Rebuild Episcopal Church in South Carolina, new bishop says

(Photo: Episcopal News Service / Mary Frances Schjonberg)The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg addresses members of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on January 26, 2013.

The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg was elected as the bishop provisional in Charleston, South Carolina on Saturday at a diocesan convention organized by Episcopalians in the state who chose to remain with the denomination.

Also in attendance were some of the church's national leaders, including the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop.

The Episcopal Church is attempting to reorganize the diocese as it faces a legal challenge from ex-members who say control of the diocese's name, identity and property – estimated at $500 million – is theirs.

A South Carolina judge last week issued a temporary restraining order that forbids the national church from using the name or seal of the diocese, known as the "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina." The order is in effect until Feb. 1 when a hearing is scheduled on the matter.

"I want to use the image of rebuilding, for that is what we are called to do – to reorganize and to rebuild The Episcopal Church in South Carolina," Bishop vonRosenberg said.

He suggested that the diocese rebuild the church on the foundation of Jesus Christ, with an attitude of humility and love. He referred to the departed Episcopalians as "sincere Christians."

"It is appropriate to pray for one another and to wish each other well on our separate ways," the bishop said. "While we have failed thus far in our efforts toward Christian unity, our Lord will ultimately succeed, on his day."

Bishop vonRosenberg suggested several building blocks for the church.

He told those gathered that "we are not alone," stating they were a part of the Episcopal Church, and a part of the world-wide Anglican communion. He said these ties meant "[w]e are accountable."

"And, we thank God for our union with others in Christ," he said.

He also referred to the Episcopal Church as being "wide and broad."

"We are not under the tent because we are like-minded or because we agree on everything … but because we are a family … with all its diversity recognized and embraced," he said.

Bishop vonRosenberg also said that in rebuilding the diocese they would "reclaim classical Anglican, Episcopal theology," described as relying on holy scripture, the traditions of the church and reason.

"Protestant denominations who hold only to scripture as authoritative have offered great gifts to the world … but that is not who we are, as classical Anglicans, representing the Anglican Communion in this part of the world," he said.

He said the final cornerstone is an emphasis on mission.

"In this time of rebuilding for us in South Carolina, the temptation will be great to focus too much attention on ourselves. But, ironically, an excess of such attention would be over against our very identity," he said.

He concluded by telling convention attendants that they had resources to help them in their task ahead. He cited a passage in a letter by St. Paul to believers in Ephesus where he prays for wisdom and revelation from God so "you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe."

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News