Thinking Anglicans

More developments in South Carolina

Previous report on this subject here.

Now, further legal action has been taken, as ENS reports: Lawsuit seeks to recognize vonRosenberg as bishop of South Carolina.

Acting to protect the identity of the diocese he serves, the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg filed suit in U.S. District Court today against Bishop Mark Lawrence, asking the court to declare that only vonRosenberg, as the bishop recognized by The Episcopal Church, has the authority to act in the name of Diocese of South Carolina.

Having renounced The Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence is no longer authorized to use the diocese’s name and seal. By doing so, he is engaging in false advertising, misleading and confusing worshippers and donors in violation of federal trademark law under the Lanham Act, the complaint says. It asks the court to stop Bishop Lawrence from continuing to falsely claim that he is associated with the Diocese of South Carolina, which is a recognized sub-unit of The Episcopal Church.

The suit does not address property issues directly. But by asking the federal court to recognize Bishop vonRosenberg as the true bishop of the diocese, the suit would effectively resolve the issue of who controls diocesan property and assets, including the Diocesan House and Camp Saint Christopher on Seabrook Island. The ownership of individual parish properties is not addressed in the complaint…

The full text of the complaint can be found here (PDF).

And the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction is here.

At the time of writing, this action has not been reported on the website of the “Lawrence” diocese. The latest news item there is 222nd Annual Diocesan Convention to be Held in Florence, March 8-9 and also Three More Parishes Join in Suit to Prevent TEC from Seizing Property.

The latter press release summarises the situation thus:

…47 of the Diocese’s 71 parishes and missions have voted to support the Diocese; 18 support TEC and 7 remain undecided. The parishes and missions supporting the Diocese represent 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members.

The TEC diocese website reports that the Annual Convention of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, will be held March 8-9, 2013, at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston.

And it has this press release: Diocese added as defendant in lawsuit.

…Remaining with The Episcopal Church are 19 parishes and missions so far, along with at least 10 more “continuing parishes,” where members are maintaining official ties to The Episcopal Church even though their parish leadership has left the church. In addition, at least seven active and growing worshiping communities have organized across the diocese to allow displaced Episcopalians to continue to worship together…

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CynthiaPat O'NeillcseitzTobias HallerDan Ennis Recent comment authors
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Concerned Anglican
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Concerned Anglican

The Episcopal Church still have a significant number of loyal parishes and continuing parishes as well as mission areas.

Even in this supposed stronghold of breakaway movement there isn’t that much enthusiasm to leave the mother Church. Certainly not enough to merit what Lawrence has attempted to do.

A. S. Haley
Guest

The lawsuit has not yet been reported on the website of Bishop Lawrence’s diocese yet for the reason that Bishop Lawrence has not yet been served with the complaint — the only information he has about it is the press release from Bishop vonRosenberg’s communications officer. Given a few days, I am sure there will be a response.

Nat
Guest
Nat

Can we have flying bishops who will serve the many parishioners in the pews who do not wish to leave the Episcopal Church, and who regard all this as “bishops behaving badly”?

Fr Paul Webb
Guest
Fr Paul Webb

What a sad state of affairs. While the Church of England has its problems they have not reached this point – yet.

C.D. Bell
Guest

http://scepiscopalians.com/Seriously_.html

Go to the Site Above which is the web site of
the Episcopal Church that is still in communion with the National church. Click on Home Page in top right hand corner for all the latest developments. The loyal group under their new Bishop are doing very well. ex Bishop Lawrence has a great deal to answer for.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Don’t forget that there is another diocese in SC, the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. And they are doing fine and ministering to their neighbors. Lawrence orchestrated this. It is also in one of the most conservative parts of the US. Exactly the geographic location of the ancestors who would not give up slavery peacefully and lawfully (as the North did, and places like England). I suspect this is the last blast of schism. I’m not thrilled about it. On the one hand, the gospel of hate just won’t cut it in the broader TEC anymore. On the other hand,… Read more »

Chris H.
Guest
Chris H.

Cynthia, they feel as if they WOULD be forced to elect a liberal bishop. TEC denied Lawrence the first time and 8 or 9 other conservative bishops are all waiting to see if they’re going to be disciplined/defrocked for filing briefings with the secular courts. Why it’s wrong for them when a bunch of liberal bishops just did the same thing for same-sex marriage, not sure. If liberals do it for liberal causes, great. Conservatives? Forget it. I really don’t see how a conservative bishop could be chosen now. Since in TEC they have to be approved, a conservative diocese… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“Given a few days, I am sure there will be a response” – C,S. Haley –

And no doubt Mr Haley (Anglican Curmudgeon) will be a party to that response – as an advocate of the former Bishop in the TEC Diocese of South Carolina.

One wonders what Mr. Haley really thinks about the chances of Mark Lawrence getting away with the attempted high-jacking of the TEC Diocese of S.C. Of course, one expects it may take a little time for a response, but it would be interesting.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“…women priests are still relatively new”…

The first women were ordained 40 years ago…that’s more than a generation. I’ll bet these people so concerned about “relatively new” things are using smart phones (under a decade old), flat-screen TVs (less than 15 years), and the like. I bet they watch cable, drive cars with GPS, and other things that are far “newer” than four decades of practice.

Perhaps we should remind them of this: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 1:9]

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Chris H’s post makes me realise the strength of the moral integrity of ‘the conservative’ position, and their sheer shameless oppression of women and lgbt.

And they are bare-faced enough to demand our implication in such bad.

ex bishop Lawrence is hardly a good advertisement for ‘Conservatism’. What a shame they ever relented and let him be consecrated– we all knew it would this way – like one of those Westerns that from the go, it is clear it’ll end in a big shoot with with multiple bodies blown away and land twitching in the dust.

Conservative values ?

Count me out.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

The Presiding Bishop of TEC renounced the orders of the Bishop of the Diocese of SC. I think most true liberals acknowledged how irregular and wrong that was. Just like the use of the pulpit that followed. I doubt that the state court will take a very positive view of seeking to go over their heads to Federal Court. It failed in TX when it was tried there on similar trademark logic. I doubt the repercussions of that will take very long to be felt. I would agree that consents will likely be impossible for any Bishop elected in TEC… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Moreover, ‘An added difficulty for Bishop vonRosenberg is that by suing as Provisional Bishop of the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina,” he may be violating a temporary injunction issued by the state court (an injunction to which TEC consented).’

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Florence Li Tim Oi was ordained during the Second World War !

Marshall Scott
Guest

I’m sure, Brother Seitz, that you will acknowledge that the matter is far from concluded in Texas, albeit farther along than in South Carolina. It is not finally concluded in Virginia, either. However, as I recall in every state where it has been concluded (which includes, I think, California, New York, Connecticut, and perhaps Georgia) courts have supported the right of churches to decide their own rules of governance and accountability (including those in the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church). Could a conservative bishop be elected today? Certainly. Could one be approved by a majority of bishops and… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“The Presiding Bishop of TEC renounced the orders of the Bishop of the Diocese of SC. I think most true liberals acknowledged how irregular and wrong that was.”

Um, interesting framing. Lawrence renounced his membership in TEC first. So if Lawrence separated, which he did famously and publicly, the PB then had an obligation to remove his standing to act in the name of TEC.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“Please, don’t throw the word “cult” around. Saying that anyone who disagrees with you isn’t a Christian doesn’t help.” Chris H., I didn’t say that they aren’t Christian. I do believe that misogyny and homophobia are not compatible with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. But people have different litmus tests for what is “Christian.” Lawrence broke a promise not to lead the diocese out of TEC. He schemed and invoked legal machinations for years to do just that. The brutal way in which he did it was surely traumatic for many who were living together in community with… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

The Federal Court issued a stay in the Ft Worth trademark case back in 2010.

Of course a conservative bishop could be elected; at issue is whether they could get consents. I referred to the ‘progressive’ cause as the new proxy. Can a bishop get consents without agreeing to certain contested things (SS blessing, the character of the constitution re: dioceses and hierarchy)? Probably not. That is the new post-+ML reality.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Conservatives? Forget it. I really don’t see how a conservative bishop could be chosen now. Since in TEC they have to be approved, a conservative diocese would just keep having their choice denied.”

That is a LUDICROUS allegation (smear). The problems that arose for xLawrence in his confirmation process was the (since-proven) suspicion he would lead a *schism*, NOT that he was “conservative.” There is ZERO reason to suspect a conservative—but loyal to the governance of General Convention—would not be confirmed. Chris H, PLEASE retract.

Chris H
Guest
Chris H

“I do believe that misogyny and homophobia are not compatible with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.”–therefore someone who believes that is not a Christian. Perhaps we need to define “cult”. Living near the former campus of the Church Universal and Triumphant, a maze of underground bomb shelters, an armory, and years of food stocks so they could defend themselves from any outside survivors of World War III, a cult here is a small group of people with bizarre/sinister beliefs outside the accepted theology of any accepted religion. Their leader controls all aspects of members’ lives-jobs,family,money, etc.- and uses… Read more »

Chris H.
Guest
Chris H.

JCF, sorry, can’t do it. Our “via media” bishop won’t ordain conservative priests and has implied it and our representatives at the last GC came back and said pretty much the same thing. No women priests and gay blessings/marriage, no ordination. Why do you want bigots,homophobes, misogynists, etc. in the church leadership anyway? Why aren’t you rejoicing? The liberals have won. Time to rewrite the BCP for the new reality.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Chris H, this thinking is rather black and white, yes? There are many differing views of what is “Christian.” It’s possible for someone to hold “conservative” views but be wonderful about feeding the hungry, for one example. The problem comes when that view is elevated to action and public words. Because discriminatory actions and words by leaders are hurtful. They do harm. For example there is the high suicide rate amongst LGBT teens, especially those in regions hearing that “God hates fags.” Then there’s Uganda, that felt more empowered to pass draconian anti-gay laws after American evangelicals went there and… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

From here http://www.episcopalchurchsc.org/legal-news.html Affidavits include: Dr. Walter Edgar, Professor of History at the University of South Carolina and author of “South Carolina: A History,” who notes that there is no historical support for the notion that the Diocese of South Carolina was one of the “founders” of The Episcopal Church, or that its formation predates the establishment of The Episcopal Church. In fact, “it was the actions of the organizers of The Episcopal Church that actually precipitated the formation of a structure for the parishes in South Carolina,” Dr. Edgar writes. “The South Carolina organization did not even have a… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

On the status of dioceses: “[A]s recently as 2009 one of TEC’s ecclesiastical courts ruled that dioceses are “wholly autonomous” and in 2001 Bishop Jane Dixon submitted affidavit testimony in federal court on “the hierarchical structure of the Episcopal Church, and the diocesan bishop’s position at the apex of that hierarchy as the apostle, chief priest, pastor and ecclesiastical authority of the diocese.” When the trial court accepted this interpretation of TEC’s polity, repeating the conclusion that the bishop is the “apex of the hierarchy,” the current Presiding Bishop joined 25 other TEC bishops in filing an amicus brief in… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Thanks Simon. That link and historical information is certainly clarifying.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I look forward to reading the rebuttals from the Lawrence connection to the academics supporting TEC.
From reading previous offerings there seemed such a certainty in the historical account set aside by these scholars.

Perhaps cseitz can help us?
His fellow contributors to the ACI blog seemed to think differently …..

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Mr Reynolds, I do not understand your remark.

This is a useful link http://www.deimel.org/church_resources/acc_usc_0522.pdf

The US 4th District Appeals Court rules that TEC is a church of dioceses; the Diocesan Bishop is “the highest ecclesiastical authority”; and amicus curia briefs are (in this case) signed in defense of this position by 25 TEC Bishops.

The then Bishop of Nevada is one of the amici curiae.

Tobias Haller
Guest

IIRC Bishop Dixon’s affadavit concerns the bishop being the apex of the hierarchy within the diocese. Article IX provides that Bishops may admonish and/or pronounce sentence upon other Bishops — so the bishop is not an apex in relation to the whole church, but a member of a college, which has a President, and rules established by the whole church. Some context on that 2009 eccelsiastical court decision would also be helpful. As it stands, it is a strange species of “autonomy” that — requires every diocese to gain consent of the church for the election and consecration of their… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

I encourage everyone to read what is written in the legal document which 25 Bishops signed as amici. “Within the diocese” (so Mr Haller) is nowhere a relevant category in that document. Hierarchy entials the Diocese and the Diocesan. Let it be shown by reference to the legal document that it is speaking only with in the Diocese. And: the conciliation process objects to filing amicus briefs tout court. The PB clearly objects formally to that which she herself undertook. Is this in doubt? No. Those outwith the USA can helpfully see in http://www.deimel.org/church_resources/acc_usc_0522.pdf what TEC claims about itself, and… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

As it stands, it is a strange species of “autonomy” that — requires every diocese to gain consent of the church for the election and consecration of their own bishop — requires dioceses to make use of the Book of Common Prayer as approved by the General Convention — requires a diocese to obtain the consent of the General Convention to divide, or to merge with another diocese — requires a diocese to maintain its own diocesan rules for the rights and duties of its Standing Committee in concord with those provided by the General Convention… ** Can you point… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

xLawrence is no longer a bishop in TEC. By his very own choice. So if he chooses not to remain in TEC, then he can hardly be an “autonomous” bishop of a diocese of TEC. The whole thing is really bizarre, unseemly, and nefarious. There just aren’t any legal arguments that are going to convince me that suddenly and brutally separating was a compassionate and Godly action. It demanded a choice from each and every member of the former diocese, splitting up communities that had be getting along with difference. But of course, tolerance isn’t a strong suit of xLawrence… Read more »

Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer
Guest
Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer

Check the sidebar of the South Carolina Episcopalians website (http://www.scepiscopalians.com/) for details of recent developments and changes in the financial condition of Mark Lawrence’s organization.

Tobias Haller
Guest

The case to which CR Seitz refers addressed a fairly narrow dispute, concerning the relationship of parishes and clergy to their Bishop. It is in this context — and this alone — that the Bishop is at the apex of the hierarchy. This is what the amicus briefs addressed. Notwithstanding the narrow concerns of the case, the appeals court decision finds that the Episcopal Church is hierarchical (including on a national level), by applying the neutral standards provided by the Supreme Court in Milivojevich. (Section V.A.2. of the decision). In applying these tests the court finds: “Our examination of this… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Mr Haller– can you explain why the PB and 24 other Bishops filed an amicus curiae brief that declared the diocese the main unit of the church and the Diocesan the highest ecclesiastical authority, and nine Bishops who did the same thing were subject to Title IV proceedings? You seem like an intelligent and fair-minded man.

The Diocese of LA, when Bennison materials were requested, declared itself ‘autonomous’ and refused to do so. That was the end of the matter.
The language ‘autonomous’ is in the record. You may consult it.

Tobias Haller
Guest

Continued from above… Although this was not an aspect of the case, which solely concerns the relation of a Bishop with clergy and parishes within her diocese, the Court did allude to the higher hierarchical level of the Church, in terms of the Court of Review, to which Bishop Dixon was answerable. (V.A.3) “Bishop Dixon is the highest ecclesiastical tribunal of the Church _for the purposes of this dispute._” (My emphasis, again.) The footnote to this sentence reads, “There may be an issue, under the Constitution and Canons, whether the Review Committee possessed the authority to overturn Bishop Dixon’s decision… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

Dr Seitz, I thought I had explained the issue you raise. The case on which the PB and others filed an amicus brief solely concerned the role of the bishop in relation to clergy licensing, asserting a “buck stops here” authority, which the court supported. The amicus brief of the nine bishops, as with the “Bishops’ Statement on Polity” asserts a broader authority, almost a plenipotentiary one, for diocesan bishops, and denies that the Episcopal Church is hierarchical beyond the level of the diocese. The two sets of documents thus differ in their form, intent, and content. You raise now… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

Let me also add that as much as I disagree with their conclusions, I regret that a complaint was filed against the Bishops who filed amicus briefs in the property cases. I communicated this personally to Bishop MacPherson when I saw him in Indianapolis.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Thanks, Roger for that link to the SC Episcopalians blog: http://www.scepiscopalians.com

Very informative. Especially following the money. A truly sad state of affairs.

The links from that site are helpful as well.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

I do hope that people like Haller will continue to speak out against things like charging people for filing amicus briefs, esp given that Bishops have routinely done this. The amicus brief in question actually asked the court NOT to interfere in a church matter. This is consistent with the canonical requirements of TEC, whicn forbids recourse to civil court to adjudicate TEC affairs.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

One thing the Accord did do, by indirection, is publicly inform the TX Supreme Court that a bona fide disagreement over the polity of TEC exists. Indeed, the fact the +Buchanon publicly stated that what he asked of the Bishops at GC he did not get, viz., a conclusive statement on polity. I thought that was sufficiently damning off its own bat, and now the Accord reiterates the fact of disagreement. And, further, it must tred carefully enough so that the civil courts do not find TEC quilty of intimidation and harrassment. I do hope clergy like Haller and others… Read more »

Dan Ennis
Guest
Dan Ennis

As a TEC parishioner “on the ground” in South Carolina and and still in touch with friends who followed Bishop Lawrence group, I’d say that these lawsuits are disappointing but not unexpected. Many of us are relieved that this breach is finally out in the open and that our roads are diverging. The atmosphere in many parishes was toxic — rectors loyal to Lawrence condemning TEC from the pulpit, the few liberal priests being pressured to tow the theological line set out by the cathedral, LGBT Episcopalians being encouraged to “look elsewhere for a church home.” It was time to… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

If TEC is a hierarchical church, and if GC is its highest authority, then whatever GC says is its polity, IS its polity. I don’t see the problem.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

The ‘problem’ — and this is why there is a major public debate and indeed efforts to discipline/suppress — is that Bishops and others do not agree on what the Constitution and Canons stipulate re: ‘highest ecclesiastical authority.’ If it were obvious, there would not be recourse to courts (against the canons) by TEC in places like FW, Quincy, et al. For those who want a hierarchy in clear (Roman, black letter law) terms, it will require constitutional construction. And this will also require those who wish such a thing to sort out the roles of the PB, GC, EC,… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

Thank you, Dr. Seitz. I would suggest that the “disagreement” described in the Accord is rather like that over the ordination of women. There remains a minority view that women should not, or cannot, be ordained; but the law of the church says otherwise. The minority view of broad episcopal authority and diocesan autonomy is a view people are free to hold. (I am glad the Accord made that clear, as I do not think minority views ought to be prosecuted.) It would be perhaps helpful for the General Convention to “revive” the now almost 50-year-old resolution on the “Levels… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

I suspect the issue will be preceded by civil court rulings in TX and Quincy. The Constitution and Canons do not give the PB the authority Title IV and other legal adventures appear to want to give the PB. +FG did not rule from on high in the case of +Dixon. He was one Bishop amongst 25. So levels of authority would still need to see careful re-editing of the C/C. I doubt places like LA and PA would ever agree to that, as well as other liberal dioceses which do not like the power being seized by the PB… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Mr O’Neill–further in response. You may recall that (provisional) Bishop Buchanon did indeed ask the Bishops at GC last summer to declare the polity of TEC as hierarchical (presumably with a PB with legal standing?) and to reject the view of the amicus brief. They would not do that. He said that they did not do what he asked and complained that they had not done so. It is in the record. A pretty good case of being very careful what you are asking for.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“The Constitution and Canons do not give the PB the authority Title IV and other legal adventures appear to want to give the PB. “

Ahhh–but General Convention DID, by passing Title IV. Since GC is the highest authority on the meaning and intent of the Constitution and Canons (there being no equivalent of a Supreme Court in TEC’s polity), it would seem that resolves the issue.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Well, that settles it! Kindly drop a note to GC, the HOB, and the civil courts and it will all be resolved quickly. Why didn’t anyone think of this?

Pax et bonum

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Perhaps the Bishops at GC refused to “declare the polity of TEC as hierarchical” because it is not their place to do so? Because the bishops are not the ultimate authority in TEC, but GC (meaning all three houses meeting in concert) is. Bishop Buchanon made the request of the wrong body–he should have asked all of GC. Further, I would argue that TEC *is* hierarchical, but that the top of the hierarchy is not the PB, but GC. The PB is designated to carry out GC’s wishes (and to act in its name in the periods between GC’s meetings),… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Thanks for your Witness, Dan. Godspeed.