Diocese of South Carolina to vote on new affiliation
The Diocese of South Carolina, which separated from The Episcopal Church in 2012, is set to vote Saturday at its convention on whether to join the Anglican Church in North America. The Diocese would remain fully intact, with Bishop Mark Lawrence continuing to lead its 22,000 members from 52 congregations across the eastern part of the state.
Diocese officials expect convention delegates to approve the new affiliation.
ACNA was established in 2009 to serve orthodox Anglicans, including those in disagreement with The Episcopal Church, which has liberalized its policies regarding LGBT clergy and members and sparked controversy over theology and governance. The group has nearly 112,000 members in 966 churches and 32 dioceses spread across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
ACNA is a voluntary association of dioceses with an “intentionally lean” provincial structure that is focused on providing support to congregations. Its archbishop is the Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach, who was elected in 2014 and will serve a five-year term.
The Anglican Church of North America saw its first South Carolina diocese formed in 2010 with help from the Rev. Steve Wood, rector of St. Andrew’s Church in Mount Pleasant, who became bishop of ACNA’s Diocese of the Carolinas in 2012.
The Diocese of South Carolina is part of a network of orthodox Anglican dioceses and provinces around the world.
The Diocese currently is entangled in two lawsuits, one state and one federal, involving The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the group of parishes that chose to remain with The Episcopal Church in 2012 and which contests the diocese’s claim to its name, seal and property.
If delegates vote to join ACNA, the diocese will become that church’s largest such group. It will be part of an organization that includes evangelicals and charismatics, Anglo-Catholics and others.
In South Carolina, the Reformed Episcopal Church, which split from The Episcopal Church in 1873, also is a member, and the Diocese of South Carolina already has entered into a relationship with its sister denomination. The Reformed Episcopal Church seminary in Summerville recently asked Lawrence to join its leadership board. The Rev. Charles Echols, a priest in the Diocese, is a member of the seminary’s faculty.
Convention-related events include a series of free workshops, open to the public, scheduled for Friday at St. Paul’s Church in Summerville. The workshops are on racial reconciliation, “engaging changing cultures,” mission and service.
The Rt. Rev. Alphonza Gadsden, bishop ordinary of the Diocese of the Southeast of the Reformed Episcopal Church, will be the preacher for the service of Holy Eucharist at 5 p.m. Friday, March 10. The service is open to the public.
On Saturday, Lawrence will share his vision for the coming year, ministry leaders will issue progress reports and delegates vote on diocesan representatives and the organization’s budget.
For more information about the convention, go to http://www.diosc.com/sys/diocesanconvention.