From The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the diocese loyal to The Episcopal Church:
US Supreme Court will not hear church property case
Final implementation now in hands of state court
CHARLESTON, S.C. (JUNE 11, 2018) — The United States Supreme Court today denied a petition from a breakaway group, letting stand the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court to return control of the Diocese of South Carolina and 28 church properties to The Episcopal Church and its recognized diocese, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC).The high court denied certiorari to the group that announced in 2012 they were leaving The Episcopal Church. The breakaway group filed a lawsuit in 2013 seeking to control diocesan and parish properties, and a Dorchester County court found in their favor in 2015. The state Supreme Court overturned that decision in August 2017.“We are grateful for the clarity that this decision offers, and hopeful that it brings all of us closer to having real conversations on how we can bring healing and reconciliation to the Church, the Body of Christ, in this part of South Carolina,” said the Right Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III, Bishop of TECSC.“Our path continues to be one of reconciliation and love, for love is the way of Jesus,” Bishop Adams said.Today’s decision does not cause an immediate change in the physical control of the properties, according to Thomas S. Tisdale Jr., Chancellor of TECSC. It is now up to the state’s 1st Circuit Court of Common Pleas to execute the lower court’s decision.
TECSC and The Episcopal Church on May 8 asked the state court to place diocesan property and assets under control of TECSC’s trustees, hand over ownership of property of the 28 affected parishes to The Episcopal Church and TECSC, and appoint a Special Master to oversee the transition.
The Episcopal Church has been hoping to engage with leaders of the breakaway group since the state Supreme Court ruling in August. Bishop Adams and other diocesan leaders have been seeking direct contact with people in the affected parishes, offering a “Frequently Asked Questions” publication and arranging individual meetings to work with those who want to remain in their home churches as Episcopalians.
Direct talks are even more important now that the Supreme Court has ruled, the Bishop said. “We invite people in each of the parishes affected by this decision to read the FAQ document and get in touch with me directly, so we can discover how best to work together for the good of the parish, the diocese and the whole Church,” Bishop Adams said.
“It happens that today is the day we remember St. Barnabas, and in the prayer assigned for today we note that he sought not his own renown, but the well-being of God’s Church. May we do the same.”
A meeting of diocesan leaders, including the Standing Committee, Diocesan Council, Trustees, and Deans, has been called for Tuesday, June 12. The ordained and lay leaders will gather for prayer, hear information and discuss plans for the months ahead.
Bishop Adams expressed gratitude to those within the diocese and throughout the wider Episcopal Church who have offered prayers and support through the last 5-1/2 years. “Many people have labored faithfully and sacrificed much to remain steadfast in solidarity with us as we seek to be disciples of Jesus in this place. For every one of you, I give thanks,” he said.
The sad saga of the breakaway Anglican Church in South Carolina has now been brought nearer to its inevitable end. In trying to understand the origins of the lengthy court proceedings that have gone before today’s judgement – which has defined entitlement to the official Episcopal Diocese of Carolina in TEC – one needs to remember that:
” The breakaway group filed a lawsuit in 2013 seeking to control diocesan and parish properties, and a Dorchester County court found in their favor in 2015. The state Supreme Court overturned that decision in August 2017.
This latest news, of the US National Supreme Court’s decision not to interfere with the judgement of the South Carolina’s State Supreme Court – which returned the TEC property to its original owners (the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina) – seems set to put in motion the return of the properties of the Diocese to the care of The Episcopal Church.
This seems to be a pretty clear understanding that schismatics from TEC cannot expect to retain the properties of the diocese from which they have departed. This stands to reason when one considers the heritage values of the original diocese. Past members of the local congregations have laboured to maintain the properties that have accrued to the diocese, and while there may be theological disputes in the diocese, the property rights remain, and should remain, with the current legal owners of the properties concerned.
Schismatic severance has its downside as well as its exhilaration for those who undertake to proclaim a gospel different from those who remain faithful in allegiance to the diocese.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand