Skip to comments.Episcopalians win right to All Saints name (Pawleys Island, SC)
Posted on 03/15/2006 11:55:07 AM PST by sionnsar
Episcopalians win right to All Saints name
Judge upholds original 1745 deed; Anglicans may remain on property in Pawleys Island
By Clayton Stairs
GEORGETOWN, SC--Judge Thomas Cooper made his ruling Monday in the All Saints land dispute. However, when he left the bench, many in the main courtroom of the Georgetown County Courthouse were confused as to what exactly had been decided.
"I wish I had the wisdom to bring about a decision which would satisfy everybody in this courtroom and finalize it," Cooper said. "However, I am aware - as you are aware - that this is only Round One."
To add to the confusion, although the jury listened to all the facts of the case last week, Cooper decided to rule without the jury present. He stated that the court was more equipped to decide these complicated matters of law.
Some of the issues in the case, however, he decided to leave to the probate court, which will make the final decision on who owns the property. "This court does not and can not decide theological disputes," Cooper said. "We can not, with our constitution, address those ecclesiastical differences.
They will continue to exist, unfortunately, long after the courts in this case have had their final say." As to the 60 acres of real property where All Saints stands on Kings River Road, Cooper ruled that the 1745 trust deed written by Percival and Anna Pawley is still valid and the beneficiaries of the trust are John and Jane Doe (inhabitants of the Waccamaw Neck).
That is until probate court appoints new trustees to the property. "I find that the trust deed of 1745 created a charity trust, which under our law is entitled to be interpreted as law," Cooper said. Attorney Fred Newby says he has mixed feelings about this decision since he has no living clients to pat him on the back.
"I am happy, but it doesn't have the emotional impact that it does for the other parties," Newby said. "What is important about this ruling is that Judge Cooper determined that the trust is still valid and viable." As to the right to use the name All Saints, ownership of personal property at the church and the Internal Revenue Service non-profit tax identification number, Cooper ruled in favor of the "loyal" vestry - those who did not vote to leave the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and the National Episcopal Church.
"I find that the representative and successor to the church as it existed before (the split) is the vestry composed of Senior Warden Guerry Green and Junior Warden Carl Short," Cooper said. However, he declined to grant the ejection of the former members of All Saints who voted to leave the Diocese and the National Episcopal Church from the real property.
That means that they will remain on the property for the time being. Henrietta Golding, attorney for the former members of All Saints who voted to leave the Episcopal Diocese and the National Episcopal Church, said she was very happy that the 1745 trust deed was upheld.
"My clients will operate the church, preserve the trust, continue possessing the property and take care of the property," Golding said. "Declaring John and Jane Doe owners of the bare title only means that the Diocese and the National Church have no interest in the 60 acres." However, her clients may decide to appeal the decision based on the fact that the judge did not rule on who controls the All Saints Parish Waccamaw Corporation.
The next step in the process is that both sides will determine whether they want to ask the judge to reconsider certain points in his ruling. Next, the lawyers may decide to go through the appeals process which could take up to five years.
Then the case will go to probate court to decide who are the trustees of the property. Attorney Sam Hines, who represents the Episcopal Diocese and the "loyal" vestry, said after the trial that he is satisfied with the decision - for now.
They may also decide to appeal the ruling that John and Jane Doe are the trustees. "Regardless of what we decide to do, we respect the judge's decision," Hines said. "We are glad he ruled that the group that has remained faithful to the Episcopal Church can use the name All Saints."
He added that he is optimistic about probate court because they will be showing that the National Episcopal Church is the successor to the Church of England, which he says they are. Russell Campbell, one of the members of the original All Saints congregation who voted to leave the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and the National Episcopal Church, said after the ruling that he and others will meet with their attorneys and see what action should be taken next.
"I wish we weren't in court," Campbell said. "This is a bad place for Christians to be." Guerry Green said that he is glad this part of the trial is over but is saddened to look ahead to a longer battle. Instead of Round One, he said it feels like "Round Four in a 10-round fight." "This is like having a duel to the death with your brother," Green said. "Whether you win or lose, it is tragic on both sides."
A RESPONSE FROM THE DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
"The Diocese is pleased that the congregation and officers who remained loyal to the Diocese and the Episcopal Church were recognized by the court as the true congregation and vestry of All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, a parish of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese.
With respect to the court's decision to uphold the 1745 trust deed, the Diocese and the parish are considering whether to appeal or to assert their interests in Probate Court, which has jurisdiction to interpret trust instruments and appoint successor trustees. The trust states that the property is to be used as a chapel or church of the Church of England established by law, and the Diocese is the successor to the established Church of England in South Carolina. However, the position of the Diocese and the the loyal vestry has always been that the property has been owned by the church since colonial times, and that the creditworthiness of the parish is impaired by title being in separate trustees."
Bishop of South Carolina
FROM THE POST AND COURIER
CHARLESTON, SC: Church battle likely to go on
Both sides claim victory after All Saints ruling
By MICHAEL GARTLAND
The Post and Courier
March 15, 2006
CHARLESTON,SC: In the battle between the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and All Saints Church of Pawleys Island, both sides are claiming victory after a Georgetown circuit court judge announced his decision about disputed land and assets.
Judge Thomas W. Cooper Jr. ruled Monday that All Saints Church, which left the Episcopal diocese in 2004, could continue to occupy 60 acres of disputed land but that ownership of the land ultimately would have to be decided in probate court.
He also ruled that the diocese and members of the All Saints faction aligned with the diocese have name-rights to All Saints Parish Waccamaw and the rights to cash and assets still held by the separatist church.
"If we got a triple, maybe they got a single," said Guerry Green, the senior warden of the diocese-aligned All Saints congregation. "But this is gonna go back to court."
Despite all the victorious claim-making, both sides are wrestling with the implications of Monday's decision, and neither would provide a statement until Tuesday.
In 2004, most members of the church elected to leave the diocese and transfer their allegiance to the Anglican Mission in America, which is under the oversight of Rwandan Anglican leaders. The majority who left the diocese and the national church consider recent developments like the elevation of a gay bishop as too liberal for their liking.
Dan Stacy is senior warden for the separatist All Saints Church and touted the judge's ruling as a partial victory.
"The circuit court ruled that the diocese and the national church has no interest in the property," he said. He did not say whether his group would appeal the decision over naming rights and some of the disputed assets.
Stacy's separatist faction will retain control of the 60 acres of disputed land until a probate court examines the trust and determines which church body has rights to the land under a centuries-old religious charitable trust. The land was set aside for the Church of England in 1745; but since that is not the state-approved church as it was in colonial times, the probate court will have to determine ownership.
An appeal to Monday's decision could significantly delay the hearing in probate court, which is most likely what will happen. Sam Hines, a lawyer for the diocese, said the diocese is considering appealing the decision that the 1745 trust applies.
"I'm sure whoever loses in the Court of Appeals is going to ask the Supreme Court to review it," he said. "We have several more procedural stops ahead of us."
Hines would not predict how long it will take to reach a final resolution, but Green estimated another three or four years.
It will be hard for the present occupants of the property to show that ECUSA is not the successor, as a legal matter, to the Church of England in So. Carolina. ECUSA may not own the property, but I suspect that it, or its diocese in So. Carloina, will end up having full, and exclusive, use of the property.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.