Friday, August 22, 2014

Dispute Over Suspension of Methodist Bishop Dismissed As Ecclesiastical Dispute

In Clark v. Moore, (SC Sup. Ct., Aug. 20 2014), the South Carolina Supreme Court in an unpublished (i.e. non-precedential) decision dismissed a suit growing out of a dispute between the Bishop of the Reformed Methodist Union Episcopal Church (RMUE) and the Church's General Officers.  The General Officers suspended Moore as bishop after finding that he had stolen Church funds.  Bishop Moore disputed their authority, removed the General Officers and cancelled the election for bishop that had been scheduled.  The Court dismissed the suit because it is "an ongoing ecclesiastical dispute which cannot be resolved by neutral principles of law."  Chief Justice Tole filed a concurring opinion urging that the case be remanded to the lower court for further factual findings on which party is the highest decision-making body of the RMUE so that the Court could then defer to its decision.