The presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church is in Charleston for today’s opening of a special weekend convention amid continuing turmoil over who may lay claim to being members of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori will preside over the convention to elect and install a new bishop for the diocese. The diocese has nominated a retired bishop, the Very Rev. Charles Glenn vonRosenberg, as provisional bishop and his name will be presented for a vote by clergy and lay people.
This week, in the midst of convention preparations, former Episcopal Bishop Mark Lawrence, now an outlier in the Episcopal Church but backed by a majority of the clergy and parishioners in the diocese, won a temporary restraining order to retain use of the diocesan name and seal.
Lawrence, who has engaged in theological disagreements with the direction of The Episcopal Church (TEC), including issues of same sex marriage, has argued that the diocese formed in 1785 predates the formation of TEC. He believes the remnants of the old diocese, including those congregations that want to remain with the TEC, no longer have rights to the name or seal.
Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein agreed.
In issuing the temporary order, she scheduled a hearing for Friday in Columbia that could extend the prohibition until the court rules on a lawsuit over who owns the church property in the diocese, estimated at $500 million. Lawrence’s group has filed the lawsuit, claiming rights to church properties where congregations have sided with him.
For now, the 19-plus parishes and missions that are remaining with the Episcopal Church will refer to themselves by a different name.
“We are aware of a temporary restraining order that names The Episcopal Church, but we do not expect it to have any effect on our plans to welcome the presiding bishop on Friday and meet with her on Saturday to choose our new bishop,” said spokeswoman Holly Behre. “We will adopt a name for The Episcopal Church in South Carolina that will comply with the spirit of the order until the matter can be resolved in court. But that will not change the fact that we are moving forward together as faithful members of our Church.”