Justices’ Decision Clears the Way for Trial to Protect Local Assets From Takeover
The South Carolina Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and its local subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), ending their latest effort to delay a trial to block the two groups from seizing Diocese of South Carolina property.
The high court’s decision to return the matter to the circuit court means that the issue can now go to trial. TEC and TECSC have filed several state and federal appeals, apparently aimed at delaying the discovery process in advance of the trial that is scheduled to start on July 7.
In the appeal rejected by the Supreme Court, TEC and TECSC had asked the court to force the Diocese of South Carolina to share privileged communications with the denomination. Communications between clients and their attorneys have always been protected by law. The appeal effectively asked the state supreme court to overturn a cornerstone of American law.
“We are grateful that the South Carolina Supreme Court again prevented TEC and TECSC from abusing the judicial system to delay resolution of this case,” said the Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese. “Their strategy of using legal motions to delay court decisions caused nearly a year to be wasted and untold dollars to be spent on legal wrangling rather than God’s work.”
Judge Diane S. Goodstein, who will preside over the trial, has set the trial date for July 7-18, 2014.
TEC has a long history of dragging out legal battles, apparently in hopes of draining the resources of parishes and dioceses it seeks to punish for leaving the denomination. It has spent more than $40 million on litigation in the past few years. TEC routinely appeals court decisions in hopes of wearing down its opposition ”“ and to intimidate parishes and dioceses that wish to leave the denomination.
The South Carolina Supreme Court took jurisdiction of all appeals in this matter, effectively ensuring that appeals will be considered in an expedited manner to minimize the time wasted.
The Diocese of South Carolina, a member of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, disassociated from the Episcopal Church in October 2012 after TEC tried to remove 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.