On Monday, September 26, 2022, the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina (ADOSC) and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina (EDOSC) announced a settlement agreement resolving the numerous outstanding legal issues between the two dioceses. While the settlement does not affect the remaining issues regarding the property rights of three parishes currently pending before the South Carolina Supreme Court, nor the betterments lawsuit by several parishes pending in state trial court, it does resolve all issues regarding diocesan and trustee property and assets.
We are thankful to have reached this settlement after extensive, good-faith discussions, marked by mutual respect and good will, that have been occurring between both dioceses since the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling in April. While this settlement has required sacrifices from all involved, finalizing these issues enables us to move forward in mission and ministry free from impending litigation.
The full details of the settlement have not been released but the Bishops did release certain elements, including:
- The Anglican Diocese of SC (ADOSC) will transfer full control of all real estate owned by the Trustees including the Bishop’s residence at 50 Smith Street and St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center to the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina (EDOSC).
- Full control of all assets, equipment, and bank accounts relating to St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center, will transfer from the ADOSC to the EDOSC on October 1, 2022. Camp and conference center operations will continue uninterrupted when EDOSC assumes control.
- ADOSC will transfer rental property at 129 Coming Street, Charleston, and a vacant lot in the town of Santee, both properties in possession of the ADOSC, to the EDOSC.
- EDOSC waives and relinquishes any claim in the ADOSC leasehold interest in the Diocesan Headquarters building.
- The historical papers in the possession of ADOSC will be made available for imaging or copying by both dioceses and then jointly donated to the South Carolina Historical Society or another jointly agreed upon nonprofit organization in Charleston.
- The historical silver, now in possession of the ADOSC, where no parish has a claim, will be jointly donated to the Charleston Museum or other jointly agreed upon nonprofit organization in Charleston.
- Both the ADOSC and the EDOSC will provide quitclaim deeds to several active mission congregations associated with the ADOSC.
- Additional financial assets have been returned to the EDOSC. Each diocese made financial concessions and agreed to forego claims against the other to reach this agreement.
- The parties will not pursue further or future litigation between each other and all parishes and missions of the ADOSC except for those currently awaiting rulings from the South Carolina Supreme Court or those which have pending claims in the betterments lawsuit.
- The pending litigation in Federal Court will be dismissed, leaving in place the current Federal District Court orders regarding use of certain names and seals.
- All bishops’ portraits, now in possession of the ADOSC, will be given to the EDOSC after copies are made by the ADOSC.
Reflecting on the agreement, Bishop Edgar said, “This settlement agreement allows us to invest our diocesan energy, time, focus, and resources in gospel ministry rather than litigation. While the losses we have experienced, including those of St. Christopher and several of our parish buildings are painful, I am grateful that the work we have done has brought an end to litigation between our dioceses. I am grateful, too, for the willingness to work to avoid further litigation that Bishop Woodliff-Stanley showed throughout this process. These hard past few months were made easier by her kind and generous willingness to compromise to reach this settlement.”
Bishop Woodliff-Stanley echoed this sentiment: “From the very beginning of this process, I have been grateful for the gracious spirit of Bishop Edgar in doing just this work with us. I am grateful for his leadership and his generosity. While each diocese has had to leave things on the table to get to this moment, and while we experience pain over losses of some of the historic churches our members hold dear, even still, we have seen the Spirit at work in drawing us toward God’s redemptive way of love at every juncture.”
While we give thanks that the legal disputes at the diocesan level are being brought to a close, we nevertheless recognize that a number of our parishes await a final resolution of their legal concerns. It is our prayer that these issues will soon come to a resolution as well as we move forward together as a diocese into this next season of ministry.
What does this next season look like? For some, it will be full of new challenges – and opportunities – as they as they learn to minister outside the walls of their beloved church buildings. For others we’ll seek to pull together as a diocese and grow in our roles as supportive brothers and sisters. For all of us we’ll continue to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and pursue the work of the gospel in South Carolina and beyond out from under the shadow of litigation with a renewed focus on our mission and ministry. Therefore, let us move forward prayerfully, in thanksgiving for this Spirit-led settlement, and in hope for the work of the Gospel and continued in-breaking of the Kingdom of God.
The Rt. Revd Chip Edgar, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina
The Revd B. Tyler Prescott, ADOSC Standing Committee President