Supreme Court Rules that Breakaway Conservative Episcopal Churches in South Carolina Don’t Own Their Church Buildings

The steeple of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Charleston. The historic property will return to the control of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Photo by Spencer Means/Creative Commons
The steeple of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Charleston. The historic property will return to the control of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Photo by Spencer Means/Creative Commons

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina is preparing to reclaim control of more than two dozen properties worth an estimated $500 million after the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal brought by a breakaway group of conservative Anglican congregations.

“We are grateful for the clarity that this decision offers, and hopeful that it brings all of us closer to having real conversations on how we can bring healing and reconciliation to the Church, the Body of Christ, in this part of South Carolina,” said the Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. “Skip” Adams III, bishop of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, known as TECSC, in a statement.

In the same statement, TECSC chancellor Thomas S. Tisdale, Jr., said there would be no “immediate change in the physical control of the properties” because of the Supreme Court denial. However, the South Carolina Episcopalians and the parent Episcopal Church body have asked the state court to place the properties and assets under TECSC control and transfer ownership to both groups.

A spokesperson for the breakaway group, which calls itself the Diocese of South Carolina, acknowledged that the congregations and their 22,000 members might need to leave the properties if the Episcopal Church in South Carolina won’t work with them.

“We are preparing for all eventualities including moving our worship and ministries from buildings we have been in, in some cases for over 300 years,” said the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis, a spokesperson for the breakaway group, in an interview with Religion News Service. “If we must restart, replant congregations, we have plans in place for going about how we’ll do that.”

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SOURCE: Mark A. Kellner
Religion News Service