Friday, July 25, 2014

Official diocesan report on final day of South Carolina trial

ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 25, 2014 – On the 14th and final day of the trial of the Diocese of South Carolina vs. The Episcopal Church and its local subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina testified that, contrary to TEC’s allegations, he had tried to keep the diocese within the denomination.

The Right Rev. Mark J. Lawrence, 14th bishop of the Diocese of SC, whom TEC supporters have accused of plotting to lead the Diocese out of the denomination, was the only witness called during the final day of the trial. Diocesan attorneys asked him several questions about TEC’s authority and the process followed to punish him.

When asked if he had planned to lead the diocese out of TEC, he said, “Absolutely not.” He explained that no one had ever asked him to lead the diocese out and said it only decided to leave after TEC had taken steps to remove him as bishop – violating its own process for doing that.

The bishop also contradicted testimony from earlier in the week, in which TEC witnesses claimed that the denomination has supreme authority over its dioceses and congregations. The bishop said that he shared the opinion of 14 other bishops that TEC has no actual authority over its member dioceses.

Judge Diane S. Goodstein ended the 14th day of the trial saying she will decide the case later this year. At stake is the future of diocesan property, including its parishes. The diocese is trying to prevent TEC from seizing more than $500 million in property held by the diocese and those parishes that left the national church in 2012.

Diocese of Quincy wins over TEC

Ironically, as the South Carolina trial ended, today the Illinois Court of Appeals came out with an opinion in favor of the Diocese of Quincy (Ill.). The case was decided on neutral principles of law and the law determined the non-profit incorporated diocese can leave The Episcopal Church. The case in Quincy is almost identical to the one in South Carolina. The disassociated Diocese of Quincy had won its case, but TEC appealed, freezing the diocese’s bank accounts and other resources.