List published to clarify standing of local Episcopal clergy

  • Thursday, July 18, 2013

A list of clergy in good standing is now available on the diocesan website of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, providing information to the public about which priests and deacons are currently authorized to function as ordained ministers of The Episcopal Church in this region of South Carolina.

The list includes those who are canonically resident in this diocese, as well as those who are canonically resident elsewhere, but have permission to officiate. At this time, the list includes 88 names, and it is being updated as new transitions occur. It is published online at: http://episcopalchurchsc.org/clergy-in-good-standing.html

At the end of June, a “Notice of Restriction” was sent by the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg, Provisional Bishop of the diocese, to the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, all the bishops of the church and other church officials. The notice includes a list of more than 100 clergy who are canonically resident in the diocese and who have been “found to have abandoned The Episcopal Church.”

This restriction followed a unanimous vote on June 21 by the standing committee of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, determining that the clergy listed had abandoned the church. The bishop’s letter affirmed that determination, and placed a restriction on the exercise of their ministry in accordance with the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church.

Clergy under restriction are not authorized to engage in any activity as ministers of The Episcopal Church.

According to church canons, each of the restricted clergy has been sent a copy of the “Notice of Restriction” along with letters advising that they have 60 days “to transmit to the bishop a retraction or denial, indicating your intention to abide by the promises made at ordination, which could lead to the withdrawal of this notice and restriction on ministry in The Episcopal Church.”

In the order of service for ordination in the Book of Common Prayer, a person being ordained declares, “I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.”

If there is no response from the restricted clergy in 60 days, the canons require the bishop to remove them from the ordained ministry, and they would be “deprived of the right to exercise in The Episcopal Church the gifts and spiritual authority conferred in Ordination,” according to the canons.

Many of the clergy who are now restricted have publicly announced that they are no longer affiliated with The Episcopal Church, and have aligned themselves with a breakaway group led by Mark Lawrence.

Bishop vonRosenberg and members of the standing committee expressed sadness that the action had become necessary. The Reverend Dr. Wilmot T. Merchant, II, president of the standing committee, offered a prayer at the June 21 meeting for those who have chosen to walk a different way, asking for God’s help in healing “a fracturing of the body.”

Since early April, the bishop has been working to contact all the clergy of the diocese, sending letters by certified mail and offering to meet with them personally to talk about their decision to either remain with The Episcopal Church or separate from it.

Letters initially were sent in early April to members of the clergy who had not yet indicated to Bishop vonRosenberg that they intended to remain with the church. Two weeks later, those who had not responded received a second letter advising them that the matter would go before the standing committee on June 21. That letter included an official pastoral directive from the bishop to respond by June 14. The majority of those who received the letters have chosen not to reply.

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