The Diocese of South Carolina announced on Wednesday (Oct. 17) that it has disaffiliated from the Episcopal Church, escalating a long-running skirmish and setting the stage to become the fifth diocese to secede from the denomination.Dozens of congregations and four dioceses -- in California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Illinois -- have split from the Episcopal Church, often triggering long and expensive court battles over church property.
Needless to say, none of this ever described as "Episcopal Church Cracks down on Dissenters."Fox said that "dioceses may not leave the Episcopal Church.""Even if leaders and individual members of congregations choose to leave, those who remain continue as members of the Episcopal Church and leader of their dioceses," she said.Under Lawrence’s leadership, the South Carolina diocese has legally and theologically distanced itself from the Episcopal Church, removing references to the the national church in civil and church documents and issuing deeds that release the diocese's and denomination's claims to parish property.Spread along the state’s southeast coast, the 29,000-member diocese even declared itself sovereign within the Episcopal Church in 2010. After a July vote to bless same-sex unions, Lawrence and most of the South Carolina delegation left General Convention, the church’s triennial governing body.The guilty verdict by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops came as Lawrence and Jefferts Schori were negotiating to find “creative solutions” for resolving their differences, according to the South Carolina diocese. Church rules stipulate that the presiding bishop must implement the disciplinary board's decisions, Fox said.Lawrence was found not guilty of similar charges last year, before he released the claims to church property.