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South Carolina Episcopalians
June 20, 2018
Lawrence Team Struggles with Unreality as Church Presses Forward for Implementation of 2017 Ruling
In spite of rejections from the South Carolina and United States Supreme Courts, Lawrence still "confident that the law and the facts of this case favor our congregations."
A week after the United States Supreme Court rejected his appeal of last August's state Supreme Court ruling, ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence rejected the rejection, claiming the nation's high court and our state Supreme Courts don't understand Church property law.
At a bizarre meeting last week in Summerville last Thursday, die-hard breakaway clergy were actually encouraged to tell their parishioners Lawrence was prepared to fight any attempt to implement the ruling in which 29 of 36 parishes, and St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center were returned to the Episcopal Church.
The case was far from over, they were told, and Lawrence is even prepared to take another "trip" to the state Supreme Court. Technically, it would be a fourth trip to the state's high court since it refused two attempts by Lawrence's lawyers last fall to get a rehearing in the case.
Those in attendance were not exactly clear on how Lawrence legally plans to return to the state's high court or why the justices would even want to hear from him again.
However, some of these clergy dutifully took to their pulpits on Sunday and repeated the official party line though it defied logic. One of the pro-Lawrence rectors near Charleston told his congregation that "the Episcopal Church is lying to you" when it claims the case is over. In another congregation, lay people flat out challenged the rector's truthfulness and motivations.
Returning to Dorchester County Court
Back to reality... our readers will remember that the state Supreme Court "remitted" its August 2017 decision to First District Judge Edgar Dickson in Orangeburg to oversee the return of the 29 parishes and the camp and conference center. Dickson sat on the matter until the breakaways' appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was exhausted.
Dickson has no plans to re-try the case. His job is to simply administer the ruling of the high court in as expeditious manner as possible. Lawrence claims the ruling is "unenforceable."
Church attorneys have filed a motion with Judge Dickson for the appointment of a "special master" to oversee the day-to-day transition. This is a fairly routine practice in cases with many moving part. Generally, special masters are retired judges or other court officials.
Church attorneys have a second pending motion, asking Dickson to dismiss a nuisance lawsuit filed by the breakaways fall, claiming that they are owed massive amounts of compensation for improvements to parishes properties they mistakenly thought they owned. In this lawsuit, based on an obscure "betterments" statute, the Lawrencians are forced to concede they mistakenly thought they were sole owners of their parish properties.
Judge Dickson is a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Orangeburg, where he has served as an elder. He has not set a date for hearing arguments on the two motions, but lawyers involve think it will be in July.