Departing Diocese Sues Episcopal Church for Identity Protection
Updated (June 12): The legal dispute between South Carolina's Episcopalians involving church property and identity won't be heard in federal court after all. The Episcopal Church (TEC) sought to take the case to federal court on the basis of First Amendment issues raised. But Federal District Court Judge C. Weston Houck on June 10 ruled against TEC, returning the matter to state court for resolution.
According to The Diocese of South Carolina press office:
Jim Lewis, canon to Bishop Mark Lawrence, said, "The issues involved are essentially those of legal identity and are wholly determined by state law, so the most appropriate place to settle is clearly in state court, where we first took the matter." With the case remanded, it returns to the court of South Carolina Circuit Judge Dianne S. Goodstein. The diocese disassociated from the Episcopal Church after the denomination attempted to remove Bishop Lawrence. Following the Diocese's decision, 49 churches representing 80 percent of the Diocese's 30,000 members have confirmed their disassociation from TEC.
The position of TEC is that Bishop Lawrence no longer has authority to function as head of the diocese, ruling that he had abandoned the church. But Lawrence is seeking a court ruling to recognize his ecclesial authority as head of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.
Updated (Mar. 7): Associated Press reports that a federal lawsuit filed by Episcopal bishop Charles vonRosenberg, the newly elected bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, is asking the court to "declare he is the only bishop with authority to act in name of the Diocese of South Carolina."
The suit asks for "a preliminary injunction to stop Mark Lawrence ...