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The Episcopal Church IN South Carolina is formed

The Episcopal Church IN South Carolina is formed
New provisional bishop receives two standing ovations

By Mary Ann Mueller
Special Correspondent
Jan. 26, 2013

CHARLESTON, SC---The Episcopal Church IN South Carolina took its first breaths of life Saturday morning before a packed crowd at Grace Episcopal Church. Witnessing the new Episcopal entity come into being were former members of The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina who, desiring to remain united to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, unanimously voted TECinSC into being.

Also on hand to guide the proceedings and witness the event were the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori; newly elected House of Deputies President Gay Jennings; and the retired bishop of East Tennessee, Charles vonRosenberg, as well as other Episcopal Church leaders from around the country.

But first things first ... The assembly had to wade its way through the sticky wicket created earlier in the week by South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein's issuing of a temporary restraining order forbidding The Episcopal Church from claiming the name and title of The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina as it formed its new South Carolina entity. The judge found the diocesan name to be the legally registered property of The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, originally founded in 1785 and currently under the episcopal leadership of Bishop Mark Lawrence.

Charleston attorney Thomas Tisdale elaborated on the problem.

"The Episcopal Church has been sued by a group lead by the former bishop and some of his people acting under his leadership," the former chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina explained. "The court has issued a temporary restraining order against The Episcopal Church, of which we are a constituent part as we in South Carolina are a constituent part of the United States."

Tisdale, who like recently retired General Convention Secretary Gregory Straub has a passion for bowties, continued to explain that he hoped that the situation would soon be clarified through additional judicial proceedings noting that the actions of the special convention had to comply with the court's order concerning the naming of the organization.

"In that connection it is proposed that the name 'The Episcopal Church in South Carolina' be used in place of and instead of what we believe is our true and lawful name in all these proceedings and everything that we do until a court of competent jurisdiction allows us to do otherwise."

Following his legal explanation Tisdale called for vote on the matter.

"I therefore propose," he said in his classic low country lilt. "That the organization here assembled be known as 'The Episcopal Church in South Carolina' in all our proceedings both written and oral..."

Lonnie Hamilton, III, made the motion. It was overwhelmingly carried with a shouted voice-vote carried without a stray nay being heard.

Hamilton was one of only two Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina deputies who remained for the entire run of the 2012 General Convention when the other six members of the deputation left following the passage of A049 authorizing the blessings of same-sex unions.

Once the operational name of "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina" was finalized, the special convention heard about the deputations. In all 28 congregations sent 80 delegates; 15 of TECinSC's 20 clergy were in attendance. After hearing the numbers, the Presiding Bishop determined that a voting quorum had been met.

One issue was raised by a Charleston priest who is still discerning his congregation's spiritual place in South Carolina be it either in The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina or The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. He asked about adherence to the Dennis Canon.

The Rev. Marshall Huey came to convention with a question of serious import on his mind.

"I am an observer today," the rector of Old St. Andrew's Parish Church prefaced. "Is it the opinion of this convention that any parish currently in discernment and not yet in union with this convention, by a later vote to come into union with this convention, will accede to the Dennis Canon despite having recorded a quick claim deed earlier?"

The young priest's question brought a wave of murmuring though the assembly because of the known uniqueness of Fr. Huey's church building.

Old St. Andrew's has the distinction of being the oldest standing church structure in the state of South Carolina. It was originally built in 1706 as one of ten congregations that were established by the 1706 Church Act passed by the South Carolina Colonial Assembly. The original St. Andrew's building is now the nave, as through the years the small then-Anglican church was enlarged to accommodate a growing congregation in a young expanding nation.

St. Andrew's has stood for more than three centuries, even before the creation of the Diocese of South Carolina in 1785 and The Episcopal Church in 1789. Old St. Andrew's has outlasted numerous wars and withstood all that Mother Nature has had to offer. Now the question of property ownership is asked should the congregation choose to unite with TECinSC.

The Presiding Bishop was quick to answer the priest.

"Any congregation in union with The Episcopal Church observes the canons of The Episcopal Church," she said. She was applauded.

Following the dispatch of business where all the special convention resolutions were aptly dealt with, Hillary Douglas was called upon to offer a lone name in nomination for the first provisional bishop of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

The Standing Committee president found that saying "The Episcopal Church IN South Carolina" did not roll off the tongue as readily as saying "The Episcopal Church OF South Carolina." At which point the assembly shouted "IN."

"That wasn't intended," he demurred.

Going on he said, "...I nominate the Rt. Rev. Charles Glenn vonRosenberg to be the provisional bishop of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina."

The nomination was met with extended applause and a standing ovation.

After the applause died down and everyone took their seats, the Presiding Bishop said, "Unless there are any other nominations ..."

Her comment was met with laughter.

"I believe the election has been made by acclamation," Katharine Jefferts Schori determined.

Again the audience burst out in extended applause and a second standing ovation.

Immediately preprinted booklets bearing the Episcopal shields were passed out. The convention went on to address the Investiture of Charles VonRosenberg as its first provisional bishop.

When addressing his new flock, Bishop vonRosenberg indicated that there are four cornerstones that need to be firmly set into place as TECinSC takes shape. He pointed out that TECinSC is not alone. It is a part of the wider Anglican Communion through membership in The Episcopal Church and to remember that The Episcopal Church is also a large extended family. He noted that many times not all family members agree, but they are in the family still the same.

He also said that the classic Anglican-Episcopal theology has to be reclaimed, which offers access to a rich heritage rooted in Scripture, Tradition and Reason.

Finally, he made mention that TECinSC had to remember it was a missional church and that The Episcopal Church's legal identity was as The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

"May we, therefore, with thanksgiving, embrace our identity in this cornerstone of mission," the new provisional bishop emphasized. "...We have a lot of work to do in the task of rebuilding The Episcopal Church in South Carolina."

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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