(Photo: ENS / Robert Williams)
The head of The Episcopal Church is making an official visit to Episcopalians who belong to a diocese that has opted to break away from the denomination.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the TEC, arrived Friday in South Carolina to visit Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina who want to remain with the denomination. As part of her itinerary, Jefferts Schori will attend the "Continuing Episcopalians" special meeting on the election of a new provisional bishop for their churches, as the legal battle over who can rightfully call themselves the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina continues in court.
The Steering Committee for the Continuing Episcopalians nominated retired East Tennessee bishop Rt. Rev. Charles Glenn vonRosenberg to the post. The vote to confirm him will take place at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston on Saturday.
Hillery Douglas, chairman of the Steering Committee and senior warden of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Charleston, said in a statement that Jefferts Schori was a welcomed presence. "We welcome the opportunity to have her with us at this important time in the history of our diocese, and it will be a privilege to share with her firsthand the energy and diversity of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina," said Douglas.
Rev. Canon Jim Lewis, who is part of the diocesan leadership that decided to break away from TEC, told The Christian Post that he has little issue with the process that the Continuing Episcopalians are undertaking. "We have said consistently that The Episcopal Church (TEC) is free to set up a new Diocese here. She has every right to come and be a part of that process," said Lewis.
"What neither she nor TEC has a right to do is to claim to be us in that process. We remain the same legally incorporated entity that was established in 1785 (four years before TEC was founded). We have disassociated with TEC but we have not ceased to be The Diocese of South Carolina."
Earlier this month, the leadership of the South Carolina Diocese filed suit against TEC over the rights to the name, seal, and property of the diocese body. On Wednesday, the Diocese successfully got a court order to temporarily halt TEC's usage of the name and seal. The order will remain in effect for ten days, overlapping with the Saturday vote on vonRosenberg. A hearing will be held on Friday, Feb. 1, to determine if the order should be made into an injunction.
"Our request for a declaratory judgment is now in the hands of the court of the State of South Carolina. We expect a full and fair hearing of the issues that will in time vindicate our right to freedom of association," said Lewis.
"We chose to join in the founding of TEC. We are also free to choose to leave that association. We believe that to be guaranteed by both South Carolina law and the U.S. Constitution."
Due to the court order, on their website the "continuing Episcopalians" have changed their name to "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina" and have removed the diocese seal from their web pages.
Neither The Episcopal Church in South Carolina nor the national leadership of the TEC returned comment to The Christian Post by press time.