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South Carolina diocese trial ends

by
08 August 2014

by a staff reporter

ENS/MARY FRANCES SCHJONBERG

Opponent: the Rt Revd Charles von Rosenberg 

Opponent: the Rt Revd Charles von Rosenberg 

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 Church.

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.

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