Support the Café

Search our Site

South Carolina Federal district court rules against Episcopal Church

South Carolina Federal district court rules against Episcopal Church

U.S. District Court Judge C. Weston Houck today issued an order dismissing the federal lawsuit filed by the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg that seeks to keep Mark Lawrence from representing himself as the bishop of the diocese and using its name and marks. The judge ruled that the case should be decided on the state level.

Attorneys for the diocese are analyzing the ruling and a decision on whether to appeal it will be made in a few days.

A press release from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina says:

“While we are disappointed at the recent legal developments, we recognized that our journey involves many, many more steps than only this one,” Bishop vonRosenberg said. “We are involved for the long haul. And, as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, our mission most definitely will not be defined by court decisions and legal processes but, rather, by the call and direction of our Lord.”

VonRosenberg v. Lawrence was filed in March, asking the court to find that only Bishop vonRosenberg, as The Episcopal Church’s recognized bishop, should control the name and marks of the diocese. In a separate motion, Bishop vonRosenberg also asked the federal court to grant a preliminary injunction to stop Bishop Lawrence from using the name and marks of the diocese and from representing that his activities are associated with the diocese. Judge Houck’s order today denied that motion.

A separate case in South Carolina Circuit Court before Judge Diane S. Goodstein is currently proceeding with written discovery. No trial date is expected to be set before early 2014. That lawsuit was originally filed in January by former church leaders and some 34 parishes in eastern South Carolina who say they have “disassociated” from The Episcopal Church. It seeks control of the name, seal and properties of the diocese under state law that governs nonprofit corporations. The group continues to call itself “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina,” and recognizes Mark Lawrence as its bishop.

The Diocese filed the lawsuit after it dissociated from the Episcopal Church due to theological differences. Following the Diocese’s decision, 49 churches representing 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members confirmed their desire to remain with the Diocese of South Carolina, disassociating from The Episcopal Church.

Soon after the Diocese filed its suit, a South Carolina Circuit judge issued a temporary injunction against TEC and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC), the remnant group created following the Diocese’s disassociation from TEC.

The injunction stated that the remnant group may not claim to be the Diocese of South Carolina or use any of its registered names, marks or seal. The lawyers for TEC and ECSS consented to that injunction.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
J. W. McRee

Mr. Caldwell continues his spin. The TRO, now injunction, was issued by the court as the group meeting in special convention was purporting to be the Diocese of South Carolina which it was not.

The faction could incorporate under their current name. That would resolve the matter.

Leonardo Ricardo

Lot’s of time. All the time in Gods world…reality takes some getting used to.

Leonard Clark Beardsley


Ronald Caldwell

Let’s not exaggerate “rules against” here. Judge Houck simply deferred to the state court on the issue. He did not settle anything. Looking at the histories of the earlier four breakaway dioceses that had not gone so well for the secessionists, the Lawrence faction decided in advance to do things differently. Within a month of Bishop Lawrence’s removal (Dec. 5, 2012) from ministry in TEC and before the Episcopal Church diocese could get back on its feet, the Lawrenceites made a brilliant preemptive strike by hand-picking a state court and judge who immediately ruled in their favor and granted a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) against the Episcopal Church before the Episcopalians even met in their convention. Therefore, the Lawrenceites successfully established the agenda for adjudication and have controlled it ever since. So, Judge Houck, reasonable enough, was simply recognizing this fact. The state court suits will drag on for probably a year before trial, so we are in for many years of suits and appeals in SC. The best solution for all would be for the U.S. Supreme Court to speak on his issue, and sooner rather than later.

Dcn Scott Elliott

Last line should be “ECSC” not “ECSS”


Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café