Diocese distances itself from Episcopal Church

Convention delegates approve four of five resolutions

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: October 31, 2009 in South Carolina News Notes

Photo Credit: miraclebaby, via Flickr.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

Photo Credit: miraclebaby, via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Meeting in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. on Oct. 23, 300 delegates from parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina voted to distance themselves from the national Episcopal Church.

The diocese, which includes all of Eastern and Coastal South Carolina, has been opposed to the national church’s movement to include LGBT people in the full life of the church.

South Carolina’s special convention was restricted to delegates, and visitors and the media were barred from attending. Four of five proposed resolutions were approved.

The first resolution, approved by 86.7 percent of those in attendance, reaffirmed the diocese’s commitment to live “under the authority of Holy Scripture” and “the unique Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

The second resolution, approved by clergy 87-17 and by parishes 39-8, authorized the bishop and diocesan standing committees to “begin withdrawing from all bodies of the Episcopal Church that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture, the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ …until such bodies show a willingness to repent of such actions.”

The Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, theologian for the diocese, characterized the second resolution as “a withdrawal from some of the national councils of the church. It’s about as far as you can get but still be in,” according to Episcopal Life, the U.S. denomination’s independent monthly newspaper.

A third approved resolution encouraged congregations to “enter into their own Missional Relationships with orthodox congregations isolated across North America.” The fourth resolution endorsed one of three versions of a new Anglican Covenant proposed by worldwide Anglican Church leaders in 2003.

The last resolution had called on members of the diocese to condemn anti-LGBT prejudice, while “speak[ing] the truth in love.”

“This Diocese will not condone prejudice or deny the dignity of any person, including but not limited to, those who believe themselves to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered,” the resolution read. “Nevertheless, we will speak the truth in love as Holy Scripture commends for the amendment of life required of disciples of Christ. It is love of neighbor and the abiding concern for their spiritual well being that compels such honesty and will never allow us to remain silent.”

The Diocese of South Carolina was originally formed in 1706 and re-organized in 1785. The diocese is home to 76 parishes and close to 30,000 members. Bishop Mark Lawrence opposed the election of openly gay New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003. In 2006, the diocese rejected the authority of U.S. Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. The diocese also opposed two LGBT-affirming resolutions presented and approved at the denomination’s national convention earlier this year.

Several congregations and some dioceses across the country have voted to leave the U.S. Episcopal Church.

In October, the Vatican announced new regulations for accepting “disaffected Anglicans” into Roman Catholic membership, allowing entire groups of Anglicans to become Roman Catholics and their priests to remain married.

Read South Carolinian Charlie Smith’s guest commentary on the Diocese of South Carolina’s convention.

Correction: The original version of this article in print and online cited the Diocese’s meeting location as Columbia. The Diocese met in Mt. Pleasant. Columbia is not in the Diocese of South Carolina. We apologize for any misunderstandings or inconveniences.