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Peace: Here and Now - an Ash Wednesday Reflection PDF Print E-mail

Bishop Mark LawenceThe words in the Ash Wednesday “Invitation” in the 1979 American Book of Common Prayer are often cited: “I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent….” I have read them every year of my ordained ministry which numbers almost 35 and before then as well. What does a holy Lent look like? Of course the Prayer book goes on to recite a list of spiritual disciplines to guide us in this observance: self-examination; repentance; prayer; fasting; self-denial; reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. Over the years I have practiced and taught each of these—even preached homilies on them, hopefully, benefitting others as well as myself. I’ve even observed and taught other spiritual disciplines as well, such as solitude, simplicity and silence, to name but a few. These have all played an instrumental role in my Christian life. Yet, frankly, I find Lent very different for me as a bishop than it was when I was a parish priest who needed to plan, teach and lead—even, God forbid—run Lenten programs. I suspect Lent for me is a bit more like what the lay members of a parish experience. So with this perspective in mind I offer these personal reflections.
Grateful: Bishop Lawrence Writes the Diocese Following Ruling PDF Print E-mail
February 6, 2015

Bishop Mark LawrenceDear People of God in the Diocese of South Carolina,

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers….” (Ephesians 1:16)

My last letter to you was shortly after we finished the three-week trial in St. George in order to protect our parish churches, properties, names, diocesan seal and the historic identity of this Diocese of South Carolina.

Now, as many of you have heard, we have prevailed.

In a thorough and closely reasoned order, the Honorable Diane S. Goodstein has ruled in our favor. You can read the diocesan statement regarding this ruling, as well as an additional explanation of its significance, at

I hardly need to tell you how grateful I am for this order! I am also:
What it Means: Understanding Judge Goodstein's Ruling PDF Print E-mail

By the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis

This week, we received the ruling from Judge Diane Goodstein in our litigation with The Episcopal Church.  A brief reminder of how we got here: When TEC attempted to wrongly remove Bishop Lawrence as our bishop, this Diocese elected to disassociate from TEC.  At that time a small group, who we now know had been meeting and planning for some months, began an intentional campaign of using our Diocesan Seal and other service marks.  They in essence began to function as if they were us.  To maintain our identity required that we defend that identity.

The manner in which we did so was to ask the South Carolina courts to give us a declaratory judgment.  In other words, we asked them to confirm the identity we have held continuously since 1785 as the Diocese of South Carolina, and that we had every right under South Carolina law to leave TEC as freely as we had chosen to help in its founding and to keep our property.  The judge at that time (January 2013) imposed a temporary injunction to protect our identity rights. 

With this week’s ruling, that has now become a permanent injunction. 

A few words of explanation about the significance of the Court's ruling.

1.       The Diocese and its congregations are confirmed as the owners of their property and identities.  This would seem a common sense affirmation of what some parishes have experienced as reality for nearly 300 years, but that is what was being challenged.
2.      TEC and its local diocese have NO interest in either our property or identity. The fabled “Dennis Canon” could not, by itself, enable them to unilaterally declare an ownership interest in our properties any more than I can do so for my neighbor’s house just by saying it is so.  Without a written agreement between TEC and each parish, no such interest can be conveyed.
3.      TEC and its local diocese are PERMANENTLY forbidden to use our registered names or in any way to presume to be or act as if they are The Diocese of South Carolina.  We are not “the breakaway diocese”. We are not the “Lawrence diocese”.  We are not “the schismatics”.  We are who we have consistently been, and continue to be, The Diocese of South Carolina, and no one else has a right to make that claim. Period.
4.      Their counterclaims, their arguments as to why our behavior was unlawful or ineffective, and why we should not be given this relief in the courts were dismissed with prejudice. This means τhey cannot bring another lawsuit in the future making the same claims.  These claims have been finally determined by this judicial order. They can appeal the correctness of this ruling, but that is all. If that appeal is decided in our favor, they can never again bring such claims.

Practically speaking, this means many things, that can perhaps be boiled down to these two:

1.      We can continue doing our ministry without some of the needless distractions this case has brought.  No one need fear they are in imminent danger of losing their property or legal identity.
2.      We are also now free to use our identity without caveat or qualifier. The courts have affirmed that as well.

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has already announced it will appeal this decision. This was expected.

The court has affirmed what everyone knew from the start was the legal precedence in South Carolina, that congregations and the Diocese have the right to chose their religious association. While we will have more work to do to confirm this, we have every reason to be confident the South Carolina courts will continue to do so through the appeals process. We will pursue that in as speedy fashion as possible and deal with the expected delays we know TEC will attempt. Justice may be delayed by those attempts, but we believe it will come.

Finally, it should be observed that it is God’s grace that has brought us to this day.  Legal counsel has affirmed repeatedly that they have experienced God’s grace at work in this litigation from start to finish. To Him be the glory and praise and it is in His Name alone that we trust (Ps. 20:7).  By that grace, I trust the Diocese of South Carolina will continue “Making biblical Anglicans for a Global Age” long into the future.

SC Circuit Court Rules Diocese Keeps Historic Property PDF Print E-mail


The Episcopal Church has no legitimate claims to diocesan property, names and symbols.

ST. GEORGE, SC, Feb. 3, 2015 – In a 46 page opinion, South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein, ruled that The Diocese of South Carolina, The Trustees of the Diocese and 36 parish churches successfully withdrew from The Episcopal Church in 2012 taking with them all their property, including churches, symbols and other assets. The ruling is the result of a three-week trial last summer in which over 50 witnesses testified.

The historic ruling comprehensively resolves the issues surrounding the more than $500 million in property owned by the Diocese and its parishes, which disassociated from the denomination in 2012 after TEC improperly attempted to remove Bishop Mark Lawrence as head of the Diocese.
Mere Anglicanism Draws Record Crowd to Examine Christian Response to Secularism PDF Print E-mail

More than 900 attend annual event

Mere Anglicanism examines the Christian response to secularismCHARLESTON, SC, JAN. 28, 2014 – Internationally known scholars and experts in the field of religion and culture drew a record-breaking crowd of more than 900 to the Charleston Music Hall, Jan. 22-24 for the annual Mere Anglicanism Conference which this year looked at “Salt & Light: The Christian Response to Secularism.”

Bishop NT Wright, one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars and the leading expert on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, said that Christians had colluded with secularism by letting God be pushed upstairs and out of sight, with Christians holding the view that their purpose lay in being heaven-bound. “That’s not it,” he said. “God rescues us to become rescuers.” “We are put right (justified) so we can help right things on earth.”

Mary Eberstadt, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington, D.C. organization dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to public policy issues, argued that the last 15-20 years has seen the emergence in the West of a new intolerance directed at Christians. Increasingly religious believers are the recipients of rage, ridicule and ostracism. “This hateful rhetoric would have been denounced if those on the receiving end were anything but Christians,” she said.  She told of Christians losing their jobs or being pushed out of public life for expressing their beliefs.

“In subtle ways intimidation leads to censorship, censorship to self-censorship,” she said. “Free speech intolerance is everybody’s problem.  Push back is way over due.”
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