The priest of a local parish said he's not extremely worried if his congregation loses its right to property it has held for more than a century after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a state church district's petition for a hearing on …
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To read the full news release from the Diocese of South Carolina, go to www.dioceseofsc.org.
The priest of a local parish said he's not extremely worried if his congregation loses its right to property it has held for more than a century after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a state church district's petition for a hearing on property ownership.
Church of the Holy Comforter, 213 N. Main St., is part of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, which consists of 52 churches across the eastern and coastal portion of the state. The diocese, or state church district, split from the national Episcopal Church in 2012 and is now part of The Anglican Church in North America.
A total of 28 parishes have been involved in the diocese's legal battle over their right to properties with the Episcopal Church. One other sister parish is also in Sumter County - The Church of the Holy Cross in Stateburg.
The Rev. Marcus Kaiser, rector of Church of the Holy Comforter, said his local congregation has owned and maintained the property and buildings associated with Church of the Holy Comforter for more than 160 years, dating back to 1857, and that no money ever came from the Episcopal Church.
However, the Episcopal Church points to a trust interest it passed in 1979 over its parishes. Previously, courts in South Carolina ruled the trust wasn't a legal trust, Kaiser said, until last year.
In a 3-2 vote and fractured ruling, the state Supreme Court ruled the congregation held the property in trust for the national church. That's when the diocese appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kaiser said the high court's petition denial represents a significant turn in the ongoing legal battle, and he doesn't exactly know what will happen next besides plenty of prayer for direction. He said he believes God is in control.
"The diocese has a lot of praying together to do to figure out whether, or if, we take the next step in the courts," Kaiser said. "I don't know how that will play out right now, but what I know is God is not wringing His hands about this. He knew this day long before the Earth was made."
Kaiser said the main reasons his parish and many others from the diocese left the Episcopal Church relates to the Bible's authority and major theological concerns.
"We didn't take the decision lightly to leave the national church, but it was over fundamental matters of faith," Kaiser said. "The main issue and question is whether we [as a church] are over or under the authority of Scripture? And we increasingly found ourselves in a church denomination that defined itself as over the authority of Scripture. We believe - that simply put - we are under the authority of Scripture."
Kaiser said Holy Comforter has about 200 people in its Sunday morning service. The Rev. Michael Ridgill, rector of The Church of the Holy Cross in Stateburg, said his sister parish has about 40 in attendance on Sundays.
"We are going to keep fighting for our right to exercise our faith under the authority of Scripture," Kaiser said. "That's where we are going to be, regardless of where the Lord puts us. And, if we have to worship under a tree, we're going to continue to worship Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Bible."
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