Jefferts Schori to convene a special convention for South Carolina

 

Jefferts Schori to convene a special convention for South Carolina

Author: 

George Conger

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has called a special convention of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina for 26 January 2013 to elect a provisional bishop.
On 8 Dec 2012 the “steering committee” of South Carolina, a group of lay and clergy members of the diocese loyal to the national church announced that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori would “convene” the gathering at Grace Church in Charleston.
"It is an honor to have our Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, visit us. We welcome the opportunity to have her with us at this important time in the history of our Diocese, and it will be a privilege to share with her firsthand the energy and diversity of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina," said Hillery Douglas, Chairman of the Steering Committee and Senior Warden of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Charleston.
In their press statement, the steering committee explained that “Episcopalians in the diocese are without a bishop after the Presiding Bishop accepted the renunciation of Mark Lawrence on December 5 and released him from ordained ministry. The announcements by local church leaders that they have left The Episcopal Church has left the Diocese with no Standing Committee, which normally would lead a diocese in the absence of a bishop.”
This assertion, however, has been rejected by the diocese. South Carolina civil law and the canons of the Episcopal Church do not permit the presiding bishop to “declare” a standing committee to be vacant.  While Bishop Lawrence has been deposed by the presiding bishop, the clergy of the diocese have not. 
The steering committee has also formed a nominating committee, who with the presiding bishop will place the name of the bishop before the special convention next month.
The legality of a special convention called by the presiding bishop in South Carolina is questionable. A quorum of clergy and lay delegates to the convention must be present for its actions to have any legal force.  If only those 5 to 12 congregations who have expressed reservations about the wisdom of the 17 Nov 2012 South Carolina special convention which affirmed the standing committee’s vote to withdraw from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church are present, then any action they take will be void under civil and canon law.
However, objections to similar “rump” conventions held in Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Quincy have gone unheeded by the wider Episcopal Church, though the Texas Supreme Court is expected to rule shortly on the legality of the loyalist group in Fort Worth claiming it is the true Episcopal Diocese.