The congregation of All Saints Waccamaw Episcopal Church, one of the largest Episcopal churches in South Carolina, has voted to leave the national Episcopal Church. The 1,000-member church voted Thursday to leave the Episcopal Church (USA) and be governed by an Anglican archbishop from a different province. The move was approved by a wide margin--468 members voted in favor, while 38
said no, and there was one abstention. "We've been feeling for years like the liberal side of the Episcopal Church has hijacked the church we know and love," said Russ Campbell, a member of the church vestry. The congregation voted to become part of the conservative Anglican Mission in America, a movement founded in Pawleys Island, S.C. "It did not surprise me," said church member Helen Andrews. "I'm pleased. I believe the leaders of this church have done all they can to resolve this."
While the national church's approval of the election of openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson in New Hampshire may have played a role, the separation had been coming for a long time. Campbell said All Saints had to leave the Episcopal Church because many parishioners were threatening to leave otherwise. "We are already seeing the potential for the erosion for what has been a strong and vibrant church here by not standing up for what we believe," he said. The Reverend Chuck Murphy said the church will remain part of the global Anglican Communion but will now be called All Saints Church. "The services this Sunday will remain right here," Murphy said. "No longer will we be under the Episcopal Church's authority."
The 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church in the United States is a branch of the 77 million-member global Anglican Communion. A legal fight over the church's property is expected to continue with the
diocese of South Carolina, composed of Episcopal churches in the lower and eastern parts of the state. The laws of the Episcopal Church say church members hold property in trust of the denomination. But a judge has ruled that the church's deed, which is older than the denomination, invalidates the diocesan claim on the property. The diocese has appealed that ruling.