Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between the "Episcopal Church in South Carolina" and the "Diocese of South Carolina"?
"The Episcopal Church in South Carolina" is the continuing Episcopal Church presence in eastern South Carolina and is so recognized by the Episcopal Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who leads the Anglican Communion. Charles vonRosenberg is the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, which is comprised of all the clergy, parishes, and missions that have remained loyal to the Church.
The breakaway "diocese," known currently as "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, Inc." is also known, by a judge's decree, as the "Diocese of South Carolina." Former Bishop Mark J. Lawrence is the leader of this group.
That is confusing. How can he make that claim?
Over the years, all dioceses in the Church have created corporations that allow them to hold property, conduct business, collect donations etc. The president of the corporation for the Diocese of South Carolina is the Bishop of the Diocese. While Lawrence is no longer an Episcopalian, he still insists that he is the still the president of the corporation and as such controls all diocesan assets and parish property.
In January Lawrence and his supporters found a state court judge in Dorchester County to award them control of the common names associated with the Diocese of South Carolina and its corporate "marks". In other words, the judge said that for the moment Lawrence and his crowd control the corporation. A full trial in state court will likely be held in front of that judge early next year.
Does this mean that we are not a Diocese in the Episcopal Church anymore?
Not at all. The Diocese, known as the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, continues to be the only officially-recognized diocese of the Episcopal Church in the eastern half of South Carolina. We have been a diocese in the Church since the Episcopal Church was organized and will continue to be so well into the future. www.epsicopalchurchsc.org
The judge's order only means that temporarily Mark Lawrence and his followers have exclusive use of the names "Diocese of South Carolina," "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina," "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc." or the official "marks" of the Diocese.
Lawrence's initiating legal action in January was apparently intended to embarrass the Presiding Bishop at the election and installation of Bishop vonRosenberg. However, it likely had another purpose in advancing Lawrence's claim to millions of dollars in Diocesan assets belonging to the Episcopal Church.
So is Lawrence an Episcopalian?
No. Ex-Bishop Lawrence has had some difficulty accepting that he is no longer a priest or bishop in the Episcopal Church or in the Anglican Communion. He renounced his ministry inthe Episcopal Church last October with great fanfare, but then seemed to reverse himself and criticized the Presiding Bishop when she accepted it in December. Apparently he felt she had misinterpreted his comments when he said, "I am no longer in the Episcopal Church."
Today, Lawrence says he is an Episcopal Bishop in an Episcopal Diocese, that is not part of the Episcopal Church. Since he is not part of any denomination that recognizes his authority, it is hard to know what this means.
Is it true that Mark Lawrence is recognized as bishop by the "vast majority" of the Anglican Communion?
He claims that he is. However, this is news to the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion is comprised of 39 churches or "provinces" whose theology and worship is descended from the Church of England, going back to King Henry VIII. To be a part of the communion, an individual, priest, or bishop must belong to one of those provinces.
There is only one Anglican province that is recognized by the head of the Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is the Episcopal Chur
5. Going Forward
As Archbishop Welby and the Anglican Communion approach the third anniversary of his enthronement, there may be a couple of insights that can be drawn from these two debacles which he both created and exacerbated.
One perhaps relates to evangelical parishes in which Welby's churchmanship was formed. In those parishes, there is a reliance on the will of the Holy Spirit in moving God's purposes forward. The Church infrastructure, its traditions, legalities, and hierarchies are often seen by them as restraining God's work. To them Church governing structures are things to be minimized and managed, but most certainly not trusted or celebrated.
That mindset seems to have found its way into Welby's leadership style.
Since the death of the British Empire, the Communion has struggled to reinvent itself and its relevance to a burgeoning worldwide community in which millions have an investment.
That responsibility now falls to Welby.
It is he who must refashion the Communion's hierarchy, traditions, and governing processes in ways that make sense in the 21st century. Given his evangelical roots, Welby's challenge is to have faith that through that new structure the Holy Spirit can be a source of new life for those millions.
If a handful of primates insist that they will boycott a conference as important as Lambeth 2018, the answer is not to cancel it, but to trust that Jesus will be there, even if only two or three gather together. The message is not how many are there, but what it is that God says to the world through those that are present.
The unfortunate part of the last four months is that the world saw Anglicanism as quarrelsome, punitive, and judgmental. It missed the news from the Primates' Meeting and the ACC that it is God's will for all people be free, for governments be just, and the earth be made whole and healthy again.
It is troubling that the Archbishop's own actions or lack of them were the reason the world did not hear that message from Canterbury and Zambia these past few months.
Secondly, it is remarkable how many times Welby's leadership is characterized by those in the know as an oligarchy. It is probably natural for anyone suddenly placed at the top of a global community with so many moving parts to surround himself with a small circle of reliable advisors. As Archbishop of Canterbury, his social world is very conservative and very British.
This governing model might have worked in an earlier time, but in this century it can only produces insularity of a type that leads to miscalculation, miscommunication, and mistrust.
Welby had a substantial career as an oil executive prior the priesthood. An essential measure of an executive's effectiveness is his or her ability to achieve specific objectives that lead to a pre-determined outcome. It has to be somewhat ironic, even to Welby, that he now presides over a global community that only moves forward through intense conversation, communication, worship, and prayer.
His followers are a different story. Obviously an