Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Curmudgeon Goes on Vacation; Hostilities Promptly Resume in South Carolina

From here:

I shall have more to say about this after I am able to see a copy of the complaint. 

News: March 5, 2013

Federal lawsuit seeks ruling 
on who is bishop of the 
Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina

CHARLESTON – Acting to protect the identity of the diocese he serves, the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg filed suit in U.S. District Court today against Bishop Mark Lawrence, asking the court to declare that only vonRosenberg, as the bishop recognized by The Episcopal Church, has the authority to act in the name of the Diocese of South Carolina.

Having renounced The Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence is no longer authorized to use the diocese’s name and seal. By doing so, he is engaging in false advertising, misleading and confusing worshippers and donors in violation of federal trademark law under the Lanham Act, the complaint says. It asks the court to stop Bishop Lawrence from continuing to falsely claim that he is associated with the Diocese of South Carolina, which is a recognized sub-unit of The Episcopal Church.

The suit does not address property issues directly. But by asking the federal court to recognize Bishop vonRosenberg as the true bishop of the diocese, the suit would effectively resolve the issue of who controls diocesan property and assets, including the Diocesan House and Camp Saint Christopher on Seabrook Island. The ownership of individual parish properties is not addressed in the complaint.

“The intention of this suit is straightforward. We are asking the court to determine who is authorized to serve as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,” Bishop vonRosenberg said.


  1. Things really smell bad when they start to stink for a long time.

    Please hurry back, Anglican Curmudgeon....but first enjoy a deserved...well-deserved, vacation. This student finally finished the three readings of the three articles and feels ready to polish his armour.

    El Gringo Viejo

  2. Well, it's going to take a mighty smart lawyer to crawl under this one.
    How can someone who renounces his place in the TEC Diocese of South Carolina yet claim to alienate the name of the diocese, the title of bishop, and the property belonging to the national Church he has just quit?

    It may take a smarter lawyer than you, Mr Curmudgeon (brilliant name!)

  3. Waiting for the Curmudgeon's analysis. Hurry back but enjoy your vacation.

  4. Kiwianglo, I'll attempt to offer clarity, to a degree, to some of the legal issues, and will refer to the parties as "OE" (for "older entity") and "NE" (for "newer entity"). OE includes the "Diocese of South Carolina", a majority of SC parishes and clergy that supported the Diocese of South Carolina in recent litigation in an appellate court in South Carolina, and Bishop Lawrence. NE includes "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina", a smaller number of South Carolina parishes and clergy that did not support the Diocese of South Carolina in recent litigation in an appellate court in South Carolina, Bishop vonRosenberg and also the Episcopal Church ("EC")).

    OE's associated entity includes an SC corporation ("The Protestant Episcopal Church in SC", and I believe one or more additional, incorporated entities) and OE predates, and was a founding body of, EC. NE, which I believe was formed in 2013, is, to my knowledge, an unincorporated entity and Bishop vonRosenberg was also appointed as its bishop in 2013. Recently, OE prevailed in litigation it had brought in a SC appellate court in seeking to provide protection of the rights it has under SC law as an incorporated entity. To my knowledge, prior to the lawsuit filed this week in federal court by NE and other parties, NE agreed to the terms of the decision of the South Carolina appellate court.

    I believe the present situation involve here is more akin to a domestic separation that a divorce. Bishop Lawrence and OE have acted to in effect stand apart from EC (similar to a domestic situation involving spouses rather than a situation involving divorced individuals). I believe its clear that Bishop Lawrence or the Diocese of South Carolina has consistently refused to agree that either has abandoned or refuted the Church or its ministerial orders.

    It is clear that EC has a legal obligation to follow its own rules with regard to the removal of a Bishop and with regard to reception of a diocese, and it appears to me very unclear that's occurred with regard to the status of Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina. Further, NE's recently filed litigation in federal court also raises issues relating to the decision of the SC appellate court in which OE prevailed.

    This situation does seems to akin to separated spouses who haven't divorced, which is why it would be erroneous to conclude that a status exists (i.e., a divorce) which it doesn't appear that NE has established.

  5. I'm working on it, Alexi, as time permits.

    And don't worry -- just you wait and see, kiwianglo, just you wait and see. This gambit will gain ECUSA nothing, and will result only in the waste of more of its money. Detailed reasons to follow in a later post.

  6. Mr. Haley, your comments are always an inspiration and I hope your vacation goes beautifully. It would have been better phrasing in my post to have stated that the Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Lawrence have consistently refused to agree that any of their actions amounted to abandonment of, or have even been inimical to, the Episcopal Church or its ministerial orders. Many persons, regardless of whether they are or aren't associated with the Episcopal Church, are bound to believe that the actions of the Diocese and Bishop Lawrence are not actions of disloyalty to a church that identifies itself as a Christian church. Your encouragement is heartening and your future post will be eagerly awaited.