A Church that Sues Itself Is a Church?

David Virtue david at virtueonline.org
Fri Dec 12 13:30:19 EST 2014

A Church that Sues Itself Is a Church?

dECEMBER 4, 2014

The highly litigious Episcopal Church in the United States of America
("ECUSA") has settled a lawsuit with itself, according to a press
release from its rump group (which cannot legally be called a "diocese")
in South Carolina.

Shall we run that one by our eyes again? ECUSA has settled a lawsuit
which it brought against itself.

OK, technically I should say: one arm of ECUSA has agreed to take money
from another arm of ECUSA in settlement of a dispute the two arms had
with each other, and that went to court. Is that clearer?

No? My, but you are being picky. Let me try one more time, in a bit more

ECUSA is this epiphenomenon that is rather like the village of
Brigadoon. One day or so you suddenly see it (if you're lucky enough),
and then for a very long time, you don't. It arises (when it does), not
out of its own doings, but of those of its constituent members.

Oh, you may think you see ECUSA far oftener than that, for if you follow
lawsuits, ECUSA is perpetually in the news. Every time you see or hear
of ECUSA in that sense, it is as the plaintiff in yet another lawsuit
against one of its own churches, or dioceses.

But the ECUSA who files suit as a "plaintiff" is not the real ECUSA that
the Rev. Dr. William White and others formed in 1789. It is simply the
Presiding Bishop and her personal attorneys.

Apparently, they have allowed matters to get out of hand -- to the point
where this Anglican Curmudgeon must duly report that one arm of ECUSA
has agreed to pay money to another arm of ECUSA so that the two arms can
dismiss the lawsuits they filed against each other.

Enough about "arms": let us name names. One branch of ECUSA involved in
this imbroglio is what ECUSA was forced by the South Carolina courts to
call "the Episcopal Church in South Carolina", or ECSC for short.

ECSC has quite a speckled history. Thanks to the machinations of the
Presiding Bishop and her enablers, it came into formal existence only at
the end of January in 2013 -- but its roots go back much farther than
that, as I detailed in this earlier post, in this one, and in this one.

It was formally organized in January 2013 out of the bits and pieces
that wanted the Diocese of South Carolina to go the way of General
Convention 2012. That would have meant authorizing same-sex partnered
clergy and bishops, same-sex marriage blessings and church ceremonies,
and all the miasma that ensues from such endless appeasing of the
current culture.

As is their wont, the progressive minority who wanted to have everything
their way ignored the rules, and took the law into their own hands. They
sent out emails purporting to come from the diocesan office; they
appropriated the diocesan name and corporate seal; they erected a Web
site that purported to be the official site of the Diocese of South
Carolina. They acted as though they had already triumphed over the vast
majority that refused to accede to their Kultur-driven agenda, and that
instead (under their faithful Bishop) resolved to hold fast to the faith
once delivered to the saints.

As a consequence of the minority's lawlessness, Bishop Lawrence and his
corporate diocese brought suit against them to halt their
misappropriations of his seal and the diocesan name and trademarks. And
lo and behold! They capitulated almost at once, and agreed to an
injunction against their further misbehavior.

But they were still the defendants in a suit against them alleging that
they had engaged in wrongful behavior. So like any good Episcopalians,
they tendered the defense of that lawsuit to the Church Insurance
Company of Vermont. That insurer is one of the Church Insurance
Companies set up by the Church Pension Fund of the Episcopal Church
(USA) to provide low-cost liability and other forms of insurance to
Episcopal parishes and dioceses.

Wait -- "dioceses", you say? But I thought you said earlier that the
rump group could not qualify as the Diocese of South Carolina under
South Carolina law -- so how did they qualify to be a diocese of ECUSA
for purposes of the Church Insurance Company's policy?

Simple -- the Presiding Bishop headed up the rump group's organizing
convention in South Carolina. Her attorneys, the Executive Council and
the Church Insurance Companies could, after that, scarcely fail to
recognize the rump group as a full-fledged "diocese" within ECUSA, and
so it was. And as a full-fledged Episcopal "diocese", it got its
liability insurance policy, and paid its premiums.

The money went to the Church Insurance Companies, but that is really an
outfit which (like its parent, the Church Pension Fund) depends for its
existence upon ECUSA and its parishes that are its customers. Any
"profits" (the excess of premiums paid in over expenses, including
monies paid out to satisfy judgments and settlements) earned by the
insurance company stay within the larger Pension Fund, and contribute to
the ability of that Fund to pay benefits to retired Episcopal clergy.

Now one of the coverages provided under the Church Insurance Companies'
general liability policy is described in their booklet as follows
(scroll down to page 12):

Advertising Injury Liability

Exposure: Liability for plagiarism or piracy of one's copyright or

Example: Another business claims that the policyholder's logo is
confusingly similar to its own.

Notice the wording of that example? "Another business" -- in ECUSA
TECSpeak™, that would mean what we lay people call "another church" --
"claims that the policyholder's logo" -- that would be the seal used by
the rump group -- "is confusingly similar to its own."

"Confusingly similar"? How about identical? As in, "You stole that from

So the Church Insurance Company liability policy obtained by the rump
group had coverage for the particular injury which the plaintiff Diocese
of South Carolina claimed the rump group had done to it. The rump group
promptly filed suit against its insurers in the federal district court
for the District of South Carolina.

The Insurance Company argued that it was not liable to cover willful
acts of trade mark infringement, and that under South Carolina's laws,
acts of infringement had to be willful to generate liability. However,
the federal judge ruled that liability could be established under South
Carolina law for unintentional conduct that amounted to trademark
infringement, and so held that the Insurance Company had to pay for the
rump group's defense (up to the policy limits of $1 million).

The rump group sued the insurer not only to force it to provide a
defense, but also sued it for bad faith denial of coverage -- which
claim, if proved, could lead to substantial damages in excess of the
policy limits, and based on the entire net worth of the insurance
company! The court ruled that it did not have enough evidence before it
to rule on that claim, and left it for a future trial.

But stop and think for a moment: in the world of ECUSA, it is nothing
for one arm of the Church to sue another arm of the same Church, and
claim that it is a victim of bad-faith dealings by its fellow member --
entitling it to wipe out that member's entire net worth! I suppose that
all the vestries and rectors whom ECUSA has sued personally for punitive
damages and bad faith should take some small amount of consolation from
the realization that for ECUSA, it's nothing personal, and nothing that
ECUSA wouldn't hesitate to use against its own.

What a Church! What a Christian example to fellow Christians!

And now we learn that the lawsuit by ECUSA against itself has settled --
for the payment of an undisclosed amount of money. Well, that certainly
must come as a relief to ECUSA's pensioned clergy, who otherwise might
fear that ECUSA's ever-increasing lawsuits would end up preventing the
Pension Fund from being able to fund their pensions. At least they have
one less such suit about which to worry -- even though they don't know
(and will never be told) how much it cost them.

What else is left for ECUSA's clergy to say, in the face of such
mind-boggling, imperially-sponsored carnage at the peons' expense?

Ave imperator, morituri te salutant.
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