Friday, July 26, 2019


The Betterments hearing of last Tuesday and my post about it have prompted numerous people to share their thoughts with me by email. I appreciate all of them. One of them volunteered to have his message posted here, and I am grateful for that too. I imagine this writer speaks for many people who read this blog.

Letter to this editor:

Thank you for your summary and suggestions of the hearing on July 23. As usual, very thoughtful and well as can be, given the hesitancy or ambiguity or confusion of Judge Dickson. I have thought about preparing a mediation proposal for the Bishop and Standing Committee of the ECSC to consider, and I still might do that. However, I, like you, am very doubtful of a mediation agreement from our own ECSC, much less one that would be agreeable to the Lawrence group. I find it inconceivable and extremely perplexing that a judge can take apart a decision of the SCOSC on the grounds that it was "confusing"? To do so flies in the precedence of "common law" and the basis of our legal system. Judge Dickson, with his inaction seems to be saying that any precedent of law with a split decision is "complicated" and "confusing" and should be reviewed, mediated, or arbitrated. Roe v. Wade, Civil Rights legislation, Black/White marriage, and a host of other important legal decisions were not unanimous. Seems to me that a legal decision by SCOSC allowed to stand by the SCOTUS is a legal decision and should be allowed to stand. The Law of the land can certainly be challenged and even be overturned in rare instances, but most rulings, even those by a narrow vote, become Law and are implemented as precedence and the basis for common law. Therefore, I am not in favor of mediation in this case. The Lawrence group has had many chances to moderate, mediate, conciliate, discuss, talk, etc., and they have not shown any good faith to do so. It is time for Judge Dickson to implement the decision made by the legal system of SC. When that decision is made, I am certain that the leadership of ECSC, being led by the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit, will be generous in implementing that decision with the Lawrence group, even though they have not been so kindly in dealing with ECSC and TEC.

Sincerely yours,
the Rev. William L. (Roy) Hills, Jr., Ph.D.

Note. The Rev. Hills is a retired priest in TECSC and author of Divine Glimpses, Church Stories, Vol. I and II. Find my review of these books here .


Other than mediation, the only significant agreement made in the hearing last Tuesday was to give official recognition of the legal independence of 7 of the 36 parishes in question. The lawyers on both sides agreed with the judge that these seven should be officially registered as the property owners (that is, without trust control by TEC). These were listed by Justice Jean Toal in the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017 (p. 52), as not having acceded to the Dennis Canon:

1. Christ the king, Waccamaw, of Pawley's Island
2. St. Matthew's, of Darlington
3. St. Andrew's, of Mt. Pleasant
4. St. Paul's, of Conway
5. Prince George Winyah, of Georgetown
6. St. John's, of Florence
7. St. Matthias, of Summerton

The discrepancy between 7 and 8 comes from St. Andrew's, of Mt. Pleasant, which had two corporate entities (parish and land trust) that were listed separately. There were actually 7 parishes.

These seven parishes are now owners of their own properties outright unencumbered by trust. The necessary documents will be filed in the appropriate courthouses.

One of the seven, St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant is in the Anglican Church in North America's Diocese of the Carolinas. Steve Wood, rector of St. Andrew's is the bishop of this diocese. The other six are parishes of the Diocese of South Carolina, under Bishop Mark Lawrence.

What Judge Dickson did here for the 7 parishes is far more important than may appear at first glance. I suspect many people in the audience at the hearing did not pick up on the importance of what the judge did. I know it took me awhile to realize what happened. All of the initial reports of the hearing, including mine, glossed over this incident. In fact, what occurred was that Judge Dickson actually took the first step in the implementation of the SCSC decision although he did not say that at the time. Dickson's action for the 7 parishes was a hugely important moment in the hearing. Perhaps it was his low-key demeanor that masked the significance of his action.

Thus, it may be that the early reports of the hearing were wrong to say the big news was mediation. It may well be that the major story was the judge's unannounced implementation of the first part of the state supreme court decision. In the long run, this could prove to be far more consequential than an order of mediation.

The last page of the SCSC decision  of Aug. 2, 2017, listed three majority opinions. The first one was for the 7 parishes:

1) with regard to the eight church organizations which did not accede to the Dennis Canon, Chief Justice Beatty, Justice Kittredge, and I[Justice Toal] would hold that title remains in the eight plaintiff church organizations;

It was Judge Dickson himself who brought up the disposition of these parishes in the hearing and it was he who got the opposing lawyers to agree to enact this provision. There was no disagreement in the room because it was plain law in the SCSC decision.

Interesting to note too that, by settling the issue of the 7 parishes, Dickson in effect removed that from mediation that he brought up later. Although the judge did not mention the disposition of the other 29 parishes at the time, one may argue that, by default, he gave tacit recognition of their status in the SCSC decision. It would be inconsistent to implement the first of the SCSC decisions and disregard the other two (TEC ownership of 28 [29] parishes and Camp. St. Christopher).

There were 29 parishes SCSC recognized as property of the Episcopal Church by virtue of their having acceded to the Dennis Canon. TECSC now claims these as property of the Episcopal Church and has asked Judge Dickson to implement the SCSC decision regarding them. Since he enacted the first of the three decisions of the SCSC, it is reasonable to assume he may well move on to the other two at some time. When the second order of the SCSC decision is implemented, possession of these properties will move back to the Episcopal Church diocese:

1. All Saints, of Florence
2. Christ/St. Paul's, of Yonges Island
3. Church of the Cross, of Bluffton
4. Holy Comforter, of Sumter
5. Reedemer, of Pineville
6. Holy Trinity, of Charleston
7. St. Luke's, of Hilton Head
8. St. Matthew's, of Ft. Motte
9. St. Bartholomew's, of Hartsville
10. St. David's, of Cheraw
11. St. James, James Island, Charleston
12. St. Paul's, of Bennettsville
13. St. Luke and St. Paul, of Charleston
14. Our Saviour, Johns Island
15. Epiphany, Eutawville
16. Good Shepherd, of Charleston
17. Holy Cross, of Stateburg
18. Resurrection, of Surfside
19. St. Philip's, of Charleston
20. St. Michael's, of Charleston
21. St. Jude's, of Walterboro
22. St. Helena's, of Beaufort
23. St. Paul's, of Summerville
24. Trinity, of Myrtle Beach
25. Trinity, of Edisto
26. Trinity, of Pinopolis
27. Christ Church, of Mt. Pleasant
28. St. John's, Johns Island, Charleston
29. St. Andrew's, West Ashley, Charleston

Now, do not get me wrong. I am not saying Dickson has recognized the 29 as property of TEC. All I am saying is that, by deed, he recognized and enacted the first of the three orders in the SCSC decision. This has set the precedent for him to move on to the second and third. The 29 are in the second and the Camp in the third.

I welcome letters to the editor, particularly ones with thoughts about what a mediated settlement might be. What would you suggest as a compromise settlement between the two sides?

It seems to me that the possession of the 29 parishes is not negotiable because this is final law per the SCSC decision. Same for Camp St. Christopher. Recognition of the Episcopal Church diocese as the heir of the pre-schism diocese was also a majority agreement in the decision although it was not listed as one of the three orders on the last page. I would say ownership of the old diocese by the Episcopal Church is not negotiable too. As I see it, three points are off the table: ownership of the 29 parishes, of the Camp, and of the old diocese. These belong to the Episcopal Church. This would mean everything else could be up for negotiation in mediation. 

In your opinion, what should be off the table and on the table in mediation? Send me your thoughts, and let me know if you would like them to be posted on this blog. I welcome all comments whether you want them posted or not. We all would like to know what you think about this too. Your input is just as important as anyone's. Send remarks to the email address above.