South Carolina Supreme Court holds hearing in case involving Episcopal diocese

Posted Dec 9, 2021

[Diocese of South Carolina] On Dec. 8, the South Carolina Supreme Court held a hearing concerning the appeal filed by our diocese and The Episcopal Church in regard to the June 19,2020, order by Judge Edgar Dickson that essentially reinstated much of the lower court ruling that had been reversed by the high court in the Supreme Court decision from August 2017.

(The background is here.)

As the appellants in this case, attorneys for the Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Church side were asked to speak first and were given 25 minutes for the first argument, and another 10 minutes for a rebuttal after the respondents were given 25 minutes to speak to their positions.

Over the course of the hearing, the justices asked many questions of both sides, covering a variety of questions before the court, and time limits were extended. The entire hearing lasted approximately one hour and 30 minutes. The Honorable James Lockemy, chief judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, was an acting justice for the hearing today, in place of Justice Kaye Hearn, who has recused herself from further litigation between these parties.

“We are thankful that the South Carolina Supreme Court provided the opportunity for this hearing today, and we eagerly await their decision,” said Thomas Tisdale, chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

Attendance at the hearing was limited due to COVID-19 precautions. Our diocese was represented in the courtroom by our chancellor, Thomas Tisdale, and Bert “Skip” Utsey. Mary Kostel, as chancellor to the presiding bishop, was present representing The Episcopal Church. Mr. Utsey, who presented our case before Judge Edgar Dickson in the hearings leading up to this time, was the primary speaker for the appellants.

The Rt. Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, watched remotely in Columbia, South Carolina, near the proceedings and met with the attorneys afterward. “I am grateful for the outstanding work of our legal team, and I ask the people of the diocese to continue holding all concerned in your prayers.”

The South Carolina Supreme Court is expected to respond to the Dec. 8 hearing after a careful weighing of the issues before them, including the information they learned today. There is no expected timeline for a response. The hearing was livestreamed by the South Carolina Supreme Court, and is now available on the Court’s website at this link.