A diocese formerly affiliated with the Episcopal Church voted Saturday to pursue affiliation with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The Diocese of South Carolina, one of the nine original founding dioceses of the Episcopal Church, severed its connection with that denomination in October 2012. It was the fifth diocese to do so.
Delegates to the Diocesan Convention held at St. Paul’s Church in Summerville, South Carolina voted unanimously to pursue affiliation. The vote follows a period of discernment and question-and-answer sessions about diocesan affiliation around the lowcountry of South Carolina during the past year.
The ACNA Provincial Assembly, meeting June 26-29 in Wheaton, Illinois, will next take up the diocesan request to affiliate. South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence has participated in the ACNA College of Bishops gatherings in recent years, and a delegation from South Carolina has participated as observers at the annual Provincial Council.
Affiliation by the Diocese of South Carolina will significantly grow the size of ACNA: the diocese counts nearly 23,000 members, which will increase ACNA’s 114,000 existing members by 20 percent. South Carolina will be – by far – the largest diocese in ACNA.
Both ACNA and the Diocese of South Carolina have strong connections to the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) a traditionalist reform movement within the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the Global South, a grouping of 24 Anglican Communion provinces (national churches) ministering among mostly developing nations in Africa, Asia and South America. The vast majority of an estimated 85 million Anglican Christians worldwide are connected with the Global South.
During its final years as part of the Episcopal Church, South Carolina was one of few dioceses to regularly report growth in both membership and attendance.
The diocese is still engaged in litigation with the Episcopal Church about ownership of property. A majority of members in 49 churches voted to sever their ties to the Episcopal Church and remain affiliated with the diocese following disputes over the redefinition and reinterpretation of Scripture.
On February 3, 2015, Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein ruled that the departing diocese was legally entitled to the property and use of the name “Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina”. The ruling affects more than $500 million in diocesan and parish properties. The decision was appealed by the Episcopal Church and arguments were heard before the South Carolina Supreme Court in 2015. A decision from the court has yet to be handed down.
The Diocese of South Carolina was founded in 1785 by the former Church of England parishes of the former South Carolina colony. The Diocese is one of the oldest religious districts in the United States and counts among its members several of the oldest operating churches in the nation.