South Carolina court temporarily restrains use of diocesan names, seal

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Jan 24, 2013

[Episcopal News Service] A South Carolina Circuit Court judge Jan. 23 issued a temporary restraining order preventing any “individual, organization, association or entity” from using registered names and marks that are claimed by Mark Lawrence and other leaders who led some Episcopalians in that state out of the Episcopal Church.

Judge Diane S. Goodstein’s order is in effect until Feb. 1 when a hearing is scheduled.

The order says Lawrence and 24 other people associated with him are the only ones who may use the diocesan seal as described in its registration with South Carolina Secretary of State as well as the names “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina,” “The Diocese of South Carolina” and “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.” Those three titles were registered on Nov. 5, 2010, according to the order.

The temporary restraining order is related to the suit that was filed in state circuit court Jan. 4. The action, the original plaintiffs said in a press release at the time, was taken “to protect the diocese’s real and personal property and that of its parishes.”

The suit also asked the court to prevent the Episcopal Church from “infringing on the protected marks of the diocese, including its seal and its historical names, and to prevent the church from assuming the diocese’s identity, which was established long before the Episcopal Church’s creation,” according to the press release.

Goodstein’s Jan. 23 order made clear that the restraining order applies only to the names and seal, and not the other matters alleged in the suit. The judge said in the order that a hearing was needed because the group of people who opposed Lawrence’s departure from the Episcopal Church has “allegedly and repeatedly” been using the names and the diocesan seal, “including those so similar that they are perceived to be the Diocese of South Carolina.”

“This use has the clear ability to cause extraordinary confusion over the corporate identity of The Diocese of South Carolina,” she wrote.

The judge noted that the plaintiffs are concerned that a group of people who want to remain in the Episcopal Church plan to hold a meeting Jan. 26 at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston. That gathering “could intentionally affect the corporate status of those uninformed that the actors are not, in reality, the corporation” known as the Diocese of South Carolina.

That meeting is meant, according to a notice issued Dec. 13 by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, to elect and install a provisional bishop and other lay and clergy leaders, consider resolutions dealing with “recent purported amendments to the Constitution and canons of the diocese” and any other matters “that may be properly brought” to the meeting.

Retired Diocese of East Tennessee Bishop Charles vonRosenberg is expected to be nominated as the provisional bishop during the Jan. 26 meeting.

It is anticipated that the group meeting that day may choose a temporary name under which to conduct its business and operate at least during the time until the Feb. 1 hearing.

The Jan. 4 lawsuit was amended on Jan. 22, according to information here, to add 15 more congregations, bringing the total number of congregational plaintiffs to 32.

A Jan. 23 press release about the restraining order said that 44 of the 71 congregations involved have joined the suit while 16 have remained with the Episcopal Church and 11 are undecided.

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (75)

  1. David M. Frost says:

    There’s a reason why Presiding Bishop Schori and the rest on the winning side of all this are all wisely holding their tongues, for now, on all this; they know what I and everyone else outside of South Carolina already know – that in the end, the national laws of the United States of America, and beyond that, the broader International Human Rights statutes, originally drafted right here by our predecessors and through our governments cheerfully signed on by all of us, will easily supersede whatever Pactum Pactorum someone might have signed in 1973 with Peter Fonda in the middle of the night out in the middle of Myrtle Beach somewhere – and trust me, 1973 was not a good year for straight deals!

    And Mr. Hunter, about your zany, “dog in the manger remnant congregation” ideas, you may wish to take a closer look at where Bishop vonRosenberg just got off the train from. I can assure you, that for a whole bunch of money and a new bike (there’s a new BMW F 800 GT that I’ve had my eye on; it’s even now available in an all-new shade of, heh-heh, Popemobile White), there’s no shortage of those of us in East Tennessee who would be all too totally happy to move on down there permanently and help Father Charles get the Future back on track his way. And if all you Lawrencebots keep going down this bad road to the Gates of Dis like this, it might just be that the Reigning Finance Oligarchs really will decide to effortlessly arrange for just this to happen, so fast it’ll will make all your heads spin faster than Johnny Blaze mounted on a router bit! (X_X)

    1. Joseph F Foster says:

      Those “International Human Rights Statutes” are of doubtful bearing on this kind of a case and in any case of doubtful legality and enforceability in the United States of America. Keep in mind that the United Nations is not a government and not legally sovereign.

  2. Tony Seel says:

    There is so much misinformation and nonsense in so many replies. First, a diocese constituted is not congregationalist. Second, pecusa is acting in violation of the temporary injunction. Unless and until that injunction is lifted, pecusa cannot legally act in defiance of it. I know that pecusa is a lawless entity with its own canons (e.g. Schori’s taking a public statement of Bp. Lawrence and pretending he was renouncing his orders), but the state does have the power to enforce an injunction. Vance Mann is projecting his own childishness onto the DSC, imo. Bp. Lawrence and the DSC chose to leave pecusa AFTER they were sued by pecusa. Calling what the DSC stealing is over the top given that pecusa takes money from parishes and does not invest in them. We’ll see who prevails in court.

  3. Christopher Jacob says:

    I find it disheartening that a faith I have come to love has been torn.
    Here are a few thoughts of mine…
    First, when Henry VIII broke with the church of Rome, he took possesion of all the churchs in England, and at that time, they became part of the Church of England. Granted this was drastic and done as a show of power, but none-the-less, the buildings, some of which still stand, became Anglican.
    Second, when I decided I did not like the Souther Baptist faith, I left the church and found a faith that met what I was seeking.
    To me, regardless of which part of the fence you are on, there is a great deal of passion. Would the energy spent bickering back and forth and the money required to file suits be better spent spreading the Gospel and helping those in need???
    It seems like we are becoming to much like the federal government and not a church.
    God’s Peace to all his people!
    A memeber of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina.

    PS what does it matter what a group of churchs calls themselves, the message is spread by the people, not the name.

  4. Grant Carson says:

    “. . . the message is spread by the people, not the name.”

    Unfortunately, TEC no longer encourages the Great Commission, but substitutes the U.N. Millenium Development Goals. That’s one of the issues that’s caused the schism.

  5. Bishop Andrew Gerales Gentry says:

    Why is there such a lack of civility in all of this? ENS refuses to even extend the common courtesy, not to mention Christian one, of calling Mark Lawrence, Mr. , let alone Bishop. Each side accusing the other of essentially being apostate something I never, as a non-Episcopalian, thought I would see in your Church. Eastern Orthodox as well as the Vatican does not recognize your Orders as valid but they do call you clergy by the terms you use. I personally do not care what the Vatican or the various Orthodox bodies hold to be valid but if we are supposed to respect our differences then should we not do so in so simple a matter as a form of address? If you are saying that Bishop Lawrence has abandoned the faith of your Church then how do you justify calling a deist like Mr Spong or you own PB who refuses to affirm the Divinity of Christ bishop?!

  6. Carol McRee says:

    John Stevenson, As for assuming the name “Episcopal Diocese of Lower South Carolina’, I suppose they could but that too would cause confusion as that has been a nickname for the Diocese of SC ie the “Lower Diocese” as opposed to the “Upper Diocese” ( Diocese of Upper South Carolina) for many years. Remember the point of the TRO was to try to lessen confusion between the two groups due to one group appropriating the name and trademarked seal of the other. I have never understood why the TECcies would WANT to assume the name of an entity they hate with so much vigor that they brought charges against their own bishop. I am ashamed to say that 4 of the 12 lay people who brought charges against Bishop Lawrence were in my parish. If they hated the man so much, they should have left us years ago.

    It seems many here are ignorant of how the national church is structured having bought the lies put forth by 815. Alas, the Diocese of South Carolina has been around longer than TEC and in fact was one of several dioceses that came together to form TEC in 1789. No where in TEC canons does it address how a diocese leaves only how a diocese is formed and then is admitted to TEc via General Convention. SO the TEC group can not rightfully claim to be a diocese in TEC for anther two years (2015 General Convention).

    It seems reasonable to me that the majority should be able to keep the name under which they have been known for 200+ years. Those in the TEC faction need to get a new name and move on. Their new name ( The Episcopal Church in South Carolina) is a back handed slap at the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina. Where does that leave Waldo’s diocese? Are they not The Episcopal Church in South Carolina as well?? I hope his diocese will consider some sort of action against them as well.

    For those of you who claim that +Mark Lawrence has been mean, vindicative, and lacks civility, I would suggest you read his own words instead of reading certain TECcie website which are full of illogical thought and venom. When St. Andrews Mount Pleasant left the diocese, he did not sue them over the property. However, that was one charge brought against him by TEC loyalists- ie that +Lawrence should have sued St. Andrew’s. The PB and national leadership were NOT happy that he refused. Now three years later, the vestry and rector of St. Andrew’s Mt. Pleasant have joined the lawsuit making the total number of plaintiffs 32- 31 of whom are parishes in the Diocese. I think it speaks volumes for Lawrence’s leadership that he was willing to let St. Andrews leave the diocese as their consciences dictated without a lawsuit for their property. Just watch now that the TEccies have their own name, the lawsuit against the Diocese of SC should be appearing very soon.

    1. John M Stevenson says:

      With good humor, I might add, that my suggestion was meant in a
      “provisional” sense as defined by Webster. But all this about “names” brings to mind,
      “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
      By any other name would smell as sweet (Juliet).”
      We all need to lighten up and go forward with charity.

  7. Carol McRee says:

    Vance Mann and all,
    This is the SECOND time that the Diocese of South Carolina has left the national church. It is quite interesting to compare the attitudes of TECcies then and now. During the 1860s, the Diocese of SC disaffiliated from PECUSA/TEC as did other southern dioceses. At General Conventions during those years, the seats of the southern delegates were still there, they were part of the roll call but the people were absent. The point is that the Diocese of South Carolina did NOT cease to exist during that time period when they were not affiliated with TEC. There is a not a several year gap in the history of the diocese. It is continuous from 1785 until the present. May this great diocese of South Carolina remain a faithful witness of Jesus Christ our Lord for many more years!

  8. Scott Hart says:

    While we all have very strong feelings about the separation of one group from another, it is apparent that the situation will not be healed (returned to its original form) and it will have to be accepted as it is. It is tempting, because of our loyalties, to imagine that one side or the other will prevail. In fact both “sides” will define themselves from this painful situation, and will “prevail”. Those related to “The Episcopal Church” will be a smaller church in the South Carolina area. For better or worse, it will be what it will be. The Diocese of SC which withdrew from TEC will be larger, representing the dominant attitudes and beliefs. So be it. Each “side” will have its strong opinions and will stand for what they profess, how they behave, who they accept into their communities of faith, and their opinions about what the gospel tells them. It is a priority that all of the people on each side of the issue hold fast to the side/the church/the beliefs that they profess. The disagreements will continue to be strong, but it is essential that no one leave their faith by leaving the church altogether. That would be the real “split.” Those who side one way will attend those churches that embrace their beliefs, and those that embrace the other side of the argument will form into their own churches large or small according to their beliefs.
    It is all very disappointing to hear name-calling that implies that one side or the other has stepped outside of the faith, when each side is actually doing its best to live out its version of what they hear the gospels telling them. These disagreements have happened throughout Christendom over the centuries. And when the dust settles, the differences continue to exist, the loyalties do not shift, and unity of opinion or style of worship does not happen. These rifts represent what is happening in the larger society, and the differing churches actually meet the needs of the people who live in those areas. In this sense we must embrace the differences as a representation of the embracing love of God.
    I used to feel bitter about the disunity of the Protestant church. I have since realized the differences can be embraced when it becomes apparent that the many different churches meet the faith needs of the many different temperaments of its people. There is no avoiding disagreement. What is important is that no one leave the Church completely.
    Those individuals not able to worship in a specific church edifice which may have been a lifelong comfort, will grieve, and they will need the support of those who can embrace them. The matter of the property and finances will get settled over time.
    Meanwhile The Episcopal Church should continue to profess, move toward and demonstrate its practice of “Welcoming All”, social justice without apology, in contrast to its past behavior of supporting exclusion.

    1. Joseph F Foster says:

      “…it is essential that no one leave their faith by leaving the church altogether. … What is important is that no one leave the Church completely.”

      Thank you, Mr. Hart, for your calm, considered, and conciliatory statement. Perhaps it can work out in South Carolina if the litigationists can stay out of court long enough to give it a chance.

      But on your statements above, that might be possible in South Carolina or other geographically small dioceses where there are remnants and secessionists. But in areas where the secession is overwhelming it may be hard for a continuing person to find a viable congretation. And in areas like Southern Ohio where the vast majority of Episcopalians either support the directions the national church have taken or simply don’t care as long as their own parish is quiet, traditionalists who cannot stay in the Episcopal Church may simply have no where else to go. In that case, what else is there to do but just leave the church?

  9. walter combs says:

    The Presiding Bishop Likens Bishop Mark Lawrence to Adam Lanza This was completely inappropriate, spiteful, delusional, etc. Do we really have any hope for reconciliation with those who have left us with this kind of rhetoric being spouted by our Presiding Bishop?

  10. Cheryl Aden says:

    I am a former Episcopalian (generations deep), baptized and confirmed in the Diocese of SC. In 1997, I converted to Roman Catholicism (where the truth remains true), but my mother is still a member of the Diocese and I’ve been trying to help her understand what’s is going on. The above comments have provided a lot of insight as to the legal intricacies of property rights and trademarks, etc., but specifically with regards to the Presiding Bishop’s position on salvation, please let me know if I understand correctly her belief. I don’t think anyone disagrees that we have a loving (triune) God who wants all of his children to live with him forever in Heaven, but is it true that Bishop Jefferts Schori has publicly stated that one does not necessarily receive salvation through Christ (John 14:6), but that salvation is a grace received in accordance with your beliefs? Hopefully, I’m misunderstanding. If not, then on this issue alone, as it conflicts with Scripture, the Episcopal Church’s Constitution and Canons, Catechism, and Creeds, wouldn’t she be guilty of heresy? And as the leader of The Episcopal Church, wouldn’t she be the schismatic?

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