Charles vonRosenberg named as Provisional Bishop of Continuing Diocese
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg
Bishop vonRosenberg was installed during the special meeting
January 26 at Grace Episcopal Church, and will immediately take up his duties as
bishop of a diocese that covers 24 counties in eastern South Carolina.
Currently, at least 19 parishes and missions and six worship communities in the
diocese have indicated they are remaining with The Episcopal Church, and a
number of others are still deciding.
provisional bishop has all the authority and responsibility of other bishops,
but serves for a limited period of time until a diocese is ready to call a
vonRosenberg and his wife, Annie, already reside in the Daniel Island community
of Charleston, where he retired in 2011 after serving for 12 years as Bishop of
the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee. Since October he has served on a
voluntary basis as advisor to the Steering Committee that formed in October to
help reorganize the Diocese.
many years, Bishop vonRosenberg served in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina,
as rector of the Church of the Resurrection in Greenwood and later as Canon to
the Ordinary (assistant to the Bishop) of that diocese from 1989-1994.
Fayetteville, N.C., on July 11, 1947, he graduated from the University of North
Carolina, Chapel Hill, with a bachelor of arts in 1969. He earned his master of
divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1974. Early in his
episcopate, the University of the South's School of Theology awarded him an
honorary doctor of divinity.
as a priest in 1975, he served as rector/vicar of four small churches in and around
Bellhaven, N.C. He was vicar and rector of churches in Georgia, North Carolina
and South Carolina from 1976 until 1989. After serving as canon to the ordinary
of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, he accepted a call to be rector of St.
James Episcopal Church in Wilmington, N.C.
Third Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee, he oversaw an area of
34 counties in Tennessee and three in North Georgia, with 45 congregations and
five worshiping communities and nearly 16,000 active members.
vonRosenberg served in the House of Bishops, and ex officio on the board of
trustees of the University of the South. He was also was elected to the
university's board of regents. In 2008 he attended the Lambeth Conference, the
once-a-decade gathering of the world's Anglican bishops, and participated with
other bishops in a "Walk of Witness" through central London to draw
attention to the Millennium Development Goals, which target poverty reduction
around the world.
tenure in East Tennessee was marked by a measured approach and a focus on
reconciliation and relationship. Bishop vonRosenberg worked to acknowledge
diversity and build a spirit of openness in the diocese, initiating a Bishop's
Committee on Inclusivity in 2009 to encourage “reasonable and holy
conversations” on same-gender relationships. He also was noted for putting a
priority on pastoral sensitivity and responsiveness, especially to clergy,
their families and churches.
Annie, a native of Alexandria, Va., married in 1973 and they have two sons and
families, including six grandchildren. For recreation, Bishop vonRosenberg
enjoys playing golf, sailing, reading, walking and spending time with his
Bishop Charles vonRosenberg called to lead diocese left in crisis
Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee
Posted: Sunday, September 8, 2013 12:01 a.m., Updated: Sunday, September 8, 2013 3:12 p.m.
Charles vonRosenberg (center, black shirt) and deputies at The
Episcopal Church’s 2009 General Convention in Anaheim, Cal.
In a court of law, beneath not a cross but an
American flag, two men of God sit at opposing tables awaiting oral
arguments in their earthly schism.
In a court of law, beneath not a cross but an American
flag, two men of God sit at opposing tables awaiting oral arguments in
their earthly schism.
After a bitter split among eastern South Carolina’s
Episcopalians, two men assert themselves to be bishop of the Episcopal
Diocese of South Carolina.
Beneath the legal and theological disputes, who are these two men trying to lead their faithful followers?
This week, meet the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg.
Next Sunday, meet the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence.
They represent a rancorous split among local
Episcopalians whose families have shared historic pews for generations.
Now, both men claim to be the rightful bishop of the Protestant
Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and are here to stake claims to its
names and seals.
- Bishop Sanders, first bishop of the Diocese of East Tennessee,
and Bishop Tharp, second bishop of the diocese, lay hands on the new
third Bishop Charles vonRosenberg at his ordination in 1999.
- A younger Bishop Charles vonRosenberg poses in St. John’s Cathedral in Knoxville, Tenn.
- A younger vonRosenberg in St. John’s Cathedral in Knoxville, Tenn.
- Children ready to plant a tree at Grace Point, the Diocese of
East Tennessee’s camp and retreat center that Bishop Charles
vonRosenberg helped to create, pause for a prayer with him.
- A pre-retirement Bishop Charles vonRosenberg works in his
Knoxville office at the Diocesan House in the Episcopal Diocese of East
- Bishop Charles vonRosenberg (from right), The Ven. Calhoun
Walpole and The Rev. Paul Gilbert lead a prayer in the blessing of the
bookbags at a service at Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston.
- The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, bishop of The Episcopal
Church in South Carolina, along with his wife, Annie, and 9-year-old
grandson, Reid, have a little fun with the bishop’s mitre after a
service at Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston.
On the right sits Bishop Mark Lawrence, who left the
Episcopal Church last fall along with the majority of eastern South
Carolina parishes and clergy fed up with the perceived progressive
theological stances of the national church and various administrative
On the left sits Bishop Charles
vonRosenberg, who was lured from retirement to lead those loyal to their
national church and its efforts to respond to modern-day culture,
including equal inclusion of gays and lesbians into Christ’s fold.
A federal judge arrives.
The bishops, in matching purple shirts and white collars, sit quietly through legal arguments.
But when the judge departs, vonRosenberg turns and extends a hand toward Lawrence.
The men shake, exchange pleasantries and head for the elevators.
There, they part ways, each with his entourage.
was, of course, merely a gentlemen’s handshake. But it underscores
vonRosenberg’s hope of how this conflict might end, once the friction
brought to this courtroom has cooled.
Perhaps after departures will come reunion.
“Some people need to take this step in their spiritual journey. But we don’t lock the door behind them,” he says.
The big tent
Never has vonRosenberg known an Episcopal Church at complete peace.
his seminary days, the church has grappled with all that society has
brought to its door, from women’s rights to gay rights. It is an
indication that the Episcopal Church, the American province of the
global Anglican Communion, is engaged in the world around it.
it is why, as bishop of the Episcopal Church of South Carolina,
vonRosenberg is determined to keep the door open to those who have left.
He points to his own path as a young man who left the church to answer his questions and determine his life’s calling.
cradle Episcopalian, vonRosenberg grew up in North Carolina with
parents active in their parish. While an undergraduate at Sewanee:
University of the South, he considered going into the ministry.
it was the 1960s, with social change storming America, and he needed to
explore first. He transferred to the University of North Carolina,
Chapel Hill, “with lots of questions.”
were OK in the Episcopal Church — then and now, he says. “We’re a big
tent. As long as we’re inside the tent, we’re OK.”
In 1969, he graduated and began to teach high school English. It wasn’t his calling.
“I recognized a great sense of void in my life,” he says.
enrolled at Virginia Theological Seminary outside of Washington, D.C.,
the largest in the country, and took his questions with him. One in
particular lingered and nudged:
Is God calling me to the priesthood?
At seminary, “I had a sense of being home that invigorated that call,” vonRosenberg recalls.
The church was embroiled in a great social controversy, this one over the ordination of women, which he supported.
had all sorts of professors with all sorts of ideas of what the faith
should be like,” vonRosenberg says. “It was once again an affirmation.”
1974, the year he earned his master’s in divinity, several women were
ordained without the authorization of the church’s General Convention.
Two years later, the convention allowed women to become priests, and an
People left. But many, he says, have returned.
A newly married, freshly ordained priest in his mid-20s, vonRosenberg set out.
worked at small churches around the Southeast. Then, he spent 11 years
in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, which comprises the western half
of the state, eventually serving as canon to the ordinary.
there, he went to the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee and, in 1998,
was elected its bishop. He served for 12 years spanning the tragedies
of Sept. 11 and the economic downturn.
He also served
in the House of Bishops, as ex-officio member of Sewanee’s board and
then an elected member of its board of regents. He twice attended
Lambeth Conferences, gatherings of the world’s Anglican bishops.
it all, he worked in conservative areas even as the national church
took progressive theological stances. He referred over and over to the
big tent, hoping to keep it large enough to shelter people of many
“We don’t have to be alike. But we have to be connected,” he says.
Then came Gene Robinson, and it seemed no tent was large enough.
2003, Robinson became the first priest in an openly gay relationship to
become bishop in the Episcopal Church. He wore a bullet-proof vest to
He was “very conflicted” and did not vote for Robinson’s consecration.
supported equality for same-sex couples but felt the move was
premature, he says. The church had not yet approved rites for blessing
same-sex unions or laid other groundwork for fully embracing gays and
lesbians into the church or its leadership.
not just voting on my own beliefs. I had to keep in mind what was in the
best interest of the larger church,” he explains.
After the rancorous votes, vonRosenberg headed home.
stopped in Newark, N.J., and met up with a group of liberal clergy who
celebrated the historic election. But vonRosenberg reminded them that
bishops like himself would be returning home to great unrest.
He warned: Don’t forget our more conservative members.
“We had people who felt betrayed, and others who felt affirmed,” he recalls.
At times, it felt like he heard from them all. Individually.
2009, he formed a committee of people — gay, straight, male, female,
ordained, lay, conservative, liberal — to meet monthly for a year.
Bishop’s Committee on Inclusivity held many “respectful and holy
conversations,” he says, to discuss such questions as whether
homosexuality is a sin and if gays and lesbians should marry.
They did not agree.
we developed a significant level of trust,” he says. “We were able to
share whatever we wanted to. And we knew our sharing would be respected.
It was really a profound experience.”
After a year,
the committee offered to speak at any church that invited them to
discuss how they engaged despite their differences.
need to reclaim our identity, which is a big tent,” vonRosenberg says.
“That’s part of the sadness of what has happened in South Carolina. We
need those conservative voices. The body of Christ is a body, and we
need all of the parts.”
He notes that people left the
church when women and African-Americans were ordained, when the Book of
Common Prayer was revised and after Robinson’s consecration. Some have
“The Episcopal Church is very clear that we
engage with those social issues because those issues are part of life,”
he says. “It’s part of who we are. And it’s messy. For some people,
that becomes too uncomfortable — for a while.”
New season of life
When he retired as bishop of Eastern Tennessee, resentments lingered. The recession still hurt the diocese.
he had overseen the creation of a major retreat center, and his 65th
birthday approached. He had served the church for nearly 40 years.
He and his wife, Annie, spoke. All of their moves until then had been for the church. The next would be for the family.
he announced his intention to retire, vonRosenberg told a diocesan
newspaper that he wanted to spend more time with Annie, who had
sacrificed much to support his ministry. He imagined watching her paint
through leisurely days.
He wanted to be an active grandfather and enjoy guilt-free golf and tennis.
In 2011, he and Annie moved to Daniel Island to join their sons, Glenn and John, and their six grandchildren.
For that first year, vonRosenberg attended Grace Episcopal Church and helped when Lawrence requested.
was aware of our differences” in scriptural interpretation,
vonRosenberg says. “But bishops have differences just like priests or
He didn’t imagine that they soon would sit in a courtroom at opposing tables, a judge grilling their attorneys.
Time to split
was Nov. 15, and a pouring rain fit the mood at St. Mark’s Episcopal
Church for the first clergy day since the Diocese of South Carolina
Just weeks earlier, the national
church’s Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori had notified
Lawrence that its disciplinary board found he had abandoned the church.
After years of contention, Lawrence and most clergy in the diocese
Those who chose to remain gathered
that stormy autumn morning at St. Mark’s. A sparse but devoted group,
they were left with no earthly leader in town and not even an office to
call their own.
Someone had turned off the church’s heat, leaving those in its pews damp and chilled.
Still, the 60 or 70 people gathered prayed.
reading came from Matthew’s gospel in which Jesus invites the faithful
to engage in God’s work. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are
few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into
The retired vonRosenberg ambled up the chancel steps. The day’s liturgy, he noted, focused on ministry.
in this place in our day, we are handicapped in exercising our
ministries. We are less than whole as the Episcopal Church in South
Carolina,” he said.
He offered two observations.
“First, the church will be OK,” he assured.
After all, how many times in history has the church faced threats and dissension?
there was a church split even before Jesus died. And church splits have
been happening ever since. The church continues to exist in spite of
those of us who are parts of it,” he added.
pointed to one of his early parishes when two men became so entrenched
in their arguments that they split the church apart. A bishop took
vonRosenberg aside and reminded him: Visit the sick and the shut in.
Do it to remember why you were called to ministry.
need to take care of yourselves,” vonRosenberg reminded the clergy
gathered before him. “These are stressful times, and they are trying
times. You need to take special care of yourselves. ... Keep the fire of
that first love for ministry burning.”
Sigh of relief
Behre worked on the staff at Grace Episcopal when she was named to a
steering committee trying to figure out what to do after the split.
They were in disaster mode.
Without local leadership, vonRosenberg became their adviser and connection to the national church.
“Having him here was that lifeline,” Behre says.
But he had moved here to retire. Would he sacrifice that?
“We knew in his heart he was cheering for us,” Behre says. “But it was a lot to ask.”
He and Annie talked. They prayed often.
both had some mixed emotions,” he recalls. His retirement, she noted
wryly, “had been a great year.” But she supported his calling.
When he agreed to be considered for election, many breathed with relief.
“He is here to shepherd us,” Behre says.
In January, those loyal to the national church elected vonRosenberg provisional bishop.
first, he worked in a kid-sized chair in one of Grace’s preschool
classrooms, a silver-haired man answering email on his laptop near
buckets of crayons. He had no office, no staff, only the needs of his
Today, he has an official office at Grace and
even an adult-sized desk. From it, he gestures to a large watercolor
painting of Annie’s hanging on the wall.
It’s of the
marsh view off their front porch. He asked Annie to paint it so that,
while sitting at the bishop’s desk, he could still enjoy their
Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563 or follow her on Twitter at @JenBerryHawes.
The Venerable Calhoun WalpoleThe
Right Reverend Charles vonRosenberg, Bishop of the diocese, is pleased
to appoint the Reverend Calhoun Walpole, to serve as the Archdeacon of
the diocese, on a half-time basis, effective March 1, 2013. Callie will
continue as Vicar of Grace Church in Charleston and will complete her
ministry as Priest in Charge of St. Mark’s, Charleston, at the end of
February. There will be a special celebration of her ministry at St.
Mark’s on Sunday, February 24. Callie's
responsibilities as Archdeacon will include service as Convention
Secretary and as clergy transition officer and resource person for other
programs in The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Callie will continue to have her office at Grace Church. She can be reached at the following address:
The Venerable Calhoun Walpole
Grace Episcopal Church
98 Wentworth Street
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 723-4575Email: email@example.com
native of John’s Island, Callie was a member of St. John’s Episcopal
Church from her baptism until she entered seminary, and served there on
the vestry and in other capacities. She also served the Diocese as
Missioner for Hispanic Ministry and as lay vicar for the congregation of
San Juan on John’s Island. She has coordinated the diocesan companion
relationship between South Carolina and the Dominican Republic.
Callie graduated from The University of the South with a Master of
Divinity degree in 2005. She has taught Spanish at Burke High School and
at Bishop England. She served as assistant rector of Holy Cross Faith
Memorial Episcopal Church on Pawley’s Island from 2005-2008. In 2009 she
was named Vicar of Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston, where she
continues to serve on a half-time basis.
From February 2012
through February 2013, Callie also served as Priest in Charge at St.
Mark's Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston on a half-time basis,
bringing leadership to that historic congregation while it was without a
Lauren Kinard, Executive Assistant to the Bishop
Lauren Kinard has
been a resident of Charleston and a member of Grace Church for 10 years
and previously was a full-time stay-at-home mom to Gresham, 4 ½, and
Victoria,2 ½. Lauren graduated with a business degree from the
University of Florida and has spent her professional career working in
development, staffing, event planning, and consulting. Her
responsibilities as Executive Assistant to the Bishop will include
creation and maintenance of diocesan records, assisting the Bishop with
his calendar and coordinating visits with member churches and worshiping
communities, coordinating the planning of the annual convention and
other necessary meetings, and facilitating communication and necessary
resources across the diocese. Her office is located at Grace Episcopal
Church, 98 Wentworth St., Charleston, SC 29401.The Bishop's OfficeLauren
and the Bishop will have their offices at Grace Episcopal Church, 98
Wentworth St., Charleston SC 29401. During the transition to the new
offices, they can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (843)