A fifth Episcopal diocese is considering whether to withdraw from the national church over "a multitude of false teachings," including its liberal direction on homosexuality.
The Diocese of South Carolina will hold a special convention this weekend to vote on five proposed resolutions that will determine their next steps.
Although one of the resolutions calls for a withdrawal from "all bodies of The Episcopal Church that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture, the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them," none of the proposals send the diocese down the road of complete disaffiliation.
"While I have no immediate solution to the challenges we face – it is certainly neither a hasty departure nor a paralyzed passivity I counsel," South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence stated in a letter to clergy. "Either of these I believe, regardless of what godly wisdom they may be for others, would be for us a false peace and a "fatal security" which in time (and brief at that) would only betray us."
Diocese officials called for a special convention in response to The Episcopal Church's controversial actions in July, which included the approval of a resolution that declares the denomination's ordination process open to all individuals, including practicing homosexuals.
But human sexuality is only one of many concerns the diocese has. The Trinity, the uniqueness of Christ, scriptural authority, baptismal theology, and constitutions and canons are being subjugated to a "new" gospel.
"We face a multitude of false teachings, which like an intrusive vine, is threatening The Episcopal Church as we have inherited and received it from our ancestors," Lawrence stated. "I have called this the false Gospel of Indiscriminate Inclusivity because I see a common pattern in how the core doctrines of our faith are being systematically deconstructed."
The diocesan bishop made clear that it is not The Episcopal Church that is the problem, but rather "it is those who have cloaked it with so many strands of false doctrine."
"Like an invading vine unnatural to the habitat that has covered a once elegant, old growth forest with what to some looks like a gracious vine it is in fact decorative destruction. What may look like a flower may be bramble," said Lawrence.
Four dioceses voted in recent years to sever ties with The Episcopal Church and realign with an overseas conservative Anglican province, mainly the Church of the Southern Cone in Argentina.
The dioceses of Pittsburgh, San Joaquin in California, Quincy in Illinois, and Fort Worth in Texas have all left citing The Episcopal Church's departure from traditional Anglicanism and Christian orthodoxy.
The national church had heightened controversy when it consecrated its first openly gay bishop, New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, in 2003.
But the Diocese of South Carolina isn't planning to head down that same path.
Lawrence told the local Post and Courier newspaper that he wants to serve as an orthodox bishop fighting the heterodoxy from within.
"I'm becoming a rare commodity I guess – an orthodox bishop within the church who is willing to risk," he said. "Now that heterodoxy is the dominant 'orthodoxy' of The Episcopal Church, it is those who believe like me who must challenge an unthinking conformity. How long we can do this – well that's the open question."
The special convention will take place at Christ Church in Mt. Pleasant on Saturday. The diocese will also consider a resolution calling parishes to enter into their own partnerships with "orthodox congregations isolated across North America and to pursue effective initiatives which are lay-led and supported."
Clergy and laity have planned a day of fasting and prayer for Friday to help delegates "discern more clearly [God's] will for engaging the challenges and opportunities before us."