CHARLESTON, SC: Cathedral Votes 55-10 to Sever Ties with the Episcopal Church
Congregation amends corporate documents, replacing references to the Episcopal Church with those of the Diocese alone
Loyal Episcopalians in the congregation may ask for recent financial gifts to be returned
September 9, 2012
Communicants at the Cathedral of St. Luke & St. Paul voted 55-10 today to sever ties with the Episcopal Church, and realign themselves solely with Bishop Mark Lawrence and something called "the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina" (PECDSC).
Loyal Episcopalians in the congregation were privately crying foul as there was little effort made by parish leaders to publicize the special parish meeting, which was sandwiched in among regular Sunday morning activities.
Less than one-quarter of the congregation participated in the vote.
The Cathedral claims to have 279 communicants.
NOTE: Cathedral Dean Peet Dickinson has offered a clarification to this news which appears at the end of the story. It appears VOL was partially mislead by what follows from a source in support of the liberal South Carolina Episcopal FORUM.
THE REST OF THE STORY...
Over the past few weeks, the Cathedral's leadership has been intentionally vague about what it has been up to, even with its own members. The Cathedral's website barely made mention of the special parish meeting, or even the matter to be considered. (That same website includes almost no references to the Episcopal Church, including a laughable attempt to rewrite the Cathedral's centuries' old history without using the word "Episcopal".)
The youthful Dean of the Cathedral has been particularly missing in action. Two weeks ago he provided SC Episcopalians with a cryptic response to an inquiry about his intentions and those of the Cathedral about leaving the Church:
"Right now, I, along with our congregation, am in prayer for our beloved Bishop as he listens to the Lord and discerns His will for the Diocese of South Carolina. Bishop Lawrence has not revealed the plan he feels the Lord has given, so we wait patiently. I would ask you to join me in praying for our Bishop."
Loyal Episcopalians in the congregation told SC Episcopalians this afternoon they feel they have been purposely misled about the intentions of parish leaders to leave the Church. They are considering demanding that their recent financial gifts to capital campaigns, including those to the construction of a bell tower, be returned.
Bishop Lawrence has been quietly re-inventing the Diocese as its own religious organization separate from the Episcopal Church.
In 2010, the Bishop and his supporters convinced the Diocesan Convention to amend its Constitution and Canons in ways that are inconsistent with membership in the The Episcopal Church. Since that time, Diocesan leaders have been quietly encouraging parishes to amend their corporate documents to replace references to the Episcopal Church with similar references to the PECDSC.
This is what the Cathedral is doing.
Bishop Lawrence, who has no legal background, has repeatedly assured confused parishes through his representatives that changing their corporate documents is no big deal and that eliminating references to the Episcopal Church doesn't mean that they are not in the Episcopal Church.
Attorneys advising SC Episcopalians believe over the past two years the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina under Bishop Lawrence has in effect re-chartered itself as a "religious organization" separate from the Episcopal Church. The PECDSC's revised corporate documents do not provide "unimpeded accession" to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, but in fact claim that the Constitution of the Diocese is superior to that of the Church.
This is important because unqualified accession to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church is essential for membership. Even the Church's Executive Council said in 2011 the changes Lawrence and company have made to the Diocese's corporate documents are "null and void."
Bishop Lawrence says they are wrong, and his allies say that what these parishes are doing is only about "updating" their corporate documents.
The move by the Cathedral Sunday is important to the Bishop's long-term plans because the Diocesan House is located on its grounds. Should Lawrence get kicked out of the Episcopal Church or leave on his own, he would still claim he had a right to continue to use the Diocesan Headquarters as his base of operations, and the elegant home provided to him by the Diocese.
Cathedral Dean Responds and Clarifies Parish's Actions
By Dean Peet Dickinson
Sept. 12, 2012
The Cathedral remains in full communion with The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina (This is the incorporated name of The Diocese of South Carolina per the 1987 Diocesan Convention), which is in full communion with The Episcopal Church, and all other members of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
As to the report about the publicizing of the meeting, every member of the Congregation was informed within the timeline required by Cathedral By-laws; in addition, the proposed changes were read to the congregation in the January 2012 Annual Meeting, offering parishioners over seven months to provide feedback.
It should be noted that the date and time of the meeting was set to ensure the most participation: It was after summer vacation ended, at a time that would not require families with young children to hire a babysitter, and would not require older parishioners to drive at night.
There has recently been a false report on the Internet that The Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul has voted to sever ties with The Episcopal Church.
This is not correct.
Amendments to the language of the Cathedral By-laws, which had been proposed at the annual meeting of the parish in January, were approved after the second reading of the amendments by a 2/3 majority of those gathered at a meeting on September 9th.
Those amendments in no way changed the fact that The Cathedral, along with the entire Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, remains in communion with The Episcopal Church and all other members of the Worldwide Anglican Communion.
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