Episcopal Church Charges South Carolina Bishop, SC Diocese Breaks with Church

(Photo Credit: Episcopal Church/Dick Schori)The Episcopal Church's South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence (right) and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori share a light moment during her visit to the Diocese of South Carolina in February 2008. Rev. Schori met at public and private gatherings with local clergy and lay people.

Amid growing differences in theology about homosexuality, an Episcopal Church Panel has declared that Diocese of South Carolina bishop Mark Lawrence has abandoned the Episcopal Church, triggering a reaction from the Diocese that states it has disaffiliated itself from the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church said in a statement on Wednesday that its Disciplinary Board of Bishops certified to the denomination's Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori that Rev. Lawrence had abandoned the church "by an open renunciation of the discipline of the church."

"Following complaints of 12 adult members and two priests of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, the determination was made under Canon IV.16(A)," the Episcopal Church said.

The statement comes several months after Bishop Lawrence and most of the delegation of the Diocese of South Carolina left the Episcopal Church's General Convention 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. In 2003, the Episcopal Church ordained its first openly gay bishop.

The Episcopal Church Rev. Schori spoke with Rev. Lawrence on Monday to inform him of the disciplinary board's decision.

"She also informed him that, effective noon of that day, the exercise of his ministry was restricted. Therefore under the canon, he is not permitted to perform any acts as an ordained person," the Episcopal Church said. Lawrence has 60 days to respond to the allegations.

The Diocese of South Carolina said in a statement that the Episcopal Church action triggered "triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions of the Diocese, which simultaneously disaffiliated the Diocese from The Episcopal Church and called a Special Convention" to be held at St. Phillip's Church, Charleston on November 17.

Bishop Lawrence said he was informed of the board action between two meetings on October 3 and October 22 where he and Bishop Andrew Waldo of the Upper Diocese of South Carolina had set up with the Presiding Bishop "to find a peaceful alternative to the growing issues between The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina."

"The meetings were to explore 'creative solutions' for resolving these issues to avoid further turmoil in the Diocese and in The Episcopal Church," the Diocese said.

The Diocese said on Friday the call to Convention was at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, issued details on registration and said parishes and missions were mailed packages detailing protocol for the event.

The Episcopal Church cited "three particular acts of abandonment" in 2010 and 2011 by the bishop, which it says failed to "guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church." The church said Lawrence failed to declare the actions were "out of order or otherwise dissenting from their adoption, but instead speaking in support of them."

The Episcopal Church says that on October 19, 2011, Bishop Lawrence changed the charter of the Diocese with the State of South Carolina to operate under the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese, not The Episcopal Church.

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