State Supreme Court rules in favor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina

November 19, 2017

[The Episcopal Church in South Carolina] Ruling in favor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the South Carolina Supreme Court has denied two motions from a disassociated group and upheld its August 2 decision that property and assets of the Diocese of South Carolina, and most of its parishes, must remain with the Episcopal Church.

The Nov. 17 orders can be found here: denial of rehearing motion and denial of recusal motion.

The rulings reject two motions that were filed by a breakaway group that left the Episcopal Church in 2012. One sought a rehearing of the case, while the other asked that Justice Kaye Hearn, one of the five justices who wrote the opinion, be recused, and her opinion vacated.

The court voted 2-2 on the rehearing motion; a majority would have been required in order to grant a rehearing. Hearn did not vote.

The court voted unanimously to deny the motion seeking Hearn’s recusal. Justice Jean Toal, who was serving as chief justice at the time the court heard the case, noted that “an adverse decision is no reason to excuse a nearly 2 1/2-year delay in making a request for recusal.” 

“While I make no criticism of the respondents’ lawyers for filing the motions to recuse and for vacature, I am disappointed in the tone of these filings. They are unreasonable, harsh criticisms of a highly accomplished judge and a person of great decency and integrity,” Justice Toal said.

Statement from Bishop Gladstone B. Adams of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina

We give thanks for the clarity that the State Supreme Court’s decision provides and we are grateful for the thoughtful and difficult work the justices have undertaken in this case.

From the time this lawsuit was filed against the Episcopal Church, the hope of reconciliation has been our guiding principle. We believe this is what the Lord Jesus would expect of us and it is consistent with the teachings of St. Paul who said in his second letter to the Church in Corinth, “All this is from God, who reconciled himself to us in Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” We renew our commitment to this hard work of reconciliation in the days to come.

We understand that the many people in the parishes affected by this ruling may be experiencing pain, fear and confusion. Let me say to all that The Episcopal Church in South Carolina is committed to finding a path that will allow the people of God to continue to live their lives as a part of the Anglican Communion in and through the Episcopal Church. As former bishop of South Carolina William Alexander Guerry said more than 100 years ago, “If we are to be truly Catholic, as Christ himself is Catholic, then we must have a church broad enough to embrace within its communion every living human soul.”

The Episcopal Church seeks to be an expression of faith in Christ that welcomes all to his expansive table. Our prayer is that every person in every parish of the diocese will join in working and praying together to bring healing to the church, the body of Christ, in this part of South Carolina.

— The Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III, of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina