Blast from the Past: When Doing Right Isn’t (Pawley’s Island Case)

Our recent piece on Allan Haley brought up one of the more acrimonious subjects from the Anglican/Episcopal world we have dealt with: the All Saints/Waccamaw secession from the Episcopal Church, sometimes called the “Pawley’s Island Case.”  When this site switched to WordPress, it left behind the original piece on the subject.  I’m going to try to reconstruct the original posts on the subject: the follow-ups are on the site.  My “post-mortem” on the subject, then and now, are at the end of the post.

When Doing Right Isn’t

17 July 2006

The unravelling of the Episcopal Church is good drama. It’s also educational, both for the participants and the spectators. Nowhere is this more true than the issue of the property, and it is here when one diocese has shown us that doing right only plays into the hands of the enemy.

One of the stupider “footnotes” in the recent saga of the Episcopal Church has been the secession of All Saints Church in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. All Saints, complete with ample property, was founded when South Carolina was still part of the British Empire and the Church of England was the state church. The Diocese of South Carolina, which includes Charleston and the surrounding Low Country, has many historical churches that date from the same era. It is also one of the most conservative dioceses in the Episcopal Church.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that same Episcopal Church has long since departed from any reasonable definition of Christianity, as comparison with the Book of Common Prayer will attest to. Many in same church would like to leave and take their parish with them. But the ace in the left’s hole has been the “Dennis Canon,” which deeds the property of all Episcopal churches to the general church in trust.

Most jurisdictions have upheld this arrangement. There are a few exceptions, though. The People’s Republic of California, strangely enough, is one of them: they have held that property arrangements that pre-date the Dennis Canon cannot be broken by such an ex post facto act. In this way four Episcopal parishes have escaped the Diocese of Los Angeles and their left-wing prelate, Jon Bruno.

In the case of All Saints, they and their legal counsel figured out that, since the property was deeded before the US even existed, the Dennis Canon could not reach it. So they voted themselves out (reminiscent of what happened in Columbia 20 December 1860) of the Episcopal Church and joined the Anglican Mission in America, which is in fact in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the chief prelate of the Church of England and the centre of the Anglican Communion.

So what did this conservative diocese do when confronted with this act of orthodoxy? They sued All Saints. When this didn’t work, they sued the vestry. None of this has brought the parish back into the diocese. In the meanwhile the Episcopal Church elected a woman as Presiding Bishop who refers to our blessed Lord as “Jesus our mother.” Now it’s time for the diocese to secede; after wasting God’s money on trying to keep one parish from doing the right thing, they turn around and seek “alternative primitial oversight” from their new Presiding Bishop.

There is no doubt that the Diocese of South Carolina was preserving its legal interests in suing All Saints. But there is equally no doubt that, looking at things from the standpoint of the real purpose of the Diocese and of God’s church in general, the South Carolinians should have seen that allowing All Saints out—or at least offering token resistance, than caving—was in the long term interest of orthodox Anglicanism in North America. Put another way, instead of seeing All Saints’ secession as an act of rebellion to be crushed, they should have seen it as an exit strategy in the event that things in the Episcopal Church got worse—and anyone with common sense should have seen that this course was for all practical purposes unstoppable.

We follow the saga of Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church for many reasons, some personal, some historical. But we also believe that, in many ways, the takeover of the Episcopal Church by the left is a dress rehearsal for same takeover of the country at large. The main difference between the two is that, with its elevated demographics, the Episcopal Church neither produced nor supported a Ronald Reagan to lead the institution in a different direction. But Reagan’s legacy is slipping away as his supposed heirs scramble for earmarks and attempt to re-create the 1950’s when they need to be taking us into the future.

American conservatives need to look at the broader picture of things. They need to stop whining about the breakdown of the “rule of law” on immigration and see that many of the immigrants have stronger values of work and family then they—–or in some cases their ancestors—–do. They need to stop trying to create a democracy in the Middle East while allowing left-wing pseudo-sophisticates to create a pseudo-democracy at home that can’t even bring ballot security up to par with Mexico’s. And they need to see that, if they continue to squander their energies on petty self-enrichment, like the Episcopalians they will wake up to find a Katherine Jefferts-Schori at the helm—only this one will have police power to back her up.

And she is waiting in the wings.

When Doing Right Isn’t: A Response

19 July 2006

We got an interesting response from “Ron in San Diego” to our piece “When “Doing Right” Isn’t”:

It’s a shame that you call the recent issues of our church “good drama.” Good people on all sides (including the middle) are very troubled by this situation. Yet you claim to be an Episcopalian and label this as “good drama.” John Dean is so right about mean spirited neoconse…

We need to make some clarifications and response.

First, unless I slipped somewhere, I am not currently an Episcopalian, nor have claimed to be on this site.

Second, as far as “good drama” is concerned, there are two things to keep in mind.

The first is that, as any student of the classics knows, the unfolding of history of any kind is a form of drama. In the ancient world, historians such as Tacitus and Thucydides certainly considered the events they chronicled–and editorialised on–as drama, even when it concerned tragic events such as the fall of Athens or the reign of Caligula. Ancient historians felt that history was instructive more than their modern counterparts, which may explain in part why we never seem to learn anything from it.

My second point comes from working about ten years in ministry. Many things happen in this kind of work that wound, wound very deeply, even when theological and ideological events are not involved, as they are with the Episcopal Church. People generally go into ministry to actualise their calling, and when that calling gets bogged down in the very human world around them, it can be very painful. To think of what’s going on around them as “drama” (one friend of mine, a chaplain, likes to take a clinical/psychological look at things like this) helps one deal with the ups and downs of life and work in the ministry, otherwise the pain would be unbearable.

As far as being a “neoconservative” goes, I’m not sure of what Ron’s definition of one is, but I don’t know of any self-respecting neocon who would write the next to the last paragraph of “When “Doing Right” Isn’t.” Neoconservatism as it is practiced in the political realm requires a combination of institutionalism and triumphalism that I can’t quite muster, at least not in combination.

The point of the article is that the Diocese of South Carolina, in suing All Saints, acted against its own theological interests in favour of its legal and financial ones. This to my mind is not correct. Recent events may finally be convincing people in Charleston that I am right on this.

Webmaster’s note, 31 March 2007

This piece has proven to be one of the most controversial pieces we have written for this site.

To start with, one viewer didn’t like our characterisation of TEC’s problems as “good drama,” and we responded to this. (See above.)

Beyond that, we had the bad taste to point out on Kendall Harmon’s website (he is the Canon Theologian for the Diocese of South Carolina) that TEC’s rejection of Mark Lawrence’s election as Bishop was a poor reward for the Diocese’s efforts to retain All Saints on behalf of the church. This led to an accusation that our statement below that the diocese sued first was inaccurate. We responded to this as well.

It is my contention then and now that the Diocese’s blind loyalty both to the U.S. legal system and TEC is misplaced. Irrespective of how this got started, the Diocese expended considerable effort and resources to keep All Saints “in the fold” without consideration of the broader issue of where “the fold” was going. My contention was not only based on purely theological issues but also on practical considerations based on two decades in a business where litigation was frequently initiated and/or perpetuated without considerations of the broader interests of the Company. The Diocese has made the same mistake and no simplistic recourse to “authority” will change that.

Some Closing Reflections

I think it’s fair to say that the Diocese of South Carolina (Episcopal, then Anglican) came to the realisation that “the Diocese’s blind loyalty both to the U.S. legal system and TEC is misplaced.”  Unfortunately but predictably the Episcopal Church–whose own broader interest were likewise neglected in the quest for victory in the courts–pursued the seceding diocese the same way it pursued All Saints.

As far as the political analogy is concerned, I’ve always contended that major elections were the left’s to lose.  And they’ve lost them.  At the centre of that problem is Hillary Clinton; she lost in 2008 to Barack Obama and eight years later to Donald Trump.  Obama for his part had the momentum to make his idea permanent but lacked the energy and the will to do so.  I think that sooner or later, if the left can get its act together and win, whoever leads that triumphal train won’t make the same mistake.  (It’s interesting to note that the California courts eventually caved to the Episcopal Church, as opposed to the comment above.)

The core lesson from this sad saga remains: blind institutional loyalty is a loser, no matter what the institution is.  The authority of God, expressed in his Word, is what counts.  Everything else is secondary.



Allan Haley Expounds on Episcopal Legal Conflict

In this latest edition of Anglicans Unscripted:

Haley is probably the most erudite person to either cover or participate in the long legal war that the Episcopal Church waged with those who had had enough of its departure from the faith.  Since the ACNA’s formation, it’s tempting to forget about all the litigation, but there are places where it is still going on.

Haley has his own blog, Anglican Curmudgeon, and his latest post is on the complicated mess in South Carolina.  I must confess that his presentation on the video above is easier to follow than the blog post. In the video he even goes back to the Pawley’s Island case, and although the parish won in its bid to secede the diocesan bishop at the time–and the numerous “company men” and women–who went against the parish didn’t put alleged “reasserters” (to use Kendall Harmon’s phrase) in a very favourable light.

But his blog has another feature: a nice list of Anglican and semi-Anglican blogs, along with some political and legal ones too.  This one has been featured there for a long time.  I’d like to thank Allan for his years of support, and it means more now than it has in a good while.  Social media seemed to have rolled the blogosphere, but with recent problems on that front I’ve noticed something of an uptick in traffic on things Anglican.  One thing I’d ask is that Stand Firm be put back on the roll of honour.

One way or another, we’ll be here.

A Good Place for Lent

Over the years, I’ve noticed that some people take a break for Lent on social media.  Some of that is to avoid the dumpster fire that social media is and has been for a long time, and that’s understandable.  On the flip side, some want to take a break from putting out content and concentrating on what they’re supposed to be concentrating on.

I’ve always had trouble doing that, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that stuff happens during Lent and some of it needs to be commented upon.  (Some doesn’t.)  But I think the best thing to do is to put out stuff that is edifying, uplifting and makes for introspection.  The one site that I can guarantee does that all year around is the Bossuet Project.  The heart of the project is translating Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries and, in addition to the elevations already there, during Lent this year I’ll be putting up “Elevations on Prophecies,” which deal with the subject in the Old Testament and how it relates to the new.

You can subscribe to the Bossuet Project by clicking the link on the right hand side of any page.  Blessings!

The case against identity politics — The Logical Place

Originally posted on Books & Boots: Steve Bannon thinks identity politics are great for President Donald Trump. That’s what the president’s adviser told Robert Kuttner at the American Prospect. “The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left…

via The case against identity politics — The Logical Place

The Real “Greatest Achievement” of Russia

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell thinks it was getting Donald Trump in the White House:

“It is Vladimir Putin’s greatest achievement. Decades after America’s victory in the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union, the president of the United States is now helping the president of Russia help the president of the United States to get re-elected.”

But that’s not the case, as I noted in my piece based on my last visit to the country:

Socialist states love to trumpet their own successes, real or just propaganda. The collapse of the rouble left just about everyone in the Russian Federation with more than a million roubles (about US$770 in early 1994) of net worth. So I declared to my representative, “Seventy years of socialism, and everyone’s a millionaire!”

His response: “It was their greatest achievement!”

Bernie Sanders (and other socialists) don’t think there should be billionaires, but if they get to have their agenda implemented, everyone will be a millionaire or billionaire (just ask people in Venezuela or Zimbabwe.)

Stephen and Joy Strang Deposit Charisma Media Archives at Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

By Darrin J. Rodgers Stephen and Joy Strang have deposited the archives of Charisma Media at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. The Strangs founded Charisma in 1975, which has become the magazine of record of the charismatic movement in the United States. In 1981, they formed Strang Communications (now Charisma Media), which has published over […]

via Stephen and Joy Strang Deposit Charisma Media Archives at Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

At Least George Conger Permits a Rummage Sale

This interesting tidbit came out during the last episode of Anglicans Unscripted:

For people raised at Bethesda-by-the-Sea in the 1960’s and 1970’s (as George and I were) this has some historical import: in 1968 the Vestry was highly disparaging of Bethesda’s rummage sale, which ultimately led to its end.  That in turn led to the founding of the ongoing rummage sale that is now The Church Mouse resale shop, a process described in my piece A State of Being.

As a side note, in a letter dated 1 May 1968 my father scolded William G. Cluett, Bethesda’s Vestry Senior Warden, as follows:

It is my understanding that the Vestry of Bethesda decided that it will defray the costs incurred by St. Mary’s Guild in preparation for the “Rummage Mart”.  Enclosed in our invoice No 403 covering the printing previously done which has been forwarded to you separately.  Originally it had been my intention to donate this printed matter to the Guild, but the expressed attitude of you and the Vestry precludes this at this time.

Aside from the above mentioned matter, I have learned of the rude and summary manner employed by yourself in dismissing the “Rummage Mart” and the ladies involved therein, one of which was my wife.

I do not question the authority of the Vestry in this matter, but I take personal exception to the attitude and manner directly to my wife.  I shall expect at an early time an apology to my wife.

My father’s relationship with the Episcopal Church in general and Bethesda in particular was never the best, but this incident did a lot to trash it and to make our home something less than an “ideal Christian” one.  It’s a lesson that’s relevant today.  Our ministers get much of the credit (or blame) for making our churches welcoming to people who are new or on the fringes, but lay people–especially powerful ones such as the Cluetts–can and do have an enormous impact of their own.

Elevations on the Law and Prophecies that heralded the Liberator and prepare for him the way — The Bossuet Project

This series takes us literally out of Egypt and into the promised land with the following topics: The Captive People: Moses is shown to them as their deliverer Two ways in which Moses is shown to the people Moses, figure of the divinity of Jesus Christ The Passover and the deliverance of the people The […]

via Elevations on the Law and Prophecies that heralded the Liberator and prepare for him the way — The Bossuet Project

The Faults We Share on Left and Right

Tim Fountain makes an interesting observation along these lines:

And, as is a fault for Americans today on both the left and the right, they conflate the church and government. Whether it be the Trump is our new King Cyrus movement or the Christian Socialists, there is the belief that holding control of government will produce the Spirit filled body of Christ described in 1 Corinthians 12. Voices on the right and the left assert that people can be coerced by a central authority into “building the Kingdom of God on earth.”

I’m glad Tim came out with this; it’s an observation I’ve wanted to make for a long time but haven’t gotten around to doing.  As was the case with, for example, same-sex civil marriage, left and right mindlessly make the same assumption about the grave importance of our government, and then proceed to fight over it.  There’s nothing particularly Christian about putting the government first the way we do, in fact quite the contrary is the reality.  But set that forth in either camp and the stack-blowing that follows is drearily predictable.

And while were on this piece of Tim’s, he makes another observation:

The article spends some time with two young left wing podcasters, one of whom now identifies as a communist Catholic, and the other as a communist Episcopalian.

These two denominations are natural draws for elite leftists, as both are big on hierarchy. Rome’s history with this needs little reiteration, but it is worth noting that the Episcopal Church has imposed and embraced the term recently, hand in hand with historically high numbers of punished dissenters, property seizures, litigation, more power invested in unaccountable “Executive Committees” and the like, and high minded branding with “tolerance and diversity” while actually declining in active participants and becoming more monochromatic by most demographic markers.

This touches on the business of Anglican/Episcopal people employing Critical Theory.  With Roman Catholics the situation is more complicated, but with the Episcopal Church he’s spot on: the more radical the denomination postures, the whiter and more elite its demographics get, as it they aren’t both already.  That’s an important difference between Christians and SJW types.  Christians are first concerned with the salvation of their own souls and the conduct of their own lives.  SJW’s are concerned with their self-righteous beliefs and their imperative to shove them down other people’s throats, using the government as a weapon and oblivious to unintended consequences.  But Our Lord anticipated that too:

Take care not to perform your religious duties in public in order to be seen by others; if you do, your Father who is in Heaven has no reward for you. Therefore, when you do acts of charity, do not have a trumpet blown in front of you, as hypocrites do in the Synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. There, I tell you, is their reward! But, when you do acts of charity, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, So that your charity may be secret; and your Father, who sees what is in secret, will recompense you. And, when you pray, you are not to behave as hypocrites do. They like to pray standing in the Synagogues and at the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. There, I tell you, is their reward! But, when one of you prays, let him go into his own room, shut the door, and pray to his Father who dwells in secret; and his Father, who sees what is secret, will recompense him. (Matthew 6:1-6 TCNT)

The ACNA should take note as it wrestles with the advocates of Critical Theory.  And for those of you who advocate for it…the first thing you should do if your church is too white or has a membership with too high an average AGI: join a church more to your conviction, and then worry the rest of us about our situation.

And why do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, while you pay no attention at all to the beam in yours? How will you say to your brother ‘Let me take out the straw from your eye,’ when all the time there is a beam in your own? Hypocrite! Take out the beam from your own eye first, and then you will see clearly how to take out the straw from your brother’s. (Matthew 7:3-5 TCNT)


The Endless Agony of Pro-Life Democrats

One more has had enough, though:

The straw that broke this camel’s back was Pete Buttigieg’s extremism. Here was a mainstream Democratic candidate suggesting, at one point, that abortion is OK up to the point the baby draws her first breath.

When I heard that, I realized we were fighting a losing battle.

If the party was willing to go all-in on the most volatile issue of our time with a position held by only 13 percent of the population, it was time to take no for an answer.

But this has been coming for a long time, as I noted in this 2016 post:

Having grown up at the upper reaches of this society and not the lower ones, I can say with confidence that our elites, under all the gaudy rhetoric, have two basic priorities in life: getting laid and getting high or drunk, which facilitates Priority #1.  Look at what’s been at the top of the agenda: contraception, abortion, the LGBT movement, the transgenders, all of it.  It’s all about sex.  That’s why real economic equality (and the economic development that makes it possible) has taken a back seat.  And it doesn’t hurt that a society where wealth generation is held back tends to concentrate what’s left at the top.

O’Malley and his ilk in the pro-life movement have always spoken of a “culture of death.”  But that’s not what this is really all about.  It’s about a thrill-obsessed culture that’s ready to sacrifice anything, everything, anyone and everyone to kill the pain of its own worthlessness.  The Democrats’ lame attempt to frame the issue on the timing of children was just that, as O’Malley justly points out.

Buttigieg’s recent response that pro-life people have no place in the Democratic Party comes from a typical corporatist, “get with the program” type of attitude that pervades our sybaritic elites and, unfortunately, a large segment of his fellow Millennials, too.  The combination of the two is a nasty one, but that’s what we’re up against these days.