The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the local diocese affiliated with The Episcopal Church, has filed an appeal in an effort to add four individuals as parties to an ongoing lawsuit that could determine who ultimately has control of church property and other assets.
It's the latest legal volley between The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, the group that left The Episcopal Church in December 2012 because of theological and administrative disagreements, including a dispute over human sexuality and acceptance of gay clergy. The appeal could cause the postponement of the trial, set to start July 7 in Dorchester County.
The Episcopal Church in South Carolina wants Mark Lawrence, Jim Lewis, Jeffrey Miller and Paul Fuener, all leaders in the organization that claims the right to the designation "The Diocese of South Carolina," added as parties to the suit in order to establish a true opposition since both groups argue that they are the rightful owners of the corporation called "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina."
"We can't get the relief we are entitled to unless they are named as parties" and held accountable, Chancellor Thomas Tisdale said in a statement. "We're saying we own the corporation, so a victory in court would mean we win against our own corporation."
But victory is far from certain.
The independent group, which claims affiliation with the Anglican Communion but not with The Episcopal Church (the only officially recognized provincial Anglican authority in the U.S.), currently operates as a nonprofit corporation under South Carolina law. It has argued that the diocese predates The Episcopal Church, can exist and operate independently and controls its property and governance.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misnamed the independent Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.