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SC judge denies motion to dismiss betterments claim against The Episcopal Church in South Carolina

SC judge denies motion to dismiss betterments claim against The Episcopal Church in South Carolina

Earlier this week, a South Carolina judge denied The Episcopal Church in South Carolina’s motion to dismiss a betterments case brought against them by breakaway churches who retain physical control of more than two dozen parishes embroiled in legal controversy.  In November 2017, the breakaway group filed a betterments claim, seeking compensation for improvements made to the properties in question. Betterments are defined as, “improvements to a property or to surrounding infrastructure, such as roads or sewers, that boost the value of a property.”  Betterments are not, by contrast, general maintenance that would be undertaken in the general care of property.

This denial of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina’s motion comes one week before they, in conjunction with The Episcopal Church, are set to begin mediation with the breakaway group, who retain the name The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina and are affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).  This is the most recent step in a drawn-out legal battle that dates back to late 2012 when the parishes left The Episcopal Church.

In a statement to the Sumter (SC) Item, Jim Lewis, Canon to the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, stated, “”From our perspective, it would mean, if we lost control of the property because of this trust interest, then The Episcopal Church doesn’t get all this property for free…They will have to pay for it in some fashion.”

In a post on the topic of Betterments payments, blogger Ronald James Caldwell noted that, although the exact dollar figure for these payments cannot be determined, some parishes listed hefty sums in the original lawsuit, including St. Luke’s, Hilton Head, who listed $7 million in their Betterment claim.  If The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and The Episcopal Church were made to pay the full amounts, it could easily total millions if not tens of millions of dollars.

Although the Betterments claim could potentially cost The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and The Episcopal Church a great deal of money, Caldwell is quick to point out that the good news is that, should they have to pay, it would be because they have regained physical control of the properties in question and ending a years-long property dispute.





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Christopher SEITZ

PS. From the Sumter newspaper,

“Official appraisals would be necessary to determine the current value of all the diocese’s parishes in question, the two rectors said, but the case has been referred to as a “$500 million lawsuit” by state media outlets.”

Christopher SEITZ

“…it could easily total millions if not tens of millions of dollars.”

There are 29 parishes. St Luke’s is one of the newer ones in terms of property. Consider St Helenas, or St Philips, or St Michaels. They all predate TEC. If 7M were to hold up as credible, multiply that by the entire number and we are closer to a quarter of a billion dollars and upwards.

One wonders whether the Judge is dangling this in the air prior to the mediation on purpose. “If you want the property, it will cost you a whopping sum.”

JoS. S. Laughon

Honestly once all the legal wrangling of separation is over, Anglicans and Episcopalians in America will be much happier to pursue their own course free of each other.

Christopher SEITZ

The irony is, of course, that they are doing that now in SC. The winnowing over liberal v conservative (or whatever terms you wish) has happened many years ago now. Even before Lawrence was in place, disgruntled liberals left parishes and set up fledging congregations of their own (there are several in Beaufort County alone). Parishes in the EDSC are carrying along as previously, albeit with big legal bills due to the suing for their property by TEC. We have a home in the Hilton Head area. St Luke’s and All Saints were both available for respective positions, long before Lawrence. Church of the Cross Bluffton is the largest parish in the diocese and doing well. Maybe by dangling the betterments in the air TEC will concede that taking over 28 parishes makes no sense, financially or rationally. To what end?

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