Saturday, January 05, 2013

Diocese of South Carolina sues The #Episcopal Church

From here:

St. George, SC, January 4, 2013 –The Diocese of South Carolina, the Trustees of the Diocese and congregations representing the vast majority of its baptized members today filed suit in South Carolina Circuit Court against The Episcopal Church to protect the Diocese’s real and personal property and that of its parishes.

The suit also asks the court to prevent The Episcopal Church from infringing on the protected marks of the Diocese, including its seal and its historical names, and to prevent the church from assuming the Diocese’s identity, which was established long before The Episcopal Church’s creation.

“We seek to protect more than $500 million in real property, including churches, rectories and other buildings that South Carolinians built, paid for, maintained and expanded – and in some cases died to protect – without any support from The Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary. “Many of our parishes are among the oldest operating churches in the nation. They and this Diocese predate the establishment of The Episcopal Church. We want to protect these properties from a blatant land grab.”

The Diocese of South Carolina was established in 1785 as an independent, voluntary association that grew from the missionary work of the Church of England. It was one of nine dioceses that voluntarily joined together to form The Episcopal Church in October 1789, which eventually became an American province in the worldwide Anglican Communion, also a voluntary association.

“When the Diocese disassociated from The Episcopal Church we didn’t become a new entity,” Canon Lewis explained. “We have existed as an association since 1785. We incorporated in 1973; adopted our current legal name, ‘The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina,’ in 1987; and we disassociated from the Episcopal Church in October of 2012. The Episcopal Church has every right to have a presence in the area served by our Diocese – but it does not have a right to use our identity. The Episcopal Church must create a new entity.”

The Diocese of South Carolina is made up of 71 parishes with approximately 30,000 members. Of those, 22,244 members have decided to remain with the Diocese and 1900 are undecided. Fifty Three Hundred say they want to be with The Episcopal Church with nearly half of those from one church in Charleston. While the Diocese has disassociated from The Episcopal Church, it remains a part of the Anglican Communion.

Though theologically more conservative than the leadership of the national Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence has for five years struggled to keep the Diocese intact and in The Episcopal Church, even as some 200 parishes and four other dioceses nationwide disassociated. The parishes and dioceses have disagreed with The Episcopal Church’s recent interpretation of scripture, which is widely considered to be unorthodox by most of the world’s 80 million Anglicans.

When Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese challenged The Episcopal Church’s direction, the group’s disciplinary board attempted to remove him. In response, the Diocese disassociated from The Episcopal Church.

“We believe The Episcopal Church’s decision to embrace an unorthodox theology separated it from the doctrine our Diocese has followed for centuries, the same doctrine that nearly 80 million Anglicans around the world continue to follow today,” said Bishop Lawrence. “This is an issue of religious freedom. Like our colonial forefathers, we are pursuing the freedom to practice our faith as we see fit, not as it is dictated to us by a self-proclaimed religious authority who threatens to take our property unless we relinquish our beliefs. The actions taken by TEC make it clear that such freedom of worship is intolerable to them.”

Since the mid-1960s, membership in The Episcopal Church has declined by more than 37 percent – to about 1,923,046 members. During the same period, the number of members in the Diocese of South Carolina has increased by 48 percent, to 29,531.

Dioceses in four other states have disassociated over theological differences with The Episcopal Church in recent years resulting in its spending an estimated $22+ million in lawsuits to seize the property of local parishes. To date, the church has initiated 75 such lawsuits across the country. Today’s lawsuit is only the second pre-emptively filed by a diocese to protect diocesan and parish property in the wake of disassociation. The first was by the Diocese of Quincy filed in March 2009.

South Carolina state law tends to support the property rights of churches. A recent state Supreme Court decision found that All Saints Church of Pawley’s Island was the true owner of its property and that The Episcopal Church held no interest.

The Episcopal Church has already begun an effort to hijack the Diocese of South Carolina’s identity by calling for a convention to identify new leadership for the diocese and creating a website and other material using the Diocesan seal.

Anglican Curmudgeon has his commentary up here.


Anonymous said...

As a wise fellow recently pointed out: There was no "diocese" preceding the formation of the Episcopal Church. There were Anglicans in South Carolina, and representatives of that group attended the General Convention and accepted the Constitution. But they didn't have a bishop until 1795 -- a bishop consecrated by White, Provoost and Madison, in accordance with the canons of the [Episcopal] church. The Episcopal Church was not formed as a federation of existing dioceses, but as a unitary Church whose members were distributed in the various States, later termed 'dioceses.' The polity is catholic, not congregational.

So, it seems that, once again, another aggressive, pointless, and expensive legal fiasco is being initiated by these reactionary and hate-filled individuals. They have not won even so much as a single case in any of the states.

When will they ever learn? Once again, these poor people are being deceived by selfish, heartless, un-catholic and un-anglican frauds (some of whom have, in other states, even been charged and convicted for their frauds).

As usual, they don't have a legal or moral leg to stand on, but by using these aggressive "hardball" and conspiratorial 'legal' tactics they, just as in the Virginia cases, make impossible any form of reconciliation. The church MUST defend it's catholic polity, cost what it may. Here we go again.


RalphM said...

May I suggest a cup of soothing tea bookguybaltmd...

Lapinbizarre said...

Actually, BB, I believe that if you check the statistics you will see that membership in the diocese of SC has declined every year since Mark Lawrence's consecration.

Just sayin'

Anonymous said...

Individuals may leave the Episcopal Church ("TEC"). However, when they leave they do not get to take the buildings and money with them. We are a catholic hierarchical church, not a congregational church. The arguments sponsored by the break away individuals in SC are the same as in other jurisdictions; and have not been successful. Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, all the same result; years of litigation and then retention of the property and money by TEC. Sad that individuals insist on trying to tak what is not theirs. I regret anyone's decision to leave TEC, and I will pray for you as always.