Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day 6: Testimony shows Bishop Lawrence tried to keep diocese in the denomination, used “Intact and In TEC” as a slogan

Bishop Lawrence
ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 15, 2014 –Countering Episcopal Church allegations that Bishop Mark Lawrence engineered the Diocese of South Carolina’s withdrawal from The Episcopal Church (TEC), a witness for the denomination on Tuesday acknowledged that the bishop was committed to remaining part of the denomination.

The Rev. Marshall Dow Sanderson of Holy Communion, Charleston, was called by TEC during the trial to protect the property of the diocese and its parishes from seizure by the national denomination. However, on cross examination, Sanderson admitted that Bishop Lawrence consistently sought to keep the Diocese intact within the national church before TEC attempted to remove him. He testified that, during a meeting of the clergy in 2009, Lawrence went so far as to coin the phrase “Intact and In TEC”.

TEC has repeatedly suggested that Lawrence had engineered the diocese’s withdrawal from the denomination over several years, conspiring with members of the clergy to separate from the national church. However, the “Intact and In TEC” slogan was used by Lawrence until the national church tried to remove him in 2012 – as he was still trying to work out differences between the Diocese and the denomination.

The diocese completed its arguments on Tuesday and TEC and its local subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) began to present its case.

They called Armand Derfner as an expert witness on constitutional law to instruct the court on how it should apply the law. South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein, who is presiding over the trial, quickly reminded Derfner that she was the one sitting on the bench. She limited Derfner’s testimony to four points on how civil issues and religious issues should be treated the same in court.

Goodstein also disallowed most of the testimony by Warren Mersereau who had been a member of Church of Our Savior, Seabrook, then became a member of St. Stephens Episcopal Church, Charleston. Mersereau’s testimony reflected the opinions of a disgruntled witness and had no bearing on the corporate issue being decided by the court.

Earlier in the day, the Diocese reinforced the fact that it and its parishes predate TEC. Myron Harrington, Jr., witness called from St. Philips in Charleston, spoke about the history of his church, one of the oldest continually operated churches in the United States. He explained that his church was founded in 1680 as the Protestant Episcopal Church of St. Philips in Charleston and was moved to its current location at 142 Church Street in 1723 – nearly 70 years before TEC was created.

Harrington, a decorated veteran of the U.S. Marines, spoke about his parish’s growth to 2,500 members and its acquisition of real estate around the church. Today, St. Philips owns approximately a square block of land in Charleston. The parish grounds include two cemeteries, a parking lot, parish hall and Sunday school, as well as a separate ministries hall and a tea garden.

Harrington’s testimony again demonstrated that the diocese and its parishes existed independent of TEC before the denomination’s founding – and has grown since then without TEC’s support.

The judge adjourned the day and informed both Plaintiff and Defendants that she would possibly extend the trial through next week.

During the morning, the court heard testimony from witnesses representing Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant; St. John’s, Johns Island; Holy Trinity, Charleston; Old St. Andrew’s, Charleston; St. Philip’s, Charleston, and Trinity, Edisto.