More than 100 South Carolina clergy received notices this week that they have been formally removed from the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church.
The “notice of removal” letters were signed by the Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, bishop of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, which comprises parishes in the coastal half of the state that have remained loyal to the national church. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The removals come after Bishop Mark Lawrence disassociated from the national church last fall, along with the majority of clergy and parishes in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. Most clergy who received the removal letters already signaled their intention to leave the national church with Lawrence due to ongoing theological and management disagreements.
Issues regarding identity and rights to the names and seals of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina are being hashed out in a pending state lawsuit.
Lawrence’s now-independent group could align with another organization such as the Anglican Church in North America, which includes other orthodox parishes that also left the Episcopal Church.
Because he holds out hope of future reconciliation, vonRosenberg said he opted to “released and remove” the affected clergy rather than deeming them “deposed” on the grounds of abandonment.
Either way, the clergy have lost authority to act as ordained ministers in the Episcopal Church. However, the option vonRosenberg chose provides easier paths for clergy to return to the church in the future.
To see what clergy remain in good standing with the Episcopal Church, go to episcopalchurchsc.org/clergy-in-good-standing.html.