Report on the nineth day of trial from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina
July 18, 2014 (Day 9)
Judge Diane Goodstein asked attorneys to work over the weekend to organize and reach some agreements about thousands of pages of historic documents to be admitted as evidence – years’ worth of constitutions and canons, bylaws, and convention journals that show the ties between The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of South Carolina, and its parishes.
“One of the things that’s going to be extremely important to me is the organization in terms of authority,” she said, overruling an objection from the breakaway diocese who wanted some of the documents excluded as “irrelevant.”
“The 2,000 pages go to show the state of the relationship, and it is relevant,” Judge Goodstein said. She also asked The Episcopal Church to present witnesses who can explain the documents and relationships via testimony. “I’m a verbal learner,” she said.
The next witness was able to help. The Right Reverend Clifton Daniel III testified on behalf of the defense. He is currently provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. Previously he served as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina, based in Kinston, N.C.
“The basic governing documents of The [Episcopal] Church are the Book of Common Prayer, the Constitution of The Episcopal Church, the Canons of The Episcopal Church, and certainly implicit in that is the Bible,” Bishop Daniel told the court.
Bishop Daniel explained the structure of The Episcopal Church’s governing body: General Convention. It meets every three years and is organized with two houses, much like the United States Congress. Dioceses all send their bishops to the House of Bishops. Each diocese also sends four clergy deputies and four lay (non-clergy) deputies to the House of Deputies.
Bishops also play a role in consenting to new bishops, he said. After any diocese elects a bishop, that person must receive consents from a majority of the bishops of the other dioceses, as well as consent from the majority of Standing Committees of the dioceses, before she or he can be consecrated.
Bishop Daniel testified that when Mark Lawrence was elected Bishop of South Carolina, he gave his consent. However, the election did not receive approval from most Standing Committees, including East Carolina. A second election was allowed and he was elected again. Only after issuing written assurances that he planned to stay with The Episcopal Church did Mark Lawrence finally receive the necessary consents.
“I believed, in the last result, that he would be a faithful and loyal bishop of The Episcopal Church and that he would be obedient to the canons of The Episcopal Church, and I gave my consent on that basis,” Bishop Daniel said.
While it wasn’t mentioned during testimony, Bishop Daniel served as the Chief Consecrator when Mark Lawrence was made a bishop in Charleston in January 2008.
On cross examination, Bishop Daniel confirmed that there is no wording in the Constitution or Canons that expressly forbids a diocese from leaving the church. However, he went on to say that if a diocese wants to make a change in its governing documents, they need to subscribe to and accede to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. “That’s common sense,” he said.
Are there any circumstances under which a diocese can leave? “If the General Convention agreed to it,” he said. Under any other circumstances, no.
After he left the stand, the Bishop explained that the lack of language forbidding a diocese from leaving really isn’t the issue. Under The Episcopal Church’s unitary form of government, General Convention is the final authority. There are many actions that aren’t expressly forbidden, but yet would not be permitted by General Convention because they would conflict with the governing documents of the Church.
Because attorneys needed to meet in the afternoon, only one other witness testified Friday. Pat Neumann, who grew up in St. George and now lives on Edisto Island, told the court about being a member of Trinity Church on Edisto, and having to leave it in late 2012 when it left The Episcopal Church.
Mrs. Neumann described how she and others began holding services at a local barbecue restaurant in order to remain Episcopalians. They went on to help found The Episcopal Church on Edisto, a new mission church that worships in the historic 1818 sanctuary of New First Missionary Baptist Church.
Court adjourned about 12:45 p.m. It is expected to reconvene on Monday morning. (Note: The judge did not name a specific time. On most days the announced time has been 9:30 a.m. If a different time is announced, it will be posted here.)