A dispute between some South Carolina Episcopalian churches and the national church is in court Tuesday.
The issue began after the Diocese of South Carolina split from the Episcopal Church, saying the national church had become too liberal on social issues. 49 South Carolina churches in the south and eastern parts of the state broke away after the national church sought to remove their bishop in 2012 over disagreements on gay clergy and other issues. Bishop Mark Lawrence had said that the diocese’s Constitution could supersede the national church if the two conflicted.
The national church is trying to get about $500 million in property (such as church buildings) returned. But the South Carolina churches say their Colonial-era diocese predates the American Episcopal church and members historically paid for the construction and operations themselves. A state judge ruled in favor of the Diocese of South Carolina last year, saying the national church could not use the diocesan name or seal. In response, those parishes that stayed with the national church now call themselves the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.
A circuit judge will hear the case at the Dorchester County Courthouse in St. George Tuesday.
The schism does not impact the church’s Diocese of Upper South Carolina, which covers congregations in the Midlands and Upstate.