EXCLUSIVE

EXCLUSIVE: Lawsuit against Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

Wife of Episcopal cathedral’s ex-dean had said she was defamedWife of Episcopal cathedral’s ex-dean had said she was defamed

cclick@thestate.comDecember 14, 2012 

COLUMBIA, SC The insurance company that represents Trinity Episcopal Cathedral will pay $75,000 to the wife of former Dean Philip C. Linder, to settle a civil lawsuit related to his ouster from the cathedral’s top post in July 2010.

Ellen Linder filed suit in Richland County in October 2011 against the cathedral and Bishop W. Andrew Waldo of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, claiming the church and bishop had inflicted emotional distress and defamed her during the Linders’ painful and public departure from the church.

The cathedral and the bishop had maintained there was no merit to the case.

In a letter to parishioners dated Dec. 11, senior warden Mark James said the decision was made by Church Insurance Group, the cathedral’s carrier, to reach the out-of-court settlement against the advice of the cathedral and Waldo.

“Contrary to the claims of the lawsuit, we conducted ourselves appropriately in all our dealings with the Linders before and after their departure. We were certain that this case had no merit and further believed that it would ultimately be decided in our favor,” James wrote. “It is important for you to know that Trinity’s leadership and Bishop Waldo were opposed to the settlement and made significant efforts to persuade Church Insurance Group not to settle the case.”

The settlement was “ultimately the insurance company’s decision, since it shoulders the entire cost of defending the case and the risk of loss.” James noted that Trinity and Bishop Waldo are not parties to the settlement agreement, although it does release them from all claims.

In an email sent Thursday night, Philip Linder said neither he nor Ellen Linder would have a comment on the settlement.

The settlement draws to a close a tumultuous chapter in Trinity’s history.

Linder had enjoyed an 11-year tenure at the historic downtown cathedral, expanding missions and membership, and overseeing the construction of the church’s $6 million Trinity Center for Ministry and Missions and the near-completion of a $7 million sanctuary restoration.

But an apparent widening rift between Linder and some members of the church’s governing board over church leadership and financial affairs emerged publicly in the summer of 2010.

Waldo, the newly consecrated bishop, intervened at the request of the vestry and immediately suspended the dean and issued a pastoral directive that the Linders refrain from speaking to church members or staff while the dispute was under mediation.

In her lawsuit, Ellen Linder said that directive had the effect of isolating and silencing her and her husband; they were not allowed to attend four meetings held by the bishop or offer a defense to the allegations.

In a July 19, 2010, email to Philip Linder, the bishop told the suspended dean that the only way he could be restored to his position at Trinity was to go through an ecclesiastical court proceeding or submit to discipline and agree to go, with his wife, to an in-patient psychiatric treatment facility, which they refused.

Philip Linder tendered his resignation in September 2010. In the lawsuit, Ellen Linder claimed that losing the fellowship of the church’s members, along with her part-time job as parish nurse, inflicted such emotional distress that she suffered migraine headaches and panic attacks.

The Linders eventually moved to Versailles, Ky., where Philip Linder is now rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Since the Linders departed, the church has called a new dean, the Very Rev. Timothy Jones, who was installed Sept. 15, and celebrated its bicentennial.

Doak Wolfe, a spokesman for the cathedral, said there is a measure of relief now that the matter has been closed, although he said he believed the congregation had tried to move forward with energy.

“There was always an awareness that there was a little unfinished business. You feel more at ease when that business is finished,” he said.

James, the vestry leader, told parishioners he believes some good did emerge from a painful time.

“We should take comfort in the way that our parish responded to the events that led to this lawsuit; in many ways it has drawn us closer together,” James said. “The openness and honesty with which we were able to discuss the matter at hand has made us more trusting of each other.”

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