Anglicans, Episcopalians and path to reconciliation
Based on a recent ruling, it appears the South Carolina Supreme Court believes 29 Anglican Churches in the Lowcountry belong not to the congregation but to The Episcopal Church (TEC). More than 50 churches are impacted in one way or another by the ruling. TEC’s claim on the property is based on the “Dennis Canon,” a resolution passed by the denomination’s General Convention is 1979, which states that all TEC properties are held “in trust” by the national church.
The decision, of course, shocked Anglicans throughout the region — if for no other reason than all of the churches were founded, built and paid for local congregations with no funding whatsoever from TEC — several of the churches were built many decades before TEC was even founded or a twinkle in the eye of
The lawsuits have come about — in very, very general terms — because the Diocese of South Carolina split from TEC.
Regardless of which side one chooses, the fairest description of the two entities would be “an orthodox group believing in scripture as passed down from the saints,” and “a more progressive group believing that some scripture and some teachings of Christianity are not in keeping with today’s culture.”
For reasons of clarity, it is important to understand that the orthodox group now refers to themselves as “Anglicans” and have aligned themselves with the Anglican Church in North America. The progressive group refers to themselves as Episcopalians; they are members of TEC.
We believe strongly that very few of our local Brothers and Sisters in Christ remaining with TEC are aware of some of the theological reasons for the split, because we also believe their “Southern church upbringing” aligns more closely with the conservative group. We also believe they are unaware that TEC struck the first blow, as described below … when Bishop Lawrence’s diocese was still part of TEC:
— As tensions grew between TEC and the Diocese of South Carolina, the governing body for the Diocese of S.C. (the Standing Committee) stood firmly behind Bishop Mark Lawrence’s theological objections to the teachings and practices of the national church.
— Fearing the worst, on October 2, 2012, the Standing Committee passed a resolution stating that if TEC took disciplinary action or attempted to remove Bishop Lawrence, the diocese would conditionally disaffiliate from TEC.
— Fully aware of this, on October 15, 2012, TEC advised Bishop Lawrence he’d “abandoned the faith” of TEC and was thus relieved of his duties and no longer a bishop.
— TEC’s actions triggered the resolution and split the two entities.
— Despite the mounting peril of lawsuits, the support of Bishop Lawrence remained rock-solid within the vast majority of local churches. On November 17, 2012, a special convention was held at St. Philip’s Church, during which the convention affirmed the decision to leave TEC.
— These facts are undisputed and a matter of legal record.
Far more prominent than the complexities of the legal issues is the theological divide. We believe most Lowcountry Episcopalians are unaware that in the early 1990s at the National Convention in Arizona, the House of Bishops voted against reaffirming the Nicene Creed as the foundation of the faith passed on from the Apostles. The words of the Nicene Creed are, of course, the very essence of the Episcopal faith — and even though the leadership of TEC refused to reaffirm the creed, we believe the vast majority of Lowcountry Episcopalians believe the creed to be the truth.
We do not believe most Lowcountry Episcopalians are aware of Bishop John Spong and things he has said and written, after which he was allowed to remain a bishop in TEC. Among Bishop Spong’s quotations are:
“The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.”
“If the resurrection of Jesus cannot be believed except by assenting to the fantastic descriptions included in the Gospels, then Christianity is doomed. For that view of resurrection is not believable, and if that is all there is, then Christianity, which depends upon the truth and authenticity of Jesus’ resurrection, also is not believable.”
“Christianity is, I believe, about expanded life, heightened consciousness and achieving a new humanity. It is not about closed minds, supernatural interventions, a fallen creation, guilt, original sin or divine rescue.”
Summarized, an Episcopal bishop in good standing denies the divinity of Christ, the resurrection, original sin and a need for forgiveness (guilt) — yet was allowed to remain in his position of power. We believe that our Episcopal Brothers and Sisters in the Lowcountry would view Bishop Spong’s words as heresy and would protest loudly if they were spoken in their local churches.
We do not believe our Lowcountry Brothers and Sisters found it appropriate for Father John Robinson to abandon his wife and children, take on a homosexual partner, then pursue consecration as a bishop in two dioceses before being elected in the third. We do not believe they would approve of a bishop flippantly announcing, “I’ve always wanted to be a June bride,” when revealing the date of his marriage to his male partner.
We do not believe our Lowcountry Brothers and Sisters are aware of the decision (made by the local Bishop Gladstone “Skip” Adams) to evict the congregation of Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, New York — then sell the property to a Muslim group to use as the Islamic Awareness Center. Yes, it must be noted, the New York courts ruled that the property belonged to TEC and Bishop Adams was within his legal rights, but we do not believe this is something a local Episcopalian would embrace.
Charleston is known as the Holy City largely because of its beautiful and historic churches, as well as its centuries-old tradition of faithful residents. It is certainly America’s largest concentration of active Anglican and Episcopalian congregations. We do not believe our Lowcountry Brothers and Sisters wish to see 29 congregations of Christians evicted from the churches where they worship.
Jesus warned us of times like these, stating the Gospel would pit a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law and a man’s enemies would be members of his own household. Is that where we are? We do not believe so, because our Lowcountry Brothers and Sisters are faithful Christians, just as we are. The overwhelming majority of them believe in the faith as handed down by the faithful before us.
As a result, we do not believe they will not allow the leaders of TEC to evict their friends and neighbors from their church homes.
It is our prayer that anyone doubting any of the information presented here use the Internet to conduct their own research regarding the facts presented.