South Carolina Episcopalians

An Independent Journal of News & Commentary for Anglicans

not affiliated with ACNA, the Episcopal Church or any of their dioceses

August 17, 2022
SC Supreme Court Reverses Itself Yet Again, Awarding More Historic Church Properties to

Anti-Gay Breakaways

The Court found six more parishes to be part of the Episcopal Church in August 2017 and April 2022 but now says it was wrong both times.  The six are Holy Cross (Stateburg); Holy Comforter (Sumter); St. Jude's Church of Walterboro; Old St. Andrew (Charleston); St. Luke's Church, Hilton Head; and Trinity Church of Myrtle Beach.

All six parishes handed over to the secessionists today belong to an organization called the "Anglican Church of North America."  Of its members in South Carolina, only one-third claim any background in the Anglican and Episcopal tradition

Today, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued yet another out-of-nowhere ruling contradicting its 2017 landmark decision protecting loyal Episcopalians from anti-gay secessionists demanding Church property worth millions

In essence, the justices said they were wrong in August 2017 and April 2022 when they included six historic parishes among those that could not leave the Church with their properties.  

This means that over the past five years, the justices have allowed 27 of 36 parishes that joined ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence in a 2012 lawsuit against the Church are walking away with properties worth millions.  Thousands of loyal Episcopalians have lost places of worship that have been home to them and their families for years.

The Court's continuing dismemberment of the historic Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is arguably the most aggressive invasion of the Constitutional doctrine creating the separation of Church and State.  However, state courts are not always as concerned about Federal laws as they are about state laws, and today's ruling in at least two instances appears to take a bite out of the state's laws governing trusts as well.

To give the Court credit, it did rule that the corporate Diocese of South Carolina and its camp and conference center belong to the Church back in 2017.  A Federal Court subsequently agreed with that position.

Next to Texas, South Carolina's judiciary maybe the most political and partisan in the country, since all judges are elected and re-elected by the Legislature.  Conservative Republicans have super-majorities in both the House and Senate and are not especially subtle in telegraphing their politics to the judiciary.  Chief Justice Don Beatty is a former legislator who is widely believed to have helped engineer a political deal between white Republicans and black Democrats that has allowed both to remain in office for decades.

In the case of Lawrence's lawsuit, politically active Christian evangelicals were recruited to make the case to politicians that the lawsuit was about homosexuality rather than the state's trust laws that protected churches.  Lawrence clergy helped out by playing a huge role in the secession movement, even joining in scare tactics suggesting that the Church was Satanic and trying to fill their pews with "unBiblical" Christians like gays and lesbians.   

One Lawrencian clergyman once suggested told members of historic Saint Philip's that they should burn down their buildings rather than allowing them to continue as an Episcopal Church.  Fortunately for the city, one of the justices on the Court got permission to get re-married at St. Philip's - while the case was on appeal - and it magically turned up in the second batch of parishes that were awarded to the secessionists in April.

All six parishes named in today's ruling are part of the so-called "Anglican Church of North America," an organization formed twelve years ago by the leaders of six ultraconservative Anglican provinces in Africa to fight homosexuality in North America and destroy the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada.  The leader of ACNA in South Carolina spent a number of years as a clergyman in the Anglican Church of Rwanda, one of the founding members of ACNA.  

ACNA also opposes women in position of authority over men and rejects Biblical interpretations inconsistent with their own narrow literalism.  ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion.  

Who's In and Who's Out: 

SC Supreme Court politics seem to outweigh logic and fairness

In August 2017 the high court ruled that only eight of 36 parishes that had joined Lawrence's lawsuit in 2012 were not governed by the Church's Dennis Canon and were free to leave the Church. 

However, when the case was remitted to a lower court for implementation, the judge assigned to the case strangely rejected his instructions and instead overruled the high court, claiming that all 36 were eligible to leave.

The Church appealed to the high court which then flip-flopped on its earlier ruling and said that another 13 parishes could leave.  That would be a total of 21 parishes leaving and 15 remaining with the Church. 

However, eight of the remaining 15 parishes appealed that decision and today the Court did another about-face when it ruled that six of the eight could leave the Church after all. 

The six are:  Holy Cross (Stateburg); Holy Comforter (Sumter); St. Jude's Church of Walterboro; Old St. Andrew's (Charleston); St. Luke's Church, Hilton Head; and Trinity Church of Myrtle Beach. 

All six were found by the Court in August 2017 and April 2022 to be bound by the Dennis Canon and lacking