Special Convention Approves Disassociation from TEC
November 18, 2012

Bishop Lawrence at Convention - "We've Moved on!"

In This Issue:
Reflections on the 11/17 Convention
ENS REPORT: South Carolinians affirm decision to leave Episcopal Church
Post & Courier Report on Convention
Bishop Lawrence - "We've Moved on!"
Commentary: Diocese has long history of moving away from TEC
Continuing Episcopal Diocese Clergy Day - 11/15/12
Join The Episcopal Forum
Contact Info
 
Reflections on the 11/17 Convention
by Melinda Lucka, president of EFSC:

"We were saddened by the actions that occurred at the November 17, 2012 Convention of the former diocesan leaders, but are encouraged that many people, lay and clergy, are choosing to remain in The Episcopal Church.

It is important to note that any delegations which voted in favor of yesterday's resolutions, voted as individuals only. Parishes cannot vote to leave The Episcopal Church.

The organization that sponsored the Convention under the former diocesan leadership is not the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. It is a corporate entity that had previously been in communion with TEC, but in 2010 amended its charter documents to break away from TEC; therefore it essentially is outside of the Church, and outside of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

If there has been any doubt about Bishop Lawrence's position, his actions yesterday evidenced his clear break from the Episcopal Church. He not only presided over a Convention that had as its sole purpose to finalize changes to the Constitution and Canons of his organization to remove all remaining references to TEC and General Convention, he was very clear in his address that he left TEC. Further, he voted by voice vote for the changes to the Canons that leave his group with no affiliation with the Church.

We need to keep in mind, as the Presiding Bishop stated in her pastoral letter on the 15th, that no Diocese can leave The Episcopal Church without the approval of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. That of course has not happened and will not happen in our situation. The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina continues in full communion with The Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church has authorized the formation of a Steering Committee that is assisting the Church to reorganize the Episcopal Diocese so that there will be new leadership elected at the appropriate time, and to work to help Episcopalians across the Diocese communicate and support one another and find communities where they can worship together in The Episcopal Church.

For more information about the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, please visit website below of the "(continuing in TEC) Episcopal Diocese of SC.
Link to (CONTINUING IN TEC) Episcopal Diocese of SC

ENS REPORT: South Carolinians affirm decision to leave Episcopal Church
By Sarah Moïse Young | November 17, 2012 86 Comments |

[Episcopal News Service – Charleston, South Carolina] The majority of South Carolina Episcopalians who attended a special convention at St. Philip’s Church here Nov. 17 affirmed actions by Bishop Mark Lawrence and the diocesan Standing Committee a month ago to disaffiliate the diocese from the Episcopal Church.

Those actions took place after Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori restricted Lawrence’s ministry on Oct. 17 after the church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops certified to her that he had abandoned the Episcopal Church “by an open renunciation of the discipline of the church.”

On that same day, the Standing Committee announced that the action of the Disciplinary Board “triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions of the diocese, which simultaneously disaffiliated the diocese from the Episcopal Church and called a special convention.”

Jefferts Schori issued a pastoral letter Nov. 15 to Episcopalians in South Carolina offering prayers and support for those who wished to remain in the Episcopal Church.

“The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina continues to be a constituent part of The Episcopal Church, even if a number of its leaders have departed,” she noted. “If it becomes fully evident that those former leaders have, indeed, fully severed their ties with The Episcopal Church, new leaders will be elected and installed by action of a Diocesan Convention recognized by the wider Episcopal Church, in accordance with our Constitution and Canons.”

Lawrence referred to the special convention as “the Valley of Decision” during his address and asserted, “It is time to turn the page.” He referred to attempts to prevent separation of the diocese, and his oft-mentioned issues of theology, morality and disagreement with church canons.

“So be it…We have withdrawn from that church…We have moved on. With the Standing Committee’s resolution of disassociation, the fact is accomplished: legally and canonically,” he said.

While the bishop referred to numerous letters of support from church leaders, he did not announce any open offers of affiliation with the Anglican Communion, and he confirmed that for now the separatist diocese will affiliate with no one. In a conference call following the convention, he confirmed that alignment is not on the table at present.

However, during his address, he claimed that “for now and the foreseeable future, having withdrawn from our association with TEC, we remain an extra-provincial diocese within the larger Anglican Communion.”

Such a designation requires action by the Anglican Consultative Council, which concluded a 12-day meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, on Nov. 7. No action on South Carolina was taken during that meeting and the council will not meet again until May 2016.
Following his address, Lawrence called upon the convention to vote on three resolutions.

The first resolution affirmed the actions of the bishop and the Standing Committee and stated “that we are no longer in any relationship with TEC, including union or association with in any capacity.” The resolution also had the convention declare that Lawrence is the diocese’s “rightful bishop.”

“By stating this, we declare that as God has sent Bishop Lawrence to be our bishop, only he [God] has the authority to declare otherwise,” the resolution continued.

The resolution also said the convention “repudiates actions of TEC purportedly taken against our bishop and declare null and void any claim by any member or representative of TEC to have any authority whatsoever over this diocese or any authority over God’s congregation at any of her parishes who willingly by their presence at this convention and their vote on this resolution so declare.”

A second resolution amended the diocesan constitution, removing all mention of the Episcopal Church, including any reference to the “accession clause,” in which a diocese declares that it accedes to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. That declaration is required in Article V, Section 1 of the church’s constitution.

The diocesan convention had previously revised its constitution limiting the accession clause by saying it would accede to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church only they were not “inconsistent with or contradictory to” the diocesan constitution and canons.

The resolution also removed any reference to the General Convention, making its only governing body the diocesan convention. The third resolution removed all references of the Episcopal Church from the diocesan canons.

Forty-two parishes attended the special convention along with 12 missions, sending a total of 170 lay delegates. There are 78 congregations in the diocese.

The first two resolutions were accepted by acclamation. The third resolution to change the church canons passed with a 90 percent majority on a roll call vote — including a vote by Lawrence. The vote on the resolution, which required a two-thirds majority to pass, included several abstentions.

According to a fact sheet posted on the Episcopal Church’s website: “Dioceses cannot leave the Episcopal Church. While some clergy and individuals may choose to leave, congregations and property remain in the diocese to be used for the mission of the Episcopal Church.”
Link to ENS Article

Post & Courier Report on Convention
by: Adam Parker -

At a special convention hosted by St. Philip’s Church on Saturday, the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence asserted his leadership of a sovereign Anglican diocese that he said has been the victim of a wrongful intrusion by the Episcopal Church and its Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Bishop Mark Lawrence, from his special convention address..........that his time in the Lowcountry — he was first elected bishop in 2006 and ultimately consecrated in January 2008 — has been spent in the “Valley of Decision.”

“I trust you will understand that I have strived in these past five years, contrary to what some may believe or assert, to keep us from this day, from what I have referred to in numerous deanery and parish gatherings as the Valley of Decision,” Lawrence said in his convention address.

An unhappy convergence of theology, morality and church policy has led to a collision with the leadership of the Episcopal Church, he said.

“We move on. Those who are not with us, you may go in peace, your properties intact. Those who have yet to decide, we give you what time you need. Persuasion is almost always the preferable policy, not coercion.”

Delegates at the convention voted overwhelmingly to pass three resolutions, the first affirming that ties with the Episcopal Church are severed, the second and third amending the constitution and canons to reflect local autonomy.

The diocese has 71 parishes and mission churches; 55 were represented at the convention. Only four parishes and two missions abstained from voting for the resolution changing canon law because their members were still in a discernment stage.

About 16 parishes did not participate in the voting at all, apparently because they remain aligned with the church.

A few clergy also expressed concerns about severing all ties to the Episcopal Church, but a vast majority voted firmly in favor of disassociation.

Lawrence and others have cited history to justify their actions. “The Diocese of South Carolina, established in 1785, predates the establishment of the Episcopal Church (TEC), which was established in 1789,” officials stated in a fact sheet distributed before the convention. “It existed before TEC. Though it has disassociated from TEC its identity has not changed.”

In his address, Lawrence asserted the Diocese of South Carolina remains part of the Anglican Communion and has received words of encouragement from Anglican leaders worldwide.

“So for now and the foreseeable future, having withdrawn from our association with TEC, we remain an extra-provincial Diocese within the larger Anglican Communion, buttressed by the knowledge we are recognized as a legitimate diocese by the vast majority of Anglicans around the world,” he said.

People in the diocese who are remaining in the church said Lawrence was mischaracterizing the church and diocesan history.

The diocese did not exist before the Episcopal Church, only a group of parishes (geographies) that were part of an established church in the region, the Church of England, said Barbara Mann, past president of the Episcopal Forum, a group loyal to the church.

After the Episcopal Church was founded, those parishes joined to become a founding diocese.

Though Lawrence and his colleagues have announced their independence, church officials do not recognize their claim, according to Steve Skardon, a cradle Episcopalian and critic of the breakaway efforts. “A diocese is to the church what a state is to the nation,” he said. There is no constitutional provision for secession.

To Skardon, who maintains a website devoted to the politics in the local diocese, the legal and administrative posturing is “all about property.”

In a pastoral letter to the diocese released last week, Jefferts Schori stated the church’s position on separation.

“While some leaders have expressed a desire to leave The Episcopal Church, the Diocese has not left,” she wrote. “It cannot, by its own action. The alteration, dissolution or departure of a diocese of The Episcopal Church requires the consent of General Convention, which has not been consulted.”

Local officials argue otherwise. Lawrence has said efforts by a newly formed steering committee loyal to the church are fraudulent and malicious attempts to usurp the name, diocesan seal and oversight of those who no longer wish to be associated with a church that has abandoned “the doctrine, discipline and worship” of traditional Anglicanism.

Melinda Lucka, current president of the Episcopal Forum, said the local diocese now is a distinct, unaffiliated corporate entity. “It can’t be in the diocese, because it no longer belongs to the Episcopal Church,” she said.

Last week, a new steering committee was formed to begin the process of reconstituting an administration of what the church calls a “continuing diocese.”
Link to P & C Article

Bishop Lawrence - "We've Moved on!"

Special Convention Approves Canonical and Constitutional Amendments Regarding Disassociation

On, Saturday, November 17, 2012, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina met in Special Convention at the “mother church of the Diocese,” historic St. Philip’s Church in Charleston. There, an overwhelming majority passed three resolutions. (View the Resolutions.)


DISASSOCIATION

The first, by voice vote, affirmed the act of disassociation taken by the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Diocese, in response to actions of The Episcopal Church.

AMENDMENTS TO THE DIOCESAN CONSTITUTION
The second resolution, also by voice vote, passed on first reading. It approved amendments to the Diocesan Constitution removing all references to the Episcopal Church.

AMENDMENTS TO THE DIOCESAN CANONS

The final vote, which was by orders, was for approval of amendments to the diocesan canons, likewise removing all such reference to the Episcopal Church. It passed with an overwhelming vote of 96% (71 clergy) in the clergy order, with 3 abstaining. In the lay order, the vote passed with 90% in favor (47 yes with 5 abstentions).

Excerpt from Bishop Mark Lawrence, from his special convention address by Post & Courier:

This has never been about who is welcome or not welcome in our church. It’s about what we shall tell them about Jesus Christ, his mercy, his grace and his truth — it is about what we shall tell them when they come and what we shall share when we go out.

We have spent far too many hours and days and years in a dubious and fruitless resistance to the relentless path of TEC. And while some of us still struggle in grief at what has happened and where these extraordinary days have brought us, I believe it is time to turn the page. The leaders of TEC have made their positions known — our theological and creedal commitments regarding the trustworthiness of Scripture, the uniqueness and universality of Jesus Christ, and other precious truths, while tolerated, are just opinions among others; our understanding of human nature, the given-ness of gender as male and female, woven by God into the natural and created order, is now declared by canon law to be unacceptable; our understanding of marriage as proclaimed in the Book of Common Prayer “established by God in creation” and espoused by Anglicans around the world hangs precariously in the life of the Episcopal Church by a thin and fraying thread; and our understanding of the church’s polity, which until the legal strategy of the present Presiding Bishop’s litigation team framed their legal arguments, was a widely held and respected position in this church. Now to hold it and express it is tantamount to misconduct or worse, to act upon it is ruled as abandonment of this church.
Link to (DISASSOCIATED) SC Diocesan Group Website

Commentary: Diocese has long history of moving away from TEC
by The Rev. Dr. William L. Hills Jr. Special to The Post and Courier Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2012

As a native son in the Diocese of South Carolina, I am deeply saddened, though not surprised, at the recent actions of the Diocese of South Carolina (“the Diocese”) and its relationship with the Episcopal Church (TEC). Several articles in this paper have attempted to describe the situation. This is another view.

For over 40 years I have observed this diocese moving apart from TEC. The rhetoric of schism, division and separation began years ago under previous bishops. Bishop Mark Lawrence has now been issued a “certificate of abandonment” and the diocese would have us believe his actions are innocent and the results are all due to the presiding bishop and the so-called “national church.”

It is at least questionable that this diocese portrays itself as “right” and “orthodox” while almost 2 million other Christian Episcopalians are viewed as “wrong” and “sinful.” I do not support this unhappy division. While many in the diocese are rejoicing at this secession, there are clearly priests and parishes and laypeople who are not sure that this is correct or necessary.

It is possible that the diocese is not nearly as unanimous in its thinking as the leadership has believed. I am praying for divine intervention to prevent animosity, division and legal battles, all of which detract immensely from the mission of the church. The hour is late, and I write to encourage those who want to remain as Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina to make themselves known to the clergy and diocesan leadership.

I was at the General Convention when our presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, was elected by our House of Bishops and House of Deputies. The convention hall was overcome with what many thought to be an action of the Holy Spirit. In the presence of thousands of Christian Episcopalians, observing the workings of our bicameral structure, worshiping together, and sitting at table in sometimes difficult discussions, my experience was very positive.

The Diocese of South Carolina, however, chose to find fault with this process, as they have in the past, and separated themselves from the convention. Reports to this diocese from the deputations were generally scathing. TEC is not perfect, but neither is the Diocese of South Carolina, and I think it improbable that the diocese will find another alliance more perfect.

I am thankful that there are still some parishes in this diocese which refuse to break with TEC and consider themselves Episcopalians. The diocese has vilified the work and the people of the Episcopal Forum, even as its purpose was solely to press for unity and to keep the diocese in TEC.

There seems to be a natural tendency to resist union, especially among the more vocal secessionists. Along with that has been an increasingly un-Anglican and fundamentalist approach to scripture and “church.” A graceful and more moderate approach has been transplanted by “right thinking,” sin and judgment, and the “branding” of certain sinful people.

While most of the dioceses in the U.S. encourage open searches for priests in parishes with vacancies, this diocese has chosen to select priests who seem to fit the narrow line. With the full knowledge of the diocesan leadership, priests and parishes in this diocese have declared themselves “in impaired communion” (if not out of communion) with the Episcopal Church and have done their best to dissociate from it.

One of the effects of diocesan strategy, unfortunately, has been a rise in congregationalism.

Now the leadership of this diocese seems to believe that it can “leave” and take the people and property with them, and the larger church, to which they have been canonically tied, should just acquiesce. Some of our approved, good and orthodox Episcopal seminaries have been excluded by this diocese as “not where we should send our people.”

The effect of negative and divisive thinking in this diocese has been to foster the development of laity and priests with a mindset for division and schism. As a result, we now have a rather theocratic diocese, many moderate priests have gone elsewhere, and this diocese is polarized from the great majority of our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Episcopal Church.

It is no surprise that the church is divided when, for 40 years, this diocese has been fostering and proposing division. It is sad to see the diocese continue to be so “right-thinking” and so willing to continue the rhetoric of division and schism when all around it are dioceses of a different mind.

In spite of his congeniality, Bishop Mark Lawrence seems to continue the separatist paths of previous bishops. His issuance of quitclaim deeds to the parishes has been the most recent presentment against him. I continue to hope for diocesan leadership more closely aligned with TEC that takes a more positive view of the Good News.

In the face of the recent diocesan actions, I write to encourage Christian Episcopalians in the diocese. The times ahead may be difficult, but there are brothers and sisters and all sorts and conditions of people in this diocese to stand with you. It remains to be seen how many clergy and parishes will actually leave and how the battles for leadership, land and buildings will play out.

The first and second commandment must be considered: “Love God, and Love your Neighbor.” Schism cannot be justified in favor of theological “correctness” without counting the very real human costs of secession. I believe that Jesus was “radically inclusive” and a lover of all people. There are still committed and caring Christians, and moderate and inclusive clergy and parishes in this diocese, and “the Episcopal Church welcomes you.”

The Rev. Dr. William L. (Roy) Hills Jr. is a retired priest in the Diocese of South Carolina and a priest-affiliate at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Charleston.

Continuing Episcopal Diocese Clergy Day - 11/15/12

60 - 70 clergy from the Episcopal Diocese of SC gathered at St. Mark's in Charleston to learn more about the ongoing re-organization of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of SC .

The group celebrated Holy Eucharist and enjoyed fellowship. The preacher was the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg, he said in part:

......... I have two observations to share with you ... two thoughts I want you to take away from our gathering and to consider in days to come.

First, the Church will be OK. In fact, eventually, the Church may actually thrive. There are too many examples from church history for us to anticipate otherwise. People, including church leaders, have done their best to do damage to the Church through the years ... even to destroy it. Yet, the Church is still here. The Joshua’s of history always want something less than what the Church is called to be. And yet, the Church is still here, calling all of us to be and do and become more than we thought possible. Indeed, the dream of God for us is far greater than we can imagine, even now ... especially now.

As for us charged with the task of leadership, we need to admit with humility that the Church continues to exist often in spite of us, rather than because of us. And it has been so from the beginning. Remember, there was a church split even before Jesus died. And church splits have been happening ever since. The Church continues to exist in spite of those of us who are parts of it.

I want to add here another reason for my optimism about the Church over the long haul. As The Episcopal Church, we are connected to caring people and to institutions of support beyond South Carolina. In our time of need, we will find support and encouragement from others who were not known to us previously.

The larger community of which we are part will be there for us ... and the relationships we have through that community offer much to be thankful for.

Thus, the Church will indeed be OK ... and perhaps even thrive.

Now, my second observation for you is this. You need to take care of yourselves. These are stressful times, and they are trying times. In these times, you need to take special care of yourselves.

Link to Bishop's Sermon

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