THE trial between the realigned Diocese of South Carolina and
the Episcopal Church in the United States over property assets
worth about $500 million, and the right to use the diocesan name,
has ended, but a ruling is not expected for up to three months.
Concluding witnesses in the three-week trial were the Rt Revd
Mark Lawrence, who leads the separate diocese, and the Rt Revd
Charles vonRosenberg, who leads the remaining parishes in the
Episcopal Church in South Carolina.
In October 2012, the national Church restricted Bishop
Lawrence's authority, after years of disagreements over questions
including homosexuality and gay bishops. He and about two-thirds of
parishes in the diocese, then withdrew from the Episcopal Church.
They filed a lawsuit against the Episcopal Church to retain the
diocese's property, name, and other assets.
Central to the case is whether the diocese had the right under
South Carolina's civil laws to withdraw from the Episcopal
The realigned diocese has argued that the diocese existed before
the national Church, and can voluntarily leave as it chooses. The
national Church, however, contends that it is a hierarchical
institution whose governing body has never given the diocese
permission to withdraw.
Bishop Lawrence also testified that he was never asked - or
intended - to withdraw the diocese from the Episcopal Church when
interviewed for the post of bishop. Bishop vonRosenberg's group,
however, has argued that Bishop Lawrence and others conspired to
leave the national Church and take property with them.