SOUTH CAROLINA: Bishop removes four priests from ordained ministry

October 29, 2010

Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence has removed four priests from ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Kenneth Alexander, the Rev. Anthony Kowbeidu, the Rev. Brian Morgan and the Rev. Steve Wood are four of the five priests on staff at St. Andrew's Church in Mount Pleasant. They were removed on Oct. 21.

Wood, St. Andrew's Church rector, posted a copy of the notice Lawrence sent, as canonically required, to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the ecclesiastical authorities of the Episcopal Church and other officials. The document says that the priests were removed for reasons unrelated to their moral character.

During a vote on March 28, 722 ballots were cast by some members of St. Andrew's Church and 703 favored leaving the Episcopal Church, saying they intended to affiliate with the Diocese of the Holy Spirit, which is part of the Anglican Church in North America.

Episcopal Forum of South Carolina cited what they called the diocese's "lack of action" in response to St. Andrew's decision. The group asked the church's Executive Council and the House of Bishops to investigate that and other decisions of the diocese.

During council's recent meeting in Salt Lake City, the members drafted a letter to the group saying that the council and the presiding bishop are "committed to doing what we can to help the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina continue to participate fully in the life, work and mission of the Episcopal Church," but noting that "there are canonical limits to how her office and the Executive Council can intervene." Council member the Rev. Gay Jennings told the council that those limits prevent the investigation that the forum requested.

Reacting to the group's request and refuting the EFSC's charges, Lawrence compared his dispute with the Episcopal Church to a military battle and said the diocese was "engaged in a worldwide struggle for the soul of Anglicanism in the 21st century."