After five years of litigation, the two parties suing each other for the right to call themselves the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina have agreed to enter mediation to try to reach a settlement.

Also at stake is the ownership of three dozen church properties, including the huge St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center on Seabrook Island.

The diocese aligned with the Episcopal Church — the Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC) — largely prevailed last month in a highly fractured ruling by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The court ruled 3-2 that 29 church buildings — currently held by the Diocese of South Carolina (Anglican Church in North America) — belong to ECSC, along with the conference center. A different 3-2 majority ruled that seven other churches should remain in the hands of ACNA, because there was no record of those churches having ratified a change to the Episcopal Church’s canons that occurred in 1979.

Litigation continued while the agreement to mediate was being reached, and the ACNA diocese met a Sept. 1 deadline to request a rehearing from the state Supreme Court.

ACNA filed another motion that could turn out to be more consequential: to vacate the decision of Supreme Court Justice Kaye Hearn and recuse her from any further participation in the case.

The motion describes Hearn and her husband, George, as active lay leaders of an unsuccessful attempt to keep their local church, St. Paul’s in Conway, from leaving the Episcopal Church. When the church decided to leave and align itself with ACNA, the Hearns were part of a group that launched St. Anne’s, a new Episcopal church in Conway.

Hearn’s opinion in the Supreme Court case was in favor of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

Kirk Petersen

SC motion for rehearing 2017-09-01

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