Thinking Anglicans

Supreme Court refuses South Carolina petition

The Episcopal News Service reports:
US Supreme Court refuses to hear South Carolina Episcopal Church property case
Breakaway group vows to continue legal fight

The United States Supreme Court refused June 11 a petition by a group that broke away from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina asking it to review a state court ruling that said property, assets and most of the diocese’s parishes must be returned to the Episcopal Church and its recognized diocese, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

The petition for a writ of certiorari from a group that broke away from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina asked the court to consider “whether the ‘neutral principles of law’ approach to resolving church property disputes requires courts to recognize a trust on church property even if the alleged trust does not comply with the state’s ordinary trust and property law.”

The breakaway group said in its Feb. 13 petition that the majority of the South Carolina Supreme Court justices did not take the “neutral” approach.

The high court justices discussed the case (17.1136) during their June 7 conference and denied the request without comment on June 11…

The (ACNA-affiliated) Diocese of South Carolina has issued this press release:
Diocese’s Petition for Cert Denied by United States Supreme Court

…The Diocese of South Carolina will now return to our state courts, where the case has been remitted to the Dorchester Courthouse where it originated. An element of TEC‘s argument for the United States Supreme Court to deny our petition was the “fractured” nature of the South Carolina Supreme Court’s ruling. Constitutional issues aside, the Diocese believes the conflicted nature of the current State Supreme Court ruling is virtually unenforceable as written. Interpretation and implementation of that ruling, given its five separate opinions, with no unified legal theory even among the plurality of the court, means there are still significant questions to resolve.

The Diocese remains confident that the law and the facts of this case favor our congregations. We plan to continue to press both to their logical conclusion, even if that requires a second appearance before the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Statement by the Rt. Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, Diocesan Bishop: “While, obviously, we are disappointed that the Court did not review this case, our hope remains steadfast in our Heavenly Father. There are many unresolved legal questions which remain before the State Court as well as matters for prayerful discernment as we seek to carry out the mission to which we are called in Jesus Christ. We shall seek his guidance for both.”

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina issued this:
US Supreme Court Decision

… 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…

The FAQ document mentioned above can be found here.

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Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Well, so much for the recent certainty by some here abouts that the Supreme Court would take this case. Oh, and the ACNA-affiliated’s charge that the “fractured” nature of the state court decision makes it unenforceable is, IMO, laughable. There have been federal court decisions with as many as six separate opinions that are enforced. As a matter of law, what is required is that a majority of the court find for one side or the other, not that they agree on the legal theories that they use to reach that conclusion.

Father Ron Smith
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The only real beneficiaries of this ongoing saga is the legal profession, who are haymaking. What needs to be remembered is that it was the schismatics who started the legal proceedings.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“the Diocese believes the conflicted nature of the current State Supreme Court ruling is virtually unenforceable as written”

They may believe that, but in the law there’s something called res judicata. It basically means that having lost once, you don’t get to try again.

crs
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crs

PON. I do not know a single person in EDSC for whom the term ‘certainty’ would be apposite re: SCOTUS. Zero. Most felt the long odds were practically insurmountable. It is interesting to read the FAQ. We will now see TEC trying to persuade parishioners to leave the former diocese. It will be interesting to see what those figures look like. In the meantime it does not sound like the EDSC is of the view their paths for further contestation at the state level are over. That too means the whole thing remains very hard to have any concrete sense… Read more »

Tobias Stanislas Haller
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The folks in the secessionist portion of SC have been led to believe all sorts of things over the last several years. The revisionist history and peculiar legal advice has not proved helpful. The old maxim applies: strength of conviction is no guarantor of truth.

robert ian williams
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robert ian williams

And Bishop Lawrence..should read the notice in my cousin’s office…stubborn people make wealthy lawyers. But there again it costs Lawrence nothing and even his TEC pension is untouchable.

Richard
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Richard

Res judicata does not restrict the appeals process.

crs
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crs

Nonsense. People in SC were not surprised. They believed their home churches were their home churches and they fought long odds for that. I have met no one who thought they were being misled by their legal team.

Let SCOTUS agree not to hear the case. Rejoice in that.

But don’t condescend to miscontrue the view of the vast majority of the diocese. Which as noted will appeal.

etseq
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etseq

“Res judicata does not restrict the appeals process.”

You misunderstand how claims/issue preclusion operates. Denial of cert. formally exhausts all possible appeals – res judicata will apply to any legal proceedings to execute the judgment in superior court as it seems the schismatic diocese intends to resist any efforts to enforce the ruling as a pretext to generate an appeal to the state supreme court again hoping that recent turnover on the court has shifted internal court politics in their favor.
Collateral estoppel is also relevant in the federal litigation over trademark claims.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“Res judicata does not restrict the appeals process.”

Appeals process? What appeals process?

The Supreme Court of the United States just ended the appeals process for the parish-property case.

TEC and its now have a final judgment in their favor from which there is no further appeal. They will now execute on that judgment.

Like etseq I would not be optimistic about any appeal from the judgment-execution process re-opening the judgment itself. If someone is telling you there is any chance of that, then I would get a second opinion.

There is a point at which reasonable hope becomes delusion.

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“So then the question is the maintenance of these 28 parishes which have stayed the course in EDSC over the past years.”

How odd to hear the schismatics described as the ones who have “stayed the course”….

M.L.Morris
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M.L.Morris

I don’t think laity view the Church in quite the same manner as the Clergy. The laity view is much more localized (and I’m fully aware I’m about to make a lot of generalizations). Laity are much more likely to think along a channel that would say “St. X’s is my church. I will go every Sunday, I will sing in the choir, I will put money in the offering plate, and I will pray for whoever is in the pulpit. I will do this no matter who that person chooses to affiliate with, because I know pastors move on… Read more »

Richard
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Richard

The Diocese of South Carolina says: “The Diocese of South Carolina will now return to our state courts, where the case has been remitted to the Dorchester Courthouse where it originated.” Maybe not an appeal, but certainly the matter is not dead.

Bishop Skip refers to the Supreme Court’s “decision”. Was there a “decision”? — seems to me the court declined to entertain the matter.

crs
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crs

MLM. You have with a gentle spirit captured a reality TEC and others outside EDSC do not appreciate. In addition, EDSC has for the most part people whose relatives and for many generations have worshipped in their churches. The parish in Georgetown is, of all things, called Prince George Winyah. (And that parish is actually immune for any effort to claim it for TEC). These churches pre-date TEC by many decades. The people who worship there are the inheritors of churches built, cared for, paid for, by the congregation. With a sense of parsimony, and given the volunteer character of… Read more »

Jo
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Jo

“They believed their home churches were their home churches”

What does this even mean? Surely everyone knows that if you fall out with your parents and move out you’re not actually going to be able to live in their house any more, no matter how long it’s been your home?

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

Christopher: a very touching and very fanciful interpretation of things. I think MLM makes the point that most local congregations don’t even think about who they are affiliated to. It is rabble rousers like Mark Lawrence and some conservative ACNA clergy who have whipped up the idea that there is loyalty to the schismatic diocese. The majority of the worshipers at these churches will happily go on worshiping there even if there is a return to TEC and MLM makes this point very well. It is surely now time for Mark Lawrence to step down and start a Free Church… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

As usual, crs makes much of the schismatic parishes’ long history that precedes the creation of the national church in the post-revolutionary era. And ignores that the same could be said of many parishes in dioceses up and down the old original colonies, none of whom have taken this extraordinary step. And further ignores that the vestries of all these parishes took oaths to follow the canons of the national church when elected. And that their rectors took similar oaths when ordained. Are these oaths rendered no longer operative when the national church takes a position the oath-takers do not… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

I think MLM makes an important point. Clergy come and clergy go, but some of the reasons that bring people to particular churches remain, despite changes in personnel.

For me it’s often been a matter of geography. Wherever I’ve lived, I have gone to the local church.

For others it can be the building itself, the liturgy, the music, etc.

M.L. Morris
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M.L. Morris

I’m afraid Andrew has a plainer grasp of the point I was trying to make. I expect the ACNA diocese to be much smaller numerically when the dust settles, and while the TEC diocese will be smaller than before the whole mess started, I expect it to be noticeably larger than it is now. The case has not been handed back to the lower court for retrial. It has been handed back for implementation of the SC Supreme Court’s ruling. While the Court was less clear than might have been desired about how and why the properly constituted TEC diocese… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“certainly the matter is not dead.” There is a final judgment, and the final judgment has to be implemented. In that sense, there are legal processes yet to play out, true. But the vestrymen in the 29 parishes should all bear in mind that according to the Supreme Court of South Carolina, the vestrymen hold the property as trustees for TEC and its diocese. The vestrymen, as good trustees, should now be acting accordingly. “Was there a “decision”? — seems to me the court declined to entertain the matter.” This is quibbling. Denial of certiorari is a decision not to… Read more »

crs
Guest
crs

Stunning to see so many people knowing the mind of vast majority of EDSC parishioners who have virtually no experience whatsoever with the people and churches in this place. The idea that a new TEC diocese will emerge with very little alteration and alongside it a smaller ACNA diocese is just nonsense. I live in SC. I have a home in Hilton Head. I know more than half of these churches very well having grown up with families in Charleston who sent their boys to Christ School. It just amazes me how confidently people outside EDSC declare what will or… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Here’s today’s comment from Alan Haley, a lawyer who has written regularly about the South Carolina situation

http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2018/06/o-what-tangled-web-we-weave.html

crs
Guest
crs

Thank you Simon S.

Here is a local view from someone in the TEC diocese of Upper SC.

https://lowly.blogspot.com/

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Pardon me if I choose not to put too much faith in anyone who refers to TEC as “the Episcopal Sect”.

Dan Ennis
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Dan Ennis

As a TEC member in South Carolina I would disagree with the characterizations of CRS (and if we are to compare bona fides I moved to SC 1986). I don’t doubt Church of the Cross is “packed out,” but per Lawrence’s own numbers, Church of the Cross is the ONLY Lawrence church to have grown in the past year. Meanwhile, every other Lawrence church has been bleeding members, some down down as much as 60% since 2011. I think we can agree that both the Lawrence group and TEC in SC will be smaller in 2019 than they were combined… Read more »

M.L.Morris
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M.L.Morris

I’m fairly certain I was clear that I don’t expect the TEC Diocese to emerge with little alteration from its previous iteration. Nor do I really expect the ACNA Diocese to necessarily be smaller than the TEC Diocese. I do expect it to be smaller than it is now–certainly not by 20,000 communicants, probably not even near 5,000. I’d be surprised, though, if it were only a few hundred. Not all of South Carolina is Hilton Head or Charleston, just as not all of Georgia is Atlanta. I mentioned Christ Church Savannah before. I realize a congregation is not the… Read more »

Crs
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Crs

Of course not. Who said Hilton Head was the Diocese? In fact it has always had a second liberal parish which is no longer in EDSC. I know more than half of the 28 parishes very well. I also know the single parish in Savannah, otherwise vastly overshadowed by a Diocese very different than EDSC. Read the notice of Jeff Miller at St Philips above. That is the largest church in the Diocese. They called him from Beaufort. If the congregation thought he was unrepresentative they would not have called him nor let him speak as a leader for EDSC.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

This blog has been an excellent source of information about the schism in SC. http://episcopalschismsc.blogspot.com/2017/08/episcopal-church-vindicated-schismatic.html Most interesting is that Dr. Caldwell posted the schismatic’s financials and membership findings, as reported by Lawrence’s people (which apparently is no longer available). The schismatic “diocese” budget and membership has dropped dramatically, in much larger numbers than the general decline of religion in the US. There has been more than enough pain and suffering. (Whoever advised the schismatics against taking TEC’s generous offer to let them keep the 28 parishes in trade for the cathedral and retreat center has much to answer for). “With… Read more »

crs
Guest
crs

If you think the drop in membership is due to EDSC and not due to TEC and its direction you are very much mistaken. People can get sick of seeing their local situation deteriorate, families torn apart, and so on. They go to church precisely to avoid that kind of Sunday experience. This is a traditional and conservative diocese, with some outposts of liberal and pro-TEC leanings which are well known and active. If I had to guess where these people left to go, to whom you refer, it is in the evangelical, wesleyan, charismatic direction. For them TEC had… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

I know that it is an extremely hurtful situation in SC. But it is time for everyone to don the armour of light and love, saddle up, and get on with the work of the Gospel.

The US is separating children from their parents, traumatizing them for life. In 20 years when people ask “what were you doing when the US was committing crimes against humanity?” The answer ought not to be “I was fighting tooth and nail and expending all of our resources to keep gays out of my church.”

crs
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crs

Hi Cynthia, I think your tendency is always to dramatise things. Most evangelical-catholic parishes are very happy to believe they have a real Christian duty to love all people. They do not, however, believe that marriage is a rite grounded in scripture and tradition, that can be changed to something you and others call ‘equal marriage.’ ‘Keep gays out of the church’ is an almost perfect Exhibit A of dramatisation. No catholic-evangelical I know has this sentiment. It is a cliché. No future is there for talking about this when catholic-evangelicals inside Anglicanism are reduced to keeping gays out of… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Well, crs, it is hard to argue that much of the situation in SC began with +Gene being consecrated as a bishop in TEC. Equal marriage came along later. Inclusion means accepting us for who we are, with the ministries and sacraments that we are called to live into. It’s the same conundrum as racial acceptance and the inclusion of women. Not accepting us for who we are and who we love amounts to keeping us out of ordained ministry and the sacrament of marriage. So whether or not a catholic-evangelical has the sentiment, of “keeping the gays out,” that… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“‘Keep gays out of the church’ is an almost perfect Exhibit A of dramatisation. No catholic-evangelical I know has this sentiment. It is a cliché.”

All right…then let us put it this way: “Keep self-affirming sexually active gays out of the church. Only those who accept our belief that they are committing sin by actively loving who they love are welcome.”

Is that better?

crs
Guest
crs

Just to clear up some summary judgments/ dismissals above thread. 1. The SCOTUS made no ruling. They are content, for whatever reason, to let states disagree with one another (MN, TX, Illinois have held differently than other states, etc re: Jones v Wolf and neutral principles, in accordance with the laws in their states). That is, SCOTUS did not rule against EDSC and close off all further legal recourse. 2. The SCSC had five judges, 3 of whom agreed sufficiently to remand to trial court, but without a majority of the five holding for the same reason. 3. This being… Read more »

M.L.Morris
Guest
M.L.Morris

There is a difference between sending a case back for retrial and sending a case back for implementation of the higher court’s ruling. It’s an important difference, and one I don’t believe the breakaway group is facing. If the court appoints a Special Master, they will face that difference whether they wish to or not. As I said in my very first post on this thread, time will tell. It is the nature of this forum that my posts will be preserved after this plays out. If my opinions are proved to be wildly fanciful by the turn of events,… Read more »

crs
Guest
crs

MLM, I did not say otherwise. It has been remanded. You will recall that Judge Goodstein at Trial Court was the one who ruled neutral principles in favor of EDSC. How she could be expected to deal with three different interpretations otherwise opposed to her own considered view is where the matter becomes difficult. (If you want to read a fascinating opinion check out Beatty; it has everything but the kitchen sink; he ruled in favor of neutral principles for parishes that had not ‘acceeded’ but were in EDSC). I gather that a new SCSC, wanting to avoid dumping this… Read more »

crs
Guest
crs

PON. I chose my words with care. I try to do that.

I said that marriage has a commune meaning for many that they do not want changed.

You have a different view.

Neither line up with your summary declaration. Many in the lgbt camp can also agree the traditional view of marriage, either vocally or with their feet.

To constantly dramatise the matter away from this disagreement cannot help.

Have a good day quand meme.

Richard
Guest
Richard

Bishop Mark Lawrence write the following prior to leaving for Jerusalem (GAFCON):

“Before leaving, however, let me share a few thoughts regarding the denial of our recent petition. The U. S. Supreme Court’s denial is not an affirmation of the South Carolina Supreme Court’s August 2 opinion nor of the merits of our position. It leaves us, however, back in the Dorchester County Court with a conflicted and fractured ruling. Quite simply, regardless of what you may have read or heard elsewhere, this case is not over–, as they say, that is the good news, and that is the bad news.”

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

At this point, the only thing that matters is the actual result concerning the property. The legal reasoning and claims of conflict and so forth — rightfully decided or not, clear or not — are now entirely irrelevant in THIS case. (The court may clarify the legal doctrines in ANOTHER case. But that is irrelevant here.) The result was this: Two South Carolina Supreme Court justices opined that all property belonged to the TEC diocese. Two justices opined that all property belonged to the ACNA diocese. The fifth judge ruled that most of the property belonged to the TEC diocese… Read more »

crs
Guest
crs

8.44

If your maximal confidence is correct it won’t take any time at all, then, to find that out!