Category : Episcopal Church (TEC)

Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary, Writes the Diocese of South Carolina about the Motions Filed with the SC Supreme Court

September 1, 2017

Dear Friends,

Today the Diocese filed two motions with the South Carolina Supreme Court;

  • A Motion to Recuse, addressing the participation of Justice Kaye Hearn, and
  • A Motion for Rehearing, asking the court to reconsider multiple important issues in the current ruling.

The respective motions and the expert opinions can be found here:


The press release filed today is available here.

We continue to believe what we have asserted from the beginning. With the freedom of association comes the freedom of disassociation. In the pursuit of the constitutionally protected right to the free exercise of our religious beliefs we disassociated from the Episcopal Church. It should not be the case that this protected right causes the loss of our property when it would not do so if we were not a religious organization.

It is incomprehensible that a parish like St. Philip’s in Charleston, that was worshipping here 100 years before TEC even existed, can have that place of worship taken from them and given to an unincorporated New York association who contributed nothing to its building or preservation.  This is a principle worth fighting for.

In Christ’s service,

 

–The Rev. Jim Lewis is Caon to the Ordinary, Diocese of South Carolina

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Church History, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Diocese of South Carolina and 29 Parish Churches File Motion for Rehearing in State Supreme Court

Citing significant departures from both state and federal precedents, the Diocese of South Carolina and 29 parish churches today filed a motion for rehearing in the South Carolina Supreme Court regarding its recent ruling in Appellate Case No. 2015-000622.  In 2012, the Diocese of South Carolina, along with 50 of its congregations voted to disassociate from The Episcopal Church.  In a complicated and sharply divided ruling consisting of five separate opinions, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled on August 2 this year that parishes which had “acceded” to the national church’s ‘Dennis canon’ are subject to a trust interest in their property by The Episcopal Church (TEC).  Only eight congregations were judged to have full rights to retain their property.

In a decision that partly reversed the February 2015 Circuit Court ruling of Judge Diane Goodstein, the Supreme Court significantly changed court precedents in multiple areas and divested the property rights of at least 28 congregations and over 20,000 church members.

Grounds for Rehearing

While there are multiple legal issues in the ruling that merit rehearing, the most crucial are possibly the constitutional ones controlling cases of religious property.  As stated in the conclusion to the petition: “The majority has fashioned a neutral principles standard for religious organizations under South Carolina property, trust and corporate law that admittedly would not be applied to secular organizations. It then applied it to religious organizations today in a fashion it did not do 8 years ago involving the same issues between the Plaintiff Diocese, The Episcopal Church and a parish church. It does so when no appellant asked the trial court, either during trial or post trial, to apply such a standard. As a result, the majority would transfer the real and personal property of South Carolina religious organizations, many of whom preexisted The Episcopal Church and the United States, to a New York religious organization. This establishment of one religion over another impacts the choices these South Carolina religious organizations (and those associated with them) made in the free exercise of their religion.  They chose to disassociate, exercising their right of association under the United States and South Carolina Constitutions which this Court has recognized.  Yet, according to the majority, that constitutionally protected decision, requires a massive transfer of centuries old real and personal property when it would not be required for a secular South Carolina organization.”

The petition concluded: “These are serious issues for Respondents, Appellants and for all religious organizations in South Carolina. This Court should grant a rehearing.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, - Anglican: Primary Source, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

A Summary of recent posts on the August 2 South Carolina Supreme Court Decision involving “five different, strongly-held opinions”

Careful blog readers should make sure there have read and understood them all. I have been asked why I have not linked to secular media reports or other stories, and the answer is I would be happy to if they were accurate but they have not been–KSH.

South Carolina Supreme Court on Diocese of South Carolina/TEC Diocese in SC Dispute Ruling is Out.

Diocese of SC Statement on the recent South Carolina Supreme Court Ruling.

AS Haley–Massive Conflict of Interest Taints South Carolina State Supreme Court Ruling.

South Carolina Bishop Lawrence Writes his Diocese Following the recent Supreme Court Ruling.

A Message from the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina.

Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina Calls for a Day of Prayer+Fasting on August 30.

Diocese of South Carolina and 29 Parish Churches File Motion for Rehearing in State Supreme Court.

A S Haley–Faults in the South Carolina Supreme Court Decision Laid Bare (I).

A S Haley–Faults in the South Carolina Supreme Court Decision Laid Bare (II).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, Theology, Uncategorized

(Church Times) US Episcopal Prayer Book marriage rite could be made gender-neutral in 2018

It remains unclear what the 14-strong Task Force will recommend, but one option presented in the minutes is a first reading of proposed changes to the BCP in 2018, so that revision could take place in 2021, “including consultation with ACC [Anglican Consultative Council] and the Lambeth Conference”. The latter takes place in 2020.The 2018 Convention would be presented with a new form of the introduction to marriage and catechism.

“For conservatives this would be concerning,” the March minutes state. “Yet these proposed revisions would be ‘two people’, not explicitly ‘same sex’.”

The minutes ask: “Is there a way to disagree that does not require schism?” and note that “Many want to be in a Church where people have theological differences but still pray together.” But they also suggest that the experience of the C of E should serve as a cautionary tale.

“The Church of England allowed certain divisions regarding women’s ordination that we should be careful not to emulate, as they have become deeply entrenched,” they say. “Creating carve-outs for pockets of the Church under one ecclesiastical structure could lead to difficulties down the line.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(TLC) Cameron Nations–The future of the Episcopal Church’s clergy

Of all full-time clergy in TEC, 55.4 percent are older than 55, and almost 80 percent of all full-time clergy in TEC are older than 45….Particularly noteworthy are the figures for Millennial clergy, which, depending on where you want to place the cutoff in your definition of Millennial, comprise roughly 6 percent of all full-time clergy in TEC.

Only 20 percent of full-time clergy younger than 45 equals 100 percent of a problem for a denomination struggling to grow and thrive in the decades to come.

If you were to think, Well, at least we have experience going for us, you would be a little off target. The average age of ordinands has held pretty steady at about 50 years of age according to recent CPG Annual Reports (which are different than the Compensation Report). That means that a significant amount of those in the older age brackets are no more seasoned in ministry than many of their younger colleagues; they were ordained later in life.

Read it all and follow the footnotes.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(LA Times) L.A. Episcopal diocese is going ahead with sale of Newport’s St. James church site

[Bp John] Taylor, however, wrote that the panelists and their advising attorneys “evidently did not take fully into account the existence of a binding contract, nor all the ways the dispute begs for wider reconciliation.”

Parishioner Walter Stahr, who has been active in the congregation’s allegations of misconduct against Bruno and the effort to reclaim the building, said diocese leaders did not say when escrow would close on the property when they met Monday with him and St. James pastor Cindy Evans Voorhees. The sale price also has not been disclosed.

“They assured us that if St. James the Great wishes to continue as an Episcopal congregation, they will support us — just not in our building,” Stahr told his fellow parishioners in a statement Monday. “I know how devastating this will be for many of you, but the story is not over.”

Read it all.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles

(AI) Despite win against Bruno, St James Newport Beach learns they will lose their church

We understand that the Hearing Panel’s ruling, which awaits the possibility of Bishop Bruno’s appeal, calls on us to return the congregation to the building. The four concurring Hearing Panel members and the attorneys who advised them evidently did not take fully into account the existence of a binding contract nor all the ways the dispute begs for wider reconciliation. (One panel member dissented and supported Bishop Bruno.)

Their advocacy bespeaks a commendable pastoral connection with the people of St. James. As recently as the filing of the church attorney’s brief after the hearings in Pasadena in March, those conducting the proceeding against Bishop Bruno made it clear that he could avoid being sanctioned if he would relent on his intention to sell the property. This is not to understate the significance of the panel’s findings against Bishop Bruno. But we trust that from the painful experience of the Diocese of Los Angeles, The Episcopal Church will learn lessons about how, in disciplinary settings, to differentiate between actions by a respondent which deserve sanction and a complainant’s wish to reverse an operational decision.

We share the panel’s profound concern for the people of St. James. Bishop Bruno asked them to start a new congregation, and under the leadership of the Rev. Canon Cindy Voorhees, they accepted the challenge. They praised, worshipped, and served, as they continue to do. We are not here to relitigate Bishop Bruno’s actions or the Hearing Panel’s verdict. In all likelihood, after 40 years of ordination, including many moments of courage and vision, he will lose the right to say Holy Eucharist and to baptize, confirm, and bless for three years. It is also outside the realm of Bishop Curry’s charge to assess how long it would have taken St. James to achieve sustainability. Suffice it to say that it was making good progress and that losing its church building was a disappointment and shock….

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles, TEC Parishes

Jeffrey Miller’s Sunday Sermon at St Philips Charleston Facing into the SC Supreme Court Decision: “Let not your hearts be Troubled”

You can listen directly here or download it there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Preaching / Homiletics, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Please Pray for the Diocese of South Carolina Clergy Day

[Aug 2]

Dear Fellow Clergy,

As noted in today’s earlier email the South Carolina Supreme Court released a divided ruling in our case. You may read the ruling here.

The Bishop is calling for a clergy day this coming Wednesday, August 9 beginning at 1:30 p.m. in St. Paul’s Church in Summerville.  Legal counsel will be present to discuss the ruling and its possible implications.  We request that all who are able make it a priority to attend….

While we released a statement to the press this afternoon, we want you to further know that our legal team is planning a motion for a rehearing.  There are multiple strong grounds for making that request and good reason to be hopeful about that outcome.  In the meantime, please appreciate that legal council is still reviewing the implications for what is a very complicated ruling.

While this ruling is disheartening, we are a long way from the conclusion of this fight for the Diocese and its Parishes.  Please keep the Diocese and its leadership in your prayers as they discern appropriate next steps.

In Christ’s service,

 

(The Rev.) Canon Jim Lewis

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

A Message from the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina

August 7, 2017

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina, having met together with our bishop, The Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, in Charleston this day, sends to all of our brothers and sisters of the diocese our love and our greetings in the name of Jesus Christ. We are so profoundly thankful for all who have fasted and prayed for our diocese and our Standing Committee during the past week from across South Carolina, throughout the Anglican Church in North America, and among all the faithful in global Anglicanism.

We have spent this time together in prayer and discussion regarding the decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court last Wednesday. In light of the conflicting opinions issued by the court, we met with the legal counsel for our diocese and have approved a strategy on how we go forward seeking clarity. We want you to know this: the legal process continues. We will be filing a motion for a rehearing from the Supreme Court, the deadline for which is September 1st. We are convinced there are compelling reasons to make this motion. There will be other avenues along with and following that action.

Finally, while we cannot tell you what tomorrow brings, we want to reiterate three things that you already know. First, again, the legal process continues. Second, we are stronger together. Third, we will continue in all circumstances our God-given mandate of making biblical Anglicans for a global age. Know that we love you, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and that we remain,

Yours in Christ Jesus,

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina

The Rev. David Thurlow, President
The Very Rev. Craige Borrett
The Rev. Karl Burns, Vice-President
The Very Rev. Peet Dickinson
The Rev. David Dubay
The Rev. Marcus Kaiser
Mr. Alonso Galvan
Mr. Gerry Graves
Mrs. Susan McDuffie, Secretary
Mr. Foster Smith
Mrs. Anne Walton
Absent:
Mr. Brandt Shelbourne

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

What the Rector of Redeemer, Orangeburg, South Carolina wrote his parish about the recent SC Supreme Court Ruling

Dear Members Of Our Redeemer Family,
I would guess that by now you’ve heard that the SC Supreme Court issued their ruling on the appeal of the 2014 Circuit Court opinion that awarded the Diocese of South Carolina full rights to continue as the Diocese and gave full ownership of the churches properties to the individual churches. According to the ruling which you can download by tapping or clicking here, it looks like we may have lost some of what we gained under the 2014 Circuit Court opinion.
As I understand it, part of the 2014 ruling has been reversed by a majority of justices, and another part remains as it because there was a 2-2 tie on that part. It appears that we [in Orangeburg] lost the right to keep our buildings.
I’m writing today to ask you to fear not. I assure you, we are going to be alright. I’m asking you not to start “what-iffing” and please don’t start anticipating what we are going to do from here on out. We really don’t have enough information yet to even be anxious. Additionally, I have a personal rule of life I follow which goes like this: “Never make policy out of something that hasn’t yet happened.”
Last night I got an email from Canon Jim Lewis saying that our legal team will appeal. Here’s part of that letter from Canon Lewis:
We want you to further know that our legal team is planning a motion for a rehearing.  There are multiple strong grounds for making that request and good reason to be hopeful about that outcome.  In the meantime, please appreciate that legal council is still reviewing the implications for what is a very complicated ruling.

While this ruling is disheartening, we are a long way from the conclusion of this fight for the Diocese and its Parishes.  Please keep the Diocese and its leadership in your prayers as they discern appropriate next steps.

Additionally, I would ask you to stay away from gossip on the subject. Facebook and the various church blogs are often little more than gossip. At best they are one person’s opinion. Opinions are just that – opinions; they are not fact.  The fact is, the sky is not falling. Another thing you might want to do is talk with Pinckney Thompson. Pinckney led the charge for us in 2014, and I believe that he’s got some great wisdom on the issue.
In any event, God is still God, and I know He’s in charge of our future. Whatever may transpire, we are going to be alright. That much you can take to the bank. All we need to be doing at this point is praying for God to take care of it, because the Lord knows we surely can’t.
My friend Chris Warner wrote these words to his congregation: 
Let me remind you; you don’t have to worry. Worry is optional misery! This court ruling is a situation that you cannot control. But you can control the amount you worry.
If you have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, you know the One who created your future. His promises about your future give life, not worry.
We clergy will have a special meeting next Wednesday, August 9 to hear from our lawyers and leadership. As soon as I get more information – reliable information – I’ll send it to you. Again – Please – Fear Not. This is not a time to worry. This is the time to pray. And pray with the assurance that God’s got it, and it’s going to turn out just fine.  Thanks.
God bless you, and See you Sunday!
–The Rev. John Burwell
Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, Theology: Scripture

South Carolina Bishop Lawrence Writes his Diocese Following the recent Supreme Court Ruling

Today, thousands of Christians around the world are holding you, the congregations of the diocese, as well as our clergy and bishop in prayer. Even more specifically, yesterday Anglicans on this continent were lifting us in constant prayer. As you may know, we recently voted as a diocese to affiliate with the Anglican Church in North America, and this summer their Provincial Assembly joyfully received us as full members therein. What a comfort it is to know that our Archbishop, the Most Reverend Foley Beach, asked the bishops, clergy and laity of the ACNA to pray and fast yesterday on our behalf.

Many of those praying and fasting have in the past walked away from their church buildings, buildings they built and maintained, and in some cases, where their families worshiped for centuries. Some left by choice; others after years of litigation. I do not mention the latter, however, as if the legal issues in our case are fully resolved. They most certainly are not, though they are clearly challenging. Rather, I want you to know the sort of Christians who are praying for us; and while holding us in prayer, many are fasting. They have paid a price to follow their Lord. We are part of a provincial body of Anglican Christians and they are walking this hard road with us. Their fellowship at such a time is greatly comforting to me and I hope it is for you.

I also want to tell you what our next steps are. First, this Monday, August 7, the Standing Committee and I will meet with our lead legal counsel, Mr. Alan Runyan. I assure you that our legal team is looking at the various options before us. Second, this Wednesday I will meet with the deans of the various diocesan deaneries, and that afternoon, Mr. Runyan, Canon Lewis and I will meet with all the clergy of the diocese. Please keep us in your prayers. Many important decisions are before us and we want to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ and walk in step with the Holy Spirit.

Read it all (his emphasis).

Posted in * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(AAC) Phil Ashey–On lawsuits and losses: a Meditation from Psalm 37

The decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in the matter of the ACNA Diocese of South Carolina vs. the TEC Diocese of South Carolina (Heard September 23, 2015 and filed August 2, 2017) appears to be such a case. The net effect of this case seems to be the transfer of the property of 29 congregations from the ACNA Diocese of South Carolina to TEC. Ultimately this could mean the displacement of thousands of families from the place where they have worshiped for generations. It could mean the loss of all the ACNA Diocese of South Carolina offices, the bishops residence and more.

The legal effect is to overturn the South Carolina Supreme Court decision in All Saints Parish, Waccamaw v Diocese 385 S.C. 428 (2009) that neither the then Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina nor the national church (by the Dennis Canon) can create a trust in favor of themselves in any church in South Carolina unless they already have an express property interest in that church. This 2009 decision was based on long settled common law principles of trusts in South Carolina law. The legal effect of the Court’s August 2 decision is to reinterpret the facts of this case de novo, and by bare majority of 3-2 to reinstate the validity of the Dennis Canon by turning the “neutral principles” approach to church property disputes (see Jones v. Wolf , 443 U.S. 595 (1979)) into a “deference to internal hierarchical church law,” approach—turning “neutral principles on its head.” As Justice Kittredge concluded in his opinion (dissenting in part and concurring in part): “The message is clear for churches in South Carolina that are affiliated in any manner with a national organization and have never lifted a finger to transfer control or ownership of their property—if you think your property ownership is secure, think again….”

I am reminded constantly of the example of The Falls Church Anglican in Virginia. Under years of costly litigation and appeals, they planted three churches in the DC Beltway (Arlington, Alexandria and Vienna) and one on the outskirts of Northern VA, in Winchester. All are thriving. TFC lost their buildings, but their congregation grew even as they gave away hundreds to these church plants! Now they have a location and a building that exceeds what they had before, as they are growing in mission and evangelism where God has planted them.

How tragic it would be if litigation and appeals took our eyes off God and the things that delight him—especially reaching those who do not yet know the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, Theology: Scripture

AS Haley–Massive Conflict of Interest Taints South Carolina State Supreme Court Ruling

In her concurring opinion, Justice Hearn went out of her way to castigate Bishop Lawrence and the role he played as chief pastor of his Diocese — ecclesiastical matters which, as her colleagues pointed out, had no business being addressed in a secular judicial opinion. In doing so, she only advanced, and acted as a spokesperson in black robes for, the sectarian interests of the Episcopal Forum to which she still (presumably — the organization no longer publishes the names of its members) belongs. At the same time, she contradicted her own precept that South Carolina courts should stay out of Episcopal Church matters and defer to its “ecclesiastical determinations.”

Further, according to the minutes, Justice Hearn’s husband, George, was one of the duly designated delegates to the special convention of ECSC called in January 2013 by ECUSA’s Presiding Bishop to replace Bishop Lawrence. That convention elected Charles G. vonRosenberg as Provisional Bishop of ECSC, who promptly brought suit against Bishop Lawrence in federal court and countersued in the State court action — eventually seeking the recovery of all the properties of each of the 36 separate parishes involved in that litigation. George Hearn also was a deputy to the first regular convention of ECSC held in March 2013.

One would think that Justice Hearn, given her membership in the organization that initiated the disciplinary proceedings against Bishop Lawrence, and given her husband’s role in enabling the litigation now before her, might have considered recusing herself from the 2015 appeal by her own diocese (ECSC) and church (ECUSA) to her Court, which placed directly at issue the actions of Bishop Lawrence and his Diocese that removed them from ECUSA. But one would be wrong. She not only stayed on the case, but she displayed a disgraceful bias in her own church’s favor during the oral arguments in September 2015.

Fast forward now to the current year. The appeal by Justice Hearn’s church and diocese has been languishing for 15 months because the five justices have been unable to form a consensus on how to resolve it, and are still circulating draft opinions. At some point in the process (perhaps just a few months ago, or perhaps it was right after the oral argument in September 2015), it has become clear that there are two votes (Acting Justice Pleicones, and, naturally, Justice Hearn herself) to apply ECUSA’s Dennis Canon full bore to the withdrawn parishes.

Read it carefull and read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Diocese of SC Statement on the recent South Carolina Supreme Court Ruling

A sharply divided court reverses portions of the lower court ruling

COLUMBIA, S.C. (August 2, 2017) – In a 77 page opinion, the South Carolina Supreme Court today reversed portions of an earlier lower court ruling. In February 2015, circuit court Judge Diane Goodstein ruled that the Diocese of South Carolina, its trustees and the 50 parishes — representing 80 percent of the members — that disassociated with the Diocese successfully withdrew from The Episcopal Church (TEC) in 2012, taking all their property, including churches, symbols and other assets. The ruling was the result of a three-week trial in 2014.

That court found that “the Constitution and Canons of TEC have no provision which states that a member diocese cannot voluntarily withdraw its membership.” This ruling found that had there been such a provision, it would have violated the diocese’s “constitutionally protected right” to freedom of association. “With the freedom to associate goes its corollary, the freedom to disassociate,” Judge Goodstein wrote.

In a complicated ruling consisting of five separate opinions, the S.C. Supreme Court today ruled that parishes which had “acceded” to the national church’s ‘Dennis canon’ are subject to a trust interest on their property by the denomination. Eight congregations that had not so acceded were judged to have full rights to retain their property.

The dissenting justices expressed concern regarding the long term implications of this decision. Former Chief Justice Jean Toal stated that the court should have relied on “over three hundred years of settled trust and property law… I believe the effect of the majority’s decision is to strip a title owner of its property…” on the basis of actions that do not create a trust interest under South Carolina law. In concurring with Justice Toal, Justice Kittredge observed of other church properties where there is affiliation with a national organization, based on this ruling, “if you think your property ownership is secure, think again.”

This current litigation became necessary when TEC attempted to wrongly remove Bishop Lawrence, and the Diocese, in response, elected to disassociate from TEC. At that time a small group of TEC loyalists who had been preparing for this attempted removal began an intentional campaign of using the Diocesan Seal and other service marks of the Diocese. They began to function as if they were the Diocese of South Carolina. To maintain its identity required that the Diocese defend that identity.

Lead counsel for the Diocese, Alan Runyan, said the lead opinion and concurring’s decision is inconsistent with South Carolina and long-standing United States Supreme Court precedent involving church property disputes. Legal counsel continues to review a lengthy and complicated ruling comprised of five separate opinions.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina