction.

A few words of explanation about the significance of the Court's ruling.

1. The Diocese and its congregations are confirmed as the owners of their property and identities. This would seem a common sense affirmation of what some parishes have experienced as reality for nearly 300 years, but that is what was being challenged. 
2. TEC and its local diocese have NO interest in either our property or identity. The fabled “Dennis Canon” could not, by itself, enable them to unilaterally declare an ownership interest in our properties any more than I can do so for my neighbor’s house just by saying it is so. Without a written agreement between TEC and each parish, no such interest can be conveyed. 
3. TEC and its local diocese are PERMANENTLY forbidden to use our registered names or in any way to presume to be or act as if they are The Diocese of South Carolina. We are not “the breakaway diocese”. We are not the “Lawrence diocese”. We are not “the schismatics”. We are who we have consistently been, and continue to be, The Diocese of South Carolina, and no one else has a right to make that claim. Period. 
4. Their counterclaims, their arguments as to why our behavior was unlawful or ineffective, and why we should not be given this relief in the courts were dismissed with prejudice. This means τhey cannot bring another lawsuit in the future making the same claims. These claims have been finally determined by this judicial order. They can appeal the correctness of this ruling, but that is all. If that appeal is decided in our favor, they can never again bring such claims.

Practically speaking, this means many things, that can perhaps be boiled down to these two:

1. We can continue doing our ministry without some of the needless distractions this case has brought. No one need fear they are in imminent danger of losing their property or legal identity. 

2. We are also now free to use our identity without caveat or qualifier. The courts have affirmed that as well.

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has already announced it will appeal this decision. This was expected.

The court has affirmed what everyone knew from the start was the legal precedence in South Carolina, that congregations and the Diocese have the right to chose their religious association. While we will have more work to do to confirm this, we have every reason to be confident the South Carolina courts will continue to do so through the appeals process. We will pursue that in as speedy fashion as possible and deal with the expected delays we know TEC will attempt. Justice may be delayed by those attempts, but we believe it will come.

Finally, it should be observed that it is God’s grace that has brought us to this day. Legal counsel has affirmed repeatedly that they have experienced God’s grace at work in this litigation from start to finish. To Him be the glory and praise and it is in His Name alone that we trust (Ps. 20:7). By that grace, I trust the Diocese of South Carolina will continue “Making biblical Anglicans for a Global Age” long into the future.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bishop Lawrence expresses gratitude after court decision

February 6, 2015

Dear People of God in the Diocese of South Carolina,

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers….” (Ephesians 1:16)

My last letter to you was shortly after we finished the three-week trial in St. George in order to protect our parish churches, properties, names, diocesan seal and the historic identity of this Diocese of South Carolina.

Now, as many of you have heard, we have prevailed.

In a thorough and closely reasoned order, the Honorable Diane S. Goodstein has ruled in our favor. You can read the diocesan statement, as well as an additional explanation of the ruling's significance on the diocese's website.

I hardly need to tell you how grateful I am for this order! I am also:

Grateful for our legal team which has worked tirelessly on this case;

Grateful for those lay persons and clergy who took the stand at the trial or interceded through prayer either in the courtroom or from elsewhere;

Grateful for the generosity of our parishioners, and even those outside the diocese, who have helped us defray the expense of such costly litigation;

Grateful for the 53 congregations that have stood with us as faithful congregations in this diocese or as named plaintiffs in the case;

Grateful for the clergy who have sacrificed in untold ways for their stand in honoring the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as we have received them;

Grateful for the many parishioners—some 80% of the 2012 diocesan membership (before the split with TEC)—who have stayed, either with their parish or with us, in the midst of the strain and stress of confusing statements and swirling opinions;

Grateful for the prayers of so many in North America and around the world who have so often assured us of their intercessions and support;

Grateful for the Primates of the Global South Steering Committee who have kept us in relationship with the larger Anglican world;

Grateful for the GAFCON Primates who have written to us acknowledging the people of this diocese as faithful Anglicans and me as an Anglican Bishop;

Grateful for the prayers of those in The Episcopal Church who tell me they pray regularly for us;

Grateful for those on the diocesan staff who have worked tirelessly in this demanding season;

Grateful for my wife, Allison, who has borne the stress of these days in ways known only to a few;
and, finally, of course, most grateful for the Mighty Hand of God throughout this whole ordeal.

I encourage you to pause on the overlook that this recent lawsuit and ruling has carved out for us in our life together; to gaze back momentarily to the path we’ve traveled—not just in these recent years but also through the long labors of so many in past decades and centuries— in order to gratefully acknowledge the sovereignty of God over all our affairs—our labors, ministries, and lives.

To do this in corporate worship will of course be timely. To do so in your small groups or at some time of fellowship, as well as and in your personal prayer is likewise most fitting. The prayer of gratitude, like so much that we have received, is itself a gift from God; a gift that we are to offer back to him.

Take time to engage in it; not with triumphant zeal but with a humble contrite heart.

Then having done so I suggest you turn a steadfast gaze forward.

You may have read in the local media that the national Episcopal Church and its local diocesan representatives have already signaled their intention to appeal Judge Goodstein’s ruling. So please note: There is a need for us to persevere. Persevere in defending our identity both as congregations and diocese. Persevere in continuing litigation. But most importantly to persevere in our commitment to move forward with our God-given dreams and mission.

Just over two years ago, we turned the page in our relationship with TEC. I suggested at that time we needed to do this without malice and with abiding charity. For if we are to have the aroma of Christ we must live in his grace with faith, hope and charity; shunning resentment, bitterness and self-pity; always careful not to poison the waters of our communities in our differences with others.

I still try to keep this fact foremost in my mind: Rarely have the spiritually hungry, the seeker after God, the unconverted or unchurched been attracted to Jesus Christ through church conflicts, denominational discord, or ecclesiastical excesses.

So let us press on undeterred with our mission and ministries—grateful for this recent ruling—but most of all grateful for God’s grace; and seeking that God’s love “… be poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

Faithfully yours in Christ,

The Right Reverend Mark Joseph Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina

Thursday, February 5, 2015

[REPOST] Of breakaways, remnants, and Jezebels . . . and getting the terminology right

[ADMINISTRATOR'S NOTE: I am seeing too many media reports referring to the Diocese of South Carolina​ as a "breakaway" group. This is an egregious error on the part of journalists who are either ignorant of the facts or willfully negligent in reporting them. This article, written shortly after last year's Diocesan Convention, is reposted at this time in the hope that it will be a useful resource in refuting the false narrative generated by the national church and perpetuated by an uninformed and incurious media. --JAG]

Peter Leithart expounds on the significance of Jezebel to the history of Israel and why John's invocation of her name in reference to the "prophetess" in Thyatira was precisely on the mark.
Jezebel’s appearance in 1-2 Kings is part of a continuing story of Israel’s relationship with Tyre and Sidon. During the days of David and Solomon, Hiram king of Tyre was an ally of Israel. This is the ideal relationship between Jew and Gentiles, Israel and the nations.

Jezebel represents an inversion of that. As I argue in my 1-2 Kings, Ahab is an anti-Solomon, a Solomon without a period of faithfulness. He is the son of a David-like king Omri, builds a temple in Samaria, and takes a foreign wife, as Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh.

It’s all backward. Ahab’s temple is a temple to Baal, and his wife is an idolater, even a sorceress (as Jehu says) and a leader of a band of Baal prophets. Ahab and Jezebel have an agenda to reunite the two kingdoms, but instead of placing Yahweh and His house at the center, they want to make Baal worship the center. This inverts the proper relation between Jew and Gentile. Instead of the Gentiles assisting in Israel’s project, Israel is enlisted to pursue a Baalist agenda.

Under Ahab and Jezebel, Israel is in bed with the Gentiles, but they aren’t united properly. They are united in a bed of prostitution, at an altar of spiritual adultery.

This is what the Jezebel of Thyatira is doing too. She is a prophetess, as the first Jezebel was the high priestess of a band of prophets. She leads the saints astray, as Jezebel did. She leads them into Baalamite sin, eating meat sacrificed to idols and committing acts of fornication, porneia. There is a false community here, a false family, with Jezebel and her children united in idolatry and immorality. Jezebel assembles an anti-church, as the first Jezebel joined with Ahab in forming an anti-Israel.
The perpetually apostate northern kingdom, moreso than the erstwhile faithful southern kingdom (Judah, where David's house continued on the throne until the Babylonian exile) periodically took an interest in Israel's reunification but, as with Ahab and Jezebel, such an interest was always of human (even pagan), not divine, origin. Judah outlasted Israel by several generations not because all of its kings were righteous (some were, some weren't) but because of God's promise to David. A reunited Israel under rule of one of the northern tribes would simply not do as part of God's plan for the redemption of the world. The faithful remnant, out of which the true Israel would eventually be reconstituted under Jesus and the Apostles, would emerge out of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, then expand well beyond the boundaries of even David's old empire, grafting in the Gentiles from the ends of the earth.

It is an irony of tragic proportions that some of the most loathsomely divisive figures in the history of both Israel and the church have so often cloaked themselves in the mantle of "unity" and "reconciliation" while abandoning the very faith which unites Jew and Gentile and reconciles the world to God. As it would not do for David's throne to be usurped by the apostate house of Ahab, so it will not do for the Church of Jesus Christ, Great David's greater Son, to be consolidated under the present apostasy of Katharine Jefferts Schori and her minions.

Terminology matters. It is a most egregious error to refer to the Diocese of South Carolina, having liberated itself from Schori's apostasy, as a "breakaway diocese." It is equally erroneous to refer to the handful of low country parishes which have remained with the national denomination as a "remnant group."  Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of how God has worked throughout history can see how upside down and backward the picture painted by such references is.

To use Leithart's words, the national denomination under Schori is following the way of Jezebel, forming a false community and a false family united in idolatry and immorality. In other words, the national denomination is an anti-church, a "breakaway" from the faith once for all entrusted to the saints.

Meanwhile, as was so richly illustrated at its recent convention, the Diocese of South Carolina is gathering into one so many of the disparate elements of the far flung Anglican Diaspora while also being grafted in to the larger family of faithful Anglican provinces of the Global South. The "remnant" is always that small but faithful group that perseveres through trial, is finally vindicated, and goes forth rejoicing in the new work God has begun through it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Haley: South Carolina decision is full vindication for victims of ECUSA's oppression

In a thorough analysis of yesterday's landmark decision in South Carolina, attorney and erstwhile Anglican Curmudgeon Alan Haley says the long-suffering victims of the bullying, intimidation, and vindictive oppression of the apostate Episcopal Church have been fully vindicated.
Circuit Judge Diane S. Goodstein's carefully crafted 46-page decision in the case brought by Bishop Mark Lawrence's Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina (along with 35 of its parishes, plus St. Andrew's, Mt. Pleasant) against the Episcopal Church (USA) and its rump group (ECSC, or "Episcopal Church in South Carolina") is a complete vindication of the positions taken and arguments advanced for so long, by so many, inside and outside the Church.

It is a vindication first, for the Right Reverend Mark Lawrence and his legal team, who conceived the winning strategy, assembled and put on all the evidence, wrote all the briefs, argued all the appeals, fought back in the federal courts, and at last brought ECUSA to its day of reckoning.

It is a vindication, as well, of Bishop Lawrence's pastoral strategies, by which he showed how spiritual leaders can follow and submit themselves to the civil law, while in doing so remain faithful and Biblical counselors and guides for those in their spiritual care. It was Bishop Lawrence who decided on behalf of his Diocese not to appeal the All Saints Waccamaw decision to the U.S. Supreme Court and run the risk of dividing his parishes still further. It was Bishop Lawrence who accepted responsibility for giving each parish in his Diocese a quitclaim deed in compliance with the holding in All Saints Waccamaw that the Dennis Canon could on its own not create a trust in any property in South Carolina. These decisions led to the accusations of "abandonment" brought against Bishop Lawrence by his detractors, but they were pastorally the right decisions to make under the circumstances. Had ECUSA's leaders shown a comparable willingness to submit to the everyday requirements of the civil law, the Church would not be where it is today: millions and millions of dollars poorer, with absolutely nothing to show from the squandering of all its trust funds.

It is a vindication of all of the faithful parishioners and clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina who remained by their Bishop, and provided much-needed financial support, as ECUSA and its minions sought to bring him down by the sheer weight of all the forces they could bring to bear against him and his Diocese.

It is a vindication for this country's honest and hard-working judiciary. Judge Goodstein has set a sterling example (in contrast to that set in the parallel San Joaquin case by Judge Donald Black, of the Fresno Superior Court) of how to write a thoroughly reasoned, well-organized opinion that deals with the historical facts and expert testimony in a manner that is true to what that evidence showed. (Judge Black brushed off the questions put to him in the link above, and never deigned to answer them.) Judge Goodstein not only answered each and every one of them (but with reference to the Diocese of South Carolina, not San Joaquin), but she did so in spades, and constructed an opinion so solidly grounded in the testimony, evidence and applicable South Carolina law that it should stand up intact on any appeal.

It is a vindication of the Fort Worth seven and the Quincy three, whose advocacy of the same positions adopted yesterday by Judge Goodstein caused ECUSA mindlessly to discipline them, without good cause, a year ago.

It is a vindication of the Bishops' Statement on the Polity of the Episcopal Church, which the majority of ECUSA's House of Bishops, led by their chosen Presiding Bishop, belittled and rejected. (Maybe now they will reconsider their views.)

It is a vindication of Mark McCall, the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, the Very Rev. Dr. Philip Turner, and the Rev. Dr. Christopher Seitz, all of the Anglican Communion Institute, which has for so long fully documented and advocated the positions adopted by Judge Goodstein in her opinion. (To be accurate, the Institute has never advocated that any Diocese should withdraw from ECUSA, and has instead argued that they should fight the good fight from within the Church.)

And lastly, while the decision cannot be viewed as a vindication for Episcopalians such as myself and others who disagree strongly with the legal strategies of ECUSA's current bishops and attorneys -- because it does nothing to rectify what is wrong with ECUSA today -- it is at the very least a justification for our continuing to sound the alarm over those ill-conceived strategies, which contradict, undermine and betray the very foundations of this Church (see, e.g., factual findings 1 through 7 on page 6 of Judge Goldstein's decision).
Read it all.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: SC Circuit Court Rules Diocese Keeps Historic Property

The Episcopal Church has no legitimate claims to their property, names and symbols.

ST. GEORGE, SC, Feb. 3, 2015 – In a 46 page opinion, South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein, ruled that The Diocese of South Carolina, The Trustees of the Diocese and 36 parish churches successfully withdrew from The Episcopal Church in 2012 taking with them all their property, including churches, symbols and other assets. The ruling is the result of a three-week trial last summer in which over 50 witnesses testified.

The historic ruling comprehensively resolves the issues surrounding the more than $500 million in property owned by the Diocese and its parishes, which disassociated from the denomination in 2012 after TEC improperly attempted to remove Bishop Mark Lawrence as head of the Diocese.

The judge’s decision found baseless TEC’s claim that it owned the Diocese’s identity and properties. During the trial, the Diocese demonstrated that it existed long before TEC was established – and that it was one of the dioceses that founded the denomination in 1789. It also proved that every diocese is free to associate with a denomination of its choosing.

The Court found that “the Constitution and Canons of TEC have no provisions which state that a member diocese cannot voluntarily withdraw its membership.” The ruling found that had there been such a provision, it would have violated the Diocese’s “constitutionally-protected right” to freedom of association. “With the freedom to associate goes its corollary, the freedom to disassociate,” Judge Goodstein said.

The Court also found that TEC had “no express or constructive trust” in Diocese or Parish property.

Finally, the Court issued a permanent injunction protecting all the Diocese’s names and marks as well as those for the parishes of St. Phillip’s, St. Michael’s, and the Parish Church of St. Helena. The Court further found, “It is also clear, as to the Diocese, that the Defendants ‘willfully intended to trade on the registrant's reputation’ and that they chose, intentionally, to use the names and seal of the Diocese as strategic support for TECSC's purposes. This strategy was not simply one of TECSC' s but was one that TEC benefited from and promoted.”

Lead Counsel for the Diocese, Alan Runyan, said that the decision is completely consistent with both South Carolina and United States Supreme Court precedent involving church property disputes.

The decision ends the latest of many legal battles TEC has fought in its effort to shore up the denomination. Since 2003, TEC has lost 17.4 percent of its members and experienced a reduction of nearly 24 percent in average Sunday attendance.
In the last few years, the denomination has spent close to $40 million on lawsuits to prevent dioceses from leaving and to seize the property of congregations that did.

“We are grateful that Judge Goodstein’s decision protects South Carolina churches from being added to the long list of properties that TEC seized then either abandoned or sold-off,” said Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary. “The decision protects our freedom to embrace the faith Anglicans have practiced for hundreds of years – and not the new theology being imposed on TEC’s dwindling membership.”

Judge Goodstein’s decision is the latest legal loss for TEC. The Illinois Court of Appeals upheld a decision that held that the Diocese of Quincy (Ill.) was entitled to keep their property in a case similar to the one in South Carolina. Last month, the highest court in Illinois, the Illinois Supreme Court, refused to hear an appeal in the case.

The denomination, which lost a decision in its case against the Diocese of Fort Worth, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court but was denied a review. The case will now resume in the trial court there, under findings by the Texas Supreme Court that favor the Anglican diocese.

TEC supporters have repeatedly attempted to make the disassociations by the dioceses of South Carolina, Fort Worth (Texas), Quincy (Ill.) and San Joaquin (Calif.) a protest of the denomination’s shifting policies regarding sexuality.

While traditional marriage between a man and a woman continues to be upheld in these dioceses, issues of human sexuality represented only distractions in the South Carolina case.

“This has never been about exclusion,” said Bishop Lawrence. “Our churches, our diocese are open to all. It’s about the freedom to practice and proclaim faith in Jesus Christ as it has been handed down to us. We’re ready to move forward and grateful for Judge Goodstein’s handling of the case.

Today's decision also comes close on the heels of an earlier ruling by the South Carolina Court of Appeals awarding the Diocese $1,000 for legal expenses incurred by TEC's frivolous appeals. TEC has a history of using appeals and other legal action to delay cases and drain the resources of parishes and dioceses that disassociate from the denomination.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The "gay Christian" movement gets some much needed critical scrutiny

Some notable Christians who experience same sex attraction have, of late, become quite comfortable identifying themselves as "gay Christians." The term, however, is problematic for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that it is self-contradictory. In a helpful critique, Brian Patrick Mitchell of Touchstone exposes the danger posed to the church by the "gay Christian" movement.
The first problem is the term "gay Christian," which can mean either kind of gay—the professed Christian who lives gay or the professed gay who lives Christian. This ambiguity complicates the discourse, causing considerable uncertainty about how each self-styled "gay Christian" sees himself or herself and about what his or her public plea for acceptance might entail for other Christians. Since those who call themselves "gay Christians" differ greatly in what they mean and want, traditional Christians are justified in objecting to the term on the grounds that it is likely to cause misunderstanding and lead people to presume that it approves more than it should.

The ambiguity of "gay Christian" also hints at a more serious problem, one that challenges fundamental Christian beliefs about sin and human nature. Despite their different lifestyles, both kinds of self-styled "gay Christians" see gayness as so much a part of who they are that they have no choice but to admit it and embrace it. One embraces it by indulgence, the other by abstinence, but both believe they can be nothing but "gay," and this belief separates them from those Christians who suffer same-sex attraction yet do not identify as "gay" and strive instead to live heterosexually as much as possible in the hope of escaping the attraction. The "gay Christian" harbors no such hope, as Tushnet's diminishment of the "ex-gay narrative" shows. He therefore resigns himself to living with his homosexuality, inviting others to accept it as his personal norm. "I'm gay," he says, "so stop expecting me to marry."

Many "gay Christians" are inclined to believe their homosexuality is genetically or otherwise biologically based. Some describe it as "ontological"—inherent in their being as God has made them and therefore nothing to be ashamed of, so long as they do not act on it. They "come out" so as to be themselves. In the language of the postmodern, tribalistic, identity-driven Left, "coming out" makes them more "authentic." The "gay Christian" Matt Jones, whom ["gay Christian" author Eve] Tushnet quotes, writes on his blog:
A central part of my decision to be honest about my sexuality is the desire to foster authenticity. To be closeted usually requires a constant and exhausting self-awareness, a meticulous and intense image-management that can only be maintained through various forms of manipulation, half-truths, and, at times, outright deception.
The impatience expressed here with having to live according to heterosexual norms is remarkably similar to the impatience felt by nineteenth-century European Jews struggling to live by gentile norms after centuries of isolation. The Jewish experience inspired Sigmund Freud's theory of the trifurcated psyche consisting of the natural, instinctual id (who we are deep down); the moral, aspirational superego (who we strive to be), and the resulting, mediating ego (who we end up being). It has also contributed to the revolt of the postmodern id against the constraints of Christian civilization, seen in the Sexual Revolution and in the multicultural/diversity movement. In both, the claim is made that people cannot be expected to live according to Western, Christian, European, American, middle-class, bourgeois, or heterosexual norms, because that's just not who they are "authentically."

Therein lies the problem, for the sexual attraction of men for men and of women for women cannot be said by Christians to be in any sense normal or "authentic" without corrupting Christianity's understanding of human nature. Traditional Christianity has always taken a fundamentally positive view of human nature, believing that God did not make man to sin; that sin is therefore not natural to him but something he introduced on his own; and that, although the first sin made sinning easier by alienating man from God, human nature, even in the fallen world, is still not naturally sinful. The proof of this is the Incarnation, in which the Son's assumption of human nature demonstrates that nothing naturally human is unworthy of God and that when reunited with God, man, too, can live sinlessly and even divinely, like Christ. Healing is therefore always possible through Christ to those who believe.
Also helpful is Daniel Mattson's recent essay on "The Strange Notion of 'Gay Celibacy.'" Mattson himself experiences same sex attraction but refuses to self-identify as a "gay Christian."
Of late, much attention has been given in both the secular media and Christian media to those who call themselves “gay celibate Christians.” As a man attracted to men yet committed to traditional Catholic teaching on human sexuality, I find the notion both of being “gay” or “celibate” strange. Indeed, in the context of what the virtue of chastity is all about, neither of them make sense.

The gift of the virtues can be summed up by Christ’s words: be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. “The Christian man,” Gaudium et Spes tells us, is “conformed to the likeness of that Son Who is the firstborn of many brothers.” Christ “fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” and is “Himself the perfect man.” His life is man’s paradigm and the virtues are the template for how Christ, the perfect man, lived.

The commandments are not arbitrary “does and don’ts.” Rather, they are the way man would naturally live—if man knew who he truly was. Those who have virtue will spontaneously live in accord with the commandments. They are not perceived as impositions that deny us pleasure, but as safeguards against harming ourselves and others. Such was the case with Christ.

Despite what most people might think, the virtue of chastity, like all other virtues, isn’t so much concerned with what we do or don’t do. Rather, chastity is the virtue that helps us see things truly and objectively—things as they really are—within the realm of sexuality. This clarity of vision is necessary for true human freedom and human flourishing. It is chastity that gives us the freedom to order our sexual appetites and therefore make decisions that correspond with reality. Christ lived as a chaste man, not because he followed every dot and tittle of the law (which of course he did), but rather, because he lived in accordance with the truth of what it means to be a man, made in the image and likeness of God. Like Christ, a man who truly knows who he is will naturally lead a life of chastity.

When it comes to homosexuality, then, the reason I mustn’t have a relationship with a male isn’t based on an arbitrary whim of God. Rather, it is immoral because it is irrational for human beings to live in such a way, based on the sort of creature that human beings are.

Put more simply, the reason it is immoral for me to live out a life according to my subjective desires and inclinations is precisely because I am not, in fact, a gay man.

Nor is any man.
Both articles are quite lengthy, but well worth your time. They give much needed scrutiny to a nascent movement which, while presenting the church with many legitimate questions, may need to prayerfully reconsider some of its terminology.