ECUSA Agrees to South Carolina Injunction (for the Time Being)
Bishop Lawrence’s Diocese has just sent out an announcement that the Episcopal Church (USA) has agreed not to oppose the issuance of a preliminary injunction (South Carolina calls it a “temporary injunction”) which repeats the same language of the earlier TRO:
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH AGREES TO INJUNCTION THAT PROHIBITS THEM FROM USING DIOCESE OF SOUTH CAROLINA IDENTITY
Judge Issues Temporary Injunction to the Episcopal Church to Block Use of Diocese’s Name, Seal and Mark
St. George, SC, January 31 - The Episcopal Church (TEC) opted to forego court on Friday and not put up a fight as South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein today issued a Temporary Injunction to replace the Temporary Restraining Order she signed on January 23 to block TEC, its continuing parishes, individuals, organizations or any entity associated with it from, using, assuming or adopting, in any way, directly or indirectly, the registered names and the seal or mark of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.”
The Temporary Restraining Order would have been lifted or extended on February 1st following a hearing. The injunction will remain in effect unless the court decides otherwise until the court rules on the lawsuit filed by the Diocese, its trustees and 31 congregations, seeking to protect the Diocese’s real, personal and intellectual property and that of its parishes from a TEC takeover.
The Diocese sought legal protection to prevent TEC from repeating the behavior it has displayed in the past, when it used the courts to seize diocesan and parish property, including real estate, bank accounts, intellectual property and trademarks. The national church has filed more than 80 lawsuits against parishes and dioceses that disassociated from TEC.
The injunction was consented to by Thomas Tisdale Jr. who signed it on behalf of The Episcopal Church. Either party may ask the judge to conduct a hearing on the injunction and to request changes in the injunction.
“We are gratified that The Episcopal Church has consented to a temporary injunction protecting the identity of our Diocese and its parishes,” said Jim Lewis, Canon of the Diocese. “We pray that sentiment fuels the prompt and reasonable resolution we all seek.
This is a highly unusual development, and will doubtless sow consternation among the SCEpiscopalians and their ilk: It shows that Chancellor Tisdale can read the writing on the wall, and knows that ECUSA cannot succeed in any plan to assume the DSC’s identity through its own actions. Since the injunction now accomplishes nearly all of the objectives Bishop Lawrence had when he authorized the lawsuit (all that remains is a judgment declaring that his Diocese is the lawful and exclusive owner of the registered marks), it will be interesting to see whether or not ECUSA stipulates to the entry of such a final judgment in the weeks ahead. In short, there is nothing left worth litigating. Yes, ECUSA reserved the right to request a modification in the injunction, but at most it would be only to tinker with the fine points (and I can’t think of any). That stipulation was probably included to assuage Mr. Tisdale’s clients.
Where things will go from here is now the question. Bishop vonRosenberg has his work cut out for him—he has to walk a tightrope between keeping the Presiding Bishop happy, and not violating the injunction in any way. It would appear that Bishop Lawrence and his attorneys have no objection to the remnant group’s use of the name “the Episcopal Church in South Carolina”. But that still leaves the question: is the group a diocese within the Episcopal Church, or is it some other kind of arm of the Church? How can there be an entity which is a member of ECUSA, but which does not have the word “Diocese” in its name? How will all the provisions of the national Constitution and Canons which speak of a “diocese” apply to the remnant group?
As I did in a comment, I shall quote here the highly salient words of Sir Walter Scott:
Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive.
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