Church reopens following almost a decade of litigation

A James Island church reopened Sunday after nearly ten years of litigation between the South Carolina Supreme Court and 29 parishes.
Published: Dec. 4, 2022 at 10:28 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 5, 2022 at 4:08 AM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JAMES ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - A James Island church reopened Sunday after nearly ten years of litigation between the South Carolina Supreme Court and 29 parishes.

Episcopal and Anglican churches have been fighting in court since 2012, but in August, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that eight out of the 29 total churches in the lawsuit would be returned to the Episcopal church.

One of the eight churches, St. James Episcopal Church, has spent over 200 years on James Island. Reverend Taylor Smith was called to lead the church into its new chapter.

“Today [Sunday] was our first service back so it’s very exciting for us,” Smith said. “We pray for the folks who are not here anymore; they were so sad to leave this church as you can imagine, but the Episcopal Church of South Carolina is really excited to be welcoming St. James back, and the bishop asked me to lead that effort.”

Over the last decade, the church has still held services but under the Anglican denomination.

Many members of the congregation stuck by the church during that time. Smith said they will continue to stay loyal as the church reverts to an Episcopal church.

“We’ll get an eclectic group and I just can’t know what that is; that’s part of the excitement to lead something that is very hard to identify, but it’s thrilling,” he said. “Ultimately, we are all together doing the work of God in Jesus’ name and that’s always thrilling.”

The legal battle began when the eight churches left the Episcopal Church and later joined the Anglican Church. A South Carolina Supreme Court ruling stated that the churches that left did not have proper ownership to leave based on state trust law.

The August 17 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.

As for the future of the church, Smith explained that they are more traditional than other churches, which some people love.

“A lot of ideas are going to spring up from the people,” he said. “I’m not coming in with an agenda other than to keep worshiping every week and to be inviting. We will do whatever people are motivated to do.”