South Carolina bishop writes to clarify relationships with clergy

Posted Apr 11, 2013

[Episcopal Church in South Carolina — Press Release] The Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, [provisional] bishop of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, has written letters to clergy members in the diocese, asking them to make clear whether they wish to remain with The Episcopal Church or depart and give up their ministry in the church.

Letters were sent to approximately 140 priests and deacons who did not attend recent conventions of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and sign declarations of conformity to their ordination vows. Some of the letters are addressed to clergy who are part of the breakaway group allied with Mark Lawrence, who announced in October that he was leaving The Episcopal Church.

“As provisional bishop of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, it is my responsibility to clarify the circumstances and allegiances of our clergy,” the letter says. “I invite you to make known your allegiance to [The Episcopal Church] and, if you wish, to request a time to speak with me about this matter …  You face a very serious decision, with significant consequences for you and for the church, and I encourage your careful and prayerful consideration.”

Under the canons governing The Episcopal Church, clergy who desire to leave The Episcopal Church may renounce their ministry in writing to the bishop, who would consult with the Standing Committee and proceed to release them from the responsibilities in [The Episcopal Church].

If, after two weeks, no response is received from the clergy who received the letters – which were sent by certified mail with a signature required upon delivery – then a second letter will be sent. At that time the bishop, after consulting with the Standing Committee, would notify those who did not respond that the conditions of the canons regarding “abandonment of The Episcopal Church” are present. Following the canons, subsequent steps would be to restrict the departing clergy from the activities of the ordained ministry, and then “depose” or remove them.

“In spite of current circumstances, I continue to pray our Lord’s appeal for unity among his followers, and I look forward to the day that such unity within his body may indeed become a reality,” the bishop’s letter says.