SC Episcopalians To Distance Themselves From National Church

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) -- The Diocese of South Carolina voted Saturday to distance itself but not completely split from the national Episcopal Church because of church positions on same-sex unions and ordination of gays.

Eighty-seven clergy members voted to pass the resolution after a nearly hour-long debate during a special convention in Mount Pleasant, Canon Kendall Harmon said, with 17 voting no. The vote allows leaders of the diocese to reduce its participation in the national church without severing ties completely, as some dioceses and parishes have.

The discord stems from the national church's consecration in 2003 of its first openly gay bishop and its authorizing bishops to bless same-sex unions, a decision made at its national convention last summer.

The Diocese of South Carolina and two others opposing consecration of gay bishops voted in 2006 to reject the authority of the national church's presiding bishop, but stopped short of a full break with the church.

Last June, four breakaway conservative dioceses formed a rival national province to the Episcopal Church called the Anglican Church in North America. Other parishes have since joined.

Bishop Mark Lawrence has said the Diocese of South Carolina does not want a split but a discussion with the national church on the divisive issues.

"The only model that's been out there for us has either been leave or acquiesce, and that hasn't been working," Lawrence has said. "We need to get the 30,000 members of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina awakened to the challenges before us. ... Once we have done that, then the question is how do we engage the larger Episcopal Church?"

Saturday's vote authorizes the South Carolina bishop and the diocesan Standing Committee to begin withdrawing from church councils and governing bodies that have "assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture," according to the resolution text.

The Diocese of South Carolina is comprised of 75 parishes in the southern and eastern part of the state. Other Episcopal churches in the state are in the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina.

The 2.3 million-member Episcopal church is the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion, a 77 million-member communion that is the third-largest group of churches worldwide, behind the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches.

A message left seeking comment from a spokeswoman for the national church on Saturday wasn't immediately returned.

The vote comes several days after an announcement the Vatican is making it easier for Anglicans to convert to Roman Catholicism, a move that could entice traditionalists opposed to women priests, openly gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions.

The change means conservative Anglicans will be able to join the Catholic Church while retaining aspects of their liturgy and identity, including married priests. Until now, disaffected Anglicans had joined the Roman Catholic church primarily on a case by case basis.

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  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Oct 25, 2009 at 06:57 AM
    I am pretty sure the bible hasn't "changed" to allow homosexual behavior, let alone unions and gay marriage. Can anyone find the reference for me? Everything I read said "NO", not just no but.....NO. This is like a church saying abortion is OK. Well, if you bend the rules, the bible is worthless then. Why have a church then....
  • by I ♥ Jesus on Oct 24, 2009 at 04:46 PM
    God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. It is an absolute shame that these individuals, supposedly men of God, teach the words of the Lord yet live such sinful lives, not even striving to fix their sins. I pray that they will see the err of their ways and turn their lives around for the better before it is too late.
  • by Anonymous on Oct 24, 2009 at 04:33 PM
    To Ted. You are very correct. You should NOT change the church in order to make your sin acceptable. It never will be in God's eyes. That is why there is an ever growing number of church's leaving their dioces to get away from the ever growing liberal movement. Freedom of choice. They can do what they choose to do but I will not be part of it. Nor will I raise my children in a church clergy not only supports this liberal view they ARE the liberal view.
  • by Ted Location: Grimesland on Oct 24, 2009 at 03:01 PM
    I'd say a better headline for this story is the National Episcopal Church distance themselves from SC Episcopalians. This seems to be a trend with the national leadership of some churches. The fact that some churches have been taken over by liberals doesn't make it any more right in God's eyes. You can't change the church to suit what you believe.

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