Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina

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Diocese of South Carolina
Ecclesiastical province Anglican Church in North America
Congregations 53 (June 2016)[1]
Members 22,149 (June 2016)[1]
Rite Anglican
Cathedral Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, Charleston
Current leadership
Bishop Mark Lawrence
Location of the Diocese of South Carolina
Location of the Diocese of South Carolina

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is a diocese of the Anglican Church in North America. The diocese covers an area of 24 counties in the eastern part of the state of South Carolina. In 2015, it had 52 parishes with 22,953 members.[1] The see city is Charleston, home to the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul and diocesan headquarters.

Established in 1785, the diocese was one of the nine original dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States. The diocese originally covered the entire state of South Carolina, but the western part of the state became the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina in 1922. After a long period of conflict over theology and authority within the Episcopal Church, the diocese withdrew from the Episcopal Church in 2012. The diocesan convention voted to affiliate with the Anglican Church in North America in March 2017, and the diocese was officially admitted into the larger church on June 27, 2017.

After the diocese withdrew from the Episcopal Church in 2012, parishes and members who wished to remain in the Episcopal Church organized a continuing diocese under the name Episcopal Church in South Carolina. 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."[2][3] 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 Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.[4] The S.C. Supreme Court's decision did not answer the question of who owns the use of the name "Episcopal Diocese in South Carolina," and other associated marks because one justice did not participate in that portion of the decision. Because the remaining four justices split 2-2, the lower court ruling remains in effect on that issue.[4] Litigation is ongoing.


Colonial origins (1660–1775)[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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] The House of Lords agreed, and Queen Anne declared the acts null and void. On November 30, 1706, the General Assembly repealed both acts.[12] 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.[13] A 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.[14]

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.[6] 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.[15] The commissary's influence was limited, however, by lay power and loopholes in the Church Acts.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] Outside of the lowcountry, however, the Church of England's presence was very weak, the interior being predominantly Presbyterian and Baptist.[20]

Creation and division (1775–1922)[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).[21] The first state convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina was held on May 12, 1785.[22] 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.[23] Robert Smith was elected South Carolina's first bishop on February 10, 1795, at the 12th convention.[24]

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina remained disorganized and stagnant during the immediate years after the Revolutionary War.[24] 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.[25] 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.

Tensions with the Episcopal Church (2008–2012)[edit]

From the 2000s until 2012 a large number of clergy and laypeople in the Diocese of South Carolina, along with other dioceses such as San Joaquin, Fort Worth, Quincy, and Pittsburgh, became more and more dissatisfied with decisions made by the Episcopal Church and increasingly supported Anglican realignment. Although some clergy and parishioners in the diocese supported national developments, they were in the minority,[citation needed] which was generally not the case with most other Episcopal dioceses in the country. Since 2008, a number of developments heightened tensions between the diocese and the national Episcopal Church.

Mark J. Lawrence was consecrated and installed as bishop on January 26, 2008, after being elected twice.[26] The polity of the Episcopal Church requires that a majority of standing committees and diocesan bishops give consent to the election of any diocesan bishop. Because of "canonical deficiencies" in several dioceses' responses, the first election was declared void, requiring a second election.[27]

The diocese has opposed actions of the national Episcopal Church that it views as contrary to scripture (see Homosexuality and Anglicanism). After the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed resolutions DO25 (opening "any ordained ministry" to individuals in same-sex relationships) and CO56 (concerning the blessing of same-sex relationships), the diocese responded by holding a special convention on October 24, 2009.[28] The convention passed a resolution authorizing "the Bishop and Standing Committee to begin withdrawing from all bodies of the Episcopal Church that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture, the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them ... until such bodies show a willingness to repent of such actions." It also declared "Resolutions DO25 and CO56, to be null and void, having no effect in this Diocese, and in violation of our diocesan canon."[29][30]

The diocese attempted to distance itself further from the actions of General Convention in October 2010 and February 2011. At these consecutive diocesan conventions, accession clauses to the canons of the Episcopal Church were removed from the diocese's constitution. This was in response to revisions of Title IV, the canons of the Episcopal Church governing the ecclesiastical discipline of priests and bishops. The diocese claimed the revisions gave the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church too much authority in internal diocesan affairs.[31] While Lawrence stated that he did not intend to lead the diocese out of the Episcopal Church, 12 allegations made by an anonymous party charged that the bishop had "abandon[ed] the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church." Following an investigation in the fall of 2011, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops announced on November 28 that Lawrence's actions did not constitute abandonment.[32]

In November 2011, the diocese generated more controversy when it issued quitclaim deeds to all parishes in the diocese, thereby surrendering any claim that it might have over parish property. Under the canons of the Episcopal Church, parish property is held in trust for the diocese and the national church; however, South Carolina's diocesan chancellor defended the quitclaim deeds by citing a recent state Supreme Court ruling that the Episcopal Church's property canon was not binding on All Saints Parish in Pawleys Island. He also cited the fact that before 1979, the Episcopal Church never claimed ownership of parish property.[32]

In the aftermath of the 2012 General Convention, which voted to allow the blessing of same-sex unions, there was speculation that the diocese was heading for secession. Bishop Lawrence was reported to have said that he personally "no longer sees a place for the diocese in the General Convention."[33]

Disaffiliation from the Episcopal Church (2012–2013)[edit]

With tensions growing between the diocese and the larger Episcopal Church, the diocese's standing committee passed two corporate resolutions on October 2, 2012, designed to conditionally disaffiliate the diocese from the Episcopal Church and also called 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.[34] Bishop Lawrence was notified on October 15, 2012, by the Presiding Bishop that on September 18 the Disciplinary Board for Bishops had certified his abandonment of the Episcopal Church, thus triggering the two resolutions passed earlier.[35]

The special convention was held in Charleston at St. Philip’s Church on November 17, 2012. The convention affirmed the disassociation and amended the diocesan constitution and canons to remove all references to the Episcopal Church.[36] The Diocese of South Carolina was the fifth Episcopal diocese in the United States to vote to leave the national church in a trend known as Anglican realignment.[37]

The diocese's decision was supported by the steering committee of the primates of the Global South of the Anglican Communion and by the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.[38][39] The steering committee also recognized Lawrence as a bishop over a diocese "within the Anglican Communion."[40] In contrast, the Episcopal Church disputed the legitimacy of these actions, stating that a diocese cannot withdraw from the Episcopal Church.[41]

The Episcopal Church re-organized the "continuing" diocese using the place holder name Episcopal Church in South Carolina for parishes that wanted to remain within the national Episcopal Church.[42] On January 26, 2013, that continuing diocese held a special convention to elect Charles G. vonRosenberg, retired Bishop of East Tennessee, its provisional bishop.[43]

Legal battle over property (2013–2017)[edit]

Both groups claim ownership of the pre-schism Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina's assets and identity. On January 4, 2013, the departing diocese filed suit in South Carolina court against the Episcopal Church to "protect the Diocese’s real and personal property and that of its parishes" and to "prevent The Episcopal Church from infringing on the protected marks of the Diocese, including its seal and its historical names, and to prevent the church from assuming the Diocese’s identity."[44]

After an ex parte hearing, a South Carolina judge issued a temporary restraining order against the Episcopal Church at the request of the departing diocese on January 23, 2013. The temporary restraining order prevented the Episcopal Church from using the registered names of the diocese, including "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina', "The Diocese of South Carolina," and the "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina." It also included the seal of the diocese.[45]

On February 3, 2015, a South Carolina Circuit Court judge ruled that the departing diocese under Lawrence's leadership was entitled to the property and registered names of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. The ruling affected over $500 million in church property.[46] On May 15, 2015, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina filed an appeal of that decision to the South Carolina Supreme Court.[2] In addition, Bishop vonRosenberg has filed a related false-advertising lawsuit in federal court claiming Bishop Lawrence has falsely represented himself as a bishop of the Episcopal Church.[3]

On August 2, 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued a split decision that effectively returns the property of 29 parishes and the St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.[4] Each of the five justices wrote separately. Two justices would have returned all the property in dispute to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Two justices found that 29 parishes were the property of the Episcopal Church due to their adoption of the Episcopal Church's Dennis Canon (a church bylaw meant to impose a trust on parish property), while seven parishes that did not adopt the Dennis Canon should be allowed to keep their property. One justice would have allowed all of the breakaway parishes to retain their property.[47]

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 the remaining seven parishes of the Episcopal Diocese in South Carolina involved in the lawsuit own their properties. The decision did not settle the question of who owns the name "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" and intellectual property because one justice did not participate in that portion of the decision. That left a 2-2 tie and the lower court's ruling remains in place on that issue.[4]

Joining the Anglican Church in North America[edit]

At its annual convention in March 2014, the diocese voted to join the global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. It also voted to accept temporary "primatial oversight" from Anglican Communion bishops in the Global South, an action which Bishop Lawrence stated brought it "an extra-provincial diocesan status, gracious oversight from one of the largest ecclesial entities within the Communion."[48] According to the Anglican Communion's official website, the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is not part of the Anglican Communion and does not have extra-provincial status.[49]

The diocese held a two-day meeting in April 2015 at St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center examining "possible compatibility" with the Anglican Church in North America.[50] The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina Affiliation Task Force recommended affiliation with the ACNA at the diocesan convention on March 12, 2016. The affiliation would have to be approved by two future conventions of the diocese.[51]

The Diocese of South Carolina voted unanimously to affiliate with ACNA at their 226th Convention, held in Summerville, on 11 March 2017. ACNA's Provincial Council voted unanimously to formally receive the Diocese of South Carolina at ACNA's Third Provincial Assembly, meeting in Wheaton, Illinois, on 27 June 2017.[52][53][54]


These are the bishops who have served the Diocese of South Carolina:[55]

  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–present)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "About Us". Diocese of South Carolina. Retrieved 26 September 2016. 
  2. ^ a b http://www.episcopalchurchsc.org/news-release-may-18-2015.html
  3. ^ a b http://www.episcopalchurchsc.org/news-release-june-11-2015.html
  4. ^ a b c d http://www.postandcourier.com/news/state-supreme-court-partially-reverses-lower-court-ruling-in-episcopal/article_260f5402-778c-11e7-8710-5facadfd7bca.html
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ a b George C. Rogers, Jr., Church and State In Eighteenth-Century South Carolina (Charleston, South Carolina: Dalcho Historical Society, 1959), 10.
  7. ^ Clarke, Jr., Anglicanism in South Carolina, pp. 2-4.
  8. ^ S. Charles Bolton, Southern Anglicanism: The Church of England in Colonial South Carolina (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982), pp. 18-23.
  9. ^ Clarke, Jr., Anglicanism in South Carolina, p. 5.
  10. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, pp. 24-26.
  11. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, pp. 26-27.
  12. ^ Clarke, Jr., Anglicanism in South Carolina, p. 6.
  13. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 28.
  14. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 32.
  15. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 29.
  16. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 13-14.
  17. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 30.
  18. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 31
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 18-19.
  21. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 22-23.
  22. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 26.
  23. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, p. 28.
  24. ^ a b Rogers, Jr. 1959, p. 29.
  25. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, p. 30.
  26. ^ [dead link] "South Carolina re-elects Mark Lawrence as bishop" Episcopal News Service, 4 August 2007
  27. ^ [dead link] "South Carolina election voided due to canonical deficiencies in responses" Episcopal News Service, 15 March 2007
  28. ^ General Convention Resolutions C056 Archived April 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. and D025 Archived 2011-05-12 at the Wayback Machine., General Convention 2009 Legislation Archived 2011-04-23 at the Wayback Machine., accessed 29 April 2011.
  29. ^ "Four of Five Resolutions Overwhelmingly Passed at Special Convention", Diocese of South Carolina, accessed April 28, 2011.
  30. ^ [Resolutions Offered at Special October 24, 2009 Covention", Diocese of South Carolina, accessed April 28, 2011.
  31. ^ Adam Parker, "Episcopal Diocese of S.C. looks to future", The Post and Courier, 27 February 2011, accessed 29 April 2011.
  32. ^ a b Mary Frances Schjonberg (28 November 2011), "Disciplinary Board dismisses abandonment complaint against South Carolina bishop", Episcopal News Service, accessed May 1, 2011.
  33. ^ South Carolina mulls secession: The Church of England Newspaper, August 12, 2012
  34. ^ Excerpt from October 2, 2012, minutes of the Diocese of South Carolina Standing Committee and Board of Directors meeting. Accessed January 7, 2013.
  35. ^ "Episcopal Church Takes Action Against the Bishop and Diocese of SC", Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, accessed October 17, 2012.
  36. ^ "Special Convention Approves Canonical and Constitutional Amendments Regarding Disassociation" (November 17, 2012). Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.
  37. ^ McLeod, Harriet (November 17, 2012). "South Carolina Episcopalians break away from U.S. church". Chicago Tribune. Accessed November 18, 2012.
  38. ^ Letter from the Global South of the Anglican Communion to Bishop Mark Lawrence, 14 December 2012. Accessed January 7, 2013.
  39. ^ Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans Letter of Support
  40. ^ "Steering Committee Primates of Global South Recognize Lawrence's Legitimate Episcopal Oversight," Diocese of South Carolina, 14 December 2012
  41. ^ Episcopal News Service (November 15, 2012). "Presiding Bishop's Pastoral Letter to Episcopalians in South Carolina".
  42. ^ "Fact Sheet: The Diocese of South Carolina" (November 9, 2012). The Episcopal Church. Accessed November 18, 2012.
  43. ^ "Charles vonRosenberg elected Provisional Bishop" Archived 2012-12-30 at the Wayback Machine., the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina (continuing). Accessed January 27, 2013.
  44. ^ Jan Pringle (January 4, 2013), "Diocese Seeks Declaratory Judgment to Prevent Episcopal Church from Seizing Local Parishes and "Hijacking" their Identities" Archived 2014-04-08 at the Wayback Machine., Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. Accessed January 7, 2013.
  45. ^ Temporary Restraining Order, January 23, 2013, pp. 6-7. Accessed January 25, 2013.
  46. ^ "Court rules breakaway SC Episcopal churches can keep $500 million in property" (February 4, 2015), The State. Accessed February 4, 2015.
  47. ^ http://www.sccourts.org/opinions/HTMLFiles/SC/27731.pdf
  48. ^ http://www.diosc.com/sys/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=568&Itemid=175
  49. ^ http://www.anglicancommunion.org/structures/member-churches.aspx
  50. ^ "Anglican Church in North America". anglicanchurch.net. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  51. ^ South Carolina Considers ACNA Affiliation during 225th Diocesan Convention, Anglican Ink, 12 March 2016
  52. ^ "Anglican Church in North America". anglicanchurch.net. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  53. ^ "Anglican Church in North America". anglicanchurch.net. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  54. ^ Hunter, Joy. "Diocese of South Carolina - Diocese of South Carolina Received by the Anglican Church in North America". Diocese of South Carolina. Retrieved 2017-06-28. 
  55. ^ The Episcopal Church Annual. Morehouse Publishing: New York, NY (2005)

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 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°47′12″N 79°56′24″W / 32.7868°N 79.9400°W / 32.7868; -79.9400