Category : TEC Conflicts
Historic Anglican Diocese of South Carolina recent Legal Developments (V)–Diocese gives joint Notice of appeal of Judge Gergel’s Ruling
Historic Anglican Diocese of South Carolina recent Legal Developments (III)-An Update for St. Philip’s Church from Ben A. Hagood
On September 19, 2019, U.S. Federal District Judge Richard Gergel ruled that St. Philip’s Church, and the other parishes in our diocese that disassociated from The Episcopal Church (TEC), are free to continue using their historic parish names. The formal, legal name of our parish is “The Protestant Episcopal Church of the Parish of Saint Philip, in Charleston, in the State of South Carolina.” For some years, we have simply been known as “St. Philip’s Church.” Judge Gergel ruled that the historic inclusion of the word “episcopal” in our name does not constitute trademark infringement, trademark dilution, or false advertising as claimed by TEC and its affiliated diocese, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC).
In a separate, contemporaneous order Judge Gergel ruled that the seal and names of our diocese (specifically, “Diocese of South Carolina,” “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,” and “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina”) infringe upon the trademarks of TEC and TECSC and that our diocese and all of its parish churches, including St. Philip’s Church, are permanently enjoined from using these marks or any mark confusingly similar. St. Philip’s is now complying with this injunction by discontinuing use of any of the enjoined names or marks. On September 20, our diocese changed its name to “The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina.” At this point, our diocese and St. Philip’s are reviewing these Orders with our litigation counsel to determine next steps.
The rulings in federal court arise from the case brought by TECSC and TEC, originally filed in 2013, against our diocese alleging trademark infringement, trademark dilution and false advertisement. In 2018 St. Philip’s, and the other parishes associated with our diocese, were added as defendants. It is important to note that this federal trademark and false advertising litigation does not affect the property ownership issues of St. Philip’s Church and the other parishes. Those issues currently remain in state trial court before Circuit Judge Edgar W. Dickson.
Judge Dickson has held two hearings on motions related to the property ownership issues. Last November he held hearings on a motion filed by us, our diocese, and associated parishes, seeking clarification of the South Carolina Supreme Court opinions. This motion includes our argument that the Supreme Court opinions concluded that those parishes that did not expressly accede in writing to TEC’s Dennis Cannon retain ownership of their property; that St. Philip’s Church, and the other parishes, never expressly acceded in writing to the Dennis Canon; and that no judge has made a finding of fact to the contrary. This motion is still under consideration by Judge Dickson.
This past July, Judge Dickson held a hearing in a separate state court case involving the property issues, a case brought under the state Betterments Act. The suit under the Betterments Act alleges that if TEC or TECSC is ultimately determined to be the owners of property held by our diocese and its parishes, including St. Philip’s Church, then the diocese and parishes are entitled to be compensated for all improvements made to the properties. On August 28th Judge Dickson issued an order rejecting TEC and TECSC’s motion that this Betterments Act suit should be dismissed. Judge Dickson has also ordered that all of the property ownership issues and other state court issues should be mediated by the parties. Mediation is currently scheduled for
–Ben A. Hagood, Jr.
Chancellor, St. Philip’s Church
On Thursday, September 20 District Court Judge Richard M. Gergel ruled in favor of The Episcopal Church (TEC) and its local diocese, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), in a federal trademark case. In the 73-page decision, Judge Gergel issued an injunction preventing the Diocese and parishes in union with it from using the names and seal of the diocese. These are: “Diocese of South Carolina”; “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina”; “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina” and The Diocesan Seal.
“We’re disappointed, of course,” said the Rev. Marcus Kaiser, Rector of the Church of the Holy Comforter in Sumter, who serves as the President of the Standing Committee, which also serves as the Diocese’s Board of Directors. “But changing our name doesn’t change who we are, or who we’ve ever been. It simply changes the name under which we operate.”
The Standing Committee met Friday morning and unanimously voted to adopt the name “The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina.” Although Counsel for both the Diocese and the Parishes who are studying the order believe it likely will be appealed, even erroneous orders still must be obeyed. “I am grateful,” noted Bishop Lawrence, “for the faithful response of our Standing Committee, the diocesan staff, and legal team in seeking to comply with this order. We work not in fear, for as St. Paul has reminded us, God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind.”
On August 28th , in one of two state cases regarding the ownership of parish and diocesan property, Judge Edgar Dickson issued an order adverse to TEC and TECSC. He rejected their request to dismiss the diocese and parish claims to recover the value of improvements to parish and diocesan real property under the Betterments Statute if it is decided that TEC has title to those properties. He also stated that he had yet to rule on motions before him concerning the question of whether the five separate opinions of the Supreme Court found that there has been any Diocesan or Parish loss of property.“The Court…recognizes that were it to rule against the Defendants [TEC and TECSC] on some or all of those motions, this betterments action could become moot….” “…the Court will consider, for purposes of ruling on the motion to dismiss only, that the betterments action is ripe.”
The state cases were ordered to be mediated by Judge Dickson which will be held on September 26th. That mediation, which had been scheduled for earlier this month, was postponed due to Hurricane Dorian.
Breaking!! Our appeal to the state Supreme Court has been accepted and oral argument is set for 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 5. pic.twitter.com/e8jrmoSSih
— Diocese • Fort Worth (@e_quips) August 30, 2019
Your Prayers Requested as mediation begins next week in the Mess between the Historic Diocese of South Carolina and the brand new TEC Diocese
St. Matthews, S.C. (July 23, 2019) – Immediately on the heels of The South Carolina Supreme Court on June 28, denying the Petition for a Writ of Mandamus submitted by The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), Judge Edgar W. Dickson promptly resumed proceedings on the related legal matters. The hearing on the Betterments Statute issues, which had been cancelled in March when the petition for Mandamus was filed, was held today in the Calhoun County Courthouse in St. Matthews, SC.
The Betterments Statute, under South Carolina law, provides the means for a party making good faith improvements to property they believe they own, to be compensated for the value of those improvements, if a court makes a final determination that another party is the true owner. Many of the parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina can trace their unbroken history back to the colonial era of the state. During that entire time, there has never been any question of their unencumbered title to property or legal identity. All have proceeded throughout their history with the maintenance and improvement of their properties with these assumptions.
The motion previously filed by TECSC asked for the dismissal of the case, primarily on the basis that it had not been filed in a timely fashion and that they were not actually taking ownership of the churches but merely exercising their trust interest in the property. The Diocese maintained that the court needed to decide which, if any, of the 29 parishes agreed (acceded) to the Dennis Canon before it could decide whether this case should proceed. As to the eight parishes that TEC and TECSC concede did not agree to the Dennis Canon, Judge Dickson asked Diocesan counsel to submit proposed orders making the finding that those parishes did not accede to the Denis Canon.
The five separate opinions that constitute the Supreme Court decision resulted in a fractured ruling whose interpretation is currently under consideration by Judge Dickson. The effort to force a particular interpretation of that decision was the essential purpose of the recent Petition for Mandamus filed by TEC and TECSC which was denied by the Supreme Court on June 28, 2019.
Judge Dickson took the motion to dismiss the Betterments case under advisement. He also ordered the parties to mediate all the issues raised in the two state lawsuits referencing the relatively recent Supreme Court order which requires mandatory mediation in civil cases.
#SouthCarolina Circuit Court Hears Arguments on Betterments Statute and Orders Mediation in Complex #episcopalchurch case https://t.co/BfbaOVKbu2 #religion #law #lowcountrylife #ethics #stewardship #history pic.twitter.com/PpA5Y1kGy9
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) July 26, 2019
South Carolina Supreme Court Allows Parishes and Diocese to Intervene and Denies Writ of Mandamus Petition by The Episcopal Church
Columbia, S.C. (July 1, 2019) – The South Carolina Supreme Court announced today that it has denied the Petition for a Writ of Mandamus submitted by The Episcopal Church (TEC) on March 22, 2019, seeking to compel Judge Edgar W. Dickson to rule in their favor. The Parishes and the Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) responded on March 26, requesting the Supreme Court’spermission to intervene. On April 12 they submitted their Return to the Petition.
Today’s action by the Supreme Court allowed the intervention of all the parties whose property TEC seeks and confirms the arguments presented in the Return which they filed. The intent of the Petition requested by TEC was to have the Supreme Court require the Circuit Court to interpret the
Supreme Court’s August 2, 2017 ruling as TEC wished it interpreted. The Parishes and the Diocese opposed the Petition essentially arguing that the issues were before Judge Dickson who was using the discretion afforded him by state law to resolve them.
#SouthCarolina Supreme Court Allows Parishes and Diocese to Intervene and Denies Writ of Mandamus Petition by The Episcopal Church+its new diocese https://t.co/Xd48whpGau #law #religion #lowcountrylife pic.twitter.com/54yfSJx0CA
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) July 1, 2019
Update: Those interested in the very new TEC diocese of South Carolina pr on this may find it there.
In accordance with Canon IV.7.10 of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, I do plan to appeal the above disciplinary action taken against me by the Presiding Bishop and in so doing, I will also be challenging the authority and legality of Resolution B012 passed at the 79th General Convention. I have already verbally informed the Presiding Bishop’s Office of my plans. This will soon be followed by an official written appeal as required by the Canons.
While I obviously would rather not have had disciplinary actions taken against me, and hope to see it overturned in the near future, I will abide by the restrictions placed on me by the Presiding Bishop during the appeals process.
With that said, as your Bishop, it is important that you understand I have not changed my understanding or teaching regarding the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The official teaching of this Church as outlined in the rubrics of the Marriage Service in the Book of Common Prayer is that: “Christian marriage is a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God” (BCP 422.) Canon 16 of the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of Albany upholds this teaching and remains in effect until it is either changed by the Diocesan Convention, or is legally proven to be over-ridden by the legitimate actions of General Convention; none of which has yet taken place.
The Long Road to Freedom: The Diocese of South Carolina and Parishes File 38 Motions for Summary Judgement
The Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) continues on the long road to freedom from The Episcopal Church (TEC), filing motions for summary judgement in the now nearly six-year-old federal suit brought by its former denomination. Motions by the Diocese and its fifty-four parish defendants ask the Court to acknowledge, as a matter of law, they have neither infringed on TEC trademarks, diminished the value of those marks or harmed the denomination by continued use of names which have been in use before the denomination existed.
The current federal litigation was initiated by TEC in 2013, after the Diocese made the decision to disassociate from the national denomination it helped charter in 1789, five years after its own founding. The decision to leave was made in the fall of 2012 after denominational leadership attempted to wrongly remove its duly elected bishop. Over 80% of the congregations and their members affirmed that decision at a special Diocesan Convention in November 2012. TEC has never accepted that decision by 23,000 parishioners of the Diocese, continuing to litigate all such efforts by congregations and dioceses across the country wishing to free themselves from its control.
The original federal court complaint was initially against Bishop Lawrence alone, asserting that he continued to hold himself out falsely as a bishop of TEC, thus creating “confusion”. In April of this year the case was expanded to include the Diocese and all its congregations, even those formed after the disassociation who had no prior affiliation with the denomination. All are now charged with being party to the willful creation of confusion for attendees by virtue of using their historic names and continuing to conduct worship as they always have. These actions are alleged to mislead attendees to believe these are still TEC congregations.
Read it all and make sure to follow all the links.
The Long Road to Freedom: The Diocese of #SouthCarolina and Parishes File 38 Motions for Summary Judgement https://t.co/zPwxmT2uD5 #religion #law #history #anglican #parishministry #stewardship #ethics #lowcountrylife
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) December 13, 2018
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) November 21, 2018
Latest Developments in the TEC Diocese of Albany (III)–TLC finds a priest in the diocese told the publication he “intends not to abide by” Bishop Love’s directive
One priest in the diocese told TLC he “intends not to abide by” Love’s directive and will celebrate a same-sex marriage if the opportunity arises.
The Rev. Glen Michaels is an assistant attorney general for New York State. He serves as priest in charge of All Souls Memorial Chapel in St. Hubert’s in the Adirondacks, about 100 miles north of Albany. All Souls is open only in the summer, and Michaels said it frequently serves as a wedding venue.
Michaels said that as he reads the canons, Love’s prohibition of same-sex marriage is “not enforceable” because of the action of the General Convention.
“For better or worse I see myself as a good person to challenge this,” he said, because his livelihood does not depend on his work as a priest.
The Latest Development In the Highly Contentious Court Battle Between the new TEC Diocese and the Historic Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina
Judge Dickson Will Determine What the Supreme Court Opinions Mean
ORANGEBURG, S.C. (November 19, 2018) – Today, in the Orangeburg County Courthouse the honorable Edgar W. Dickson, heard arguments from the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church on motions directed to the ruling of the South Carolina Supreme Court.
The judge began by asking, “Who thinks this case will be resolved today?” When one person in the courtroom raised a hand the judge indicated he hoped they were pulling for South Carolina in their upcoming game against Clemson, and concluded, “Six judges have heard this case. I’m number seven. I hope that’s a lucky number.”
While five motions are presently before the court, Judge Dickson said, “the motion I’m most interested in” is the issue of what he has to decide.
Alan Runyan argued for the Diocese that given the lack of clarity in the five separate opinions, Judge Dickson had to first decide, what, if anything, the Supreme Court decided. The slide presentation summarizing his argument may be found here. Mr Runyan noted at the beginning of his argument that the last statements by half the Supreme Court were that “We have given little to no coherent guidance in this case” and “The Court’s collective opinions give rise to great uncertainty” in “this matter of great importance.”
Tom Tisdale, counsel for TECSC and Mary Kostel, Counsel for TEC, presented their arguments which essentially repeated their prior assertions that “the decision has been made,” by the South Carolina Supreme Court, and all that was left was enforcement of the results.
It was obvious that Judge Dickson had problems with the argument that it is clear what the Supreme Court decided.
Addressing Mr. Tisdale, he asked, “How many times have you seen a Supreme Court decision with five separate opinions?” Mr. Tisdale acknowledged that it had never happened in the history of the court.
When counsel for TEC continued to assert that the result was clear, the judge replied, “Like through a glass darkly.”
In commenting on the present ruling he observed, “Usually when I get something remitted it’s clear what I’m supposed to do.” In this case, however, interpreting the Supreme Court ruling will entail “trying to ferret out what they meant.”
In concluding he observed, “I have to decide and whatever is decided will be appealed by one side or the other.”
The Judge indicated he would be sending follow up questions by email for both sides.
A national church is suing its former followers in Fresno in a real estate battle launched by the church’s decision to accept [non-celbiate] gay…clergy members.
Attorneys delivered opening arguments Monday in the case pitting The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of San Joaquin against St. Columba Church and its congregants who split away from the religion.
The Episcopal Church says the administration at St. Columba and its pastor, Rev. James Snell, illegally took possession of the church on Palm and Shaw in 2008.
You may find the bishop’s letter about this there.
For years, top legal minds have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to settle property fights between big national churches and breakaway congregations.
For years, they have been turned away before ever reaching the court’s marble steps.
Whether a South Carolina case becomes the one that finally lands in the high court is a question that soon will be answered. The case could make history and carry implications for disputes that have divided other religious denominations throughout the country.
A S Haley unpacks the recent Second District Court of Appeals in Fort Worth Episcopal Church Decision
After reviewing the history of church property cases in the United States Supreme Court, and fleshing out what that Court meant by the term “neutral principles”, the Texas Court of Appeals then focused on its own Supreme Court’s recent decision in Masterson v. Diocese of Northwest Texas (Tex. 2013) 422 S.W.3d 594 as instructing how neutral principles of law are used to resolve church property disputes in Texas. It set out the following concise summary of Masterson’s holdings (pp. 78-79):
- Absent specific, lawful provisions in a corporation’s articles of incorporation or bylaws otherwise, whether and how a corporation’s directors or those entitled to control its affairs can change its articles of incorporation and bylaws are secular, not ecclesiastical matters, and an external entity—under the former or current statutory scheme—is not empowered to amend them absent specific, lawful provision in the corporate documents. Id. at 609–10 (citing Tex. Bus. Orgs. Code § 3.009; Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat. Ann. art. 1396–2.09).
- The TEC-affiliated bishop could, as an ecclesiastical matter, determine which faction of believers was recognized by and was the “true” church loyal to the Diocese and TEC, and courts must defer to such ecclesiastical decisions, but his decision identifying the loyal faction as the continuing parish does not necessarily determine the property ownership issue, and his decisions on secular legal questions such as the validity of the parish members’ vote to amend the bylaws and articles of incorporation are not entitled to deference. Id. at 610.
- If the title to the real property is in the corporation’s name and the language of the deeds does not provide for an express trust in favor of TEC or the Diocese, then the corporation owns the property. Id.
These propositions are all correct statements of Texas law as expounded in Masterson. Followed correctly, they should have led to a correct decision in the Fort Worth case. Instead, look where the Salazar court ended up…
On April 5, 2018, the Second Court of Appeals issued its long-awaited Opinion in our dispute with TEC over the ownership of our church property, and it essentially reversed the previous trial court ruling in our favor (dated July 2015). After review by our legal team, we have concluded that this most recent appellate court opinion is not consistent with what the Texas Supreme Court previously decided when it addressed this controversy in 2013 and that we will appeal it.
In reversing the original trial court ruling in favor of TEC’s claims, the Supreme Court instructed the trial court to rehear the case and to use neutral principles of law in reaching a conclusion, instead of deference to TEC. This means that Texas laws concerning corporations, property, trusts, and unincorporated associations are to direct the outcome of the lawsuit.
The Texas Supreme Court ruled in the Masterson case (No. 11-0332) that:
- Changes made to “articles of incorporation or bylaws are secular, not ecclesiastical, matters.” (page 25)
- “…[W]e have held that Texas courts cannot simply use deference or identity methodology principles to resolve this type of issue.” (page 27)
- “…[I]dentifying the loyal faction” does not “determine the property ownership issue under this record, as it might under the deference or identity methodology.” (page 27)
We are disappointed that the appellate court chose to decide this as an identity case. We remain hopeful that we will prevail under neutral principles of law should the Texas Supreme Court address this controversy for the second time. We will file a petition for review in May or June but will likely not know whether the Court will take the case for decision until late this year or early 2019.
In the meantime, everything remains as it has been, as we continue to wait for a conclusion to this tiresome litigation now entering its tenth year before the courts. Our trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, and we rely upon His grace to sustain us with faith and patience in the months to come. Please continue to pray for our legal team and for the justices who will address our petition.
The new Episcopal Church Diocese in South Carolina and TEC have filed a motion to extend the time to file a response from March 29, 2018 to April 30, 2018. Interested blog readers may continue to follow the case there on the SCOTUS website.
Mediation Process between the Historic Diocese of South Carolina and the new TEC in SC Diocese Recessed Until January
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today a further session of mediation with Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. was conducted. Mediation is now in recess until January 11-12 in Columbia.
The clergy of the Diocese are reminded that Judge Anderson is allowing no discussion, outside of mediation sessions, of what has been said there.
As the Diocese continues to faithfully journey through this process of litigation at multiple levels, I ask your continued prayers for wisdom and discernment on the part of the Bishop, legal counsel and all the Diocesan leadership.
In Christ’s service,
–The Rev. Canon Jim Lewis is Canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of South Carolina
Just a Reminder that the mediation Process between the Historic Diocese of South Carolina and the new TEC in SC Diocese started back today
What was that South Carolina Betterment Statute that Bishop Mark Lawrence referred to in his recent letter?
One of the good things about blogs is you can learn things from them which you can learn nowhere else. This past week is a case in point. In his letter of last weekend the Bishop said:
All parties to the case have previously discussed the timetable for a filing under the Betterments Statute. Legal counsel can give you best directions for how to proceed with that process (my emphasis).
And just what it this “Betterments Statute”? You can find it there and please note carefully its wording which includes among other sections the following:
SECTION 27-27-10. Recovery for improvements made in good faith.
After final judgment in favor of the plaintiff in an action to recover lands and tenements, if the defendant has purchased or acquired the lands and tenements recovered in such action or taken a lease thereof or those under whom he holds have purchased or acquired a title to such lands and tenements or taken a lease thereof, supposing at the time of such purchase or acquisition such title to be good in fee or such lease to convey and secure the title and interest therein expressed, such defendant shall be entitled to recover of the plaintiff in such action the full value of all improvements made upon such land by such defendant or those under whom he claims, in the manner provided in this chapter….
SECTION 27-27-30. Proceedings subsequent to judgment to recover value of improvements.
The defendant in such action shall, within forty-eight hours after such judgment or during the term of the court in which it shall be rendered, file in the office of the clerk of the court in which such judgment was rendered a complaint against the plaintiff for so much money as the lands and tenements are so made better. The filing of such complaint shall be sufficient notice to the defendant in such complaint to appear and defend against it. All subsequent proceedings shall be had in accordance with the practice prescribed in this Code for actions generally….
SECTION 27-27-40. Stay of judgment in first action; special verdict for betterments.
The court, on the entry of such action, shall stay all proceedings upon the judgment obtained in the prior action, except the recovery of such lands, until the sale of the lands recovered as provided in Section 27-27-60. The final judgment shall be upon a special verdict by a jury, under the direction of the court, stating the value of the lands and tenements without the improvements put thereon in good faith by the defendant in the prior action and the value thereof with improvements. The defendant in the prior action shall be entitled for such betterments to a verdict for the value thereof, as of the date when the lands were recovered from him and interest on such verdict from such date.
Letters from South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Standing Committee about the Appeal of our Case to the US Supreme Court
“The [new diocese of the] Episcopal Church in South Carolina has frequently stated that they..[have] always been seeking reconciliation in this present legal conflict. However, one should be aware of what their words suggest. I would paraphrase it thusly — ‘Of course, you may remain worshipping in your Church buildings. All you have to do is surrender to the national Episcopal Church and we will receive you back.‘ Frankly, I believe a more honorable goal would be a charitable parting of the ways enabling each diocese to get on with its mission to a needy world. In the absence of this, we are compelled to move forward with a petition for the higher court’s review.”
Read them both and read them all (emphasis his).
Ltrs from #SouthCarolina Bp Mark Lawrence+the Standing Committee abt the Appeal of Case to the #USA Supreme Court https://t.co/UozFwhLVVI ' I believe a more honorable goal wd B a charitable parting of the ways enabling each diocese to get on w its mission 2 a needy world #SCOTUS pic.twitter.com/JU4syND3Ht
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) November 22, 2017
It is with the weight of decision but conviction of heart and mind that I write to tell you the Standing Committee, after prayerful deliberation, and with my full support, has voted unanimously to proceed with a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. I remind you that this long process first began with our stand for Gospel truth—holding firmly to the faith once delivered to the saints. All too soon, we were thrust us into a battle for Religious Freedom. As Justice Kitteridge has aptly stated about the State Supreme Court’s recent denial for rehearing “…to disallow a full court from considering the rehearing petitions is deeply troubling and, in my opinion, raises constitutional implications as the Court has blocked a fair and meaningful merits review of the rehearing petitions.” So we have before us our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ to which we are unwaveringly wedded; a civil concern for religious freedom for ourselves and others; and a public duty to petition for constitutional due process to be upheld. Any of these might justify taking the next step down this legal road. Together they make a three-fold cord not easily broken.
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) November 22, 2017
A Message from the Rector of Saint Michael’s, Charleston, about the recent South Carolina Supreme Court Decisions
(Via email–KSH) Dear St. Michaelites and Friends:
Yesterday, we received word that the South Carolina Supreme Court, in a tight and split vote, denied the rehearing and recusal request filed by our Diocese of South Carolina. We agree with our diocese that given the gravity of all these concerns, we will now give serious consideration to seeking review by the United States Supreme Court. We believe the number and character of the issues at stake in this ruling merit review by the high court. We also continue to pray for our mediation that will resume in 2 weeks. We remain confident that God is at work in even these circumstances to redeem and use them, as He does all things, for His glory and the building up of His Church.
As we continue to wait, we as one continue in our mission to Transform Hearts through Jesus Christ, in fact I was preaching at the Church of the Resurrection this morning in our pre-arranged pulpit swap. As I was praying and preparing to drive to the church plant, Jesus used that hymn Be Still, My Soul by Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegelhelp to help me realize once again… He IS still in control, let those words wash over you:
Be still my soul the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
In every change He faithful will remain
Be still my soul thy best, thy heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end
Even before this decision of the State Supreme Court, your wardens and I had decided that we would hold three Sundays for prayer and conversation from 2:00 – 4:00 pm, no agenda just a one-on-one check in with you. We began today and will continue during the Sundays of November 26 and December 3. No sign ups necessary, join us on these Sunday afternoons….
Blessings and much Love,
–The Rev. Alfred T.K. Zadig, Jr. is Rector of Saint Michael’s, Charleston
Bishop Mark Lawrence’s Letter to the Diocese of South Carolina following the recent SC Supreme Court Decisions
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today legal counsel for the Diocese received written notification that both our motions for Recusal and for Rehearing were denied by the State Supreme Court. The former was denied 5-0. The latter was denied 2-2 with Justice Hearn abstaining and no fifth justice appointed to fill the vacancy.
For those parishes that are parties to the litigation, I encourage you, at this stage, to consult with your parish chancellor. All parties to the case have previously discussed the timetable for a filing under the Betterments Statute. Legal counsel can give you best directions for how to proceed with that process. Our press release for this evening can be found here.
As you will remember, we began our week with our Annual Clergy Conference reflecting together on the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 and 12:9-10. Now this final ruling from the South Carolina Supreme Court coming as it does at the very end of the week presses us once again with the need to find comfort, strength, and courage from the Lord through these words of Holy Scripture. May I encourage you to revisit them—I believe they were prophetic in their timing for us. Meanwhile please know that I have spoken with our lead counsel, Mr. Alan Runyan, Fr. David Thurlow, President of the Standing Committee, as well as with Canon Lewis. A Standing Committee meeting has been called for this Tuesday morning, November 21, 2017.
I will write further to you and to the diocese once I have met with the Standing Committee and have more thoroughly examined the options before us. For now we will continue to stand forthright for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the faith once delivered to the saints!
Please continue to hold our Diocesan Leadership and Legal Counsel in your prayers.
Your brother in Christ,
–(The Rt. Rev.) Mark Lawrence, 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina
Bp Mark Lawrence’s Letter 2 the Diocese of #SouthCarolina following the recent SC Supreme Court Decisions #religion #law #Anglican #ministry #bettermentstatute #ethics #stewardship #episcopal https://t.co/b3HbqP7IMK pic.twitter.com/M551dIkn46
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) November 20, 2017
In a 2-2 Decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court Denies the Historic Diocese of South Carolina a rehearing
Today the Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) was informed by mail that the South Carolina Supreme Court denied its motions filed for Rehearing and Recusal in its ruling in Appellate Case No. 2015-000622. Doing so finalized a sharply divided ruling that could deprive at least 28 parish churches of their right to properties some have held for over 300 years.
Statement by the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis:
“We are deeply disappointed the Court did not see fit to recuse Justice Hearn. Her personal interest in the outcome of this litigation, beyond the normal matters of law, has clearly influenced its outcome. That is unfortunate not only for the Diocese but for all the citizens of this State with concerns for a fair and impartial judiciary. We also find it disturbing that the weight of the Constitutional concerns raised was not given further opportunity to be addressed. Church property ownership in South Carolina is now gravely complicated.
Given the gravity of all these concerns, we will now give serious consideration to seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court. We believe the number and character of the issues at stake in this ruling merit review by the high court. Because of the long road of litigation that has brought us to this day, all the parties to this case will need to take counsel together before deciding our next steps.
We remain confident that God is at work in even these circumstances to redeem and use them, as He does all things, for His glory and the building up of His Church.”
Statement by the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis:
“Friday’s brief illustrates well two essential problems with the current ruling of the Court. Because there is no legal consensus among the Justices, the ruling as it stands is, as stated in the brief, a “recipe for endless litigation.” As a consequence of misapplying neutral principles of law as intended by the U.S. Supreme Court, it violates rather than preserves, the First Amendment protections of religious liberty they are meant to ensure. Resolving these significant issues merits rehearing by the Court.”
The Diocese also provided the following list of additional details from Friday’s filed Brief:
- “For over 300 years, since before the Founding of this Nation, members of the Respondent’s congregations contributed land, money and labor in reliance on settled South Carolina law – only to have this Court divest them of their property based on a canon unilaterally adopted centuries later by a national denomination. This outcome was possible only because the Court fashioned a new rule of law solely for this case, and this denomination. But that rule of law departs from this court’s precedents and imposes special burdens on religious associations relative to secular ones. Those burdens violate the First Amendment.” [p. 1]
- “Amici believe strongly that churches freely associated with each other can also freely choose to disassociate. And the exercise of that freedom should not come at the price of the tools for ministry established by local sacrifice… ” [p. 4]
- “… the Court’s fractured decision leaves church property law in this state in utter confusion…. This confusion is a recipe for endless litigation.” [p. 2]
- The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Jones vs. Wolf established the use of neutral principles of law to settle church property disputes… “A court applying a neutral principles approach can only apply state law as it normally would; any other approach would be the opposite of neutral principles.” [p. 9]
- As the Court has done in this case, “Giving legal effect to trusts declared in denominational documents is not even mere deference. It is giving denominations power to rewrite civil property law.” [p. 14] and that is in violation of the free exercise of religion.
- “If that conception of “neutral principles” is correct, then no church can join a denomination without jeopardizing its property.” [p. 16]
- “Any denomination could pass a retroactive internal rule that would appropriate congregants gifts and church property.” … “Without secure property ownership, many rounds of future litigation are inevitable.” [p. 18]
- “If ownership no longer turns on publicly recorded deeds and trust instruments, but on the meaning of internal church rules and relationships, no one can know for certain who owns church property.” [p. 18]
- “Moreover, the Court’s ruling could eviscerate otherwise clear titles” and harm “the rights of insurers and lenders” all with “not a single justice agreeing as to exactly how State title and property law apply in this dispute.” [p. 19]
Read it all and please take the time to read the full brief.
In the 1970s, St. Jude’s in Tehachapi formed after a small group of Episcopalians began meeting in members’ homes within Tehachapi. Eventually, and with the assignment of a full-time priest for the Diocese of San Joaquin in 1977, they began worshiping out of a mortuary on the corner of Curry and C streets. Sunday school was held in the old Spencer Lees’ clothing factory where the Tehachapi Police Department is now located.
Eventually, the congregation desired their own church, so Spencer Lees donated 1.2 acres of land on the corner of Curry and Pinon streets, and the congregation raised the needed funds for the new building. The design, general contracting and much of the construction was accomplished by church members, many of whom are still members. The building was completed around 1985, and services commenced immediately at the new church.
“Our congregation built that church,” said Father Wes Clare, a priest of 20 years who has provided spiritual guidance for St. Jude’s in Tehachapi for 15 years.
According to Father Clare, Tehachapi is home to only five remaining Episcopalians. With no Episcopalian congregation in town to use the abandoned church, the Episcopalian Diocese decided to dispose of the asset.
Said Smith, “A few weeks ago, I noticed there was a ‘for sale’ sign up, so I called up the realtor and asked them how much, and they said it was $415,000.”