Thursday, July 31, 2014

Archbishop of Sydney issues statement on persecution of Iraqi Christians

Anglican Church

Diocese of Sydney

Public Statement

July 30, 2014

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, has joined calls for prayer and international assistance for Iraqi Christians facing severe persecution, even death, for their faith.

"It is an outrage that a community established in the early centuries of the Christian era should face expulsion from their own land, simply for their faith." Dr Davies said.

In Mosul, near the ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh, the militant Islamic group ISIS gave Christians an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay a "protection tax" or face death.

Churches have been looted, burned or occupied. Christian homes have been marked with the Arabic letter "N" (for the word 'Nasrani' which translates to 'Nazarene', a follower of Jesus).

Thousands of Christian families have been driven from the city.

"In the same area where God sent the prophet Jonah to turn back the people of Nineveh from their evil ways, we pray for a turning back of the evil which has come upon the Christians of Mosul, stripped of their livelihood, property and possessions."

"The Australian government, the international community and the UN must not stand by while such persecution continues unabated." Dr Davies said.

The Archbishop called on churches to pray for peace and justice in Iraq and also for Palestinian Christians caught in the conflict on the West Bank and the Gaza.

"We have entered a period of significant suffering for Christians around the world: from Iraq to Syria and from Egypt to Sudan." the Archbishop said. "While the Cross is the symbol of suffering for all who are followers of Jesus of Nazareth, we have a responsibility to stand with our brothers and sisters in the face of such unmitigated persecution."

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Leadership transition in the early church

The martyrdom of James and the imprisonment of Peter (Acts 12:1-17) mark a pivotal moment in the life of the early church. Up until that time, the Twelve had remained in Jerusalem while Philip and other evangelists scattered about the region preaching the gospel. Now, however, even the Twelve will begin to disperse.

Peter, following his miraculous escape from prison, was obviously a wanted man. He would not be able to remain in Jerusalem, thus creating a leadership vacuum. But Peter already had someone in mind to fill the void. After explaining how an angel of the Lord delivered him from prison, he directed those gathered at the home of Mary, the mother of Mark, to "Tell these things to James and to the other brothers."

This would not be the same James who had just been put to death by Herod, often referred to as James the Greater. This is the half brother of Jesus himself, often referred to as James the Less or James the Just. The significance of Peter naming him is that it marks the first time he is referred to as a leader in the early church. From this point on, as Peter and the remainder of the Twelve begin to disperse, James will become the most influential leader in the Jerusalem church. When Paul, Peter, and others return to Jerusalem for the first church council (Acts 15), it is James who presides.

The transition that took place as Peter handed off leadership to James preserved a unique place for the Jerusalem church. While the mission of the church became focused more on the Gentile world, the church in Jerusalem would remain largely a Jewish congregation, even maintaining many of the Jewish distinctions, right down to the time of Jerusalem's demise in A.D. 70. It stood as a reminder to the increasingly evangelized Gentile world that salvation was a gift of God given first through the people of Israel.

Is the ACNA "the best church for American Christianity in exile?"

Alex Wilgus makes the case for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as "the best church for American Christianity in exile."
Earlier today, Christian blogger Rod Dreher asked a question: What is the best church for American Christianity in exile? In light of Christianity being consistently sidelined and devalued here in America over issues of opposition to gay marriage among other controversies, he specifically asked for readers to contribute an argument for why they believe their own chosen church is the best “ark” in which to ride out the storm. And so, under these parameters, here is my argument for the ACNA as Christianity’s best hope in the new century, which (I fully agree with Rod) certainly appears to be a long, secular winter. This argument is long but I want it to be thorough enough to be convincing. I welcome dissent or correction in the comments as usual, but here it is:

The Anglican Church of North America is American Christianity’s best hope in a state of modern exile. This is because it best understands that the challenges of modern exile do not proscribe the Church’s missionary vocation, instead it encourages it. The ACNA has three things going for it that I’ll explain at length: its missional nature inherited from the Global South, its intellectual seriousness, and a strong, battle-tested respect for biblical and ecclesiastical authority in the face of doctrinal controversy.

1. Missional: The ACNA embraces grassroots expansion within the bounds of authority. The strength of American Christianity down the ages has been its “do-it-yourself” quality. From the very beginning, American religion relied on ordinary laymen and laywomen as the primary footsoldiers of advancing the Kingdom. This is why American Protestantism can trace her foundational heritage heritage to a series of revivals rather than conquests or political coups. For some scholarly work on this thesis, see Mark Noll’s The New Shape of Global Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith. This is a great strength, and it’s the reason why doomsaying about Christianity’s complete cultural marginalization, though not wrong, may be overstated in terms of actual converts. However long our exile may be, the ACNA has the materials to, not just hold out but expand in the face of it.

For instance, within the ACNA, the Greenhouse Regional Church Movement (in which I am a minister) has successfully multiplied churches in the Chicagoland area among Latinos, white urban professionals, residents of nursing homes, and apartment blocks of immigrants, while still maintaining strong ecclesiastical connections between congregations. They are currently in the process of expanding this mission to Texas, California, Pennsylvania, and even Mexico. Greenhouse takes its marching orders from the writings of Roland Allen, an Anglican missionary to China and later Africa in the early 20th Century. Allen’s book “Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?” challenged the modern notion of imperialist-informed mission work and instead advocated grassroots, local, and native-driven missionary work. His ideas, if not directly influential, proved prescient in the case of Africa which has seen the most dramatic spread of Christianity probably ever, mostly as a result of local congregations multiplying, and clergy empowering lay-ministers to go out and minister. Confounding modern Western sociological predictions that Africa would become largely Muslim as European colonies pulled out of the continent, the reverse has come to pass and Africa can almost be rightly named the first “Christian Continent.” The ACNA has not only taken notice of this massive Christian revival but has taken courage from it, sought out real relationships with the remarkable men and women of the faith involved in it, and it is gone out in their same spirit, taking African evangelists, not only as inspiring stories, but as real spiritual mentors. It is now very common for African Anglican evangelists to travel to America for the purpose of encouraging our churches here and share their wisdom. Their approach emphasizes priests raising up gifted lay-people as “catechists” (or lay-pastors) to go out and found new congregations, preach, pastor and evangelize. They encourage catechists and even some priests to be bi-vocational and versatile, founding congregations anywhere there are a harvest of converts. Through Greenhouse, we have established healthy churches in apartment blocks, nursing homes, storefronts and even, believe it or not, actual church buildings. As America secularizes, Africa is starting to evangelize it through the ACNA. Ultimately, though the ACNA is clear-eyed about the negativity toward orthodox Christianity, we do not believe that cultural marginalization will cripple our ability to evangelize and successfully convert. In fact, the shoe may be on quite the other foot. The reasons for this are addressed in the next section.

2. Intellectually solid. While the Anglican Church intentionally does not have a catechism or a magisterium, nor has it rejected hierarchy for totally decentralized autonomous congregations, instead it believes itself to be constantly contending for the true faith and building unity around it. Anglicans believe that the Church is always fighting heresy, that it is a constant conflict, and so every generation is called on to contend for the true faith. This means that Anglicans do not shy away from learning in the way that fundamentalists in certain Anabaptist traditions did. It certainly breeds a lot of discussion and debate, but it is debate of the healthy sort. In these perilous times, it is easy for the faithful to consider discussion and disagreement as fault lines and cracks of inevitable liberalization and compromise with the culture. But I believe that it is a healthy exercise of practical reason informed by faith in Christ. Oliver O’Donovan is a good guide in these matters, and he is worth reading. To my mind he occupies an intellectual place for thoughtful Anglicans quite similar to Alasdair MacIntyre does for traditional Catholics, but he sets an opposite program: full engagement with the world. Instead of retreat into “virtuous communities” and a Benedictine Option, he advocates for a frontal assault on intellectual matters instead of either closing down debates over doctrine with unerring statements ex cathedra or giving up on reasoned engagement with the broader culture in favor of separatism. Ultimately, Anglicans still believe in the ability of faith-informed reason to persuade, and you know what? I believe him. Here’s why:

Catholics and Orthodox continually point to the Episcopal Church as the reason why the Anglican Church has failed, but I actually see them as the strongest evidence of our success. Don’t mistake me, in the case of the Episcopal Church and even, lately, the Church of England, it is clear that the heretics have seized the reins of power, (i.e. money, property, and formal communion.) But the critics overlook us, the schismatics, and the brave bishops of the Global South who have sponsored us (incidentally, this is why the ACNA can rightfully say we enjoy communion with Canterbury, even if tangentially.) We have had our our tussles with modernizing heretics, and there were casualties: we lost buildings and money, but one look at the other guy will show that the Episcopalians came out the worse in terms of the one thing that makes a church a church–actual membership, which has lately plummeted to unsustainable levels. The Church of England is currently experiencing the same internal hemorrhage as it liberalizes. Though the heretics appear triumphant from the point of view of mammon and their formal connections to Canterbury, they have lost their doctrinal coherence and so have lost their parishioners, and it will be their undoing. I do not know why this fact continues to go unreported and why nobody ascribes any meaning to it. The numbers prove that, even if the culture is not on the side of the faithful church, reason is–since if one accepts what the Episcopal Church teaches, one also tacitly accepts that one has no need to go to church, except to feel the somatic tinge of nostalgia, and there are other ways to get that than communion on Sunday. I relate this recent history because I actually believe it shows the not insignificant fact that even if Christianity is losing the culture, the culture is losing the Church. And this is no small loss, because with it means that the faithful will once again be in control of the church, because it will be the only church left.

Part of the legacy of our break in communion with the Episcopal Church is that the break has refined matters of doctrine in the fires of controversy. Establishing a set doctrine or a catechism is tempting, but we can see from a cursory examination of American Catholicism (for instance) that doing so does nothing to actually confront heresy, draw it out into the open, deal with it, and move on. Though there will continue to be doctrinal controversies and debates, in the ACNA, they will not be the same as the ones in the past over gay marriage and theological liberalism. We will get to turn our practical reason to new matters, and so the fires of schism have further refined our doctrinal stances. We are as disturbed as anyone by the apparent victory of liberal sexual and theological attitudes in the culture at large, but instead of cowering away in virtuous communities, weathering the storm, we are actually sighting out Mars Hills on which to dialogue, debate, and evangelize the secular culture around us. My diocese: The Diocese of the Upper Midwest only just formed last year. We are strong, healthy and expanding. It certainly isn’t a wave as intense as that of the East African Revival, but we are not counting that out for the future. We labor in a spirit of hope, confident in our reason, and unfailing in our faith.

3. Authoritative and hierarchical: The ACNA boasts a healthy hierarchy and authority alongside its openness to reasoned debate. Just this month, we have elected our new (second) Archbishop with a very surprising and unprecedented show of unity. Stories abound from every diocese of unity and coalescence rather than splintering or fracturing. Indeed, this is how the ACNA formed (and it continues to congeal) in the first place, by gathering up the splintered pieces of the many schismatic groups from the Episcopal Church and forming them into a strong and unified Province of the Anglican Church. This has not gone uncontested, but the structures of authority and respect for the canons of the Anglican Church have won the day. The province faced its first real institutional challenge in 2011 when Anglican Mission in the Americas, another group of Anglican schismatics officially recognized by ACNA though not a part of it, broke with its Episcopal overseers in Rwanda over matters of finance. Though they were well-known friends of ACNA clergy and members, the ACNA refused to recognize them unless they proved themselves willing to submit to the authority of their Rwandan bishops. This episode could have irreparably fractured American Anglicans, but it did not. Instead, the ACNA showed itself to be committed to episcopal oversight and authority. AMiA exists today as a schismatic group officially unrecognized by ACNA or its parent bishops in Africa.

To bring this overlong argument to a close, I think that discussions over which church is the best “ark” on which to weather the storm tend to turn on which church has the strongest, most ancient, most “countercultural” sorts of rituals that will preserve the faith from the assaults of heresy. We are reflexively looking for how to build walls around our respective camps and preserve our traditions until the fields are more fruitful and our society more accepting. But this is not how the early church responded to heresy. They came out and met it. They evangelized in the face of it. When the Arians tried to seize their buildings, they locked themselves in and sang through the night. In short, they did battle. If orthodox Christianity’s cultural capital is being significantly reduced (and I believe that it is) then I think the lives of the Church Fathers would bid us become an insurgency rather than a cloister. In fact, considering the precipitous decline in membership of the liberal churches whose ideology has been blessed by the ascendant cultural forces, I think the Benedictine Option is rather the only hope for the Protestant Mainline, not the faithful. The ACNA is a church that has taken hold of its faith and its reason and gone out on a confident and hopeful mission. Part of its strength comes from its patronage by African bishops who know a thing or two about grassroots mission, and the spiritual strength of the poor (and who I can personally report are so full of the Spirit as to knock the socks off of any healthy skeptic.) It is using its priests to empower parishioners to go out and start new churches and win converts–instead of waiting for full-time priests to get the itch and take the potentially career endangering plunge into church planting. In short, it is liturgical, historically aware, intellectually serious Christianity on mission, and this has always been the hope of the faithful. May Christ the King come to reign in men’s hearts in this new century, and Satan tremble!

A few observations from a priest formerly affiliated with an ACNA sub-jurisdiction (PEARUSA) and now canonically resident in the Diocese of South Carolina, a body currently navigating through its own season of "exile" and looking at the ACNA as a possible future provincial home:

The missional ethos of ACNA is, undoubtedly, its greatest strength and its hierarchical structure under the leadership of godly men is a refreshing change from the corruption rampant in so many mainline Protestant denominations. I would contend, however, that ACNA's theological and intellectual underpinnings are still a work in progress. It will take perhaps as long as a generation for its clergy and lay members to be weaned off the vacuous theology of the old mainline tradition out of which most of them came.

That caveat aside, I am optimistic that, under newly elected Archbishop Foley Beach, the ACNA will begin to look more like a province than a mere polyglot of various Anglican traditions. Former Archbishop Robert Duncan did a noteworthy job of holding the various factions together during the formative years. It falls to his successor to lead those factions to the next level of ecclesiastical unity and, perhaps, to draw in other parties from the far flung Anglican Diaspora so as to make the ACNA a truly transformative presence in the midst of a culture so tragically saturated by godless secularization.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Message from Bishop Lawrence at the close of the trial

Dear Friends in Christ,

“… suffering produces endurance and endurance produces hope and hope does not disappoint us for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit….” Romans 5:3-4

Having spent much of the last three weeks at the Dorchester Courthouse in St. George, South Carolina it is rather serendipitous to be sending this from a Starbucks in St. George, Utah (a gateway to Zion National Park). Allison and I will be traveling during the next few weeks in Utah, Nevada and California on vacation. She’ll have some much needed time for relaxation and fun and I’ll be climbing the mountains and hiking the trails. Nevertheless, I want to send you this report on the last three weeks.

Firstly, I’m glad to say our legal team led by Mr. Alan Runyan and Ms. Henrietta Golding, supported by a stellar cast of attorneys from the various congregations across the diocese, presented a strong case and did so in a professional, forthright, and convincing manner. The teamwork was marvelous to observe and was only exceeded by what seemed to be the outstretched arm and the mighty hand of God moving again and again in a most timely manner. I was proud to have them representing us from the Diocese of South Carolina. Frankly, having sat through all fourteen days I have to say it was a trial of tediously presented evidence by TEC fortunately punctuated during cross-examination by our attorneys with moments of sheer drama and stunning admissions.

Secondly, the diocesan team of Canon Jim Lewis, Nancy Armstrong, Beth Snyder, Joy Hunter and Jan Pringle worked tirelessly and with a remarkable esprit de corps. It so often put me in mind of Psalm 133—“How good and pleasant it is when the brethren live together in unity.”

Then there was the strong cast of witnesses on behalf of the Diocese. Chancellor, Wade Logan, painted for the court a most helpful background of what a diocese is and how it functions both corporately and ecclesially. Canon Lewis reported on the various Diocesan Conventions and canonical changes which brought us to the place of dissociation from TEC. Mr. Robert Kunes testified on behalf of the Trustees of the Diocese. These three witnesses presented the foundation of our diocesan case. They were followed by a representative witness from every congregation participating in the law suit. I could hardly be more proud of them. Some endured quite vigorous cross-examination. It was moving (and at times for me a heavy burden) to hear parish witnesses again and again testify that they “…wanted to stay in communion with the Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Lawrence.” I wished their fellow parishioners could have seen the courage and clarity with which they represented them.

We also had witnesses in rebuttal to the case made by TEC attorneys. Our diocesan administrator, Nancy Armstrong, combed through centuries of diocesan records to contrast monies that have come into the diocese from TEC and its various related agencies with monies sent by the diocese to TEC. This was in rebuttal to the one-sided presentations given by witnesses from the National Church (including UTO grants which any woman from our DCW can tell you are from contributions from the pews in congregations around the country and not from some National Church budget). In summary the court learned that for every 81 cents given by The Episcopal Church and its various entities to us in South Carolina and our congregations for ministry; the diocese sent $100 to TEC ($100 to 81 cent ratio), therein undermining the defendants’ one-sided presentation of the “facts”. In fifteen minutes of testimony she undermined hours of tedium and an endless parade of documents from so-called experts for the National Church. When Mr. Runyan called to the stand the renowned professor and historian, Dr. Allen Guelzo, author of some 16 books and a foremost historian of the Civil War era and 18th and 19th centuries of American intellectual history we were treated to a breath-taking tour de force disputing the alleged hierarchical assumptions of the national Episcopal Church. Others in this rebuttal stage of the trial were Fr. Robert Lawrence from Camp St. Christopher, the Rev. Greg Kronz, who chaired the Bishop’s search committee and Chancellor Wade Logan who once again punctuated our case. On the last day, I was called finally to the stand.

But I need to say, and can hardly say it enough, undergirding it all—felt at times in palpable ways—the prayers and intercessions from tens of thousands of the saints within the diocese and around the world upholding us in prayer. Some of these intercessors came to the courtroom to pray while testimonies and cross-examinations were taking place. Others of you prayed from home, perhaps on a lunch break, or while driving to and from your work place. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

After the final written submissions by the attorneys this case will lie in the careful judgment of the Honorable Diane Goodstein, who from my novice perspective was astonishingly competent, cheery and at times appropriately stern. This was not an easy case to try—yet she did it with aplomb. It may be several months before her judicial order is made. So please pray for her as she and her clerks sort through the testimonies and lengthy documents presented to the court and as she subsequently renders her ruling.

I have learned much about the diocese during this process—its structure and history—as well as the rich heritage of our parishes and missions. All is more firmly rooted in my mind and has awakened in my heart a deeper gratitude to God for calling me to serve among you. I am eager to put this knowledge to good use. My prayer is that our Lord will use this season to prepare us for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as we seek to reach our communities for Jesus Christ— Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age here in South Carolina and around the world.

Gratefully yours in Christ,

The Right Reverend Mark Joseph Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina

Sunday, July 27, 2014

++Anis: World is not doing enough for Iraqi Christians

A statement from the Office of the President Bishop of the Episcopal/Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East

The Most Revd Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis, Bishop of the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa and the President Bishop of the Episcopal/Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, stated that the suffering, persecution and displacement of Iraqi Christians, especially in the Mosul area, is a disgrace to the international community which is not doing enough to rescue the people of Iraq from the terrorist attacks carried out by ISIS.

Bishop Mouneer also expressed his deep sadness for burning and looting of churches in Iraq, noting that the Chaldean Church in Iraq goes back to the first century.

He added that emptying Iraq of Christians is a great loss to the people of Iraq.

Bishop Mouneer also called upon the Iraqi government and the international community to make every effort to stop these terrorist crimes against Christians and called upon on Al Azhar Al Sherif and Muslim scholars in the Middle East to stand against the terrorist ideologies of these terrorists who have also killed innocent Muslims.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Official diocesan report on final day of South Carolina trial

ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 25, 2014 – On the 14th and final day of the trial of the Diocese of South Carolina vs. The Episcopal Church and its local subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina testified that, contrary to TEC’s allegations, he had tried to keep the diocese within the denomination.

The Right Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, 14th bishop of the Diocese of SC, whom TEC supporters have accused of plotting to lead the Diocese out of the denomination, was the only witness called during the final day of the trial. Diocesan attorneys asked him several questions about TEC’s authority and the process followed to punish him.

When asked if he had planned to lead the diocese out of TEC, he said, “Absolutely not.” He explained that no one had ever asked him to lead the diocese out and said it only decided to leave after TEC had taken steps to remove him as bishop – violating its own process for doing that.

The bishop also contradicted testimony from earlier in the week, in which TEC witnesses claimed that the denomination has supreme authority over its dioceses and congregations. The bishop said that he shared the opinion of 14 other bishops that TEC has no actual authority over its member dioceses.

Judge Diane S. Goodstein ended the 14th day of the trial saying she will decide the case later this year. At stake is the future of diocesan property, including its parishes. The diocese is trying to prevent TEC from seizing more than $500 million in property held by the diocese and those parishes that left the national church in 2012.

Diocese of Quincy wins over TEC

Ironically, as the South Carolina trial ended, today the Illinois Court of Appeals came out with an opinion in favor of the Diocese of Quincy (Ill.). The case was decided on neutral principles of law and the law determined the non-profit incorporated diocese can leave The Episcopal Church. The case in Quincy is almost identical to the one in South Carolina. The disassociated Diocese of Quincy had won its case, but TEC appealed, freezing the diocese’s bank accounts and other resources.

South Carolina: The end of the trial, and the end of the national church illusion

Bishop Lawrence
The final day of the trial to protect the assets of the Diocese of South Carolina featured relatively uneventful testimony from Bishop Mark Lawrence. The authentic bishop was much better prepared to take the stand than his faux counterpart, Charles vonRosenberg, who testified earlier this week and was exposed on cross examination as a violator of his own church canons. Cross examination of Bishop Lawrence by David Booth Beers ended abruptly after the bishop refused to be baited by a question about his episcopal responsibilities. Beers implied that certain responsibilities were defined only in the canons of the national church. Bishop Lawrence, however, reminded the aging barrister that they were likewise defined in the canons of the diocese and the Holy Scriptures.

The decision not to engage in a lengthy cross-examination of Bishop Lawrence may be indicative of the national church legal team's pessimism about the outcome of the trial. Throughout the three week ordeal, the contrast in energy level between the two sides has been apparent. Attorneys for the diocese have presented their case with clarity and conviction. Their counterparts on the other side of the aisle have floundered in legal minutiae, been knocked off their game by unexpected responses from witnesses, and engaged in questionable tactics which have tried the patience of Judge Diane S. Goodstein.

The generation gap between the observers on opposing sides has also been telling. Supporters of the national church and its local rump affiliate have invariably been graying baby boomers for whom institutional preservation is of paramount concern. Conversely, supporters of the diocese have been more youthful in appearance and more passionate in outlook. Their paramount concern is the advancement of the church, under whatever name it may operate, and the vindication of the truth which cannot be bound by institutional adiophora.

The facade so often put up by the national church, that strange doctrines like same sex marriage and religious pluralism are the wave of the future, simply cannot be sustained in the face of the reality which has been on display in plain sight for the last three weeks. The vast majority of the national church's courtroom cheerleaders care little, if at all, about the innovations and aberrations being imposed upon their parishes by Katharine Jefferts Schori and her New York cabal. They are simply dear old souls living under the tragic delusion that the church of their youth is still the church of their riper years.

So ends the trial; and so ends any illusion that the unincorporated national entity which insists it owns the exclusive right to the name "Episcopal" has any future beyond the lifetime of its rapidly fading constituency.

Good news from Quincy: TEC loses again

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 13: Expert witness rebuts TEC's nonsensical historical claims

ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 24, 2014 – On the 13th day of the trial of the Diocese of South Carolina vs. The Episcopal Church and its local subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, a director of The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church testified that the denomination has no supreme control over its dioceses or parishes, countering TEC claims to the contrary.

Dr. Allen C. Guelzo, who is also a professor of history at Gettysburg College, an expert on the history of religious organizations including TEC and the author of 16 books, said that TEC’s authority is “prescriptive,” which means the denomination can advise its dioceses but cannot order them to do anything.

He also testified that TEC was formed by dioceses, including the Diocese of South Carolina, and that it did not form those dioceses. He said there was no evidence in its formation in 1789 or today that it controlled the dioceses that are in union with it. He also testified that nothing associated with TEC’s formation suggests that dioceses that formed it could not leave it as voluntarily as they joined it. “History shows that authority flows from bottom up,” Guelzo said.

Guelzo, who was called by the plaintiff diocese to respond to reams of documents TEC had entered into the court record suggesting the denomination has ultimate control over its dioceses and congregations, testified for nearly 90 minutes.

At one point, when Mary Kostel, an attorney for TEC referred to documents written by Francis Vinton and A. C. Coxe, members of TEC’s clergy during the 1800s, and asked Guelzo if he would agree that their work was known in the 19th century, Guelzo said “Yes they were known, but so was Jesse James.” Guelzo then equated taking the commentary of Vinton and Coxe as authoritative on the power and control in the Episcopal Church would be like taking commentary from the Tea Party as authoritative on the U.S. Constitution.

Judge Diane S. Goodstein has repeatedly told TEC attorneys that the South Carolina Supreme Court will not permit her to consider their arguments that TEC is a hierarchical institution that has the authority to prevent dioceses from leaving the denomination. However, because TEC has introduced evidence claiming the denomination effectively dictates policies and behaviors to its dioceses, she permitted Guelzo to address the issue as a rebuttal witness.

Rebuttal witness - Camp St. Christopher

To provide further rebuttal of TEC’s witnesses, the Diocese also introduced Bob Lawrence (no relation to Bishop Mark Lawrence). He is executive director of Camp St. Christopher, a camp and conference center operated by the Diocese. Lawrence responded to an allegation made by TECSC provisional bishop Charles vonRosenberg that none of his parishioners who chose to remain with TEC have been permitted to use the camp. In fact, Lawrence said that vonRosenberg’s parishioners are permitted to use the camp – and that many have used it, served as Camp staff and are using it today.

Rebuttal witness - Funds in and out

The diocese also called Nancy Armstrong, assistant treasurer of the diocese, to respond to suggestions that TEC has provided the diocese and its parishes with significant financial support. In fact, she said that TEC provided the diocese with approximately 80 cents for every $100 the diocese and its parishes voluntarily contributed to TEC. In other words, the denomination returned to the diocese approximately 0.8 percent of the local contributions to the national church.

Rebuttal witness - Chancellor Wade Logan

Chancellor to the Diocese of South Carolina, Wade Logan’s rebuttal testimony revealed multiple areas in which the disciplinary process with Bishop Mark Lawrence, the duly elected bishop to the plaintiff diocese, did not comply with TEC’s own canons.

Meriam Ibrahim released from Sudan, meets with pope in Italy

Wonderful news! But please note the lack of effort on the part of the Obama Administration. The current president's cavalier attitude toward Christian persecution abroad and religious liberty at home is beyond reprehensible.
Meriam Ibrahim and her family have arrived safely in Rome, ending a year-long effort in Sudan to put her to death for her Christian faith.

“This is a day of celebration,” said Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who welcomed the family at the airport on Thursday.

Ibrahim’s release came only hours after the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing to highlight the stalled efforts to get her out of Sudan, but the wheels were already in motion before the proceeding began. Sudanese authorities gave Ibrahim back her passport on Wednesday and told her she could leave, shortly before Lapo Pistelli, Italy’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, arrived in Sudan to accompany her back to Italy. Italy’s effort illustrated the kind of advocacy lawmakers said was lacking from the Obama administration.

Others had advocated for Ibrahim’s release as well. American pastor Bill Devlin traveled to Sudan last week to urge Sudanese officials to release the mother and her family. Devlin—a ministry leader who has visited Khartoum four times during the last several years—said he met with Foreign Minister Ali Karti and other Sudanese leaders during his six-day visit.

He also met with Ibrahim, her husband, and their two children in a conference room at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, where the family had lived since Ibrahim was re-arrested at the airport in June. In a phone interview on Wednesday (before news of her release broke), Devlin said the family was eager to leave Sudan but seemed healthy and in good spirits. He also said a pediatrician had advised Ibrahim’s infant daughter appeared healthy, although the baby would need further tests to assess her health. After her release from prison, Ibrahim said she feared the baby might be disabled due to the circumstances of her birth.

After her sudden release on Wednesday, it was unclear how the next steps in the family’s journey would unfold. On Thursday morning, the family met with Pope Francis at his residence at the Vatican. They may soon travel to the United States. Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is an American citizen and a long-time resident of Manchester, N.H.

“Mission accomplished,” Pistelli wrote on his Facebook account.

UPDATE: Video from Catholic New Service.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 12: TEC fauxilliary bishop eviscerated on cross examination; claims ignorance of significant disciplinary Canon

Charles vonRosenberg and unidentified canine cohort
Things went from bad to worse for The Empty Church in South Carolina (TECSC) during the twelfth day of the trial to protect the assets of the legitimate Diocese of South Carolina. Charles G. vonRosenberg, fauxilliary bishop of the rump diocese was exposed for the ecclesiastical non-entity he is when, upon cross examination by diocesan lawyer Alan Runyan, he claimed to have no knowledge of the Canon, adopted by General Convention in 2009 when he was still an active bishop, which prohibits any lay or ordained member of the national church from asking a secular court to interpret church law.

Ironically, the Canon in question was specifically adopted so as to prevent the Right Reverend Mark J. Lawrence, the legitimate bishop of the legitimate diocese, from seeking judicial relief from the contrived disciplinary action brought against him by the national church. It was a classic "gotcha" moment which produced audible gasps in the courtroom.

In another bizarre twist in vonRosenberg's testimony, the make believe bishop said he had "re-confirmed" several persons originally confirmed by Bishop Lawrence in order to make sure they were "confirmed in The Episcopal Church." The implication was that since Bishop Lawrence, in the estimation of the national church, is an "unworthy" minister, any confirmations performed by him would not be considered legitimate. This is contrary to Article XXVI of the Articles of religion, which states in part:

Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

Furthermore, confirmation is not a rite unique to "The Episcopal Church." While it may be called by different names in different denominations, it is a rite of the whole church and transferable from one ecclesiastical body to another. The concern that a person's confirmation be specifically "in The Episcopal Church" is indicative of the fact that "The Episcopal Church" is behaving more like a cult than a legitimate branch of the Church of Jesus Christ.

David Booth Beers, the national church's haughty legal counsel, attempted to rehabilitate his discredited witness by trying to introduce some kind of context to the Canon of which vonRosenberg claimed not to be aware. However, his question was shot down by an objection on the grounds that it lacked foundation since the "bishop" had already said he was not familiar with the provision.

Judge Diane S. Goodstein also re-emphasized, for the umpteenth time, that she would not be swayed by the national church's repeated attempts to introduce arguments pertaining to its supposed hierarchical nature, going so far as to say she was not convinced that such was the polity of the church, as nothing to that effect has been put in writing.

Here is the full report on the day's proceedings from the diocesan press office:
ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 23, 2014 – On the 12th day of the trial of the Diocese of South Carolina vs. The Episcopal Church and its local subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, TEC attorney David Beers attempted to introduce the concept of church hierarchy once again into the trial, ignoring Judge Diane S. Goodstein’s repeated rulings that church hierarchy plays no role in this case.

Beers asked the first provisional bishop of TECSC, Charles vonRosenberg, to tell the court why the Bishop of San Joaquin, Ca., the Rt. Rev. John David Schofield had been removed as bishop of that diocese.

Judge Goodstein said, “It’s not relevant. For this reason: I don’t know what [that] state’s position is regarding the analysis of church disputes. I don’t really care. What I care about is the state of South Carolina. My Supreme Court tells me what I do when I analyze church disputes.’

She added, “In terms of whether or not the parishes in SC and the Diocese in SC were allowed to leave the national church – I’m going to make that determination on the basis of neutral principles of law under South Carolina law. I don’t care what happened any where else.”

Beers disagreed with the judge, saying that hierarchy is part of TEC’s polity or organization and the judge responded, “I’m not sure that’s your polity. I watched very carefully when Bishop [Clifton] Daniel testified and Mr. Runyan (attorney for the Diocese) popped up with the Constitution and Canons. There was nothing written that says, “You here forever.”

In response to her last statement coming out somewhat like Scarlet O’Hara, some in the courtroom laughed, drawing a reprimand from Judge Goodstein.

“I don’t say that to be humorous. It is a very serious matter,” she said. “You want to tell me this is the polity of the church? It’s not written. Seems to me it ought to be written. But it isn’t. It obviously happened to some folks. I’ve got that. But I’m not going to be bound by that. I’m just not. I’m going to be bound by South Carolina law.”

When cross-examined by Diocesan attorney Alan Runyan, Bishop vonRosenberg affirmed that he was familiar with that portion of the TEC canons commonly referred to as “the Dennis Canon,” which seeks to impose a trust in favor of TEC. He admitted, however, he was not familiar with the Canon which states “No member of the Church, whether lay or ordained, may seek to have the Constitution and Canons of the Church interpreted by a secular court, or resort to a secular court to address a dispute arising under the Constitution and Canons.”

“That is precisely what TEC has sought every time it has prosecuted this kind of litigation,” said the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary. “Its what Judge Goodstein emphasized today that she is prevented from doing under the law.”

Plaintiff calls rector as witness to dispute Rickenbaker testimony

The Rev. Gregory Kronz, rector at St. Luke’s on Hilton Head Island testified today that he was head of the search committee to find a bishop to replace Bishop Salmon.

Kronz said that he and another member of the committee, Paul Fuener, interviewed the Rev. Thomas Rickenbaker, one of about a dozen candidates that had made it to the interview stage. Henrietta Golding asked Rev. Kronz if he ever inquired as to whether or not Rev. Rickenbaker would be willing to take the diocese away from the national church, or if there were any indirect questions in that regard. Rev. Kronz said, “no.” Asked if Rickenbaker had removed his name from the search list, Kronz again said, “no.”

The rest of the afternoon was spent going over documents TEC sought to enter into evidence, relating to each of the individual churches involved in the dispute.

When Diocesan attorney Alan Runyan objected to the relevancy of one document, Judge Goodstein overruled him and added, “On documents, I understand why they’re being offered by the defendant (TEC). (However) They have relevance that also shows a very close relationship between parish and Diocese. How many times have I heard testimony say, ‘The diocese is important to us. We want to stay with the Diocese’... I heard time and time again, ‘the end of the road is the Diocese. We want to stay with Bishop Lawrence.’”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 11: More irrelevant testimony from TEC witness

Looks like The Empty Church in South Carolina (TECSC) tried to pass off some more testimony that didn't pass the smell test with Judge Goodstein.
ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 22, 2014 – Attorneys for The Episcopal Church and its local subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, spent the eleventh day of a trial to prevent their seizure of local church property attempting to introduce testimony that the Circuit Court has repeatedly dismissed as irrelevant.

The entire morning was spent with TEC’s lead attorney, David Beers, asking Mark Duffy, Canonical Archivist and Director of Archives for the national church to identify documents discussing TEC’s financial contributions to the Diocese, the denomination’s hierarchical structure that does not permit diocese to withdraw and other topics, attracting repeated objections from diocesan attorneys.

Judge Diane S. Goodstein sustained most objections to the TEC documents, repeatedly stating that they bore no relevance to the case.

In the matter of hierarchy, she again explained that South Carolina is not a jurisdiction that recognizes hierarchy in such cases.

For the second day in a row, the witness admitted that he had not been shown any documents on contributions by the Diocese to TEC for the same period that TEC was claiming it had made contribution to the Diocese and its parishes.

The rest of the day was spent reading the deposition of Thomas M. Rickenbaker from Spartanburg, South Carolina, who was interviewed for Bishop of South Carolina but did not make it to the second round of finalists. Rickenbaker was not present for his testimony.

Rickenbaker, who was baptized by Tom Tisdale, Sr., father of TECSC’s lead attorney, said that when he was interviewed for the job of bishop that the first question he was asked in his interview was “can you lead us out of TEC?” Richkenbaker had never provided that information to anyone in five years and then only recalled the conversation after being contacted by a representative of TECSC. His statements are in dispute by those who interviewed Mr. Rickenbaker in 2006.

Trevin Wax on Bonhoeffer and cultural obsession with sexual identity

There are some revisionists who will not be satisfied until they have homosexualized every major figure in church history, from Jesus on down to Mother Teresa. The latest target is the German theologian and  martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The ammunition is a new biography which raises questions about Bonhoeffer's relationship with Eberhard Bethge, a long-time friend who later supervised the compilation of his works.

If revisionists had hoped this conjecture would shock evangelicals into banishing Bonhoeffer into the abyss, they are going to be disappointed, according to Trevin Wax of the The Gospel Coalition. The drive to insert sexual innuendo into the Bonhoeffer legacy says more about our over-sexualized culture than it does about Bonhoeffer or the culture which he bravely stood against at the cost of his life.

The facts in the case of Bonhoeffer are clear: he was engaged at the time of his execution, and he wrote about the fact he would die as a virgin. No biographer or scholar claims that Bonhoeffer engaged in a sexual relationship with anyone, male or female, whatever his attractions may have been.

I believe the conversation about Bonhoeffer’s sexuality tells us more about life in the sexualized culture of the 21st century than it does about Bonhoeffer. In fact, if we pay attention, we will see how Bonhoeffer’s life and legacy directly challenges several commonly held assumptions today.

Assumption #1: Life lived to the fullest must include sexual fulfillment.

Bonhoeffer lived faithfully – emphasis on fully – as a virgin. One should not miss the countercultural reality on display in his life.

Post Sexual Revolution, people often define themselves by their sexual identity. For this reason, many people see any restriction or moral restraint on how sexuality is expressed as oppressive, a dagger to the heart of a person’s life and dreams.

For the Christian, such an exaggerated view of sexuality is a pernicious lie. It feeds the falsehood that, without sexual fulfillment, it is impossible for someone to live a full and engaging life. In contrast, Christians believe celibacy is not a pitiable choice but a beautiful calling.

Bonhoeffer’s witness (along with evangelical heroes like John Stott, not to mention Jesus Himself) testifies against the assumption that self-actualization must include sexual relationships. His life challenges a culture that says you are your sexuality.

Sam Allberry, a pastor in the UK who experiences same-sex attraction yet believes homosexual behavior to be sinful, is familiar with the accusation often made against evangelicals, that adhering to Christianity’s sexual ethic contributes to teenage angst and suicide. His response is spot on:

“No, the problem is a culture that says your entire identity and sense of who you are is bound up with fulfilling your sexual desires. You are the ones who have raised the stakes that high. So that the moment you don’t fulfill your desires, you have nothing left to live for.”

Society’s view of a Forty-Year-Old Virgin is Steve Carrell. Christianity’s view of a forty-year-old virgin should be Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Assumption #2: Affectionate male friendships must be romantic in nature.

History is replete with examples of robust male friendships that are full of affection and expressions of love and yet are not sexual.

Unfortunately, the sexual revolution has made it more difficult to imagine passionate philos apart from eros. That’s why revisionist historians read romantic notions into Teddy Roosevelt’s affectionate letters to his closest friends. People wonder out loud about Abraham Lincoln’s sharing a bed with his friend, Joshua Speed. It’s hard for our society to understand how King David could weep so terribly over the lost love of Jonathan unless there was some sort of romance between them. And now, Bonhoeffer’s relationship with Bethge is put under the microscope of 21st century assumptions.

In fairness to the biographer, it is certainly possible that Bonhoeffer was attracted to Bethge, even though acting on such a notion was always out of the question. But it’s also possible, even likely, that Bonhoeffer’s friendship was, like many male friendships of the time, strong and affectionate, with a passion that did not include sexual desire.

The speculation about Bonhoeffer’s sexuality distracts us from the greater loss of slowly disappearing same-sex friendships, the kind of love we see in literature between Sam and Frodo, relationships that many today can hardly conceive of, apart from some sort of sexual longing.

Assumption #3: Sexual attraction must define one’s identity.

Because our society has adopted the notion that sexual expression is wrapped up in our identity, some may think that getting to the root of Bonhoeffer’s sexuality is the only way to truly understand the man he was. But I suspect Bonhoeffer himself would dispute such a notion, and so would most people throughout history.

When we assume sexual orientation is fixed from birth and unchangeable, the question of identity naturally comes to the forefront: “Was he gay or not?” But Christianity rejects such a reductionist view of sex and identity. Everyone is warped in sexual attraction, at least to some degree. We are all sexual sinners in need of the grace and mercy of God. We are marked by our need for grace, not our longing for sex.

Bonhoeffer’s identity was not defined by sexual attraction, but by his costly discipleship following in the footsteps of his King. Going beyond letters and writings and personal correspondence to speculate on the unspoken sexual longings of a figure from the past says more about us and our own preoccupations than about the person under scrutiny.


Evangelicals aren’t going to go crazy in responding the new Bonhoeffer’ biography. Why? Because the idea that Bonhoeffer may have experienced same-sex attraction doesn’t matter all that much in assessing his legacy. He was a faithful man of God who immersed himself in Scripture, read the signs of the times, stood boldly against the Nazi war machine, and died as a hero.

The best way to honor Bonhoeffer is to not to speculate about his sexuality, but to see how his example counters the errant assumptions of a sexualized culture.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Eyewitness report from Day 10: Walter Edgar's not so expert testimony does little for TEC's specious argument

Walter Edgar
The trial to protect the assets and properties of the Diocese of South Carolina entered its third week today and I was finally able to witness the proceedings firsthand. The experience was a bit underwhelming, but that is most likely attributable to the dullness of the day's only witness, Dr. Walter Edgar, retired professor of history at the University of South Carolina.

Most of the morning was spent arguing an objection brought by the diocesan legal team against Dr. Edgar's testimony. As a "lay witness," the professor had no background in canon law, church history, and church finances. Yet, the national church had paid him handsomely to pour over the journals of diocesan conventions from the late eighteenth century until 2010 and offer his "expert" opinion on the historical nature of the diocese's relationship with the national church. Ultimately, Judge Diane Goodstein limited the professor's testimony to summaries of his "research" of pertinent materials.

On direct examination by defendant's attorney Thomas Tisdale, Dr. Edgar offered a long and very boring lecture on the history of the relationship between the diocese and the national church, revealing nothing of particular legal relevance. The fact that the Diocese of South Carolina was once affiliated with a national body variously known as The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, The Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and The Episcopal Church is, of course, not in dispute. Nothing in Dr. Edgar's testimony did anything to bolster the specious claim that once a diocese has voluntarily affiliated with the national church, it cannot, likewise, voluntarily disaffiliate.

On cross examination from diocesan attorneys Henrietta Golding and Alan Runyan, Dr. Edgar conceded his lack of expertise in religious history and church canon law and admitted he had not considered in his "research" the possibility that the diocese had been relatively self-sustaining with minimal financial assistance from the national church through most of its history.

A good portion of Dr. Edgar's testimony focused on financial assistance given to the diocese in the years 1866-67. As an historian of the Civil War era, Dr. Edgar would certainly have recognized the need for outside aid to churches in the old Confederacy after that bloody conflict (in which a number of churches were burned to the ground) would have been great. Yet, he made no mention of such an obvious historical anomaly during his testimony. That glaring omission, along with his admitted lack of knowledge of actual diocesan finances and his imperious boast that he and his wife always made sure they worshiped in a church "that is in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury," made his testimony less than credible.

Attorneys for the national church continued to engage in dilatory tactics, failing to provide the diocesan attorneys with documentation necessary for cross-examination. The courtroom behavior of these bandits in bow ties is truly mind-boggling. One wonders if the whole strategy of the national church is simply to plan an appeal of what seems to be an inevitably unfavorable decision on grounds of incompetent counsel.

Judge Goodstein, it must be said, is a particularly interesting character. Hardly the stern taskmaster that I expected, she was a jovial and affable presence, often engaging in lighthearted banter with counsel and witness. It was clear, however, that she has every intention of following long standing precedent in matters of South Carolina law, giving the Diocese and its legal team every reason to be optimistic about the final outcome.

Here is the official diocesan press release from today's proceedings:
ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 21, 2014 – An attorney for The Episcopal Church on Monday acknowledged that – despite TEC’s repeated claim that dioceses may not leave the denomination – there is nothing in the group’s constitution that specifically prohibits such a disassociation.

“It’s true it doesn’t say whether a diocese in the U.S. can or cannot [leave],” said Mary Kostel, attorney for TEC. “It’s arguably ambiguous.”

The comment came during the 10th day of trial in suit to prevent TEC from seizing the property of the Diocese of South Carolina and its parishes. Much of the morning was spent in a discussion between attorneys and Judge Diane S. Goodstein about the admissibility of testimony by historian Walter Edgar, a professor at the University of South Carolina.

Though Edgar was not identified as an expert witness, TEC wanted him to testify about his expertise and provide opinions on the hierarchical nature of TEC and to demonstrate that it has authority over its dioceses and parishes. But Judge Goodstein denied that he would be allowed to.

This is the second time in this trial that TEC failed to follow the rules on the use of witnesses. “When he shifts from saying ‘this is what it says,’ to ‘this is what it means’ we’ve crossed into expert testimony,” she said.

Judge Goodstein acknowledged that she understands TEC’s attorneys want to introduce the idea of a hierarchical denomination in order to pave the way for an expected appeal. However, she made clear that the claim is irrelevant to the case under South Carolina law.

“Let me be very clear that in every way the defendants [TEC attorneys] have done everything within their ability to establish the hierarchal nature of this church. I accept that,” she said. “Our courts have said we will not enforce the hierarchical decisions. We’re a neutrality state.”

The afternoon was spent with Edgar literally reading highlighted excerpts from numerous journals of the Diocese of South Carolina, showing that the Diocese participated in TEC activities and adhered to its rules while the Diocese was a member of the denomination. The diocese has never disputed that fact.

In fact, during the morning discussion before Edgar even began his testimony, Diocese of South Carolina attorney Henrietta Golding said, “If you’re a member of a club or fraternity, you abide by the laws. …There’s no relevance that the Diocese followed the Constitution and Canons. They were together at that time. There’s no significance because a party to this action followed the rules. We were members then.”

Edgar also spent some time testifying about individual financial contributions TEC had sent to the diocese and its parishes through the years. While he never mentioned a total number, after reading page after page of excerpts, it was clear that the denomination had provided several thousands of dollars.

However, when asked in cross-examination by Alan Runyan, lead attorney for the Plaintiff, Dr. Edgar testified that he had not been asked to, nor did he attempt to, see how much money the diocese had voluntarily given to TEC during the same time TEC says the Diocese received grants and loans "It could even be 900 percent more than you testified TEC has given over the same period and you do not know because you did not ask?" Runyan said.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 9: Another TEC witness undermines TEC's argument

A brief day in court today, and apparently another bad one for the national church and its local rump affiliate.
The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel, III the Provisional Bishop of Pennsylvania, was the first of two witnesses called by the defense today,(July 18) the ninth day of the trial of the Diocese of South Carolina v. TEC and TECSC.

Bishop Daniel, had been Bishop Coadjutor of East Carolina, was vice-president of the fourth Province (a group of dioceses in the southeast), served on the Presiding Bishop's Counsel of Advice and chaired that group.

He testified regarding the General Convention and the fact it is held every three years, who attends and how voting is handled.

During cross-examination by Diocesan attorney Alan Runyan, Daniel was asked about the duties of a Bishop. Daniel stated that for a Bishop to go into another’s jurisdiction he or she would have to obtain consent (from the Bishop of that Diocese.)

Runyan asked if, in General Convention voting, Daniel could overrule his own delegation, simply because he was the bishop, and Daniel said he could not.

When Runyan asked if the witness would agree that no provincial synod has the power to regulate internal affairs of a Diocese, Daniels replied, “ Yes.” He further testified that a diocese did not need to get permission from TEC to amend its own constitution and canons.

Before asking his final question, Runyan placed the Constitution and Canons of TEC for 2006 and 2009 on the edge of the witness stand and asked Daniel to identify them.

Runyan asked the witness to turn to the page in those documents where it says the diocese cannot withdraw from the Episcopal Church and read it to the court. “Is there a page or a phrase, or a sentence, in either of those that says, quote, a diocese may not leave the Episcopal Church without the consent of the general convention?” asked Runyon. “I don't believe so,” answered Daniel. “But I may be wrong.”

“I'm sure it will be pointed out if you are.“ answered Runyan.

The second and final witness for the day, Patricia Neuman was a former member of Trinity, Edisto, who had been a part of that parish’s vestry, but when they voted to disassociate from the national church she left the church.

Court is adjourned until Monday, July 21 at 9:30 a.m.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 8: Judge Goodstein lowers the boom on lawless TECSC attorneys

Was this supposed to be TECSC's "expert witness?" Hey, anything's possible with this bunch!
It's hard to imagine what kind of "expert" testimony a legendary stand-up comedian could have provided, but the lawless tactics of the attorneys for The Empty Church in South Carolina (TECSC) were no laughing matter for Judge Diane Goodstein.
ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 17, 2014 –A normally unflappable South Carolina Circuit Court judge stopped the trial initiated by the Diocese of SC to prevent the seizure of local diocesan and parish property, to scold the defendants for their intentional disregard of three court orders dealing with disclosure of expert witnesses. The defendants, the Episcopal Church (TEC) and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) tried to present an expert witness, Robert Klein, into the trial without having followed court’s orders.

After reminding TEC attorneys that she had bent over backwards to provide them ample opportunity to identify expert witnesses, Judge Diane S. Goodstein said, “You have violated this court three times with regard to experts and now you think you’re going to bring in his (Klein) testimony through the back door? This is not a game! Court’s orders are to be followed! You are an officer of the court. I trust we will not have any more discussion about this witness.”

Goodstein then asked the TEC counselor when Klein was hired as an expert witness. The defense attorney admitted they had communicated with Klein prior to the last court order in June. Judge Goodstein, waving a sheet of paper without Klein’s name on it, said it was “unbelievable,” “remarkable” that his name was not on it and therefore ruled Klein’s testimony excluded. Further, Goodstein said she believed the many efforts to postpone and delay the proceedings of the trial had been a tactical decision by the defendants.

Attorneys for the defense argued at length about the propriety of excluding their witness and threatened to appeal her ruling. Goodstein finally ended the discussion by saying, “I want the courts to assume that I have done what I have done because the defendants failed to comply with not one, not two but three of this court’s orders.”

After the judge’s scolding, TEC presented another expert witness, Leslie Lott, a trademark attorney from Coral Gables, Fla., who had a portion of her testimony excluded because she had based her opinions on the work of Klein, the earlier excluded witness.

Lott was ill prepared to testify because the defendants had only provided her with their side of the case. She had been given no information, factual or legal, about the plaintiff, Diocese of South Carolina. It was apparent through cross examination that Lott’s defense attorney had only presented their side so that she could not render an informed opinion and she simply lacked the necessary information to testify credibly.

Her testimony was interrupted when an irritated Judge Goodstein adjourned for lunch after she realized during cross-examination that Lott had not brought her documents to court.

The other witnesses were parish witnesses who had left and formed other churches, and are now part of TECSC. Each witness testified that proper notice had been given to the congregation to vote as to whether their church remained with the Diocese of South Carolina or go with TEC and its newly formed TECSC.

Spin and projection: The alternate universe of TECSC

After yesterday's courtroom disaster, the propagandists for The Empty Church in South Carolina (TECSC) apparently had to pull an all nighter to come up with a press release that portrayed their side in a positive light. For the sake of keeping your blood pressure low, I would only recommend reading it with A.S. Haley's accompanying commentary. Ultimately, the spinmeisters had to fall back on the tried and true tactic of making themselves look good by making their opponents look bad. The result was this gem of journalistic eloquence:
As cross-examination began, plaintiff’s attorney Henrietta Golding stood up and immediately began shouting at the professor seated in the witness chair, jabbing her finger in the air: “I think you need to tell the court where you go to church! …Or is this something you want to hide?” Counsel for the defense objected; Judge Goodstein did not intervene. “I don’t think she’s being impolite,” the judge said.
While I wasn't present in the courtroom, I think it safe to assume, based on Judge Goodstein's response, that the exchange between counsel and witness was nowhere near as belligerent as described in the press release. Hectoring, name-calling, and bullying are hallmarks of the national church and its local subsidiary. Projecting such behavior onto the attorneys representing the real Diocese of South Carolina is hardly surprising. It is very much in character for the minions of TECSC who, like their national counterparts, must continue to craft false narratives to sustain life in their alternate universe.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

BUSTED! TEC witness admits diocesan constitution and canons trump those of the national church

You know you're trouble when your own "expert witness" undermines your own argument.
ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 16, 2014 –An expert witness for The Episcopal Church (TEC) undermined claims by the denomination that its rules supersede those of local dioceses in the Diocese of SC, during day-long testimony in the trial to protect local diocesan and church property from seizure by TEC and its local subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC).

Martin McWilliams, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, was called by TEC and TECSC to testify as an expert witness. McWilliams spent considerable time explaining his credentials as a corporate governance expert and said that because the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina incorporated the constitutions and canons of the national church in its own corporate charter, it is governed by those constitutions and canons.

However, on cross examination by the diocese’s attorneys, Alan Runyan and Henrietta Golding, he acknowledged that the diocese – while it may incorporate the national rules – is, in fact, governed by its own documents. He further acknowledged there is no rule in either the national canons and constitutions, nor in the diocese’s own constitutions and canons that prohibits the diocese from amending its corporate documents. He also said that the diocese was within its legal rights to amend its articles of incorporation.

McWilliams was the only witness called.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day 6: Testimony shows Bishop Lawrence tried to keep diocese in the denomination, used “Intact and In TEC” as a slogan

Bishop Lawrence
ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 15, 2014 –Countering Episcopal Church allegations that Bishop Mark Lawrence engineered the Diocese of South Carolina’s withdrawal from The Episcopal Church (TEC), a witness for the denomination on Tuesday acknowledged that the bishop was committed to remaining part of the denomination.

The Rev. Marshall Dow Sanderson of Holy Communion, Charleston, was called by TEC during the trial to protect the property of the diocese and its parishes from seizure by the national denomination. However, on cross examination, Sanderson admitted that Bishop Lawrence consistently sought to keep the Diocese intact within the national church before TEC attempted to remove him. He testified that, during a meeting of the clergy in 2009, Lawrence went so far as to coin the phrase “Intact and In TEC”.

TEC has repeatedly suggested that Lawrence had engineered the diocese’s withdrawal from the denomination over several years, conspiring with members of the clergy to separate from the national church. However, the “Intact and In TEC” slogan was used by Lawrence until the national church tried to remove him in 2012 – as he was still trying to work out differences between the Diocese and the denomination.

The diocese completed its arguments on Tuesday and TEC and its local subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) began to present its case.

They called Armand Derfner as an expert witness on constitutional law to instruct the court on how it should apply the law. South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein, who is presiding over the trial, quickly reminded Derfner that she was the one sitting on the bench. She limited Derfner’s testimony to four points on how civil issues and religious issues should be treated the same in court.

Goodstein also disallowed most of the testimony by Warren Mersereau who had been a member of Church of Our Savior, Seabrook, then became a member of St. Stephens Episcopal Church, Charleston. Mersereau’s testimony reflected the opinions of a disgruntled witness and had no bearing on the corporate issue being decided by the court.

Earlier in the day, the Diocese reinforced the fact that it and its parishes predate TEC. Myron Harrington, Jr., witness called from St. Philips in Charleston, spoke about the history of his church, one of the oldest continually operated churches in the United States. He explained that his church was founded in 1680 as the Protestant Episcopal Church of St. Philips in Charleston and was moved to its current location at 142 Church Street in 1723 – nearly 70 years before TEC was created.

Harrington, a decorated veteran of the U.S. Marines, spoke about his parish’s growth to 2,500 members and its acquisition of real estate around the church. Today, St. Philips owns approximately a square block of land in Charleston. The parish grounds include two cemeteries, a parking lot, parish hall and Sunday school, as well as a separate ministries hall and a tea garden.

Harrington’s testimony again demonstrated that the diocese and its parishes existed independent of TEC before the denomination’s founding – and has grown since then without TEC’s support.

The judge adjourned the day and informed both Plaintiff and Defendants that she would possibly extend the trial through next week.

During the morning, the court heard testimony from witnesses representing Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant; St. John’s, Johns Island; Holy Trinity, Charleston; Old St. Andrew’s, Charleston; St. Philip’s, Charleston, and Trinity, Edisto.

Monday, July 14, 2014

South Carolina Trial Day 5: Rump group tries to renege on stipulation

ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 14, 2014 –Day Five for the Diocese of SC v. The Episcopal Church (TEC) began with a slight hiccup. To speed up the testimony of the 36 witnesses, Judge Diane Goodstein Friday asked attorneys for both sides to meet over the weekend to go over testimony that could be stipulated.

When attorneys for the plaintiff told Goodstein that the two parties had agreed that proposed stipulates would include the facts the witnesses would testify to in lieu of live testimony, attorney Tom Tisdale, who represents the rump group that now goes by The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), tried to qualify stipulation, effectively diverging from what the plaintiffs had agreed to. Judge Goodstein told the defendants that , “Stipulations…they are agreements. I’m hearing from you we don’t have a Stipulation.” She told both parties she would give them 10 minutes to huddle and determine if they had agreement to stipulations.

When they returned from their meeting, both sides had agreed to all the facts that the witnesses would testify to, but also agreed that any conclusions of law would be the sole province of the court.

The stipulations speeded testimony significantly. While only 18 persons testified during the entire first week of the trial, 12 witnesses testified on Monday. Testimony continued with issues covered the previous week including by-law changes and resolutions, clearly demonstrating that the national church, an unincorporated association, was a distinct entity with which they had no connection and has no legal claim on them. Witnesses also testified that permission was never given to TECSC to list their church on the website.

One witness, Robert Armstrong from St. Paul, Summerville, testified that his church had donated more than $1 million to various charities during recent years. Plaintiff’s attorney Brandt Shelbourne, reflecting the line of questioning pursued by TEC, asked Armstrong whether he believed the $1 million in donations effectively gave St. Paul ownership rights over the charities. Armstrong drew a chuckle when he said “no.”

On Monday, witnesses testified on behalf of Holy Cross, Stateburg; St. Paul’s, Bennettsville; St. Jude’s, Walterboro; Good Shepherd, Charleston; Church of our Saviour, Johns Island; St. Matthew’s, Fort Motte; St. Michael’s, Charleston; St. Matthias, Sumerton; Prince George Winyah; St. Paul’s, Summerville; St. Paul’s, Conway, and Church of the Cross, Bluffton.

Those churches remaining to provide testimony for the Plaintiff are: Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant; St. John's, Johns Island; Holy Trinity, Charleston; Old St. Andrew's, Charleston; St. Philip's, Charleston and Trinity Edisto.

Friday, July 11, 2014

South Carolina Trial, Day 4: Judge Goodstein seeks to expedite proceedings

Judge Goodstein
ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 11, 2014 – After listening to testimony from 18 parish witnesses in the trial to protect Diocese of South Carolina assets from seizure by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and its local subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), the judge asked all parties to help expedite the proceedings by working together to determine a set of undisputed facts. This follows the parishes effort to secure stipulations of the facts of their witnesses over two weeks ago which was rejected by TEC and TECSC.

The last two and a half days of trial were spent hearing virtually identical testimony from witnesses representing 18 parishes –half of those involved – who were all asked similar questions. During those two and a half days, neither TEC nor TECSC has objected to the introduction of evidence or exhibits.

Following Friday’s testimony, Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein asked all parties to meet and stipulate to undisputed facts. The net effect of such an effort will be to dramatically reduce the amount of time witnesses will testify. In essence, witnesses will be expected to testify only on matters which are contested by one side.

”What I have been listening to for four days is subject to stipulations,” said Judge Goodstein. “It may not have been appropriate to stipulate earlier, but there’s absolutely no question in my mind today. I can almost testify for everybody,” she said. “Start with corporate documents, then go to By laws, deeds, then quit claims, then marks. I’ve got it down.”

She allowed the attorneys time to discuss the matter. They agreed to meet on Sunday to go over testimony that can be stipulated.

This effort to reach consensus on basic facts should allow attorneys to spend more time probing the issues their side thinks is important to their case. The Diocese and attorneys for TEC and TECSC agreed to work through the weekend to identify the undisputed facts and documentary evidence. As a result, the trial should next week move quickly to the real issues in dispute.

Judge Goodstein said she wanted the trial completed next week. The Court had originally scheduled the trial to take place between July 7 and July 18. “We are grateful the judge has provided us an opportunity to focus our energies on the issues in question here,” said Jan Pringle, spokesperson for the Diocese. “Our goal is to protect the Diocese’s property and that of its parishes. We believe anything that permits the court to focus on the critical issues will protect the rights of our members.”

On Friday the Plaintiffs presented testimony from Trinity, Pinopolis; St. David’s, Cheraw; St. Helena’s, Beaufort; St. Bartholomew’s, Hartsville; Trinity, Myrtle Beach; St. Matthew’s, Darlington, and Saint James, James Island.

During Trinity Church, Myrtle Beach’s testimony, the defendant’s attorney David Booth Beers asked the witness Frank Sloan repeatedly why they removed references to the national Church from their corporate documents.

After Plaintiffs objected Judge Goodstein said, agreeing with the objection, that the questions asked “goes to justification of why the entities did what they did. My concern is more the structure of the government-are we pre 1900 or after, when was the incorporation, what were the By-Laws? There’s been too much focus on the justification for why they did what they did. As it stands we're not a hierarchical, state, we are for neutrality. The justification is interesting but not what I think should be the focus of this court.”

Suzanne Schwank, testifying for the Parish Church of St. Helena’s, Beaufort, brought a 1728 Prayer Book in which references to the royal family had been crossed out, a parish registry with an entry dating back to 1706 and parish vestry minutes dating to 1724. The Vestry minutes requested and empowered one Mr. John Kean to “procure a clergyman of the Episcopalian Church for the town of Beaufort SC” in 1784 prior to the formation of either the Diocese of South Carolina or The Episcopal Church.

The trial will resume at 9:30 a.m. on Monday.

Anglican Curmudgeon catalogs lies and distortions in South Carolina trial

Seasoned attorney A.S. Haley, a.k.a. the Anglican Curmudgeon, offers a detailed refutation of the myriad of misrepresentations, distortions, and outright lies being propagated by the national church (PECUSA, ECUSA, TEC, or whatever its name happens to be this week) in the South Carolina trial, which will be concluding its first week of proceedings today.