UPPER SOUTH CAROLINA: Details emerge in Trinity church dispute

david at virtueonline.org david at virtueonline.org
Sat Jul 24 19:10:59 EDT 2010


UPPER SOUTH CAROLINA: Details emerge in Trinity church dispute 
Leaders were considering removing dean; root causes of conflict remain unclear

By CAROLYN CLICK
http://www.thestate.com/2010/07/17/1380546/details-emerge-in-trinity-church.html 
July 17, 2010

The top leaders of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral were preparing to oust their now-suspended dean, the Very Rev. Philip C. Linder, triggering a chain of events that led to the dramatic intervention by the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, the bishop said in a statement Friday.

"Those of you who are puzzled or angered by my decision to suspend the Dean are asking many questions, some of which can only be answered with replies we are unable to give you for privacy reasons," Bishop W. Andrew Waldo said in the letter posted on Trinity's website.

"What must firmly be said, however, is that your wardens and chancellor came to me with a call for a special vestry meeting, signed by themselves and 16 vestry members, to consider the dissolution of the pastoral relationship between the Cathedral and Philip Linder."

Waldo said he ordered Linder, 50, not to speak to parishioners of the historic downtown congregation while the dispute was under mediation, an order Linder violated, Waldo said. The root causes of the conflict between the vestry and Linder have not been made public and remain unclear.

"My goal in this case was to create a space for mediating a resolution that would benefit both Philip and the cathedral," Waldo said. "Philip's breach of that pastoral directive by numerous contacts with parishioners and staff, with and through his wife, Ellen, has put the health and wholeness of the Cathedral community at great risk."

Linder's lawyer, Richard Briebart, a member of Trinity who is representing Linder for free, acknowledged that mediation is more difficult because the conflict has become public, but he disputed Waldo's assertion that the dean violated a pastoral directive.

Waldo's letter was accompanied by a resolution from the vestry, also posted on the church's website, which detailed a widening, and now perhaps irreparable, rift between the congregation's top leaders and Linder and the call for a special meeting to resolve the issue.

"After prayerful contemplation and with heavy hearts, we concluded that such a meeting was necessary because of concerns regarding Dean Linder's leadership that are broadly shared by us and by several former wardens of this parish," the resolution said. "We want to be absolutely clear that this matter is not merely the result of a personal conflict with any one person." The two documents did little to illuminate the divisions that sparked the conflict.

The tumult over Linder's suspension has generated numerous calls and e-mails to the bishop's office and the downtown Gothic cathedral, home to many of Columbia's most prominent and wealthy families. The congregation is in the midst of a $7 million renovation of the historic sanctuary on Sumter Street, and under Linder's watch built the $6 million Trinity Center for Mission and Ministry.

By Friday morning, a day after Trinity members learned of the bishop's action, member Harriet Keenan said she had already heard "a thousand different stories" about the cause of Linder's suspension.

"I'm devoted to him, and I hate that all this is happening," Keenan, a sixth-generation Trinity Episcopalian, said.

Keenan and her son, Neel Keenan, worked closely with Linder in the renovation last year of Trinity's Keenan Chapel, in memory of her late husband, Walter Keenan.

"I think he (her late husband) would have been appalled by all of this," she said.

Waldo, too, acknowledged the pain that the suspension has caused Trinity's membership.

"The road ahead is now rockier than it should have been, and I am deeply sorry that we have to walk this particular road together," Waldo said.

*****

Trinity Cathedral Vestry Signs Resolution
http://images.acswebnetworks.com/1/739/Vestryresolutionforwebsite.pdf 
July 17, 2010

RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, the Vestry and Wardens of Trinity Cathedral Parish recognize and seek to execute their fiduciary obligations in a manner that befits the trust placed upon us by this community of faith; and

WHEREAS, we are saddened by the events that have unfolded over the last few days and are concerned about the impact of those events on the health of the parish; and

WHEREAS, we understand the congregation's desire to know when a significant change occurs at Trinity Cathedral and the reasons underlying such a change; and

WHEREAS, our relationships with one another in this community of faith are of paramount importance to us, second only to our faith in Jesus Christ and our abiding hope for His saving grace; therefore, be it

RESOLVED That the Vestry and Wardens wish to communicate to the parish at large that we recently found it necessary to call for a special meeting of the Vestry to consider the question of whether to seek a dissolution of the pastoral relationship between Dean Linder and the Cathedral.

After prayerful contemplation and with heavy hearts, we concluded that such a meeting was necessary because of concerns regarding Dean Linder's leadership that are broadly shared by us and by several former wardens of this parish. We want to be absolutely clear that this matter is not merely the result of a personal conflict with any one person. Each of us exercised our own sober judgment in making this painful decision. We are advised and believe that further discussion of the concerns giving rise to our decision at this time would be unwise and not in the best interests of the parish.

The Vestry and Wardens sought the assistance of our Bishop earlier this week in hopes that the canonical process we set in motion could be avoided and that another path forward might be reached. We are deeply saddened by the subsequent events of the last two days. Those events have taken this matter out of our hands and placed it within Bishop Waldo's ecclesiastical authority.

We are unified in our profound love for Trinity, in our support and appreciation for the leadership of its clergy and staff, and in our determination to do all that we can to help this community of faith to get through this most difficult time. We ask for your prayers for Dean Linder and his family and for all of us who call Trinity our spiritual home.

We, as elected members of the Trinity Foundation Commission and/or former wardens of Trinity Cathedral Parish, concur fully in the above resolution:

Elizabeth S. Clark 
Nancy B. Holt 
Gene Dinkins 
Robert M. Crooks
Katharine M. Zeigler 
J. Lee Ayers 
E. Wade Mullins 
Brett Frantz, Junior Warden 
Mary R. Belser, Senior Warden 
Joan T. Danforth 
Emily D. Moses 
Kirby D. Shealy III 
Vance J. Bettis 
Mark M. James 
Helen W. Taylor 
Mary P. Weston 
Howard E. Duvall, Jr. 
Kent Wolfe 
Frank J. Brunson 
Thomas B. Edmunds 
Asbury H. Gibbes 
J. Lyles Glenn 
John S. Hill 
Rodney R. Hull 
Frank B. B. Knowlton 
Elizabeth M. McKay 
Julius W. McKay 
John H. Moorman, Jr. 
James B. Murphy, Jr. 
D. Cravens Ravenel 
B. Rush Smith 
David Sojourner 
Alvin Strasburger 
Thomas E. Suggs 
Bud M. Tibshrany 
G. Cameron Todd 
Robert L. Van 
Doren Rhett O. Wolfe

*****

Bishop Writes The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina

July 18, 2010 

Trinity Cathedral 
1100 Sumter Street 
Columbia, South Carolina 29201

Dear People of Trinity Cathedral,

I know that today you find yourselves in a state of shock over the suspension from ministry this week of your Dean, Philip Linder. I, too, am deeply saddened and acutely aware of the pain many of you feel in response to this news.

Those of you who are puzzled or angered by my decision to suspend the Dean are asking many questions, some of which can only be answered with replies we are unable to give you for privacy reasons. What must firmly be said, however, is that your wardens and chancellor came to me with a call for a special vestry meeting, signed by themselves and 16 vestry members, to consider the dissolution of the pastoral relationship between the Cathedral and Philip Linder. That the level of support was so high indicated to me that there was an acutely strained relationship between the Dean and his lay leadership.

My role as bishop is to receive such documents and supporting information and to make a judgment on next steps. In that capacity and in light of the supporting documentation, I judged it critical that Philip refrain from contact with staff or parishioners until the concerns could be presented at vestry with Philip present. I issued what is known as a Pastoral Directive to enforce that principle. For clergy under the authority of a bishop, such directives are mandatory, with specific canonical provisions and consequences for non-compliance. All clergy make a solemn and holy vow to abide by this authority at their ordinations. My goal in this case was to create a space for mediating a resolution that would benefit both Philip and the Cathedral. Philip's breach of that pastoral directive by numerous contacts with parishioners and staff, with and through his wife, Ellen, has put the health and wholeness of the Cathedral community at great risk.

These breaches left me no alternative but to pursue other means-in this case, suspension-in order to gain time to address the vestry's concerns. Because of the nature of this situation, the suspension must remain in effect until the process set in motion by Philip's behavior has run its course. That process precludes any contact between Philip and staff or members of the church. Once again, this is not the path any of us would have wished, least of all me, but it is the path Philip has chosen.

As I have prayed the Lord's Prayer over the course of these events, I find myself praying it more and more slowly-recognizing that I and all involved are humbled before the words "your will be done" as we move through the process that is now unfolding. "Forgive us our sins" applies to all of us who make decisions of consequence to others, and most of all to those of us who might be tempted make such decisions lightly or unadvisedly. The road ahead is now rockier than it should have been, and I am deeply sorry that we have to walk this particular road together.

I do however trust that other "demand" we make of our Lord when we say, "Give us today our daily bread." I trust that God will truly provide for us even as we walk uncharted, painful paths and that he will lead us to health and wholeness. And-dare I say it-even joy.

Two things in closing: First, I want to articulate my confidence in the wardens and vestry leadership of this parish-who have undertaken these difficult matters with great courage, prayer and intention for the health of the Cathedral community-and also my confidence in the Trinity staff. You have gifted, thoughtful and faithfully motivated leadership.

Second, I want to ask for your prayers to be lifted up to God for all of us to open our hands, eyes and ears to God's call for us to be one even in the midst of our disagreements, confusion and hurt. I ask for your prayers for Philip and Ellen and their family. For myself, I will continue to act as wisely and prayerfully as I know how and always with the long-term health and vitality of God's Church at the center of my being.

St. Paul calls us to "run with perseverance the race" set before us. Perseverance means that we press on towards the prize of the heavenly call in Christ Jesus even when the road presents challenges we neither understand nor know yet how to overcome.

However this current difficulty comes out, I know that this community will thrive. And I commit my prayers and my service to that end. In the name of Jesus Christ,

The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, 
Bishop The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina 
http://images.acswebnetworks.com/1/739/WaldolettertoTrinity.pdf




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