Thursday, July 24, 2014

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

Guelzo
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.