Monday, October 7, 2019


The lawyers for the newly named Anglican Diocese of South Carolina filed a "Notice of Appeal" with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today, October 7, 2019. Find the Episcopal diocese's press release about this here .

The bishop, the diocese, and the trustees of the Anglican diocese have appealed the 19 September ruling of United States District Judge Richard Gergel. That decision found all in favor of the Episcopal Church, declared the Episcopal diocese to be the heir of the historic diocese, recognized the names and emblems as property of the Episcopal diocese, and banned the breakaway side from using them. The next day, the schismatic diocese changed its name to Anglican Diocese of South Carolina and proceeded to remove the Episcopal names and emblems of the historic diocese from their identifications.

Several comments on today's news:

---This is not the appeal itself. It is only a notice that an appeal will be submitted to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Richmond. The appeal itself will come later.

---Interesting to note that ADSC immediately complied with the judge's 19 September order on names and emblems. They did not ask for a stay of the order pending an appeal.

---It seemed to me that Gergel's order of 19 September was written to be appeal proof. He referred to the Fourth Circuit twenty times in his text and gave voluminous evidence for his decisions. A good deal of his work was addressed to the Fourth. The judges of the Fourth already have they work done for them.

---The Fourth has already shown itself to be favorable to the Episcopal Church side in this controversy. Twice the court considered appeals from the Episcopal Church side, and twice the court agreed ordering the U.S. District Court Judge Weston Houck in Charleston to proceed with the case. Houck died soon after the second order.

---This appeal is a risky maneuver. If the Fourth denies the appeal, it will write an explanation that is certain to boost the importance of Gergel's already landmark decision. The only court above the Fourth is the United States Supreme Court. The justices there have already made it perfectly clear they will not consider an appeal of an Episcopal Church case. No doubt, this is to preserve the First Amendment. Thus, the word of the Fourth is likely to be the final word on the relationship between the Episcopal Church and its dioceses.

In time, we should get the full appeal document from the Anglican lawyers. If there is a hearing, it will be live streamed by audio. 

Bottom line:   It is most unlikely the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will overturn Judge Gergel's decision. As they uphold it, Gergel's enormously important work will become even greater as a definitive point in American jurisprudence. Courts from now on will respect the Episcopal Church as an hierarchical institution entitled to govern itself.