Episcopal Church in South Carolina

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This article is about the diocese of the Episcopal Church. For the Anglican realignment diocese which left the Episcopal Church in 2012, see Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.
Episcopal Church in South Carolina
Ecclesiastical province Province IV
Congregations 30
Members 6,387
Rite Episcopal
Cathedral Grace Church Cathedral
Current leadership
Bishop Gladstone B. “Skip” Adams III (Provisional)[1]
Location of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina
Location of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) is a diocese of the Episcopal Church that covers an area of 24 counties in the eastern part of the state of South Carolina. The western portion of the state forms the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina. As a diocese of the Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion and traces its heritage to the beginnings of Christianity.[2]

In a 2012 schism, Bishop Mark Lawrence and the majority of the leaders and parishes of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina voted to withdrew from the national Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church's position was that a diocese cannot withdraw itself from the national church. It recognized those parishes and individuals that wished to remain members of the Episcopal Church as the continuing diocese under the name Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg was chosen as the new bishop provisional of the diocese in January 2013.[3]

Both the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina claim to be the legitimate successor to the pre-schism diocese, and both claim ownership of diocesan property including church buildings. On February 3, 2015, a South Carolina judge ruled that the departing diocese was legally entitled to the property and use of the name "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina". An appeal of that decision, and other related legal proceedings, are ongoing.[4][5]


Colonial origins[edit]

On April 19, 1660, a group from Virginia attempted to establish an English settlement at or near present-day Beaufort. Morgan Jones of the Church of England was chaplain and presided over the first Anglican services in South Carolina. The colony was unsuccessful and later abandoned.[6]

In 1663, Charles II granted the Lords Proprietors the Province of Carolina and gave them "Power to build and found Churches, Chapels, and Oratories" for use according to the "Ecclesiastical Laws" of England.[7] The first permanent settlement in South Carolina was at Charleston, founded in 1670. The city received its first cleric in 1680 with the arrival of Atkin Williamson, and South Carolina's first church, St. Philip's, was built in 1681. In 1702, the newly incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts sent Samuel Thomas as its first missionary to South Carolina.[8]

Religious toleration fostered by the Lords Proprietors made Carolina attractive to nonconformists. While the colony was dominated by immigrant planters from Barbados who tended to be Anglican, there were significant numbers of Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, and French Huguenots. At the start of the 18th century, religious harmony in Carolina began to break down as political factions began to coalesce along religious lines. The Barbadian planters disputed with the Proprietors over debts, land policies, and the Indian Trade. The Huguenots sided with the Anglicans, while the newly arrived dissenters gave their support to the Proprietors who had given them toleration.[9] On May 6, 1704, Anglican governor Nathaniel Johnson called an emergency session of the General Assembly where a bill was introduced to require all members of that body to subscribe to the Test Act, effectively excluding non-Anglicans from the legislature. The Exclusion Act passed by one vote.[10] In November, the General Assembly passed the Establishment Act, making the Church of England the state religion of the Province. Minister salaries and church construction were to be financed by an export and import tax, while local vestries were empowered to raise revenue by assessing the real and personal property of Anglicans and dissenters alike. The act gave the laity control over the church. Taxpaying parishioners were to select the rector and the vestry, which would manage the parish. A lay commission would exercise oversight over the church at large, with the power to remove clergy.[11]

The 1704 acts were highly controversial, and dissenters lobbied the English government and public for their repeal. Daniel Defoe wrote a pamphlet, "Case of the Protestant Dissenters", that set out the argument of the nonconformists. They argued that the Exclusion Act was contrary to colonial precedent and the Carolina charter. On the Establishment Act, they argued that it violated the Church of England's episcopal polity by giving lay commissioners powers to discipline clergy.[12] The House of Lords agreed and Queen Anne declared the acts null and void. On November 30, 1706, the General Assembly repealed both acts.[13] They were replaced by a new Establishment Act that eliminated the commission's ability to discipline clergy. However, parishioners still elected their clergy and the lay commission still administered elections and supervised the Church of England in Carolina.[14] An 1710 amendment to the act abolished parish levies and instead provided that vestries could draw up to ₤40 annually from public funds to cover parish expenses. In this way, dissenters would not directly fund the Church of England.[15]

In 1708, Gideon Johnston was sent by Henry Compton, Bishop of London, as the colony's first commissary. The commissary was the personal representative of the Bishop of London, who had nominal jurisdiction over the church in the colonies.[7] His role was to supervise the clergy and the affairs of the church, and Johnston was a strong advocate of episcopal and clerical authority and adhering to official Anglican doctrine and form.[16] The commissary's influence was limited, however, by lay power and loopholes in the Church Acts.[17] The 1706 Act had taken from the lay commission the power to remove ministers without providing other means of removal. As a result, once a minister had been elected to a parish, a minister could not be removed for behavior. Theoretically, the commissary could revoke a problematic minister's license but not the minister's benefice or salary. Parishes ultimately resorted to paying troublesome ministers to resign.[18] Johnston also attempted to conform the colonial church in all respects to the church in England. He found opposition not only from dissenters but from Anglicans who disliked episcopacy and embraced many of the religious outlooks of the nonconformists.[19]

Concentrated in the lowcountry, with its center at Charleston, the colonial church's membership included the plantation gentry, the professional class, urban merchants, and skilled craftsmen. Most of the Huguenots who immigrated to the colony also converted to Anglicanism. This influence caused the clergy in South Carolina to be more Calvinist than the surrounding colonies.[20] Outside of the lowcountry, however, the Church of England's presence was very weak, the interior being predominantly Presbyterian and Baptist.[21]

Creation and division[edit]

During the American Revolution, dissenters successfully advocated for the disestablishment of the Church of England and ensured that all Protestant religions were treated equally with the adoption of a state constitution in 1778 (equality was extended to Catholics and Jews in 1790).[22] The first state convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina was held on May 12, 1785.[23] In October 1790, South Carolina's state convention unanimously accepted the constitution and canons for the national church adopted by the General Convention at Philadelphia earlier in July 1789.[24] Robert Smith was elected South Carolina's first bishop on February 10, 1795, at the 12th convention.[25]

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina remained disorganized and stagnant during the immediate years after the Revolutionary War.[25] The strong congregationalist tendencies held by the churches contributed to a lack of interest beyond local affairs. After 1798, no convention would meet until 1804. Bishop Smith had died in 1801 and there was no standing committee to examine candidates for holy orders. At the 1804 convention, a standing committee was appointed, and Edward Jenkins was elected bishop. Jenkins, however, declined the office.[26] A lingering fear of tyrannical bishops would leave South Carolina without a bishop until 1812 when Theodore Dehon was elected. In 1810, the Protestant Episcopal Society for the Advancement of Christianity in South Carolina was created on the model of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.

During the American Civil War, the Diocese of South Carolina was briefly separated from the Episcopal Church in the United States and was part of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. In 1922, the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina was created from territory formerly part of the original diocese.


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.[27] 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.'"[28] 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.[29]

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.[30]

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.[31] On October 15, when Bishop Lawrence was notified of the Disciplinary Board's finding, diocesan leadership stated that the two resolutions were triggered.[32] 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.[33]

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."[34] 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; the legal disputes remain unresolved. The Episcopal Church re-organized the diocese of the national church in South Carolina with those parishes, priests, and church members who wanted to remain affiliated with the national church. They are currently using the name "Episcopal Church in South Carolina," since a temporary court order has 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.[35]

On February 3, 2015, a South Carolina circuit court judge 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 affects over $500 million in church property.[36] That ruling has been appealed; related legal proceedings are also ongoing.[37]

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 has been selected to host the annual diocesan convention in November 2016.[38] 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."[39]


These are the bishops who have served the South Carolina diocese connected to the Episcopal Church:[40]

  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)
    * Charles G. vonRosenberg (Provisional, 2013-present: due to retire in summer 2016)[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "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. 
  2. ^ From the official website
  3. ^ http://www.ecumenicalnews.com/article/rebuild-episcopal-church-in-south-carolina-new-bishop-1718
  4. ^ http://www.episcopalchurchsc.org/news-release-may-18-2015.html
  5. ^ http://www.episcopalchurchsc.org/news-release-june-11-2015.html
  6. ^ Philip G. Clarke, Jr., Anglicanism in South Carolina, 1660-1976: A Chronological History of Dates and Events in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press and the Rev. Emmett Lucas, Jr., 1976), p. 1.
  7. ^ a b George C. Rogers, Jr., Church and State In Eighteenth-Century South Carolina (Charleston, South Carolina: Dalcho Historical Society, 1959), 10.
  8. ^ Clarke, Jr., Anglicanism in South Carolina, pp. 2-4.
  9. ^ S. Charles Bolton, Southern Anglicanism: The Church of England in Colonial South Carolina (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982), pp. 18-23.
  10. ^ Clarke, Jr., Anglicanism in South Carolina, p. 5.
  11. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, pp. 24-26.
  12. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, pp. 26-27.
  13. ^ Clarke, Jr., Anglicanism in South Carolina, p. 6.
  14. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 28.
  15. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 32.
  16. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 29.
  17. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 13-14.
  18. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 30.
  19. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 31
  20. ^ Holmes, David L. (1993). A Brief History of the Episcopal Church: With A Chapter on the Anglican Reformation and an Appendix on the Quest for an Annulment of Henry VIII. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International. p. 35. ISBN 1-56338-060-9. 
  21. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 18-19.
  22. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 22-23.
  23. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 26.
  24. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, p. 28.
  25. ^ a b Rogers, Jr. 1959, p. 29.
  26. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, p. 30.
  27. ^ "South Carolina re-elects Mark Lawrence as bishop" Episcopal News Service, 4 August 2007
  28. ^ http://www.livingchurch.org/pb-removes-lawrence
  29. ^ http://www.livingchurch.org/pb-removes-lawrence
  30. ^ http://www.charlestonmercury.com/index.php/en/lifestyle/religion/129-the-real-story-behind-our-split-with-the-episcopal-church
  31. ^ Excerpt from October 2, 2012, minutes of the Diocese of South Carolina Standing Committee and Board of Directors meeting. Accessed January 7, 2013.
  32. ^ "Episcopal Church Takes Action Against the Bishop and Diocese of SC", Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, accessed October 17, 2012.
  33. ^ "Special Convention Approves Canonical and Constitutional Amendments Regarding Disassociation" (November 17, 2012). Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.
  34. ^ Episcopal News Service (November 15, 2012). "Presiding Bishop's Pastoral Letter to Episcopalians in South Carolina".
  35. ^ http://www.ecumenicalnews.com/article/rebuild-episcopal-church-in-south-carolina-new-bishop-1718
  36. ^ "Court rules breakaway SC Episcopal churches can keep $500 million in property" (February 4, 2015), The State. Accessed February 4, 2015.
  37. ^ http://www.episcopalchurchsc.org/news-release-june-11-2015.html
  38. ^ http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20151121/PC1204/151129894
  39. ^ http://www.episcopalchurchsc.org/celebrating-our-new-cathedral.html
  40. ^ The Episcopal Church Annual. Morehouse Publishing: New York, NY (2005)
  41. ^ http://www.episcopalchurchsc.org/

External links[edit]