St. Mark's Chapel in Port Royal took a step closer to its goal of joining the national Episcopal Church on Sunday when a newly appointed bishop visited the congregation and performed the first confirmations of his tenure.
The Right Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, who recently was appointed provisional bishop of the South Carolina parishes remaining with the national church, joined in the service at Union Church on 11th Street and was celebrated afterward at a reception at The Shed in Port Royal.
The national Episcopal Church's presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, installed vonRosenberg at a convention in Charleston last weekend to lead the 19 parishes and six worship groups in South Carolina that remain with The Episcopal Church of the United States.
For years, St. Mark's has attempted to join the diocese in South Carolina but its petitions were refused up until a schism with the national church. The visit from vonRosenberg signaled a welcoming into the Episcopal Church, said founding member Scott Shaffer.
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The congregation, which started as a home church, hopes to become full-fledged members of the national church at a convention in March, Shaffer said.
"(vonRosenberg's visit) is an indication that we are being accepted," Shaffer said.
Five members of St. Mark's were confirmed Sunday. Previously, attempts to confirm new members at St. Mark's were refused with the petitions to join the diocese.
Christina Wilson most recently attempted to become confirmed in the fall and felt "jilted at the altar" when the previous bishop declined to confirm her class.
But on Sunday, she was able to vow her commitment to the church and to her faith.
"I am proud to be Episcopalian," she said.
The previous bishop, the very Rev. Mark Lawrence -- along with many other churches in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina -- left the Episcopal Church over theological issues including gay marriage and the ordination of gay clergy. The breakaway group won the right to continue using the name the Diocese of South Carolina after Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein issued a permanent injunction Thursday ruling in its favor. In addition to the lawsuit to protect its name, another lawsuit to shield a half-billion dollars in church property from the national church is pending.
In Beaufort County, The Parish Church of St. Helena in downtown Beaufort, The Church of the Cross in Bluffton and St. Luke's Church on Hilton Head Island have joined that lawsuit.
However, Scott Shaffer, one of the founding members of St. Mark's, said the congregation is not going to dwell on divisions within the church.
"We're trying not to look back," Shaffer said. "We want to move forward."
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/IPBG_Allison.