The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina says it will take action after the national church declared that its bishop has “abandoned” the Episcopal Church’s teachings, the latest action in an ongoing larger dispute over the ordination of gay clergy and other issues.
The Charleston-based diocese, which consists of roughly 75 congregations in the eastern and southern parts of the state, announced that this means it will be ending its affiliation with the national Episcopal Church.
“These actions make it clear The Episcopal Church no longer desires to be affiliated with the Diocese of South Carolina,” Bishop Mark Lawrence said in a statement Wednesday.
It is important to note the Diocese of South Carolina is separate from the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, which is based in Columbia and covers the northern region of the state.
The national Episcopal Church’s Disciplinary Board of Bishops certified last month that Bishop Lawrence had abandoned the church. The board, led by Presiding Bishop Katherine Schori, maintained that Lawrence had not followed church teachings on at least three occasions, most notably when he allowed the diocese to declare in 2010 that its Constitution could supersede the national church’s if there were ever a contradiction between the two.
The Episcopal Church installed its first openly gay bishop in 2003, which caused controversy among conservative Episcopalians, especially in South Carolina. Since then, the Diocese of South Carolina has frequently clashed with the national church.
Lawrence had met with Schori and Upper South Carolina leader Bishop Andrew Waldo on October 3 to find a peaceful solution. All sides were scheduled to meet again on Monday, but talks apparently broke down.
The Diocese has called a special convention on November 17.