SOUTH CAROLINA: A TIMELINE
The Diocese of South Carolina is founded by the parishes of the former South Carolina colony.
The Diocese becomes one of the nine founding dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the US.
Church leaders in the diocese begin to express disagreement over issues such as the ordination of partnered gay clerics, leading to the departure of some leaders. Eight dioceses pass resolutions requesting alternative primatial oversight.
The diocesan convention of South Carolina elects the Very Revd Mark Lawrence as its Bishop, and while he does receive the endorsement of a majority of bishops in the Episcopal Church (TEC), he does not from the majority of Standing Committees, based on a technicality.
2008 After a second election, Mark Lawrence receives the required majority of both bishops and standing committees, having stated that he did not intend to break away (News, 9 August 2007).
2008-2009 The National Episcopal Church, without the knowledge or permission of the Diocese of South Carolina, retains the services of a lawyer to work on its behalf. The lawyer was a former chancellor of the Diocese of South Carolina.
The Supreme Court of South Carolina (overturning a ruling from 2003) rules that the property and assets of All Saints’, Pawley’s Island, belong to the group that voted to leave TEC and join the Church of the Province of Rwanda and the Anglican Mission in America (News, 1 October 2009).
April The Diocese of South Carolina declares that the Presiding Bishop of TEC, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, has no authority to retain lawyers in the diocese, and demands that she withdraw them (News, 8 April 2010).
September TEC accuses the Diocese of removing references to it from the official name of the churches and websites of more than half its 44 parishes. Bishop Lawrence denies the claims (News, 29 September).
October The diocesan convention agrees six resolutions, which, it says, will “protect” it from intrusions from the broader Episcopal Church (News, 27 October 2010).
October TEC accuses Bishop Lawrence of filing amendments to the corporate charter of the Diocese’s non-profit corporation, deleting all references to the Episcopal Church and obedience to its constitution and canons. It also says that he had “done nothing to stop other parishes which are outwardly moving in the direction of withdrawal” from TEC (News, 14 October 2011).
November A disciplinary board for bishops of the Episcopal Church rules that Bishop Lawrence had not abandoned communion between TEC and his Diocese (News, 2 December 2011).
October A second disciplinary panel is convened, and Bishop Lawrence has his ministry restricted by the Presiding Bishop, pending an investigation. The Diocese responds with a resolution threatening to “disaffiliate” from TEC, which is passed (News, 19 October 2012).
December The Presiding Bishop declares that Bishop Lawrence has been removed from the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church, and calls a diocesan convention to elect a new bishop and standing committee for the continuing diocese, made up of 12 parishes and congregations who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church (23 November 2012).
January A lawsuit is filed in the South Carolina Circuit Court against TEC by two corporations claiming to represent the Diocese of South Carolina and some of its parishes, seeking a declaratory judgment that they are the sole owners of the property, name, and seal of the Diocese. This includes 29 parish churches, valued at $500 million (News, 11 January 2013).
A judge issues a temporary restraining order preventing the new TEC diocese from using the name or symbols of the Diocese. It becomes the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) to comply.
The Rt Revd Charles G. vonRosenberg is elected Provisional Bishop and immediately invested by the Presiding Bishop. A new standing committee and diocesan council are elected.
March Bishop vonRosenberg files a complaint in the US District Court against Bishop Lawrence, citing violations of the Lanham Act, a US federal law prohibiting trademark infringement and false advertising. The suit, vonRosenberg v. Lawrence, states that Bishop Lawrence is engaging in false advertising by representing himself as bishop of the Diocese.
TEC also files its response to the breakaways’ lawsuit, saying that Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese have no authority over the assets or property of the diocese.
August More than 100 clerics are given notice of removal from the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church by Bishop vonRosenberg, worded so that they can return in the future. (Three clerics have since returned.)
A back and forth of appeals — to add four individuals, including Bishop Lawrence, to the breakaway lawsuit; and to include in the trial alleged correspondences before the suit between lawyers and parties. These are dismissed by Judge Diane S. Goodstein. She rules that the trial must begin on 8 July.
A 14-day trial is held in the Dorchester County Courthouse in St George, South Carolina, before Judge Goodstein (News, 8 August 2014).
February Judge Goodstein rules in favour of the breakaway group, giving them the right to hold on to the name and property of the Diocese. The Episcopal Church appeals to the South Carolina Supreme Court (News, 13 February 2015).
March The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rules in favour of Bishop vonRosenberg in the federal false-advertising lawsuit, sending vonRosenberg v. Lawrence back to the US District Court in Charleston for another hearing. A US district court declines to hear the vonRosenberg v. Lawrence case until the state case is resolved, however.
June The Episcopal Church [in South Carolina (ECSC)] claims to offer a settlement allowing the disputed parishes to keep their church properties if the Diocese and trustees relinquished their names, identities, and all assets. The Diocese says that the offer did not come with authority to bind all parties on the Episcopal Church side, however, and that the counsel for the national Episcopal Church did not sign the offer and provide the necessary proof of authority, as requested.
Bishop vonRosenberg announces his retirement as Provisional Bishop. The Rt Revd Gladstone B. Adams III is elected and takes office in September.
March The breakaway Diocese votes to join the Anglican Church in North America (News, 17 March).
August The South Carolina Supreme Court overturns portions of the ruling from 2015 stating that the diocese could keep church property and retain its name. It states that the Diocese must return the 29 parish churches, valued at $500 million, to the Episcopal Church (News, 18 August).
The federal case, vonRosenberg v. Lawrence, is assigned to US District Court Judge Richard Gergel, and scheduled to proceed to trial in March next year.
September Post-opinion motions are filed by the breakaway Diocese, seeking a rehearing and asking for recusal of one of the Supreme Court justices, Justice Kaye G. Hearn, for “bias and conflict of interest”. The Episcopal Church requests in its reply that the “wrong, rehashed, and untimely” post-motions are denied a re-hearing. The Diocese reaffirms its position in another reply. The court’s decision is pending.
October All three parties and their legal representatives meet Senior US District Judge Joseph F Anderson Jr. in Columbia SC to discuss dates and procedures for mediation among all parties in both the federal and state litigation. It is agreed that mediation will take place on 6 November for three days.