COURT NEWS, APRIL 8
By Ronald J. Caldwell, PhD, Professor of History Emeritus
On April 4, 2014, the Supreme Court of South Carolina issued an "Order" under the signature of Jean H. Toal, the chief justice, of four sentences. It said that the Diocese of South Carolina (DSC) had moved that the appeals made by the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC) in the South Carolina Court of Appeals be moved to the Supreme Court of South Carolina. ECSC did not file a counter motion to the DSC request in the SC Supreme Court. Therefore, "The motion [of DSC] is granted and the appeal is hereby certified [moved] to this Court." This means that the SC Supreme Court will rule on the appeals ECSC made from the Circuit Court of Judge Goodstein.
The second bit of news is that Judge Goodstein has set the date for the trial in her circuit court as July 7 and 8 of 2014.
Not surprisingly, the two dioceses have posted very different interpretations of the state Supreme Court order. ECSC's post of April 7 is entitled "Appeal Over Withheld Evidence Moves to State Supreme Court." ( www.episcopalchurchsc.org/news-release-april-7-2014.html ) ECSC lawyers appealed Goodstein's refusal to require DSC to turn over some 1200 pieces of correspondence between Bishop Lawrence and his lead lawyer, C, Alan Runyan, before November 17, 2012 (the date of the purported disassociation). The lawyers claim the Episcopal Church diocese owns this correspondence since Lawrence was the legal bishop of the Episcopal Church diocese at that time. They have charged that Lawrence and his inner circle enacted a conspiracy to try to remove the diocese from the Episcopal Church and to take the property that belonged to the Episcopal diocese under the terms of the Church and diocesan constitution and canons.
The historical record is clear that C. Alan Runyan played an active role in the run-up to the special diocesan convention of October 15, 2010. It was that convention that passed six resolutions making a de facto separation of the diocese from the Episcopal Church. The resolutions asserted self-rule, local sovereignty, and the right of nullification. They declared the removal of South Carolina from accession to the canons of the Episcopal Church, deleted the Dennis Canon from the diocesan canons, and altered the diocesan corporate charter to remove references to the Episcopal Church. This was the turning point for South Carolina. DSC, however, claimed that it had not separated from the Church because it still acceded to the constitution of the Church. Nevertheless, these resolutions would be the core issues on which the Disciplinary Board for Bishops would rule in 2012 that Lawrence had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church. The presiding bishop then placed a restriction of Lawrence. Lawrence rejected the validity of all of this and discarded his consecration vows of loyalty to the Episcopal Church by acts of November 17, 2012. The presiding bishop then removed him as the bishop of the Episcopal Church diocese of South Carolina.
By his own testimony ("The Personal Testimony of Mr. Alan Runyan, Attorney for the Diocese of South Carolina," audio, Christ/St. Paul's, Jan. 12, 2014, www.kendallharmon.net 13-1-14), Runyan, a former Baptist deacon and Sunday School teacher, became very interested in church legal issues after the South Carolina Supreme Court's ruling on All Saints, Waccamaw in September of 2009 (overruled the Dennis Canon for All Saints, Pawleys Island). Soon thereafter he and Lawrence formed a close working relationship. By January of 2010, Runyan had becaome a very prominent lawyer in the diocese even though Wade Logan remained chancellor. When Tisdale, as lawyer for the presiding bishop, attempted to get information from the diocese for the national church in January of 2010, it was Runyan who issued a number of letters against this. The diocese refused to turn over any document to Tisdale. By September of 2010, Runyan was apparently close with the Standing Committee and was speaking around the diocese in support of the six proposed resolutions for the upcoming special convention of Oct. 15, 2010. His presentation to the convention is available on youtube ("DSC 2010 Convention: Alan Runyan Explains Canons," Oct. 15, 2010, Anglican TV, 11 min., posted 17-10-12, www.youtube.com). All six resolutions easily sailed through the convention. As stated earlier, these resolutions were the point of no return for the diocese of South Carolina. Runyan remained an important legal advisor, perhaps the most important, to Lawrence throughout 2010, 2011, and 2012. After the schism he has remained as the apparent lead lawyer for DSC. He even went to Illinois to participate in the trial there between TEC and the secessionist diocese of Quincy. Therefore, the correspondence between Lawrence and Runyan would be of great importance to the case prepared by ECSC lawyers. DSC, however, refuses to turn over any correspondence on the grounds of lawyer-client confidentiality. Judge Goodstein refused to order the turn over of the correspondence, hence ECSC's appeal to the SC Court of Appeals.
The independent Diocese of South Carolina posted a story on its web site on April 8: "SC Supreme Court Takes Jurisdiction over TEC Appeals: Justices' Decision Likely Prevents TEC from Using Legal Maneuvers to Drag Out Proceedings, Drain Local Funds." (www.diosc.com) DSC believes TEC and ECSC are "misusing" appeals to drag out the proceedings as long as possible to deliberately bleed DSC of funds. This does not point out that DSC, and not the Episcopal Church, started the lawsuits in South Carolina. It is also interesting to note the last line of the article: "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 Christ's teachings optional for salvation." Yet, it will be recalled that just last month the DSC convention passed a resolution that only Episcopal Church liturgies may be used in churches of the Diocese of South Carolina. Apparently the contradiction of word and deed does not occur to the leadership clique in DSC. The ordinary person-in-the-pew of the independent diocese would do well to ask, "If the Episcopal Church religion is so bad, why are we following only the Episcopal Church religion?" The average person is not fooled. This is not about religion, it is about the interaction between religion and society.
Given the rulings already made by Judge Goodstein and by the South Carolina Supreme Court, the ECSC side should not expect favorable outcomes from either. However, all of this could become moot if the U.S. Supreme Court takes the appeal of the Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth from the Texas Supreme Court. One should not forget too that ECSC has an appeal pending in the U.S. Fourth Circuit in Richmond. Historically speaking, federal courts are more likely to recognize rights of the Episcopal Church.