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South Carolina court ruling does not sit well with loyal Episcopalians

South Carolina court ruling does not sit well with loyal Episcopalians
Judge's restraining order is considered an attempt to embarrass Katharine Jefferts Schori

By Mary Ann Mueller
Special Correspondent
Jan. 25, 2013

Members of the Episcopal Forum and South Carolina Episcopalians are less than happy with South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein's restraining order protecting the registered names of The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

The South Carolina Episcopalians strident website screams: "Warning... SC Episcopalians has [sic] been served with an Order by SC Judge Diane Goodstein to stop referring to the officially recognized Diocese of South Carolina as 'The Diocese of South Carolina' or 'The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.' The Judge's Order also applies to individuals who might use these terms. Please do not read any of these articles out loud, or you could be in violation of SC law and possibly subject to arrest."

The white words of warning jump out at the reader because they are encased in a brilliant cardinal red box.

The site, edited by Steve Skardon, doesn't mince words in its reporting of the legal sanction.

The headline reads: "Election for XV Bishop of South Carolina Moves Forward Despite Attempted Disruption by Lawrence and PECDSC Inc." which is followed by a subhead stating: "Enthusiasm builds, registrations jump after ex-bishop and his "diocese" got a restraining order to embarrass the Presiding Bishop" leading into the opening paragraph: "Organizers of Saturday's Special Convention of the Diocese were swamped this afternoon as last-minute registrations surged following news that ex-Bishop Lawrence and his PECDSC Inc. (Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina Inc.) convinced a judge to issue a restraining order against her and the continuing Diocese."

Skardon, who is the executive director of the Palmetto Project home-based in Mount Pleasant, lists himself on the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina website as a member of Grace Church in Charleston. He has devised an interesting method to get around Judge Goodstein's ruling.

The headline, multiple subheads and lead paragraph of a companion story read: "Ex-Bishop, Renegade 'Diocese' Get Temporary Restraining Order, Disrupting Election of His Successor & Visit by Presiding Bishop" ... "Injunction claims Lawrence and his anti-gay 'diocese' are being harmed when the continuing Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx refers to itself as 'The Diocese of South Carolina'" ... "Vindictive, mean spirit, lawsuits against loyal Episcopalians by ex-bishop unprecedented in the history of the Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx" ... "Key lawyer for several parishes and the PECDSC Inc., was recently employed by the judge who issued ruling without hearing arguments of the Episcopal Church or the officially-recognized Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx "Former SC Bishop Mark Lawrence, thirty dissident parishes, and their legal teams asked for and received a temporary injunction against the Episcopal Church and by association the continuing Episcopal Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx that appears to have been carefully timed to disrupt the election of Lawrence's successor, the XV Bishop of the Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx on Saturday."

Apparently, Skardon has decided the best way remain in compliance with the judge's restraining order is to refer to Bishop Lawrence's duly registered and incorporated diocese is by the acronym "PESDSC Inc." and the reorganizing TEC entity as "the Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx." The South Carolina Episcopalian editor uses these unique designations throughout his reporting. South Carolina Episcopalians and the Episcopal Forum are closely linked. The SC Episcopalians says about itself: "SC Episcopalians is an independent blog providing news, commentary, and encouragement to traditional Episcopalians living in the Diocese of South Carolina.

Information published here is based on personal interviews, publicly available documents, news reports provided by the traditional news media or other online sources. We do not publish the names of sources when there may be some risk of ridicule or undeserved harassment. However, nothing goes on this site without the full vetting of its source."

The Episcopal Forum mission statement reads: "The mission of the Episcopal Forum in the Diocese of South Carolina is to preserve unity with diversity in the Diocese and within The Episcopal Church through the inclusion of a broad range of Scriptural understandings and by upholding the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and the democratic actions of its Conventions and elected leaders.

"Through its web site, public media, direct mailings, regional and diocesan gatherings, the Episcopal Forum in the Diocese of South Carolina seeks to serve as an information source for our Diocese on the actions and activities of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

"The Episcopal Forum supports and encourages all efforts on the part of the Diocese of South Carolina to engage in full participation in The Episcopal Church.

"The Episcopal Forum sponsors meetings and conferences in the Diocese of South Carolina through which Episcopalians find common ground in their shared mission and ministry.

"Membership is free and open to all Episcopalians in the Diocese of South Carolina. Members and their church affiliations are listed on the Episcopal Forum web site at their option. There are no required meetings and no dues. Members endorse its mission statement and voluntarily support its communication activities. All funding is from donations, and the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina is a 501(c)(3) not for profit South Carolina corporation." Although both websites reported the South Carolina Circuit Court's ruling prohibiting the use of the registered and protected name of "The Diocese of South Carolina", neither website scrubbed the name from their identity webpages as did the Episcopal Church late Thursday evening when it revamped its South Carolina website.

The Episcopal Forum website shows it was last updated on Jan. 24, 2013 while the SC Episcopalians website was updated on Jan. 25, 2013. Both updates occurred following Judge Goodstein's restraining order.

As of Jan. 25, the Forum website lists nearly one thousand members spanning the state from Charleston and Mount Pleasant; Hartsville and Sumter; Goose Creek and Pawleys Island; Beaufort and Hilton Head Island; McClellanville and Murrells Inlet. Some of the churches represented are: There are also sympathetic members in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Texas and California.

Some of the many Episcopal Churches represented include: Albans, Kingstree; St. Paul's, Summerville; Trinity, Myrtle Beach; Grace, Charleston; Holy Cross Faith Memorial, Pawleys Island; Christ Church, Florence; Holy Comforter, Sumter; St. David's, Cheraw; St. Matthew, Darlington; St. Mark's, Prot Royal; and Trinity Cathedral, Columbia.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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