Since early 2013, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has had no cathedral, no ecclesiastical headquarters in a diocese that comprises the coastal half of the state.
That’s when a large portion of the diocese’s Episcopalians left the church, citing theological differences over homosexuality, salvation and other issues. That group, a majority of the diocese, retained much of the parish property and the name “Diocese of South Carolina,” an outcome being litigated.
Last weekend, the people who chose to remain part of The Episcopal Church gathered on Pawleys Island for their 225th annual convention and voted to designate Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston as its new cathedral.
It had served as such all along anyway, housing offices for the diocese and for Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, church officials noted. And it has been the heart of progressive Anglicanism in the Lowcountry for many years, with a growing congregation, strong emphasis on traditional liturgy and music and a loudly broadcast open-door policy.
“As we continue the redevelopment of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the designation of a cathedral parish is a significant step,” vonRosenberg said. “In practical terms, this designation is primarily symbolic, for Grace Church had been functioning as an important resource for other churches and for the diocese already.”
“Grace Church Cathedral” is slated to host the 226th Convention next November. And it will welcome The Episcopal Church’s recently appointed presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry on April 8-10. Curry, who replaced Katharine Jefferts Schori, was installed on Nov. 1.
“Grace has been fulfilling the role of a cathedral in many ways for three years, so for the person attending church on Sundays, there won’t be much visible difference,” said the Very Rev. Michael A. Wright, rector of Grace Church and cathedral dean. “I know I haven’t changed, and I don’t think the people of Grace have changed either. But with this designation, Grace is becoming in name the church that we have been striving to be in these last few years.”
At this year’s convention, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina raised nearly $3,500 for two flood relief funds managed by the Black River United Way and Episcopal Relief and Development.
Delegates also voted on a resolution calling for continued prayer for those affected by the Emanuel AME Church shooting and on another resolution calling for renewed commitment to racial justice and reconciliation.
The Diocesan Council will develop plans for diversity training, community dialogue, church introspection and partner development.