South Carolina Episcopalians Begin Process Toward Reconciliation

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The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) has begun working toward welcoming parishes back into the diocese and accounting for property following the Supreme Court’s declining to address the ongoing lawsuit between TECSC and a “breakaway” group of conservative Anglicans. (Read the Lead’s previous coverage here.) The first of these involves multiple conversations to be held around the diocese for those people in the 28 parishes affected by the SCOTUS non-decision.

“TECSC is offering the open conversations to provide information and answer questions for people whose churches are affected by recent court decisions giving control of the property of the Diocese of South Carolina and 28 parishes to The Episcopal Church and its recognized diocese, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.
 
“’We understand this is a time of great concern and confusion for people who care deeply about their faith communities,’ said the Right Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III, Bishop of TECSC. “We want to listen well and respond to their questions in order to offer a clear picture of how people can remain in their churches as part of The Episcopal Church.’”

There is a great deal of hope for these conversations to produce new life in the affected parishes. As expressed in the TECSC news blog entry quoted above, this marks the first step in a long process which will serve as a, “roadmap to reconciliation.” TECSC is the latest diocese which has had to discern the way forward following litigation over church property claimed by breakaway groups. It will be interesting to see how the precedents set in those other cases help to shape TECSC’s process.

TECSC has also asked a judge to order a full accounting of all assets held by the breakaway group:

The petition, filed July 10 with the Court of Common Pleas in the 1st Judicial Circuit, would affect the diocesan organizations and 29 parishes that the South Carolina Supreme Court decided in August 2017 must be returned to The Episcopal Church. All were plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in 2013 against The Episcopal Church and TECSC by the breakaway group led by Mark Lawrence.

The accounting would “allow this Court to equitably proceed in this matter” to restore property to The Episcopal Church and TECSC and compensate them for any loss in value of property since the split occurred in October 2012.

The case has been remitted to the 1st Circuit court so that the state Supreme Court’s decision can be executed. In May, The Episcopal Church and TECSC petitioned the court to implement the decision and appoint a judge called a “special master” to oversee the complex process of returning the property and assets.

The full text of the petition is online here.

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Fr. Will McQueenSR PriceMichael MorrisKurt HillJon White Recent comment authors

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SR Price
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SR Price

As a former Jr.Warden in a small parish charged with maintaining 2 old (historic?) buildings I can understand how regaining some of these properties is akin to winning the booby prize.However the Church must continue to assert it's rights to properties and other assets that are being held in trust for the benefit of the Episcopal Church.The question about the article I have is:Who is responsible for replacing those assets that were being held in trust for TEC in 2012 that are no longer there and were used for some other purpose than to benefit the Episcopal Church?

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Michael Morris
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Michael Morris

It seems most likely to me that “some” of these congregations will integrate back into the Episcopal Diocese, and do so quite well. “Some” will remain viable ACNA congregations, either purchasing their buildings or finding new ones.

Just what the hard numbers are that will replace all my uses of “some” in the statement above, only time will tell. I think that Professor Seitz is likely to be disappointed by the number that integrate and remain viable TEC congregations. I think Bishop Adams is likely to be disappointed by the number that don’t come back.

We are, however, at the point where the time of waiting is almost over. We will know how this all works out very quickly, I believe.

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Prof Christopher Seitz
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Prof Christopher Seitz

I have no interest in being disappointed or excited. Cynical or an enthusiast.

What I read here seems blinkered more than informed. I point that out when necessary so people are not misled.

Of the 28 parishes how many will leave EDSC *as parishes* and join TEC? I put it at under 10%... unless TECSC has something to give we have not seen.

I agree with others here that this entire business is costly and a 'TEC victory' is more likely to be phyrric and small than any other descriptor.

I also genuinely believe the TECSC statements are mostly public massaging efforts to appear generous after a terribly ugly season. After all, any true negotiation with teeth will be by definition private and sober minded. Surely no one doubts that.

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Jon White
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I'm not so cynical as C Seitz; I believe these are good faith efforts. Like Eric, I fear the properties themselves may be burdensome. I imagine an arrangement like Pittsburgh's might be helpful here if it turns out hearts are too hardened to move forward as part of TEC. The recalcitrance of the breakaway group's leadership doesn't bode well though, I fear.

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Prof Christopher Seitz
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Prof Christopher Seitz

I’d be very surprised if this goes anywhere. Perhaps it is meant to be good PR.

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Wayne Helmly
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Wayne Helmly

No sir, this is not just abut "good PR."

We genuinely wish to welcome our siblings in Christ back, if they desire to be with us.

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Prof Christopher Seitz
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Prof Christopher Seitz

I don’t doubt that.

But that does not change my point.

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Wayne Helmly
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Wayne Helmly

About, not abut. Sorry!

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Kenneth Knapp
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Kenneth Knapp

I will be interested in hearing the results of this endeavor. In the Diocese of Virginia we had seven congregations depart and it appears that five of them continue to operate as Anglican congregations (albeit in new worship spaces in most cases), and only three of the buildings are currently in use by Episcopal congregations (as near as I can tell). I don't have a dog in this fight, and I wish both sides well, but I suspect the Diocese of SC will have an easier time finding new worship spaces than TECSC will have in filling the pews.

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Eric Bonetti
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The irony is that, while I support the property recovery litigation, the properties themselves are largely white elephants. Yes, I can understand wanting the historic properties back, but they are hugely energy inefficient and wildly costly to operate. Or, as I quipped on more than one occasion, if we really wanted to be mean to the Anglican crowd, we should have given them several of the large, older properties.

That said, I hope both sides find peace and unity. The whole thing is regrettable and unseemly, even though I believe the courts ruled correctly.

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Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

I'm for keeping the historic properties (e.g., St. Michael's), but maybe we can sell some of the others to the schismatic congregations at a fair price. That way we could afford to operate the historic properties, like St. Philip's...

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