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South Carolina withdraws from the Episcopal Church: The Church of England Newspaper, November 22, 2012 November 26, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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The Diocese of South Carolina has withdrawn from the Episcopal Church of the United States.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Saturday’s vote is the second time the diocese has withdrawn from the General Convention.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.

South Carolina mulls secession: The Church of England Newspaper, August 12, 2012 p 5. August 15, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Church of England Newspaper, South Carolina.
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The Diocese of South Carolina is on the brink of secession from the Episcopal Church, following the 77th General Convention’s vote to permit a local option on same-sex blessings.

At a 25 July meeting of the South Carolina clergy, Bishop Mark Lawrence said he no longer sees a place for the diocese in the General Convention and announced he would spend the next 25 days praying as to what his, and the diocese’s, next steps might be.

At last month’s General Convention in Indianapolis, the Episcopal Church voted to endorse provisional local rites for the blessing of same-sex unions. Some dioceses have interpreted the vote as permission to authorise their clergy to perform gay marriages in states that recognise such unions. Bishop Lawrence and six of the eight members of the South Carolina deputation to the Convention withdrew from its proceedings after the gay blessings vote, perturbed by what they saw as abandonment by the Episcopal Church of the universal witness of the Church on the purpose and meaning of Christian marriage.

In a letter prepared on 30 July by the canon to the ordinary of South Carolina, the Rev Jim Lewis, a summary of the clergy meeting was shared with those unable to be present.

Bishop Lawrence summarised the remarks he gave to the House of Bishops in private session when he announced his withdrawal. By voting for the “adoption of authorised provisional rites to bless same gender relationships, the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church have been profoundly changed,” the Bishop said.

“He told the Bishops that the magnitude of these changes was such that he could no longer in good conscience continue in the business of the Convention. In fact, he was left with the grave question of whether he could continue as a bishop of an institution that had adopted such changes,” the letter said.

Canon Lewis wrote that “since that time, and in the gathering of the Diocesan Clergy, the Bishop stated that he believes the Episcopal Church has crossed a line he cannot personally cross. He also expressed to the clergy that though he might act one way if he were a priest in a diocese, as a Bishop he feels deeply his vow before God to faithfully lead and shepherd the Diocese of South Carolina. Both dimensions of this dilemma weigh upon him at this time.”

Bishop Lawrence urged the clergy not to take any precipitous actions in the coming weeks and asked “for a period of grace as he prayerfully seeks the face of the Lord, and asks for God’s direction,” the letter said.

“Upon his return at the end of August he will meet with the Standing Committee and the clergy of the Diocese to share that discernment and his sense of the path forward.”

Should Bishop Lawrence recommend the Diocese withdraw or distance itself from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church it is likely that a large majority will follow him. However a small number of congregations and clergy are self-identified supporters of the national Church and will likely instigate civil and canonical legal proceedings against the bishop and departing clergy should they secede.

Should Bishop Lawrence recommend staying, it is likely that a number of the Diocese’s parishes will unilaterally withdraw.

In the neighbouring Diocese of Georgia, one parish has already announced its decision to quit the Episcopal Church. Last week the rector and vestry of St John’s Episcopal Church in Moultrie announced they were resigning their offices and would form St Mark’s Anglican Church under the oversight of the Anglican Church of North America.

The Rev William McQueen, the former rector of St John’s, told The Church of England Newspaper that the vestry had turned over the keys of the church to the bishop and would meet for the time being in a chapel provided by a local Baptist church. He expected all of the congregation would leave St John’s.

“We have disagreed with The Episcopal Church for a long time, most notably over the issues of women’s ordination, the national Church’s stance on abortion, certainly the events of 2003 and beyond, but most importantly the erosion of the historic catholic faith surrounding who Jesus Christ is, and the authority and interpretation of Holy Scripture,” Fr McQueen said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.