The Episcopal Church said Wednesday it accepted the "renunciation" of Bishop Mark Lawrence from the church, a move which comes several weeks after members of the Diocese of South Carolina which he maintains he still leads met to affirm its disassociation from the Episcopal Church, an action which the wider church says the diocese cannot do alone.
"Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has accepted the renunciation of the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church of Mark Lawrence as made in his public address on November 17 and she has released him from his orders in this Church," the church's Office of Public affairs said in a statement.
In October, the diocese said it had disaffiliated itself from the Episcopal Church. At the most recent General Convention in July, the diocese's bishop, Bishop Mark Lawrence and most of the delegation of the diocese left the gathering before its conclusion in protest of the Church's decision to accept a temporary rite of blessing of same-sex couples and to accept full inclusion of transgender people in the life of the church, including ordination.
"The Presiding Bishop informed Lawrence by phone, email and mail on December 5. Following that, the House of Bishops was notified," the office said.
The documents state he "is therefore removed from the Ordained Ministry of this Church and released from the obligations of all Ministerial offices, and is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God's Word and Sacraments conferred on him in Ordinations. This action is taken for causes that do not affect his moral character."
The renunciation was consented to by the members of the Presiding Bishop's Council of Advice, who are the presidents of the nine Provinces of the Episcopal Church.
In a November 25 announcement by some clergy in "the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina," members of the Diocese "affirmed the act of disassociation taken by the Bishop and the Standing Committee of the Diocese, in response to the actions of The Episcopal Church (TEC)."
They also passed a resolution approved a resolution removing all reference to the Diocesan Constitution removing all reference to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church.
A final vote was for approval of amendments to the diocesan canons removing all such references to the Episcopal Church.
"We have moved on," Bishop Lawrence told those gathered at the November 17 convention. "With the Standing Committee's resolution of disassociation the fact is accomplished: legally and canonically. The resolutions before you this day are affirmations of that fact."
He said he would be calling together a task force to help congregations find ways to continue to support their rector or vicar if the reduced size of their membership meant they could no longer afford a full time priest.