Judge Again Says, “I Won’t Try that Case. It’s Neutral Principles”
ST. GEORGE, SC, JULY 23, 2014 – On the 12th day of the trial of the Diocese of South Carolina vs. The Episcopal Church and its local subsidiary, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, TEC attorney David Beers attempted to introduce the concept of church hierarchy once again into the trial, ignoring Judge Diane S. Goodstein’s repeated rulings that church hierarchy plays no role in this case.
Beers asked the first provisional bishop of TECSC, Charles vonRosenberg, to tell the court why the Bishop of San Joaquin, Ca., the Right Reverend John David Schofield had been removed as bishop of that diocese.
Judge Goodstein said, “It’s not relevant. For this reason: I don’t know what [that] state’s position is regarding the analysis of church disputes. I don’t really care. What I care about is the state of South Carolina. My Supreme Court tells me what I do when I analyze church disputes.’
She added, “In terms of whether or not the parishes in SC and the Diocese in SC were allowed to leave the national church I’m going to make that determination on the basis of neutral principles of law under South Carolina law. I don’t care what happened any where else.”
Beers disagreed with the judge, saying that hierarchy is part of TEC’s polity or organization and the judge responded, “I’m not sure that’s your polity. I watched very carefully when Bishop [Clifton] Daniel testified and Mr. Runyan (attorney for the Diocese) popped up with the Constitution and Canons. There was nothing written that says, “You here forever.”
In response to her last statement coming out somewhat like Scarlet O’Hara, some in the courtroom laughed, drawing a reprimand from Judge Goodstein.
“I don’t say that to be humorous. It is a very serious matter,” she said. “You want to tell me this is the polity of the church? It’s not written. Seems to me it ought to be written. But it isn’t. It obviously happened to some folks. I’ve got that. But I’m not going to be bound by that. I’m just not. I’m going to be bound by South Carolina law.”
When cross examined by Diocesan attorney Alan Runyan, Bishop vonRosenberg affirmed that he was familiar with that portion of the TEC canons commonly referred to as “the Dennis Canon.” He admitted, however, he was not familiar with the Canon which states “No member of the Church, whether lay or ordained, may seek to have the Constitution and Canons of the Church interpreted by a secular court, or resort to a secular court to address a dispute arising under the Constitution and Canons.”
“That is precisely what TEC has sought every time it has prosecuted this kind of litigation,” said the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary. “Its what Judge Goodstein emphasized today that she is prevented from doing under the law.”
Plaintiff calls rector as witness to dispute Rickenbaker testimony
The Reverend Gregory Kronz, rector at St. Luke’s on Hilton Head Island testified today that he was head of the search committee to find a bishop to replace Bishop Salmon.
Rev. Kronz said that he and another member of the committee, Paul Fuener, interviewed the Rev. Thomas Rickenbaker, one of about a dozen candidates that had made it to the interview stage. Henrietta Golding asked Rev. Kronz if he ever inquired as to whether or not Rev. Rickenbacher would be willing to take the diocese away from the national church, or if there were any indirect questions in that regard. Rev. Kronz said. “no.” Asked if Rev. Rickenbaker had removed his name from the search list, and Kronz again said, “no.”
The rest of the afternoon was spent going over documents TEC sought to enter into evidence, relating to each of the individual churches involved in the dispute.
When Diocesan attorney Alan Runyan objected to the relevancy of one document, Judge Goodstein overruled him and added, “On documents, I understand why they’re being offered by the defendant (TEC). (However) They have relevance that also shows a very close relationship between parish and Diocese. How many times have I heard testimony say, “The diocese is important to us. We want to stay with the Diocese… I heard time and time again, the end of the road is the Diocese. ‘We want to stay with Bishop Lawrence.’.”
About the Diocese of South Carolina
The Diocese was founded in 1785 by the parishes of the former South Carolina colony. Based in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, the Diocese is one of the oldest religious districts in the United States and counts among its members several of the oldest, operating churches in the nation.
The Diocese of South Carolina is recognized by Anglican Dioceses and Provinces around the world, many of whom have broken fellowship with The Episcopal Church, and in 2013 the Diocese joined the global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and entered into a formal relationship of Provisional Primatial Oversight with Global South primates.