Friday, August 30, 2019


The fact is that the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled on August 2, 2017, that 28 of the 36 parishes listed as Plaintiffs in the Jan. 4, 2013, DSC suit against the Episcopal Church had acceded to the Dennis Canon and 8 had not acceded to the Dennis Canon. In case anyone missed it here is the last page of the 77-page SCSC decision. The language is precise and concise. Click on image for enlargement.

It is important to note the wording:

the eight church organizations which did not accede to the Dennis Canon

the twenty-eight church organizations which acceded to the Dennis Canon

It could not be any clearer.

In fact, court records show that the Episcopal Church lawyers presented to the SCSC voluminous information about each one of the 36 parishes in regard to accession to the Dennis Canon. The five justices and their clerks pored over this evidence and concluded the above. Four of the five justices (Pleicones, Hearn, Beatty, Kittredge) agreed the 28 had indeed acceded to the Dennis Canon. One of the four (Kittredge) went on to say the 28 parishes had the right to revoke their accessions and they did so as they seceded from the Episcopal Church. The majority (Pleicones, Hearn, Beatty) all said the 28 could not unilaterally revoke their accessions to the Dennis Canon. Under the stipulation of the Dennis Canon, the parish holds the local property in trust for the Episcopal Church and the Church diocese. The parish owns the property as long as it remains in TEC. If a congregation leaves TEC, the beneficiaries of the trust become the property owners. Thus, the SCSC declared the Episcopal Church as owner of the 28 parishes in question.

The major point here is that the SCSC justices reviewed the evidence of the 36 parishes and found 28 acceded to the Dennis Canon. Any assertion now that the 28 parishes did not accede to the Dennis Canon is disingenuous, and could also be seen as insulting to the state supreme court.

The SCSC denied rehearing of the case; and the U.S. Supreme Court denied cert. This means the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017 is the final law of the land, or res judicata

Last month, Judge Dickson gave tacit recognition of the SCSC decision when he had the two sets of lawyers agree to the first of the three orders on page 77---independence of the 8 parishes. 

In blatant disregard of the SCSC decision, the DSC leaders are telling their people the decision is not the law of the land. They say it is unclear and unenforceable. They are also still promoting the claim that the 28 parishes did not accede to the Dennis Canon. 

Just yesterday, the Rev. Marcus Kaiser, of Holy Comforter in Sumter was cited in a local news outlet:  "The fact that the Church of the Holy Comforter and none of the other parishes agreed to the 1979 trust is a central issue, he said." Find it here .

DSC's opinions and criticisms of the SCSC decision are irrelevant. The law is the law and it does not matter what anyone's opinion is. 

So why are the DSC officers spreading such misleading claims? Here is my opinion. In the first place, it is sow confusion in the circuit court so that the judge will not implement the decision. In the second place, DSC needs more and more money for litigation. If the DSC faithful think this is all over, they will stop contributing to the legal actions. In the third place, the overall strategy of DSC is clear. It is to get this matter back to the state supreme court and get a new decision to overturn the 2017 one. The SCSC now has two new justices leaving only three of those who signed on to the 2017 decision. Of these three, two were on the side of TEC (Hearn, Beatty). It is possible DSC could get the other three present justices to support its positions and award the 28 to DSC.

Back to the point about whether the 28 parishes acceded to the Dennis Canon. The South Carolina Supreme Court said they did. They would not have ruled that if the evidence were not there. The SCSC decision is clear and it is the law. That is all that matters. Everything else DSC is throwing up is smokescreen with the ultimate goal of getting the decision unfavorable to them replaced with one favorable to them. 

Even if Judge Dickson ultimately rules in favor of DSC and refuses to implement orders number two and three, his decisions will be appealed to the South Carolina Court of Appeals. It is unimaginable that court would refuse to defend a final decree of the highest court in the state.

Thursday, August 29, 2019


St. Helena's church, in Beaufort, is one of the twenty-nine parishes the South Carolina Supreme Court has recognized as property of the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church in South Carolina is in court now, in the circuit court, asking the judge to implement the SCSC decision. It is just a matter of time before the Episcopal Church diocese regains the keys.

Today, people claiming to be the rector and wardens of St. Helena's, who, according to the SCSC, are occupying property that belongs to the Episcopal Church, sent an email letter to the congregation asking for donations to the Legal Defense Fund to fight the Episcopal Church (DSC sued TEC on Jan. 4, 2013; 36 parishes joined as plaintiffs in the suit, including St. Helena). They claim they need $75,000 this year to cover legal fees. Unfortunately, they resorted to a misinterpretation to support their legal position:  "...the State Supreme Court refused a petition (a writ of mandamus) by TEC and TECSC to have the properties turned over to them." In fact, the writ was to direct the circuit judge to expedite his actions, that is, to move along after a year and a half of doing nothing. The SCSC has already ordered that twenty-nine parishes are property of TEC (SCSC decision, August 2, 2017, p. 77). This is final law. The ownership of the properties has been settled contrary to what DSC is claiming.

So, St. Helena's, that at one time suspended fund raising for legal expenses, is back at it full-time. 

One should bear in mind that the long-suffering congregants of St. Helena's, and the other thirty-five parishes that sued TEC, are paying twice for lawyers, once to attorneys for the parish, and once for lawyers for the diocese. We cannot know at this point how much has been spent altogether in this six and a half year legal war, but I estimate it is in the neighborhood of ten million dollars. God only knows how much all this unnecessary waste will cost before it is over. 

It is rather sad to see the leaders of St. Helena's pressing their good people to keep throwing good money after bad. To have DSC leaders telling their people the state supreme court decision does not say what it says is, well, to be generous, disappointing. 

Click on image for enlargement.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


28 August, 1:50 p.m.     The breakaway diocese, the Diocese of South Carolina, announced on their website today that Judge Dickson is set to deny the motion of the Episcopal Church diocese, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, for dismissal of the Betterments suit. In this, DSC is suing TECSC for reimbursement of improvements made on the properties in question. Find the DSC announcement here . The Episcopal Church diocese also posted a news release today. Find it here .

First of all, the timing of this is curious considering that mediation is to begin in one week. Secondly, this reminds us that everything Dickson has done with the six motions before him has been in the interest of the breakaway diocese. He has been dragging all of this out for a year and a half. Just last month, he had the two sides agree to the independence of the seven parishes listed in the state supreme court decision as outside the Dennis Canon while ignoring the other two majority decisions of the SCSC decision, both of which favor TECSC. Dickson has not made the first ruling in favor of TEC.

If Dickson is in fact allowing the Betterments suit to proceed, this is good news and bad news for both sides. For the breakaway side, the bad news is that they are surrendering claim to the 29 parishes in question. The good news is they stand to win award of millions of dollars from the Episcopal Church side for the "improvements." How much is up for question. In the original Betterments suit, only one parish listed a dollar amount for "improvements." St. Luke's of Hilton Head listed $7 million. There are 28 other parishes. One can only guess at the total figure.

In reverse, the good news for the Church side is that the breakaways are accepting the fact that the SCSC granted the 29 parishes to the Episcopal Church. The bad news is that the Church may be hit with a whopping bill for "improvements." If I were the lawyer for the Church side, I would demand rent payment from each of the 29 parishes. Do the math. Even a conservative rent of $2K/mo. for seven years for 29 parishes would likely offset some of the "improvements."

One should recall that TECSC has a motion in before Dickson for a professional auditing firm to make a full audit of each of the 29 parishes. I should think this would be absolutely imperative to determine what, if any, improvements were made to the 29 properties since the moment of the schism, October 15, 2012. 

Friday, August 23, 2019


It is Friday, August 23, 2019. We are still awaiting the start of mediation, on September 4; and so, there is nothing new to report today. I am checking in just to let you readers know I am still here. 

As we wait for mediation to begin, it is appropriate to review the state of the 36 parishes that joined in the lawsuit against the Episcopal Church (Jan. 4, 2013). There has been a sort of settlement. In the hearing last month, Judge Dickson and the two sides agreed to the disposal of the seven parishes that were listed in the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017, as being independent of trust control of the Episcopal Church. This gave tacit recognition of the three majority decisions on the last page of the SCSC decision (1-8 parish entities outside Dennis Canon, 2-28 parishes property of TEC under the Dennis Canon, 3-Camp St. Christopher property of TECSC). Let's review these seven that are now independent:

1-Christ the King, of Pawleys 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

This settles once and for all the question about St. Andrew's of West Ashley, aka Old St. Andrew's. Some people claimed that it was listed among the eight independent of TEC. It was not, and that is now clear. The eighth one above actually is the St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant Land Trust, a corporate entity created to avoid the terms of the Dennis Canon. That meant St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant was listed twice. St. Andrew's of West Ashley, in Chalreston, is one of the 28, actually 29, parishes the SCSC recognized as property of TEC.

Removing the eight above, here is the (unofficial) list of the 29 parishes that the SCSC recognized as property of TEC:

BEAUFORT --- St. Helena's


BLUFFTON --- Church of the Cross

CHARLESTON --- Holy Trinity

                             --- St. James, James Island

                             --- St. Luke and St. Paul

                             --- Good Shepherd

                             --- St. Philip's

                             --- St. Michael's

                             --- St. John's, Johns Island

                             --- St. Andrew's (Old St. Andrew's)

CHERAW --- St. David's

EDISTO  --- Trinity

EUTAWVILLE --- Epiphany

FLORENCE --- All Saints

FORT MOTTE --- St. Matthew's

HARTSVILLE --- St. Bartholomew's

HILTON HEAD --- St. Luke's

JOHNS ISLAND --- Our Saviour

MT. PLEASANT --- Christ Church

MYRTLE BEACH --- Trinity

ORANGEBURG --- Redeemer

PINOPOLIS --- Trinity

STATEBURG --- Holy Cross

SUMMERVILLE --- St. Paul's

SUMTER --- Holy Comforter

SURFSIDE --- Resurrection

WALTERBORO --- St. Jude's

YONGES ISLAND --- Christ/St. Paul's

What will be the status of these 29 in the mediation? No one can say. However, one could argue that the circuit court has already given recognition of the majority decisions in the SCSC Opinion of Aug. 2, 2017. Moreover, we know that the disposal of these parishes was not an issue in the mediation sessions that have already taken place (Oct. 2017-January 2018). Since the negotiations were confidential, we cannot know what was discussed. However, the two sides produced a "Joint Status Report" to Judge Gergel, in January of 2018, that showed the only issue to be whether the Episcopal Church bishop would be allowed to meet with the 29 parishes in question, a point that apparently was summarily rejected by the breakaway side. We can gather from this that the ownership of the 29 was not up for negotiation at that time.
Speaking for myself and no one else, I do not see how the ownership of the 29 parishes could be an issue in the impending  mediation sessions. The legal ownership of the 29 has been settled.

On another note, I recently wondered what had been the most popular entry on this blog in the last three months. It turned out to be the one about eviction. It received more "hits" than any since the first of June. Why is this so? I can only speculate. I think it is because Episcopalians across the diocese of eastern South Carolina are exhausted by the court's refusal to implement the SCSC decision. We are now in our third year of waiting on the SCSC decision to be enacted. There are lots of Church people out there who are past ready to get back into their churches. This is perfectly understandable. However, I think eviction should be only the last resort. It is not something to be desired. Hopefully, this is what the mediation sessions coming up will consider. As I see it, the issue is not who owns the 29. That has been settled. The issue is how the properties will be transferred to their rightful owners. 

(A thought on number discrepancies. Is it 28 or 29 parishes?

The Plaintiffs in the Jan. 4, 2013 lawsuit are officially listed on the "Dorchester County Public Index" website. The Case # is:  2013CP1800013. The list officially names 36 parishes as Plaintiffs (that is, the ones suing TEC) in the Jan. 4, 2013 lawsuit. However, the first page of the Aug. 2, 2017 SCSC decision omits one from the list of the 36 Plaintiffs, St. Matthew's of Ft. Motte. I assume this was a clerical error. This left 35 parishes listed. Removing 7 would leave 28. Since it was an official Plaintiff, St. Matthew's would have be included among the parishes recognized as property of TEC, making a total of 29.)

I am re-posting the July 29 blog entry about eviction:


29 JULY 2019 --- NOTES

This afternoon, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina posted on its website two items of interest in the ongoing litigation. Find the press release here . The first is that the two parties have agreed on a mediator, attorney Thomas J. Wills IV, of Charleston. He has been a certified mediator since 1993. The first session of mediation will be on 4 September 2019, in Charleston.

The second bit of news is that TECSC lawyers will meet with representatives of the Church Insurance Company of Vermont on 5-6 September 2019, in New York.


Now, turning to another matter. Some people have asked why the Episcopal Church does not evict the illegal occupants of the 29 parishes and repossess the properties that way. After all, the state supreme court recognized the 29 as property of the Episcopal Church.

My usual disclaimer---I am not a lawyer or legal expert and what I offer here is only opinion.

While I am not an attorney, I can read and understand the English language and the South Carolina Code of Laws is freely available for everyone to read on the Internet. So, I looked up the sections on trustees and on eviction. This is what I found:

On trustees, see Section 62-7-706 "Removal of trustee" here .

Under the Dennis Canon, a parish or mission may own its own property but it does so in a trust as long as the local church remains in the Episcopal Church. The beneficiaries of the trust are the Episcopal Church and the Church diocese. If the local congregation leaves TEC, it breaks the trust and the beneficiaries become the property owners. 

In its Aug. 2, 2017 decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that 29 parishes acceded to the Dennis Canon. When they left TEC, the Church became the property owner per the trust provision in the Canon. In other words, the local congregation forfeited its role as trustee.

The SC Code, 62-7-706 provides for removal of trustee. Section (a) says that a beneficiary may request the court to remove a trustee. Part (b) says the court may remove a trustee if (a) the trustee has committed a serious breach of trust. Reading this, it seems to me, as an ordinary layman, that TEC/TECSC, being the beneficiaries, could petition a court for an order removing trustee status of the local congregation that broke the terms of the Dennis Canon. The catch is that TEC would have to go through a court and get an order, I suppose for each of the 29.

As for eviction, it seems to me the relevant part of the SC Code is Section 27-37-10 to 27-37-160. Find it here . This reads as applicable to a landlord-tenant relationship, so I am not sure it would be appropriate for the church case. In this, the landlord has to go to a magistrate and get a "written rule" ordering the tenant to evacuate the property or be ejected in 10 days. The tenant, however, may demand a jury trial. If the finding is against the tenant, the sheriff's deputy will visit the property and serve the tenant an order to vacate withing 24 hours. If the tenant refuses, the deputy may enter the premises by force and eject the tenant.

Can you imagine 29 separate trials? Can you imagine the sheriff's deputy physically removing the rectors of St. Philip's and St. Michael's, and 27 others? Just think of the optics of this on the local TV news.

In my opinion, neither removal of trustee nor ejection of the tenant is a desirable solution, for TEC, of the problem at hand in this circumstance. I expect such heavy-handiness would do TEC more harm than good, at least among the local communicants who might want to return to TEC. It would certainly play into the victimization theme that DSC established before the schism (that it was the innocent local victim of malevolent forces from off). 

I imagine the best approach for TEC at this point is to try mediation (they have to anyway). If that fails, as I expect it will, the matter will go back to Judge Dickson. Presumably he will issue rulings at some point. The losing side is certain to appeal this or these to the South Carolina Court of Appeals. That court will uphold the state supreme court decision of Aug. 2, 2017, no doubt about it. It is unthinkable that the second highest court in SC would discard a final decision of the highest court in SC. So, the sooner TEC and TECSC get a final order from the Court of Appeals, the better. As I see it, this approach is preferable to forcibly evicting the officers now illegally occupying the 29 parishes.