The Episcopal Church in South Carolina: A Timeline
1783 The American Revolution ends. Parishes in America that formerly were part of the Church of England under the authority of the Bishop of London are left without bishops or any church structure beyond the parish level.
1789 The Episcopal Church adopts a Constitution, and the Diocese of South Carolina is established.
1790 The Diocese of South Carolina adopts a Constitution, with the first sentence reading, “The Church in the Diocese of South Carolina accedes to the Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America,” the historical name for what is now called The Episcopal Church.
1872 The U.S. Supreme Court issues the first of several decisions upholding the hierarchical nature of The Episcopal Church.
2003-2006 Disagreements over issues related to human sexuality and other matters are the topic of debate among church leaders. In a few dioceses, leaders take steps to break away from The Episcopal Church. In South Carolina, resolutions are passed seeking to distance the diocese from decisions made at General Convention.
2006 South Carolina’s diocesan convention chooses Mark Lawrence as bishop-elect. His election does not receive consents from a majority of the Standing Committees of other dioceses across The Episcopal Church (a requirement of church canons), as concerns are raised about whether he intends to remain part of The Episcopal Church. A second election is held, and this time Mark Lawrence states his intent to “remain in The Episcopal Church.” As a result, a majority of other dioceses give their consent for him to become bishop of South Carolina.
October 2010 Bishop Lawrence presides over a diocesan convention where changes are made in the Constitution and Canons of the diocese to remove its accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.
October 2011 Bishop Lawrence, as president of the diocese’s nonprofit corporation, files amendments to the corporate charter deleting all references to The Episcopal Church and obedience to its Constitution and Canons.
November 2011 Bishop Lawrence and some diocesan bodies issue quitclaim deeds to every parish of the Diocese of South Carolina, in which the diocese disclaims any interest in the parishes’ properties.
October 2012 A Disciplinary Board of The Episcopal Church issues a “Certificate of Abandonment,” saying the actions taken by Bishop Lawrence in 2010-2011 constituted “abandonment of The Episcopal Church by an open renunciation of the Discipline of the Church.” The Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, notifies Bishop Lawrence that she has placed a restriction on his ministry, as required by TEC’s Canons, preventing him from engaging in ministerial acts until the House of Bishops can look into the allegations of abandonment and make a decision.
Two days later, an announcement is placed on the Diocese of South Carolina website stating that the leadership of the Diocese had put resolutions in place earlier that would become effective if any disciplinary action was taken by TEC regarding Bishop Lawrence. “As a result of TEC’s attack against our Bishop, the Diocese of South Carolina is disassociated from TEC, that is, its accession to the TEC Constitution and its membership in TEC have been withdrawn,” according to the announcement.
Two days after that, Bishop Lawrence announces to a meeting of all diocesan clergy that he and the diocese are “no longer associated with the Episcopal Church.”
November 17, 2012 Addressing a special meeting of parish leaders who support breaking away from TEC, Bishop Lawrence again announces that he and the diocese have “withdrawn” from The Episcopal Church.
December 2012 The Presiding Bishop announces she has accepted Bishop Lawrence’s renunciation of the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church on December 5, and declares him removed. Working in consultation with a steering committee of local Episcopalians, the Presiding Bishop calls a special Diocesan Convention for January, so a new bishop and standing committee can be elected for the continuing diocese.
January 2013 On January 4, a lawsuit is filed in South Carolina Circuit Court against The Episcopal Church by two corporations claiming to represent the Diocese of South Carolina and some of its parishes, seeking a declaratory judgment that they are the sole owners of the property, name and seal of the diocese. The complaint was later amended to include a total of 34 parishes.
On January 23, a judge issues a temporary restraining order preventing The Episcopal Church from using the name or symbols of the diocese. The court order later becomes a temporary injunction.
January 26, 2013 A special Diocesan Convention is held at Grace Church, Charleston, with clergy and lay delegates representing the continuing Episcopal Church parishes and missions. To comply with the restraining order, the diocese adopts a temporary name, “The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,” so it can conduct business.
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg is elected provisional bishop and immediately invested by the Presiding Bishop. (Provisional bishops have all the authority and duties of other bishops, but typically serve for a limited period of time while a diocese is in period of reorganization.) A new Standing Committee and Diocesan Council are elected.
February 2013 With the consent of all parties, the state court lawsuit filed by the breakaway group is amended on February 28 to add “The Episcopal Church in South Carolina” as a defendant.
March 2013 Bishop vonRosenberg files a complaint in U.S. District Court against Bishop Lawrence, citing violations of the Lanham Act, the primary federal trademark law of the United States, which prohibits trademark infringement and false advertising. The suit, vonRosenberg v. Lawrence, says that by representing himself as bishop of the diocese, Mark Lawrence is engaging in false advertising.
Later in March, TECSC files its response to the breakaways’ lawsuit, saying that Mark Lawrence and the faction that followed him out of The Episcopal Church have no authority over the assets or property of the diocese, and engaged in a plan to damage the diocese.
On March 8-9, the 222nd Annual Diocesan Convention is held at Grace Church, Charleston, with the diocese continuing to operate under the name “The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.” Delegates representing the parishes and missions that remain part of TEC officially adopt amendments returning the Constitution and Canons to their 2007 version, so that the diocese again accedes to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. St. Mark’s, Port Royal, is officially admitted as a mission church of the diocese.
August 2013 After several attempts to contact and engage in conversations with clergy in the breakaway group, more than 100 clergy receive official “Notice of Removal” from Bishop vonRosenberg, removing them from the ordained ministry of The Episcopal Church. In hope of an eventual reconciliation, the Bishop exercises his right to “release and remove” the clergy, rather than “depose” them on grounds of abandonment. This action left open a path for them to return to the ordained ministry in the future.
December 2013 In a hearing, TECSC brings forth an affidavit from the Rev. Thomas M. Rickenbaker, a retired priest. Under oath, Fr. Rickenbaker said he was contacted in 2005 as a potential nominee to become Bishop of South Carolina and was asked by search committee members, "What can you do to help us leave The Episcopal Church and take our property with us?" The affidavit supports TECSC's claim that the "withdrawal" in 2012 was the result of a long-planned scheme by several individuals.
At the hearing, Judge Diane S. Goodstein denied a motion to have four individuals – Mark Lawrence; Paul Fuener as a Standing Committee president; Jim Lewis as Canon to the Ordinary of the diocese; and Jeffrey Miller as a Standing Committee president – added to the suit. TECSC said the four were necessary parties because the actions they took to “withdraw” were outside the scope of their legal authority and violated state law.
January 2014 TECSC files an appeal with the SC Court of Appeals seeking access to correspondence between attorney Alan Runyan and Mark Lawrence prior to the 2012 split, when he represented the then-unified diocese and was jointly representing parties on both sides of the case. Mr. Runyan went on to be the lead attorney for the breakaway group. The appeal effectively stayed the case, which was in the discovery phase with multiple depositions being taken on all sides. The appeal was later transferred to the SC Supreme Court.
February 2014 The 223rd Annual Diocesan Convention is held at All Saints, Hilton Head Island, with Bishop Michael Curry as the convention preacher. Five congregations are admitted as missions of the diocese. Further changes to the Constitution and Canons are approved to formally acknowledge the diocese as part of the wider church.
May 2014 The SC Supreme Court dismisses TECSC’s appeal over the disputed correspondence between Mr. Runyan and Mark Lawrence.
June 2014 TECSC files an appeal in the SC Court of Appeals seeking to overturn Judge Goodstein's ruling against adding individual parties to the case, asking that Mark Lawrence and three others be added as parties.
July 3, 2014 The appeal is dismissed and Judge Goodstein rules that the trial must begin on July 8.
September 2014 The Reverend H. Dagnall Free Jr. is welcomed back into good standing as a priest in The Episcopal Church by Bishop vonRosenberg, having gone through a formal reconciliation process that was created in South Carolina in the hope that clergy who were “released and removed” in 2013 would choose to return to the church.
November 2014 The annual convention date having been moved to autumn, the 224th Annual Diocesan Convention is held at Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston. Three more new congregations are formally admitted as mission churches, bringing the total number of churches “in union” with the convention to 30. Bishop James Tengatenga, Chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council and former Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Malawi in Africa, is the preacher at the Convention Eucharist.
January 28, 2015 Oral arguments are heard before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., in vonRosenberg v. Lawrence.
February 4, 2015 In the state court case, Judge Goodstein rules in favor of the breakaway group, giving the group the right to hold onto the name and property of the diocese. The ruling mirrors the language of the proposed order that was given to the judge by the plaintiffs after the trial concluded.
March 2015 TECSC and TEC appeal Judge Goodstein’s decision directly to the SC Supreme Court, seeking to bypass the SC Court of Appeals to avoid unnecessary expense and delay. Also in March, Bishop vonRosenberg welcomes a second returning priest, the Rev. H. Jeff Wallace, back into good standing in The Episcopal Church through the reconciliation process created for priests who had been “released and removed” in 2013 following the split.
March 31, 2015 The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rules in favor of Bishop vonRosenberg, in the federal false-advertising lawsuit, sending vonRosenberg v. Lawrence back to the US District Court in Charleston for another hearing. The appeals court found that the lower court erred by applying the wrong legal standard in deciding to abstain from the case.
April 15, 2015 The SC Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of Judge Goodstein's decision. The court also denies the breakaway group's request for a greatly expedited schedule, and sets September 23 as the date for oral arguments. TECSC's initial brief is filed May 15.
June 2015 Seeking to end the bitter legal battle, TECSC proposes a settlement agreement to all the parties in the breakaway group, offering to let the disputed parishes keep their church properties whether or not they choose to remain part of TEC. In exchange, the proposal would require the breakaway group to return diocesan property, assets and identity to TECSC. Representatives of the breakaway diocesan group tell the media they have rejected the offer. The parishes included in the settlement offer were: All Saints, Florence Christ Church, Mount Pleasant Christ the King, Waccamaw Christ-St. Paul’s, Yonges Island Church of the Cross, Bluffton Epiphany, Eutawville Good Shepherd, Charleston Holy Comforter, Sumter Holy Cross, Stateburg Holy Trinity, Charleston Old St. Andrew’s, Charleston Church of Our Saviour, John's Island Prince George Winyah, Georgetown Redeemer, Orangeburg Resurrection, Surfside St. Bartholomew's, Hartsville St. David's, Cheraw St. Helena's, Beaufort St. James, James Island St. John's, Florence St. John's, John's Island St. Jude's, Walterboro St. Luke's, Hilton Head St. Luke and St. Paul, Charleston St. Matthew's, Darlington St. Matthew’s, Fort Motte St. Matthias, Summerton St. Michael's, Charleston St. Paul's, Bennettsville St. Paul's, Conway St. Paul's, Summerville St. Philip's, Charleston Trinity, Edisto Island Trinity, Pinopolis Trinity, Myrtle Beach
June 23-July 3, 2015 TECSC sends Bishop vonRosenberg and elected lay and clergy Deputies and Alternate Deputies to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is the first deputation to attend since members of the 2012 South Carolina deputation walked out of the 77th General Convention in protest over issues of human sexuality. The 2015 South Carolina deputation is recognized with applause on the HOD floor, and participates fully in the activities of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies, including the election of Michael Curry as Presiding Bishop. Prayers and condolences are offered after the tragic shooting deaths of nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, on June 17, and the deputation participates in a march against gun violence in downtown Salt Lake City.
September 10, 2015 A special joint meeting of the Standing Committee, Diocesan Council and Trustees is held with Bishop vonRosenberg to discuss the long-term governance needs of the diocese. A blue-ribbon, ad-hoc committee, the Diocesan Future Committee, is formed to study various administrative models, and eventually to make a recommendation that can be brought to Diocesan Convention.
September 21 2015 U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck issues a stay September 21 in the federal false-advertising lawsuit vonRosenberg v. Lawrence, again declining to hear the case until the final outcome of the state court case. That ruling has since been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which has not yet ruled (as of March 24, 2016).
September 23, 2015 The SC Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Columbia on the appeal by TECSC and TEC seeking to overturn the state court decision. The Supreme Court’s decision has not yet been issued (as of September 16, 2016). View video of the hearing here.
November 13-14, 2015 The 225th Annual Diocesan Convention is held at Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church, Pawleys Island. Resolutions aimed at racial reconciliation are unanimously adopted. Grace Church is officially designated as the Cathedral of the Diocese (“Grace Church Cathedral”). St. Mark’s in Port Royal is officially recognized as a parish, having been admitted as a mission in March 2013. Bishop Robert Gillies of Aberdeen and Orkney in the Scottish Episcopal Church is the convention preacher.
January 14, 2016 Bishop vonRosenberg announces that he will retire as Provisional Bishop of TECSC after completing his calendar of episcopal visits in June 2016. February 11, 2016 The Standing Committee of TECSC votes to move forward with a discernment and selection process to find a new Provisional Bishop to lead the diocese after Bishop vonRosenberg’s retirement. Meanwhile, the Diocesan Future Committee continues to meet and investigate administrative models so it can make a recommendation on the governance of the diocese.
April 2016 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry visits the diocese, preaching and celebrating at five Charleston Episcopal churches. On April 10 he was part of a celebration at Grace Church Cathedral where the Very Rev. Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, recognized Grace as the newest cathedral in the Anglican Communion and presented a stone from his cathedral carved with a Canterbury Cross, now affixed near the entrance of Grace.
June 30, 2016 The Standing Committee of TECSC announces the nomination of the Right Reverend Gladstone B. “Skip” Adams III as the next Provisional Bishop for the diocese, calling him to South Carolina as he prepares to retire as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York. (Read more here.) A Special Diocesan Convention is called for September 10 for delegates to gather and elect Bishop Adams. Bishop vonRosenberg remains in office until Bishop Adams can take office in September.
September 10, 2016 At a Special Diocesan Convention, the Right Reverend Gladstone B. “Skip” Adams III is elected by acclamation, and immediately invested and installed as the Provisional Bishop of the diocese. Read more here.
November 17, 2017 Ruling in favor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the South Carolina Supreme Court denied motions from a disassociated group and upheld itsAugust 2 decision that property and assets of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, and most of its parishes, must remain with The Episcopal Church.
February 9, 2018 The breakaway group files a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a review of the August 2017 decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
April 17, 2018 A federal judge grants motions to expand a federal false-advertising and trademark infringement lawsuit against the bishop of a group that left The Episcopal Church, adding as defendants the breakaway organization and parishes that followed Bishop Mark Lawrence in separating from The Episcopal Church.
April 26, 2018 The Episcopal Church in South Carolina introduces its new Diocesan Vision Statement, drawing inspiration from historic symbols of our diocese.
May 2, 2018 The Episcopal Church in South Carolina publishes a "Frequently Asked Questions" document to provide information and share hope for a future that remains grounded in the love of God.
May 7, 2018 The Episcopal Church and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) file their response to the petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the petition does not present any reviewable questions of federal law, and should be denied.
May 8, 2018 The Episcopal Church and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) petition the 1st Circuit Court of Common Pleas to execute the state Supreme Court's decision and return church properties to the Episcopal Church.
June 11, 2018 The U.S. Supreme Court denies a petition for a writ of certiorari, letting stand the South Carolina Supreme Court's decision of August 2017 regarding church property.
July 13, 2018 Canterbury Cathedral, the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, commemorates the 90th anniversary of the martyrdom of William Alexander Guerry, 8th Bishop of South Carolina, at its daily Choral Evensong, with clergy and members of Grace Church Cathedral participating in the service. Guerry is remembered in Canterbury’s Chapel of the Saints and Martyrs of Our Time.