In the second major victory this week for Anglicans seeking to leave the Episcopal Church, the South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled in favor of All Saints Parish Waccamaw, against the Episcopal Church USA and the Diocese of South Carolina. There are two main parts to the ruling:
First, the court applied “neutral principles” to the case. This means that the case is judged in exactly the same manner as if it were a secular organization. In the older “deference” approach (which has been deprecated but not forbidden by the US Supreme Court), the court must determine if the church is “hierarchical” or “congregational”, and defer to the ecclesiastical authorities in the former case and to the congregation in the latter. Since the Episcopal Church would presumably be found to be hierarchical, a deference approach would favor the Episcopal Church.
Second, the court found that Episcopal Church cannot impose a trust over property to which it has no title, as it purported to do with the Dennis Canon:
Furthermore, we hold that neither the 2000 Notice nor the Dennis Canon has any legal effect on title to the All Saints congregation’s property. A trust “may be created by either declaration of trust or by transfer of property….” Dreher v. Dreher, 370 S.C. 75, 80, 634 S.E.2d 646, 648 (2006). It is an axiomatic principle of law that a person or entity must hold title to property in order to declare that it is held in trust for the benefit of another or transfer legal title to one person for the benefit of another. . .
For the aforementioned reasons, we hold that title to the property at issue is held by All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, Inc., [and] the Dennis Canons had no legal effect on the title to the congregation’s property.
This is huge. In South Carolina it looks like a conclusive victory for Anglicans, nullifying the Dennis Canon.
(Via Stand Firm in Faith.)