Diocese of S.C. ends affiliation with Episcopal Church

      Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston (Dave MacQueen)

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- The Diocese of South Carolina is ending its affiliation with the Episcopal Church after the national church said the South Carolina bishop has abandoned the national church.

      The move comes amid the ongoing divide on the ordination of gays and other issues.

      The diocese has called a special convention next month.

      Bishop Mark Lawrence was notified Monday that the national church's Disciplinary Board for Bishops certified that he has abandoned the church.

      The Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop in 2003, upsetting conservative Episcopalians. In 2006 the Diocese of South Carolina voted to reject the authority of the national church's presiding bishop, but stopped short of a full break with the church.

      The diocese is comprised of 70 congregations in the eastern part of the state.