U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel has lifted a stay in a lawsuit over false-advertising and related claims against the bishop of a breakaway group that left The Episcopal Church in 2012, issuing a scheduling order for the trial to begin on or after September 1.
The case, known as vonRosenberg v. Lawrence, had been set for trial in March, but the judge issued a stay in August 2017, putting the proceedings on hold while the parties entered a mediation process. Bishop vonRosenberg retired in 2016, and his successor, Bishop Skip Adams, was added as a plaintiff in the case in 2017. The Episcopal Church joined the case as a plaintiff in August 2017.
Thomas S. Tisdale Jr., Chancellor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, said TECSC and The Episcopal Church remain hopeful that mediation efforts will be productive.
The lawsuit was filed in March 2013, a few months after Mark Lawrence and a breakaway group announced they were leaving The Episcopal Church. The suit involves a claim of false advertising under the federal Lanham Act. At that time, Bishop Charles vonRosenberg was the only bishop recognized by The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. By continuing to represent himself as bishop of the diocese, Mark Lawrence was committing false advertising, the lawsuit says.
The federal case is key to resolving trademark issues that were not addressed by the state courts in the lawsuit that the breakaway group, calling itself the “Diocese of South Carolina,” filed against The Episcopal Church and its local diocese in 2013. That case went to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which ruled August 2 in favor of The Episcopal Church and its diocese, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.
On February 9, the breakaway group petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a review of the state Supreme Court’s decision. TECSC and The Episcopal Church have received the petition and are reviewing it, said the Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III, Bishop of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.
“At the same time, we continue to work and pray in the hope of unity and reconciliation,” Bishop Adams said.