Dispute over use of church's name moves towards resolution



February 19, 1999

(ENS) A long-running dispute over the use of the church's incorporated name appears to have moved towards settlement in the wake of a court decision in New Jersey. A year after the two Episcopal dioceses in New Jersey filed suit in U.S. District Court in Newark against Bishop William Wantland of Eau Claire for forming a corporation called the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA, Inc., the suit was settled with an agreement that the defendants would cease use of the name in any form. The Stipulation and Consent Order was signed January 5 by U.S. District Judge Maryanne Trump Barry.

Bishop John Spong of Newark was joined by Bishop Joe Doss of New Jersey in a January 29, 1998 suit claiming that Wantland and the corporation he formed in a number of states, including New Jersey, was engaged in "willful and deliberate" activities "designed specifically to trade upon the enormous good will associated" with the Episcopal Church. "Our concern was the use of the name of the church created a great danger of confusion and, ultimately, schism," Michael Rehill, chancellor of the Diocese of Newark, told a reporter after the suit was settled.

Under the terms of the order, PECUSA, Inc. cannot "use any promotional and informational materials or brochures bearing the words The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America or The Episcopal Church or the acronym PECUSA, Inc. or PECUSA or any other use of the words Protestant and Episcopal together in the State of New Jersey." As part of the settlement agreement, the New Jersey dioceses waived all claims for damages against Wantland and the corporation.

The church was founded in 1789 as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA, but the name was never incorporated. In 1846 the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA was incorporated in New York State.
Anglo-Catholics have pressed since 1837 to have "Protestant" removed from the name and in 1964 the General Convention added a preamble to the church's constitution stating that the name of the church is "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA, otherwise known as The Episcopal Church……."

When challenged in December of 1997 by former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning with "an unauthorized and misleading effort" which "violates the church's right and need to protect its name from misleading and unfair use," Wantland said that was not the intent. He claimed in a statement that "the national church had begun to remove from the Church Constitution all references to the old title……. As the old name was abandoned, so the old faith was abandoned." Browning asked Wantland to dismantle the corporation but Wantland refused.
In his statement following the settlement, Wantland repeated his assertion that the corporation was originally formed in August 1996 "to insure that there always remains in the United States a church which is 'a constituent member of the Anglican Communion……. upholding and propagating the historic faith and order.'" The purpose, he said, was "to establish a network which would enable orthodox organizations within the American Church to work together, standing upon a secure place rooted in the classic Anglican Tradition." The statement added that the trustees expected to "work toward the formation of an orthodox Anglican Province in the United States, either by the reformation of the present institution of the Episcopal Church, if possible, or by the establishment of an orthodox Province apart from the present institutional structure, if necessary."

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