St. George, Utah
Dear Friends in Christ,
“… suffering produces endurance and endurance produces hope and hope does not disappoint us for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit….” Romans 5:3-4
Having spent much of the last three weeks at the Dorchester Courthouse in St. George, South Carolina it is rather serendipitous to be sending this from a Starbucks in St. George, Utah (a gateway to Zion National Park). Allison and I will be traveling during the next few weeks in Utah, Nevada and California on vacation. She’ll have some much needed time for relaxation and fun and I’ll be climbing the mountains and hiking the trails. Nevertheless, I want to send you this report on the last three weeks.
Firstly, I’m glad to say our legal team led by Mr. Alan Runyan and Ms. Henrietta Golding, supported by a stellar cast of attorneys from the various congregations across the diocese, presented a strong case and did so in a professional, forthright, and convincing manner. The teamwork was marvelous to observe and was only exceeded by what seemed to be the outstretched arm and the mighty hand of God moving again and again in a most timely manner. I was proud to have them representing us from the Diocese of South Carolina. Frankly, having sat through all fourteen days I have to say it was a trial of tediously presented evidence by TEC fortunately punctuated during cross-examination by our attorneys with moments of sheer drama and stunning admissions.
Secondly, the diocesan team of Canon Jim Lewis, Nancy Armstrong, Beth Snyder, Joy Hunter and Jan Pringle worked tirelessly and with a remarkable esprit de corps. It so often put me in mind of Psalm 133—“How good and pleasant it is when the brethren live together in unity.”
Then there was the strong cast of witnesses on behalf of the Diocese. Chancellor, Wade Logan, painted for the court a most helpful background of what a diocese is and how it functions both corporately and ecclesially. Canon Lewis reported on the various Diocesan Conventions and canonical changes which brought us to the place of dissociation from TEC. Mr. Robert Kunes testified on behalf of the Trustees of the Diocese. These three witnesses presented the foundation of our diocesan case. They were followed by a representative witness from every congregation participating in the law suit. I could hardly be more proud of them. Some endured quite vigorous cross-examination. It was moving (and at times for me a heavy burden) to hear parish witnesses again and again testify that they “…wanted to stay in communion with the Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Lawrence.” I wished their fellow parishioners could have seen the courage and clarity with which they represented them.
We also had witnesses in rebuttal to the case made by TEC attorneys. Our diocesan administrator, Nancy Armstrong, combed through centuries of diocesan records to contrast monies that have come into the diocese from TEC and its various related agencies with monies sent by the diocese to TEC. This was in rebuttal to the one-sided presentations given by witnesses from the National Church (including UTO grants which any woman from our DCW can tell you are from contributions from the pews in congregations around the country and not from some National Church budget). In summary the court learned that for every 81 cents given by The Episcopal Church and its various entities to us in South Carolina and our congregations for ministry; the diocese sent $100 to TEC ($100 to 81 cent ratio), therein undermining the defendants’ one-sided presentation of the “facts”. In fifteen minutes of testimony she undermined hours of tedium and an endless parade of documents from so-called experts for the National Church. When Mr. Runyan called to the stand the renowned professor and historian, Dr. Allen Guelzo, author of some 16 books and a foremost historian of the Civil War era and 18th and 19th centuries of American intellectual history we were treated to a breath-taking tour de force disputing the alleged hierarchical assumptions of the national Episcopal Church. Others in this rebuttal stage of the trial were Fr. Robert Lawrence from Camp St. Christopher, the Rev. Greg Kronz, who chaired the Bishop’s search committee and Chancellor Wade Logan who once again punctuated our case. On the last day, I was called finally to the stand.
But I need to say, and can hardly say it enough, undergirding it all—felt at times in palpable ways—the prayers and intercessions from tens of thousands of the saints within the diocese and around the world upholding us in prayer. Some of these intercessors came to the courtroom to pray while testimonies and cross-examinations were taking place. Others of you prayed from home, perhaps on a lunch break, or while driving to and from your work place. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
After the final written submissions by the attorneys this case will lie in the careful judgment of the Honorable Diane Goodstein, who from my novice perspective was astonishingly competent, cheery and at times appropriately stern. This was not an easy case to try—yet she did it with aplomb. It may be several months before her judicial order is made. So please pray for her as she and her clerks sort through the testimonies and lengthy documents presented to the court and as she subsequently renders her ruling.
I have learned much about the diocese during this process—its structure and history—as well as the rich heritage of our parishes and missions. All is more firmly rooted in my mind and has awakened in my heart a deeper gratitude to God for calling me to serve among you. I am eager to put this knowledge to good use. My prayer is that our Lord will use this season to prepare us for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as we seek to reach our communities for Jesus Christ— Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age here in South Carolina and around the world.
Gratefully yours in Christ,
The Right Reverend Mark Joseph Lawrence
XIV Bishop of South Carolina