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February 21, 2018
NEW!  Smoking Gun Shows Lawrence Still Putting Private War Against the Church Ahead of Parishes & Lay Leaders

Mysterious, unsigned "Parish Contingency Plan Template" seems to encourage illegal actions among lay people in former breakaway parishes

A smoking gun, revealing why ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence and his lieutenants have been stalling state and Federal courts, was provided this week to Historian Ron Caldwell, who published it today on his excellent blog.  

The explosive evidence is an unsigned memorandum, labeled “Parish Contingency Plan Template,” that appears to have caught leaders of the super-secret Lawrence crowd in a continuing scheme to alienate their followers in 29 former pro-Lawrence parishes from the Episcopal Church and undermine implementation of the August 2017 ruling by the state Supreme Court. 

The Template is dated December 1, 2017, which was in the midst of court-ordered mediation to which all parties pledged to engage in good faith.  Our suspicion is that the entire closed-door process was disrupted for months by the Lawrencian attorneys to buy time for their political team to manipulate their followers with misinformation and bogus legal advice.


How-to guide

The Template is a how-to guide for Lawrence disciples who are plotting to leave their parishes now that the state Supreme Court has confirmed they're part of the Episcopal Church. 

But, the advice its gives can get parish leaders into trouble.   For example, it suggests parish leaders can "determine what should be relocated, taken home, or left to successors."  

In the eyes of the courts, this is clearly not their role makes them vulnerable to allegations that include criminal liability.

According to the Supreme Court, all parish properties are held by the parish for the benefit of the Episcopal Church and its dioceses in South Carolina.  This applies to its buildings and land, but also other kinds of material, intellectual, and organizational property like membership lists, "ministry resources," bank accounts, contracts for services, and insurance among others.  This also includes the "wiping of computers as appropriate."  No can do.

Many of the actions suggested in the Template could constitute theft or even a conspiracy to defraud the Church of its rightful property. 

Meet Bishop Adams

The Template continues the shameless false witness (scare tactic) that the Church plans to eject Lawrence’s followers from their parish properties, even though there has never been any suggestion that such an action has ever been contemplated by the Church. 

The most obvious piece of guidance missing from the Template is that the 29 congregations that were not allowed to leave the Church should be talking to Bishop Skip Adams, the legally recognized bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. 

Adams has made it clear that he has no plans to throw anyone of the Church or their parish buildings.  In recent months he has been thwarted in his efforts to have conversations with all the former breakaway congregations by their attorneys.

Any parish attorney, who has failed to advise his clients to at least be in touch with Bishop Adams, even if they plan to leave the Church, is not acting his client's best interest.

Unsigned + Unidentified = Untrustworthy


The Template is unsigned, but sources in the one-time breakaway parishes apparently are confident it was prepared at 16 Coming Street where Lawrence's team  continues its encampment in a Diocesan House that actually belongs to the Episcopal Church. 

That the Template's author is unknown and that it is printed on stationery without any indication of its origin is a very good reason parish leaders should treat it with caution.  Clearly the author(s) do not want to be held accountable for any illegal actions parish leaders might take after reading it.


Speculation is that it was prepared under the direction of Lawrence’s chief lieutenant, who has consistently been a fountain of wrong-headed legal advice since 2010.  However, we do not know for sure who wrote or approved it... nor were we meant to. 

Trustees

Lawrencian attorneys have done a lousy job of explaining the legal situation in which leaders of former breakaway congregations find themselves, and could face in the future if  they decide to abandon their parish buildings and take stuff with them.

The state Supreme Court last August affirmed that parish properties in the Episcopal Church operate under the Constitution and Canons of the Church.  This means that they are owned by their congregations, but are operated for the exclusive benefit of the Church and the diocese in which they are located.  

In legal terms, this is called a trust interest.

In that sense, the parish’s relationship to its buildings is that of a trustee and is subject to strict legal obligations that, under South Carolina law, are quite substantial.  Failure to faithfully carry out trustee responsibilities can result criminal penalties. 

Curiously, the Template does not provide any mention of the role of Lawrence clergy as participants in any of these questionable activities.

Wardens & Vestries


The Template does not mention that wardens and vestries who've placed encumbrances on parish property without the consent of the Episcopal Church remain liable for them.  This includes any second mortgages or lines of credit. 

Many pro-Lawrence parishes are caught in bind since they have hired lawyers who also work for Lawrence and are tied into his and his lieutenants' political interests.  It is not clear that all of them have apprised these lay leaders of their potential liability.

Parish attorneys have made a huge mistake not negotiating with Church attorneys when they had the chance in mediation.  With this fall's upcoming trial, leaders of breakaway parishes could well be charged with court costs incurred by the Church and other penalties, even if they are no longer members of their parishes.

Read the full text of template and analysis on Dr. Caldwell's blog here

ou are interested.  Thanks for reading SC Episcopalians


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