(Diocese of S.C.) TEC denied again by Judge in attempt to seize Diocese of SC identity

Posted by Kendall Harmon

U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck issued a sharply worded ruling today that rebuffed efforts by The Episcopal Church to sidestep a South Carolina Circuit Court injunction preventing the denomination from seizing the identity and symbols of the Diocese of South Carolina.

In his ruling, Judge Houck said, “It appears Bishop [Charles G.] vonRosenberg is using the motion to express his disagreement with the Court’s ruling and to ‘rehash’ previously presented arguments. … As such, Bishop vonRosenberg’s motion is improper and reconsideration is not justified.”

Bishop vonRosenberg had asked Judge Houck to effectively overturn a state court injunction preventing him and his followers from claiming to be the Diocese of South Carolina.

“We are grateful Judge Houck saw through The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) efforts to distract from the real issues in this case,” said Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese. “Their attempt to claim violation of trademark rights was little more than a stalling tactic.

“It’s understandable that TECSC wants to postpone the adjudication of the actual issues involved, but we’re confident the courts will not be distracted,” Lewis said. “Sadly, all the legal shenanigans simply add to the tens of millions of dollars the denomination has spent on legal bills aimed at bullying disaffected members to remain with TEC.”

TEC has historically used the courts to punish parishes and dioceses who disagree with the denomination’s shifting theology. The group has spent more than $22 million on legal efforts to seize individual church property and evict parishioners. At times when judges have ruled against TEC, the denomination has filed time-consuming appeals that have tied up break-away resources and, occasionally, worn down the resolve of individuals seeking religious freedom.

The state court case is scheduled to go to trial in July.

The Diocese of South Carolina disassociated from the Episcopal Church in October 2012 after TEC tried to defrock Bishop Lawrence. Following the Diocese’s decision, 49 churches representing 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members voted to remain in union with the Diocese and not with TEC.

The Diocese has consistently disagreed with TEC’s embrace of what most members of the global Anglican Communion believe to be a radical fringe scriptural interpretation that makes following Christ’s teachings optional for salvation.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: South Carolina* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* South Carolina* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

19 Comments
Posted January 16, 2014 at 4:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Katherine wrote:

Good news!  Good judge.

January 16, 9:03 am | [comment link]
2. Pageantmaster ن [Repent Justin Welby] wrote:

Prayers for the wonderful Diocese of South Carolina.

January 16, 9:23 am | [comment link]
3. SC blu cat lady wrote:

Thanks be to God! I always wonder why they try these stunts. Judge Houck has already ruled that the case belongs in state court and then they go to him and ask to undo what the SC circuit court did (the injunction against them).  Did they think that his liberal personal views would be the reason to undo Judge Goodstein’s decision? Fortunately,  Judge Houck has not let his liberal personal views cloud the legal arguments and has based his decision on the legal not the personal. I really like this statement:

In his ruling, Judge Houck said, “It appears Bishop [Charles G.] vonRosenberg is using the motion to express his disagreement with the Court’s ruling and to ‘rehash’ previously presented arguments. … As such, Bishop vonRosenberg’s motion is improper and reconsideration is not justified.”

It is about time that someone told TECinSc in no uncertain terms that their stunt is not going to work.

January 16, 10:19 am | [comment link]
4. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Not surprising, but still encouraging.  What I loved was the last line of the diocesan response quoted above.  It bluntly calls a spade a spade in the way it describes TEC’s overturning of the biblical condemnation of homosexual behavior, noting aptly and very vividly that such an unwarranted overturning amounts to “a radical fringe scriptural interpretation that makes following Christ’s teaching optional for salvation.”  Yeah, I love that kind of “speaking the truth in love.”  Right on.

On a related matter, was anyone else as amazed as I was that +vonRosenberg and the rump diocese he leads had the gall to sue the Church Insurance Company?  Hearing the Curmudgeon, A. S. Haley, describe that stunning move, whereby TEC is starting to cannabalize itself, brought to mind the ancient Greek adage:  “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad.

For those who aren’t aware, it seems that the rump diocese is seeking to force TEC headquarters to help cover the legal costs incurred so far in SC, and presumably seeking to gain the money to pay the prospective penalty fees that seem to be in the offing once Judge Houck gets really fed up with the sort of blatant contempt of court shown by the crazied, out-of-control leaders of that rump diocese.  See Anglican TV’s latest episode (#89) of Anglican Unscripted.

It is becoming ever clearer to the whole world that “the Emperor as no clothes.”  Many of the leaders of TEC have totally lost itheir senses.  Such idiotic conduct illustrates the bankruptcy of the progressive cause, in more ways than one.

David Handy+

January 16, 1:00 pm | [comment link]
5. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

P.S.  I also loved the line highlighted in bold above, where the diocesan response pointedly observes that the scandalous lawsuits that TEC is using to sue orthodox parishes and dioceses that have departed is nothing but an attempt at bullying disaffected members to remain with TEC.  Absolutely right.  Most of the churches that TEC has taken over (stolen) through these outrageous lawsuits now stand empty, as TEC continues to shrink and has no use for them and can’t afford to maintain the properties.  As a result, the repeated claim that TEC is forced to go to court to preserve those properties for the future use of the Episcopal Church is a blatant sham, a complete ruse, a fraud.  It’s all about intimidation, pure and simple.  It’s all about trying to squelch the new competition before it has a chance to get rooted and established as a legitimate Anglican alternative.

No one likes a bully.  And that appears to include Judge Houck.  I think +vonRosenberg is in for a rude awakening.  Waving a red flag in front of a judical bull is reckless and foolhardy.  Amazing.

David Handy+

January 16, 1:13 pm | [comment link]
6. SC blu cat lady wrote:

Hey #4, The last two sentences are diocesan boilerplate that often occur at the end of articles published by the Diocese of SC.  Check out other articles at the diocese’s website.

Yes, hubby and I were aghast at the gall of TECinSC to sue the Church Insurance Co. I wonder if they are so scared of the large legal bills and fines that Mr. Tisdale (chancellor of TEC in SC) decided we better figure out whether our insurance covers this or not. When the Church Insurance Co told them nope, sorry, they sued the Church Insurance Co. to force judicial review. This time, the judge agreed with them.

Yes, Mr. Haley called this *stunt* for what it really is- cannabalism.  It does highlight the desperation of TECinSC.  Although, truthfully it has no bearing on the main lawsuit just on their ability to pay up if the decision goes for the Diocese of SC.

January 16, 3:17 pm | [comment link]
7. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Thanks, blu cat lady.

You’re right on all counts.

David Handy+

January 16, 3:36 pm | [comment link]
8. Luke wrote:

6. The Church Insurance Co. may end forking out some $$ relief to the rump diocese, but I doubt the insurance policy will be renewed.

I suspect that either the premiums will not be affordable, or CIC will simply decline to write cover.

January 16, 4:25 pm | [comment link]
9. David Keller wrote:

#4 and 6, I would be curious to see the actual policy because if CIC has to pay attorny fees, I am sure they only have to pay reasonable and customary fees. They may actually start getting a say in choice of attorneys and strategy, and surely they can deny fees before Judge Houck as unreasonable because the claim was (1) not a defense fee; i.e it was a collateral attack by thne rumps as a plaintiff and (2) the cause of action itself was unreasonable.  I realize the relationship between CIC and the rump diocese is incestuous, and I suspect CIC didn’t really mount a bona fide defense regarding the fees, but if CIC decides to run its affairs like a real insurance company this could end up as a “be careful what you ask for, you might get it” moment for Charile von. I certainly hope so.

January 16, 5:42 pm | [comment link]
10. tjmcmahon wrote:

#9-
If nothing else, the ruling on attorney’s fees will result in higher insurance premiums for TEC dioceses, given their proclivity to engage in legal actions.

I do like the judge’s remarks.  What I don’t get is this TEC tactic in SC, which seems to be that they want to get as close to contempt as they can without stepping over, in both state and federal court.

January 16, 6:13 pm | [comment link]
11. David Keller wrote:

#10, Here’s my take on that. The rump folks want to keep Lawrence et. al. in court all the time because (and I do know him from my past TEC life) von R is a jerk. And KJS love jerks where litigation is involved. The NY people are going along because they think we are redneck Yahoos who don’t wear shoes. My fervent hope is to find out David Booth Beers has been held in contempt and sent to the Charleston County lock up. Now as a Christian, I shouldn’t feel that way and I should constantly forgive.  It’s just it would be so much easier to forgive him if he was in jail.

January 16, 6:42 pm | [comment link]
12. tjmcmahon wrote:

#11, I think you are probably correct in your assessment, but I am looking more at the overall strategy.  It is as though TECinSC has gone rogue.  This is not the usual DBB/Goodwin Proctor methodology.  I may not like what DBB does, but he does seem quite competent and very thorough (although expensive).  Could it be that even TEC has run into a budget barrier (ie- could not afford Goodwin Proctor for one more lawsuit) or that DBB is so tied up with San Joaquin, Quincy, Ft. Worth and Falls Church that he can’t handle one more?

January 17, 10:16 am | [comment link]
13. David Keller wrote:

#12—My guess is TEC is running out of money.  I also suspect if someome were willing to do the work, they could show a breach of fiduciary duty on the part of CIC; I don’t have all teh facts, but I am still guessing CIC did not put up a serious defense to having to pay attorny fees.  I would love for someone in the know to let us know if CIC really fought this or if it is as I perceive.

January 17, 10:52 am | [comment link]
14. SC blu cat lady wrote:

#11, If anyone ends up in the Charleston County jail, it won’t be DBB but more likely the present Chancellor of TEC inSC whom I have already named.  Oddly enough, the TECinSC people I know are soo convinced that *they are* the Diocese of SC despite the facts,  contempt of court is not a problem in their eyes. How can one be in contempt of court for asserting our *true* identity? Really, TECinSC is so deluded about their identity.

I think this time, they are really scared they may not win this case hence the urgency to finding out about their coverage under their insurance policy. When the news was not what they hoped for, they decided to sue.

January 17, 10:59 am | [comment link]
15. SC blu cat lady wrote:

Actually to clarify, I don’t want anyone to end up in contempt of court with fines or jail time.  Why would it be so wrong to go along with the injunction and then when it is all over, proceed from there? If the courts rule in favor of TECinSC’s favor, and the diocese has to re-name itself, i doubt we will be suing to continue the litigation because we did not like the decision. If the courts rule in favor of the Diocese of SC and TECinSC has to formally rename themselves, then go ahead and form a new diocese and take a new name. How is this so difficult to understand?

That is what I don’t get. If trial outcomes go against TEC, why prolong the agony? Just move on and be done with it.

January 17, 11:08 am | [comment link]
16. off2 wrote:

15. SC blu cat lady, “why prolong the agony?” I am speculating as I no longer have close friends nor contacts in Anglicanism. (I swam the Bosporus in ‘03, then moved to SoCal.) Many of them really do believe the third Person of the Most Holy Trinity is behind the “new thang.” Then there are the loyal pew-sitters who support their clergy, their group, their team, in a battle of principles. It’s so sad.

January 17, 11:22 am | [comment link]
17. Uh Clint wrote:

This is all so simple to explain!  What TEC is doing with its repeated lawsuits, motions and pleadings is entering into a dialogue with the court.  Clearly, once both parties are able to live into the spirit of judicial activism, they will be able to experience the otherness of the opposing viewpoint, and reconcile themselves in a covenant relationship.  The judge will expand his horizons so that he can live within the context of two diverse viewpoints, and will therefore find for the most inclusive chucr.

(I’m only being about 1/3 sarcastic here….........)

January 18, 6:13 pm | [comment link]
18. SC blu cat lady wrote:

#16, I am fairly sure if the trial judgement goes for the Diocese of SC, TECinSc will appeal and continue appealing to ever higher courts. In fact, they have already said as much on their own website. They plan on taking this to the Supreme Court of the US if necessary.  To me, this would be prolonging the agony.

Surely, it would be better if everyone just went their own way.  Since the majority of the diocese remains intact and in union with each other and our bishop, we should be allowed to keep our name. Those loyal TEc should just reorganize themselves as a diocese according to TEC’s canons and take a new name. The Episcopal Diocese of Lower South Carolina makes the most sense. Keeping a lawsuit going simply because you can is a waste to time and resources if they truly have a mission. Which is probably quite telling in itself…...

January 20, 5:56 pm | [comment link]
19. off2 wrote:

18, “Surely, it would be better if everyone just went their own way.” Of course it would. You are reasonable.

Re “agony” - lots of folks enjoy contention. And the collateral damage. 

Reasons to continue to fight to the bitter end:
1) Some believe the third Person of the Most Holy Trinity is behind the “new thang.” They must fight on loyally for their god.

2) Then there are baby boomer bishops - and their friends - whose persistent petulance is unceasing. Read their whiny rhetoric.

3) And there are militant gays who demand validation of their life style. Of all the G’s & L’s I’ve known in nearly 70 years, there has been not one couple who intended lifelong fidelity. But many wanted to be told that their unbridled lust was fully acceptable.

The battle is not soon to be ended. Look at the strategy/tactics and perceive which spirit is behind it. Not very holy. And, yes, nice well meaning people have been seduced by the lies.

Forgive my lengthy comments. It still hurts to see a once great church, in which I spent over half a century, be reduced to a minor heretical sect, soon to be only a footnote of history.

January 21, 4:03 pm | [comment link]
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