Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Federal Court outlines next steps in South Carolina dispute

Federal District Court Judge C. Weston Houck has provided attorneys in the case of vonRosenburg v. Lawrence a 30 day window in which both parties must prepare briefs on whether or not the case should be dismissed.


Judge Houck dismissed TEC’s complaint in 2013, recognizing that the essential issues of the Diocese’s identity would be resolved by a case that has been underway for almost three years in the South Carolina courts. TEC appealed Judge Houck’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit after the South Carolina trial ended in August 2014.


In February, South Carolina Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein ruled the Diocese of South Carolina was free to leave the denomination and keep its property, trademarks and assets.  TEC appealed that decision and the South Carolina Supreme Court will hear oral arguments September 23.


Judge Houck earlier dismissed TEC’s lawsuit, deferring to the authority of South Carolina state courts, but a federal Appellate Court panel ordered Judge Houck to reconsider his earlier dismissal of the case using a different standard for that decision.  The federal appellate panel decision was entirely procedural and did not issue any opinions about the merits of TEC’s claim.


During today’s session when Judge Houck asked Tom Tisdale, attorney for TECSC if he didn’t believe that the ruling of the case before the S.C. Supreme Court had a bearing on this case, surprisingly, Mr. Tisdale answered, “no.”


However the Rev. Jim, Lewis, Canon to Bishop Mark Lawrence said, “Judge Goodstein has ruled definitively that Bishop Lawrence is the bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina.  TEC’s whole complaint in this case rests on this unproven presumption that vonRosenburg is the bishop of the Diocese.  When the state Supreme Court rules, that question can no longer be considered in doubt.”

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