SC Episcopal diocese files lawsuit over property

Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston (Dave MacQueen/WCIV)

ST. GEORGE, S.C. (AP/WCIV) - Officials of the Diocese of South Carolina have filed a lawsuit against The Episcopal Church, saying it needs to protect its property from the national body.

A statement from the diocese said the lawsuit was filed Friday in South Carolina Circuit Court. The lawsuit also seeks to prevent The Episcopal Church from infringing on the protected marks of the Diocese, including its seal and its historical names.

Reverend Jim Lewis, Canon of the Ordinary, says court is the only way to protect its idenity.

"We aren't making any attempt to hold onto parishes that wish to leave or to hold onto their property," he said. "We believe they have every right to form a new Diocese continuing that relationship with The Epsicopal Church, but simply reject the obvious strategy of trying to replace the Diocese of South Carolina and claim to be us when they're not."

A spokesperson for the steering committee of the reorganization of the episcopal diocese says they have not received any legal papers regarding the lawsuit and declined to comment at this time.

The Diocese of South Carolina, made up of 71 parishes with approximately 30,000 members, split with the national church over several issues, including the ordination of gays.

In 2006, the diocese voted to reject the authority of the national church's presiding bishop, but stopped short of a full break.