The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina will be gathering in Mount Pleasant Saturday for a special convention. The diocese is made up of Episcopal churches in the eastern and southern part of the state. One of the resolutions to be voted on at the convention would authorize church leaders to begin withdrawing from the national church. Bishop Mark Lawrence says the national church has assented into actions contrary to Holy Scripture as well as the canons, doctrines and historical practices of the Church. Earlier this year, the national church authorized bishops to bless same-sex unions.Bishop Lawrence makes it clear that the Diocese has no plans to leave the church, but to create an atmosphere for healthy debate that will turn the trajectory of the national church back to its traditional teachings.
“The withdrawing is from certain bodies of the Episcopal Church that have gone contrary to Holy Scripture and to the mind of the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church has gone contrary to its own constitution and canons and we are challenging that.”
Lawrence says any withdrawal that might be approved does not constitute a break from the church, but rather a “protest of conscience.”
Bishop Lawrence says the national church moved against its very existence by moving in the direction of redefining a holy union or marriage.”One of the things the Episcopal Church in its general convention has just allowed is for bishops in various dioceses to bless same-sex unions. We believe that this is contrary to the scriptures. It is contrary to the worldwide Anglican Communion of which the Episcopal Church is a part. It is contrary to our Book of Common Prayer which guides us in worship and it is contrary to the constitution and cannons of the Episcopal Church.”
The national church consecrated its first openly gay bishop six years ago. That action caused many conservative Episcopal churches around the country to leave the national church organization.
Bishop Lawrence says that, little by little, many decisions have been made by the national church over the past 30 years that have caused many conservatives groups to leave the church, “What that has done is weaken the entire conservative movement in the episcopal Church so that those who hold to the traditional understandings of the Christian faith have become more and More marginalized. Many have just chosen to leave. We have chosen a path to begin engaging these in a more proactive and challenging way.”
Bishop Lawrence says the Diocese of South Carolina aims to remain in the national church in order to serve as an agent that will turn the church back toward its traditional path that it has abandoned.
Bishop Lawrence says the church by its very mission must deliver a constant and consistent message, and not bend and flow with the changes of society which he says the liberal wing of the church has been doing. “On the more liberal side of the Church they have taken actions ofter contrary to the cannons to get the Church moving further and further to a more liberal understanding of the scriptures and more in line in many ways to where the liberal part of the culture of the United States is going.”
Bishop Lawrence says the Diocese of South Carolina and other conservative members of the national church disagree not only with the blessing of same sex unions. but with several other stances the Church has taken spurred on by the more liberal wing of the Church. “I think a weakening of the understanding of the authority of Holy Scripture over our christian life and witness, weakening of the understanding of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour of all, a weakening of the understanding of God as the Holy Trinity Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe all of those come into play in the issues we face now.”
Bishop Lawrence says the Diocese of South Carolina seeks to shift from its reactionary mode toward changes in the national church to a proactive mode in turning the Church back toward its traditional roots, teachings and doctrine.