Episcopal Church in South Carolina clarifies standing of local clergy

[The Episcopal Church in South Carolina press release] A list of clergy in good standing is now available on the diocesan website of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, providing information to the public about which priests and deacons are currently authorized to function as ordained ministers of The Episcopal Church in this region of South Carolina.

The list includes those who are canonically resident in this diocese, as well as those who are canonically resident elsewhere, but have permission to officiate. At this time, the list includes 88 names, and it is being updated as new transitions occur

It is published online at: http://episcopalchurchsc.org/clergy-in-good-standing.html

At the end of June, a “Notice of Restriction” was sent by the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg, Provisional Bishop of the diocese, to the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, all the bishops of the church, and other church officials. The notice includes a list of more than 100 clergy who are canonically resident in the diocese and who have been “found to have abandoned The Episcopal Church.”

This restriction followed a unanimous vote on June 21 by the Standing Committee of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, determining that the clergy listed had abandoned the church.  The Bishop’s letter affirmed that determination, and placed a restriction on the exercise of their ministry in accordance with the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church.

Clergy under restriction are not authorized to engage in any activity as ministers of The Episcopal Church.

According to church canons, each of the restricted clergy has been sent a copy of the “Notice of Restriction” along with letters advising that they have 60 days “to transmit to the Bishop a retraction or denial, indicating your intention to abide by the promises made at ordination, which could lead to the withdrawal of this notice and restriction on ministry in The Episcopal Church.”

In the order of service for ordination in the Book of Common Prayer, a person being ordained declares, “I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.”

If there is no response from the restricted clergy in 60 days, the canons require the Bishop to remove them from the ordained ministry, and they would be “deprived of the right to exercise in The Episcopal Church the gifts and spiritual authority conferred in Ordination,” according to the canons.

Many of the clergy who are now restricted have publicly announced that they are no longer affiliated with The Episcopal Church, and have aligned themselves with a breakaway group led by Mark Lawrence.

Bishop vonRosenberg and members of the Standing Committee expressed sadness that the action had become necessary. The Reverend Dr. Wilmot T. Merchant, II, President of the Standing Committee, offered a prayer at the June 21 meeting for those who have chosen to walk a different way, asking for God’s help in healing “a fracturing of the Body.”

Since early April, the Bishop has been working to contact all the clergy of the diocese, sending letters by certified mail and offering to meet with them personally to talk about their decision to either remain with The Episcopal Church or separate from it.

Letters initially were sent in early April to members of the clergy who had not yet indicated to Bishop vonRosenberg that they intended to remain with the Church. Two weeks later, those who had not responded received a second letter advising them that the matter would go before the Standing Committee on June 21. That letter included an official Pastoral Directive from the bishop to respond by June 14. The majority of those who received the letters have chosen not to reply.


  1. Ron Caldwell says:

    It is a sad state of affairs to see apparently more than 100 priests and deacons abandon the Church they had pledged to serve, the Church that had nurtured and supported them for so many years. And for what are they giving up this Church? For a leader who has misled them into believing they are the Episcopal diocese of South Carolina and an “extra provincial” diocese in the Anglican Communion? In reality, they are neither the former nor the latter. They are indeed a “diocese” in that they are a group obedient to a bishop but they are not the Episcopal Church diocese and they are not in the Anglican Communion. If they understood the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and the official structure of the Anglican Communion they would know better. So where are these 100+ clergy going on their voyage? Their bishop has made it plain he is not joining a larger armada, at least not any time soon. In fact, he recently visited the ACNA meeting in WI to tell them his friends there just that. His “diocese” is adrift at sea all alone. Thus, these 100+ clergy are giving up the safety and security of a national church home in return for a highly uncertain and risky future under a man who can abandon them at sea any day now (he can retire comfortably). Still, if these clergy understand the risks and feel they absolutely must take them, we should wish them well and pray that they may find strength for the difficult days ahead.

    • David Yarbrough says:

      It is a sadder state of affairs that these clergy and parishes have been forced to choose between being faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the heretical heterodoxy that is being taught by the Episcopal Church, with Dr. Schori leading the charge.

      Yes, these clergy understand that they are giving up the financial security inherent in TEC – but that they are called to do so by a higher calling of obedience to Almighty God in Christ Jesus.

      And I note that Archbishops of the worldwide Anglican Communion have openly expressed support for Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina. Even Canterbury has not cut off the diocese from open dialog, although Dr. Schori certainly did in the events which led up to the Standing Committee exercising their prerogative to take the Diocese out of TEC.

      I don’t expect South Carolina to be “adrift at sea all alone” for long. As the establishment of ACNA sorts itself out, those who have left TEC over various heresies are coming into dialog and will ultimately find themselves under a single umbrella. Because the Bishop of the Diocese of the Carolinas (ACNA) is also the rector of a parish which was formerly the largest in the Diocese of South Carolina, the assimilation of the two entities won’t be simple – but I still anticipate it.

      May God continue to provide strength and courage to Bishop Lawrence, the Diocese of South Carolina, and those faithful Christians who remain in TEC. May He also provide guidance and correction to Dr. Schori and those who preach heresy within TEC.

  2. Fr Kevin PJ Coffey says:

    I notice that three men are named in this article. In the order mentioned, they are: Charles G. vonRosenberg, Mark Lawrence, and Wilmot T. Merchant, II.

    vonRosenberg is identified once as “The Right Reverend” and later as “Bishop.”
    Merchant is referred to as “The Reverend Dr.”
    Lawrence receives no honorifics. He’s not “The Right Reverend”, “Bishop”, “The Reverend”, or even “Mister.”

    I am curious to learn if this is an oversight by The Episcopal News Service or is ENS making an editorial statement in the middle of reporting news.


    • Matthew Davies says:

      This is neither an oversight nor an editorial statement by ENS. This article is sourced as an Episcopal Church in South Carolina press release. ENS has reposted this release to its blog without making any editorial changes or commentary. As a policy, we do not make changes to the text of externally sourced press releases.

  3. Milton Finch says:

    Very well said, David Yarbrough. I see you speak the truth of the matter.

  4. Michael Hartney says:

    David, that would be Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori that you are referring to. Yes, she has an earned Doctorate – a Ph.D. in fact – but her title is Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori.

    • David Yarbrough says:

      If one applies the standard that she applied to Mark Lawrence, she has through her heretical teachings renounced the Episcopate.

      • Zachary Brooks says:

        When will you understand the Bishop Lawrence was deposed for leaving TEC and not for anything he believed? This story of yours is as much a paranoid delusion as your story that Bishop Schori is a heretic.

        I pray that you develop charity, David, because your posts on ENS are the most hateful bile I’ve seen. And you just hang around to distribute it, which is so sad.

  5. John Simpson says:

    Interesting thoughts by all. But everyone is so gilded in the loyalty to their own tribe and cause.

    David, you should understand that Episcopalians by and large don’t accept what I would call your false dillemna, having to choose between being faithful to the good news of Jesus and living and worshiping in the Episcopal Church. We see ourselves doing both, and doing them fully and discerningly.

    The word games are another matter. When you call your leader “Bishop” and the other leader “Dr.” when you have more appropriate names (Presiding Bishop, Bishop, Rt. Rev, take your pick) at your disposal, everyone see what’s going on. One man’s “heresy” is our “Biblically-robust prophetic witness.”

    Let’s spare one another the angst and melodrama, and call it what it is. A segment of our church believes it’s own theology is incompatible with that of the whole, and has decided to leave. And let’s offer prayers of guidance and correction for all.

  6. Leon Spencer says:

    Ron Caldwell’s comments are very much on the mark, and his conclusion is very pastoral. As for subsequent comments, of course Mark Lawrence and those in South Carolina who have left the Episcopal Church have friends in the Anglican Communion, but that is not the same as being part of the Anglican Communion. They are neither Episcopalian nor Anglican at this point; they are simply a schismatic group that has chosen, not been “forced”, to further divide the one Body of Christ.

    • David Yarbrough says:

      My point is that the call of obedience to God and Jesus Christ is a higher calling than institutional loyalty to the Anglican Communion as currently constituted. My prayer is that the leaders of TEC as well as the Church of England undergo the Third Great Awakening and return to Biblical orthodoxy. Unless they do, it isn’t those who depart who are causing the schism.

  7. Fr. Will McQueen says:

    No, I find Mr. Caldwell’s comment both patronizing and condescending. Bp. Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina is not adrift at sea, but rather setting a course full steam ahead professing the catholic faith, leaving the apostate teachings of TEC in their wake, and not turning back. And no, Mr. Spencer, they WERE forced to leave bacause if they were subject to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of TEC, that includes rank heresy, and worship which includes same-sex blessings that are an abomination to Amighty God. They could no longer remained yoked to Ms. Schori and her “sue at all costs” gang, and maintain Christian integrity. I salute the clergy on this list, and I am proud and grateful to know many of them, and to have served in that diocese for a summer during seminary. Thanks be to God for those who are wiling to count the cost, stand up for the faith, and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a broken and hurting world, even if that means taking the courageous stand that they have done.

    • Zachary Brooks says:

      It’s truly sad that the “faithful Christians” like Bishop Lawrence are as faithful as to think it’s up to them to save the Church, and are so uncharitable to their fellow Christians as to break fellowship with them and try to steal their patrimony.

  8. Rebecca Alford says:

    It is absolutely the Lawrencites who have permanently damaged and divided what was The Episcopal Church in SC prior to his self proclaimed divine appointment as judge, juror and executioner of this diocese. He set out to destroy it if he couldn’t completely control it, and he accomplished that goal. He and his ambition to be worshipped and idolized has driven away so many. He is more akin to a cult leader than a follower of Christ. He claims to be the only one preaching the “true Gospel”…(a cult-like quality in itself) and weeps his tales of being “persecuted”.
    How many of these ring true?
    Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader:
    Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
    No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
    No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
    Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
    There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
    Former members often relate the same stories of wrongdoing, exclusion, shunning and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
    There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the wrongdoings of the group/leader.
    Followers are discouraged from thinking independently.
    The group/leader is always right (even when breaking the law).
    The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
    Followers resistant to reasonable discussion if at all critical of their chosen leader.

    • Fr. Will McQueen says:

      No meaningful financial disclosure Ms. Alford? I think that a group of bishops have asked TEC for a number of years now for an accurate account of how much money has been spent on law suits and where that money has come from, and we are still waiting.

      Also, would you care to elaborate on all of those points you just listed or do you prefer ad hominem attacks with no basis of facts?

    • Ron Caldwell says:

      Rebecca, good point. I found a useful summary of studies on the authoritarian leader and follower personality traits in John Dean’s (the Watergate figure) book, CONSERVATIVES WITHOUT CONSCIENCE. I agree that there are probably many of these traits at work in SC. However, I see evidence that the solidity of the Lawrence faction is not as sure as we might imagine. There has been criticism lately on the right of Lawrence’s go-it-alone attitude. Too, the new clergy lists show a nearly 50/50 split among the priests and deacons. Also, we need to remember that this “revolution” came from the top, not from the people in the pews. In August, 2012, the standing committee met in secret and made a unanimous resolution on secession from TEC. That vote remained secret until it was suddenly sprung on everyone else in Kendall Harmon’s announcement that the diocese had “disassociated” from TEC following Lawrence restriction. Only later did a diocesan convention meet to rubber stamp the decision. Time will tell whether there is a strong authoritarian follower movement among the 35 parishes that are now having to pay big lawyer bills while they follow a leader into nowhere..

  9. just tupper says:

    Every clergy member should be so blessed as to serve under the guidance and wisdom and spiritual wisdom of Charlie vonRosenberg, who stated without fear, “The radical message of Christianity–when it is preached and lived faithfully–is that Jesus Christ sees the world through the eyes of the powerless.” As a Franciscan religious, I served in his diocese. Trust in him, and you may experience the joy of reconciliation, which after all, is the mission of the Church.

  10. David,
    I am a priest in TEC, and I am neither apostate, nor do I espouse heterodoxy. Your generalizations are disrespectful of the many in TEC who are biblically “orthodox”, whether they be evangelical or contemplative, high church or “old school liberal”. I do not cross my fingers behind my back when I say the creed. I take the whole of Scripture as my guide. I am in South Carolina, and I chose not to participate in the further fracturing of the church. One of my brother clergy whom I have known for 41 years and who is now restricted wrote that the had never done anything to abandon his ordination vows. Regretfully, I must agree with Bp. von Rosenberg that he in fact has, because he followed and stands with Bp. Lawrence outside of the Episcopal Church. Had Bp. Lawrence stayed, or had the Standing Committee of PECDSC not made a secret resolution that automatically disassociated the diocese from TEC in the event that any disciplinary action were to be taken against Bp. Lawrence (a finding which the HOB never had a chance to address, to confirm or to exonerate), we would be together today, continuing our witness as an important voice in the wider church. I am profoundly sad that my friend, as well as many others, were led to this. Many of them were squeezed by practicalities (jobs, security, properties). Others say they were relieved that this (disassociation) was done “for” them, because they would never have done it or voted for it themselves. None of this needed to happen. But it has now, and I am deeply saddened. May they find solace, prosperity and peace in their futures. Otherwise happy families are often torn apart when inheritance comes into dispute. I fear it has happened to our family. It reveals once again that we are desperately wicked, all of us. And without the blood of Jesus none of us could stand. So who are we to judge? But, David, from now on, when you refer to TEC, you would be wrong to state that we are “apostate” or “heterodoxical”, because I and many, many of my brothers and sisters around the country do not fit into that category. And we prefer to rely, as always, on God Himself to correct us whenever we are in error, and to call us back to Him whenever we go astray.
    In Peace,
    The Rev. Christopher M. Huff

  11. jim cooper says:

    I believe I speak for many, this bickering, & infighting makes me sick..As for who is failing to be obedient to the church? All of you. That’s who. To many of “us” , this is about power, money, possessions…for clergy, yes it is your job. The gig that pays the bills, supports your lifestyle, whatever that may be. So go on, continue pointing fingers, like the child screaming ” Ma, he started it!” My obedience is to my maker, GOD ALMIGHTY! I AM SURE THIS IS NOT WHAT JESUS MEANT, WHEN HE SAID, ” PETER, TAKE CARE OF MY FLOCK!”. I have absolutely had enough of this mud slinging, name calling, ….childish……nonsense….and you know, I may be wrong , but when my lord & savior CHRIST JESUS returns ,do any of you believe HE will find any of this pleasing? I kind of doubt it…. so, go on. Keep pointing fingers, play the blame game. Who ever wins , good for you! As for me & my house , we WILL SERVE THE LORD! May GOD have MERCY on us all…

  12. John M Stevenson says:

    It has been several months since I weighed in on this disputation, if one may reasonably call it that.
    The rancor that overshadows this “conflict” is so unseemly of professed Christians (let alone Episcopalians), lacking kindness in disagreements. Paul’s words come to mind (Eph 4:30 – 5:2): “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God,as beloved children,and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us,a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

    So, is our offering of ourselves “fragrant” or ….? Are we kind?

    In our own small parish and even within the Diocese (since events of 2003), there has been disagreement but we respect one another’s views and come together as one body at the communion rail. Why is that so difficult … pride, ego, stubborness, “my way or the highway”, or what? Anglican ethos is that of one hugh umbrella over all, a spectrum of the so-called liberal or progressive to the ultra-conservative. I would just beg that people in disagreement to please be kind and respectful to one another.

    • John, we were doing that here in SC in all of our parishes, too, until a division and a decision was imposed upon us by the PECDSC leadership. Fort Sumter got fired on, and from that point on, you had to decide which “side” you were on. It never should have happened. It didn’t need to happen. Ill-informed parishioners have now been introduced to the pangs of conflict, and become participants in a war God never intended to happen. Go to my blog at axtwosix.blogspot.com for my chronicling as a life-long priest in SC entitled “Why I Stayed”.

      • John M Stevenson says:

        Thank you. Just to add, I don’t presume to make judgments on God’s behalf but nevertheless am of the “one body we” mind set; Christ died in reconciling the world to Him. Your response
        points up the problem of what I call “followers” , blind sheep (those who let others do their thinking/make decisions for them). I am in my late 70s, soon to be 78, and think I am gaining a bit of wisdom as I travel this path. I have been a fairly serious student (self-study) of scripture for the past 30 years at least (also have attended a three-year Diocesan School of Christian Studies) and am licensed by the Diocese in various forms of ministry. And by serious, I mean that I engage in Biblical criticism in the manner in which I was taught, searching out the cultural and historical context to what the message may be and how that may apply to us today, if it does. Having been somewhat more conservative in my thinking in years past, I don’t think I am a so-called “Liberal” but am surely Progressive (and inclusive) as I gain new insights (in that His Truth is still unfolding). I love this branch of Christianity Episcopal Church) and the challenges it offers to grow in the faith … and, looking back, I see that growth,not so much speaking numerically but spiritually.
        ‘ Nuff said. Thanks again.

        • John M Stevenson says:

          P.S. I read your Blog. I marvel at and applaud the rational,reasoned approach you employed in arriving at your current position about the “dispute”. So well done. Would that others utilize a similar exercise and attempt as best as one may to take a synoptic view.

          I tried to add a comment to your Blog, gave my name and email address but I kept getting a notice for host url. Not sure what that meant; thus, am adding this post script. (Older folk tend to be technologically challenged.)
          Kindest regards.

          • Thanks, John. Your affirming words are like a balm to me, for I can assure you it has been a lonely walk in terms of the broken bonds of fellowship that I have experienced in South Carolina. Not that any former colleagues spew vitriol at me. (some of the mis-informed laity are the nasty ones) But the dean of the deanery I was associated with told me that I could no longer attend their meetings if I remained with TEC. What nonplusses me about this (I know right now that while we are “at war” it would be uncomfortable) is that at times, clergy from other DENOMINATIONS have been welcomed on a regular basis, while I, who had a long-standing relationship of fellowship and collegiality (for 25 years with some of them) am now beyond the pale. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement. I don’t know what happened to your blog post attempts. Sorry about that. Chris Huff

    • AMEN!

  13. John M Stevenson says:

    Are you young and energetic enough to be a Bishop? Central PA and Bethlehem Bishops retiring. I’m on Standing Committee as well as Council of Trustee in Central PA; looking out for such as you appear to represent yourself.
    Kindest regards.

    • John, I am certainly young enough (I’m 57) and energetic enough, but the bishop’s life is not for me. I’m happy being an assistant rector in a medium-sized church, released into a ministry of preaching, teaching, writing and pastoral work. He who aspires to be a bishop aspires to be a traveler, and I detest airports, goodbyes (even short-lived ones) and lack of solitude!

      • John M Stevenson says:

        Aw, shucks.
        My last post on this thread … at least until the next salvo is fired via ENS.

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