- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Bishop Mark Lawrence says he’s grateful a state judge has ruled that the Diocese of South Carolina and its parishes - not the national Episcopal Church - own the diocesan name, symbols and a half billion dollars in church property.

Lawrence told reporters Wednesday that he hopes now the diocese, which broke with national church in 2012 and is in the eastern part of the state, can move forward.

“I hope we may all move on with our God-given dreams and our God-given mission,” he said.

Late Tuesday, Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein, who presided at a three-week trial in Dorchester County last summer, ruled that diocese and its parishes own their real, personal and intellectual property.

The conservative diocese and more than half of its 70 congregations left the national church in 2012 amid differences over theological issues, among them the authority of Scripture and the ordination of gays. The diocese then sued to protect its identity and $500 million in church property.

The diocese, dating to 1785, was one of the original that came together to form the Episcopal church. Goodstein noted that while freedom of association is a fundamental right, “with the freedom to associate goes its corollary, the freedom to disassociate.”

But the diocese composed of parishes that remained with The Episcopal Church plans to appeal.

“The result of the recent trial was not unexpected,” Thomas Tisdale, the attorney for the diocese, said in a statement. He added that the “road ahead in the judicial system is clear to us.”

Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, the head of the diocese known as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, said the ruling is just one step on a long journey like those described in the Bible.

“Those journeys often were difficult and filled with setbacks, but people of faith were called to persevere on the way,” he said.

Lawrence said news of the appeal is “saddening but not surprising. We will move on with our mission and deal with that as it happens.”

But he said the dispute has had its impact.

Following the trial last year, vonRosenberg said he was praying for reconciliation after seeing two church groups lined up on opposite sides of a courtroom for weeks.

Lawrence said Wednesday that he was open to reconciliation as well.

“Let’s have the conversation,” he said. “If they would like to reconcile, the door is open. All they have to do is stop talking to us with lawyers and talk to us face to face.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide