Canon Lewis examined on second day of trial

Episcopal Church in South Carolina summary of the second day of trial

Court was called to order just after 10 am for the cross-examination of Cn. Jim Lewis by attorneys for the defendants (The Episcopal Church and its local diocese, TECinSC). Looking again at a constitution dated 1786, which had been introduced into evidence earlier, Cn. Lewis testified that the word “diocese” does not actually appear anywhere in the document. 

Mr. Tisdale reviewed with him several trademark applications, which Cn. Lewis signed using his ecclesiastical title, “Canon to the Ordinary.” He testified that he was acting as “registered agent of the corporation” in signing, but used the ecclesiastical title by habit. He also said that while most of the various names used by the diocese, such as “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina,” came into use in the 1800s, he was unable to say how or when the corporation later came to acquire them.

Cn. Lewis also was questioned about a document relating to amendment of the articles of the nonprofit corporation of the diocese. The document was signed by Mark Lawrence as “president” of the corporation. Cn. Lewis he said he could not explain how the Standing Committee came to be the “board of directors” for that corporation (the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina”). But even if the Standing Committee was the board of directors, it was acknowledged that since Mark Lawrence is not a member of it, he could not be its president. 

Another document reviewed was an application for tax-exempt status from the IRS, signed by Cn. Lewis, in which the applicant stated it owned no trademarks or intellectual property. (The plaintiffs are suing over control of the diocesan name and seal.) Cn. Lewis testified that the response was a mistake, but said no effort has been made to advise the IRS of the error.

Mr. Tisdale also asked Cn. Lewis to read into the record the vows he took at his ordination as deacon and as priest, in 1994. Mr. Runyan objected, saying the vows were “irrelevant.” Judge Goodstein allowed Mr. Tisdale to “proffer” the testimony, meaning it was not admitted as evidence but becomes part of the record of the trial if an appeal is filed later. Cn. Lewis read the vows that appear in the Book of Common Prayer, as they were administered to him by Bishop Salmon in 1994. They say, in part: “I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.”

Additional questions were posed to Cn. Lewis by David Booth Beers, representing The Episcopal Church. He reviewed a resolution saying that certain actions by The Episcopal Church violated the church’s constitution and were “repugnant to the plain teaching of scripture,” and asked Cn. Lewis to state what actions were described by the resolution. “How long a list would you like?” Cn. Lewis replied. But on objections from Mr. Runyan, Judge Goodstein did not allow the question. “You’re now into the separation of church and state,” she said. 

Mr. Beers quoted from the SC Supreme Court’s All Saints decision: “where a civil court is presented an issue which is a question of religious law or doctrine masquerading as a dispute over church property or corporate control, it must defer to the decisions of the proper church judicatories in so far as it concerns religious or doctrinal issues.” However, the judge ruled that the testimony was “not relevant” and did not allow it.

The Plaintiffs later called Robert M. Kunes to testify as treasurer of the Trustees of the diocese, who are one of the plaintiffs. He testified that the board of trustees serves as the board of directors for a corporation, and its duties are to hold property and assets for the diocese. He said the national church has no rights to any property or voice in the governance of the corporation. Under cross-examination, Mr. Tisdale asked about how trustees are elected by the Diocesan Convention under the Constitution and Canons of the diocese. He also questioned Mr. Kunes about who the beneficiaries are of the trust of which he is a trustee, and whether and how any changes might be made in the beneficiaries of the trust. Attorney Henrietta Golding objected, saying it is not a “trust” but a “South Carolina corporation.” Mr. Kunes testified that the diocese benefits from the income, and that the corporate purpose of the trustees, as set forth by state legislation in 1880 (to hold things in trust “for said church in said diocese”) has never been changed. Asked about provisions in the canons of the diocese that govern trustees, Mr. Kunes said he was not aware of any.

About 12 pm, following Mr. Kunes’ testimony, some of the 34 plaintiff parishes began introducing witnesses.

The Rev. Craige Borrett, rector of Christ-St. Paul’s (pictured) for 22 years, testified about his parish and about quit-claim deeds received for five pieces of property owned by Christ-St. Pauls.  He also spoke about his service on the Standing Committee of the diocese under Bishop Salmon, having served as president of it for a time. Currently he serves on the trustees of the corporation, where he has been since about 2009. Mr. Tisdale asked if the trustees ever were informed that the diocese was preparing to issue quit-claim deeds for property. Rev. Borrett said he didn’t recall ever hearing about that as a trustee.

Other plaintiff parish testimony came from All Saints, Florence; Christ-St. Paul’s, Yonge’s Island; Christ the King-Waccamaw; and St. Andrew’s, Mount Pleasant. Witnesses described how in late 2012 and early 2013 they held parish meetings, adopted resolutions to support Mark Lawrence and be part of his organization following the disassociation with The Episcopal Church, and revised parish bylaws to remove references to The Episcopal Church. Descriptions of the various meetings and documents such as minutes and bylaws occupied the remaining half day of testimony.

During testimony about St. Andrew’s in Mount Pleasant, it was noted that the church still has signs posted in front of the church calling itself “St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.” 

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