CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- Clergy and delegates from one of the oldest Episcopal dioceses in the nation meet this weekend in Charleston to discuss the future after splitting with the national church over issues including the ordination of gays.

But in a letter to the diocese on Thursday, national Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori says the diocese cannot leave the mother church.

Representatives from many of the 70 congregations in eastern and southern South Carolina plan to gather Saturday in Charleston.

Last month local Bishop Mark Lawrence was notified by the national church's Disciplinary Board for Bishops that he is considered to have abandoned the national church.

Local leaders earlier passed a resolution saying the diocese would leave the national church if it took any action asserting authority over the local diocese or its leaders.

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