Divisions in the Episcopal Church on the subject of gay marriage have led yet another diocese to break from the national US Episcopal Church.
Reuters reports Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina received a letter Oct. 15 from Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori saying he had “abandoned the church” and barring him from exercising his office. The local diocese however had previous stated that it would disassociate with the national church if it took exercised any hierarchical authority. It did, and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina became the fifth US diocese to break from its mother Church.
Dioceses in San Joaquin, California; Quincy, Illinois; Fort Worth, Texas; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have also left the US Episcopal Church since the 2003 ordination of the faith’s first openly gay bishop and trends in support of same sex marriage.
The South Carolina dispute has gone on for years and last Saturday a majority of parishes in the diocese voted at a convention for the break. The diocese presented a new constitution and claimed Lawrence as its bishop, removing all references to the national church.
The Item reports that the US Episcopal Church however does not accept the diocese secession.
“While some leaders have expressed a desire to leave the Episcopal Church, the diocese has not left,” Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote in a letter Thursday. “It cannot, by its own action. The alteration, dissolution, or departure of a diocese of The Episcopal Church requires the consent of the General Convention, which has not been consulted.”
The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina actually predates the US Episcopal Church by four years, forming in 1785. The US Episcopal Church formed in 1879.