Ideological and theological disputes within the Episcopal church have led to the conservative diocese of South Carolina splitting off from the main church, which has ordained gay and lesbian bishops and supports homosexual marriage. Daniel Burke writes for RNS:
The Diocese of South Carolina announced on Wednesday (Oct. 17) that it has disaffiliated from the Episcopal Church, escalating a long-running skirmish and setting the stage to become the fifth diocese to secede from the denomination.
South Carolina said the split was triggered by disciplinary action taken against Bishop Mark Lawrence, its conservative leader. The diocese passed a resolution on Oct. 2 stating that it would immediately secede should the Episcopal Church “discipline, impair, restrict, place on administrative leave, charge, derecognize” or otherwise inhibit the diocese or its leaders.
…In a broad sense, the split was prompted by theological differences over homosexuality. The Episcopal Church has ordained gay and lesbian bishops and voted this summer to allow the blessing of same-sex unions. Lawrence has called such moves “the false gospel of indiscriminate inclusivity.”
…Under Lawrence’s leadership, the South Carolina diocese has legally and theologically distanced itself from the Episcopal Church, removing references to the the national church in civil and church documents and issuing deeds that release the diocese’s and denomination’s claims to parish property.
Spread along the state’s southeast coast, the 29,000-member diocese even declared itself sovereign within the Episcopal Church in 2010. After a July vote to bless same-sex unions, Lawrence and most of the South Carolina delegation left General Convention, the church’s triennial governing body.
On the diocese website, the situation is described as follows. Notice the historical perspective:
Anglicans have been worshiping in South Carolina since its establishment as a British Colony. From the beginning, they have defended and upheld the doctrine, discipline and worship of the faithful generations who came before them. That freedom is now under direct assault.
As a founding Diocese of the Episcopal Church, we have taken steps in recent years to defend our freedom of worship and order of gathering. On Monday of this week (October 15), the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence (14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina) was informed by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church that a disciplinary board had certified that he was guilty of abandonment of the communion of the church – that he had, in effect, by his words and actions, left the church. We believe that these actions of the Episcopal Church are both invalid under the Constitution of the Episcopal Church of this Diocese and violations of rights and freedoms which all Americans hold dear. We emphatically reject them, as well as the attempted restriction upon the ministry of our Bishop.