The Episcopal Church and its local diocese, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, have filed a reply brief in their appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court, detailing reasons why TECSC, and not a breakaway group, is entitled to control the identity and assets of the Diocese of South Carolina.
The “Initial Reply Brief” filed June 25 says TECSC should prevail both on First Amendment grounds and under neutral principles of law. Breakaway groups “cannot band together, co-opt parts of The Episcopal Church itself, and seek to turn those parts of the church into something different. That sort of action is a direct challenge to The Episcopal Church’s polity, and it is a far cry from neutral principles,” the brief says.
TECSC represents 30 congregations and about 7,000 Episcopalians who remained part of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion after the breakaway group led by Mark Lawrence announced in 2012 that it was leaving the church. The breakaway group continues to use the name “Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,” but is operating independently of any larger religious body.
In January 2013 the breakaway group sued The Episcopal Church, and later TECSC, seeking control of all the diocesan property, the official name and seal, and the properties of parishes which joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. After a three-week trial in July 2014, Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein ruled in favor of the breakaway group. TEC and TECSC then filed a motion to bypass the state appeals court and appeal directly to the Supreme Court, which agreed to take the case. Oral arguments are set for September.
The brief was in reply to the June 15 “Brief of Respondents” filed by the breakaway group. TECSC’s “Initial Brief of Appellants” was filed May 15.