Tuesday, July 03, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Another Diocese of Los Angeles Property Decision

Just received via email from a local press contact off the LAT newswire:

EPISCOPAL - A Los Angeles Superior Court judge rules that the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is the rightful owner of the buildings and other property of a conservative La Crescenta congregation that broke away from the diocese last year. The decision against St. Luke's of the Mountains comes barely a week after an appeals court panel in Orange County ruled in favor of the six-county Los Angeles diocese in a similar property dispute with three other local churches.

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UPDATE: From a Diocese of Los Angeles Media Update

Los Angeles Diocese prevails again in parish property dispute

LOS ANGELES - A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled today that The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles are entitled to the property of St. Luke's of the Mountains Parish in La Crescenta, California.

The decision comes on the heels of the landmark opinion last week from the California Court of Appeal which unanimously upheld claims by the Diocese of Los Angeles and the national office of The Episcopal Church to the property of three separate parishes whose leaders and members left the Episcopal Church in 2004.

The Diocese of Los Angeles encompasses the Counties of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Orange, and a portion of Riverside County, under the ecclesiastical authority of its Bishop Diocesan, the Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno.

In February 2006, St. Luke's severed its relationship with the Episcopal Church and the Diocese, placing itself under the jurisdiction of a conservative Anglican bishop in Uganda. The departing members claimed they were entitled to take parish property away from The Episcopal Church and the Diocese. The Diocese, citing church canons which place all parish property in trust for The Episcopal Church and the Diocese, asserted it was entitled to retain the property. Litigation followed.

The ruling today by Judge John Shepard Wiley, Jr. follows the recent appellate opinion and confirms Bishop Bruno's conviction that parish property cannot be taken away from the larger church by departing members.

"We're very pleased with this decision today," said Bishop Bruno. "We are a people of reconciliation, and our major concern is for the people of St. Luke's, and how to bring them back into relationship with the Diocese of Los Angeles if they wish. We will pray for them. I hope they will pray for us."

Holme Roberts & Owen partner, John R. Shiner, Chancellor of the Diocese and its attorney in the litigation, called the ruling "another important step to dispel any notion that local congregations of a hierarchical church may leave the larger church and take property with them."

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And here's the L.A. Times article from today: Diocese wins another round

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Without going through my whole history again it grieves me that the Episcopal Church and those on the orthodox side are seeking remedy in civil courts.
The Bible specifically tells us NOT to seek civil justice in disputes against believers.
St. Luke's was the church of my childhood and I grieve for the schism (whoever is causing it) that is here.
But I hope that no one is celebrating these legal victories - and then the obvious and impending appeals (for both sides depending on which side loses) as being a witness to the world about the saving grace and love of Christ.
These lawsuits, whichever side is pursuing them, is a tragic and awful witness to a hurting world.
How many of the MDG goals could be met if we weren't paying lawyers and instead seeking a way for both sides to gracefully divide and accomodating a way for departing congregations to keep their property through some kind of compensation for the dioceses affected.
But then that kind of model would be an example of Christ's love and sacrifice.
That's something that neither side in this pitched battle seems to want to show.
A sinner saved by God's grace,
Jim

Anonymous said...

How wonderful and gracious it would be if the Bishop of LA just let these people have their buildings. I mean really lets wage some reconciliation and radical hospitality.

Mark said...

The Bible also tells us, that, once internal methods have failed to resolve a dispute, to treat the offenders as "tax collectors and sinners" -- so we have.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mark:

That is exactly my point. What internal methods, negotiations, prayerful meetings have occurred?
It seems to me that there has been little of what might be called Christian charity (and to be fair, I'll acknowledge that it's on both sides) in any of this prior to the filing of lawsuits.
The answer seems to be submit, or else.
If a sale or restitution can be worked out so the departing congregations can keep their property (which they have paid for and maintained) why wouldn't such a plan also favor the diocese.
Otherwise it can only be viewed as a major power play with the only purpose to crush those who disagree with you.
What Would Jesus Do? I don't think the answer would involve a Superior Court judge.
A sinner saved by God's grace

Jim

Susan Russell said...

Jim ...

If you'd like to email me I'd be happy to give you some of the "back story" of just how far backwards this diocese bent to keep the litgation from happening.

What "seems to you" is not all there is to the story.

Mark said...

Exactly, Susan.

Jim, I can't say where you're coming from, but the simple facts, collected along the way in this sad story, put the lie to the reasserter claims that no attempt at reconciliation has occurred. Too often, I think, they expect that reconciliation - for them, at least - involves limitless accomodation. Jesus and Paul both were quite clear that reconciliation sometimes means the body, in this case TEC, demanding a cessation of disruptive activity in order for reconciliation to take place. It's rather disingenuous for the departing people to claim no attempt was made to reconcile simply because necessary reconciliation would've curbed their activities.

Anonymous said...

Well, congratulations to TEC. Once again it has managed to steal property from a group of people who faithfully sacrificed to obtain, build and maintain it. The fact that TEC can somehow justify to itself that it has any kind of moral right to the property of these parishes boggles my mind.

RonF

Anonymous said...

Dear Mark:
Hope you don't mind but I took your comment and replaced just a couple words: I took out the word reconciliation and replaced it with the word listening. It may be instructive to the reasons why our "two sides" are so far apart.

Your comment (slightly edited)
Jim (Mark), I can't say where you're coming from, but the simple facts, collected along the way in this sad story, put the lie to the reasserter (reappraiser) claims that no attempt at reconciliation (listening) has occurred. Too often, I think, they expect that reconciliation (listening) - for them, at least - involves limitless accomodation. Jesus and Paul both were quite clear that reconciliation (listening) sometimes means the body, in this case TEC (reasserters), demanding a cessation of disruptive activity in order for reconciliation (listening) to take place. It's rather disingenuous for the departing (reappraiser) people to claim no attempt was made to reconcile (listen) simply because necessary reconciliation (listening) would've curbed their activities.

Peace,
A sinner saved by God's grace
Jim

Mark said...

I would respond, Jim, that I have never said the two sides were incapable of substituting their view for the other's. However, I am on the side of TEC, and this after consideration of both sides. The reasserter position shows neither good judgment nor sound reasoning. Its theology is largely shaky, as it must be judged against practice and the overwhelming evidence of its produce, as evidenced by statements made by its leaders. I accept that others have come to the opposite conclusion.

That is, however, merely a red herring in this conversation, in that these individual congregations have refused to conform to TEC's expectations. They are free to leave, but the property is not theirs. Regardless of who paid for it, the property belongs to TEC. End. Life and faith are risks. If you are unwilling to take them, hide in a hole. It is a risk that we will be expelled from the AC. It is a risk that we will be overrun by the reasserter agenda. These are risks I take, and, if they prove unprofitable, I will walk away having truly given what I claimed to give.

I expect the same level of honesty, charity and rationality from the reasserters, and, so far, they have shown themselves incapable of either.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of who paid for it, the property belongs to TEC.

Why? Because of the Dennis Canon? Doesn't that seem like a "tyranny of the majority" move? Just because a majority of the General Convention voted for it doesn't make it right. Or any less theft.

RonF

JCF said...

Just because a majority of the General Convention voted for it doesn't make it right.

No, RonF, if GC votes for something it DOES make it, effectively, "right" for Episcopalians...

...at least until the next GC. ;-/

If Bishop Bruno were attempting to reassert (ahem) control over a church historically called "congregational", then I would understand why the (present) congregation thought it was "theft."

But these are *Episcopal* churches, RonF! Every congregation is only a *temporary* phenomenon in each parish (as that's as true for my parish, as for any other).

I don't understand why reasserters are so confused about this...

RonF said...

No, RonF, if GC votes for something it DOES make it, effectively, "right" for Episcopalians...

jcf, glad to see you put the word 'right' in quotes. It may make it legal under TEC's canons, but it does not and cannot make it right.