Diocese of SC Issues Quitclaim Deeds to Parishes
November 23, 2011

Georgia Supreme Court upholds The Episcopal Church property rights 6-1

In This Issue:
S.C. Episcopal Diocese releases property claim
South Carolina bishop investigated on charges he has abandoned the Episcopal Church
South Carolina Episcopalians - FAQ
Georgia Supreme Court upholds property ruling
AP - SC bishop being investigated amid Episcopal schism
Join The Episcopal Forum
Contact Info
S.C. Episcopal Diocese releases property claim
BY ADAM PARKER (Post & Courier)
Monday, November 21, 2011

The distance between The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina widened last week when the diocese relinquished its legal oversight of all church property, sending what’s called a quitclaim deed to each parish.

The move merely formalizes an arrangement already in place, according to Bishop Mark Lawrence. “A quitclaim deed isn’t giving someone something they don’t have if they already own the deed,” he said.

Some observers say the move could heighten the risk of litigation or other challenges by national church authorities and provide additional evidence to a disciplinary committee now evaluating allegations that Lawrence has abandoned his responsibilities.

“This kind of action, along with participating in the conventions that severed legal ties to the national church, I think those are real problems,” said Melinda Lucka, an attorney critical of recent diocese actions. “On a diocesan level, this further opens the door to parishes that are considering leaving the Episcopal Church.” ..........

Barbara Mann, chairwoman of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, a group loyal to the national church, said this latest move could influence the board’s evaluation.

“I think this is going to be perhaps the deciding point,” Mann said. “If (Lawrence) says The Episcopal Church doesn’t belong in South Carolina at all, then he is abandoning The Episcopal Church.”...............

Link to P&C article

South Carolina bishop investigated on charges he has abandoned the Episcopal Church
By Mary Frances Schjonberg, Episcopal news Service ENS)October 05, 2011

Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence told his diocese Oct. 5 that "serious charges" have been made that he has abandoned the Episcopal Church.

The allegations are being investigated by the church's Disciplinary Board for Bishops. Communicants in the Diocese of South Carolina filed the information with the board, according to the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, board president. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the House of Bishops were not involved in making the claims, Henderson said in a fact sheet.

"Therefore, the matter is not being handled by the Presiding Bishop's office or anyone in the employ of the Episcopal Church Center," Henderson said in the fact sheet.
Henderson said he has been in contact with Lawrence, whose ministry has not been restricted during this phase of the process.

Under Title IV, Canon 16, a bishop is deemed to have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church by an open renunciation of the doctrine, discipline or worship of the church; by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the church; or by exercising episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than the church or another church in communion with the church.

The package of documents Lawrence said he received Sept. 29 from Henderson, is posted here on the diocese's website. The documents contain 12 allegations of when Lawrence's "actions and inactions" sought to have abandoned the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.
Those allegations cite five specific diocesan convention resolutions that Lawrence supported. In addition, the allegations also claim that Lawrence has removed all references to the Episcopal Church from the diocesan website and notes that half of the congregations with working website have done the same or offer links to breakaway Anglican organizations.

"The bishop appears to have done nothing to stop other parishes which are outwardly moving in the direction of withdrawal" from the Episcopal Church, including parishes that have sought or obtained legal advice on those moves, allegation seven says..........

The disciplinary board's investigation of Lawrence appears to be among the first it has conducted. The board was created under the revised Title IV canons on ecclesiastical discipline which went into effect on July 1. According to Title IV Canon 17.3, the board is made up of ten bishops elected at any regularly scheduled meeting of the House of Bishops, and four priests or deacons and four lay persons initially appointed by the president of the House of Deputies with the Executive Council and thereafter elected by the House of Deputies. Henderson noted in his fact sheet that the board "operates confidentially."
Link to ENS Article

South Carolina Episcopalians - FAQ
From the South Carolina Episcopalians website - edited by Steve Slardon - 11/23/11

Frequently Asked Questions ...

1. How serious are the “charges” the Episcopal Church is leveling against Bishop Lawrence?

At this point no charges have been made against anyone. Bishop Lawrence has chosen to tell people in the Diocese that he is facing “serious charges,” but that interpretation is, at best, premature.........

2. It doesn’t seem fair to Bishop Lawrence that the Church is trying this in the news media. Shouldn’t it be a confidential matter, at least until actual charges are brought or Bishop Lawrence can defend himself?

Yes, the review process is supposed to be confidential at this stage. However, Bishop Lawrence, not Bishop Henderson, made the information the Disciplinary Board is reviewing available to the public.........

3. Our rector has reported that the Presiding Bishop and her liberal allies are trying to get rid of Bishop Lawrence and take over the Diocese of South Carolina. Is this true?

There is no evidence that the Presiding Bishop or anyone else in the Episcopal Church has it in for Bishop Lawrence or the Diocese. The long-standing claims of Diocesan leaders that the Episcopal Church is “at war” with them are more imaginary than anything else.............

4. I read on a blog the Presiding Bishop hired New York lawyers to draft the complaints about Bishop Lawrence. Is this true?

No. Some ultra-conservative critics of the Episcopal Church claimed online that the 63-page information provided to the Disciplinary Board was secretly written by New York lawyers at the behest of liberals in the Church. It was too sophisticated, they said, to be written by communicants in the Diocese. SC Episcopalians has learned that everything provided to the Disciplinary Board was in fact prepared in the Diocese and submitted by communicants of the Diocese.

Read all of these FAQ's and much more about the Diocese of SC at the link below to the SC Episcopalian Website.
Link to SC Episcopalians Website

Georgia Supreme Court upholds property ruling
By Mary Frances Schjonberg , November 21, 2011

[Episcopal News Service] The Georgia Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court ruling that the real property and other assets of Christ Church Episcopal in Savannah are held in trust for the Diocese of Georgia and the Episcopal Church.......

The court's opinion, issued Nov. 21, said that two lower courts properly applied the "neutral principals of law" approach, previously adopted by that court and approved by the U.S. Supreme Court as a constitutional method for resolving church property disputes.

The "neutral principles" approach requires courts to resolve church property disputes by examining deeds, state statutes, and the governing documents of the local and general church in order to discern whether local church property is held subject to any obligations to the larger church.

Supreme Court Justice David E. Nahmias, writing for the majority, said that "the record shows that at all times during the 180 years before this dispute began, Christ Church acted consistently with the Episcopal Church's canons regarding its property, demonstrating the local church's understanding that it could not consecrate, alienate, or encumber - much less leave with - its property without the consent of the parent church."

The opinion also said "the First Amendment allows Christ Church and its members to leave the Episcopal Church and worship as they please, like all other Americans, but it does not allow them to take with them property that has for generations been accumulated and held by a constituent church of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.".............

The Anglican Church of the Province of Uganda-affiliated congregation said in a statement on its website that it was reviewing the ruling and that the leaders of the parish "will meet to determine our next course of action which could include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if warranted."

The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Georgia and Christ Church Episcopal originally filed a lawsuit after some clergy and members of the parish voted to align with the Province of Uganda in September 2007 but refused to vacate the building and relinquish control over other church assets.

In July 2010, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld an Oct. 27, 2009, ruling by Chatham County Court Judge Michael Karpf, which said that "a trust over the property exists in favor of the national church and the Diocese of Georgia. Accordingly, the court finds that the church property reverts to the control of the bishop of the Diocese of Georgia for the uses and purposes of the Episcopal Church and that plaintiffs are entitled to immediate possession."...........

Established in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe, founder of the Georgia colony, Christ Church is known as the "Mother Church of Georgia." The church has been the home for many of Savannah's most prominent citizens, according to a statement on its website, including Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low and Academy-award winner Johnny Mercer. It counts among its former rectors John Wesley and George Whitfield, and in more recent times, Bland Tucker...............

AP - SC bishop being investigated amid Episcopal schism

By: BRUCE SMITH, Associated Press, Nov 23, 3:58 PM EST

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- The conservative leader of the Episcopal diocese of South Carolina, which has roots stretching to before the American Revolution, is the first bishop facing discipline from the national church over the ongoing schism over the ordination of gay ministers.

While some conservative congregations left the national Episcopal church to join a new Anglican denomination over the issue, the South Carolina diocese has stayed in, while pushing back on theological differences and what it calls the increasing centralization of the church.

Now Bishop Mark Lawrence is facing discipline under new national church rules that took effect last summer - rules that give the national church a greater role in disciplining of priests and bishops. Depending on the outcome, Lawrence could be deposed as a spiritual leader in a church to which he has given his life.

"Personally, I'm not afraid, I'm concerned for the diocese," the 61-year-old bishop told The Associated Press in his first interview since the allegations were announced this fall. "What's at stake here is the worldwide Anglican community: the third largest body in Christendom."........

"The Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop in 2003 and, three years later, the Diocese of South Carolina and two others opposing such consecrations voted to reject the authority of the national church's presiding bishop, but stopped short of a full break with the church.

Many conservative Episcopalians believe Scripture forbids same-sex relationships.

Two years ago, four breakaway conservative Episcopal dioceses formed the Anglican Church in North America, a rival national province to the Episcopal Church. Dozens of individual parishes have also joined.

The Diocese of South Carolina did not leave, although it did withdraw from some councils of the national church.....

Lawrence has repeatedly said he wants the diocese to remain within the Episcopal Church. But he said the challenge is two main issues: theology and the increasing centralization of the church.

He's being investigated by a national church committee on information from parishioners in South Carolina. He has not been told who filed the complaint, but thinks it's probably the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, a group working to get the diocese to participate fully with the national church.

"We did not initiate this," said Barbara Mann, president of the forum. Asked if she felt the diocese had abandoned the national church, she said "we don't make decisions like that. What we do support is the process that's going on right now."

"We are working with circumstances that are very, very sensitive about which people have very, very strong convictions," said Bishop Dorsey Henderson, who heads the national church disciplinary board.

He said such investigations are rare and that as of now, no formal charges have been made.

But if the board certifies Lawrence has abandoned the church, the Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori would suspend him from the ministry while the matter is considered by the national House of Bishops. If the bishops agree by a majority vote, Lawrence could be deposed.

His diocese in eastern South Carolina has 70 congregations with about 29,000 parishioners. Dating from the 1700s, it was one of the original dioceses that joined together to form the Episcopal Church.

A letter from the disciplinary board said it has information the diocese eliminated mention of the national church in the diocesan charter purpose statement and passed a resolution the diocese is a "sovereign diocese."

It also alleged Lawrence did not stop parishes in the diocese from leaving the Episcopal Church. Two have done so, one since Lawrence became bishop in 2008.......

Henderson said he didn't know how long the board's review might take.

"I want us to be prayerful and careful and I don't want any of the emotions that any of us may be having to drive this," he said.

Link too Full Article

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