Representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina gathered Saturday at St. James Episcopal Church on James Island to vote to continue where the 216th diocesan convention left off late last year, reconvening delegates for the purpose of electing a new bishop.
Though some church officials expressed concerns over the procedures adopted to reconvene as well as the perceptions of church officials outside the diocese, all but a few dissenters voted to proceed as planned in an effort to fast-track the Very Rev. Mark Lawrence into the bishop’s office.
This entailed suspending Rule 21 of Canon 31, which was established in late 2005 for the purpose of electing a new bishop but which would have required officials this time to start from scratch with a new convention, a new set of delegates, a new Electing Convention and a new set of candidates. That standard process could have taken a year, Bishop Edward Salmon said.
Representatives from only two Charleston area churches ”” Grace and St. Mark’s ”” voted against suspending the rule.
The diocese’s standing committee now takes control of the election process, and individual parishes will elect delegates whose sole purpose is to choose the bishop.
Lawrence has provoked concern among Episcopalians who fear he could lead the diocese away from the Episcopal Church and realign with another Anglican authority if the church did not repudiate its tolerance for gay clergy and affirm a more traditional reading of Scripture. A church crisis was sparked when, in 2003, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, who is divorced and openly gay, was elected bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire.
Salmon said the special Electing Convention will be Aug. 4, and the new bishop might be consecrated Jan. 25, the day of St. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.