Presiding Episcopal bishop coming to S.C.
“At times people have decided they need to follow their spiritual journey in another direction. And people have come and gone from the Episcopal Church many times over the years,” she said during an interview with The Associated Press this week.
“Our task, when people decide to leave, is to bless their journey and pray they find a fruitful place to pursue their relationship with God,” she said. “In the meantime, we’re going to do what we feel called to do in the Episcopal Church.”
The Diocese of South Carolina with churches in the eastern and lower part of the state withdrew from the church last year in disputes over theology and ordination of gays.
Jefferts Schori noted there have always been debates in Christianity, dating to the years after Christ when the first Christians debated whether gentiles could belong to the new faith.
She comes to Charleston this weekend to attend a convention where a provisional bishop will be installed for parishes that are remaining with The Episcopal Church that has 2.4 million members in 16 countries.
When the local diocese left, it had 70 congregations with about 29,000 parishioners. But 19 parishes and six worship groups are remaining in the national church.
The Rt. Rev. Charles Glenn vonRosenberg, a retired bishop of the Diocese of East Tennessee who has long ties to South Carolina, is to be installed as provisional bishop for the remaining churches Saturday.
The Diocese of South Carolina that left the national church has sued in state court to protect its rights to its name and a half-billion dollars in property.
A state judge this week issued a temporary restraining order saying the diocese is the only group that can use the name Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. A hearing on whether to make the order permanent is set for next month in Columbia.
Holly Behre, a spokeswoman for the parishes remaining with The Episcopal Church, says the group will adopt a name that will comply with the spirit of the court order until the matter is resolved in court.
Jefferts Schori said that, in other states, courts have generally ruled property belongs to the larger church, not individual parishes or dioceses.
“Everywhere but in South Carolina where suits like this have taken place, in the ones that have gone to completion, the decisions of the court have said the property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church,” she said. “We believe all the assets of the church are a legacy of generations before us for the mission and the ministry of the Episcopal Church. It’s not our right to give it away for purposes unimagined by the givers.”
Courts in Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Connecticut have ruled in cases in favor of the church.
In the wake of an interim Court Decision which granted a temporary ban, forbidding TEC to use the title of the ‘Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina’ for parishes remaining loyal to The Episcopal Church in North America; the TEC Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts-Schori will be visiting Charleston this weekend to preside at the installation of a provisional Bishop, whose task will be to take pastoral care of the parishes loyal to TEC in the Diocese.
Regarding the schismatic group that has left TEC, it is noted that in all other states – except for South Carolina – claims by the dissidents over property rights have always been rejected by the courts – leaving The Episcopal Church as rightful owners of the property.
However, in a precedent – which may eventually prove in favour of the departed entity in South California – the departing parish of All Saints, Pawley Island, was granted ownership of the property. It remains for further court action to determine whether this latest departure – of the former Bishop, Mark Lawrence and his supporters – will be rewarded by the court with rights to retain the property of the departing parishes & diocesan structure.
Whatever eventuates in this matter, it is obvious that the remaining TEC loyalists, under the pastoral care of its new acting Bishop, will not be abandoning their mission to bring the freedom of the Gospel to South Carolina.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand