An amendment of a complaint automatically gives the defendants another period in which to respond. So ECUSA's (and its remnant group's) responses will now (by agreement, in exchange for ECUSA's stipulating to the amendment) be due on April 4.
Meanwhile, buried in an ENS story about the meeting of the Executive Council recently in Linthicum Heights, Maryland was this tidbit:
In other plenary business Feb. 26, council:
* authorized a $250,000 line of credit for the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.Now, this is an interesting number. If the "Episcopal Church in South Carolina" is prepared to concede the legal issues in the Diocese's complaint (chiefly, the rights to the Diocese's name and identity, and the rights of the individual parishes to their own properties), then two hundred and fifty thousand dollars is not necessary for such a purpose. Five thousand dollars (even at the "discounted" rates charged to the Church by the Chancellor's own law firm) would be more than ample with which to concede the merits of the Diocese's lawsuit.
Indeed, $250,000 would pay a great deal of episcopal and clergy salaries as the remnant group establishes its own presence in South Carolina. But it is difficult to imagine that the remnant group went to the Executive Council with such a request, because the amount would be years ahead of its actual needs in supporting a provisional bishop (who almost by definition is only part-time).
It is far more probable that we have, with this grant of a line of credit, a recognition of what the litigation will cost to oppose it, and to oppose it vigorously. And if that is a correct observation, then ECUSA has not shown its colors yet. Instead, everything about ECUSA's agenda in South Carolina will become clear once it files its response to the lawsuit on April 4.
If, as I fully expect, it answers the suit with a cross-claim against Mark Lawrence's Diocese for all of its bank accounts and real and personal property (along the lines of what it has done in San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and Quincy), then we will know that we are dealing with the same old leopard that is unable to change its spots.
What I have not figured out yet is how the remnant group, which is forbidden to use the words "Episcopal Diocese" together with "South Carolina" in its name, will appear in the lawsuit as a bona fide ECUSA diocese -- given that General Convention will not gather again until 2015. Indeed, it seems to me that its standing to assert its status as a "diocese" of ECUSA under South Carolina law would be very much in question, given the prior ruling of the court that Mark Lawrence's group is the only "Episcopal Diocese" in South Carolina.
We enter uncharted waters as this suit unfolds. Given the State court precedents that have already been established, it will not be like any of those that have gone before.
As an Episcopalian, my hope is that the Executive Council, before voting to approve a $250,000 credit line for the remnant group in South Carolina, received fully independent advice from a source other than the Presiding Bishop's personal Chancellor, or his law firm.