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January 20, 2015
Oral Arguments in Appeal of Houck's Decision Scheduled for Jan. 28
No word yet on a ruling from Circuit Court Judge Goodstein
RICHMOND - Lawyers for the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina will head to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia next week to argue that a local Federal judge was wrong not to claim jurisdiction in a case they brought in 2013 asking that the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg be recognized as the Church's duly elected bishop in eastern South Carolina.
VonRosenberg's predecessor, ex-Bishop Mark J. Lawrence, claims that he is the Episcopal Bishop of South Carolina, even though he abandoned the Church more than two years ago. For years Lawrence has been engaged in an imaginary "war" with the Church that includes a massive lawsuit claiming that he and his followers own an estimated $800 million in Church property and financial assets.
Federal Judge Weston Houck from Charleston previously rejected the Church's argument that issues raised by Lawrence's conduct necessarily warrant the intervention of the Federal Courts.
Church lawyers and those representing Lawrence will be given a total of twenty minutes each to present their oral arguments in the case on January 28th.
Meanwhile, there has been no word on when a ruling in the case of Lawrence's mega-lawsuit might be handed down by State Judge Diane Goodstein in Dorchester County. The trial was held last July, and the judge herself seemed to suggest that an opinion would be forthcoming in the fall. However, she is under no timetable and many legal observers at the trial thought she was not aware of the potentially far-reaching effects of her decision when set the schedule was announced.
Read full story from the Episcopal Church in South Carolina website.
January 1,, 2015
New Year Finds Current and Former Episcopalians in South Carolina Stalled, Entering a Third Year of Breakaways' Attack on the Church
After two turbulent years of legal maneuvering by their embittered former Bishop and his nearly 50-member legal team, current and former Episcopalians, in what was once a large, thriving diocese in the Episcopal Church, are spiritually exhausted and financially depleted.
Any hope of a quick resolution to the complicated legal issues raised by ex-Bishop Mark Lawrence and his followers in their lawsuit against the Episcopal Church and loyal Episcopalians in South Carolina have long since evaporated.
Lawrence and his followers are part of a national effort by ultraconservatives to create a legal precedent that will allow them and their allies in other dioceses to leave the Episcopal Church and take their parishes and even their entire dioceses with them. The strategy has failed in most places, including Georgia, California, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, but legal cases in Fort Worth and Quincy (Ill), along with Lawrence's in South Carolina, are still active, but moving at a snail's pace.
Episcopal Church in South Carolina thrives under Lawrence's successor
Much to the surprise of many on both sides, the continuing Episcopal Church in South Carolina has proven to be a viable entity with sufficient resources to fight Lawrence's attempt to make off with the Diocese of South Carolina's parish properties and financial assets, conservatively valued at $800 million. The continuing diocese has also gotten good news in the form of insurance coverage for its legal expenses incurred while defending itself from Lawrence's legal assault.
Lawrence's successor, the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, has led a reorganization of the Diocese that has seen significant grown and rebirth. New mission parishes have formed in parts of the Diocese where pro-Lawrence congregations have not yet relinquished control of their buildings, and a number of its larger, established parishes have continued to attract loyal Episcopalians who have grown weary of Lawrence's erratic leadership, hostility toward homosexuals and lesbians in the Church, and his intolerance of those whose experience of God is different from his own.
Parishes loyal to the Episcopal Church in Charleston experienced record turnouts this Christmas. Grace Church, the largest of them, had five Christmas services with nearly 3,000 participants.
Lawsuit slogging along, likely to take years and millions of dollars
Lawrence's lawsuit went to trial last summer in Dorchester County, where some of his attorneys have ties to a judge they felt would rule in their favor. The judge's performance at trial drew occasional gasps and guffaws, as she appeared determined to limit the admission of evidence that might be helpful to the Church and its continuing Diocese on appeal.
Now, nearly six months after the trial, the judge has not yet ruled in the case, nor has a Federal appeals court in Richmond made a decision on vonRosenberg's request that he be recognized as the legitimately elected and officially-recognized Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina.
Lawrence, living very well in Charleston, says no chance of reconciliation
Meanwhile, Lawrence has firmly ensconced himself in Charleston in the official residence established by loyal Episcopalians for the rightful Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. The Diocesan Board of Trustees, which the ex-bishop chairs, has awarded him a $1-per-year lease for the home, located in a very posh and historic part of downtown. Funds contributed by his breakaway "diocese" cover maintenance and upkeep on the property. He also has a very nice agreement with the "diocese" that makes him its salaried CEO until he decides to give that up.
Believe it or not, in addition to his salary, he gets a pension from the Episcopal Church's Pension Fund, one of the most lucrative retirement plans in the country and one which his priests were forced to give up when they abandoned the Church with him.
Last year Lawrence launched an aggressive appeal for $2 million in funds to pay his lawyers, and this year he is pressuring them for the same amount to fight the "spiritual forces of evil.". Details of the legal fund's income and expenses do not appear to be available to the public.
December 22, 2014
Ex-Bishop's exotic metaphors, vivid dreams, and rhetorical flourishes have defined a leadership style that has guided his schism
Episcopalians in South Carolina have long become accustomed to Mark Lawrence’s accounts of divine revelation through dreams, visions, angelic messengers, and even ordinary humans through whom heavenly voices speak in ways that only he can understand. His recounting of these imaginings often echo the writings of C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, and authors of other literary classics he studied in college.
Many of these narratives are charming, as is the one in which his surprise proposal of marriage was spoiled by angels, who had tipped off his future wife in a dream the night before. Then there are bigger picture revelations, almost always cast with Lawrence as God's reluctant hero. All have contributed to his mystique among his followers but many also have been useful to him in inspiring (or some would say, manipulating) them in his recent schism with the Episcopal Church.
Readers of this weblog will remember, for example, Lawrence's 2012 summer vacation that somehow transformed itself into a Biblical epic when he ascended the mountains of North Carolina in anticipation of a new vision to guide next steps in his imaginary “war” with the Church.
On his return, a jubilant Standing Committee eagerly spread the word that indeed the bishop had received an exciting vision through which the Diocese would at last be "drawn into a place of alignment with God alongside Mark."
Few - except the cynical, shameless, and SC Episcopalians - noticed that Lawrence's new vision bore a striking resemblance to his attorneys' secret legal scheme to sue the Episcopal Church and its continuing Diocese of South Carolina, and make off with hundreds of millions of dollars in property and financial assets accumulated over 225 years of its proclamation of the Gospel...
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