Episcopal Church in South Carolina

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Diocese of South Carolina
Ecclesiastical provinceProvince IV
HeadquartersCharleston SC
Congregations38 [1]
DenominationEpiscopal Church
CathedralGrace Church Cathedral
Current leadership
BishopGladstone B. "Skip" Adams III (Provisional)[2]
Location of the Diocese of South Carolina
Location of the Diocese of South Carolina
Grace Church Cathedral

The Diocese of South Carolina, known as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) from January 2013 until September 2019, is a diocese of the Episcopal Church. The diocese covers an area of 24 counties in the eastern part of the state. The see city is Charleston, home to Grace Church Cathedral and diocesan headquarters. The western portion of the state forms the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina. As a diocese of the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of South Carolina is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion and traces its heritage to the beginnings of Christianity.[3]

In a 2012 schism, then-Bishop Mark Lawrence and the majority of the leaders and parishes of the historic diocese departed from the national Episcopal Church. Lawrence's group considered their departure to be an official act of the diocese. The Episcopal Church disagreed, noting that its constitution and canons do not allow a diocese to unilaterally withdraw. The national church recognized the remaining parishes and individuals as its continuing diocese, under the new name "Episcopal Church in South Carolina." The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg was installed as the new bishop provisional of the diocese in January 2013.[4] Bishop Lawrence's group joined the Anglican Church in North America, and later became known as the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina.

Both parties claimed ownership of diocesan property, including not only church buildings but also the name "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina," and related names and marks. These claims were the subject of protracted legal battles. On August 2, 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court held in a split decision that 29 of the parishes in the lawsuit and the St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center are the property of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina and must be returned, but that the 7 remaining parish properties are owned by the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina.[5] The S.C. Supreme Court's decision did not answer the question of who owned the use of the name "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina," and other associated marks.[5] On September 19, 2019, a federal court awarded the names and intellectual property to the Episcopal Church and its South Carolina diocese.[6]


Schism and Lawsuits[edit]

During the years from 2000 to 2012, there were increasing tensions with the national church, particularly following the consecration of Mark J. Lawrence as bishop in 2008.[7] These tensions ultimately resulted in a September 18, 2012, finding by the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops Disciplinary Board that Lawrence had "violated his ordination vows to ‘conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church’ and to ‘guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church,’ as well as his duty to ‘well and faithfully perform the duties of [his] office in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of this Church.'"[8] On October 15, 2012, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori notified Lawrence of this decision. She also notified him that he was not allowed to "perform any Episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts" until further action by the House of Bishops.

The Bishops Disciplinary Board cited three specific actions by Lawrence which, it stated, showed his abandonment of his ordination vows. First, his support at the 2010 diocesan convention for efforts to "qualify the diocese’s accession to the Constitution of the Church and to remove any provision acceding to the canons of the Church, as well as proposals to amend the diocesan Canons to remove all references to the canons of the Church." Second, a set of 2011 amendments to the South Carolina nonprofit corporate charter of the diocese, filed by Lawrence, "deleting all references to the [Episcopal] Church and obedience to its Constitution and canons." Third, in November 2011, the issuance of quitclaim deeds for the real estate of every diocesan parish, in violation of the Church's Dennis Canon.[8]

According to the Reverend Jim Lewis, the canon to the ordinary for the Diocese of South Carolina, the dispute was over Schori's increasing acceptance of relativism in the church.[9]

With tensions growing between the diocese and the larger Episcopal Church, the diocese's standing committee had passed two corporate resolutions on October 2, 2012, designed to conditionally disaffiliate the diocese from the Episcopal Church and call for a special diocesan convention. These resolutions were to take effect if the national church took disciplinary action against Bishop Lawrence or other diocesan leadership.[10] On October 15, when Bishop Lawrence was notified of the Disciplinary Board's finding, diocesan leadership stated that the two resolutions were triggered.[11] The special convention was held in Charleston at St. Philip’s Church on November 17, 2012. The convention affirmed the disassociation of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina from the national Episcopal Church, and amended the diocesan constitution and canons to remove all references to the Episcopal Church.[12]

The Episcopal Church, however, disputed these actions, stating that under canon law an Episcopal diocese cannot withdraw itself from the larger Episcopal Church. In a "Pastoral Letter" to the diocese, Presiding Bishop Schori wrote that "While some leaders have expressed a desire to leave The Episcopal Church, the Diocese has not left. It cannot, by its own action. The alteration, dissolution, or departure of a diocese of The Episcopal Church requires the consent of General Convention, which has not been consulted."[13] She further wrote that the South Carolina diocese "continues to be a constituent part of The Episcopal Church, even if a number of its leaders have departed. If it becomes fully evident that those former leaders have, indeed, fully severed their ties with The Episcopal Church, new leaders will be elected and installed by action of a Diocesan Convention recognized by the wider Episcopal Church, in accordance with our Constitution and Canons."

Lawsuits were filed over church property, names, and symbols; some of the legal disputes remain unresolved. Following the split, the Episcopal Church organized new leadership for its diocese of the remaining parishes, priests, and church members. That diocese adopted the name "Episcopal Church in South Carolina," since a temporary court order allowed the departing group to continue using the name "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina." On January 26, 2013, a special convention of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina elected The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg, retired Bishop of East Tennessee, as the new bishop provisional of the diocese.[4] A Federal court ruled on September 19, 2019, that the name and marks belong to the Episcopal Church and its South Carolina diocese.[6]

On February 3, 2015, a South Carolina circuit court judge had ruled that the Episcopal Church in South Carolina was not entitled to the property and registered names of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. The ruling affected over $500 million in church property.[14] That ruling was appealed. On August 2, 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued a split decision that effectively returned the property of 29 parishes and the St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. [5] Each justice wrote separately. Two justices would have returned all the property in dispute to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Two justices found that only the 29 parishes which had affirmed their commitment to the Episcopal Church by passing a bylaw of the national church known as the "Dennis Cannon" prior to the breakaway were the property of the Episcopal Church. One justice would have allowed all of the breakaway parishes to retain their property.[15] As a result of the mixed opinion, 29 parish properties and St. Christopher Camp must be returned to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, while 7 other parishes own their properties. The South Carolina Supreme Court decision has been sent to Orangeburg Circuit Judge Edgar Dickson for implementation.

On September 19, 2019, a federal court ruled that the name "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina," along with related names and marks, including the diocesan seal, legally belong to the continuing Episcopal Church diocese. The court also ruled that, legally, "TECSC is the lawful successor of the Historic Diocese." The court noted also that it had been "settled by a majority of the South Carolina Supreme Court that TECSC is the lawful successor to the Historic Diocese."[16] The Anglican diocese has announced plans to appeal this ruling.

New cathedral[edit]

The Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul affiliated with the departing diocese in the schism, leaving the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina without a cathedral. In November 2015, the annual diocesan convention designated Grace Church in Charleston as the new diocesan cathedral, Grace Church Cathedral. The newly-chosen cathedral was selected to host the annual diocesan convention in November 2016.[17] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry visited the diocese in April 2016, and preached during a service at the new cathedral. The Very Reverend Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral in England, was also in attendance to present a Canterbury cross and to celebrate "the newest cathedral in the Anglican Communion, which, I’ve already sensed throughout the services of this morning, is full of energy and vitality and all the sorts of things that the old Mother Church needs to encourage her life, too."[18]


These are the bishops who have served the Diocese of South Carolina:[19]

  1. Robert Smith (1795–1801)
  2. Theodore Dehon (1812–1817)
  3. Nathaniel Bowen (1818–1839)
  4. Christopher E. Gadsden (1840–1852)
  5. Thomas F. Davis (1853–1871)
  6. William B. W. Howe (1871–1894)
    * Ellison Capers, Coadjutor Bishop (consecrated 1893)
  7. Ellison Capers (1894–1908)
    * William A. Guerry, Coadjutor Bishop (consecrated 1907)
  8. William A. Guerry (1908–1928)
    * Kirkman George Finlay, Coadjutor Bishop (1921–1922)
  9. Albert Sidney Thomas (1928–1944)
  10. Thomas N. Carruthers, (1944–1960)
  11. Gray Temple (1961–1982)
    * C. FitzSimons Allison, Coadjutor Bishop (consecrated 1980)
  12. C. FitzSimons Allison, (1982–1990)
    * G. Edward Haynsworth, (Assistant, 1985–1990)
  13. Edward L. Salmon, Jr. (1990–2008)
    * William J. Skilton, Suffragan Bishop (1996–2006)
  14. Mark Lawrence (2008–2012)
  15. Charles G. vonRosenberg (Provisional, 2013-2016)[3]
  16. Gladstone B. "Skip" Adams III (Provisional, 2016–present)[20]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Caldwell, Ronald J. (August 2017). A History of the Episcopal Church Schism in South Carolina. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock. p. 530. ISBN 9781532618857.
  • Childs, Margaretta P.; Leland, Isabella G. (October 1983), "South Carolina Episcopal Church Records", The South Carolina Historical Magazine, 84 (4): 250


  1. ^ http://www.episcopalchurchsc.org/find-a-church.html
  2. ^ "Episcopal Church in South Carolina welcomes new provisional bishop". Episcopal News Service. The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. September 13, 2016. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina". The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Rebuild Episcopal Church in South Carolina, new bishop says". www.ecumenicalnews.com. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  5. ^ a b c aparker@postandcourier.com, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Adam Parker jhawes@postandcourier.com. "State Supreme Court rules The Episcopal Church can reclaim 29 properties from breakaway parishes". Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  6. ^ a b https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/pressreleases/federal-judge-rules-in-favor-of-episcopal-church-in-south-carolina-in-trademark-infringement-case/
  7. ^ "South Carolina re-elects Mark Lawrence as bishop" Archived 2007-08-14 at the Wayback Machine Episcopal News Service, 4 August 2007
  8. ^ a b "PB Removes +Lawrence". Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  9. ^ http://www.charlestonmercury.com/index.php/en/lifestyle/religion/129-the-real-story-behind-our-split-with-the-episcopal-church
  10. ^ "Excerpt from October 2, 2012, minutes of the Diocese of South Carolina Standing Committee and Board of Directors meeting. Accessed January 7, 2013" (PDF). Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  11. ^ "Episcopal Church Takes Action Against the Bishop and Diocese of SC" Archived 2014-10-29 at the Wayback Machine, Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, accessed October 17, 2012.
  12. ^ "Special Convention Approves Canonical and Constitutional Amendments Regarding Disassociation" Archived 2012-12-01 at the Wayback Machine (November 17, 2012). Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.
  13. ^ Episcopal News Service (November 15, 2012). "Presiding Bishop's Pastoral Letter to Episcopalians in South Carolina".
  14. ^ "Court rules breakaway SC Episcopal churches can keep $500 million in property"[permanent dead link] (February 4, 2015), The State. Accessed February 4, 2015.
  15. ^ http://www.sccourts.org/opinions/HTMLFiles/SC/27731.pdf
  16. ^ http://www.episcopalchurchsc.org/uploads/1/2/9/8/12989303/2019-6-19_pacer_doc.pdf
  17. ^ Parker, Adam. "Grace becomes a cathedral". Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  18. ^ http://www.episcopalchurchsc.org/celebrating-our-new-cathedral.html
  19. ^ The Episcopal Church Annual. Morehouse Publishing: New York, NY (2005)
  20. ^ "Bishop Skip Adams". The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Retrieved 29 January 2017.

External links[edit]