The former Bishop of East Tennessee, the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg will meet with dissident members of the South Carolina clergy next week to offer his pastoral support following the suspension of their bishop and withdrawal of their diocese from General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
On 7 November 2012, an email purporting to be from the “Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina” and bearing the diocese’s seal was sent en masse to the clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina inviting them to attend the “Diocesan clergy day” to be held on 15 Nov at the Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston.
Amongst the activities planned was a sermon to be offered by Bishop vonRosenberg.
The Diocese of South Carolina responded the following day stating the email was a forgery. “The sender intentionally impersonated the diocese with an unauthorized use of our Diocesan seal and by stating that the sender was the Diocese of South Carolina.”
Speculation that the meeting called by the “loyal Episcopal priests” was a stalking horse for a pre-emptive strike by the national church and that Bishop vonRosenberg would be elected by the rump group as provisional bishop of South Carolina in union with the General Convention, is running high within conservative clergy circles in the diocese. However, a group of loyalist clergy have also been active in voicing concern over the secession.
A diocesan press statement released on 8 Nov further stated that the rector of the church that was to host the meeting said he had been “misled in offering to host this meeting, expecting it was for a small group of clergy who had already decided to reaffiliate with TEC. ‘Neither I nor anyone at Holy Communion sent that email,’ said the Rector. ‘I have notified the sender that we will not be hosts’.”
The diocesan statement further stated Bishop vonRosenberg had “no authority to convene or preside at any meeting in this diocese and to do so would put him in violation of TEC’s canons.”
Bishop von Rosenberg told Anglican Ink the diocesan statement misconstrued his role in the affair.
“A group of loyal Episcopal priests felt the need to gather, for mutual support. They asked me to offer a homily during the liturgy they will share. I had previously been licensed in this diocese by Bishop Lawrence. I certainly felt able to respond to the invitation affirmatively, and I look forward to being with that group,” the bishop said.
However, Bishop vonRosenberg said: “In terms of the ‘bigger picture’ regarding what is happening in this diocese, I imagine that things will become clearer soon. I hope so, because there is much confusion at this point.”
The approach taken by the loyalist faction, however, is cause for concern, the diocesan statement said. “Whoever called such a meeting had no authority to do so or to use the Diocesan seal in any fashion. All of this is further evidence of the necessity for the precautions this diocese has taken during the past several years. It seems TEC does not follow its own canons, while repeatedly insisting in the past that the Diocese of South Carolina do so. “
Bishop vonRosenberg said the loyalist meeting would go forward on 15 Nov, while the special convention of the Diocese of South Carolina is scheduled for 17 Nov at St. Philip’s Church in Charleston.