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Judge Rules 14 South Carolina Churches Must Return Property to Episcopal Diocese

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The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that 14 parishes that left the Episcopal Church in 2012 to join the Anglican Church in North America must return their property to the Episcopal Church. The parishes had left the denomination over its acceptance of same-sex marriage and its policy that allowed the ordination of gay clergy.

The court ruled April 20 that the churches had agreed to an Episcopal Church tenet that places all parish properties in a trust belonging to the national church—meaning the properties, including the St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center on Seabrook Island, belong to the diocese, Episcopal News Service reported

The court also found that 15 of the total 29 parishes that left did not agree to such a trust and will retain title to their real estate. 

Churches that must forfeit their property include Christ Church, Mt. Pleasant; Good Shepherd, Charleston; Holy Comforter, Sumter; Holy Cross, Stateburg; Holy Trinity, Charleston; St. Bartholomew’s, Hartsville; St. David’s, Cheraw; St. Luke’s, Hilton Head; St. Matthew’s, Fort Motte; St. James, Charleston; St. John’s, Johns Island; St. Jude’s, Walterboro; Trinity, Myrtle Beach; and Old St. Andrew’s, Charleston.

The Rt. Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, said that while the decision will “no doubt bring joy to many in our diocese…there will be grief in the possible finality of a loss they have been feeling for nearly 10 years.” 

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina was one of the nine original dioceses that formed The Episcopal Church in America in 1785.

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.