Legal battle likely not over for state Episcopal Church, diocese

Legal battle likely not over for state Episcopal Church, diocese

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The fight over a half-million dollars in property doesn't appear to be over for Episcopal churches in South Carolina.

"I think it's a very complicated matter and of course it ultimately is a tragedy," the Right Reverend Charles vonRosenberg, Bishop of the Episcopal Church, said on Wednesday.

His remarks came a day after a court ruling allowing the Diocese of South Carolina to keep $500 million worth of property The Episcopal Church of South Carolina had claimed when the diocese broke away from the larger church.

That ruling was the legal answer to a rift that began in 2012 after the national church attempted to remove Bishop Mark Lawrence.

Thirty congregations from Myrtle Beach to Hilton Head stayed with the church, but 53 other churches formed a breakaway group led by Lawrence.

Lawrence's group filed suit, maintaining the Episcopal Church had no claim to their churches, rectories or symbols. Judge Diane Goodstein ruled in the group's favor.

"With this ruling at hand I hope we may move on with our God given dreams and our God given mission," Lawrence said.

Both sides are calling for reconciliation, but also acknowledge the court fight isn't over because an appeal in the works.

VonRosenberg called the ruling a step on a long journey, citing a Biblical heritage of journeys experienced by people of faith.

"Those journeys were often difficult and filled with setbacks, but people of faith were called to persevere on the way," vonRosenberg said in a statement.

"All they have to do is quit talking to us with lawyers and talk to us face to face," Lawrence said.

"When people differ to the point they find themselves on opposing sides in a courtroom, that's not what we're called to do or to be," vonRosenberg responded.

The Diocese of South Carolina says the breakaway grew from the efforts to remove the bishop, leading the diocese to the decision to leave the national church.

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