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Parish vote to cut ties leaves hurt feelings

Parish vote to cut ties leaves hurt feelings

Of The Post and Courier Staff

The decision of a South Carolina parish to leave the Episcopal Church
has left many in the Diocese of South Carolina confused and hurt,
according to the chairman of a committee that tried to work out a

"I think there's a lot of hurt," the Rev. Craige Borrett, rector of
Christ St. Paul's Episcopal Parish of Yonges Island, said Sunday. "We
are breaking with family. There's a tear in the family."

Borrett and other members of the diocesan standing committee met for
several hours Jan. 5 with the vestry of All Saints Church of Pawleys
Island to try to find a way to keep the parish from voting to leave the
denomination, which it did Thursday, he said.

The majority in the diocese, and those at All Saints, are "deeply
concerned about the crisis in the Episcopal Church," Borrett said in a
report after the meeting. "We strongly believe that our working together
is the best witness in this struggle."

The committee asked the parish to delay its vote for a year to allow
time for leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the Episcopal
Church's parent group, to come up with a plan to discipline the
Episcopal Church for approving an openly gay bishop last summer.

In return for All Saints delaying the vote, the standing committee
offered to ask S.C. Bishop Ed Salmon to:

-- Drop an ongoing lawsuit over the diocese asserting a legal interest
in the property (should the congregation decide to leave the
-- Give All Saints a seat, voice and vote at the next diocesan
convention (privileges lost three years ago after All Saints sued the
diocese over a public notice stating its interest in the property).
-- Reinstate All Saints' vestry (which Salmon declared ineligible for
office last month after the vestry voted to recommend that the
congregation leave the Episcopal Church).
-- Restore All Saints to a parish (Salmon demoted the congregation to
a mission after the vestry's vote).
-- Cancel a scheduled meeting to appoint a new vestry.

Salmon agreed to all the recommendations except dropping the lawsuit.

"In light of the fact that the appeal of the lawsuit has already been
heard, and the ruling from the court is still pending, the bishop's
discernment was to wait for the court's ruling," Borrett said in his

All Saints' leaders said that if Salmon was not willing to drop the
lawsuit, they would proceed with the vote to leave the denomination. The
congregation voted Thursday to cut its ties with the Episcopal Church
USA and come under the oversight of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda, an
African member of the Anglican Communion.

The decision was a big disappointment, Borrett said.

"There was no imminent threat of the bishop coming up there and
forcing them to do anything," he said. "Everybody said, 'Please, don't
do it,' and they went right ahead and did it."

Salmon could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Salmon appointed a new vestry Friday, but there are no immediate plans
for an alternate service for those remaining loyal to the Episcopal
Church, which is usual denominational policy, said the Rev. Kendall
Harmon, the diocese's communications officer.

"It's still our hope that cooler heads will prevail and there might be
a way for this decision to be reconsidered," he said.

That's the hope of many in the diocese, according to the Rev. Marc
Boutan, associate rector at St. Philip's Church in Charleston.

"We need your voice along with ours to stand for the historic
Christian faith against the tide of revisionism," Boutan said in a
letter sent to All Saints' leaders this weekend.

The diocese and All Saints agree that the Episcopal Church went beyond
the boundaries of acceptable Anglican practice in approving an openly
gay bishop. But All Saints can no longer hope to reform the Episcopal
Church, Rwandan Bishop Chuck Murphy, a former rector who is the church's
main leader, said before last Thursday's vote.

All Saints is home to the Anglican Mission in America, a network of
churches that have left the Episcopal Church but maintain ties to the
Anglican Communion through the primates of Rwanda and Southeast Asia.

The diocese, on the other hand, plans to join an emerging network of
Episcopalians who publicly oppose the denomination's actions on
sexuality. Those in the network hope the majority of the primates (the
38 provincial leaders of the Anglican Communion) will recognize them as
the legitimate expression of the Anglican faith in America.

The vote puts the congregation of All Saints at risk of losing the use
of the property, which includes the historic chapel and $10 million
worth of new buildings on 50 acres. Episcopal Church laws state that
individuals can quit the Episcopal Church, but the property must remain
for the use of those loyal to the denomination.

"It's a risk we're willing to take," the Rev. David Bryan, one of the
church's pastors, said in a Sunday sermon in the historic chapel that's
used for traditional services. "We believe the truth is more important
than property."

Many of the 38 votes against leaving the denomination Thursday came
from those who attend services in the old chapel, said longtime member
George Saussy.

"I'm still an Episcopalian," he said. "I guess I'm a visitor here this

He planned to keep attending services in the old chapel as usual. Most
of those in the old church don't pay much attention to what goes on in
the newer buildings across the street, he said.

Most of the 468 members who voted to leave the denomination attend
more contemporary services in the newer complex, which includes a much
bigger auditorium with projection screens for praise and worship songs.


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