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Identity Theft in South Carolina - Bishop David C. Anderson

Identity Theft in South Carolina

COMMENTARY

By Bishop David C. Anderson
November 16, 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, The Episcopal Church (TEC) worked for two General Conventions on revisions to their disciplinary canon law, rewriting it to remove most protections that an accused bishop or clergy person previously had and setting up fast track procedures to deal with complaints.

Years ago, when I sat as the Presiding Judge of the Ecclesiastical Court for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, I was very aware of the laborious process of taking complaints, investigating them to a certain point, and then when there seemed enough evidence to constitute an offense if all the facts were proven true, to the equivalent of an indictment, inhibition of the accused clergy person, a full investigation and then a trial.

It was my sense that the process provided all concerned the safeguards and the chance at justice that was required; it was not perfect, but reasonably fair except for the high cost of the investigation and the defense, the latter of which was born by the accused clergy man or woman. It was, however, not quickly completed, and the recent pressure for change has resulted in a disciplinary process that can be heavy-handed, provide few safeguards and move quickly.

Although TEC Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori tried earlier to impose discipline on South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence and failed, she still has him in her gun sights. She also attempted to move forward to discipline a group of bishops and priests who had signed an Amicus Brief in the Fort Worth case opposing the hierarchical claims of the current Episcopal Church leaders.

At the same time she has attempted to discipline three bishops who opposed hierarchical claims made by her attorneys in the Quincy Diocese litigation. Her first moves weren't successful against Lawrence, the so-called Ft. Worth seven or the Quincy three, but she has now regrouped and again commenced an attack on South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence along with the Standing Committee. She has officially inhibited him, telling him that he can't function in any official capacity until the charges have been adjudicated, and has begun the process of replacing the "disloyal" members of the Standing Committee with local individuals who are loyal to her.

This process that TEC uses to attack a diocese that is in a strained relationship with her regime is termed the Replacement Strategy. Declaring the existing bishop and possibly also the Standing Committee to have abandoned the communion of the church, she then appoints an interim bishop loyal to her and, if necessary, new Standing Committee members. In many ways this looks very much like identity theft, where someone who isn't you replaces you at the bank and credit card companies, and, using your good name, begins to act and do business as if they were you, always to your detriment.

In a letter to the people of the Diocese of South Carolina, Bishop Lawrence advised that a group of Jefferts Schori's supporters have used the official diocesan seal, and improperly called a meeting of the clergy as if it were an official meeting but with their own agenda. As soon as the Presiding Bishop has a stand-in bishop named and new Standing Committee members all lined up, expect them to appear at all of the banks and financial institutions that do business with the Diocese and present new signature cards, attempting to take the identity theft concept a step further.

Typically the banks won't fall for the ruse, but they do become alarmed and freeze the accounts, pending the courts sorting it all out. That actually is the preliminary goal of TEC, to freeze the liquid financial assets so that the diocese, or in some cases the parish, can't make payroll and can't pay their defense attorneys - in essence, to financially decapitate the Diocese preparatory to going into court and making the coup d'état "legal."

There is an official Diocese of South Carolina Special Convention prepared to meet this Saturday, November 17, at St. Philip's Church in Charleston, and the items for discussion and action are not pleasing to the Presiding Bishop.

From their own webpage they state the purpose of the Special Called Convention on November 17, 2012: "Though we are already outside of TEC, our Constitution and Canons both contain multiple references to those of TEC. Ours must now be amended to bring them into agreement with the present legal reality. Those changes can only be made by a Diocesan Convention. More information about the specific purpose for this Convention is here.

The webpage for the Diocese is here. Pray for our brothers and sisters who are trying hard to grasp firmly the faith once delivered to the saints, and are under attack by the current TEC regime. The Presiding Bishop of TEC has now followed up with a plea for everyone to step back from the brink, and accept her "generous offer" and explanation of what will happen with a new bishop and Standing Committee, and her desire for everyone (well almost everyone) to be a part of that, including being able to continue contributions into the Pension Fund. Read her version of reality here.

In her Pastoral Letter, Jefferts Schori makes reference to the Ft. Worth seven and the Quincy three, expressing hope that they will fold up and accept her version of conciliation under the disciplinary canons. That is what she says now, but once she has devoured Bishop Lawrence and South Carolina, she will turn her full attention to the seated bishops in her previous action, especially Dallas, Springfield, and Albany, and seek to effect her coup d'état on them as well.

The best defense is going to be a vigorous offense, and I urge those already in her sights to recognize their danger and collaborate closely. A quote often but erroneously attributed to Benjamin Franklin is this definition of democracy and liberty: Democracy is a group of two wolves and a lamb deciding on the lunch menu; Liberty is a well-armed lamb. Arm yourselves with the full armor of God and the best street-smart attorneys you can find, because in Jefferts Schori's church it is lunch time and the wolves are closing in on the lambs.

The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, Sr. is President and CEO, American Anglican Council

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