NATIONAL CHURCH BATTLES SOUTH CAROLINA OVER CONTROL OF ITS DIOCESE
“Whose diocese is it anyway?” And will this South Carolina “secession” turn out better than the last one?
As the head of the national Episcopal Church Katharine Jefferts Schori (above) prepares to stage a convention in Charleston, S.C. next month, a battle continues to rage over control of the Lower Diocese of South Carolina (officially known as the “Diocese of South Carolina”). This, of course, is the confederation of churches that seceded from the national Episcopal Church last month over a dispute regarding the blessing of homosexual unions and the ordination of openly gay clergy.
The national Episcopal Church favors both practices, while the South Carolina church does not.
The schism – news of which broke exclusively here on FITS – continues to consume Episcopal leaders across the country. Meanwhile Episcopal leaders in South Carolina’s Upper Diocese (which covers Columbia, S.C. and the Upstate regions of South Carolina) are torn between the national church and the state diocese, led by Bishop Mark Lawrence.
So far, national Episcopal leaders refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Lawrence’s secession. In fact when Schori comes to Charleston, S.C. next month she will host her convention under the auspices of Lawrence’s South Carolina diocese.
Needless to say, that’s not sitting well with the Bishop.
“They are certainly free to gather and meet, but they are not free to assume our identity,” Lawrence said in a statement. “The Diocese of South Carolina has disassociated from the Episcopal Church, we’ve not ceased to exist. We continue to be the Diocese of South Carolina … of which I remain the Bishop.”
Lawrence could have the upper hand in the increasingly likely event this case finds its way to court. After all, the formation of the South Carolina diocese predates the formation of the national Episcopal church – which it later joined.
As we’ve stated from the beginning of this debate, we don’t care if churches sanction gay marriage – or if they let homosexuals preach from their pulpits. We don’t support either practice – but we believe such decisions should be left to individual congregations.
Bottom line? South Carolina Episcopalians who support the national church’s views on homosexuality should worship in congregations supportive of those views, while those who object to the national church’s views should be free to worship in congregations which reject those views.
In fact we suspect this is how things are ultimately going to shake out …