From the Press Office of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, we have an account of the first day’s proceedings:
TRIAL TO PROTECT DIOCESE OF SC ASSETS BEGINS
South Carolina Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein asks both sides to skip opening arguments so trial can focus on the underlying issues
ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 8, 2014 – After 18 months of delays, a long-awaited lawsuit to protect Diocese of South Carolina assets from seizure by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and its local subsidiary went to trial in a South Carolina courtroom today.
Judge Diane S. Goodstein, who presides over the bench trial, asked attorneys for the Diocese, TEC and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) to sidestep opening arguments and dive into the fundamental issues of the case.
Two witnesses testified, Diocesan Chancellor Wade Logan and Canon to the Ordinary Jim Lewis. Logan testified about how the Diocese governs itself without the involvement of the national Church, clearly demonstrating that it is a corporation and that TEC, an association, was not involved in the Diocese’s election of officers, the calling of convention, or selling of property among other day to day operations.
Lewis testified that the votes to withdraw from TEC passed with 90 percent or more support of the convention clergy and delegates. He also testified about the misuse of Diocesan symbols and seals by TEC and TECSC, and their intention to present themselves as the Diocese.
Lewis also shared with the court copies of historic documents that showed that the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina existed in 1785 – and that the Diocese was one of several post-colonial diocese to establish The Episcopal Church in the new United States. TEC has repeatedly claimed that the Diocese cannot exist outside the Episcopal Church – even though it did historically.
The Diocese of South Carolina disassociated from the Episcopal Church in October 2012 after TEC tried to remove its duly elected bishop, Mark Lawrence. Following the Diocese’s decision, 49 churches representing 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members voted to remain in union with the Diocese and not with TEC.
The Diocese has consistently disagreed with TEC’s embrace of what most members of the global Anglican Communion believe to be a radical fringe scriptural interpretation that makes following Christ’s teachings optional for salvation.