Episcopal Church offers settlement with breakaway group over property

Episcopal Church offers settlement with breakaway group over property

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Officials with the Episcopal Church in South Carolina say they have presented a settlement to a breakaway group over a dispute with property in the state.

"Episcopalians who are seeking to end the bitter legal battle over church property in eastern South Carolina have presented a settlement agreement to a breakaway group, offering to let 35 parishes keep their church properties, whether or not they choose to remain part of The Episcopal Church," read a statement by the church."In exchange, the proposal would require the breakaway group to return the diocesan property, assets and identity of "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" to the diocese that is still affiliated with The Episcopal Church."

A press release by the breakaway group, the Diocese of South Carolina, stated the parishes have unanimously rejected the offer.

"This is not a legitimate offer of good faith negotiation and never was intended to be," said the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis, Assistant to Bishop Mark Lawrence. "It was a spurious offer chiefly made to disrupt submission of our brief and make them look good in the press. As a matter of fact, the Presiding Bishop's chancellor is on record as saying they would never settle. In that, they have been utterly consistent up until now."

The State Supreme Court is expected to hear the case in September. The church is appealing the decision that the breakaway group has the right to keep the name of the diocese and church property.

A court ruling in February had allowed 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.

The rift between the churches 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.

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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