Thinking Anglicans

South Carolina court declines to rehear church dispute

We reported in August that the South Carolina Supreme Court had reached a decision on the legal dispute concerning who was the lawful owner of church properties in the diocese of South Carolina.

The ACNA-affiliated diocese subsequently filed an appeal against this decision.

Now the court has rejected those claims.

The statement from the ACNA-affiliated diocese is here, and there is a letter from Bishop Mark Lawrence.

There is now also a press release from the TEC-affiliated diocese and a statement from Bishop Skip Adams over here.


  • CRS says:

    Candid judgments from two justices of the SC Supreme Court.

    Justice Kittredge: “For the purpose of resolving the rehearing petitions, I requested a fifth justice be appointed to fill the absence created by Justice Hearn’s recusal so that a full court could decide this matter of great importance. My request was rejected, which I find shocking. Under these circumstances, to disallow a full court from considering the rehearing petitions is deeply troubling and, in my opinion, raises constitutional implications as the Court has blocked a fair and meaningful merits review of the rehearing petitions.”

    Former Chief Justice Jean Toal: “…the Court’s collective opinion in this case gives rise to great uncertainty, in that we have given little to no coherent guidance in this case or in church property disputes going forward. Given our lack of agreement, I have no doubt the court will see more litigation involving these issues and similarly situated parties.”

  • James Byron says:

    Secessionist episcopalians want it both ways: shocked, I do declare!

    Congregations are only losing property ’cause they chose to leave the church to which it belongs. If they want to keep their buildings, all they must do is reaffirm their commitment to TEC.

    Leaving on grounds of conscience I respect, even though I disagree with those grounds; demanding you be allowed to take the family silver along for the ride does, however, tarnish things somewhat.

  • Andrew Godsall says:

    Interesting to note another side to this from that which Christopher Seitz presents:

    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.

    Bishop Adams also characteristically responded well:

    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.

    Let’s hope they can all draw a line under it.

  • These cases of litigation across the pond make it all the more important that progressive Christians in the Church of England ‘dig in’ and don’t run. The churches of our country – the fabric, the halls, and their place in our communities – belong to The Church of England. And, as an established Church, to the nation as well. They should never be sliced off from the demesne by dissenters who choose to defy the authority of the Church, set up their own bishops etc.

    That being so, if conservative Anglicans in England threaten to leave, to ‘not walk with’, the rest of the Church – and insist their way is the only way, and cannot stomach other people’s integrities and consciences – then it should be made very clear that in the vast majority of cases, opting to do so would mean finding new premises.

    We owe this to ALL the people of our nation in all our future generations to come: ALL meaning LGBTI people as well.

    Like James Byron, I am astonished that ACNA churches ever imagined they could do schism, AND take the properties too. That said, I don’t know enough about the U.S. scenario, but in England, thousands of churches across the land belong, not to schismatics, but to the present and future communities, and the society at large, which has chosen to walk more generous ways with LGBT+ people. Or rather, to stand up for justice, dignity, inclusion and respect.

    If progressive Christians bale out (and I’ve heard that suggestion here at Thinking Anglicans) then basically you are ceding the heart of our national church fabric and framework to Christians who would perpetually deny lesbian and gay people the right to marry in church. In so doing, the Church would be even more alienated from the communities they live amidst.

    Jesmond may be a test case. I don’t know what decisions will be taken about that. If people want to stay in the Church of England, at the very least, they need to accept and agree to a multiple integrities model. If it’s ‘my way or the highway’, then you’re trying to dominate other people’s consciences. So then you may take the highway, but not the buildings of the organisation you choose to spurn.

  • CRS says:

    I am in SC on holiday and worshipped at Church of the Cross, Bluffton yeasterday. Packed out. Superb preaching and pastoral care from their rector of 22 years. Thanksgiving anf pledge Sunday. Hard to find a parking spot. He will be without a pay check. The personal property and checkbooks will be seized. This will happen across the diocese, for families whose families have worshipped at these parishes back into the 18th century.

    So it will be a very disruptive and tragic outcome. I am glad that I have retired from TEC. My bothers will shortly retire as well.

    The obvious practical question. The parishioners at Church of the Cross will leave the church property. They will worship en masse elsewhere. Neighboring churches will take them in pro temp. Multiply that by a factor of 30. The idea of handing SC property over to 815 NYC will strike local people as without any logic, and given that the strife and conflict got doubled down, the notion of reconciliation in some form very difficult to imagine. All very tragic. I wonder how clergy with 25-30 years ahead of them will survive, as rectories are emptied. I guess we will learn the timeframe shortly. The divided court itself will take time for return to personal goodwill, given the very diverse arguments and the dragging out of this.

  • CRS says:

    Justice Toal believes the Diocese legal team should have demanded the recusal of the TEC Justice and not expected that she would recuse herself given her and her husband’s investments in the progressive cause.

    When as a diocese, in orderly convention, the Diocese of SC voted—overwhelmingly—to maintain its identity vis-à-vis 2012 General Convention trends, it allowed parishes who felt otherwise to keep their properties. They did this even as they believed the properties belonged to the diocese.
    Those parishes could have created a new diocese (The Episcopal Diocese of Lowcountry SC) or merged with the Upper Diocese of SC.

    All of this would have avoided massive millions in litigation and preserved the peace. This is precisely the course taken by other mainline churches in conflict.

  • Jeremy says:

    Now the mediation can proceed without any illusion as to the outcome in state court.

    As for the Supreme Court of the United States, let’s just say that the breakaways’ chances there are slim to nonexistent.

    From that court’s website: “The Court receives approximately 7,000-8,000 petitions for a writ of certiorari each Term. The Court grants and hears oral argument in about 80 cases.”

  • Cynthia says:

    Susannah, the fact that CoE is the established church, and the US has no established church, makes the picture rather different when it comes to schism and property. I can’t imagine CoE conservatives winning anything in court when their discriminatory position is so antithetical to the law of the land.

    TEC made a generous offer to the schismatics in SC. SC rejected it and SC initiated the lawsuit. Now TEC’s bishop continues to seek reconciliation, while the schismatics want to take it to the Supreme Court of the US.

    The big picture plan was for ACNA to replace TEC, a letter to that effect was found and published some time ago. It’s failed. Again, this couldn’t happen in CoE. (As an aside, I’ll mention that ACNA is hung up on WO right now.)

    This leaves CoE factions battling it out within the church. This is the only place where a TEC solution could work, we have liberal national policies, but allow parishes to call their rectors and dioceses to elect their bishops and this leaves room for a broad range of views, without a lot of opportunity to oppress others. Obviously, CoE chooses leadership a different way, but the concept of diversity at the regional level with egalitarian policies at the top (that match the law of the land) might actually work. The “unaccepting evangelicals” are dubious about bishops anyways, along with the apostolic succession and sacraments that come with bishops. The “unaccepting Anglo-Catholics” would likely have a sympathetic parish in each city, where people have more options for worship. There is a way for diversity to co-exist. Folks have to give up on the idea of being empowered to oppress others. That is at the heart of SC and the issues in CoE.

  • CRS says:

    “Now the mediation can proceed without any illusion as to the outcome in state court.”

    I am curious what you believe is to be mediated?

    The TEC entity in SC won. There is nothing to be mediated.

    If you are suggesting that TEC ought to think about some kind of reasonable alternative so as to avoid carrying these empty churches, one can only agree. But I have seen nothing along these lines in the public arena.

    As for US Supreme Court review you are generally correct. At issue for the Supreme Court is whether individual states can hold contradictary views (Illinois and Texas and a divided SC versus VA and CA etc). I would be loathe to speculate what might end up being heard, though I have not seen anyone claiming EDSC is banking on this.

  • Cynthia says:

    You paint a grim picture, CRS. TEC made an offer for the schismatics to keep the property, and they rejected it. It was an irresponsible gamble. However, given Skip Adams’ statement, I don’t believe they are about to throw the schismatics out of their churches. I assure you that I would be up-in-arms if they proposed kicking everyone out. I bet my LGBT sisters and brothers would join me. No one wants the pain and gnashing of teeth that the schismatics caused the continuing Episcopalians in SC.

    They just need to sit down and work it out like adults, as TEC offered at the beginning… and still offers. I hope that the schismatics will consult with their parishes in a more democratic fashion than some have in the past.

  • Andrew Godsall says:

    Christopher: I’m glad to see that the TEC bishop of the diocese speaks of the hard work of reconciliation needed and extremely sorry to see that you can’t join with that. Even sadder that Mark Lawrence shows so little peace and reconciliation in himself.

  • James Byron says:

    “He will be without a pay check. The personal property and checkbooks will be seized.”

    Er, no, they won’t be “seized,” CRS: he chose to leave them behind when he quit TEC. When a person quits their job, are their desk and paycheck likewise “seized”? I think not.

    All he, and his congregation, need do to keep it all is to reaffirm their commitment to the church that their predecessors have been part of since the 18th century. The property isn’t theirs: it’s TEC’s, held in trust for a time, and intended to be passed on to future generations.

    They’ve brought all this on themselves, and it’s in their power to change course. If they feel unable to, well, their choice.

  • I agree with James Byron. If you spurn the organisation you belong to, fair enough, life is full of choices, but then you need to take personal responsibility for your choices and actions. If I worked for a distribution company and refused to accept the authority of my managers, would I be allowed to take the company’s truck and use it to run my own distribution company? If you quit a company or organisation, what do you expect? The real question, perhaps, is whether ACNA leaders acted with due diligence and care in the best interests of their parishioners. Perhaps they need to acknowledge the consequences of their actions, instead of blaming others, and take responsibility for their choices. “You’re losing your traditional church property because we, the leaders who led you out of the TEC on doctrinal grounds into the wilderness, have alienated you all from your traditional Church and its properties.” You quit an organisation, you take personal responsibility for what that means. If I quit a job, quit a company, I have to find a new job, a new place to work. The world doesn’t owe me a living. To draw on the trucking company analogy again, I can’t expect to take a fleet of trucks with me. I have to start afresh.

    And that’s a decision anyone is entitled to take. They just need to take responsibility for everything that entails.

  • badman says:

    Part of the problem is that ACNA supporters include lawyers like A S Haley a.k.a. the Anglican Curmudgeon who have confidently and wrongly predicted victory at every turn. Haley is never humbled when his predictions are wrong; instead, he says the judges are wrong. But when the judges always disagree with you, and the judges are the arbiters of the cases and the law, you really should question whether, just possibly, you were wrong.

    The congregations were told they could have their cake and eat it. It turns out they could not. I suspect that, even if it had been made clear to them that leaving TEC meant leaving their existing buildings, they might have made the same decisions, but we will never know.

  • James Byron says:

    The legal shenanigans are something to behold, with demands that a SC Supreme Court justice recuse herself, followed by demands that SCOTUS step in. Anyone could’ve told ’em that judges, as a rule, are loathed to recuse themselves, even when there’s much stronger claims than exist here; and SCOTUS have one or two other things to do with their time.

    This could’ve been an example of grace, with the congregations leaving their buildings with a heavy heart, and wishing their successors the best. Such would’ve impressed many who disagreed with ’em, perhaps even persuaded some in TEC to look at ways that’d make ’em feel able to come back.

    Instead, a squalid legal brawl, which they lost anyway. What a waste.

  • Broad Churchman says:

    Terms such as “schismatics” and “curmudgeon” are quite out of place in this discussion and reflect rather poorly on those who use them. And British observers who comment on these matters should at least learn a little more about the very different character of the US Episcopal Church to that of the C.of E. Many comments beg the question – i.e. assume that this is a case of dissidents seeking to take the property of the Episcopal Church with them whereas this is the issue of the debate. I think those “dissidents” see it rather as their Dioceses (South Carolina – Fort Worth another) ending their association with the Protestant Episcopal Church (TEC) – though I hope not permanently, not ceasing to be those Dioceses. Perhaps there is some parallel with the English Provinces of Canterbury and York separating from Rome some time ago.

    For anyone who has known the vitality of the our Church in South Carolina let alone the beauty of such historic Charleston churches as S.Michael’s and S.Philip’s (crowded when I have attended them), this is a very sad story. I think it is clear that the majority of the people of those churches agree with their dissociation with an Episcopal Church that – in some places, not all but especially at the top – has become too one-eyed and intolerant. I am not a fundamentalist nor an “evangelical” but I am glad that my Diocese of Sydney is in communion with the Churches of the ACNA “federation” (?) as well as in communion with Canterbury and that so too are many of the largest and most lively Churches in the Anglican world.

  • As CRS’s own comment (11/20 @ 8:49) makes clear, the schismatics wanted to take the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church. Any parishes that chose not to leave could affiliate with other already extant loyal TEC dioceses. In other words, there was no room for coexistence; the schisimatics wanted not just to leave but to prevent TEC from rebuilding in South Carolina. To not just leave, but to leave a gaping wound behind them.

    It’s hard to sympathize with them, especially as they turned down an offer to keep most of the property in order to do the maximum damage to the Church from which they wished to leave.

  • CRS says:

    Now we have clergy who work for CEO 815 second avenue and parishioners who have built, maintained, and own their property — told by bloggers here their property belongs to an out of state unincorporated NY entity “the domestic and foreign missionary society.”

    I don’t believe members of the CofE who comment here understand the polity of TEC. Dioceses own property, not a national church. See the recent rulings in CA in the Diocese of LA. +Bruno could not be halted in his property negotiations.

    Incidentally, the SCSC did not give the name and seal of the EDSC away, as that vote did not achieve a majority. The federal suit is also still pending.

    The original ‘reconciliation’ offer entailed giving away the title and identity. The suits to gain these have been launched by TEC.

    An obvious reconciliation would be to let EDSC maintain its historic entity, drop the suits, and ask EDSC to give the Seabrook Island property to TEC. Let the few parishes that EDSC allowed to keep their property reorganise into a new diocese. What is the possible downside?

    The Seabrook Island property where the camp was is very nice and can be sold to a developer for a nice sum.

  • badman says:

    Broad Churchman, just to be clear: Anglican Curmudgeon is what A S Haley calls himself on his website. No-one on this thread is using curmudgeon as a term of abuse or disrespect.

    When you say “Many comments beg the question – i.e. assume that this is a case of dissidents seeking to take the property of the Episcopal Church with them whereas this is the issue of the debate” you need to take account of the fact that this issue has been decided, repeatedly, by relevant US courts in favour of the interpretation, in law, that the dissidents are not entitled to take the property of the Episcopal Church with them. When an issue has been finally determined, it is no longer, really, in issue.

  • James Byron says:

    “Dioceses own property, not a national church.”

    That’ll be why the breakaway dioceses have won all their lawsuits over the years, won’t it, CRS? Oh, wait.

    Been following this for a decade now. Like plenty courts, I’ve never been persuaded that secessionist dioceses have a right to walk away with real estate acquired when they were members of TEC.

  • CRS says:

    JB–what do you mean, exactly?

    Do a title search. You will see who owns the property. It isn’t 815 or a ‘National Church.’ This is where, as Broad Church remains, TEC isn’t the CofE.

    You must be assuming an ‘accession clause’ functions to convey property. It does not. Justice Blackmun explicitly said that this would rquire an express trust. Try to get that passed at GC! Liberals would object. See the recent moves of +LA to convery property without let or hindrance.

    And of course this is why Texas SC and Illinois ruled against TEC in its claims re: accession clause.

    Do you know anything about TEC polity?

  • CRS says:

    After the most recent Texas Supreme Court decision, Presbyterians all over the state decided to leave with their properties. Simple parish vote. One might have hoped TEC would be as reasonable.

    Which is of course, JB, why your claims about leaving are just false. The Diocese of Springfield could leave anytime it wanted.

    The point is that this is a state by state matter. And in SC, we now have a bizarre 2-2 split court.

  • Jeremy says:

    “assume that this is a case of dissidents seeking to take the property of the Episcopal Church with them whereas this is the issue of the debate”


    I would have thought it would be difficult to argue that a question is being begged, when the Supreme Court of South Carolina has now answered that very question. Not once, but twice.

    But the propaganda continues. Often coming from those who encouraged secession in the first place.

    Fool me once….

  • Well, I know the word “schismatic” is harsh, but those who were ordained and who are, quite literally tearing apart the Episcopal Church after having “solemnly engage[d] to conform to the doctrine,
    discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church” (1979 BCP, p. 513 (bishops) 526 (priests) leave little alternative. Indeed, a bishop is especially “called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the
    Church,” by which is clearly meant the Episcopal Church. (BCP, p. 517). They no doubt feel a moral imperative to act as they have, but they have set aside their solemn engagements and divided the Church to serve that moral imperative.

    As to A.S. Haley, I think he has ably represented his clients, poor though their legal case is, in my opinion. (Yes, I’m a lawyer.) Despite the simplicity of the Supreme Court’s decision in Jones v. Wolf, he has succeeded in persuading state courts to go beyond the Dennis Canon, taken straight from Jones, and apply state law–albeit with results on the whole consistent with Jones. But a state Supreme Court’s reluctance to risk a constitutional showdown that could impact their property laws, where stability is especially important quite properly imposed on Haley and his fellow counsel a heavy burden.

  • Andrew Godsall says:

    “Perhaps there is some parallel with the English Provinces of Canterbury and York separating from Rome some time ago.”

    I don’t think that’s a parallel at all. It’s much more like the Methodists separating from the C of E. And they didn’t take any buildings with them.

    Broad Churchman – if they are not schismatics, what are they? I bet they are also sorry they hitched themselves to ACNA, now in disarray over the ordination of women. The whole thing is a mess and the only people who seem to come out well are the real diocese of South Carolina and their gracious bishop.

  • Jo says:

    I rather think that schismatic is as schismatic does: if you hold a vote and decide to separate yourself from the rest of the church then, guess what? You’re schismatic. If you don’t like being called schismatic then don’t enact a schism.

  • Pat O'Neill says:


    How does a diocese have the right to continue to call itself “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina” when it has severed all ties with The Episcopal Church?

    How do its churches continue to designate themselves as “Episcopal” (capital letter, not lower-case) in that circumstance?

    And, finally, if that diocese and those parishes operated under the canons of The Episcopal Church, after those canons were amended to give title to real property to the national church, held in trust by the local parish and diocese; if those parishes and diocese elected delegates to General Convention and those delegates voted in GC as duly authorized representatives of that diocese, thus acknowledging that they were indeed accepting of the amended canons; how can they now claim that those canons have no hold on them? Yes, they had a historical argument…but they abandoned that argument when continued to operate under the amended canons. The time to separate was when the amended canons were adopted, not when they took offense to the changing doctrine of the national church as to sex and gender.

    One last question: Is the issue really property? Or is it sex and gender and, I hesitate to add, race?

  • Cynthia says:

    Broad Churchman, schismatics is absolutely spot on. They initiated schism from TEC, and tried to take the property with them. Can a pro-gay church in Sydney break off from the Anglican Church of Australia, start marrying gay people, and keep the property?

    I’m all for reconciliation, but ACNA is not going to become the official Anglican Church in the US and Canada, and that was an element in this sorry episode. TEC maintains a hope of reconciliation over the properties, the original offer was generous, and it can be worked out. But they are schismatic.

    CRS, I don’t know what the settlement will look like, but I hope it is generous and cordial and involves lots of lay people. My problem with “homophobes” is that I don’t want them having power over me, but I want them in the loving family of God just like everyone else. I want forgiveness and reconciliation and wholeness and for everyone to thrive. So I hope that all of the characters can move forward with that sort of heart.

  • TBDB says:

    First time caller. I’ve practiced law in SC for 35 years. Criticism of Justice Kay Hearn in this matter is unwarranted, in my opinion. If that’s your cup of tea, however, I invite you to read the vitriol and innuendo masquerading as legal memoranda regarding the question of recusal. If you want to be saddened by what we can do to each other as Christians with the written word, that’s an excellent starting point.

    Anyway, I served on my parish vestry at the time of Gene Robinson’s consecration, with its attendant intra-parish battle and the resulting damage to more than several close friendships. Members of my family, including clergy, are deeply involved with both sides (I hate to characterize it as such, but there it is)of this matter. Our family Thanksgiving gathering and meal on Thursday will be, I hope, a time for charity, understanding and respect. While I personally believe the outcome of the case is the correct, albeit messy, result (based on my reading of the law, not the prophets) at least five close relatives gathered around the table will be heartbroken–and scared– regardless. Perhaps I’m wrong, Mr. Seitz, but I have profound doubts that clergy are going to be cast into the streets and rendered homeless by Bishop Skip Adams. Or PB Curry, for that matter. Such an outcome would certainly further shake my faith. Everyone down here could use a lot more light and a lot less heat. Pray for us.

  • CRS needs to note the opinion of a long-ago cleric:
    “Schism is a very horrid thing”.

    And those who resort to it have only themselves to blame. Members of the C. of E. who contemplate changing your allegiance to A.M.i.E., take heed to what is going on in the U.S.A. and think again. You cannot take the parish churches with you!

  • James Byron says:

    “Do you know anything about TEC polity?”

    About as much as the SC opinion linked above, CRS: “The finding that TEC is hierarchal requires that I defer to its highest ecclesiastical body.” (P.18)

    Your extreme confidence in the correctness of your opinion is an odd fit with the court judgments reaching the opposite conclusion, including this one. If I’m wrong, well fine: I’m in fair company.

  • Dan Ennis says:

    CSR writes, “Now we have clergy who work for CEO 815 second avenue and parishioners who have built, maintained, and own their property — told by bloggers here their property belongs to an out of state unincorporated NY entity “the domestic and foreign missionary society.”

    This is a parroting of the rhetoric from the Mark Lawrence camp: TEC –a NEW YORK corporation — is taking the property of South Carolinians. It ignores the many South Carolinians who wanted to stay with TEC and were left without a church home when Mark Lawrence made his move. These Episcopalians are an inconvenient factor for the breakaway diocese, since their existence puts the lie to Lawrence’s 2012 claim that his diocese was unified in its desire to leave TEC. It stirs the Lawrencites up to imagine that evil apostates from some faceless New York corporation will come down and desecrate these properties, but the truth is more mundane. South Carolina Episcopalians will worship in some of those those spaces. Pending a settlement, Mark Lawrence folks will worship in others. The Lawrence side has been trading in apocalyptic language for so long they will struggle to compromise, but when they do, there will be churches enough for both sides. Making 815 some kind of foreign boogeyman was just an attempt to raise cash for the legal fees. It is silly posturing now.

  • Kate says:

    Both sides have apparently approached this on the basis of “What is best for us? What do we understand our legal position to be?” rather than “What approach best serves the Lord our God?”

    We read the same here with people suggesting that progressives should stand firm because successionist conservatives should leave with nothing. How does that attitude edify the Lord? How does disassociating a congregation from its traditional place of worship praise the Lord?

    I strongly disagree with the schismatic conservatives in South Carolina and in England but, for me, attempting to force a congregation to abandon its traditional place of worship is judgement, not disagreement. I might passionately disagree with their views and work to change their beliefs, but, nonetheless they are worshipping the Lord our God according to their consciences and I would feel obligated to support them in that worship – while doing everything to block them imposing their harmful teaching on others.

  • Andrew Godsall says:

    And now yet more silly posturing and waste of money by Mark Lawrence.

  • CRS,

    You might want to leave the law to lawyers. In Jones v. Wolf, Justice Blackmun wrote, immediately after the passage to which you refer, that “[a]lternatively, the constitution of the general church can be made to recite an express trust in favor of the denominational church. The burden involved in taking such steps will be minimal. And the civil courts will be bound to give effect to the result indicated by the parties, provided it is embodied in some legally cognizable form.” 434 US 595, 606 (1979).

    This latter option is, of course, just what TEC did in the Dennis Canon. That some state courts have been reluctant to simply apply it is a reflection of their reluctance to accede to the Supreme Court’s insertion into their state’s property law of a new way of creating a trust, not of the clarity of the decision, which is why these cases are largely going TEC’s way, sometimes by using the Dennis Canon as evidence of a trust under the state’s own trust analysis, without directly applying it.

    These cases stand at the crux of property law and the First Amendment, which explains some of the difficulties advocates and judges have with them.

  • Jeremy says:

    “Several congregations have already voted affirmatively to join in this petition.”

    Only “several,” eh?

    Perhaps some parishes are starting to wonder whether they should continue to throw good money after bad….

  • Jo says:

    Kate: it’s worth noting that TEC declining to allow the schismatics to appropriate church property, intended for the worship of God according the the traditions of that church, doesn’t in any way prevent amicable agreements being reached on shared use of the buildings by both the schismatics and the congregations they left behind, or indeed letting agreements where the entirety of the previous congregation has left. If you’re following your conscience out the door then that will have consequences. Others have done it in the past in different contexts (the Disruption in the Church of Scotland is an interesting example; where the Free Church ministers quickly had to find new Kirks, Manses and stipends after leaving the CofS in protest at the process for appointing ministers).

  • CRS says:

    “…the constitution of the general church can be made to recite an express trust in favor of the denominational church.”

    This advice is precisely what TEC did not follow. There has never been a change in the Constitution of TEC. GC would never attempt it as it would fail.

    You seem to think that an accession clause is an express trust. Blackmun warned that that would not work. Courts in TX and Il agreed with him.

    There are also a good number of liberal dioceses that have no accession clause, to further complicate your presumption.

  • Cynthia says:

    Kate, no one is talking about throwing people out of parishes, except for CRS, who is saying this despite the writings of TEC leadership and previous generous proposals. I’ll mention, however, that the schismatics left loyal Episcopalians with nowhere to go. They got creative and continued… TEC has been talking about reconciliation and working out property issues that would serve both sets of people. Alas, the schismatic leadership has been absolutely unwilling to “compromise.”

    Yes, it’s been announced, the schismatics are going to try to take their case to the US Supreme Court. Clearly, that decision was taken very, very swiftly. There’s no way that they had time to meet and deliberate with their parishioners, there hasn’t even been a Sunday since the ruling, and this week is one of our big holidays, Thanksgiving, ironically enough.

    So it continues. A drawn-out, costly, and bitter fight because one group of people got upset because the mind of the church in TEC is that they could no longer assault my dignity in the name of God. I wish them well, but I don’t wish them to have any power over me or my LGBTQI sisters and brothers.

    It’s a power play by people whose Faith isn’t strong enough to let God do the sorting…

  • CRS,

    If you think that under Jones that the difference between the authoritative nature of the “constitution” of a church and its “canons” is one which secular courts are permitted to parse in order to disregard the latter in a neutral principles analysis, then you simply do not understand the decision.

    Leave the law to the lawyers.

  • dr.primrose says:

    In addition to their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, the schismatics have also filed a new lawsuit against TEC and the TEC-affiliated diocese seeking damages for the value of all improvements to the churches that the courts have found belong to TEC and the TEC-affiliated diocese. The complaint can be found at

    Episcopal Cafe has said that the value of the property sought is for improvements made during the time that the schismatics controlled the properties. It’s not completely clear, but I think the schismatics are asking for the value of all improvements to the properties, no matter when constructed.

    I guess the strategy is essentially, if after years of litigation that you lose, you just file another lawsuit so the fight (and lack of reconciliation) can continue for another decade or so.

  • CRS says:

    Dear John

    Have a happy US Thanksgiving.

    Lawyering lawyers have had the good judgment to distinguish between an ‘accession clause’ and an ‘express trust,’ and they have done resoundingly so in the most recent cases.

    Thank God for the sober words of Justice Blackmun, which you have so usefully cited here.

  • Dear CRS,

    Thank you for the good wishes. I hope your Thanksgiving was a happy one.

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