The Episcopal Church has argued that the South Carolina Supreme Court should decline to reconsider its ruling that certain church buildings and other properties belong to the Episcopal Church.

In a fractured and confusing set of five opinions, a 3-2 majority ruled in August that 29 church buildings occupied by breakaway congregations must be handed over to the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, along with the 314-acre St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center, which is on a  coastal island southwest of Charleston.

A different 3-2 majority ruled that seven other congregations, now part of the Diocese of South Carolina affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America, were entitled to keep the buildings where they worship, because there was no proof that they had accepted the Dennis Canon. The Dennis Canon, which General Convention adopted in 1979, says that local congregations hold their buildings in trusts for the Episcopal diocese.

The ACNA diocese moved on Sept. 1 for a rehearing, and moved that one of the Supreme Court justices should recuse herself because she opposed the separation in 2012. The Episcopal Church argued this week that the recusal motion should be rejected because it was not timely, and was based on information ACNA had long before the case was argued in the Supreme Court.

The ultimate outcome of the litigation could hinge on the recusal decision, which may in turn hinge on whether the justices believe the alleged conflict of interest is egregious enough to overcome the timeliness argument. Although there are exceptions, case law normally holds that facts cannot be introduced on appeal if they were not raised in the original trial.

Kirk Petersen

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