Updated yet again Wednesday evening
A very long-running lawsuit in South Carolina has reached a decision. This one goes back to 2000 when the Diocese of South Carolina first tried to record its interest in the parish property of All Saints, Pawleys Island. That parish decided in October 2003 that it wished to leave the Diocese of South Carolina and affiliate with what is now the Anglican Mission in the Americas.
At the time of writing, there is still no report of this decision on any of the websites linked above.
The actual decision is a PDF file, available here. (I have been unable to reach this site, but was kindly sent a copy of the file.)
Episcopal Café has reported it with the headline Ruling on Pawleys Island: TEC and DioSC lose, and has also published a very helpful further article, Putting the South Carolina decision into perspective which includes comments made at the TitusOneNine blog.
Late last week the Supreme Court of South Carolina issued a ruling in the ongoing legal battle between the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Chuck Murphy (of the Anglican Mission in America) and Vestry of All Saint’s, Pawley’s Island. The property dispute stems from the decision of then Rector Murphy and the Vestry to leave the Episcopal Church and become part of the AMiA (connected to the Anglican Province of Rwanda and now associate with the ACNA).
The Supreme Court ruled that the Dennis Canon, which says that diocesan and parish property are all held in trust for the Episcopal Church is not valid in this case.
There are a couple of reasons that this decision is unique. First, the parish in question, like a few others on the East Coast, predates the foundation of the Episcopal Church in 1789 so it has been argued that the Episcopal Church is more a creation of the parish than the parish of the Episcopal Church.
Second, the Supreme Court has decided to decide based primarily on neutral principles of law rather than by being guided by deference to denominations being allowed to create their own internal governance structures…
The Charleston Post and Courier reports the story: see Court rules in favor of Pawleys Is. congregation by Dave Munday.
A Pawleys Island congregation, embroiled in litigation ever since it left the Episcopal Church in 2004, has won a major court battle over land and assets that could have wide implications for others looking to break away.
The S.C. Supreme Court unanimously ruled Friday that All Saints Church at Pawleys Island belonged to the independent corporation All Saints Parish, Waccamaw Inc. and not to the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, which had staked a claim to the property.
“When a vestry of a parish in the diocese votes to take action to leave the church, they cannot then hold an office as a vestry of the church from which they have voted to depart,” wrote then-Bishop Edward L. Salmon Jr. soon after All Saints’ vestry voted to break its ties with the Episcopal Church and modify its 1902 parish charter.
But last week, the state’s highest court repudiated the diocese’s claims, overturning an earlier Circuit Court verdict.
The court rejected the Episcopal Church’s claim that “all real and personal property” used by a congregation, mission or parish “is held in trust for this church.” That rule, codified in 1979 and called the Dennis Canon, makes it impermissible for congregations to assume ownership of church property. The Episcopal Church long has argued that when individuals choose to leave the church, dioceses and parishes remain intact and available to others who choose to remain, even if they constitute a minority of the congregation…
Note that the quote in this article originally attributed to Kendall Harmon has now been corrected to show that it comes from this article by A.S. Haley.
And the Georgetown Times has Historic church property goes to Anglican Mission.
The Living Church has S.C. Decision Could Have Far-Reaching Impact.
Still no report on the websites of the parish, the diocese, or AMiA. However, Episcopal News Service now has a report: SOUTH CAROLINA: State Supreme Court rules in long-running Pawley’s Island case by Mary Frances Schjonberg:
The South Carolina Supreme Court has overturned a lower court decision in favor of the minority of the members of the parish of All Saints, Waccamaw in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina who remained loyal to the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina.
The Supreme Court said in its September 18 opinion that the majority of the parish members could retain the parish’s property after they left the Episcopal Church and the diocese in 2003 to affiliate with the breakaway Anglican Mission in America (AMiA).
A statement issued by the Presiding Bishop’s office said that the opinion was “particularly disappointing in the light of the long struggle in which the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina have worked cooperatively to preserve the property of this parish for the mission of the church and the diocese.”
“Time has not permitted a careful analysis of the opinion or of the options that confront the church and the diocese at this point,” the statement said.
South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence said that “there’s a long wisdom of tradition in the scriptures, and counsel in the book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time to keep silent and a time to speak, and as picked up in the letter of James, where James says, ‘Know this my beloved brothers and sisters, let everyone be quick to hear and slow to speak.’ I believe this is such a time.”
Religious Intelligence US dioceses ‘free to secede’ by George Conger
he Sept 18 decision in the case of In Re: All Saints Parish, Waccamaw ends nine years of litigation over the mother church of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA), and is the second major legal defeat for the Episcopal Church in a week.
While the ruling only affects the state of South Carolina, the legal analysis the court used in rejecting the ‘Dennis Canon’ —- the 1979 property canon that states that parish property is held in trust by congregations for the diocese and national church —- will likely have an unfavourable impact upon the dozens of other pending parish property suits prosecuted by the Episcopal Church across the nation…