Heeding a call by the diocesan bishop to fight the "false Gospel of indiscriminate inclusivity," Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina voted on Saturday to reduce its participation in the national church.
In an 87-17 vote, with one abstention, the diocese approved a resolution to begin withdrawing from all bodies of The Episcopal Church that have assented to actions contrary to Scripture and Anglican tradition.
The withdrawal sets up "appropriate boundaries" and does not constitute a complete split from the national church.
Some 300 Episcopalians convened for a special convention at Christ Church in Mt. Pleasant. The convention was called for 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.
South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence lamented the national church's "unbiblical" direction not only on human sexuality, but also on the Trinity, the uniqueness of Christ, scriptural authority, baptismal theology, and constitutions and canons.
"When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" he posed at the convention.
"Put simply it is a false understanding of the Christian faith that has spread abroad in our Church; a wrong understanding founded upon human speculation rather than divine revelation," he explained.
Four other dioceses voted in recent years to completely sever ties with The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism.
Lawrence noted on Saturday that even after "all the hemorrhaging of the traditionalist, Catholic and evangelical wings" in the last 30 to 40 years, there are some who still remain. And while these few are willing to take a stand, Lawrence wants to find a way to fight together from within.
Seeing neither a "hasty departure" nor a "paralyzed passivity" as the answer, the South Carolina expressed his desire to challenge the heterodoxy while still engaging The Episcopal Church.
The diocese's action is tantamount to a wife not giving up on her marriage when her husband is having an affair and instead moving down the hall to another room, he explained.
"And the action regarding the bedroom is because it is the marriage bed that is the place the covenant has been broken. She knows that this move may provoke his anger. The children may blame her for their discomfort. But she has not ceased to engage," he said. "I haven't given up on this yet, but somehow I have to get your attention that this isn't working for me!"
During the one-day convention, the diocese passed three other resolutions affirming "the Lordship of Christ and the sufficiency of Scripture," encouraging partnerships with like-minded orthodox congregations to remain focused on their gospel mission, and supporting the Ridley draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant as an important expression of what will be needed to restore health to the Anglican Communion.
A fifth resolution stating that the diocese will not condone prejudice or deny the dignity of any person, including homosexuals, and will speak the truth in love was tabled until the next convention. The voting members determined that the current language of the resolution fell short of adequately expressing their desire to "speak the truth in love" and that further work was needed.
Since 1968 The Episcopal Church has experienced a 44 percent decline in membership from 3.6 million to 2.1 million, Lawrence pointed out. He stressed that what they need to do today is wake up the Church before the "train load of radical activism roll[s] them along to a dead end station."