The Diocese of South Carolina held a special convention today to vote to affirm the Bishop and Standing Committee’s resolution to leave the Episcopal Church. Episcopal News Service reports:
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.”
The bishop 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.
…during his address, he claimed that “for now and the foreseeable future, having withdrawn from our association with TEC, we remain an extra-provincial diocese within the larger Anglican Communion.”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 2015.
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.”
From the bishop’s speech to the convention – live blogged (notes not verbatim by the Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon):
You may remember that during a stormy first consent process I stated that: “I have lashed myself to the mast of Jesus Christ and will ride out this storm wherever the ship of faith will take me.” It brought me two years later here to the marshes and cypress swamps of the Low Country. Where many of your relatives landed centuries before—some searching for wealth and others herded like cattle in the hulls of ships. During these past years I have grown to love this land and seascape, spreading down roots in your history and, even more to our purpose this morning, becoming one with you in a common allegiance to Jesus Christ, his Gospel, and his Church.
Consequently, I trust you will understand that I have strived in these past years, contrary to what some may believe or assert, to keep us from this day; from what I have referred to in numerous parish and deanery gatherings as the Valley of Decision.
We have spent far too many hours, 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, evidently, is now tantamount to misconduct or worse—abandonment. While the first of these on this listed are by far the more essential and should be center stage, it is the latter that has finally left us no place to stand within TEC. So be it. They have spoken and we have acted. We have withdrawn from that Church which we along with six other dioceses help to found.
The Presiding Bishop and her legal team are now emerging from the shadows. Changing from their previous practice of seeking peace, peace, while waging canonical war.
Those who are not with us you may go in peace.
Rich in heritage is the Episcopal Church, and when I have quarrelled with her it has been a lover’s quarrel.
But we must turn the page. Let us tear our hearts and not our garments.
Therefore, we cannot allow either personally or corporately any root of bitterness, resentment, un-forgiveness, anger or fear to take us like untied and forgotten buoys in an outgoing tide, burying our hearts and mission in some muddy marsh or to float adrift in some backwater slough.
No, we shall turn the page. We shall move on. Actually let me state it more accurately. We have moved on. With the Standing Committee’s resolution of disassociation the fact is accomplished: legally and canonically. The resolutions before you this day are only affirmations of that fact. You have only to decide if that is your will….
The full text of Bishop Lawrence’s speech is here.