Containing over 70 million members in 38 national and regional churches (provinces), the Anglican Communion is the world’s third largest Christian community. Retired Bishop Colin Buchanan defines a province in the Anglican context as a “cluster of dioceses, with an organic (usually constitutional) relationship which forms a province. The minimum is typically four dioceses to constitute a province, thereby conforming visibly to the requirement that, when there is a vacancy in a bishop’s post, there will still be three bishops available to consecrate a new bishop for the vacancy.”1 With rare exceptions all dioceses belong to a province. Prior to its separation in 2012, the Diocese of South Carolina was affiliated with the province called The Episcopal Church (TEC).
In 2014, the Global South Primates Steering Committee announced the establishment of a Primatial Oversight Council. This council provides pastoral and primatial oversight to dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses in order to provide a meaningful connection to the wider Anglican Communion. The steering committee extended an offer for provisional primatial oversight to our diocese, which we accepted. At the diocesan convention later that year a Task Force for Provincial Affiliation was established by vote of a resolution. Bishop Lawrence appointed one clergy and one lay person from each of the six deaneries to serve. The task force began meeting to “design and initiate a process whose goal will be to enable the Diocese and this Convention, along with their parishes, to discern among the options available for provincial affiliation, and in Convention, decide our means of affiliation.”2
For the next several months the task force considered all options, one of which was to remain unaffiliated. While provincial oversight from the Global South Steering Committee is a solid temporary arrangement, to remain disconnected from a province is not a desirable state for a diocese. Lack of affiliation has disadvantages in terms of ecclesiastical fellowship and limits both our ability to shape the larger communion and provide a normal process for episcopal succession. Ultimately, the task force determined that remaining unaffiliated was not a realistic option.