South Carolina withdraws from the Episcopal Church: The Church of England Newspaper, November 22, 2012 November 26, 2012Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
Tags: Katharine Jefferts Schori, Mark Lawrence, secession
The Diocese of South Carolina has withdrawn from the Episcopal Church of the United States.
Delegates to a special meeting of the diocesan convention held on 17 November at St Philip’s Church in Charleston voted to affirm the disaffiliation of the diocese from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church taken last month by the Standing Committee and its bishop, the Rt Rev Mark Lawrence.
The split comes after years of theological and political disputes between the conservative diocese and the liberal hierarchy of the national Church over issues of human sexuality, the nature and person of Jesus, and the doctrines of marriage. Issues came to a head at the 77th General Convention last July when the diocesan delegation and Bishop Lawrence withdrew from the Convention after it adopted provisional rites for the blessing of gay marriages.
Writing to the diocese on 15 November, US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said the Convention had no authority to remove the diocese from the General Convention. “The alteration, dissolution, or departure of a diocese of The Episcopal Church requires the consent of General Convention, which has not been consulted,” she said.
However, the Church’s constitution and canons are silent on this point, and the question of diocesan secession is currently before the state courts of Texas, California and Illinois.
Saturday’s vote is the second time the diocese has withdrawn from the General Convention. During the American Civil War the diocese left the Episcopal Church to join the Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. In 1868 the diocese rejoined the Episcopal Church of the USA – the last “Confederate” diocese to do so.
However, Bishop Mark Lawrence told his diocese that this time round the diocese would not affiliate with any other Anglican body, but for the time being would be an extra-provincial diocese of the Anglican Communion.
“We have heard from Archbishops, Presiding Bishops, and diocesan bishops from Kenya to Singapore, England to Egypt, Ireland to the Indian Ocean, Canada to Australia,” Bishop Lawrence told the diocese.
“They represent the overwhelmingly vast majority of members of the Anglican Communion and they consider me as a faithful Anglican Bishop in good standing and they consider this diocese as part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church,” he reported.
Bishop Lawrence told The Church of England Newspaper he had been in conversation with bishops of the Church of England who were “eager to help in various ways.” However, he declined to say more, noting it was best to say nothing more at this time. But South Carolina Episcopalians were conscious they were “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses praying for us, supporting us, interceding on our behalf with the martyrs,” the Bishop said.
A quorum present, three resolutions were brought to the convention for action. The first affirmed by voice vote the disaffiliation from the national Church taken by the standing committee and bishop. The second approved by voice vote amendments to the diocesan constitution removing all references to the national Church.
A third resolution that amended the diocesan canons to remove references to the national Church was approved by a vote by orders with 71 clergy in favour and three abstaining, while in the lay order it was passed with 47 in favour and five abstaining.
Those abstaining told CEN their congregations had not yet decided on what course of action to pursue. Approximately 12 congregations were not present at the meeting and of those, some are known to be active members of the faction loyal to the national Church.
In a press conference held at the close of the meeting, the canon to the ordinary, the Rev Jim Lewis said: “For the sake of clarity, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina is our legally incorporated identity. We have been the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina and remains so.”
First printed in the Church of England Newspaper.