Local Anglicans receive new tie to the global church

Grace Beahm/StaffBishop Mark Lawrence received word Thursday that primates of the Global South welcomed the Diocese of South Carolina as an active member within the Global South of the Anglican Communion.

Primates in the Global South of the Anglican Communion welcomed Bishop Mark Lawrence and area parishes that left the Episcopal Church in 2012 as active members until they find a permanent new connection to the worldwide church body.

Lawrence received a letter Thursday notifying him that the Global South Primatial Oversight Council will provide the group a connection to the global Anglican Communion.

"We're delighted to receive this affirmation of our membership in the worldwide Anglican Communion," Lawrence said. "It is a source of great comfort and joy that they have recognized the faithfulness of our diocese to our Lord and His word as Christians and Anglicans."

The council formed in February to provide oversight to "dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses in order to keep them within the Communion," according to a statement.

The Global South includes mostly theologically orthodox provinces in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. Bitter disputes over scriptural interpretations, such as regarding homosexuality and salvation, have caused splintering across the Anglican Communion.

Lawrence and many local parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina left The Episcopal Church due to similar disputes. However, the move left them without a formal bond to the worldwide church. Since then, they have sought ways to remain in communion with global Anglicans outside of the Episcopal Church umbrella - and say the new oversight provides that.

The official website of the Anglican Communion lists only one member province in the U.S., and that is The Episcopal Church. Under a list of member dioceses, it names The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

"It is always encouraging to see Christians around the world making connections with one another," said Holly Behre, spokeswoman for The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. However, she added that "the Anglican Communion recognizes only one diocese in eastern South Carolina, and it is The Episcopal Church in South Carolina."

Local parishes that remain with The Episcopal Church are using the name The Episcopal Church in South Carolina while disputes between the two groups over names, marks and more than $500 million in property are resolved in court.

Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein heard that lawsuit in court this summer. She hasn't ruled.

Meanwhile, the Global South primates welcomed the Diocese of South Carolina as "an active and faithful member within the Global South of the Anglican Communion, until such time as a permanent primatial affiliation can be found," reads the letter signed by the Most Rev. Mouneer Hanna Anis, chairman of the Global South Primate Steering Committee, and Most Rev. Ian Ernest, primate of the Indian Ocean.