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Countersuit filed against Mark Lawrence in S.C.

Countersuit filed against Mark Lawrence in S.C.

From the Charleston Post & Courier:

The leader of the local Episcopal Church authority filed suit in federal court Tuesday against the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, bishop of the independent Diocese of South Carolina, in a counter-offensive meant to resolve an identity dispute.

The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, provisional bishop of the “continuing diocese,” which has temporarily adopted the name “The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,” is claiming that Lawrence, who left The Episcopal Church in October, is not authorized to use the diocese’s name and seal.

A similar argument was made by Lawrence and his independent diocese in January when a separate lawsuit was filed in South Carolina Circuit Court claiming ownership of the name, seal and property of the diocese and accusing The Episcopal Church of trying to “hijack” the buildings and diocesan identity. Judge Diane Goodstein of the 1st Judicial Circuit imposed a temporary injunction in January preventing the continuing diocese from using the name and marks of the independent diocese.

Read full story here.

Added: Here’s the link to the ENS report on vonRosenberg’s suit.

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.


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Roger Mortimer

South Carolina Episcopalians posts figures from the 2011 auditors’ report of the diocese which indicate that between 2011 and 2012, the value of the dioceses’ investments dropped from $4,679,830 to $3,617,214; its cash in hand grew from $60,231 to $796,562, and that where 2010 reported a return of $378,384 on investment (2009 an even stronger $755,403), 2011 saw a loss of $232,640 on assets sold.

SC Episcopalians take on this? “According to one person we consulted, ‘Looks like somebody was in one heck of a hurry to get their hands on some cash.'” – sidebar

Paul Powers

If the federal court in Charleston follows the example of the federal court in Fort Worth, where a similar suit for trademark infringement has been filed against Bishop Iker, it will stay the federal suit pending the outcome of the previously-filed state-court suit. 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).

Ronald Caldwell

The case of the schism in the Episcopal Church diocese of South Carolina is an ongoing train wreck. You know it is going to be awful but you can’t turn away. The grinding destruction continues.

The battle is far more complicated than it first appears. The Lawrence side is counting on the All Saints Waccamaw (Pawley’s Island) case to save them. State courts found the Dennis Canon invalid in SC and ruled in favor of the breakaway parish. The case never reached federal court. The Episcopal Diocese dropped the matter.Last month the Lawrence side chose to go to a state court to claim legitimacy and even got an injunction to stop TEC side from using the official titles.

VonRosenberg is going directly to federal court in Charleston claiming this is a matter of federal law as TEC is a national institution. He cites US laws and federal court rulings. On the whole federal courts favor national institutions. TEC has won many cases on the view that it is an hierarchical institution with power to control its own structure through its Constitution and Canons that are equally applicable to all dioceses.

There have been over 80 cases of breakaway groups around the country going to court seeking to keep the property. The only one that was finally ruled against the Episcopal Church entity was All Saints Waccamaw and that was by the SC state supreme court.

Since the final court in the land is a federal court (US Supreme Court) I should bet that TEC will prevail. Meanwhile what we have so far in SC is a battle of jurisdictions.

Christopher Johnson

If I were you guys, I would fight on some other ground, what with the SC courts declaring that the Dennis Canon was, indeed, dead in the Palmetto State. Just sayin’.

Roger Mortimer

Roger Mortimer. I signed in through my facebook account, which is in that name. No accounting, is there?

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