RECENT CONVENTIONS OF THE DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
By Ronald Caldwell, PhD, Professor of History Emeritus
The first diocesan convention to meet after Bishop Lawrence's consecration in 2008 was presided over by Bishop Salmon. Since then Bishop Lawrence has presided over seven conventions of the Diocese of South Carolina within forty-nine months. That averages out to be a convention every seven months. When the annual convention meets this weekend, it will be the eighth convention under Lawrence within sixty-one months.
The seven conventions under Bishop Lawrence have considered thirty-one resolutions. One was defeated, a resolution in March 2009 to "suspend" the General Convention. It was voted down by the clergy. This was the first and last resolution to be defeated in a Lawrence convention. One was tabled. It was R-5 aka the "Rubric of Love" in the October 2009 convention. That one resolved to end discrimination against homosexual persons. When this resolution was introduced, the ensuing chaos almost caused the convention to dissolve thereby ruining the unity the leadership had so well-crafted. Suddenly the resolution was "tabled" to be passed on to the next convention. The next convention voted to "withdraw" the resolution. It was the only resolution to be withdrawn in a Lawrence convention. That was the end of "Love" in the Diocese of South Carolina. The other twenty-nine resolutions won easy passage in the Lawrence diocesan conventions. Most of these dealt with differentiating DSC from the Episcopal Church, several provided for "disassociation" from TEC.
The eighth convention under Bishop Lawrence meets this weekend. Nine resolutions stand before it. That will bring the total of resolutions in Lawrence's conventions to thirty-eight. These nine resolutions also mostly address the separate course for DSC. One, curiously enough, contradicts this differentiation by continuing the religion of TEC in the Book of Common Prayer. This proves that the separation of DSC rom TEC is not about religion.
On the whole, the frequently occurring diocesan conventions have served to bond well the majority of the clergy and laity of the Diocese of South Carolina to its leadership, particularly its bishop. They have increasingly distanced the diocese from the mother church even to the point of alienation. They have increasingly vested power in the central authority of the bishop. They have increased ties between the diocese and socially reactionary forces abroad while maintaining the Episcopal Church religion at home. This leads us back to the fact that the driving issue in all these years has not been theological but social, namely opposition to rights for homosexual persons. The result of all this is that the Diocese of South Carolina has become an independent diocese under a powerful bishop; and it is committed to opposing rights for homosexual persons and keeping the Episcopal religion. The numerous diocesan conventions have played a key role in validating all of this.