The District Court of South Carolina can't avoid hearing a dispute over who is the proper leader of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the Fourth Circuit held on Tuesday. The unusual case pitted two rival Bishops, the Reverend Mark J. Lawrence and the Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg, against each other, with each claiming that they were the rightful leader of the church and thus entitled to use its trademarks.
The controversy, like all great religious disputes, stems from a schism in the Church. The conservative Diocese of South Carolina split from the more liberal Episcopal leadership over the national denomination's increasing acceptance of gay and lesbian church members. At stake are not just the souls of Southern Episcopalians, but also $500 million in church property and the right to Church trademarks.