Category : Law & Legal Issues

A Letter from Bishop Lawrence to all Parishes to be distributed this Sunday

Dear People of God,

“Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”  2 Corinthians 1:7

I leave tomorrow for the Global Anglicans Future Conference in Jerusalem.  It is a gathering of global leaders—Primates, Bishops, Priests and lay leaders—from around the Anglican Communion.  I will be attending not only as a bishop of the Anglican Church in North America, but, more importantly, as your bishop, representing the Diocese of South Carolina among the larger Anglican family.  This gathering is another reminder that the spiritual issues with which we engage locally are part of a global crisis regarding the authority of the Bible and its place in Anglicanism in the 21st Century.

Before leaving, however, let me share a few thoughts regarding the denial of our recent petition.  The U. S. Supreme Court’s denial is not an affirmation of the SouthCarolina Supreme Court’s August 2 opinion nor of the merits of our position.  It leaves us, however, back in the Dorchester County Court with a conflicted and fractured ruling. Quite simply, regardless of what you may have read or heard elsewhere, this case is not over—, as they say, that is the good news, and that is the bad news.

This afternoon I met with all our clergy to have a “family” conversation, for after five long years of litigation it has certainly taken its toll.  It has also been a refiner’s fire.  The rectors also met with Henrietta Golding since our lead attorney, Mr. Alan Runyan, is presently in Jerusalem as a lay delegate to GAFCON.  Ms. Golding described the legal landscape so that your priest may be aided in answering some of your questions.  However, I would hasten to add; definitively predicting how a judge or court may rule in the future has been many a fool’s errand.

This has been and is still a very complicated ecclesiastical and judicial landscape. Yet sometimes a question is asked or a statement made that distills a very complex matter.  I received a text message yesterday from a parishioner that did this for me.   Here it is in text speak; just as it came to my I-Phone:

Hey, I know I’m kinda slow.  Sometimes don’t see “The big picture.”  BUT still praying.  It’s only “stuff” as far as I’m concerned.  Your friend in CHRIST.  Leroy

Of course, the stuff Leroy is referring to is the current legal and theological unpleasantness.  The Church buildings, property, endowment funds, identity, beliefs, heritage… to name but a few at stake.

Here’s my response in text speak:

Yes, it’s only stuff. But some stuff is worth fighting for and some stuff isn’t and discerning the difference is the stuff that much of life is made of. Blessings friend, Mark
Discerning what is worth fighting for and what is not is one aspect of the legal issues before us.  It is also, what is involved in the theological and spiritual matters before us as Anglican Christians— both locally and globally.  One could wish these were not connected, the legal and the theological, but for now, they are.  One could wish we would not have to engage in either one or that these struggles had somehow bypassed us.  But many generations have had like challenges in their day and had to decide what stuff to hold onto and what stuff to let go of.  When Saint Paul penned those immortal words, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love,” it was not romantic love of which he spoke.  Nor was it a love without discernment, without struggles, without truth, without faith, without hope; it was the love that led Jesus to the cross to save a sinful, scarred and tattered world and doing so in surrender and obedience to his heavenly Father.  It was a costly and sacrificial love.One of our priests asked me just the other day, “Bishop, what are you hearing from God?”  I replied, “Not as much as I would like.”  I spent several hours just last night on the night shift…listening.  God it seems has enrolled me in a graduate course in the School of Prayer.

With that in mind, I find myself spending no little time praying through Luke 18:1-8, the Parable of the Persistent Widow and the Unrighteous Judge.  “And [Jesus] told them a parable that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” I certainly do not have space in this letter to unpack much of the richness in this passage.  Therefore, may I encourage you to read it for yourself.  Let it inform your prayer.

In the last line of this teaching, our Lord poses a question, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  In reflecting on this, I am drawn to another teaching of our Lord on intercessory prayer, Matthew 9:35-38.  While Jesus was teaching and healing in cities and villages and seeing the crowds, “he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Here are two teachings regarding intercessory prayer.  Both are relevant to our situation in the diocese.  Both point to circumstances in which many of us find ourselves. Frankly, to pray only for vindication of our legal cause but have little compassion for the lost and needy; to turn a blind eye to the huge numbers of people moving into the Low Country; to seek God’s help in the court but not seek him for laborers for the harvest; is to fail to respond rightly to our Lord’s closing question in his teaching on prayerful persistence.  Frankly, we dare not let the legal questions of the courtroom dominate or hinder our pursuit of the God’s mission in the world.  Both the “stuff’ in the courtroom and the “stuff” of the Kingdom matter.  Let’s make sure we keep the order right.  “Seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.”  That’s the lodestar, the true manna, the pearl of great price, which keeps the main thing the main thing. May God grant us the grace to place the Kingdom before the buildings and use the buildings for the Kingdom.

Yours in Christ,

–The Right Reverend Mark J. Lawrence is XIVth Bishop of South Carolina

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Bp Graham Tomlin–Grenfell’s silent protest sends a loud message

People walk silently, some quietly holding placards, faces serious and taut. Occasionally an arm stretches around a neighbour’s shoulder. A few tears are shed. A line of firefighters stand to attention, helmets at their feet while the crowd shuffles past. The predominant colour is green. Every now and again the march comes to a halt as a road is crossed, or an ambulance rushes past, and slowly, the thousands of people wend their way to the base of Grenfell Tower.

On the 14th day of every month since last June, a remarkable event has taken place around the streets of North Kensington. The Grenfell Silent March was the idea, among others, of a young man called Zeyad Cred.

I met Zeyad for the first time a few days after fire destroyed the tower block, when he was one of a group of local people hastily brought together to meet with the Prime Minister so she could hear the concerns of the immediate community around Grenfell.

I remember him then as articulate and thoughtful, with a controlled anger that occasionally broke out into passionate speech. Today, he and a group of others solemnly and expertly marshal the crowd in hi-vis jackets as it wends its way around the streets, stopping for a minute’s silence to view the ruins of Grenfell Tower, before a few short speeches are made and the crowd disperses.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Item) 2 Sumter churches among 28 in South Carolina that may have to vacate property after Supreme Court denies request

After the U.S. Supreme Court denied a state church district’s petition for a hearing Monday, it is unknown what the future may hold for two local congregations’ properties.

The Rev. Marcus Kaiser, rector of Church of the Holy Comforter, 213 N. Main St., made his comments after the high court informed The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina that it would deny a request to hear its case to reverse a decision made last year by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Doing so leaves in place a sharply divided ruling from the state’s high court from 2017 that could deprive at least 28 parish churches of their right to properties – some of which have been held for more than 300 years.

Kaiser said the local congregation has owned and maintained the property and buildings associated with Church of the Holy Comforter since 1857 and that no money has ever come from the national Episcopal Church, with which Holy Comforter was previously associated.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

The Rector of Saint John’s, Johns Island, South Carolina Writes his Parish about the recent US Supreme Court Decision

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(Wash Post) American Medical Association rejects maintaining its opposition to medically assisted death, deciding instead to keep reviewing the matter

A recommendation that the American Medical Association maintain its opposition to medically assisted death was rejected Monday, with delegates at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago instead voting for the organization to continue reviewing its guidance on the issue.

Following a debate on whether the nation’s most prominent doctors’ group should revise its Code of Medical Ethics, the House of Delegates voted by a margin of 56 to 44 percent to have the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs keep studying the current guidance. That position, adopted a quarter-century ago, labels the practice “physician-assisted suicide” and calls it “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.”

The council spent two years reviewing resolutions, not so much on whether to support the practice but on whether to take a neutral stance on what has become a divisive issue among health-care providers. The group’s report sought to find common ground, noting, “Where one physician understands providing the means to hasten death to be an abrogation of the physician’s fundamental role as healer that forecloses any possibility of offering care that respects dignity, another in equally good faith understands supporting a patient’s request for aid in hastening a foreseen death to be an expression of care and compassion.”

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology

A Message from the rector of Saint Michael’s, Charleston, about today’s Supreme Court Decision

June 11, 2018
Dear St. Michaelites and Friends:
“Courageous Joy” vs. “Circumstantial Joy” was our theme in worship yesterday, and there is a difference. Our joy is not based on circumstances and happenstances, but on what Jesus has done for us. We also mentioned the fact that Nehemiah’s phrase: “The Joy of the Lord is our Strength” is a profound one (Note, Nehemiah didn’t say “the joy of our circumstance, or the joy of our job etc). Our Joy and strength is found in Christ-Alone. Words we need to hear as we open up social media today to the news that the United States Supreme Court denied our Petition for Writ of Certiorari.
We have attached communication from the Diocese of South Carolina explaining the latest. Let me highlight three important facts as you read it.
  1. None of the nearly three dozen churches involved are in any eminent danger of eviction as a result of today’s decision
  2. The Diocese of South Carolina will now return to our state courts as we believe the ruling of our State Supreme Court is “virtually unenforceable as written.”
  3. The law and facts of our case still favor us and the Diocese plans to continue to press in, even it if requires a second appearance before the South Carolina Supreme Court.
In the meantime, I will be meeting with our leadership team today to come up with a time to gather as a parish family this week and weekend.
On a personal note, so many of you have emailed, texted and called to ask how the Zadig family is doing. In one word, we are fine. Our biggest prayer is that St. Michael‘s Church always be that place where the undiluted Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, taught and caught.
Remember, we are people of courageous and not circumstantial joy, in all of this, choose joy.
Blessings and much love in Christ,
–(The Rev.) Al Zadig is rector, Saint Michael’s, Charleston, SC
Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Supreme Court

(Vanguard) The Anglican Bishop of Bukuru–Nigeria is Boiling

According to Bukuru Bishop, “Naturally, everybody wants some level of peace and comfort. And where you find none, the whole thing will be toppling in the society. A society where crisis faces you all around, sometime twenty four hours. God created this society that men may live in peace and healthy living.

“But as it is today, government for reasons that are either political, reasons that are sentimental, reasons that are ungodly, have not been able to give electorate such a comfort, so nobody is happy. Nigeria is such that appears boiling. It is like…[boiling] right now.

“To ensure that there is security, law and order must be maintained and we have seen over the years that Nigeria is one of the most lawless country in the world, anybody does whatever they like.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Church of Nigeria, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

(WSJ) Jack Philips on the Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision–The Supreme Court Let Me Live My Faith Again

Religion isn’t something I pick up on Sunday mornings only to put away during the rest of the week. My entire life belongs to Jesus, and I believe that everything I do should honor him. As the Bible says, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).

This means that when I operate my business, I am always mindful of whether God is pleased with what I create. That’s why even though I serve all people, I can’t design cakes that celebrate events or express messages that conflict with my faith. It’s also why I’ve declined requests to create cakes that celebrate Halloween or memorialize a divorce.

My beliefs about marriage come from my reading of the Bible. Describing marriage, Jesus said, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Mark 10:7-8). This shows clearly that God intends marriage to be a union between a husband and a wife.

On the day I declined to create a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage, I was simply living out the truth that I—along with millions of other Christians—have found in the Bible. The men who sued me say I discriminated against them. That’s not true. Declining to design something because of what it celebrates isn’t the same as refusing to serve people because of who they are. Those men are welcome in my shop today, just as they were in 2012. But I can’t create a cake that celebrates a view of marriage at odds with my Christian beliefs.

Read it all.

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(1st Things) Hadles Arkes on the Supreme Court Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision–Conservative Jurisprudence Resorts To Relativism

For Kennedy, this diatribe against the religious was reprehensible in the same measure: “To describe a man’s faith as ‘one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use’ is to disparage his religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical—something insubstantial and even insincere.”

Yes, but so what? Kennedy did not challenge the law itself as a violation of Phillips’s religious freedom. Why should it matter that commissioners, enforcing the law, allowed their conviction of its rightness to express itself in some gratuitous sneering at a man Justice Kennedy and the Court were still willing to treat as a wrongdoer? What this situation seemed to violate, for Kennedy, was the “State’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint.” For years it was understood that the law need not be at all “neutral” between religion and irreligion, that there were compelling reasons, for the public good, to encourage the religious life. But now the claim is reduced simply to an obligation not to be indecorously nasty while the law refuses to respect religious convictions.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, State Government, Supreme Court

The rector of Christ Church, Mount Pleasant, preaches on approaching the Supreme Court decision Theologically

Timely Sermon Addressing Legal Issues from Ted Duvall:

This past Sunday, the Rev. Ted Duvall, the Rector of Christ Church, Mount Pleasant, gave a helpful sermon addressing the on going legal battle. Listen now.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(WSJ) Ryan Anderson–Discrimination Law Isn’t Supposed to ‘Punish the Wicked’

If those playing down the importance of the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling are wrong, those overstating it are also off base. “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane claimed that “it’s a shorter walk than we think, particularly today, from ‘I won’t bake them a cake because they’re gay’ to ‘I won’t seat him here because he’s black.’ ” This wildly mischaracterizes Mr. Phillips’s position. The Masterpiece proprietor serves all customers, regardless of sexual orientation, but he can’t in good conscience communicate all messages or celebrate all events. He is motivated by his Christian belief that marriage unites husband and wife, not his customer’s identity.

This disagreement about the definition of marriage occurs among people of good faith motivated by honorable theological and philosophical premises, as Justice Kennedy recognized in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 same-sex-marriage decision. And as he wrote in Masterpiece, “religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.”

That is why states should be careful not to abuse antidiscrimination policy in a way that amounts to an enforcement of an orthodoxy regarding questions about sex on which reasonable people can disagree.

Monday’s ruling won’t open the floodgates to invidious discrimination as critics imagine. But neither should we gainsay its wider applicability. The Supreme Court has said clearly that the government may not punish people because of their religious beliefs. Any generally applicable, neutral law must serve the common good, not punish those whom people in power deem to be “wicked.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

Jeff Miller, rector of St Philip’s, Charleston, writes his Parish about Today

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus … let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” –Hebrews 10:19, 22
Dear St. Philip’s Family,
On Thursday, June 7, the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States will gather to consider whether or not to grant our petition for a Writ of Certiorari. We believe that this is the best way to bring clarity to the conflicted legal landscape and resolution to the protracted battle between the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church. While this is a hopeful sign, it is not a guaranteed thing. The justices grant only a small percentage of the thousands of petitions that they receive annually, and we cannot assume that they will take ours.
However, the Epistle of James reminds us that the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” and as Christians, we can be sure that the judge of all the earth will do right. To this end, I want to invite you to join me at noon on June 7 in the Church for a special prayer service led by Bishop Lawrence. It will be a time for us to ask for forgiveness, to pray for deliverance, and to seek the Lord’s guidance for our parish and diocese. Prayer is one of the greatest privileges we have as believers, and we can approach our Heavenly Father with confidence. To borrow a phrase from Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”
We will have a nursery available for children ages five and younger, and I strongly encourage allparishioners to make this service a priority. It is not just the future of St. Philip’s that is at stake; it is the American right to worship freely that is in jeopardy. In the meantime, let us not lose heart, but let us carry on with the work the Lord has given us to do, confident that even now, He is doing for us “greater things than we can ask for or imagine”!
Yours in Christ Jesus,
Jeff+
Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Supreme Court

A Day of Coming before the Lord

You may find the bishop’s letter about this there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Supreme Court, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Masterpiece Cakeshop Analysis (II): Douglas Laycock and Thomas Berg–Scotus Decision not as narrow as may first appear

The Supreme Court has announced a powerful ideal. Even when a law has no explicit exceptions, hostile enforcement is unconstitutional. Single-issue agencies that enforce state civil-rights laws must approach claims to religious exemptions with tolerance and respect. And this is apparently an absolute rule; the court does not consider whether hostility might be justified by some state interest, compelling or otherwise.

But a requirement of tolerance and respect, or even the avoidance of hostility, is difficult to enforce. The opponents of religious exemptions will now start doing the sorts of things done by many other government officials resisting constitutional mandates. They will seek doctrinal and rhetorical manipulations to cloak their hostility to the constitutional right, and their unequal treatment of objectors they agree with and objectors they don’t.

Those manipulations began in the state’s briefs and in the concurring and dissenting opinions. Kagan and Breyer said that the state’s discrimination could easily have been justified with a different explanation: The protected bakers would not have sold an anti-gay cake to anybody, but Phillips would sell wedding cakes to opposite-sex couples.

As Justice Neil Gorsuch explained, this reaches the preordained result by manipulating the level of generality. An “anti-gay” cake is distinguished only by what it displays on the outer surface. So the category is not cakes, or wedding cakes, but cakes with particular messages. If a same-sex couple wants a cake with two grooms, two brides, a rainbow, or any other indication of approval of same-sex marriage, that is a cake that Phillips would not sell to anybody. If they want a cake that could just as appropriately be used for an opposite-sex wedding, then at the surface, Kagan’s rationalization holds — but it is still a rationalization. Everyone would still know what is really going on: The commission agrees with the protected bakers and disagrees with Jack Phillips.

Masterpiece states an important ideal. But the Supreme Court has not been good over the years at identifying government bias or hostility that is the least bit shrouded. In a case without smoking-gun expressions of hostility, objectors will need evidence of inconsistent treatment of tester cases.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

Masterpiece Cakeshop Analysis (I): Amy Howe–Opinion analysis: Court rules (narrowly) for baker in same-sex-wedding-cake case [Updated]

…the critical question of when and how Phillips’ right to exercise his religion can be limited had to be determined, Kennedy emphasized, in a proceeding that was not tainted by hostility to religion. Here, Kennedy observed, the “neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised” by comments by members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. At one hearing, Kennedy stressed, commissioners repeatedly “endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, implying that religious beliefs and persons are less than fully welcome in Colorado’s business community.” And at a later meeting, Kennedy pointed out, one commissioner “even went so far as to compare Phillips’ invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.” “This sentiment,” Kennedy admonished, “is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law—a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation.” Moreover, Kennedy added, the commission’s treatment of Phillips’ religious objections was at odds with its rulings in the cases of bakers who refused to create cakes “with images that conveyed disapproval of same-sex marriage.”

Here, Kennedy wrote, Phillips “was entitled to a neutral decisionmaker who would give full and fair consideration to his religious objection as he sought to assert it in all of the circumstances in which this case was presented, considered, and decided.” Because he did not have such a proceeding, the court concluded, the commission’s order – which, among other things, required Phillips to sell same-sex couples wedding cakes or anything else that he would sell to opposite-sex couples and mandated remedial training and compliance reports – “must be set aside.”

But the majority left open the possibility that a future case could come out differently, particularly if the decisionmaker in the case considered religious objections neutrally and fairly. Other cases, the majority emphasized, “must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court