Breakaway Episcopal Diocese Asks for Prayers Ahead of $500 Million Property Dispute Supreme Court Case

The office for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, whose leadership decided to leave The Episcopal Church in 2012. | (Photo: Jim Lewis of SC Diocese)

A diocese that broke away from The Episcopal Church is requesting prayers ahead of arguments scheduled to take place before the South Carolina Supreme Court over the regional body's church property dispute.

The Diocese of South Carolina will go before the Palmetto State's highest court to argue that they are the rightful owners of approximately $500 million worth of church property, rather than the national Mainline denomination.

The Rev. Canon Jim Lewis posted a prayer last Wednesday on the diocesan website asking God to "protect this diocese and its parishes."

The Reverend Mark Lawrence, bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, on the steps of Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul in Charleston, South Carolina, in April of 2014. | (Photo: Joy Hunter)

"Speak your words alone through Alan Runyan and the other attorneys who represent us. May the courtroom be filled with the pleasant aroma of Christ," read the prayer in part.

"Let not our fear of outcomes tarnish our joy or deter us from the mission you have given us. Teach us to bless and never curse those on the other side of this conflict. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

In November 2012, the South Carolina diocese voted overwhelmingly to leave the Episcopal Church due to theological differences and the apparent mistreatment of its bishop, the Rev. Mark Lawrence.

In January 2013, a lawsuit was filed by the diocese over rightful ownership of the name and property of the regional body.

The breakaway leadership garnered a few early legal victories, which included an injunction allowing them to use the name Diocese of South Carolina as the suit was processed.

Episcopalians still loyal to the national denomination adopted the name The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and elected the Rev. Charles vonRosenberg as provisional bishop.

In February, Judge Diane Goodstein ruled in favor of the breakaway diocesan leadership, deciding that the diocese, rather than the national denomination, had control over the estimated $500 million worth of property.

In late March, The Episcopal Church filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court, which decided in April to hear oral arguments, scheduling them for Sept. 23.

"We are pleased that the court has agreed to hear the case and we look forward to presenting our positions on these important issues before the Supreme Court," said Thomas S. Tisdale Jr., chancellor of TECSC, in a statement.

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