Upper South Carolina] Bishop Waldo “Lives Into” His Theology, Selects New Canon To The Ordinary

In fact, Tommy Tipton fits Bishop Waldo’s theology very well, and he is a suitable Canon to the Ordinary for Bishop Waldo — whose theology has been well-documented and is much-admired by The Episcopal Forum, too. There’s nothing ethically wrong with Bishop Waldo hiring someone of the same ideology to be his Canon to the Ordinary and none of us should be shocked or even indignant about it. This is, after all, who he is and what he believes. The hire, also, continues a multi-year history of radically revisionist Canons to the Ordinary here in this diocese, so there is a “tradition” of that kind of hire anyway.


You know, it’s funny.

There’s a tendency in Upper South Carolina amongst laypeople to “perk up” a bit when a priest from the Diocese of South Carolina expresses an interest in a parish up here. That tendency occurs amongst parishes all over TEC because they think that if someone’s from South Carolina, he or she has to be a Gospel-believing Episcopalian! I’ve seen this amongst the most average, not-particularly-informed parishioners, and of course among those who are very informed and active. It’s just a given that a priest from “the lower diocese” will be an Episcopalian of traditional Christian theology.

I’m reminded of the layperson helping to lead a search process in another diocese who called me [she’d never met me — just heard about me from another friend] to ask about two priests from South Carolina — she thought they’d be fine, of course, but she knew she needed to do her due diligence.

Come to find out, both were liberals, and clawing at the walls to get out of the Diocese of South Carolina. One had torpedoed a parish into the ground, the other had had an affair and was parishless. The laywoman’s diocesan staff liaison had assured the parishioners that the two clergy were both just perfect for the parish in question.

Tommy Tipton, rector of one of the most liberal parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina, has finally been able [ably aided by a rector in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina] to make his escape as well, this time as our diocese’s new Canon to the Ordinary.

Holy Cross Faith Memorial, Father Tipton’s parish, has been one of the four central parishes involved in the formation of a small burr in the saddle of the Diocese of South Carolina’s leadership — The Episcopal Forum, a gathering of Episcopalians in that diocese who enthusiastically support the direction and theology of the Episcopal Church at the national level, as well as the actions of our Presiding Bishop. The Episcopal Forum represents beliefs that are antithetical to Episcopalians of traditional theology in our diocese — which, according to our diocesan survey, is a clear majority of the laypeople [and around 20% of the clergy] — as one can note with a simple glance through their materials, including their Facebook page. As those of us in Upper South Carolina who have observed their actions and rhetoric at public places like conventions and assemblies, not to mention their written rhetoric, have noticed, their theology places them on the far left even of The Episcopal Church. They are full of buzzing hatred of initiatives of South Carolina, including such innocuous ones as the diocese’s thriving and large youth program — the charge being that the massive youth presence in that diocese aren’t participating in national church youth gatherings, or, I suppose, attending Integrity Eucharists at our General Convention, as for instance our old Canon for Youth Ministry organized up here in our diocese. [That led to further boycotts of diocesan youth functions by parents in the Upper Diocese . . . ah well.]

The associate rector of Holy Cross is on the board of The Episcopal Forum, one of its laypeople is vice president of the Forum [and he, incidentally, considers Holy Cross to be “a ‘Beacon’ for diversity and inclusiveness in the diocese and he strongly supports that role for the parish”], the parish hosted the 2004 Episcopal Forum meeting . . . the parish hosted the 2010 Episcopal Forum meeting, and the parish has consistently voted against protective and differentiating resolutions of the Diocese over the past seven long years. You can note the observed reaction of delegates of Holy Cross at the announcement of the Pawley’s Island property resolution in this comment over at T19 — that’s got to have stung.

Since 2003, Father Tipton has publicly opposed the efforts of The Diocese of South Carolina to clearly and publicly differentiate itself from the decisions of The Episcopal Church at the national level.

He opposed the initial resolutions from their 2003 diocesan convention — and he’s continued the trend throughout the next conventions. [Plenty of clergy and lay sources in that diocese will confirm both his theology and his practice over the years. Give your informed friends down that way a call.]

And yes, Tommy Tipton was one of the founding members of The Episcopal Forum — here’s the archive of the membership list of the Episcopal Forum from 2004. And he was on the 2005 members list. And the 2006 members list. It appears that his name . . . oddly . . . was left off the latest membership list which is, of course, understandable. As the membership page notes “List excludes Members who wish not to be listed.” [And hey — those of you from The Episcopal Forum who are reading this — don’t bother trying to cover them up, we’ve pdf’d the past archive pages of the Episcopal Forum].

I suspect that some time around the time his name began disappearing from the Episcopal Forum’s membership list, Father Tipton began entering various search processes elsewhere. That’s just a theory, of course.

But none of the above, about the theology of Tommy Tipton or his parish in Pawley’s Island or even of The Episcopal Forum, is the point of this article.

In fact, Tommy Tipton fits Bishop Waldo’s theology very well, and he is a suitable Canon to the Ordinary for Bishop Waldo — whose theology has been well-documented and is much-admired by The Episcopal Forum, too. There’s nothing ethically wrong with Bishop Waldo hiring someone of the same ideology to be his Canon to the Ordinary and none of us should be shocked or even indignant about it. This is, after all, who he is and what he believes. The hire, also, continues a multi-year history of radically revisionist Canons to the Ordinary here in this diocese, so there is a “tradition” of that kind of hire anyway.

Furthermore, this is great news for those Episcopalians of traditional theology in The Diocese of South Carolina. They’re getting to see a real ideological opponent leave the diocese — and I’m truly happy for them.

So what are the principles that we can reiterate from this expected choice by Bishop Waldo?

At the risk of serious repetition from the past seven years, let me point them out again for those in my own diocese and those in other dioceses [these principles cross-over nicely], just as a refresher course.

1) It’s normal for people to hire like-minded people as members of their staff. This is just what happens — and once our diocesan delegates elected Bishop Waldo, the theology of his picks for staff was a practically foregone conclusion. No amount of wishing and hoping makes someone behave differently from their ideology.

2) Those who are ideologists [and that’s what all those who believe something important are] will do all in their power to further and expand the power and influence of that ideology. Some will do so with grace and sophistication, others with force and threats.

3) This means that we can expect this latest supporter of the National Church’s direction to attempt to select or influence clergy choices for parishes who support his ideology. It is what it is. And that’s what a Canon to the Ordinary of traditional theology would do as well.

4) The only question is whether the ideologist will be brutal, bludgeoning, and transparently obvious [as were our last two canons to the ordinary] or more subtle, sophisticated, and passive.

5) Never ever trust the theology of a priest based on what diocese he comes from or what his references say about him. In particular, don’t trust what he claims to believe. Note, for instance, that The Episcopal Forum — recognizing that it’s never good to be known as a revisionist or liberal in these parts — attempts to use the word “traditional” in their rhetoric. They know it’s deceitful — and they’re committed to attempting that deceit and seeing if they get away with it. Give them credit for knowing which way the wind lies! Note too that plenty of clergy will claim that other clergy are “traditional” or “conservative” while well-knowing that they are not. Always — always — seek out other, and multiple conservative clergy and laity in a diocese who can offer “a circle of intel” about the prospective priest.

On a local level, there are around a dozen or so revisionist clergy in the Diocese of South Carolina who are, indeed, quite desperate to get out of that diocese, so we can expect there to be a little pipeline from that diocese to here and elsewhere throughout TEC. We can expect any clergy coming here from that diocese, no matter how liberal, to be purported to be a “demonstration” of just how open our diocese is to receiving clergy of “traditional theology” even from that Bad Old Diocese to the south of us.

I can certainly help with contacts all over TEC who are willing to offer information about clergy prospects. But plenty of other laity and clergy have the connections to help you gather sources too.

6) Plenty of revisionists are very nice people and very winsome. As with most of my articles that take note of revisionists in TEC, their ideology and foundational worldview — even though it is utterly opposed to that of Episcopalians of traditional theology — doesn’t mean that they’re not charming and kind people. Or that they wouldn’t make great conversational partners. Or good companions at a soup kitchen. Remember, we’re not discussing the personality or even morality [unless they’re inveterate deceivers too] of those who don’t share the same foundational worldview in our church. Heaven knows there are wonderful people who are Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists, much less Episcopalians whom I enjoy and appreciate greatly. I’d expect Bishop Waldo to select a person who has a similar personality.

7) As with all parishes in dioceses headed by revisionist leadership, you can only do your best at home in your own parish — elect good vestry members who are politically aware and informed, and who will appoint good rector search committees, and whose senior warden will be “as wise as a serpent” in dealing with people of very different goals, values, and ideologies on diocesan staffs.

I think all of us recognize that TECusa’s days as a healthy or functional organization are over. I’ve been in corporate life for many years now and I’ve never seen an organization do so much damage to itself — to its reputation, its customer base, its finances, its leadership, and so much more — and survive the damage intact. Traditional Christians in TEC are surveying an increasingly smoldering ruin — membership and ASA continuing to plummet, finances declining, services [if such you call them] and programs entirely deleted at the national level, dozens of lawsuits at which millions are being spent, and a general eating of the seed corn throughout TEC — and the most we can hope for is to salvage a few groups of us, a few parishes, some dioceses, huddle up, and wait for the organization to cease moving. Eventually, even a massive creature who has been plunging downhill will stop sliding at some point, after he is dead. There will be lots of crackling brush, and downed trees, and general chaos and destruction in its sliding wake — but eventually, it will stop moving downhill.

At that point, there will be plenty of opportunity for fruitful engagement and venturing out of the caves and hideaways. Good things can even come from destruction and loss and death — although it is painful to observe for all of us.

The good news is that the past two Canons to the Ordinary of this diocese had very unknown histories, and thus it was far more challenging for some to learn of their theology and then to figure out in what direction they would attempt to lead a parish.

But that is not the case in the selection of Father Tipton. He is a well-known revisionist leader in the Diocese of South Carolina. He has an extensive track record. And there are plenty of people who are very glad to share, from his now-former diocese.

So at least, every senior warden, vestry member, or rare conservative priest in this diocese can be clear about the direction that he would like for this diocese to take and for our parishes to take.

That is a real, and up-front blessing — it’s a vast improvement from the past 10 or so years.

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