Friday, July 25, 2014

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.