Breakaway South Carolina Episcopal Diocese Mulling Affiliation With Conservative Anglican Group

St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center(Photo: Lee Marion)St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center, located in Johns Island, South Carolina.

A diocese that broke away from The Episcopal Church in 2012 over theological and personal differences might join a prominent conservative Anglican group.

Representatives for the Diocese of South Carolina and the Anglican Church in North America met Tuesday and Wednesday about the possible affiliation.

Held at the St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center in South Carolina, the meeting was overseen by South Carolina Diocese Bishop Mark Lawrence and ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach.

Diocese(Photo: SC Diocese)A banner bearing the seal of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

"The Diocese of South Carolina has been in the process for some time of discerning what its permanent affiliation should be among the Provinces of the Anglican Communion," the Rev. Jim Lewis, canon to the ordinary and an attendee of the meeting, told The Christian Post.

"We have reached a place where it seemed the next and most appropriate step was to meet with leaders of the ACNA to share our common interests and questions as this diocese continues the work of discernment."

Lewis also told CP that while no date has been set for a convention vote on affiliation, the diocese stands on good terms with ACNA and other conservative Anglican groups.

"Our mutual respect and appreciation for each other is considerable, with many in the room having relationships that go back for years," said Lewis.

"Our conversations were wide ranging and provided much needed clarity for all of us. Those are conversations that will certainly continue in the future."

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In November 2012, the Diocese of South Carolina voted overwhelmingly to leave The Episcopal Church over theological differences and the purported mistreatment of Bishop Mark Lawrence.

By January 2013, legal action ensued over who owned the name and property, the breakaway diocese leadership or those within the regional body who retained allegiance to The Episcopal Church.

An injunction was granted allowing for the breakaway leadership to retain the name of the diocese during the lawsuit. Those loyal to the national denomination gave themselves the name The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

In February, Judge Diane Goodstein ruled in favor of the breakaway diocese, concluding that they and not the national denomination owned the approximately $500 million worth of property.

The Episcopal Church appealed the decision to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which in April agreed to hear the case. Arguments are scheduled for September.

The Rev. Canon Andrew K. Gross, spokesman for ACNA, told CP that the diocese was "in the early stages of exploring whether or not it would like to affiliate as a diocese with the Anglican Church in North America."

"It was a very positive meeting. It is the first time that the key leaders have been able to sit in the same room together and ask questions face to face," said Rev. Gross.

"It's early days, and no one can predict where this process will lead, but there is clearly a lot that we have in common."