The Episcopal Church and its local diocese have filed a brief with the S.C. Supreme Court detailing their arguments for overturning a circuit judge’s ruling that allowed parishes that left the national church in 2012 to take with them more than $500 million in church property and the Diocese of South Carolina name.
The S.C. Supreme Court agreed last month to hear the lawsuit, bypassing the state appellate court, and set Sept. 23 to hear oral arguments.
The parishes at issue all chose to identify with the Episcopal Church because of advantages to being included in the national brand, the 51-page brief states.
“This inclusion came as part of a bargain. In exchange for being part of The Episcopal Church’s label, everyone was required to agree that the National Church’s rules were authoritative and controlling,” the brief says.
But once those parishes wanted to leave, they sued to take the structures and assets built using the Episcopal Church’s brand with them, the brief states.
The protracted legal battle began when about two-thirds of parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Mark Lawrence left the national church after years of strife over church doctrine and administrative control. They now have 30 days to respond to the brief.