You may find the bishop’s letter about this there.
Category : TEC Conflicts: South Carolina
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.
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.
Mediation Update–Both the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina+the new Episcopal Church Diocese in SC announce its recessed until early December
Both “sides” involved have stated the mediation with Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. has been recessed until December 4-5, 2017.
(Local Paper) Edward Gilbreth–Strong judicial disagreements fuel the South Carolina Anglican/Episcopal controversy
Another petition supporting the rehearing filed Sept. 25 by various churches and the Diocese, includes these arguments:
“The sole basis on which Appellants have argued, and the Court has so held, that St. Philips (as an example) should be divested of its property is that St. Philips Church, in 1987, acknowledged the purpose of the parish corporation as being ‘in accord with the Articles of Religion’ of the national church (or more precisely the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, according to the Articles of Restatement filed with the SC Secretary of State by St. Philips in 1987.)
“The Articles of Religion of the national church were established in 1801, one hundred and seventy-eight years prior to the Dennis Canon. The articles of Religion, similar to those for other Protestant Churches, contain nothing more than a summary of the religious doctrine, theology and beliefs of the national church and St. Philips Church. The Articles of Religion do not mention the constitution or any of the canons of the national church, let alone the Dennis Canon adopted 178 years after the establishment of the Articles of Religion.”
Interestingly, The Episcopal Church has never required subscription to the Articles, which now appear in a section called “Historical Documents” in the back of the Book of Common Prayer.
All this, along with the controversy surrounding Justice Hearn’s participation in the initial ruling due to her family involvement in a church with ties to the national church, makes for interesting consideration as the mediation for and possible rehearing of the Diocese’s case approaches.
Read it all.”>Read it all.
The Diocese of South Carolina has called that…ruling into question because of state Supreme Court Justice Kaye Hearn’s involvement in the Episcopal Church. In fairness, the motion for a rehearing should be granted, and Justice Hearn should recuse herself. But the rehearing request has yet to be acted on.
The purpose of mediation beginning Monday is to determine how to implement the August decision as amicably as possible. Even so, it still offers an opportunity for the disaffected church groups to preclude further legal battles over the valuable and historic properties in question.
Neither the Diocese nor the Episcopal Church in South Carolina may ever bridge the spiritual and philosophical divides that caused their separation. Nor need they do so. Both groups are free to worship as they see fit — a principle enshrined in the Constitution.
But an agreement should be reached that lets the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina part ways while remaining in the churches they have called home for so many generations.
Failure to do so would do further harm to the Christian spirit of unity and goodwill that ought to bring Lowcountry churches together rather than tear them apart. Reaching a mediated accord could avoid years of additional lawsuits and appeals and divisions among friends and neighbors.