With Malice Toward None, and Charity for All?
The remnant group of Episcopalians desiring to reorganize under South Carolina law, and remain (as reorganized) a diocese of the Episcopal Church (USA), met January 26 at Grace Church in Charleston, South Carolina, for that purpose. There is no problem with their having adopted a constitution and canons which revert to the text of those documents before Bishop Lawrence’s diocese amended them in 2010 and again in 2011. Whatever version they adopt as their constitution and canons will govern them from this point forward.
However, they are under a temporary restraining order which prohibits them from using any of the following three names:
1. The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina;
2. The Diocese of South Carolina; or
3. The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina
And so, at their convention today in Charleston, what name did they officially adopt?
“The Episcopal Church in South Carolina”
Your Curmudgeon is not a South Carolina lawyer, but then South Carolina is not an atypical state when it comes to the law.
The test of whether a name invites or engenders confusion with a protected name is based on the prospective audience to which the names are advertised. So we have to ask: given the intended audience, how likely are the following names to be confused among members of that audience?
A) The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina [trademarked by Bishop Lawrence’s diocese]
B) The Episcopal Church in South Carolina [adopted by the remnant group of Episcopalians]
C) The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina [registered again by Bishop Lawrence’s diocese]
The audience intended by both groups is present and previous members of the Episcopal Church (USA). Thus the use of the adjective “Episcopal” has a high potential for confusion in distinguishing between the two groups, because both describe themselves as “episcopal” (i.e., being led by a bishop).
In the case of the owner of the registered trade names, the bishop who leads them is the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence.
But in the case of the remnant group that reorganized today, the bishop they selected to lead them is the Rt. Rev. Charles vanRosenberg.
So none of the three terms can be distinguished by the name of the bishop that uses it. Instead, it must be distinguished by other means—but what could those be? Is the absence of the single word “Diocese” in the title used by Bishop vonRosenberg’s group enough? And if they are not a “Diocese,” what are they?
Indeed: how can they even be a member of ECUSA if ECUSA does not call them a diocese? Only dioceses are members of the Episcopal Church (USA); it uses no other name for them. So the remnant group appears to have painted itself into a corner.
And there we have an ongoing problem: has the remnant group, by adopting the name “The Episcopal Church in South Carolina”, really avoided any confusion among South Carolinians who want to belong to “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina”?
Given the common understanding of the adjective “Protestant”, one would think not. That word, used so frequently as an adjective, describes (in the common context) a church which is not aligned with (and indeed, is opposed to the hegemony of) the Roman Catholic Church.
And that description applies both to Bishop Lawrence’s diocese, as well as to the remnant group’s new organization: neither, I am positive, wants to be identified with the Catholic Church. They are both “Protestant”; it is just that the remnant group conceives itself as better described without that adjective (perhaps because the parent Church also voted in 1976 to drop the word from its name).
But then a true confusion results: since the remnant group sees themselves as “the Episcopal Church in South Carolina”, and are indifferent to using the adjective “Protestant”, they could not distinguish themselves from a group which called itself “the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, also known as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.” The former group sees the word “Protestant” as outdated, and superfluous to their identity, while the latter group sees the word as referring to the tradition they still uphold, and hence as still descriptive of their identity. Neither group rejects the adjective as part of their heritage.
The confusion appears to be intended, and not accidental. The “omission” of the single word “Diocese” from their official title turns out to have been a sham. An examination of the remnant group’s Website demonstrates that it has not really tried to comply with the TRO, even after the changes made to it on the surface. An examination of the remnant group’s Website demonstrates that it has not really tried to comply with the TRO, even after the changes made to it on the surface. If one visits their website and chooses the browser option “View Page Source”, the following lines of code are right at the very top (I have bolded the parts that continue to violate the TRO, and have had to change all angle brackets to parentheses, to allow the code to print):
(title)episcopalofsc - Home(/title)
(meta name=‘description’ content=‘The official website of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina’ /)
(meta name=‘keywords’ content=‘The Episcopal Church, Episcopalian, South Carolina, Church, Episcopal, Diocese, Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina’ /)
(meta property=‘og:site_name’ content=‘episcopalofsc’ /)
(meta property=‘og:title’ content=‘episcopalofsc’ /)
(meta property=‘og:description’ content=‘The official website of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina’ /)
These code lines are designed to keep the Website at the top of the various search pages for the major search engines when one uses them to find links to “the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.” Thus, even if you were trying to find the Webpage for Bishop Lawrence’s diocese, you would be directed to the page for the group that was supposedly prohibited from making any further use of that name. And that is not how TROs are supposed to work.
The remnant group, I submit, has therefore not complied in its choice of a name with the spirit of the court’s temporary restraining order. We will have to wait until February 1 to learn if the court agrees, but if it does, then the remnant group will have to go back to the drawing board, and start all over again by adopting a new (and completely unrelated) name.
Indeed, the contempt with which the Presiding Bishop treated Bishop Lawrence and his Diocese in her eucharistic address to the convention (the subject of many astonished observations thus far—except not, of course, on any sites sympathetic to ECUSA) appears to be reflective of an animosity that permeates the remnant group, or at least those who are in charge of it. And that animosity may cause them, to their regret, to overstep their bounds, if it has not done so already. Watch for more news after this Friday’s hearing.
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