THE PARISHES AND ACCESSION
TO THE DENNIS CANON
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.