THE DIOCESE of South Carolina has declared that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, has no authority to retain lawyers in the diocese, and has demanded that she withdraw them.
In a further distancing from the Episcopal Church’s governance, the diocese affirmed its “legal and ecclesiastical authority as a sovereign diocese within The Episcopal Church” at the diocesan convention last weekend. Its Bishop, the Rt Revd Mark Lawrence, had complained of “provocative interference” from the Episcopal Church, and postponed the convention while he considered his response.
He believed that Dr Jefferts Schori was seeking to build a case against the ecclesiastical authorities and against parishes that had changed their bylaws.
The convention resolved to amend Canon 30 to “provide a generous pastoral response to parishes in conflict with the Diocese or Province, as the Ecclesiastical Authority judges necessary, to preserve the unity and integrity of the Diocese.”
An explanatory note said: “The actions of the Presiding Bishop’s office . . . have demonstrated a clear willingness and intent both to legally pursue congregations we consider parishes in good standing, and attempt to utilise diocesan resources to do so.”
It continued: “We’ve experienced now, as a diocese, in the All Saints’, Pawleys Island, litigation, the destructive force of such litigation.” The ten-year dispute at All Saints’ ended last weekend when both sides agreed to recognise and accept the Supreme Court’s decision that the property and assets belonged to the congregation that remained after the vestry voted to leave the Episcopal Church and join the Church of the Province of Rwanda and the Anglican Mission in America (News, 2 October 2009).
Referring to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s expressed regret for the Episcopal Church’s lack of “gracious restraint” over the election of Canon Mary Glasspool as Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles (News, 26 March), Bishop Lawrence said: “Frankly, we must be honest here: there has been precious little restraint within many dioceses of TEC, even when the Archbishop of Canterbury and others within the Anglican Communion thought there was.”
Two days after the convention, 703 members of St Andrew’s, Mount Pleasant, voted to leave the Episcopal Church for the Anglican Church in North America “or another province of the worldwide Anglican Communion”.
St Andrew’s is reported to have a congregation of 2800, and an average Sunday attendance of around 1400, roughly half of whom (722) took part in the ballot. Members are reported to contribute around $3.5 million a year to the church.