(Photo courtesy The Episcopal Church in South Carolina)
Bishops representing the largest Province of The Episcopal Church have written an open letter in which they showed support for those who refused to depart the denomination when the leadership of the South Carolina Diocese decided to leave.
"We commend you for your faith and courage during this trying season. We observed that you are meeting your present difficulties with good fellowship, good creativity and good cheer," stated the Province IV House of Bishops. "We pledge to you our prayers and the prayers of those we serve as we all go forward in faith. And we pledge our support and cooperation to our brother, your Bishop, Charlie von Rosenberg."
Last year, the Diocese of South Carolina decided to leave The Episcopal Church over a mixture of theological differences and the treatment of their bishop, Rev. Mark Lawrence.
Not long after the departure, the Diocese sued to keep its name and property, with a minority of its members wanting to stay with the national denomination.
The bishops' letter came after the conclusion of their biannual province meeting held at Charleston. Those present heard stories regarding the divisive diocesan debate from those within The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the name of the group of Episcopalians who remained loyal to TEC.
Also known as the Province of Sewanee, Province IV is comprised of the dioceses in Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and part of Louisiana.
According to its website, Province IV "has the largest number of clergy, baptized members, communicants, church school and day school pupils and is the largest contributor to the General Convention budget of any Province in our Church."
Province IV's website lists the South Carolina Diocese as belonging to TEC, even as the court decision as to who has the right over the diocesan name and property is still pending. However, the link for the diocesan website does lead to TEC in South Carolina's home page instead of the South Carolina Diocese.
Earlier this month, District Court Judge C. Weston Houck ruled that the suit between the Diocese and the TEC in SC will be tried in a state court rather than at the federal level. The breakaway Diocese declared this a victory, since South Carolina laws on property ownership appear to favor them over the national Church.
Jan Pringle, spokeswoman for the South Carolina Diocese, told The Christian Post that this was the first time in at least two decades that the Province IV House of Bishops had decided to hold their meeting in Charleston.
"The irony is that being here rather than at Kanuga, the conference center they often use, cost more money and seems to be more of a distraction. We don't want it to distract us as it's nothing that grows the body of Christ," said Pringle.
While TEC of SC has the support of Province IV, Pringle told CP about the support the Diocese has received from Global South Anglican leaders.
"In April, Anglican bishops from Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania came to South Carolina after participating in the New Wineskins Conference in Ridgecrest, N.C., the largest Anglican missions conference in the world," said Pringle.
"These bishops then came to support our own Bishop Lawrence and spread the Gospel here in Charleston at the Cathedral of St. Luke, St. Paul's and other parishes across the Diocese."