SC Supreme Court makes final ruling in Episcopal and Anglican property lawsuit

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 3:14 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2022 at 6:28 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Episcopal and Anglican churches of South Carolina have been fighting in court over who owns certain church property for nearly a decade.

Now the South Carolina Supreme Court says the case is over. Most churches are allowed to remain Anglican, while some will give their keys back to the Episcopal Church.

In April, the Court ruled that 14 of the 29 total churches in the lawsuit would be returned to the Episcopal Church after a split in the organization. Those total 29 parishes were part of a schism in which they left the Episcopal Church in 2012 and later joined the Anglican Church in North America.

After reconsidering the case for the last time, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that six more Anglican churches in the are allowed to keep their building property. Now the final motions are made, and 21 churches will remain Anglican Property, while 8 are being returned to the Episcopal Church.

The August 17th ruling states:

We direct that appropriate documentation be filed in the public record indicating the National Church and the Associated Diocese now own that real estate. From our decision today, there will be no remand. The case is over.

Rev. Cannon Jim Lewis works with the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Charleston. He says it has been a long time coming and he is happy to have answers.

“How it’s been experienced is varied from congregation to congregation, but all congregations, particularly in the Charleston area, just experienced some level of conflict when all this was happening,” Lewis says. “People deciding where they wanted to be in the future and there was loss in that for people on both sides in many ways.”

He says he is rejoicing with those who are celebrating and grieving with those who feel a loss right now.

“I think we’re still processing the outcome of this ruling at a certain level to understand what all of it means for us and how this will play out,” Lewis says. “I think the most immediate consequence and what will be our message to the diocese is we have eight of our congregations that are having to leave their historic church homes. So we’ve all been in the process of finding ways that we can work together support those congregations and provide them assistance where assistance is needed so that they can restart as effectively as possible.”

He says at the end of the day, he is thankful to have answers and begin to move forward.

“The church is the people it’s not just the buildings,” Lewis says. “I mean, this is a wonderful blessing to have a place like this building to meet and gather and worship and do ministry. But the early church had a lot less getting started, and we will manage with what God provides.”

The eight churches being returned to the Episcopal Church are:

  • Christ Church, Mount Pleasant
  • Good Shepherd, Charleston
  • Holy Trinity, Charleston
  • St. Bartholomew’s, Hartsville
  • St. David’s, Cheraw
  • St. Matthew’s, Fort Motte
  • St. James, Charleston
  • St. John’s, Johns Island

Related: SC Supreme Court returns 14 congregations to the Episcopal Church after lawsuit