Countersuit filed against Mark Lawrence in S.C.

From the Charleston Post & Courier:

The leader of the local Episcopal Church authority filed suit in federal court Tuesday against the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, bishop of the independent Diocese of South Carolina, in a counter-offensive meant to resolve an identity dispute.

The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, provisional bishop of the “continuing diocese,” which has temporarily adopted the name “The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,” is claiming that Lawrence, who left The Episcopal Church in October, is not authorized to use the diocese’s name and seal.

A similar argument was made by Lawrence and his independent diocese in January when a separate lawsuit was filed in South Carolina Circuit Court claiming ownership of the name, seal and property of the diocese and accusing The Episcopal Church of trying to “hijack” the buildings and diocesan identity. Judge Diane Goodstein of the 1st Judicial Circuit imposed a temporary injunction in January preventing the continuing diocese from using the name and marks of the independent diocese.

Read full story here.

Added: Here’s the link to the ENS report on vonRosenberg’s suit.

Having renounced The Episcopal Church, Bishop Lawrence is no longer authorized to use the diocese’s name and seal. By doing so, he is engaging in false advertising, misleading and confusing worshippers and donors in violation of federal trademark law under the Lanham Act, the complaint says. It asks the court to stop Bishop Lawrence from continuing to falsely claim that he is associated with the Diocese of South Carolina, which is a recognized sub-unit of The Episcopal Church.

The suit does not address property issues directly. But by asking the federal court to recognize Bishop vonRosenberg as the true bishop of the diocese, the suit would effectively resolve the issue of who controls diocesan property and assets, including the Diocesan House and Camp Saint Christopher on Seabrook Island. The ownership of individual parish properties is not addressed in the complaint.

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