S.C. Diocese Seeks Declaratory Judgement to Prevent Episcopal Church from Seizing Local Parishes

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.”

Read it all.

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

28 Comments
Posted January 4, 2013 at 11:06 am

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The URL for this article is http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/46994/



1. Chris wrote:

I’m predicting a full scale retreat by 815 on this one, save the $$ for other skirmishes.  I guess we’ll know more at that at that meeting they’ve scheduled in CHS later this month.

January 4, 5:00 pm | [comment link]
2. Cennydd13 wrote:

I find myself chuckling at TEC’s inane foolishness in trying to steal what clearly isn’t theirs!  I believe the South Carolina Supreme Court spoke clearly and unequivocally when they decreed that the Dennis Canon has no effect in South Carolina.  What do Jefferts Schori and Company not understand about that?

January 4, 5:19 pm | [comment link]
3. sophy0075 wrote:

I am sorry that Dio SC has to spend money to protect itself, but I think Bp Lawrence and his legal advisors are very wise to do so. Frankly, I anticipated that after forming its Potemkin diocese, TEC would have the Potemkin-ersatz dio sc file a declaratory judgment suit.

Prayers that the SC judge(s) who review this matter are as wise as their predecessors who ruled that the Denis Canon had no authority in SC. God bless Bp Lawrence (and you too, Kendall) for protecting the Body of Christ.

January 4, 5:37 pm | [comment link]
4. wmresearchtrianglenc wrote:

It’s certainly time (high, low, British, etc.) that the Episcopal Church takes a break from its long run of litigatory activities to face the reality that it needs to gaze in the proverbial mirror if it’s going to present something to the world better than a religious body with great relish for attempting to bolster support down the line for its current “causas.”

January 4, 6:12 pm | [comment link]
5. Katherine wrote:

Excellent.  Parishes and laypeople and clergy who wish to form a new diocese in communion with General Convention are welcome to do so, but they need a new name.

January 4, 7:09 pm | [comment link]
6. Milton Finch wrote:

And if they don’t wish to form a diocese with a new name, all those will, and can be held accountable by law for their law breaking actions.

January 4, 10:15 pm | [comment link]
7. Pb wrote:

They can call themselves the Diocese of Lower SC. Many people think that DSC is so called.

January 5, 8:43 am | [comment link]
8. preistsdad wrote:

i want to support Bishop Lawrence and his Diocese, where do i send my check?

January 5, 9:09 am | [comment link]
9. Cennydd13 wrote:

I’m sure that if you were to send it to the diocesan office, they’d be glad to accept it with thanks.

January 5, 6:25 pm | [comment link]
10. tjmcmahon wrote:

Perhaps KJS can now be forced via subpeona to produce the letter of renunciation that, by canon, Bishop Lawrence must have sent her in order for her to accept said renunciation.

I mean, to have accepted his renunciation without him having sent such a letter would be an offense under canon, and might rise to the level of civil misconduct (the episcopacy is not “at will employment”- and indeed, TEC wasn’t paying his salary).

January 5, 7:34 pm | [comment link]
11. tjmcmahon wrote:

While they are at it, they might also subpoena the renunciation letters from +Scriven, +Ackerman and +Iker.

January 5, 7:36 pm | [comment link]
12. Cennydd13 wrote:

And if the court does issue a subpoena to Katharine Jefferts Schori, I hope her lawyers are forced to be in court with her, rather than her testifying by deposition.  How I would love to see her squirm under cross-examination!

January 6, 1:46 am | [comment link]
13. SC blu cat lady wrote:

priestsdad,  The diocese’s website is: http://www.diosc.com. There is a “donate now” link on the home page.

January 7, 3:35 pm | [comment link]
14. SC blu cat lady wrote:

Pb, The nickname is the “Lower Diocese” vs the “Upper Diocese” (Diocese of Upper SC). My suggestion for the name of a new diocese would be Diocese of Eastern SC that is closer to geographical reality.

January 7, 3:38 pm | [comment link]
15. MichaelA wrote:

I suspect that 815 cannot afford to retreat on this, that a declaratory judgment in favour of the orthodox Dio SC will cause them all sorts of problems going forward, at many levels.  But I am not an expert.  Whatever the case, our prayers are with the people, clergy and bishop of Dio SC.

January 12, 6:30 pm | [comment link]
16. Brian Vander Wel wrote:

To a non-lawyer, it appears to be a brilliant legal strategy: TEC cannot argue that the Diocese of South Carolina ceased to exist upon their vote to leave TEC because here they are seeking declaratory judgment. How can an entity that does not exist file suit? A philosophically impossible row to hoe.

Adding the Dennis Canon legal decision already in place in SC, this seems too much for any groups of lawyers—no matter how smart—to overcome. May TEC be wise in this one and simply move on.

January 14, 9:09 pm | [comment link]
17. Cennydd13 wrote:

Ah, but they won’t!

January 16, 1:24 am | [comment link]
18. SC blu cat lady wrote:

Agreed, Cennydd.  I doubt TEc will just move on as the PB seems hell bent on suing the rest of TEC out of existence.You gotta admit that Brian #16 makes a good point that an entity who TEC says no longer exists can not file suit in SC courts. Especially when the entity making the claim that the Diocese of Sc no longer exists is no more than a few months old. Heck do we even know that the TECcies have actually gotten incorporated by the state of SC?

January 17, 7:08 pm | [comment link]
19. Ralph wrote:

Storm clouds gather, as TEC announces its intent to carry on with the previously announced diocesan convention, as well as having KJS preside at a Eucharist on Saturday AM. I wonder whether the courts will intervene.

And, isn’t this border crossing? In TEC eyes, Bp. Lawrence is out. But have the DioSC standing committee been dismissed? Who has the authority to do that? Can she legally preside at a Eucharist BEFORE the elections? And if DioSC is a civil corporation, do those being elected expose themselves to charges of civil fraud?

If I were Bp. Waldo, I would stay far away from this Charlestageddon. But, it looks like he’s been invited.

http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2013/01/22/presiding-bishop-to-chair-special-meeting-of-diocese-of-south-carolina/

January 22, 7:31 pm | [comment link]
20. SC blu cat lady wrote:

Agreed Ralph.  While Bishop Waldo has been invited to the meeting this weekend (it is not a Diocesan Convention as those who stayed with TEC -8 parishes and 8 missions- can not legitimately form a quorum of the Diocese),  it does not say whether he has accepted the invitation. Bishop Waldo’s time would be better spent at Mere Anglicanism this weekend.

January 23, 8:40 am | [comment link]
21. Ralph wrote:

I suspect that the TEC meeting will happen, unless it’s blocked by a court order. The PB will call it a diocesan convention, and will declare that a quorum is present. Then, there will be the predictable attempts to confuse the civil courts.

Hopefully, these goings-on will not disrupt the Mere Anglicanism conference, or take over the hallway conversations. Covey reminds us, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” The theme of the conference is, “Behold the Man:
The Person and Work of Jesus Christ.” It is not about the work of the devil.

January 23, 9:31 am | [comment link]
22. SC blu cat lady wrote:

Quite true, Ralph. I really don’t want to discuss this other meeting during MA. There are much more important things to learn and discuss.  Given that these folks did not even bother to vote at the convention in November, I suspect they won’t bother the conference.  Both groups have gone their separate ways. Time to let it go and move on. Well except for the lawsuits for property. That will be in the courts for years even with a SC Supreme court decision.

January 23, 11:55 am | [comment link]
23. tjmcmahon wrote:

Why wouldn’t Waldo show up to KJS’ little shindig?  At this point, since he did not so much as raise a voice in protest when KJS betrayed his supposed arbitration meetings, it is difficult to believe he is not complicit in the deception (as is obvious, SC was well prepared, and what KJS planned as a major blow merely set in motion a well planned defensive strategy).

Look folks, TEC can do whatever they want.  They have established precedent- having previously held several similar conventions, which have been endorsed by GC (all the bishops and deputies elected by previous non-canonical conventions have been seated).  So, from the TEC point of view, all they need is one member from each of 30 parishes to show up, and they will claim the outcome to be legitimate.  No one stopped KJS when they had the chance (not even +Duncan brought charges against her, although she was in violation of the canons from the day she took office), so within TEC, there is no longer any check on her power.  She exercised it, and no one stood up to call her on it.

You cannot win that fight.  TEC will have a bishop of what it claims to be the diocese of S Carolina.  He will be recognized by TEC, Canada, Brazil, Wales, Scotland, NZ and probably Australia, Mexico, C America and CoE. 

What is key for the real Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina will be to secure the declaratory judgement which (if the court issues it) declare that whatever TEC does, the SC corporation is not impacted- that is, that TEC cannot replace the trustees of the corporation.

As is, the majority of the Anglican Communion is on record as recognizing +Mark Lawrence as the Bishop of South Carolina.  They will not recognize the TEC puppet government.

January 23, 3:10 pm | [comment link]
24. Cennydd13 wrote:

It’s hard to imagine the Diocese of South Carolina continuing to steer an independent course, and it should come as no surprise if their Standing Committee decides that they must affiliate with an Anglican province…..or one in formation.  If they prevail in court, and I think they have a good chance of doing just that, then I think they’ll think long and hard in making that decision.  It looks to me like time is on their side.  My prayers are with them.

January 23, 3:53 pm | [comment link]
25. Ralph wrote:

The concept of ‘province’ is relatively new in the time course of church history, and it implies existence of a hierarchy that isn’t really there. To be Anglicans, DioSC need not affiliate with an Anglican province, although TEC might imply that they do need to, at the same time implying that ACNA somehow isn’t a legitimate Anglican body.

All they need is recognition by other Anglican bishops. And, they seem to have that.

Church history will be written in Charleston this weekend.

January 23, 7:02 pm | [comment link]
26. CSeitz-ACI wrote:

The category “extra-provincial” as defined by the Windsor Continuation Group speaks of “clear provisional recognition which seeks to keep it in relation to the Communion, but which acknowledges its provisional and anomalous nature.”

January 24, 8:40 am | [comment link]
27. SC blu cat lady wrote:

Dr. Seitz, Is the Diocese of Bermuda also an extra-provincial diocese? I am guessing that is the Diocese of SC’s place at the moment- extra-provincial diocese.

The history of the diocese has shown that it was independent before TEC was created and then again in the 1860’s (you know…. the Late Unpleasantness as it is called in these parts). So while I don’t think the diocese will be extra-provincial forever, it is also true that the diocese is not in any hurry to join any province.

January 24, 4:49 pm | [comment link]
28. cseitz wrote:

“Extra-provincial” was the language chosen for adoption by the Windsor Continuation Group for the present season of conflict in our Communion. The documents are in the public domain. Its original meaning is something else, having to do with various historical and geographical anomalies (Lusitania, Ceylon, Cuba, etc). As the WCG uses it, it refers to a holding place under primatial oversight (pastoral not legal). The language in #26 is from this context. Bermuda is from the other context.

January 24, 5:33 pm | [comment link]


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