South Carolina bishop on 'grievous' court decision in favour of TEC

Leaders of the breakaway South Carolina Diocese in the US are meeting today with the diocese's lead legal counsel in the wake of last week's decision against them by the state's Supreme Court.

Rt Rev Mark Lawrence, Bishop of South Carolina.Diocese of South Carolina

The diocese, which contains around 50 churches and 20,000 parishioners, left The Episcopal Church (TEC) in 2012 over its liberal attitude to gay marriage and other doctrinal issues and is now part of the conservative Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). 

The ruling meant the diocese, which dates back to 1785 and was one of the first to join and form The Episcopal Church, will not be allowed to keep its $500million worth of Church property.

Dozens of churches will be faced with returning their property to TEC.

The diocese's Bishop Mark Lawrence wrote to churches on Saturday saying: 'Frankly, it is a grievous decision for us on so many levels. Perhaps you, as do I, have to fight despondency as I consider its many ramifications for us as a diocese, and especially for our congregations and clergy. For make no mistake, if this ruling stands how we carry out God's mission and the ministries he has given us will dramatically change.'

He referred to the prayers of those who had in the past 'walked away from their church buildings, buildings they built and maintained, and in some cases, where their families worshiped for centuries. Some left by choice; others after years of litigation.'

But he continued: 'I do not mention the latter, however, as if the legal issues in our case are fully resolved. They most certainly are not, though they are clearly challenging. Rather, I want you to know the sort of Christians who are praying for us; and while holding us in prayer, many are fasting. They have paid a price to follow their Lord. We are part of a provincial body of Anglican Christians and they are walking this hard road with us.'

Further meetings are planned this week with diocesan deaneries and clergy.

Lawrence said he was 'honoured to be your bishop', and that he had responded to an email asking when he was leaving town by saying, 'I'm not leaving town.'

He concluded: 'In favorable and unfavorable rulings from human courts, Christ is still Lord, he will come again to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will have no end.'