South Carolina Episcopalians
An Independent Journal of News & Commentary for Anglicans
not affiliated with the Episcopal Church or its dioceses
May 9, 2018
Church, Continuing Diocese Finally in Driver's Seat
Today's legal filings in State & Federal courts have breakaways in full retreat
While the Diocese of South Carolina will never be what it was before its recent failed schism, attorneys for the Episcopal Church and its continuing diocese (TECSC) took steps today in State and Federal courts to restore it to wholeness and bring an end to what remains of the single most destructive episcopate in Church history.
Under the leadership of Chancellor Tom Tisdale, the local diocese says its “ultimate goal in both courts is to bring a final resolution to five years of legal disputes over church property and identity, and begin the work necessary to heal and reunify the diocese.”
TECSC’s Bishop Skip Adams has said that the “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” motto will guide the spirit of his efforts in reaching out to followers of ex-bishop Mark Lawrence who have endured a legal and financial roller coaster for the past five-plus years.
Return to Dorchester County
Church lawyers began the day by filing a petition with the state’s First Judicial District (Orangeburg, Calhoun, Dorchester) asking for a “special master” to be appointed to oversee implementation of the 2017 state Supreme Court decision denying claims by Lawrence and his followers to own the properties of parishes loyal to him along with St. Christopher Camp & Conference Center on Seabrook Island.
In essence, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that the parishes and St. Christopher belong to the Episcopal Church as they always have. They never left, even though their membership passed resolutions and amended their governing documents in ways that appeared to say they'd left the Church.
Read the full petition filed by Adams in state court
While the Lawrence crowd has appealed the ruling of the state’s high court to the United States Supreme Court, the state courts can proceed with implementation of the ruling.
The First District is significant in that it was the court in which Lawrence and his followers filed their lawsuit in January 2013. It was also the site of the trial of that lawsuit two years later under Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein.
Adams presses for return of corporate identity and injunction
Meanwhile, in Federal Court, what had been considered by the breakaways’ legal team a nuisance lawsuit in 2013, has taken center stage in the efforts of Church attorneys to dispose of the final legal challenges remaining.
The Federal case was brought by then-TECSC Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, who asked the Court for an injunction against Lawrence to prevent his advertising himself as an “Episcopal bishop” in spite of his having left the Church. VonRosenberg argued that Lawrence was creating confusion by publicly suggesting that he is still the bishop of an “Episcopal diocese.”
Back then, still full of hubris, the Lawrence team routinely sent process servers to SC Episcopalians’ home in the dark hours of the morning with court orders threatening legal actions if we did not refer to Lawrence as the bishop of “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.”
Nearly two years ago Bishop Skip Adams, who took over vonRosenberg’s role in the lawsuit, has recently succeeded in expanding the defendants to include Lawrence's high command and 58 parishes that had joined his illegally constituted.
Read the amended complaint filed by TECSC in Federal Court
Adams is asking the Court, presided over by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in Charleston, for an injunction against Lawrence, and the return of all Diocesan property and corporate marks of the Diocese of South Carolina.