In the Episcopal Church’s continuing controversies over human sexuality issues and theology, the Diocese of South Carolina is seceding from the church.
In a letter to Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, the Church’s Disciplinary Board for Bishops stated that South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence made “an open renunciation of the discipline of the church.”
On Wednesday, Bishop Jefferts Schori informed Mr. Lawrence that he could no longer perform any acts of an ordained person — in other words, the bishop was defrocked until the House of Bishops investigates and acts on Mr. Lawrence’s actions.
Mr. Lawrence’s punishment triggered a diocese resolution that disaffiliated it from the Episcopal Church. The diocese claims its freedom of worship is being restricted by its own church and that the move against the bishop is retaliation for voting actions of the people of the diocese in their conventions.
Mr. Lawrence had taken actions regarding resolutions and real estate that would make it easier for his diocese to separate from the national church; those moves were ruled to be renunciation.
Episcopal lay members, priests, churches, dioceses, and the national body have been in struggles over the direction of the church for decades, from a struggle to accept women as priests in the 1970s to current actions instituting rites for same-sex unions and promoting full inclusion in the church, including ordination, of transgender people.
Some dissenting priests and parishes in the United States have moved from the Episcopal Church to the Anglican Church in North America. Robert Duncan, the Anglican Church’s archbishop and primate, was not available for comment.