he Church of the Holy Cross in Stateburg was founded in 1788, said its rector, Michael Ridgill, on Thursday, and its present facility was built in 1850. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places, and its current attendance is about 45 people, he said.
Official appraisals would be necessary to determine the current value of all the diocese’s parishes in question, the two rectors said, but the case has been referred to as a “$500 million lawsuit” by state media outlets.
Kaiser said the 2017 state Supreme Court ruling was “complex” with five separate opinions, but the diocese and congregations believe the individual parishes are the property owners.
The fact that the Church of the Holy Comforter and none of the other parishes agreed to the 1979 trust is a central issue, he said.
“If you look at our church’s governing documents, you won’t find any place where we said, ‘Yes, we agree to this trust,'” Kaiser said. “And the same is true of every parish. So, the deed is in our name, and the fact is the good people of the Church of the Holy Comforter in Sumter – not outside of Sumter – were the ones who gave the money to build these facilities, they were the ones who have maintained them, and they continue to maintain them. Enough is enough. All we really ever wanted was to be left alone to be who we are and not have somebody come and try to change who we are.”
Kaiser said the best option for the diocese is for the national group to drop the case. The next best solution, he said, is for the courts to uphold the deeds of the properties.
He added the whole legal tug-of-war has been a distraction to the church’s mission to tell the world about Jesus Christ.
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