The Episcopal Church has announced that it will fight back against a recent ruling that granted a breakaway denomination in South Carolina the rights to names, symbols and $500 million in church property.
The denomination will ask the Supreme Court of South Carolina to immediately hear the case after a judge ruled earlier this year in favor of the Diocese of South Carolina, a cohort of conservative churches that split from the parent denomination; about 30 houses of worship are remaining with the Episcopal Church in its fight to retain the property and symbols, according to the Associated Press.
As TheBlaze previously reported, the legal battle unfolded after the Diocese of South Carolina separated from the denomination over theological differences surrounding homosexuality and the "uniqueness of Jesus," among other issues.
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South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein ruled in favor of the breakaway denomination earlier this year, finding that the Episcopal Church no longer has rights to the Diocese of South Carolina’s property, nor can the Episcopal Church use or control the diocese’s associated names or symbols.
"We are grateful that Judge Goodstein’s decision protects South Carolina churches from being added to the long list of properties that [the Episcopal Church] seized then either abandoned or sold-off," Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary and a leader in the conservative breakaway group, said earlier this year in a statement praising the judge's opinion.
Lewis added, "The decision protects our freedom to embrace the faith Anglicans have practiced for hundreds of years – and not the new theology being imposed on [the Episcopal Church's] dwindling membership."
Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence said that the split was a long time coming.
“It’s all a question of church polity,” he explained. “We’ve been on a collision course with the Episcopal Church for 20 years for issues such as trustworthiness of the holy scriptures, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, issues of anthropology — including what is a human being — questions of marriage and who receives the sacraments. All of those things are of theological concern to us.”
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The latest appeal, which was filed by the Episcopal Church on Tuesday, shows that the battle over nearly $500 million in church property and control over names and symbols is nowhere near over.
In the notice of appeal filing, the Episcopal Church is looking to bypass the court of appeals, according to the Post and Courier.
If the state Supreme Court decides to hear the case, it likely won't come before the justices until early 2016. Read more about the history of the legal battle here.
The Episcopal Church isn’t the only denomination to face a split over key theological issues, with Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — another group considered to have taken a more liberal approach to scripture — also battling with churches looking to disassociate. The Presbyterian denomination's recent endorsement of same-sex marriage could lead additional churches to leave as well.
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