Friday, June 21, 2019


The actions surrounding the Episcopal Church insurance company and the schism get curiouser and curiouser by the day leaving all of us wondering what in the world is going on with that company.

The Church Insurance Company of Vermont, as it is officially known, is a function of the Episcopal Church. It is one of three insurance entities under the Church Pension Group. Find their official blurb here . The CIC-VT provides insurance coverage only for Episcopal churches. It is what is called a "captive" insurance company.

The CIC-VT provides coverage for the Church diocese, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. However, it has come to light recently that CIC-VT has also been paying coverage for at least one of the breakaway congregations. This means it has been paying some of the legal costs of both sides of the schism. 

The latest episode in the strange saga of CIC-VT is its court action of June 14, 2019. We will return to this momentarily.

First, a brief outline of what we know now about the CIC-VT and the schism:


CIC-VT insured TECSC effective January 1, 2013.
Then, CIC-VT declared it was not obligated to pay TECSC's legal bills. TECSC went to federal court claiming breach of contract. The federal judge, Patrick Duffy, ruled three times in 2014 that CIC-VT was obligated to pay coverage for TECSC. On Dec. 3, 2014, CIC-VT and TECSC signed a "confidential" (non-disclosure) agreement of a settlement. This certainly meant CIC-VT would pay at least part of TECSC's legal costs.

2. No public news from CIC-VT from 2014 to 2019.

3. News from St. Philip's.

On March 6, 2019, this blog broke the news that St. Philip's, one of the secessionist congregations, had billed the CIC-VT for legal costs. This revealed that CIC-VT had been paying something to the breakaway side in the litigation.

4. TECSC Complaint.

On June 11, 2019, TECSC filed a Complaint in federal court against CIC-VT. Find it here . TECSC charged that CIC-VT "...secretly, knowingly, and wrongfully made payments and misdirected insurance proceeds to the insured's disaffiliated adversaries to fund their litigation efforts against the insured..." TECSC asked the court to award it damages from CIC-VT.

5. CIC-VT Complaint.

On June 14, 2019, CIC-VT entered a Complaint in the federal court in Charleston asking the judge for a declaratory judgment. Find it here .
On page 14, CIC-VT admitted to paying some of the breakaway parishes:  "29. CICVT is and has been providing the Disassociated Parishes a defense in the Underlying Action under a reservation of rights pursuant to the applicable Policy issued to each of them."
The Complaint listed seventeen secessionist congregations which it had covered:

Redeemer, of Orangeburg
Old St. Andrew's
All Saints, Florence
Our Saviour, Johns Island
Holy Trinity, Charleston
Church of the Cross, Bluffton
St. Philip's, Charleston
St. John's, Johns Island
St. Bartholomew's
Holy Cross, Stateburg
Good Shepherd, Charleston
Resurrection, Surfside
Holy Comforter, Sumter
St. David's, Cheraw
St. Michael's, Charleston
St. Jude's, Walterboro
Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant

On page 14, use of the word "is" implies CIC-VT presently covers these seventeen local churches.

In the conclusion of the Complaint, CIC-VT asks the judge to render a decision on the company's "rights and duties under each of the Policies." In other words, they are asking the judge to decide whether the company has to cover the breakaway churches and, if so, what the coverage should be.
Interesting to note that CIC-VT listed TECSC as one of the defendants in this Complaint but did not mention anything about TECSC in its requests of the court.

It is interesting to contrast TECSC's Complaint of June 11 with CIC-VT's Complaint to the same court of June 14. TECSC accused CIC-VT of wrongdoing  and asked the court to make CIC-VT pay damages. CIC-VT admitted its relations with seventeen breakaway churches and asked the judge to tell it how it should relate to the "disassociated" churches. 

Can you keep all this straight? If not, you are not alone. A lot of this makes no sense to me, and I strongly suspect there is more here than meets the eye. Unfortunately, what we know now leaves us with far more questions than answers. Here are a few of my questions:

---CIC-VT made an undisclosed settlement with TECSC in 2014. Then, why did CIC-VT name TECSC a defendant in its June 14 Complaint? Anyway, in the end, it made no demand of TECSC in the Complaint.

---Why is CIC-VT issuing policies to non-Episcopal churches? It admitted coverage to the seventeen listed. This coverage must have been going on for years. As I understand them, the rules allow it to cover only Episcopal churches. Is it possible the company officers did not know these seventeen were non-Episcopal congregations? Such a thing seems incredible to me.

---Surely CIC-VT knew the seventeen congregations were outside of TEC/TECSC. What could possibly be their reason for providing them insurance policies? The schism occurred six and a half years ago.

---Why was CIC-VT paying both sides in the legal war? Betting against oneself seems disingenuous to me.

---Why ask a judge to tell a company what its own rules and regulations are? Why cannot the company interpret its own regulations? The procedures should evolve from the company's mission.

---Why does CIC-VT need any advice at all on how to conduct their own business? They could simply follow their own policies. 

Thus, there is much here that I do not understand given the documents we have at hand. As I said, I suspect there is much more to this story than is publicly known. Perhaps in time we will understand more. At the moment, I just cannot imagine why the Episcopal Church insurance company is paying anything to parties who are fighting in court against the Episcopal Church. I am baffled.

As they say, stay tuned.