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Trial opens in South Carolina to determine ownership of $500 million in church assets

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina summarizes the first day’s proceedings

The trial began today in the Dorchester County Courthouse in St. George. Attorneys and onlookers assembled for the 9 am start time, and visited quietly with one another until 9:50, when Judge Diane S. Goodstein took the bench. Both sides waived opening arguments. The Plaintiffs (the breakaway group operating as the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina” and the parishes that joined in the suit) then began presenting testimony.

The first witness was Wade H. Logan III, who became chancellor (legal adviser) of the diocese around 2007 and continues to serve in that capacity for the breakaway organization. Two of the plaintiffs’ 41 attorneys questioned Mr. Logan for more than two hours on general matters such as what a parish vestry does, who else has served as chancellor, and how bishops are chosen. A number of convention journals and other records were admitted into evidence along with documents relating to the incorporation of the diocese in 1973 and subsequent changes in corporate documents.

Later, the Rev. Cn. Jim Lewis, who was canon to the ordinary of the diocese before the split and continues to hold that title with the breakaway organization, testified at length about matters such as the number of parishes and missions. He also spoke about various votes taken at conventions in which the breakaway group approved actions that purported to remove the diocese’s accession to Episcopal Church law. 

Cn. Lewis also testified regarding the various names used by the diocese, such as “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina”, and its seal. Cn. Lewis said he took steps to register several of the names with the South Carolina Secretary of State in 2010 because other breakaway groups around the United States who were trying to leave The Episcopal Church were having difficulty taking their names with them.

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