Category : * South Carolina

Martha Vetter–Friendship in Winter

One of the most well-known friendships in literature is that between Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider in the popular children’s book Charlotte’s Web. Near the conclusion of the story,Wilbur shares his heart with Charlotte’s babies, who hatch just after their mom’s death. Listen intently as Wilbur speaks to them:

“Welcome to the barn cellar. You have chosen a hallowed doorway from which to string your webs. I think it is only fair to tell you that I wasdevoted to your mother, Charlotte…I shall always treasure her memory. To you, her daughters, I pledge my friendship, forever and ever…”

The story continues, “… A spring pig — a runt, no less — surrounded by friends, was welcoming his second spring. And all because he saw what no one else was able to see: the grace and beauty and remarkable talent of a common gray spider. It is not often that someone like Charlotte comes along who is a true friend.”

In this endearing children’s story, Charlotte, the humble spider, weaves three webs that save Wilbur’s life. Charlotte’s loving but strenuous efforts cause her to die prematurely. They also can serve as a metaphor of Christ, who came to earth and– through his own life, death and resurrection– brought new life to us.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Christology, Health & Medicine, Poetry & Literature, Theology

(Local Paper front page) Billy Graham left a giant footprint, spreading evangelism from the South across the globe

Peter Beck, professor of Christian Studies at Charleston Southern University, grew up watching Graham’s crusades on television.

“He was in many ways the heartbeat of the evangelical movement in the mid-20th century to the end. He was the face,” he said. “Most people are going to label him today the greatest evangelist or the greatest revivalist of the 20th century, and I think those are fairly accurate descriptions.”

That said, Beck noted that neither his children nor his students are aware of Graham. “He’s been retired longer than they’ve been alive.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, History, Religion & Culture

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon-The Gospel as Power Encounter (Mark 1:12-14)

You can listen directly here and download the mp3 there (and the reference to the greek should be diakoneo not doulos).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology: Scripture

A S Haley: Historic Episcopal Church of South Carolina Asks US Supreme Court for Review

Bishop Mark Lawrence and his Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, along with a number of member parishes, having lost a confusing, non-definitive and divided decision in that State’s Supreme Court, have filed a petition for writ of certiorari (review) in the United States Supreme Court. The petition (fifty pages, downloadable from this link) asks the Court to bring harmony to the multiple lower court decisions that diverge over the meaning of “neutral principles of law” as used by the Court in its seminal case of Jones v. Wolf, 445 U.S. 595 (1979).

As the petition lays out with masterful clarity, both state and federal courts apply differing standards of “neutral principles” in approaching the resolution of disputes over the ownership of church property:

Nearly 40 years after this Court last addressed the neutral-principles approach in Jones, the courts are deeply divided about what “neutral” means. For many courts, “neutral” means just that—“neutral”: the high courts of seven States, plus the Eighth Circuit and three intermediate state courts, follow Jones’ clear guidance and resolve property disputes between religious organizations by applying well-established state trust and property law. These jurisdictions hold that a disassociating local church’s property is held in trust for the national church only if the alleged trust satisfies ordinary state law requirements for the creation of trusts. Courts and commentators call this the “strict approach” to Jones, because it blinds judges to the religious nature of the parties to the dispute, requiring them to apply the same ordinary state law that would apply to property disputes between any other parties….

The petition then addresses the Court directly, and explains why it should grant review:

Petitioners are here for one simple reason: they are churches. If this dispute arose between two secular organizations, or between a religious and a secular organization, the party standing in Petitioners’ shoes would have prevailed. Thus, far from yielding to the First Amendment, the decision below actually violates it. The Religion Clauses command a “principle of neutrality” whereby “the government may not favor one religion over another, or religion over irreligion, religious choice being the prerogative of individuals under the Free Exercise Clause.” McCreary Cty. v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky., 545 U.S. 844, 875-76 (2005). The hybrid approach disregards this vital bulwark, favoring one religious organization over another by allowing a national church to disregard the requirements of state trust law at the expense of a disassociated congregation’s claim to property. As two leading commentators recently emphasized, the strict approach to Jones is “the only approach consistent with the free exercise and nonentanglement principles of the Religion Clauses.” Michael W. McConnell & Luke W. Goodrich, On Resolving Church Property Disputes, 58 ARIZ. L. REV. 307, 311 (2016).

The persistent confusion over the meaning of Jones and the neutral-principles approach has resulted in polar-opposite outcomes in materially indistinguishable cases, creating enormous — and enormously expensive — uncertainty for this country’s religious institutions. Case outcomes turn on courts’ differing interpretations of Jones and the First Amendment, not on how the parties have arranged their affairs under state law. This case could have been easily resolved under ordinary state trust and property law. Instead, the parties and the property have been mired in litigation since 2013. Several years and millions of dollars later, Petitioners seek this Court’s review.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, - Anglican: Analysis, Church History, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

Historic South Carolina Diocese files a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the US Supreme Court

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On Friday, February 9 the Diocese of South Carolina and its parishes took the historic step of filing a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.  The requested review of the adverse ruling by the South Carolina Supreme Court focuses on addressing the key constitutional questions in that case.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1979 that church property disputes may be settled by applying “neutral principles of law”.  The South Carolina Supreme Court has interpreted that precedent as meaning that some religious institutions (such as TEC) are subject to standards of trust and ownership that would never be recognized under state law for anyone else. As Justice Kittredge in his opinion aptly stated, under truly neutral principles of law, “the suggestion that any of the thirty-six local churches created a trust in favor of the national church would be laughable.”

Our Petition addresses as the central issue in our litigation the following question:  Whether the “neutral principles of law” approach to resolving church property disputes requires courts to recognize a trust on church property even if the alleged trust does not comply with the State’s ordinary trust and property law.” (Petition, p. i)

As the Petition goes on to argue, the original intention of the neutral principles approach is to rely “exclusively on objective, well established concepts of trust and property law familiar to lawyers and judges.” and “embodied in some legally cognizable form.” Jones v. Wolf (1979).  Strict application of this principle would mean that it could not be determined that parish property is held in trust for the national church unless such a trust satisfied ordinary state law requirements for the creation of trusts.  The petition makes the point that the Jones majority expressly ruled out “compulsory deference” to national denominations, in its affirmation of neutral principles.

The plurality position in the South Carolina court unquestionably did not take this “neutral” approach.  Those justices believed that requiring a national church to comply with ordinary State trust and property law would “impose a constitutionally impermissible burden on the national Church and violate the first amendment.”  Courts and commentators call this the “hybrid approach” because it rejects application of ordinary state law in favor of deference to the national church’s unilateral rule and canons (i.e. the “Dennis Canon”).  It is compulsory deference in effect if not in name.

The State Supreme Court’s earlier All Saints (2009) ruling clearly upheld the neutral principles approach and was the basis around which the Diocese and its parishes ordered their common life and governing documents.  As former Chief Justice Toal noted in her dissenting opinion on the South Carolina court, its August ruling is a “distinct departure from well-established South Carolina law and legal precedents… appears to be driven by a sole purpose: reaching a desired result in this case.”  All Saints, embraced in name but not result, illustrates the concern raised in our petition.  “The vacillation of the Supreme Court of South Carolina from the strict approach in All Saints to the hybrid approach in this case makes clear that title to local church property is no more secure than the composition of a state’s high court.”  (Petition, p. 38)

The U.S. Supreme Court is asked to take this case, because it represents “a deep, acknowledged and fully matured split both among and within the Nation’s courts over the meaning of Jones and its “neutral principles of law” approach.” (Petition, p. 18)   The high courts of at least seven states, plus the Eighth Circuit have required the application of normal trust principles as Jones suggests.  The high courts of at least eight other States, however, now including South Carolina, have adopted the less than neutral interpretation that “courts must recognize trusts announced in church canons, even if those alleged trusts do not satisfy the requirements of state law.” (Petition, p. 18)

It is our assertion that this approach violates both the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The former prevents states from burdening the free exercise of religion.  The “hybrid” approach clearly does this by conditioning congregations’ free exercise of differing religious beliefs on their willingness to surrender their property to TEC who has neither owned nor contributed to its purchase.   Similarly, the Establishment clause forbids the government from favoring one religion over another.  The “hybrid” approach irrefutably does that as well, “allowing national churches – and no one else – to skirt ordinary state trust and property law…  The law cannot then place a thumb on the scale in favor of a national church in its property dispute with a disassociating congregation…” (Petition, p. 19)   As observed by Justice Rehnquist in an earlier opinion, “If the civil courts are to be bound by any sheet of parchment bearing the ecclesiastical seal and purporting to be a decree of a church court, they can easily be converted into handmaidens of arbitrary lawlessness.” Serbian, (1976).

It is anticipated that today’s Petition will be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming months and the decision whether to grant review or not will be made before the end of the current session in June.   If review is granted, a hearing would be late this year or in the Spring of 2019. In the meantime, we should remain prayerfully confident as a Diocese that God is working His purposes out in all these things and will redeem them for the greater blessing of the Church and the spread of the Kingdom.  To those ends I encourage your continued prayers.

–The Rev. Jim Lewis is Canon to the Ordinary to the Bishop of South Carolina
(if necessary you may find a link for the original letter on the web there).

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Supreme Court, Theology

The Latest Enewsletter from the Diocese of South Carolina

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Adult Education, Evangelism and Church Growth, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(Local paper Front Page) Orangeburg Massacre survivors fight for remembrance of bloodiest civil rights event in South Carolina history

Cleveland Sellers can’t say for sure how long the gunfire lasted.

Was it 8 seconds? he wonders. Maybe it was closer to 10.

On the campus of South Carolina State University, he stops at the very spot where he stood when he was shot 50 years ago.

He was 23 on the night of Feb. 8, 1968, and joined the crowd of students who had gathered to vent frustrations over a segregated bowling alley and other perceived injustices. It was the third straight day of unrest, but this one was especially menacing.

“I had a bad feeling that day,” recalled Sellers, now 73.

In a barrage of trooper shotgun fire that lasted about 10 seconds, at least 28 students were injured and three — Samuel Hammond, Jr., Delano Middleton and Henry Smith — were killed.

It was the bloodiest civil rights event in South Carolina’s history.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, History, Race/Race Relations, Violence

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon-The God who Works at the Bottom of the Drain (Jonah 3, Mark 1)

You can listen directly here and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Soteriology, Theology: Scripture

Blessed Epiphany to all Blog Readers

Posted in * South Carolina, Epiphany, Parish Ministry, Photos/Photography

(Local Paper Editorial) Martin Luther King Jr.: A legacy and our future

For too many, this is not a moment of comfort and convenience here in the Charleston area. Nor has it been over the past few years.

This time last year, a young man had just been sentenced to death for the murder of nine black men and women at Emanuel AME church. The fate of a North Charleston police officer accused of murdering a black man and now serving a 20-year federal sentence remained to be decided.

Our community is finally moving on from those painful tragedies. But there is more work to be done. And today, we look to Dr. King as an inspiration to meet those challenges head on.

In too many ways the Charleston community remains starkly divided by race.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, History, Race/Race Relations

(Local Paper) Charleston, South Carolina, mayor reaches out to religious leaders to build relationships, promote good deeds

Shortly after Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg took office in 2016, he reached out to several pastors for counsel.

He had been thinking about how the city fared following 2015’s Emanuel AME Church massacre, about how a web of strong relationships helped Charleston shine during one of its darkest hours.

Tecklenburg hoped that this gathering of religious leaders not only would build on those relationships but also find new ways to promote good works.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, City Government, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(The State) Cindi Ross Scopp–South Carolina Needs Thoughtful Overall Tax Reform not Simplistic Tax Cuts

Like a good stock portfolio, a good tax system relies on a balance, with different types of taxes behaving differently throughout the economic cycle, and affecting different types of people in different ways. For both stability and fairness, economists agree that the best state tax system relies about equally on the income tax, the sales tax and the property tax. South Carolina already relies less on income taxes than the sales or property tax. Cutting income taxes by more than 15 percent would further unbalance our tax system.

Our sales tax, by contrast, is the 16th highest in the nation. The main reason it’s so high is that it’s all about mollifying special interests by giving them special tax breaks. We exempt more than we tax: We have around 120 exemptions written into law, and on top of that we tax far fewer services than most states. House members say they can cut the state sales tax from 6 percent to 3 percent if they address both of those problems, and technically that’s true. The problem is that they’re not going to tax all goods and services, and they probably shouldn’t, because some prevent taxing the same thing twice, and some of the biggest exemptions (think electricity and groceries) serve primarily to make the sales tax a little less regressive than it otherwise would be.

Still, any effort to eliminate some exemptions and tax more services — and use the additional revenue to cut the tax rate — would be a smart step toward a lower, flatter tax system, one that is less volatile and more fair. Which is the opposite of where cutting the income tax rates — and creating yet another large tax exemption — would take us.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, State Government, Taxes

(Yesterday’s Local paper Front Page) South Carolina lawmakers consider electrocuting death row inmates if lethal injection drugs unavailable

South Carolina lawmakers are considering a proposal that would allow the state to execute death row inmates using the electric chair — something that hasn’t been done since 2008 — if lethal injection drugs are not available.

Under current law, criminals sentenced to the death penalty in South Carolina can choose to die by lethal injection or electrocution.

Like other states, South Carolina has not had access to the necessary drugs to attempt a lethal injection since the last of its stock expired in 2013. That has left the state unable to carry out the ultimate punishment.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Capital Punishment, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, State Government

Rob Sturdy’s sermon (from this Morning) on the Baptism of Jesus: How exactly does the Trinity unsin us (Mark 1:4-11)?

You can listen directly here and download the mp3 there.

You may read more about Rob’s ministry there.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology: Scripture

Morning Snow Update from Summerville, South Carolina

Posted in * South Carolina, Photos/Photography, Weather