Episcopal Diocese of Georgia granted property claim

This just in:

In the case of Diocese of Georgia v. Christ Church Savannah the Superior Court of Chatham County, Georgia today granted the Motion for Summary Judgment of The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Georgia on our property claims against a breakaway parish and awarded the diocese possession of the parish property.

A key passage of the judge’s order:

The sticking point in defendants’ position is the amendment to their charter in 1918. By that amendment, Christ Church “acknowledge[d] and accede[d] to the doctrine, discipline, and worship and the Constitution and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United State [sic] of America and the Constitution and Canons of the same church in the Diocese of Georgia.” The church also reserved the power to adopt rules or bylaws not inconsistent with the civil andecclesiastical laws governing it. By this action Christ Church accepted the existence of the implied trust, which had become a part of the fabric of governance of the Episcopal Church, as explained by Dr. Mullin. Defendants’ protestations to the contrary, based primarily on the assertion that their expression of loyalty to church law extended only to the date of the charter amendment, are without merit. There can be no doubt that Christ Church has always held itself out as a parish of the Diocese of Georgia and a full participant in the affairs of the Episcopal church at every level.

The bottomline:

Accordingly, the court finds that the church property reverts to the control of the Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia for the uses and purposes of the Episcopal Church and that plaintiffs are entitled to immediate possession. Finally, it should be noted that the court has considered defendants’ remaining arguments and concludes that they lack merit.

The court also explains in the order why, on its reasoning, the Waccamaw case is not applicable to this case.

Read the Order.

Added. The Savannah Morning News report:

The ruling grants “immediate possession” of Christ Church Savannah and its property in the city’s historic district to the Right Rev. Henry I. Louttit, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

Louttit was out of town and unavailable for comment Tuesday. The bishop’s spokesman, the Rev. James Parker, said the diocese will work with attorneys and leaders of the breakaway group to arrange “an orderly transfer of the property.”

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