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South Carolina Episcopalians break away from US church


(Reuters) – A majority of parishes in the conservative Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina voted on Saturday to leave the U.S. Episcopal Church over disagreements on issues including the national church’s ordination of gay clergy and acceptance of same-sex unions.

The South Carolina diocese is the fifth Episcopalian diocese in the United States to leave the church’s national body.

The vote at a convention in Charleston followed the U.S. Episcopal Church’s certification last month that South Carolina Bishop Mark J. Lawrence had abandoned the church’s doctrine, discipline and worship.

“This has never been about who is welcome or not welcome in our church,” Lawrence said at the convention, attended by about 200 people. “It’s about what we shall tell them when they come.”

But Steve Skardon, a member of a Charleston church that, contrary to the action of its statewide branch, plans to remain in the national church, said of the majority: “They want to tell gay people they’re wrong.”

Congregations in San Joaquin, California; Quincy, Illinois; Fort Worth, Texas; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have also left the U.S. Episcopal Church in recent years.

In July, the national church approved a liturgy for clergy to use in blessing same-sex unions, including gay marriages in states where they are legal, becoming the largest U.S. religious denomination to approve such a ritual.

The U.S. Episcopal Church, part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, is the 14th-largest U.S. religious denomination, with about 2 million members, according to the National Council of Churches.

In 2003, American Episcopalians elected their first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, in New Hampshire. Five years later, disaffected conservatives declared they were founding a rival Anglican province in North America.

Theological conservatives in the Communion say the Bible condemns homosexuality, while liberals say the text is open to interpretation.

The dispute between the South Carolina bishop and the national church has been going on for several years. [More]


Reuters/Chicago Tribune



  1. John Price says:

    A diocese cannot decide to leave the Episcopal Church, as it is a creation of the General Convention. What has happened is that the bishop and a bunch of his clergy have decided to leave. What has happened in other diocese will happen in SC also: the remaining clergy will be sent an interim bishop,usually a retired one, who will oversee ecclesiastical matters until the remaining clergy can get things together enough to start functioning on their own and elect a new bishop. This has happened in the Diocese of Ft Worth, where the Rt Rev Rayford High is now their interim bishop. The courts have always awarded the facilities to the “Remaining” congregations. An exception is one in Virginia where the congregation pre-dates the formation of the Diocese of Virginia.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    This is a hard one, but I understand the break and why it occurred.

  3. Florian says:

    Actually, this break in communion appears to be less about doctrine or biblican interpretation, and mostly about church politicks, as the very history of Christianity bears witness. Perhaps this way the dissenting groups will be able to get along better, pending the coming of the Just Judge who alone will judge the people.


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