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South Carolina in walk-out over same-sex blessing

20 July 2012

by a staff reporter


Protest: the Very Revd John B. Burwell, deputy of South Carolina diocese, speaking at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church

Protest: the Very Revd John B. Burwell, deputy of South Carolina diocese, speaking at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church

REPRESENTATIVES of the diocese of South Carolina have walked out of the US Episcopal Church's General Convention, in protest over the publication of a provisional rite for same-sex unions, and the decision to ordain transgender people ( News, 13 July).

The Bishop of South Carolina, the Rt Revd Mark Lawrence, said that the actions of the Convention were "unbiblical, unchristian, un-Anglican, and unseemly". He expressed his "grievous concern" at the resolutions.

Two members of the South Carolina delegation stayed behind, to ensure that the walk-out could "not to be construed as a departure from the Episcopal Church", the delegation said in a statement.

It said: "Due to the actions of General Convention, the South Carolina deputation has concluded that we cannot continue with business as usual. We all agree that we cannot and will not remain on the floor of the House and act as if all is normal."

In a blog post, Bishop Lawrence said that the decisions were abandoning "future generations to sheer sexual anarchy".

The diocese of South Carolina has long been at odds with the Episcopal Church, and Bishop Lawrence has been investigated over, and acquitted of, allegations that he had abandoned the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.

A dozen conservative bishops also published a statement that disagreed with the decision to publish provisional rites for same-sex blessings, which, they said, "for all practical purposes, was same-sex marriage".

The statement was read out to the Convention by the Bishop of North Dakota, the Rt Revd Michael Smith. "We find ourselves between the proverbial 'rock and a hard place'.

"We struggle to hold together the Evangelical faith of the Church, from which we see this Convention as departing, and the Catholic order of the Church, which causes us, for the sake of the unity for which Jesus prayed, to resist the temptation to leave this fellowship."

The statement welcomed the "conscience clause", which protects bishops and clergy who cannot authorise or use the liturgy. Diocesan bishops have to give their permission before any of their clergy can use the rite, which is available from December this year.

Clergy and laity supported the new rites by a margin of three to one.

The American Anglican Council issued a statement afterwards urging conservative Christians to continue to "fight the good fight". It said: "We have more than the majority of Anglicans standing with us."

The Convention closed last week after passing other significant resolutions, including the setting up of a task group to "reimagine" the workings of the Episcopal Church.

The Convention called for more consultation to include more women in the calendar. Delegates also appointed members to boards, including new members for the disciplinary board for bishops, as created under the new Title IV canons. Nine US bishops are currently being investigated for complaints filed under Title IV ( News, 6 July).


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