Breakaway SC Episcopal Diocese granted property/assets

This thread is a continuation of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina leaves the Episcopal Church first started in October 2012.

In 2012, the theologically conservative Diocese of South Carolina (which covers the eastern portion of the state) left the Episcopal Church over its increasing theological liberalism and the authoritarianism of the national leadership. Litigation over $500 million worth of property and assets began almost immediately.

The Episcopal Church claims that it is a “hierarchical church” and that dioceses cannot leave the national church. It also claims that diocesan and parish property is held in trust for the national church, which means that the property should revert to Episcopal Church control. The diocese claims that it is impossible for an organization to claim a trust on property it never owned.

This week, a South Carolina judge ruled in favor of the breakaway diocese. I find this case interesting because it shows the important differences between how the Episcopal Church is organized versus the Catholic Church. The Episcopal Church claims it is a hierarchical church, but, at least at the national level, it is not legally organized as one.

Some news articles on the decision:

Rift among Lowcountry Episcopalians widens as fight continues over properties, name

Breakaway Episcopal churches in South Carolina can keep property: judge

For those legal nerds interested in stuff like this, the judge’s ruling is here.

There are (many) other cases in which the ruling went the other way as well.

It is sad to me the only news printed, possibly because it’s the only news available, are negative stories or stories which speak of the brokenness of the once fine institution.

Sad also, that many Christians (myself included) tend to be more attracted to the political or ideological dynamics of these kinds of struggles, rather than committing time and attention to prayer, for the needs of all parts of Christendom.

And the judge’s ruling, all 54 pages of it, is quite fascinating. It accurately reflects the history and polity of the Episcopal Church in this country, for about the first time in these sorts of legal wranglings, and contrary to what had been asserted in many cases that went the other way. Since this is occurring in my backyard, I have followed with interest. One might also look at the analysis here:

accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/

If one were so inclined, of course.

One now awaits the inevitable and likely doomed appeals. But the gracious Katherine is not easily dissuaded. And her pockets are deep.

And (n.b.) the Episcopal Church is hierarchically organized. Up to the diocesan level, not above.

GKC

As somebody who is fairly new to attending an Anglican Parish in South Carolina, I found out very quickly, how deep the divisions within the Episcopal Church run in this state. It is sad, because there is so much good tradition and history with the Episcopal Church in this state.

Divisions in the Episcopal Church are deep across the country.

GKC

I understand, I was just speaking from a state level in SC, where I’m from.

Yep. I understand. I was speaking to the general populace around here.

I’m from SC too.

GKC

The pockets on that rainbow robe seem infinite. Religious, private, non-profit and political stripes – so many diverse shades of green.

What sort of pockets do the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans have on their robes? Could/can the greater Global South provide any stuffing for their purses?

I haven’t followed this topic as closely as I should. Especially considering how closely the Lutheran situation mirrors the Anglican one. :o

These disgusting lawsuits are one of the main reasons I have been giving less money and it is why I give more money when I know it is staying local. Some estimate that TEC has spent between 22-24 million on these lawsuits and these are conservative figures.

This actually reflects a more traditional form of polity. We are free to associate and dissociate, depending on the orthodoxy of the prelates whom we are under. Since the national body has embraced various false teachings and practices, the congregations are not only free to, but I would say, obliged under the law of God to dissociate from the national church and associate with orthodox bodies and bishops.

The Church of England vicar can bar a bishop from his church, if he sees fit. That was the legal arrangement prior to the Reformation, and the reason Rome could never claim the Protestants “stole” the English churches - rather, the clergy simply became Protestant and took their churches with them.

I suspect the Confessors are traveling on their own ticket.

GKC

Anglicans (I think) are influenced by their bishops in determining what is orthodox. The bishop teaches directly, and influences them and their perceptions in other ways. (Congregations are also influenced by scripture and tradition, but even that is mediated through their bishop, and the bench of bishops generally, as to which scriptures and tradition is relevant).
In your post you refer to Anglican congregations evaluating which bishops are orthodox, or not and use the *congregation’s evaluation- their perceptions * to associate or dissociate from a bishop, or even the national church if they - the congregation - deem it unorthodox.

How does the congregation evaluate the reliability of its own perception of orthodoxy? Normally they would consult with their local bishop, but that’s the guy whose orthodoxy they are evaluating, so his perceptions or feedback are of no value to the congregation. If I shop around till I find an adviser who tells me what I wanted to hear all along, how do I benefit from having an adviser? Why not omit having any adviser (or any bishop) at all? If our congregation has had an unorthodox bishop and/or national body helping shape us and our perceptions in recent years, that means our ability to assess orthodoxy quite probably is off kilter; bad bishops have weakened our ability to spot a bad or good bishop; or a good or bad pastor, or a good and bad congregation. Our perceptions are now flawed.

To me this process is circular reasoning. The logical conclusion would be either to eliminate the superflous function of the bishop, maybe even the pastor too since he may or may not be trustworthy; or else look for a Church - the Church - that has an authoritative structure for reliable orthodoxy.

What is happening to the episcopal church in America is very sad to watch.

Or, for some of those affected, to experience.

GKC

Yes. You are right. For those who remain that hold to tradition it must be a painful experience.

I am not so sure that this applies now: under canon law, all clergy are licensed by their bishops and archbishops (section C), all church property (including buildings) belongs to the church (section F), and I see nothing whereby a vicar could bar anyone from a church except B16, “Of notorious offenders not to be admitted to Holy Communion”, but that action must be referred to the bishop or archbishop.

It is not my branch of the Communion, and things feel different from a distance, but I would suggest that Anglican history says quite a lot about how bad it is to let ecclesiastical decisions be made by secular courts (not to mention 1Co 6:1, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?”).

Since the Communion as a whole recognises that it is a confederacy, a voluntary association of independent provinces, and since some provinces also recognise that they are associations of independent dioceses, the same ought to be able to apply within dioceses, or would that be just too baptist?

It would be quite in keeping with the Episcopal experience, as the SC court decision makes clear.

GKC

I was hoping for a comment on this.

GKC

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