Tuesday, February 03, 2015

And in South Carolina . . .

Word is just in of Judge Goodstein's decision in The Protestant Episcopal Church in The Diocese of South Carolina et al vs. The Episcopal Church. As in Quincy, so now in South Carolina, the ability of individual dioceses to disassociate from TEC is sustained in a weighty 45-page opinion that has been anxiously awaited for more than six months. The opinion makes much of the lack of indicia of hierarchy within TEC's constitutional structure and the precedent already set in the All Saints, Waccamaw case. "South Carolina," declares the judge, "has made its choice." She also references the earlier Quincy decision: "The sole issue with respect to the Diocese is corporate control.If the Diocese legally withdrew from TEC, then those currently in union with it and its leadership control it." (26) As an unincorporated association operating under the common law, the Diocese of South Carolina was free to withdraw from the national church at any time. Interestingly the suspenseful exchange between Alan Runyan and Bishop Clifton Daniel of East Carolina in which the latter was obliged to concede the lack of a prohibition in the TEC Constitution on diocesan withdrawal appears as a lengthy footnote. (31) The judge also appears to have been struck by the fact that the Dennis Canon was never proposed as an amendment to the TEC Constitution. (35)

Now that the Diocese is confirmed in its legal right to its real, personal and intellectual property, I sincerely hope that the diocesan leadership will think long and hard about a division of assets that reflects the moral claim to a proportion of the endowment by those parishes who elected not to withdraw. A good model might be the process by which assets were distributed between the Diocese of South Carolina and the Diocese of Upper South Carolina in 1922. While the present division is not a territorial one, Episcopalians also helped build the endowment. Whether they would have offered their opponents a share had they triumphed is not the issue in my opinion. It would be better by far to ameliorate the bitterness by behaving magnanimously.

No comments: