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Trademark violation lawsuit against Mark Lawrence dismissed August 23, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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A federal court has dismissed the trademark lawsuit brought by the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg against the Rt Rev. Mark Lawrence, ruling the dispute over who may call himself bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is a matter to be decided by the state court.

On 23 August 2013 Senior U.S. District Court Judge Weston C. Houck held “[t]he sum of all disputes and conflicts arising in the wake of the Diocese’s estrangement from [the national Episcopal Church] are more appropriately before, and will more comprehensively be resolved, in South Carolina state court.”

In a statement released after the decision as handed down, Bishop vonRosenberg  said he was “disappointed at the recent legal developments,” but added “we recognized that our journey involves many, many more steps than only this one.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

South Carolina clergy threatened with deposition: The Church of England Newspaper, April 28, 2013, p 6. May 1, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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The Episcopal Church has written to 140 active and retired priests and deacons asking them to affirm their loyalty to New York-based national church  and foreswear allegiance to Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, the provisional bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, — the loyalist organization in the diocese backed by the national church – last week wrote: “I invite you to make known your allegiance to [The Episcopal Church] and, if you wish, to request a time to speak with me about this matter …  You face a very serious decision, with significant consequences for you and for the church, and I encourage your careful and prayerful consideration.”

The bishop has given the clergy two weeks to respond and if no response is forthcoming he would begin the process to depose in the ordained ministry. The legality of the bishop’s letter has not been clarified as the Episcopal Church in South Carolina is not a member of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and its Bishop would appear to lack authority to make such demands.  The letter also follows a pattern of action taken by the national church in the disputes with breakaway dioceses of Pittsburgh, Quincy, San Joaquin, and Fort Worth. Diocesan officials note that apart from concerns over the distress the letter has given to retired clergy who had not been involved in the dispute, the letter will most likely be ignored.

The letter came the same day as four East African bishops on a visit to Charleston affirmed Bishop Lawrence and his diocese’s place in the wider Anglican Communion. Bishop Abraham Nhial of the Diocese of Aweil in the Sudan told reporters “We love Mark [Lawrence].”

Along with Bishops Robert Martin of Marsabit, Kenya, Elias Mazi Chakupewa of Tabora, Tanzania, and Nathan Gasatura  of Butare, Rwanda, Bishop Nhial  said: “We came to encourage Bishop Mark Lawrence to stand firm in the faith.”

“The people of South Sudan have suffered for 50 years. We’ve died because of our belief in Christ, our identity as Christians. I want to assure my brother Mark that suffering is part of our belief in Christ. We came here tonight not only to discuss what we’re doing in Christ, but also to encourage you to stand up and stand firm in your own faith.”

Legal win for breakaway American diocese: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013 p 6. February 7, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina scored a significant victory in its fight with the national Episcopal Church last week after a South Carolina court issued a Temporary Restraining Order forbidding the national church and its allies in South Carolina from using the name, symbols or seal of the diocese.

The 23 Jan 2013 order handed down by Judge Diane Goodstein of the First Judicial Circuit Court blocked the national church from holding a rump meeting of the diocese on 26 January, forcing loyalists to gather as the “Episcopal Church in South Carolina” rather than the “Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina”.

Canon lawyer Allan Haley noted that Judge Goodstein’s order had been “granted ex parte as a matter of urgency, and holds in place only until the Court can hear argument on a preliminary injunction pending trial of the matter” and will expire on 1 Feb 2013.

Mr. Haley stated that he expected the national church’s attorneys to offer a vigorous challenge to the TRO at the 1 Feb hearing. “But it would appear that the court has already found most, if not all, of the case against them,” he added.

On 4 Jan 2013 the trustees of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and 15 congregations filed suit against the national church alleging that its agents had committed identity theft by using its name, symbols and seal and by holding out the Presiding Bishop the “steering committee” of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina as the lawful diocesan ecclesiastical authority.  The complaint further alleged the national church had slandered the title to diocesan and congregational property by stating it held an interest in all church property in South Carolina.

An amended complaint filed on 22 Jan, which added 16 additional congregations as plaintiffs, also asked for a TRO from the court.  In its request for the TRO the diocese alleged that at the loyalists special convention Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and her supporters “intended to make unauthorized corporate changes” to the diocesan constitution and canons, thereby causing the diocese harm.

The diocese stated by this order: “The judge effectively prevents TEC, a voluntary association, and the parishes who support it, from claiming to own or operate the Diocese of South Carolina, an entity that it insists it owns but whose very existence predates The Episcopal Church.”

Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, who was elected at the special convention to lead those Episcopalians in South Carolina who would remain with the national church, told the Church of England Newspaper: “Our intention is to carry out our duties on behalf of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina when we meet at the special convention, and at the same time, we intend to continue to take care in using language which might be offensive to others.”

However others in the loyalist faction called the judge’s decision “bizarre” and suggested improper influence may have been used to sway her decision. The diocese’s lawsuit to protect its name and assets was “unprecedented”, “vindictive” and “mean spirit[ed]” it said, adding that Bishop Lawrence was unfit to serve in the Christian ministry and denounced the majority factions as being “the anti-gay diocese.”

The loyalist faction turned their ire on the judge as well. “Andrew Platte, an attorney for several of the plaintiff congregations and the PECDSC Incorporated, is a recent law clerk for Judge Goodstein and has taken a important role in the recent legal attacks on Episcopalians in the Diocese. He is an associate in the firm of Speights and Runyon, which played a significant role in convincing parishes in the Diocese that the Episcopal Church might be preparing to take their property away.”

Bishop vonRosenberg, however, took an irenic approach to the conflict.  Speaking to the State newspaper, the provisional bishop-designate for loyalists in South Carolina said there was hope for reconciliation. “While we have diverged at this point in history on our paths, one day those paths will converge once again,” the bishop said.

Presiding Bishop taking charge in South Carolina: Anglican Ink, November 29, 2012 November 29, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

A gathering of national church loyalists has learned that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is backing their move to claim the mantle of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

The presiding bishop’s attorney told the 15 Nov 2012 meeting of TEC loyalists   the national church had been preparing for the fight with Bishop Lawrence and the majority faction in the diocese for some time.  However assertions made at the meeting that the former Bishop of East Tennessee will be intervening on behalf of the presiding bishop supplant Bishop Mark Lawrence were unfounded.

The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg told Anglican Ink his officiating at public worship as a priest in the jurisdiction of the Diocese of South Carolina was permitted under a license he held by Bishop Mark Lawrence, while his actions as a bishop were of a pastoral nature. The retired bishop said the had been given “no special or particular authority” to exercise episcopal office in South Carolina.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Loyalist group issues new invitation to South Carolina clergy: Anglican Ink, November 9, 2012 November 10, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, South Carolina.
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A “loyalist” faction within the Diocese of South Carolina has sent out a second invitation to the clergy of the diocese inviting them to a clergy conference headlined by the former Bishop of East Tennessee, Charles vonRosenberg.

On 9 Nov 2012 an email invited all active and retired South Carolina to a “diocesan clergy day”.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Tennessee bishop offers support to dissident South Carolina clergy: Anglican Ink, November 9, 2012 November 10, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, South Carolina.
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Charles vonRosenberg

The former Bishop of East Tennessee, the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg will meet with dissident members of the South Carolina clergy next week to offer his pastoral support following the suspension of their bishop and withdrawal of their diocese from General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

On 7 November 2012, an email purporting to be from the “Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina” and bearing the diocese’s seal was sent en masse to the clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina inviting them to attend the “Diocesan clergy day” to be held on 15 Nov at the Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston.

Amongst the activities planned was a sermon to be offered by Bishop vonRosenberg.

… Bishop von Rosenberg told Anglican Ink the diocesan statement misconstrued his role in the affair.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

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