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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Dan Ennis
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Dan Ennis

As a TEC-in-SC layperson I attended one of the gatherings this week. The meeting was a mix of ACNA laypeople and clergy, and TEC laypeople and clergy.

There were some attendees whom we forget exist--individuals who do not frequent the Anglican/Episcopal blogosphere, and do not know much about ACNA, nor about the workings of TEC. Those folks ended up in an ACNA church not because of some theological conviction, but because that’s where the rector and the building went in 2012.

In many congregations the transition will be little different from getting a new rector. Worship and programming will continue in a recognizable fashion. Some folks will leave, others will stay.

I teased one old friend, who now attends an ACNA church, that in TEC we put the sodomy and heresy talk in the 11am service, so as he’s a dedicated 8am Rite-I fellow he’ll be fine. We shook on it.

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SR Price
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SR Price

I suspect you are right.I think a significant number have remained Episcopalians at heart will stay with the buildings.A quite similar scenario is currently playing out in the Diocese of Ft.Worth.ACNA is becoming more and more irrelevant

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Fr. Will McQueen
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Fr. Will McQueen

When the original split took place in 2012 and a number of congregations chose to remain in TEC, did those congregations pay anything to remain? I’m thinking of Grace Charleston, Holy Cross Faith Memorial, Holy Communion, etc. I’m thinking that the answer is no, Bp. Lawrence allowed them to go free and clear. It’s a shame that the reverse couldn’t happen here.

Let’s be totally honest here. Do you really think that some tremendous number of people have been waiting patiently at St. Philip’s, St. Michael’s, the Cathedral, St. Helena’s Beaufort, etc., to come back into TEC? The folk in those congregations wish to be separated from TEC and carry on within ACNA.

At the end of the day TEC is going to have buildings in the Low Country it cannot fill or pay for and will have to decide how long to keep those properties. Perhaps Skip Adams can do what he did in Binghamton in his new role in Charleston.

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Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

As I've said, 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...I think many Episcopalians feel similarly...

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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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