SC Judge Bans Episcopal Church From Using Breakaway Diocese's Identity for Now

A South Carolina Judge has issued a temporary restraining order stopping The Episcopal Church from using the identity of a Diocese whose leadership broke away from the denomination.

Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein issued the order Wednesday on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, whose leadership voted to leave The Episcopal Church last year over theological differences as well as the treatment of their bishop, the Rev. Mark Lawrence.

"No individual, organization, association or entity, whether incorporated or not, may use, assume, or adopt in any way, directly or indirectly, the registered names and the seal or mark of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina," reads the order in part.

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The order will be enacted for ten days, with a hearing scheduled on Friday, Feb. 1, to determine if an injunction will replace it. If an injunction is enacted, then the ban on The Episcopal Church's usage of the identity of the South Carolina Diocese will continue at least through the remainder of the legal proceedings.

Earlier this month, the South Carolina Diocese under Bishop Lawrence filed suit against The Episcopal Church over usage of the name and seal of the Diocese, as well as rights to the church property.

"[T]he plaintiff, The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina ('Diocese of South Carolina') is the only properly organized civil corporation and organization entitled to the use and control of the corporate entity, its names, emblems, styles and seal, its corporate assets, its real and personal property," reads the suit in part.

The suit over the identity of the Diocese came as a result of the fallout from the November 2012 vote to leave The Episcopal Church. Supporters of The Episcopal Church within the Diocese, known as "continuing Episcopalians," formed their own Steering Committee to appoint a new bishop. According to the Steering Committee and TEC leadership, an Episcopal Diocese cannot leave the denomination.

In an earlier interview with The Christian Post, Canon to the Ordinary for the Diocese the Rev. Jim Lewis explained that continuing congregations can "re-associate" with The Episcopal Church. "Churches wishing to leave the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and re-associate with The Episcopal Church are free to do so, in accordance with their own bylaws and articles of incorporation," said Lewis.

"Just as the majority of the parishes and missions are likewise free to remain with the Diocese and retain all their customary rights and privileges in its membership."

Judge Goodstein's decision comes as continuing Episcopalians in the South Carolina Diocese continue to move forward with their efforts to maintain control of the church establishment. Two weeks ago, the Steering Committee nominated retired East Tennessee bishop Rt. Rev. Charles Glenn vonRosenberg to the post of bishop provisional.

The vote on his nomination will be taken Saturday, with TEC Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in attendance. This special meeting of the diocesan convention will be at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston.

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