Thursday, January 31, 2013

ECUSA Cries "Uncle!" in South Carolina

Bishop Lawrence's Diocese has just sent out an announcement that the Episcopal Church (USA) has agreed not to oppose the issuance of a preliminary injunction (South Carolina calls it a "temporary injunction") which repeats the same language of the earlier TRO:


Judge Issues Temporary Injunction to the Episcopal Church to Block Use of Diocese’s Name, Seal and Mark

St. George, SC, January 31 - The Episcopal Church (TEC) opted to forego court on Friday and not put up a fight as South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein today issued a Temporary Injunction to replace the Temporary Restraining Order she signed on January 23 to block TEC, its continuing parishes, individuals, organizations or any entity associated with it from, using, assuming or adopting, in any way, directly or indirectly, the registered names and the seal or mark of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.”

The Temporary Restraining Order would have been lifted or extended on February 1st following a hearing. The injunction will remain in effect unless the court decides otherwise until the court rules on the lawsuit filed by the Diocese, its trustees and 31 congregations, seeking to protect the Diocese’s real, personal and intellectual property and that of its parishes from a TEC takeover.

The Diocese sought legal protection to prevent TEC from repeating the behavior it has displayed in the past, when it used the courts to seize diocesan and parish property, including real estate, bank accounts, intellectual property and trademarks. The national church has filed more than 80 lawsuits against parishes and dioceses that disassociated from TEC.

The injunction was consented to by Thomas Tisdale Jr. who signed it on behalf of The Episcopal Church. Either party may ask the judge to conduct a hearing on the injunction and to request changes in the injunction.

“We are gratified that The Episcopal Church has consented to a temporary injunction protecting the identity of our Diocese and its parishes,” said Jim Lewis, Canon of the Diocese. “We pray that sentiment fuels the prompt and reasonable resolution we all seek.
This is a highly unusual development, and will doubtless sow consternation among the SCEpiscopalians and their ilk: It shows that Chancellor Tisdale can read the writing on the wall, and knows that ECUSA cannot succeed in any plan to assume the DSC's identity through its own actions. Since the injunction now accomplishes nearly all of the objectives Bishop Lawrence had when he authorized the lawsuit (all that remains is a judgment declaring that his Diocese is the lawful and exclusive owner of the registered marks), it will be interesting to see whether or not ECUSA stipulates to the entry of such a final judgment in the weeks ahead. In short, there is nothing left worth litigating. Yes, ECUSA reserved the right to request a modification in the injunction, but at most it would be only to tinker with the fine points (and I can't think of any). That stipulation was probably included to assuage Mr. Tisdale's clients.

Where things will go from here is now the question. Bishop vonRosenberg has his work cut out for him -- he has to walk a tightrope between keeping the Presiding Bishop happy, and not violating the injunction in any way. It would appear that Bishop Lawrence and his attorneys have no objection to the remnant group's use of the name "the Episcopal Church in South Carolina". But that still leaves the question: is the group a diocese within the Episcopal Church, or is it some other kind of arm of the Church? How can there be an entity which is a member of ECUSA, but which does not have the word "Diocese" in its name? How will all the provisions of the national Constitution and Canons which speak of a "diocese" apply to the remnant group?

As I did in a comment, I shall quote here the highly salient words of Sir Walter Scott:
Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive.


  1. Why do I get the feeling that we're being lulled into a false sense of security?

  2. Alas, the courts don't move at a pace we would like. However for the moment, this is where all this legal stuff stands. They can't use the name and seal of the diocese. How that affects the property I don't know. Certainly it is a setback for TEC as they can't use the same legal strategy here as they have done in other dioceses.

  3. Perhaps they can go back to an older usage and call themselves a 'Missionary District'?

    Jim of Olym

  4. Charleston St Michaelite, I agree. There's something rotten in Denmark (the other Denmark--not South Carolina). I recall the aftermath of First Manassass, when we thought we would win the war in less than six months.

  5. Ironically,they could call themselves The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina! Heh, heh.

  6. And what face the wrath of the rest of the Anglican Communion? That would be interesting!! Actually that would never even be considered as I have heard the Forum-ites in SC say that Episcopalism is not the same things as Anglicanism. So they don't want to claim an Anglican identity. God forbid ! They would need to actually believe the gospel and all that jazz!

  7. Do we know why Dio Ft Worth didn't follow this same strategy? Seems quite intelligent to me...

  8. Abu Daoud, yes they did try a similar strategy in Fort Worth: they challenged the right of ECUSA's attorneys to come into court and claim to be representing the "Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth."

    However, while the trial judge forced them to change the style of their representation on the pleadings, he did not enter any type of injunction against them, because he found in the rump group's favor. So they still have a website and HQ where they call themselves "the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth." If you Google that term, you will see the webpages for both groups, under the same apparent name.

    The rump diocese also sued Bishop Iker for trademark infringement in federal court, but that court placed the lawsuit on hold pending the resolution of the case in the Texas state courts.

  9. "But that still leaves the question: is the group a diocese within the Episcopal Church, or is it some other kind of arm of the Church? How can there be an entity which is a member of ECUSA, but which does not have the word "Diocese" in its name?"

    Surely you don't believe that a court of the United States has any authority to determine if the new entity is a diocese in the Episcopal Church?

  10. ruidh, no, the civil courts will not take on a controversy about whether the SC remnant group has organized as a "diocese" within the Episcopal Church (USA). My point was only that the group has been forbidden by the civil courts from using the term "Diocese" in conjunction with the words "South Carolina."

    So if it cannot legally call itself the "Diocese of South Carolina," and if officially it is "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina", how can "The Episcopal Church [in wherever]" be a member of "The Episcopal Church of the United States of America"? To have General Convention approve such a membership would be a first, and would probably require an amendment to the Constitution, which could not happen before the summer of 2018.

    ECUSA (my name for "TEC") is an ecclesiastical abstraction, not a physical super-entity that has any real presence in the legal world. Yes, "The United Nations" could come into court, too, as a plaintiff -- but who would have to authorize that lawsuit? The UN General Assembly would, of course, and it is the same for The Episcopal Church -- only General Convention could authorize the bringing of any lawsuit against any of its member dioceses.

    But General Convention has never authorized the filing of any individual lawsuit against anyone -- it has only approved an overall legal budget for the Church as a whole. So how could the SC lawsuit continue for the time being? -- or at least, until the current hostilities have run their course?

    Under its current PB and Chancellor, 815 has never allowed any such metaphysical difficulties to hinder its arrangement as the "official spokesperson" of ECUSA, and I do not expect that arrangement to change. I say only that the current strategy in SC will make problems for 815 -- and hence, I expect it to be changed as soon as it is legally expedient to do so. Time will tell which of us is correct.

  11. Any word about a ECUSA answer? It seems that one should be required very soon.

  12. traditional anglican, yes -- an answer should have been filed by now, along with any cross-complaint (or counterclaim, as some jurisdictions call it) that ECUSA and its remnant group want to make for the property and bank accounts of the DSC. But there is no news of any such filing on either group's Website. Until I can get more info, I assume that there is some kind of standstill agreement in effect that avoids the court having to deal further with the case for the time being.

    As soon as I know anything different, I will post something.