Split ruling by state supreme court favors Episcopal Church’s physical but not intellectual property claims.
A conservative South Carolina diocese that left The Episcopal Church five years ago has been involved in a complicated $500 million dispute over its name, leadership, and land ever since.
Today, the Palmetto State’s supreme court decided that the Diocese of South Carolina—which contains about 50 churches and 20,000 parishioners and is now part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)—does not get keep hundreds of millions of dollars worth of historic church properties that it claimed in the split.
The ruling declares that 29 local parishes cannot take their properties with them and must return them to the Episcopal Church. However, the breakaway diocese can continue to use its name, seal, and symbols.
A lower court decision in 2015 granted the conservative Diocese of South Carolina “all their property, including churches, symbols, and other assets,” worth over $500 million. That same year, the breakaway Anglicans rejected an Episcopal attempt to settle the dispute by basically letting the conservative churches keep their physical properties in return for giving up their intellectual property. They refused.
Today, the conservative churches received almost the opposite outcome.
The complicated court reversal, which includes opinions from all five justices, hinged on the Dennis Canon, an Episcopal church law granting ownership of parish property to the local diocese and the national church.
The Diocese of South Carolina’s lead counsel, Alan Runyan, called the ruling “inconsistent ...