Episcopal group asks for federal jurisdiction
The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, or “continuing diocese,” has asked for a state lawsuit brought by the independent Diocese of South Carolina to be removed to U.S. District Court, where a second suit is in the works.
The state suit asks the Circuit Court to prevent the continuing diocese from using the name and seal. The federal suit, filed by the continuing diocese, asks the court to decide who has authority over the diocese, Bishop Mark Lawrence, who left The Episcopal Church along with 35 parishes, or Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, the provisional leader of the group that remains loyal to the church.
“We have carefully examined the claims made against The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and inherent in all these claims are federal statutory and constitutional issues that must be decided in a federal court rather than in South Carolina state court,” said Thomas Tisdale, chancellor of the continuing diocese, in a statement.
Lawrence’s group has 30 days to respond to the notice of removal. They could seek to have the case remanded to state court, and a federal judge would then have to decide where the case will be heard.
In the other case already before the U.S. District Court, attorneys for the independent diocese filed a motion March 28 asking the court to dismiss the case or issue a stay that would put the federal complaint on hold until the state courts can rule on the Circuit Court suit.