Statement from The Episcopal Church of South Carolina
November 19, 2017
Supreme Court Decision and a Statement from the Bishop
Ruling in favor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the South Carolina Supreme Court has denied two motions from a disassociated group and upheld its August 2 decision that property and assets of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, and most of its parishes, must remain with The Episcopal Church.
The orders, dated Friday, November 17, can be found here:
Denial of rehearing motion
Denial of recusal motion
Friday’s rulings reject two motions that were filed by a breakaway group that left The Episcopal Church in 2012. One sought a rehearing of the case, while the other asked that Justice Kaye Hearn, one of the five justices who wrote the opinion, be recused, and her opinion vacated.
The court voted 2-2 on the rehearing motion; a majority would have been required in order to grant a rehearing. Justice Hearn did not vote.
The court voted unanimously to deny the motion seeking Justice Hearn’s recusal. Justice Jean Toal, who was serving as Chief Justice at the time the court heard the case, noted that "an adverse decision is no reason to excuse a nearly two-and-a-half year delay in making a request for recusal."
"While I make no criticism of the respondents' lawyers for filing the motions to recuse and for vacature, I am disappointed in the tone of these filings. They are unreasonable harsh criticisms of a highly accomplished judge and a person of great decency and integrity," Justice Toal said.
Statement from Bishop Adams
The Episcopal Church in South Carolina
We give thanks for the clarity that the State Supreme Court’s decision provides and we are grateful for the thoughtful and difficult work the justices have undertaken in this case.
From the time this lawsuit was filed against The Episcopal Church, the hope of reconciliation has been our guiding principle. We believe this is what the Lord Jesus would expect of us and it is consistent with the teachings of St. Paul who said in his second letter to the Church in Corinth, “All this is from God, who reconciled himself to us in Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” We renew our commitment to this hard work of reconciliation in the days to come.
We understand that the many people in the parishes affected by this ruling may be experiencing pain, fear and confusion. Let me say to all that The Episcopal Church in South Carolina is committed to finding a path that will allow the people of God to continue to live their lives as a part of the Anglican Communion in and through the Episcopal Church. As a former Bishop of South Carolina, William Alexander Guerry said more than 100 years ago, “If we are to be truly catholic, as Christ himself is catholic, then we must have a Church broad enough to embrace within its communion every living human soul.”
The Episcopal Church seeks to be an expression of faith in Christ that welcomes all to his expansive Table. Our prayer is that every person in every parish of the Diocese will join in working and praying together to bring healing to the Church, the Body of Christ, in this part of South Carolina.
The Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III
Bishop, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina
November 22, 2017
New lawsuit filed by disassociated group
A group that left The Episcopal Church in 2012 is again suing local Episcopalians and The Episcopal Church, filing a lawsuit in Dorchester County.
The breakaway group, which is continuing to use the name “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina,” included the names of 27 parishes as plaintiffs in the suit. It was filed on Sunday, November 19 in St. George, the same venue where the disassociated group initially filed its legal action in 2013, seeking to take the properties of the Diocese of South Carolina and most of its parishes out of The Episcopal Church.
The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled August 2 that those properties must remain with the Church and its local diocese, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The Supreme Court rejected two post-opinion motions on November 19, making the ruling final. The new filing in Dorchester County cites the little-used “betterments statute” to seek compensation from TECinSC and The Episcopal Church for the cost of improvements made to the properties over the years.
“This new filing is not only completely without merit, but unfortunate and inappropriate. It moves us no closer to the kind of resolution that restores unity to our diocese,” Chancellor Thomas S. Tisdale said.
The Right Reverend Gladstone B. Adams III, Bishop of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, expressed hope that all the parties will now direct their assets and energy toward a common goal of reunifying and restoring the Diocese.
“I appeal to the leaders of the disassociated group and their counsel to allow the people in the affected parishes to start having the necessary conversations with us to ensure that they can continue to worship in their churches. It is time to begin healing this division,” Bishop Adams said.
All parties in the case have previously agreed to mediation to work out how to implement the Supreme Court ruling as well as issues raised in a separate federal lawsuit. That mediation is scheduled to resume in Columbia December 4-5.
The Episcopal Church in South Carolina is the recognized diocese of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion in eastern South Carolina. During the division, it has continued to serve more than 7,000 parishioners in 31 congregations.