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The Real Story Behind Our Split with The Episcopal Church PDF Print E-mail
By the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis
Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of South Carolina

The Charleston Mercury ran the following article in its October 2 2013 issue. We are grateful for their permission to reprint the article here.

Much has been written about the Diocese of South Carolina’s separation from The Episcopal Church (TEC) – and most of it has been wrong.

Virtually all the articles suggest our diocese left because TEC ordained a gay bishop. That’s just not true. The diocese separated last year, nine years after TEC elected its first, noncelibate, gay bishop – and only after the denomination tried to strip all authority from our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence.

Though media insist our motive for leaving is our difference with TEC’s policies on the ordination of gay bishops and same-sex marriage, the real issues are rooted in the 1970s, well before Gene Robinson became the first openly gay Episcopal bishop in 2003.

It’s About God, Not Gays

To understand the situation in South Carolina, you need to understand the history of the Episcopal Church, which is an American expression of the Anglican Communion. We have a unique view of the denomination since the Diocese of South Carolina was one of the nine pre-existing dioceses that founded TEC in 1789. The denomination has been redefining itself since the 1970s effectively evolving into two churches under one roof – a traditional one that embraced historic Anglican doctrines and a modernist one. By the 1990s, the modernist faction was gaining dominance within the denomination. For example, TEC’s then-Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Frank Griswold, proclaimed that “truth,” is “pluriform.” This meant the church recognized no single truth, no single theology, no single pathway to salvation.

He effectively said that one person’s truth is as good as another’s. And many of us found that to contradict everything we believe as Anglicans.

It’s true that we live in a nuanced, multicultural world, but traditional Anglicans believe in the authority of Scripture. For us, a belief in Christ is fundamental to the faith, not one of several optional paths to salvation. It is why we are Anglicans, rather than Unitarians or Buddhists or Hindus or something else.

In a 2006 interview with Time magazine, the Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts-Schori, a strong pluriform proponent claimed that to believe, as Jesus said, that He is “the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father but through Him,” was to put God in an “awfully small box.” That denial of Jesus' essential role clearly displayed the difference between traditional and modernist or pluriform Anglicans/Episcopalians.

Many Leave TEC.

The denomination’s embrace of relativism has increased under Jefferts-Schori’s leadership. As the newly elected presiding bishop, Jefferts-Schori presided over the General Convention in 2006 that failed to honor the requests made by the Anglican Communion. In response, seven dioceses – including the dioceses of South Carolina, San Joaquin, Calif.; Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Springfield, Ill., Dallas and Central Florida – asked the
Archbishop of Canterbury to grant them oversight by someone other than TEC’s presiding bishop.

When no action took place, an exodus began. San Joaquin left TEC in 2007. The Diocese  of Quincy, Ill., voted to leave in 2008. Pittsburgh and Fort Worth left in 2009. Between 2000 and 2010, TEC church attendance dropped by 23 percent – and some dioceses lost up to 80 percent of their attendees at Sunday services. Beyond the four dioceses, more than 100 individual parishes left the denomination.

But the Diocese of South Carolina stayed, trying to work with TEC. We took the steps necessary in good conscience to differentiate ourselves from the positions and actions of the TEC leadership while still remaining in the denomination. It’s true that our people were torn about TEC’s shift away from historic Anglican beliefs, but we remained part of the denomination, until last year, when it ruled that Bishop Lawrence had “abandoned”
the church and took steps to remove him from the leadership role to which members of the diocese had elected him.

Strong Support to Leave

The denomination’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops claimed that Bishop Lawrence abandoned the Episcopal Church “by an open renunciation of the discipline of the church.” We believe the decision stemmed from the bishop’s consistent efforts to protect traditional voices and beliefs. The charges laid against him were for actions taken by our Diocesan Convention and its duly-elected leaders.

The Diocese’s Standing Committee announced that the action of TEC’s Disciplinary Board triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions that simultaneously disaffiliated us from the Episcopal Church and called a special convention of the diocese.

The disaffiliation was affirmed by the vast majority of members who attended the special convention in November 2012. It has since been confirmed again in votes by congregations within the diocese. In all, 49 parishes representing 80 percent of the diocese’s 30,000 members voted to leave TEC, exercising our right to freedom of association.

Anglican leaders from around the world have sent messages of support for the diocese. Many members of the global Anglican Communion feel as we do that TEC has departed from historic Anglican beliefs. Most agree TEC has embraced a radical fringe scriptural interpretation that makes following Christ’s teachings optional for salvation.

The diocese has also been visited by numerous Anglican bishops to demonstrate their support. Easily a dozen from around the globe have been our guests since our departure with more each month. There are vastly more Anglicans in Communion with the Diocese of South Carolina right now than with TEC.

Preventive Lawsuit

In January, we filed suit in South Carolina Circuit Court, asking for legal protection of the diocese’s property and identity from takeover by TEC. Critics suggest that our suit was unusual. Some even say that the litigation was unprecedented – and “un-Christian.” To be clear, however, the only thing unusual about the lawsuit was that we managed to file before TEC.

The little-reported fact is that TEC has filed more than 80 lawsuits seeking to seize the property of individual parishes and dioceses that left the denomination. TEC itself has admitted to spending more than $22 million on its legal action. These efforts have largely succeeded when TEC attempts to seize the property of individual parishes. Parishes across the country have been evicted from their churches.

TEC’s policy is simple and punitive: No one who leaves TEC may buy the seized church buildings. In several cases where TEC has succeeded in seizing a church, it has evicted the congregation and shuttered the building. In some cases, the church has been handed over to remnant groups that remained loyal to TEC. In other cases, the church has been sold to another religious group.

However, TEC has had less success with the lawsuits it has filed against dioceses. Recently, an Illinois Circuit Court judge decided that TEC had no grounds to seize the endowment funds of the Diocese of Quincy. The Texas Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision supporting TEC over the separated Diocese of Fort Worth. And in South Carolina, a federal district court judge decided that the Circuit Court of South Carolina is the proper court to decide the fate of our property, upsetting TEC’s efforts to get the case heard by the federal judiciary.

It’s About Religious Freedom

We are not thrilled about turning to the courts for help but believe we had no other recourse for our protection. Much like St. Paul's appeal to Rome (Acts 25), we feel confident the courts will give us a fair hearing. While TEC attempts to portray us as bigots, the real issue is religious freedom.

Members of the diocese who voted to leave TEC feel the denomination has moved away from the authority of Scripture and their historic Anglican beliefs. They left us. You may agree with us about this, or you may find that TEC’s revisions are appropriate. But whatever you believe, those personal opinions should not prevent us – or others – from practicing our faith.

And, since that religious freedom is constitutionally guaranteed in the United States, we believe that the people who built and paid for the disassociated parishes and dioceses have a right to their property. Obviously, TEC wants to keep those millions of dollars in  property – an attractive prize for a denomination that is losing members and closing churches.

Irony of Reconciliation

Local media have devoted significant attention to the claims of TEC’s representatives that they hope for reconciliation between the denomination and the diocese.

It is difficult to imagine what form that reconciliation might take. After all, Bishop Lawrence spent years trying to keep us within TEC – only to be found guilty of abandonment while in the very midst of attempting negotiation. We were effectively fired upon under a flag of truce. Individual parishes that separated from TEC around the country have been spurned when they attempted to buy their church buildings from the denomination. In one case, a church was actually sold to an Islamic community group at a price significantly lower than the congregation had offered.

That said, we do not wish malice against anyone who wishes to embrace TEC’s vision of faith. But neither will we allow them to impose their vision on us.

Judge Denies TEC Request to Expand Lawsuit PDF Print E-mail

South Carolina Judge Denies Episcopal Church Request to Expand Lawsuit to Include Committee Members and Trustees

Diocese’s Trustees and Standing Committee Members are Protected by Judge, Who Cites State Law to Declare They are Immune from Prosecution

CHARLESTON, SC, October 3, 2013 – South Carolina Circuit Judge Diane S. Goodstein released her decision yesterday that the Episcopal Church (TEC) and its local remnant, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC) cannot expand their counterclaims against the Diocese of South Carolina to include almost two dozen parishioners who voluntarily serve as diocesan Trustees and members of the Diocese’s Standing Committee.

In her decision, Judge Goodstein wrote, “This court finds that the individual leaders whom Defendants seek to join as Counterclaim Plaintiffs are entitled to immunity” under state law. She also wrote that “adding the additional defendants would be futile.”
Register for Clergy/Clergy Spouse Conference PDF Print E-mail

Clergy Conference 2013

Thursday, November 14 & Friday, November 15, 2013

All parochial clergy are encouraged to attend
(limited single rooms are available)

Clergy Couple Conference 2013
November 15 & 16, 2013
Conference Leaders: Jim and Acton Beard
Begins with dinner Friday evening, and concludes with a service of Holy Eucharist following Saturday’s lunch.
St. Christopher has offered to keep the beach open for extended time together in fellowship!


Clergy Conference Only Pricing
  • Clergy Conference ONLY-single room and board - $125
  • Clergy Conference ONLY-double room and board - $75
  • Clergy Conference ONLY-commuter rate(meals only) - $25

Special Combined Conference Pricing
  • Clergy/Clergy Couple Conference, per couple - $225
  • Commuter rate, per couple - $75
Register now.

Please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it at (843) 722-4075 for further information.
Introducing Bishop Lawrence's Blog PDF Print E-mail

Bishop Lawrence's blog address is

Midge-buzzings, Musterings, and Musings

Field of midgesThe novelist, essayist, and poet, Wendell Berry said he once knew a barber who refused to give a discount to balding men because his artistry was not in cutting off hair but rather in knowing when to stop.  Likewise, I pray there is some artistry or at least craftiness in knowing when to begin.  After much coaxing from several members of our diocesan staff I have finally committed to sitting down before this computer to write a blog.  In doing so I’ve been told I need to give the blog a name.  So here it is:  I christen thee, Midge-buzzings, Musterings, and Musings—a name which clearly merits a brief explanation, not merely for the obscurities embedded therein, but because of what such a name suggests about the content. 

Since eventually, as our Lord repeatedly taught, the last will be first, I shall begin there. That is with Musings. This of course, is a rather obvious category implying— “ponderings, reflections and meditations”—thus I shall at times share with my readers thoughts and ideas far less formal than a bishop’s address, pastoral letter, or diocesan communication which would ordinarily find no opportunity for broader communication about things I find interesting.  A window by Louis Comfort Tiffany, a book I’m reading, a hike I’ve taken or an entry from my personal journal.
Profile of Bishop Lawrence in the Post and Courier PDF Print E-mail
This past Sunday, September 15, 2013, Bishop Lawrence was profiled on the cover of the Faith and Values section of the Post and Courier, Charleston's main newspaper. Jennifer Berry Hawes did an excellent job capturing Bishop Lawrence's journey to faith, call to the priesthood and his experience as the Bishop of South Carolina.

The Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence

Bishop feels hand of god down journey through Episcopal Church schism

By Jennifer Berry Hawes

Four times, God could have called Mark Lawrence home. And didn’t. From the moment Lawrence was born severely premature in a Catholic hospital, doctors warned he wouldn’t live.

The hospital’s nuns prayed otherwise. Lawrence went home, a shoebox his bassinet.

At six weeks old, he suffered a life-threatening blockage of his esophagus. Several years later, his appendix ruptured.

And as a grown man, his colon ruptured, bringing yet another dire prognosis. His wife sat beside his hospital bed.

“Are you going to go?” she whispered fearfully.

“No,” he said. God wasn’t calling him home yet.

So, she knew he’d live. Because that was how he had always lived, feeling the Holy Spirit guide him when to stay — and when to go.

With that faith, a California boy with a charismatic bent and an orthodox theology has led the Diocese of South Carolina through a long and contentious schism with the Episcopal Church, one whose ending might finally be in sight.

Read more.
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