Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina

Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina
Diocese of South Carolina
Ecclesiastical province Province IV
Congregations 76
Members 25,830
Rite Episcopal
Cathedral Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul

Location of the Diocese of South Carolina

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is a diocese of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America covering an area of 24 counties in the eastern part of the state of South Carolina. Its see city is Charleston, home to the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul and Diocesan House. There are 25,830 baptized members attending 76 congregations served by 178 clergy.[1] Established in 1785, it is one of the nine original dioceses of the Episcopal Church.



Colonial origins (1600s—1775)

The Episcopal Church's origins in South Carolina began when it was a British colony. According to the Carolina Colony's Charter of 1663, the Lords Proprietors were given "Power to build and found Churches, Chapels, and Oratories" for use according to the "Ecclesiastical Laws" of England.[2] Legislation in 1706 made the Church of England the established religion of the Carolina Colony.[3] Soon after, Gideon Johnston arrived to become the colony's first commissary. Commissaries were representatives of the Bishop of London, who had oversight of the church in the colonies.[2] The commissaries' influence was limited, however, by the lay controlled vestries. The power to appoint ministers lay with the inhabitants of a parish, who voted on whether or not to admit a minister as rector.[4]

Concentrated in the lowcountry, with its center at Charleston, the colonial church's membership included the plantation gentry, the professional class, urban merchants, and skilled craftsmen. Most of the Huguenots who immigrated to the colony also converted to Anglicanism. This influence caused the clergy in South Carolina to be more Calvinist than the surrounding colonies.[5] Outside of the lowcountry, however, the Church of England's presence was very weak, the interior being predominantly Presbyterian and Baptist.[6]

Creation and division (1775—1922)

During the American Revolution, dissenters successfully advocated for the disestablishment of the Church of England and ensured that all Protestant religions were treated equally with the adoption of a state constitution in 1778 (equality was extended to Catholics and Jews in 1790).[7] The first state convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina was held on May 12, 1785.[8] In October 1790, South Carolina's state convention unanimously accepted the constitution and canons for the national church adopted by the General Convention at Philadelphia earlier in July 1789.[9] Robert Smith was elected South Carolina's first bishop on February 10, 1795, at the 12th convention.[10]

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina remained disorganized and stagnant during the immediate years after the Revolutionary War.[10] The strong congregationalist tendencies held by the churches contributed to a lack of interest beyond local affairs. After 1798, no convention would meet until 1804. Bishop Smith had died in 1801 and there was no standing committee to examine candidates for holy orders. At the 1804 convention, a standing committee was appointed, and Edward Jenkins was elected bishop. Jenkins, however, declined the office.[11] A lingering fear of tyrannical bishops would leave South Carolina without a bishop until 1812 when Theodore Dehon was elected. In 1810, the Protestant Episcopal Society for the Advancement of Christianity in South Carolina was created on the model of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.

During the American Civil War, the Diocese of South Carolina was briefly separated from the Episcopal Church in the United States and was part of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. In 1922, the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina was created from territory formerly part of the original diocese.

Recent events (2008-present)

The diocesan bishop is the Right Reverend Mark J. Lawrence. Lawrence was consecrated and installed as bishop on January 26, 2008, after being elected twice.[12] The polity of the Episcopal Church requires that a majority of standing committees and diocesan bishops give consent to the election of any diocesan bishop. Because of "canonical deficiencies" in several dioceses' responses, the first election was declared void, requiring a second election.[13]

The diocese has opposed actions of the national Episcopal Church that it views as contrary to scripture (see Homosexuality and Anglicanism). After the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed resolutions DO25 (opening "any ordained ministry" to individuals in same sex relationships) and CO56 (concerning the blessing of same sex relationships), the diocese responded by holding a special convention on October 24, 2009.[14] The convention passed a resolution authorizing "the Bishop and Standing Committee to begin withdrawing from all bodies of the Episcopal Church that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture, the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them ... until such bodies show a willingness to repent of such actions". It also declared "Resolutions DO25 and CO56, to be null and void, having no effect in this Diocese, and in violation of our diocesan canon".[15][16]

The diocese attempted to distance itself further from the actions of General Convention in October 2010 and February 2011. At these consecutive diocesan conventions, accession clauses to the canons of the Episcopal Church were removed from the diocese's constitution.[17] This was in response to revisions of Title IV, the canons of the Episcopal Church governing the ecclesiastical discipline of priests and bishops. The diocese claims the revisions give the presiding bishop too much authority in internal diocesan affairs.

These developments probably position the Diocese of South Carolina as the most theologically conservative in the Episcopal Church,[citation needed] especially given the departure of dioceses with a similar orientation such as Fort Worth, San Joaquin, and Pittsburgh in the late 2000s. A large number of its clergy and laypeople have been particularly active with "renewal" groups, and Anglican realignment has gained steady support among parishioners and leading clergy. Although there are some liberals (mainly in Charleston) who support national developments, they are in the minority, unlike most other dioceses in the country.[citation needed]

On September 29, 2011, Lawrence was informed that he was under investigation by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops for allegedly abandoning the national church body. The allegations are currently under investigation.[18]


These are the bishops who have served the Diocese of South Carolina:[19]

  1. Robert Smith (1795–1801)
  2. Theodore Dehon (1812–1817)
  3. Nathaniel Bowen (1818–1839)
  4. Christopher E. Gadsden (1840–1852)
  5. Thomas F. Davis (1853–1871)
  6. William B. W. Howe (1871–1894)
    * Ellison Capers, Coadjutor Bishop (consecrated 1893)
  7. Ellison Capers (1894–1908)
    * William A. Guerry, Coadjutor Bishop (consecrated 1907)
  8. William A. Guerry (1908–1928)
    * Kirkman George Finlay, Coadjutor Bishop (1921–1922)
  9. Albert S. Thomas (1928–1944)
  10. Thomas N. Carruthers, (1944–1960)
  11. Gray Temple (1961–1982)
    * C. FitzSimons Allison, Coadjutor Bishop (consecrated 1980)
  12. C. FitzSimons Allison, (1982–1990)
    * G. Edward Haynsworth, (Assistant, 1985–1990)
  13. Edward L. Salmon, Jr. (1990–2008)
    * William J. Skilton, Suffragan Bishop (1996–2006)
  14. Mark J. Lawrence (2008 - )

See also


  1. ^ Episcopal Church province directory
  2. ^ a b George C. Rogers, Jr., Church and State In Eighteenth-Century South Carolina (Charleston, South Carolina: Dalcho Historical Society, 1959), 10.
  3. ^ Childs, Margaretta P.; Leland, Isabella G. (October 1983), "South Carolina Episcopal Church Records", The South Carolina Historical Magazine 84 (4): 250 
  4. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 13-14.
  5. ^ Holmes, David L. (1993). A Brief History of the Episcopal Church: With A Chapter on the Anglican Reformation and an Appendix on the Quest for an Annulment of Henry VIII. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International. p. 35. ISBN 1-56338-060-9. 
  6. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 18-19.
  7. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 22-23.
  8. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, pp. 26.
  9. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, p. 28.
  10. ^ a b Rogers, Jr. 1959, p. 29.
  11. ^ Rogers, Jr. 1959, p. 30.
  12. ^ "South Carolina re-elects Mark Lawrence as bishop" Episcopal News Service, 4 August 2007
  13. ^ "South Carolina election voided due to canonical deficiencies in responses" Episcopal News Service, 15 March 2007
  14. ^ General Convention Resolutions C056 and D025, General Convention 2009 Legislation, accessed 29 April 2011.
  15. ^ "Four of Five Resolutions Overwhelmingly Passed at Special Convention", Diocese of South Carolina, accessed April 28, 2011.
  16. ^ [Resolutions Offered at Special October 24, 2009 Covention", Diocese of South Carolina, accessed April 28, 2011.
  17. ^ Adam Parker, "Episcopal Diocese of S.C. looks to future", The Post and Courier, 27 February 2011, accessed 29 April 2011.
  18. ^ "An Urgent Message from the Bishop and Standing Committee". 5 October 2011. http://www.diosc.com/sys/index.php?view=article&catid=1%3Alatest-news&id=366%3Aan-urgent-message-from-the-bishop-and-standing-committee&format=pdf&option=com_content&Itemid=75. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  19. ^ The Episcopal Church Annual. Morehouse Publishing: New York, NY (2005)

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