Amid Legal Issues, Continuing Episcopalians Reaffirm Support for Denomination

Episcopalians in South Carolina who remain loyal to The Episcopal Church reaffirmed their ties to the denomination in light of their diocese leadership breaking away over theological differences.

At the Annual Diocesan Convention held Friday and Saturday in Charleston, representatives from The Episcopal Church in South Carolina voted to make their governing documents conform with those of the national denomination.

TEC in SC representatives also elected trustees and ecclesiastical court members. An estimated 250 people representing 10 parishes, 11 missions, eight "continuing parishes and missions," and six worship communities were present.

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With the theme of "To Love and Serve the Lord," TEC in SC Bishop the Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg delivered the address to the convention on Saturday.

"For us today, it is important to recognize that we have choices to make in our lives – and that by those choices, we set the direction of our faith journey through life," said vonRosenberg.

"You have had to leave your spiritual homes behind, trusting in God and one another, and facing an uncertain future. But you have persevered thus far, and God will provide a way forward in days to come."

The convention took place as the legal issues between the "continuing Episcopalians" and those who voted to leave The Episcopal Church escalate.

Last November, the leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina decided to leave The Episcopal Church due to theological differences over issues like homosexuality as well as the treatment of the diocese's bishop, the Rev. Mark Lawrence.

While the majority of the congregations and leaders agreed to break away, a minority of Episcopalians sought to stay with The Episcopal Church, forming a steering committee and using the diocesan seal and name.

The two camps using the same seal and name, as well as claiming ownership over the same property led to a suit over the rights to those entities.

In late January, Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein issued a temporary restraining order stopping the "continuing Episcopalians" from using the name "Diocese of South Carolina," leading them to change their appellation to "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina." The temporary restraining order became an injunction in February.

Last Tuesday, vonRosenberg filed an injunction in U.S. District Court against Lawrence over the usage of the title of bishop. VonRosenberg argued that since The Episcopal Church recognizes him as the bishop of the diocese, Lawrence being called the bishop of the South Carolina Diocese creates a situation in need of immediate relief.

Earlier last week, the South Carolina Diocese held its own convention, with nearly twice as many attendees as the TEC in SC (approximately 400) and with 35 parishes and 13 missions represented. As with last year's convention, leaders unanimously approved a measure to remove all their ties to The Episcopal Church. It was held at the Francis Marion Performing Arts Center in Florence, S.C.

"Let patience and charity prevail as we continue to walk through what is for many a time of sadness and separation," said Lawrence in a speech.

"We need to remain steadfast in our faith, firm in our conviction and resolute in our will as God gives us strength. But none of it, however, should dissuade us from our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ to live in confidence of the good news of his death and resurrection."

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