Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina (before 2012)

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The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina was established in 1785 as one of the nine original dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States. In 2012, the diocese split into two rival dioceses, the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, each claiming to be the legitimate successor of the original diocese.

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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] The House of Lords agreed, and Queen Anne declared the acts null and void. On November 30, 1706, the General Assembly repealed both acts.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

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.[2] 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.[11] The commissary's influence was limited, however, by lay power and loopholes in the Church Acts.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14]

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.[15] Outside of the lowcountry, however, the Church of England's presence was very weak, the interior being predominantly Presbyterian and Baptist.[16]

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).[17] The first state convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina was held on May 12, 1785.[18] 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.[19] Robert Smith was elected South Carolina's first bishop on February 10, 1795, at the 12th convention.[20]

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina remained disorganized and stagnant during the immediate years after the Revolutionary War.[20] 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.[21] 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.


These are the bishops who served the South Carolina diocese up to 2012:[22]

  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)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ a b George C. Rogers, Jr., Church and State In Eighteenth-Century South Carolina (Charleston, South Carolina: Dalcho Historical Society, 1959), 10.
  3. ^ Clarke, Jr., Anglicanism in South Carolina, pp. 2-4.
  4. ^ S. Charles Bolton, Southern Anglicanism: The Church of England in Colonial South Carolina (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982), pp. 18-23.
  5. ^ Clarke, Jr., Anglicanism in South Carolina, p. 5.
  6. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, pp. 24-26.
  7. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, pp. 26-27.
  8. ^ Clarke, Jr., Anglicanism in South Carolina, p. 6.
  9. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 28.
  10. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 32.
  11. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 29.
  12. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 13-14.
  13. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 30.
  14. ^ Bolton, Southern Anglicanism, p. 31
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 18-19.
  17. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 22-23.
  18. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 26.
  19. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, p. 28.
  20. ^ a b Rogers, Jr. 1959, p. 29.
  21. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, p. 30.
  22. ^ The Episcopal Church Annual. Morehouse Publishing: New York, NY (2005)