Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Breaking Anglican News: Diocese of South Carolina has complete dissociation rights

I think most if not all dioceses in ACANZP would understand that they belong to ACANZP by common compact and thus could dissociate by local synodical decision (albeit with consequences re breaking fellowship with other bishops). This right to dissociate - as I understand it - is even clearer in Australia where dioceses do not have to abide by decisions of the General Synod.

In other jurisdictions such possibilities are not quite so clear. I imagine it is impossible for a diocese to even contemplate dissociation in the C of E. But in TEC (USA) there have been dissociations (de facto), court cases which suggest dissociation is not possible (de jure) unless the General Convention should so approve and a dogged belief by the Diocese of South Carolina that it, at least, can dissociate because of some peculiarities in South Carolina state law.

Well, put simply, that dogged belief has complete victory today according to this Stand Firm post.

LATER: The definitive word on the legal niceties in this victory and the nuances which might influence other cases belong - unexpectedly - to Anglican Curmudgeon.


MichaelA said...

Well, its a complete victory at first instance (i.e. trial before a single judge). The TEC parties will almost certainly appeal. It has taken a long time for anything to really happen in these law suits and they won't be finalised for a long time yet.

TEC is locked in legal combat with five of its dioceses that have sought to leave with property:

*Dio. Pittsburgh was an early victory for TEC. In 2011 it won a first instance court decision, and the Dio Pittsburgh (now in ACNA) decided not to appeal. Many properties were handed back to TEC or bought out by the diocese.

*Dio. Quincy seems to have ended unhappily for TEC. In 2013 they lost a first instance decision, then last year the Fourth Illinois District Appeals Court upheld that decision. I understand the property and funds have gone the departing diocese, which is now in ACNA.

*The Fort Worth law suits are coming up for hearing this month. At present the departing diocese has the properties, the funds and the name - it calls itself "the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth". TEC doesn't agree. We should know shortly, but then there will no doubt be appeals.

*Last year, TEC won a first instance decision against the departing Diocese of San Joaquin. Last I heard, the diocese intended to appeal, but I don't know where that has gone.

*Now it appears that Dio South Carolina has won (at first instance) the right to properties, funds and the name. Appeals likely to follow.

If this were a Rocky movie, both fighters would be pretty battered.

Kurt said...

"If this were a Rocky movie, both fighters would be pretty battered."--MichaelA

Quite. But the US Supreme Court has yet to rule.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,

Re your Australian comments, a quick look at the Constitution doesn't make any referrals to withdrawal of dioceses, just to creation of new dioceses and adjusting/merging existing ones. However, each diocese has its own legal entity which owns the property and is formed by an Act of Parliament in that state, so presumably a diocese could withdraw from the national church, but they would not be able to say they are members of the Anglican Church of Australia, nor participate in its activities.

The key phrase about applicability of Gen Synod canons is "ritual, ceremonial or discipline" of the church. If they are affected, individual dioceses get to choose whether to adopt them or not.

Anonymous said...

The U.S. Supreme Court will not take this up. It will likely end with the S.C. Supreme Court.

Kurt said...

"The U.S. Supreme Court will not take this up. It will likely end with the S.C. Supreme Court."--Anon

Don't bet on that.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

"The Lord giveth; the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

BUT, it may not yet be the end of the process. Chickens counted may yet be found infertile.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt
I am rummaging around in my failing memory re my rejoinder to you, so could be wrong, but I thought that somewhere else in the legal perambulations, the SC has made it clear that it has no interest in taking up one of these kinds of cases.

Kurt said...

Well, Peter, if you have "legal perambulations" that the Roman Catholics on the Supreme Court can live with American Roman parishes splitting for TEC, ECLA, etc.,---and taking their property along---I'd like to see them. You might be right, but I don't think so.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

MichaelA said...

Hi Kurt, I gather from your last post that you haven't yet read the judgment?

I read it yesterday and I didn't see anything in it that would bother the Roman Catholic Church.

Anonymous said...

Catholics aren't stupid. All property in a Roman Catholic diocese is vested in the Bishop, and all bishops are appointed by Rome. Catholic parishes can be closed and buildings sold on the Bishop's word.

John Sandeman said...


my understanding is that two Australian dioceses reserved their right to withdraw from the national church. They are Adelaide and Willochra.
If an Australian diocese leaves the Anglican Church of Australia it is unlikely they could take their property with them.
John Sandeman