Presiding Bishop knew in mid-October that a new diocese was necessary

By David W. Virtue
November  2012

A new Episcopal diocese is being reorganized in South Carolina that will replace the existing Episcopal diocese. Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, the retired Bishop of East Tennessee will lead it with the blessing of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

VOL knew as early as mid-October about the pending coup but could not confirm it at that time. Timelines now reveal that the Presiding Bishop knew what was being planned and responded favorably to the idea of a new diocese. There are now reasons to conclude that Bishop vonRosenberg had been contacted in mid-October by the Presiding Bishop about the deteriorating situation in South Carolina and she urged him to come out of retirement to establish a new diocese.

Calling themselves the Steering Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and signed by 14 clergy and laity including two Episcopal advisors, Bishop John Clark Buchanan and Bishop Charles von Rosenberg, the report stated that the diocese “is reorganizing with renewed dedication to carry forward the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, just as prior generations have done since 1789. We have much to do and many challenges to meet, but we are confident that by moving forward together in unity and faith, with God’s help, we will flourish.”

The formation of a new diocese to replace the existing one has the blessing of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori who recently inhibited Bishop Mark Lawrence, the reigning bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. It is thought that she will depose him following an expected trial under the Canons for the Abandonment of Communion.

A new Steering Committee would reorganize “over the next few months…serving as the broad-based group in the Diocese communicating with the Presiding Bishop.”

The report noted that the diocese “has no functioning ecclesiastical authority.”

“At out next Diocesan Convention, now set for March 8, 2013, delegates will begin the work of selecting a bishop, a new standing committee, and forging ahead with our missions and ministry.”

One observer told VOL that if the steering committee and its new bishop are indeed the officially sanctioned leadership of the remaining diocese, the bar for conduct, behavior and transparency are much clearer and much higher. “It is duplicity that has helped bring us to where we are now. If they are offering us something different they need to get better at what they are doing.”

It can now be confirmed that VOL knew as early as mid-October that Charlie von Rosenberg, retired bishop of East Tennessee, was confiding to friends that he had been pulled out of retirement to act as bishop to those in the Diocese of South Carolina choosing to remain affiliated with the national church. Although von Rosenberg has stated publicly that it is premature to speak about this matter, he is in fact already acting and making decisions as the bishop in charge. A public ad in the Sunday edition of the Charleston newspaper listing both him and John Buchannan as “Episcopal Advisors” may be a way to cover the national church legally as well as deflect criticism for less than forthcoming information from this group.

On Monday November 12th, VOL correspondent Ladson Mills spoke with Hillary Douglas who chairs the steering committee for those wishing to remain with the national church. Although Mr. Douglas preferred not to use specific terminology that might create confusion, he did in fact admit they were operating under the direction and with the support of the presiding bishop and her offices.

When questioned as to the reason for the vagueness of their official correspondence and why specific requests for the identity of those sending this correspondence had been ignored, Douglas assured Mills it was merely an issue of administrative backlog. When asked if this was intentionally designed to keep conservative clergy from attending the November 15th meeting at St Mark’s Church in Charleston, Douglas stated certainly not; all conservatives are welcome and encouraged to attend.

After speaking with several clergy within the diocese who are unclear as to which direction they will go, Mills wrote to a member of the committee making an official request for more transparency in official communications. His experience has been that whenever an answer to a correspondence is received, it is never signed. He further observed this is not the case when dealing with individual members of the steering committee who respond promptly and openly to any questions.

One clergyman, requesting anonymity, has speculated that this vagueness is intentional and results from the advice of the committee’s legal counsel. He observed while this may make good legal sense, it makes very poor Christian sense giving those who receive this correspondence an uneasiness about this steering committee.

There are charges and counter charges that this new group is maliciously using the name and seal of the present Diocese of South Carolina.

In a letter, diocesan officials asked the faux diocese to stop misusing the name and seal of the diocese. They believe the diocese is being impersonated and their identity stolen by a group of disgruntled Episcopalians in the diocese who do not speak for the vast majority in the diocese.

The rector of Holy Communion, Charleston, who had been asked to play host to the faux Episcopal group, withdrew his invitation when he learned what the group was trying to do. A “Clergy Day for the Diocese,” to be hosted at Holy Communion, was to have been presided over by Bishop Charles von Rosenberg, retired bishop from Tennessee.

The next gathering of the Diocese of South Carolina will be the Special Convention, Saturday, November 17 at St. Philip’s Church in Charleston.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.