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In a 2-2 Decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court Denies the Historic Diocese of South Carolina a rehearing

Today the Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) was informed by mail that the South Carolina Supreme Court denied its motions filed for Rehearing and Recusal in its ruling in Appellate Case No. 2015-000622.  Doing so finalized a sharply divided ruling that could deprive at least 28 parish churches of their right to properties some have held for over 300 years.

Statement by the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis:
“We are deeply disappointed the Court did not see fit to recuse Justice Hearn.  Her personal interest in the outcome of this litigation, beyond the normal matters of law, has clearly influenced its outcome. That is unfortunate not only for the Diocese but for all the citizens of this State with concerns for a fair and impartial judiciary. We also find it disturbing that the weight of the Constitutional concerns raised was not given further opportunity to be addressed. Church property ownership in South Carolina is now gravely complicated.

Given the gravity of all these concerns, we will now give serious consideration to seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court. We believe the number and character of the issues at stake in this ruling merit review by the high court. Because of the long road of litigation that has brought us to this day, all the parties to this case will need to take counsel together before deciding our next steps.

We remain confident that God is at work in even these circumstances to redeem and use them, as He does all things, for His glory and the building up of His Church.”

Read it all and follow all the links carefully.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Amicus Brief Filed By Religious Leaders in Support of the Diocese of South Carolina

Statement by the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis:   

“Friday’s brief illustrates well two essential problems with the current ruling of the Court. Because there is no legal consensus among the Justices, the ruling as it stands is, as stated in the brief, a “recipe for endless litigation.” As a consequence of misapplying neutral principles of law as intended by the U.S. Supreme Court, it violates rather than preserves, the First Amendment protections of religious liberty they are meant to ensure. Resolving these significant issues merits rehearing by the Court.”

The Diocese also provided the following list of additional details from Friday’s filed Brief:

  • “For over 300 years, since before the Founding of this Nation, members of the Respondent’s congregations contributed land, money and labor in reliance on settled South Carolina law – only to have this Court divest them of their property based on a canon unilaterally adopted centuries later by a national denomination. This outcome was possible only because the Court fashioned a new rule of law solely for this case, and this denomination. But that rule of law departs from this court’s precedents and imposes special burdens on religious associations relative to secular ones. Those burdens violate the First Amendment.” [p. 1]
  • Amici believe strongly that churches freely associated with each other can also freely choose to disassociate. And the exercise of that freedom should not come at the price of the tools for ministry established by local sacrifice… ” [p. 4]
  • “… the Court’s fractured decision leaves church property law in this state in utter confusion…. This confusion is a recipe for endless litigation.” [p. 2]
  • The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Jones vs. Wolf established the use of neutral principles of law to settle church property disputes… “A court applying a neutral principles approach can only apply state law as it normally would; any other approach would be the opposite of neutral principles.” [p. 9]
  • As the Court has done in this case, “Giving legal effect to trusts declared in denominational documents is not even mere deference. It is giving denominations power to rewrite civil property law.” [p. 14] and that is in violation of the free exercise of religion.
  • “If that conception of “neutral principles” is correct, then no church can join a denomination without jeopardizing its property.” [p. 16]
  • “Any denomination could pass a retroactive internal rule that would appropriate congregants gifts and church property.” … “Without secure property ownership, many rounds of future litigation are inevitable.” [p. 18]
  • “If ownership no longer turns on publicly recorded deeds and trust instruments, but on the meaning of internal church rules and relationships, no one can know for certain who owns church property.” [p. 18]
  • “Moreover, the Court’s ruling could eviscerate otherwise clear titles” and harm “the rights of insurers and lenders” all with “not a single justice agreeing as to exactly how State title and property law apply in this dispute.” [p. 19]

Read it all and please take the time to read the full brief.

Posted in * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presiding Bishop, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Mediation Update–Both the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina+the new Episcopal Church Diocese in SC announce its recessed until early December

Both “sides” involved have stated the mediation with Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. has been recessed until December 4-5, 2017.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Diocese of South Carolina Rebuts Amici Brief Defending State Supreme Court Justice Hearn

The Code of Judicial Conduct still requires recusal.
 
COLUMBIA, S.C. (October 13, 2017) – Today the Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) filed our Response, at the Court’s request, to the Amici brief submitted on behalf of Justice Kaye Hearn regarding her actions on the South Carolina Supreme Court in its recent ruling in Appellate Case No. 2015-000622.  Her opinion there provided the deciding vote to deprive at least 29 parish churches of their right to properties some have held for over 300 years. Similar to the previous filings on the issue of Justice Hearn’s recusal, 26 attorneys signed this response as well.

Statement by the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis:   

“An essential issue before the State Supreme Court in this matter is whether the Judicial Code of Conduct means what it says. If it does, Justice Hearn should and must be recused from any further participation in this case. At a minimum, she should have no part in the Court’s decision whether to rehear this case. Further, if the Court is to defend the due process rights of the Diocese of South Carolina, we likewise believe it should vacate her existing opinion and grant a fresh hearing before a new bench of Justices that is untainted by her failure to recuse herself.”

Quotes from today’s filed Response:

+   Regarding Justice Hearn’s interest in the outcome, the amici brief “simply disregards the evidence provided with the Motion to Recuse.” [p. 4]

+   The Canons of the State Code of Judicial Conduct places “the determination regarding recusal and duty to disclose and recuse on the judge, not the parties.” [p. 8]

+   There are no grounds for Justices Hearn’s continued participation in this case. The amici brief itself makes “no argument that prospective recusal is unavailable and inappropriate in these circumstance.” [p. 10]

Conclusion: “Respectfully, Justice Hearn should recuse herself from hearing the Petition for Rehearing and the Court should vacate her opinion and appoint a Justice to hear the Petition. Failing that, the Court should vacate all of the opinions and order rehearing.” [p. 12]

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

A Summary of recent posts on the August 2 South Carolina Supreme Court Decision involving “five different, strongly-held opinions”

Careful blog readers should make sure there have read and understood them all. I have been asked why I have not linked to secular media reports or other stories, and the answer is I would be happy to if they were accurate but they have not been–KSH.

South Carolina Supreme Court on Diocese of South Carolina/TEC Diocese in SC Dispute Ruling is Out.

Diocese of SC Statement on the recent South Carolina Supreme Court Ruling.

AS Haley–Massive Conflict of Interest Taints South Carolina State Supreme Court Ruling.

South Carolina Bishop Lawrence Writes his Diocese Following the recent Supreme Court Ruling.

A Message from the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina.

Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina Calls for a Day of Prayer+Fasting on August 30.

Diocese of South Carolina and 29 Parish Churches File Motion for Rehearing in State Supreme Court.

A S Haley–Faults in the South Carolina Supreme Court Decision Laid Bare (I).

A S Haley–Faults in the South Carolina Supreme Court Decision Laid Bare (II).

Jeff Miller–SC Supreme Court ruling against Diocese of South Carolina threatens religious freedom.

(The State) How a South Carolina Supreme Court decision threatens religious freedom.

The Historic Diocese of South Carolina responds to the New TEC Diocese’s Motion on the Rehearing.

The Diocese of South Carolina offers its Rebuttal of TEC Recusal and Rehearing Arguments.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, Theology, Uncategorized

Bishop Mark Lawrence’s Letter to the Diocese of South Carolina following the recent SC Supreme Court Decisions

From here:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today legal counsel for the Diocese received written notification that both our motions for Recusal and for Rehearing were denied by the State Supreme Court.   The former was denied 5-0.   The latter was denied 2-2 with Justice Hearn abstaining and no fifth justice appointed to fill the vacancy.

For those parishes that are parties to the litigation, I encourage you, at this stage, to consult with your parish chancellor.  All parties to the case have previously discussed the timetable for a filing under the Betterments Statute.  Legal counsel can give you best directions for how to proceed with that process.  Our press release for this evening can be found here.

As you will remember, we began our week with our Annual Clergy Conference reflecting together on the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 and 12:9-10. Now this final ruling from the South Carolina Supreme Court coming as it does at the very end of the week presses us once again with the need to find comfort, strength, and courage from the Lord through these words of Holy Scripture. May I encourage you to revisit them—I believe they were prophetic in their timing for us. Meanwhile please know that I have spoken with our lead counsel, Mr. Alan Runyan, Fr. David Thurlow, President of the Standing Committee, as well as with Canon Lewis. A Standing Committee meeting has been called for this Tuesday morning, November 21, 2017.

I will write further to you and to the diocese once I have met with the Standing Committee and have more thoroughly examined the options before us. For now we will continue to stand forthright for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the faith once delivered to the saints!

Please continue to hold our Diocesan Leadership and Legal Counsel in your prayers.

Your brother in Christ,

–(The Rt. Rev.) Mark Lawrence, 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Parish Ministry, Presiding Bishop, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Edmund of East Anglia

O God of ineffable mercy, who didst give grace and fortitude to blessed Edmund the king to triumph over the enemy of his people by nobly dying for thy Name: Bestow on us thy servants, we beseech thee, the shield of faith, wherewith we may withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Frank Colquhoun

Heavenly Father, who hast called us by thy grace to be a colony of heaven here on earth: Deepen within us, we beseech thee, a sense of our citizenship with the saints in glory; and grant that through all the days of our pilgrimage in this world we may humbly walk with thee in the way of holiness, and faithfully care for the needs of others, till we come to thy everlasting kingdom; through the mercy of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

I will sing of thy steadfast love, O LORD, for ever; with my mouth I will proclaim thy faithfulness to all generations. For thy steadfast love was established for ever, thy faithfulness is firm as the heavens.

–Psalm 89:1-2

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Food for Thought from the TEC Bishop of Dallas reflecting on a recent “advert of the Hemlock Society”

I recently read an advert of the Hemlock Society, presenters at a diocesan convention, believe it or not. “We’ve moved far past these primitive notions of a God ruling life – perhaps now we can see how in such cases taking life enhances quality life – and our powers to affect this may be God’s will in our time – who is he anyway to command life and death – our methods are so pastoral now… .” The soft offer of half-truths to an opposite end – to learn whose soft voice that really is where spiritual safety lies. To hear God’s voice plainly as His, even in the modern hall of mirrors – what if that is the higher wisdom? To reject the soft, spiritual, skeptical voice, Girma Wormtongue’s, may be the key to Christian ethics.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, TEC Bishops

On the Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, Take the Time to read it once more

From here:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General

(FB) Matthew Continetti–The Great American Earthquake: Can the foundations of our society hold?

I have thought a lot about Kristol’s essay in recent weeks, as one American institution after another has found itself beleaguered, besieged, crippled, and delegitimized. We may be richer and healthier and safer in the aggregate than our predecessors. But the parade of ugliness we face bears more than a passing resemblance to theirs.

Riots and the suppression of freedoms on campus, drug addiction, deadly clashes between white nationalists and left-wing radicals, increasing numbers of hate crimes, mass shootings, bitter arguments over the national anthem resulting in declining ratings and support for the National Football League, a cascading stream of allegations of sexual impropriety against figures in entertainment and in politics, the slow-motion disintegration of our major parties—it’s as if America itself has been thrown into the midst of a demolition derby, with every one of our prominent figures and major institutions targeted for destruction by Monster Truck.

Beginning with the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, and carrying on through our ambiguous interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the financial crisis, the rollercoaster ride of the Obama and Trump presidencies, the comeuppance of the elite media and political class in the 2016 election, and the racial and sexual and class-based chaos of today, the temporal and spiritual authorities to whom we once looked for guidance have been subverted, disestablished, exposed. And all the while the erosion continues of the civic-bourgeois culture to which Kristol referred….The slightest glance at political, entertainment, and business headlines demonstrates that the bourgeois virtues of restraint, frugality, reticence, self-control, self-discipline, and fidelity are not only absent in our public life. They are denigrated. Nor is this a mere political phenomenon. The liberation of the sovereign self transcends race and creed, religion and party. It has bloated our waistlines along with our national deficits, tossed families into a spin cycle of disorientation and breakdown, and endangered and addled children.

Read it all; also cited by yours truly in the morning sermon (my emphasis).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Media, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sports

“If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen to us!”

8.01 The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church met in Barmen, May 29-31, 1934. Here representatives from all the German Confessional Churches met with one accord in a confession of the one Lord of the one, holy, apostolic Church. In fidelity to their Confession of Faith, members of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches sought a common message for the need and temptation of the Church in our day. With gratitude to God they are convinced that they have been given a common word to utter. It was not their intention to found a new Church or to form a union. For nothing was farther from their minds than the abolition of the confessional status of our Churches. Their intention was, rather, to withstand in faith and unanimity the destruction of the Confession of Faith, and thus of the Evangelical Church in Germany. In opposition to attempts to establish the unity of the German Evangelical Church by means of false doctrine, by the use of force and insincere practices, the Confessional Synod insists that the unity of the Evangelical Churches in Germany can come only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy Spirit. Thus alone is the Church renewed.
8.02 Therefore the Confessional Synod calls upon the congregations to range themselves behind it in prayer, and steadfastly to gather around those pastors and teachers who are loyal to the Confessions.
8.03 Be not deceived by loose talk, as if we meant to oppose the unity of the German nation! Do not listen to the seducers who pervert our intentions, as if we wanted to break up the unity of the German Evangelical Church or to forsake the Confessions of the Fathers!
8.04 Try the spirits whether they are of God! Prove also the words of the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church to see whether they agree with Holy Scripture and with the Confessions of the Fathers. If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen to us! But if you find that we are taking our stand upon Scripture, then let no fear or temptation keep you from treading with us the path of faith and obedience to the Word of God, in order that God’s people be of one mind upon earth and that we in faith experience what he himself has said: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Therefore, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

the Barmen Declaration, cited by yours truly in the morning sermon

Posted in Christology, Church History, Ecclesiology, Germany, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Daily Prayer

O Eternal God, our heavenly Father, who hast given to us thy children an abiding citizenship in heaven, and, in the days of our pilgrimage, a citizenship also upon earth: Give us thine aid, as we journey to that heavenly city, so faithfully to perform the duties which befall us on our way, that at the last we may be found worthy to enter into thy rest; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Daily Prayer, Eric Milner-White and G. W. Briggs, eds. (London: Penguin Books 1959 edition of the 1941 original)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.

–Psalm 66: 8-9

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(NR) David French–The Enduring Appeal of Creepy Christianity

This is where faith has to trump politics. Defending predators in the Church — or going the extra mile to grant them the benefit of the doubt — for the sake of protecting a political advantage carries with it great costs. The church is already defined in the eyes of a hostile secular culture more by its quest for power than its faithfulness to scripture.

More importantly, this is where faith has to trump fear and uncertainty. We have to understand that there is no way around dependence on God. There is no formula for child-rearing. There is no foolproof guide to a happy marriage. No man can tell you how to secure your health or lead you to wealth. There is no community anyone can build that can protect its members from sin or temptation, and the utopian impulse itself can crack open the door to hell. Roy Moore’s world is a world built on fear. It’s a world that glories in its extremes.

It’s a world that’s destined for ruin, and before it goes down, it will consume and damage the most vulnerable among us — unless we end the cult of the Christian celebrity and the quest for certainty first.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(AAC) Phil Ashey–“To banish all strange and erroneous doctrine”

“To banish all strange and erroneous doctrine” is a phrase that comes directly from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and its ordinal service for ordaining deacons and priests and consecrating Bishops. It is part of the charge given one who is consecrated to serve as a bishop in those Churches in the Anglican Communion who subscribe to the 1662 BCP and its ordinal (among other doctrinal statements) as “fundamental declarations.” The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) also uses this language when it consecrates a Bishop. The weighty phrase reminds us of the universal and ancient responsibility of Bishops to guard the faith, worship, order and discipline of Christ’s Church.

For the last two days I have been in Kenya as part of a teaching team for the third GAFCON Bishops Training Institute. One of the first talks I heard here was a brilliant exposition of Galatians 1:1-9 by the new Bishop of Lango Diocese (Church of Uganda), the Right Rev. Dr. Alfred Olwa. I have known +Alfred as a friend and brother in Christ, a gifted preacher and Biblical theologian—and I was not disappointed by his sermon!  In this wonderful passage that many believe Paul penned on his way to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, Paul makes an unequivocal defense of the Gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone.  As +Alfred noted:

  1. The good news of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone needs no addition;
  2. The good news must NOT be distorted (Gal. 1:7);
  3. Only this gospel of salvation by faith in Christ alone saves people from eternal separation from God (Hell); and
  4. Any distortion of this Gospel is, in reality, dangerous, leads people away from God and therefore stands under God’s curse (Gal. 1:9)

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Church of Kenya, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Arthur Brooks–Let’s Restart the Adoption Movement

Motivated by good intentions or not, these changes have left thousands of orphans unadopted. This is too high a price to pay for bureaucratic screw-tightening.

Meanwhile, while it may or may not materially affect the foreign-adoption statistics, adoption has been vilified by the political fringes in the United States. Alt-right social media light up with attacks on transracial adoption. And some on the far left attack “the propaganda put out by the mega-billion-dollar adoption industry that there are thousands of orphans ‘languishing’ in orphanages waiting to be rescued or saved.” Big Adoption, corporate villain.

Today, my daughter is a freshman in high school. She spends too much time on Instagram but is killing it in her classes. And what about our giving experiment? In truth, I don’t know or care what my daughter has done for my income or health. But my happiness? It spikes every time she looks at me and I remember the magic day we met.

That’s something more dads, moms and especially kids deserve in this unhappy world.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theology

A Great ABC Nightline story of hope here–One family’s story of hardships, triumphs with son who has rare craniofacial disorder

It was a frigid February night in New York City when Magda Newman was in labor with her first child. With her husband Russel Newman by her side, she labored for nearly 17 hours before giving birth to their son.

But when she finally delivered, the couple’s moment of expected happiness quickly turned to anguish.

“I don’t remember fainting, but I certainly remember screaming… ‘Oh my god, oh my god, what happened? What’s happened? What’s happening?” Russel said.

“I saw just shock on people’s faces, big eyes, and I [asked], ‘What’s going on here? Who—what happened?’” Magda said. “And I see them put him [her son] in a little back room. There’s 20 people running in there, doing something. I don’t hear [the] baby crying.”

Read it all (or watch the video report which I would highly recommend).

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theology